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CA11: The who-will-and-who-won’t roundup

Two days after Rep. George Miller announced he’ll retire at the end of 2014 after 40 years in the House, here’s the shakeout so far on who will and won’t try to succeed him in the 11th Congressional District:

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: At almost the same instant Miller started his news conference in Richmond, DeSaulnier was telling a reporter in Sacramento that he would run; he issued his news release less than four hours later.

Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson: She’s “seriously considering” it.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo: “She’s still looking at what the options are,” spokeswoman Michelle Henry said Wednesday.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord: She is “is focused on her upcoming re-election for state assembly and not considering a run for Congress,” spokesman Luis Quinonez said Wednesday.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson: Endorsed DeSaulnier on Tuesday.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia: Endorsed DeSaulnier on Wednesday.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield: Won’t run for the seat next to his.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin: Won’t run.

Former airline pilot and “Hero on the Hudson” Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of Danville: Won’t run.

Watch for Lisa Vorderbrueggen’s story this weekend reviewing the whole scrum in much more detail; stay tuned, as the landscape continues to shift.

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Sewer director’s racist talk draws election rival

(Ed.’s note: This post is by my colleague Thomas Peele, who has been on this story’s trail from the start. -J)

Besieged West County Wastewater District Director Leonard Battaglia isn’t up for re-election for another year, but he already has an opponent.

Leonard McNeilFormer San Pablo City Council member Leonard McNeil wrote in an email Thursday that he intends to run for a sewer board seat next year.

Battaglia set off a tempest last month when he said in an interview about his high compensation that African Americans “think slower” than other races “because God made them that way.” He also repeatedly used a common slur to describe Asians.

Other West County board members voted 4-0 to ask Battaglia to resign. He has refused to do so.

McNeil, who is African American, was among several speakers who ripped Battaglia at a Wastewater board meeting Tuesday, saying “I think I’m very quick when I see prejudice and someone who is a bigot a racist.”

McNeil wrote Thursday, “I have not yet developed a cogent platform. I am merely announcing my intention to run for a seat on the board of directors.” McNeil served 12 years on the San Pablo council, losing a re-election bid last year.

Also, San Pablo City Manager Matt Rodriguez announced that city council will vote next month on a resolution also asking Battaglia to resign. Council members voted 5-0 on Tuesday night to schedule the vote for Dec. 2, he said.

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An early glance at next year’s AD-15 showdown

Quite a battle is shaping up in the 15th Assembly District, where Nancy Skinner will be term-limited out at the end of 2014 and five could-be candidates cover the political spectrum from left to… well, left.

With less than 13 months to go until June 2014’s top-two primary, all five of the candidates who’ve filed statements of intention to run are Democrats, and pretty liberal ones at that – not surprising for this East Bay district, which includes Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Hercules, Pinole, Richmond, San Pablo, Kensington and parts of Oakland including Montclair and North Oakland. As of February, the district was registered 64.5 percent Democrat, 7.8 percent Republican and 18.6 percent no-party-preference.

The field appears to include, in alphabetical order:

EcholsElizabeth Echols, 53, of Oakland – regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, appointed by President Obama in 2010, and an Alameda County Democratic Central Committee member. Among her earlier jobs, Echols was Google’s director of policy from 2004 to 2008; executive director of the White House’s E-Commerce Working Group, under Vice President Al Gore, from 1999 to 2001; and a senior advisor at the Clinton administration’s Commerce Department from 1995 to 1999.

KangSam Kang, 34, of Emeryville – general counsel at the Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley-based policy, research, organizing, and leadership nonprofit working for racial and economic justice. A Korean immigrant who says he grew up working in his family’s small business, Kang earlier worked at several non-governmental organizations on issues ranging from Iraqi sanctions enforcement to economic development in New York’s West Harlem neighborhood

KatzAndy Katz, 33, of Berkeley – government relations director for Breathe California, a nonprofit fighting for clean air and public health, and president of the board of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District. Katz has a long record on issues such as renewable energy and climate change and is a former chairman of the Sierra Club California; earlier in his career, he worked at a law center helping injured workers collect unpaid wages and workers’ comp, and as Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson’s community liaison.

MooreMargaret “Peggy” Moore, 49, of Oakland – was California political director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and a longtime LGBT and political activist. An Oklahoma native, Moore was a 2008 Obama campaign volunteer who became the Northern California field director for Organizing for America, the campaign’s community-organizing successor group. She also was an Oakland City Council candidate in 2005.

ThurmondTony Thurmond, 44, of Richmond – senior director of community relations at the Lincoln Child Center; a West Contra Costa County School Board member from 2008 to 2012; and a Richmond City Council member from 2005 to 2008. His current project at the youth center, CEO Youth, is a high school youth entrepreneur program that applies the lessons students learn in the classroom to conceptualizing and launching a youth-led business venture. Thurmond lost to Skinner in the 2008 primary for what was then the 14th Assembly District.

The field might not turn out to be this big; while Thurmond and Katz have already launched their campaign websites and Kang is collecting contributions via ActBlue, neither Echols nor Moore has taken such overt action yet. (UPDATE @ 4:57 P.M. FRIDAY: Scratch that – Echols clearly is in, per comment #1 below.)

However many candidates actually get into the race, the top two vote-getters in June will advance to November’s general election – meaning candidates will need to muster enough money to survive a year-long campaign. Though all of these are toward the liberal end, it’ll be interesting to see who tries to maneuver toward the middle – and how – in order to attract non-Democrats, or if most of them just try to double-down on the progressive vote.

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CoCo Supe Gioia named to Air Resources Board

Gov. Jerry Brown today named Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia to the California Air Resources Board.

John GioiaGioia, 55, of Richmond, has been a county supervisor since 1999 and served as the board’s chairman in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Earlier, he was in private law practice from 1986 to 1998, and was a legal researcher for another firm from 1984 to 1986.

He’s also a member of Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors, and was chairman in 2012. A Democrat, Gioia holds a law degree from the UC-Berkeley School of Law.

Brown also today named attorney and Rolling Hills Estates City Councilwoman Judith Mitchell, 71, to the Air Resources Board.

The 12-member board, appointed by the governor but subject to state Senate confirmation, is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency and has a mission to “promote and protect public health, welfare and ecological resources through the effective and efficient reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering the effects on the economy of the state.” The job carries no compensation.

UPDATE @ 4:06 P.M.: Gioia issued a statement saying he’s “greatly honored by being appointed to take on this new, important responsibility. I have deep respect for Governor Brown’s history of innovative and bold leadership on the environment, including on air quality issues.” He praised CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols as “an amazing lifelong environmentalist who was just named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world,” and said he looks forward to working with her and other board members “in tackling critical upcoming issues, including investing the state’s cap-and-trade revenues, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing clean energy, and improving community health.”

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West Coast Senators urge probe of gas prices

The West Coast’s U.S. Senators today asked the Justice Department to do a refinery-by-refinery investigation into why gas prices spiked to more than $4 a gallon during May and October.

The letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder from senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and Patty Murray, D-Wash., asks that the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group probe any possible market manipulation or false reporting.

“A McCullough Research report released Nov. 15th in conjunction with a California State Senate hearing on California gas prices revealed information that showed that the price spikes in May and October occurred while crude oil prices were declining, inventories were increasing, and possibly in conjunction with misleading market-making information,” they wrote.

The report they cited found that some West Coast oil refineries may have been producing oil last May despite public reports that they were shuttered for maintenance. For example, McCullough’s analysis found that the Chevron refinery in Richmond emitted byproducts of petroleum production throughout May – yet public reports claim the refinery shut down production from May 12 to May 26.

The report found the October price spike added up to a 66 cent-per-gallon windfall profit for oil companies—or about $25 million a day. The difference between what drivers actually paid and what they should have paid exceeded $1 billion.

“West Coast families and businesses are reeling from elevated and extremely volatile prices at the pump, impacting family budgets, inflation levels, and overall economic activity,” the senators wrote. “We believe this situation demands the attention from the Working Group established in April 2011 specifically to ‘monitor oil and gas markets for potential violations of criminal or civil laws to safeguard against unlawful consumer harm.’ ”

The working group includes representatives from the Department of Justice, the National Association of Attorneys General, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the Departments of Agriculture and Energy.

Feinstein in August had urged the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation of the sudden rise in case prices.

Read the full text of the senators’ letter, after the jump:
Continue Reading

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State Senate panel to probe refineries, gas prices

With gas prices soaring and news that the Chevron Richmond refinery’s crude oil unit won’t reopen until 2013, a state Senate committee will hold a hearing next month on the safety and reliability of California’s gasoline production system and its impacts on gas prices and the economy.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, announced today he’ll convene the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Transportation to explore the issue.

Mark Leno“The volatile spikes in gas prices and gas shortages in our state in recent weeks indicate serious problems with California refineries,” Leno said in a news release. “I am concerned that refineries have no incentive for keeping their operations safe and fully functional because their profits increase greatly following any type of disruption, whether it is the consequence of a potentially deadly explosion or failed piping. Meanwhile, consumers are paying the price for these refinery errors, not only at the pumps, but also in the risks posed to public health and safety.”

Leno said the hearing will focus on two main topics: system reliability for California’s refineries and its effect on the economy; and the state’s oversight process and role related to refinery worker safety. Topics may include monitoring health and safety at the state’s 15 oil refineries, state compliance and enforcement at refineries, West Coast gasoline prices and how they may be manipulated, refinery capacity and its relationship to gas prices and the economy, and the Chevron Richmond fire investigation.

“Chevron’s announcement late yesterday that its Richmond (crude oil) facility will be closed for the remainder of the year could further complicate matters for California,” he said. “Economists have estimated that a lengthy shutdown of that facility could slow the growth rate of the state’s economy by half a percentage point.”

This past weekend, Gov. Jerry Brown urged the California Air Resources Board to make an early switch to the state’s winter blend of gasoline to improve supply, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., renewed her call for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the soaring prices.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., got into the act Monday, sending a letter urging the Department of Justice’s Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group to investigate the recent spike.

“Californians have too often been victimized as unscrupulous traders have created or taken advantage of supply disruptions to drive up energy prices,” Boxer wrote. “We cannot allow market manipulation by those who would seek to profit off the pain of our families at the pump.”

In the letter, Boxer pointed to published reports that cited energy traders saying the sudden rise in gas prices had “many of the hallmarks of a classic short squeeze.”

She acknowledged the maintenance issues facing California refineries beginning with the shutdown of Chevron’s Richmond crude oil unit in August due to a fire, the power outage at Exxon Mobil’s Torrance refinery, and the September shutdown of a Chevron pipeline that supplies crude from the Central Valley to the Bay Area. But noting a pattern of similar maintenance issues at West Coast refineries that led to price spikes earlier this year, Boxer wrote, “it is critical that we ensure that these shutdowns are not part of any broader effort to deliberately keep gasoline supplies tight—and prices high—at the expense of consumers.”