1

Go talk to your congressman

With only two weeks left in Congress’ summer recess, there are still a few chances to see and be heard by your lawmaker.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, has several events coming up. First, I’ll moderate a Commonwealth Club of California discussion with him at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 in the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $20 for non-members or $7 for students, and are available online.

DeSaulnier also is continuing his series of free, public town-hall meetings as well. The remaining three are scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 26 in the Harding Elementary School auditorium, 7230 Fairmount Avenue in El Cerrito; Wednesday, Sept. 2 in the Orinda Library Auditorium, 26 Orinda Way; and Thursday, Sept. 3 in the Clayton Library’s Hoyer Hall, 6125 Clayton Road. All three will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, will host a town hall forum on Social Security at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 in the Florence Douglas Senior Center, 333 Amador St. in Vallejo. Special guests will include Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Sandy Goodman, District Manager of the Vallejo Social Security Administration field office.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, will host a California drought solutions forum from 10 to noon Tuesday, Aug. 25, in the San Joaquin County Robert J. Cabral Agricultural Center, 2101 E. Earhart Ave. in Stockton. Open to the public, the forum will feature experts and voices that include farmers, water technology innovators, policy makers, federal and state government, academia, and others.

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Three NorCal House Dems vote for Upton bill

Reps. Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi and Ami Bera were among 39 House Democrats who joined with most Republicans to pass a controversial bill Friday that would let insurers keep selling policies which fall short of the new healthcare law’s standards and consumer protections.

H.R. 3350 by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., would not only let people with insurance that doesn’t meet the new law’s standards keep it through 2014, but it would also let new customers buy such policies too. The House approved the bill 261-157, but the bill faces a tougher time in the Democrat-led Senate and President Obama has vowed to veto it.

Most Democrats say the Upton bill basically guts the new law, disrupting the risk pools that make individual insurance sold on the new health benefit exchanges affordable for most Americans.

A spokeswoman for McNerney, D-Stockton, didn’t reply to an e-mail and a phone call Friday.

Matthew Kravitz, a spokesman for Garamendi, D-Fairfield, said Obama and House members on both sides of the aisle “all agree that the fact that so many plans are being dropped is an issue of concern.”

“Congressman Garamendi has always said that every law, including the Affordable Care Act, can be improved,” Kravitz said. “Congressman Garamendi voted for the Democratic plan to fix this problem, and he also voted for the Republican plan. The Upton bill has flaws, but by bringing the issue to the Senate, Garamendi hopes the Senate will take up their own legislation and both chambers, in a bicameral bipartisan fashion, can hash out a compromise during a conference committee.”

Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, issued this statement:

“I voted for the Keep Your Plan Act today so that all Sacramento County families have the individual choice to keep their insurance if it is working for them.

“That being said, I encourage Californians to explore their options on California’s new health insurance marketplace, Covered California, where families are likely to find plans that offer better coverage, for less money. California’s website is working, and health plans in the marketplace offer more patient protections and assistance to help pay for insurance, which isn’t available under existing plans.

“The bipartisan passage of today’s bill, and the President’s new proposal to let Americans keep their current coverage through 2014, are important steps in the right direction. As a doctor and the former Chief Medical Officer of Sacramento County, I am committed to bringing down the cost of health care and will keep working to fix parts of the Affordable Care Act that aren’t working for the American people.”

All three Democrats hold what could be described as swing districts. The Cook Political Report, a renowned prognosticator of elections, rates McNerney’s 9th Congressional District and Garamendi’s 3rd Congressional District as “likely Democrat,” meaning they’re not considered competitive at this point but have the potential to become engaged. But Cook rates Bera’s 7th Congressional District as a toss-up in which either party has a good chance of winning.

Elizabeth Emken, one of three Republicans seeking to unseat Bera next year, issued a statement saying Bera is trying to mask his support of an unpopular law.

“Regardless of his vote today, Ami Bera has continually defended Obamacare and all the problems it has caused while voting to keep it the law of the land,” she said. “Bera’s votes have put over 1 million Californians in danger of losing their health care. He can claim he was ‘concerned’ all he wants, but his voting record tells the painful truth – Ami Bera approved of Obamacare, and now he is trying to distance himself from its disastrous effects.”

Health insurers are discontinuing individual-market policies that don’t meet the standards set forth in the nation’s new law. Those receiving such notices are being offered new policies by their insurers, but also can go to the Covered California website to shop around for the best deal and to determine whether they’re eligible for subsidies.

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Updates on House races: CA9, CA10 & CA15

After a spate of news about some of Northern California’s most notable House races of 2014, I thought it was time to examine some others that are flying under the radar.

I’ve reported recently that 2012 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken is moving to Fair Oaks to challenge freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, in the 7th Congressional District, and about the (lopsided) money race between Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in the 17th Congressional District.

Here’s a little more to chew on, based on who has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission and launched websites so far:

Steve Colangelo9th Congressional District: Now in his fourth term, incumbent Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is perennially identified by the National Republican Congressional Committee as vulnerable, yet has stomped all comers; last year, he beat GOP challenger Ricky Gill by 12 percentage points in the newly drawn district. In 2014, he’ll face a challenge from Steve Anthony Colangelo, 53, of Stoctkon, a prominent member of the local business community who owns “the leading event supply company in the Central Valley for weddings, graduation parties and other important community and family events.” At least we know the campaign parties will be lavishly appointed.

Michael Eggman10th Congressional District: Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, won a second term last year by beating back a challenge from Democrat and former astronaut Jose Hernandez. Next year he’ll face a challenge by Michael Eggman, 48, of Kingsburg, an almond farmer and apiary operator who says he can identify with and act upon Central Valley farmers’ concerns. A key question will be whether he is also the walrus, goo goo g’joob. (Sorry, Mr. Eggman – I’m sure you get that a lot, but I couldn’t resist.)

Ellen Corbett15th Congressional District: Freshman Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, will face a challenge from state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro – note her relatively new campaign website, through which she’s seeking contributions via the progressive grassroots ActBlue organization. Corbett, you’ll recall, had hoped to succeed Rep. Pete Stark but chose not to run against him last year; Swalwell ran and won. Swalwell’s campaign tells me he raised about $233,000 in the second quarter, bringing his total receipts for the first half of this year to just shy of the half-million mark and leaving him with around $350,000 cash on hand as of June 30. I reached out to Corbett for a preview of her second-quarter numbers, but she didn’t respond.

3

House members blast Brown’s Delta water plan

Five members of Congress held a news conference in Sacramento this morning to renew their staunch opposition to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; and Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, all believe the plan would devastate the Delta and ignores concerns repeatedly raised by local stakeholders. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, concurs but wasn’t at today’s news conference.

The state has released a 20,000-page Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the BDCP. Chapters 1-7 were released in the last few months and Chapters 8-12, including the financing mechanism, were released yesterday.

The lawmakers released statements after their news conference. From McNerney:

Jerry McNerney“The Governor recently released additional information on his deeply-flawed plan for the Delta region, which further proves he is intent on forcing this plan forward without any regard for the farmers, families and small business owners who rely upon a healthy Delta for their livelihoods, or for the incredible environmental damage that will result. As it stands, the plan will cost billions of dollars, devastate the most valuable water resource we have in California, and ultimately create no new water. There is a better way forward, and it must include the input of the people who stand to lose the most if the Delta is destroyed.”

From Thompson:

Mike Thompson“The proposed BDCP is not a workable solution. It puts the interests of South-of-Delta water contractors ahead of the Delta’s and North-of-Delta’s farmers, fishers and small business owners. Livelihoods are at stake. Until we have a plan that is transparent, based on sound science and developed with all stake-holders at the table, then any process that moves us closer to building these tunnels will recklessly risk billions of California tax dollars and thousands of jobs. Let’s take the time to get this right.”

From Miller:

George Miller“Governor Brown and his administration officials have failed to demonstrate that they are taking into account the real physical and financial harm that can come to Bay-Delta communities if a BDCP plan is pushed through without the proper cost benefit analysis of alternatives, an adequate finance plan, or without acknowledging the best available science — science that has pointed to the real possibility that this plan could overtax our water resources and devastate the Bay-Delta region. Without doing so the BDCP is further than ever from a sustainable policy. It is time to seriously reevaluate this plan to ensure it fulfills the co-equal goals that it is mandated to adhere to, and takes into consideration the concerns of the businesses, families and communities that rely on a viable, healthy Bay-Delta region for their livelihoods.”

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Condi Rice coming soon to CBS – and Stockton

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is coming soon to a television, and a speaking engagement, near you.

Condoleezza-Rice-photo-by-Steve-Gladfelter-Stanford.jpgCBS News announced yesterday that Rice, 58, who is now a Stanford professor and Hoover Institution senior fellow, is now a CBS News contributor, effective immediately. “In this role, the former Secretary of State will use her insight and vast experience to explore issues facing America at home and abroad,” the news release said.

Rice, who was President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009 and his National Security Advisor from 2001 to 2005, is also a founding partner of RiceHadleyGates LLC, an international business consulting firm.

She will be featured at a March 21 forum on “Advancing Women’s Leadership,” to be held at the University of the Pacific’s Alex G. Spanos Center; tickets cost $25 and will go on sale tomorrow (Tuesday, Jan. 22) at the university’s box office. Proceeds will benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Stockton and the University’s Women’s Resource Center.

The forum aims to inspire participants, especially young women, to make a lasting, positive and powerful impact in the communities where they live and work.

“We are thrilled and proud to bring Dr. Condoleezza Rice to Stockton,” Kathleen Lagorio Janssen, chair of University of the Pacific’s Board of Regents and a member of the Advancing Women’s Leadership planning committee, said in a news release. “Her vast accomplishments on the national and global stages are an inspiration to all aspiring leaders, men and women, who are working to improve the lives of those around them.”

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Why is NRCC still targeting Jerry McNerney?

I got a good laugh from an e-mail I received yesterday morning from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“Today, the National Republican Congressional Committee is welcoming Jerry McNerney back to Washington with a plan he won’t be able to resist: the House Democrats’ Retirement Package. This is an incredible offer for the California Democrat. With voters poised to boot McNerney out of office in the next election, why not just bow out now?,” the email said.

“Why wait until voters show you the door in 2014?” NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said in the release. “House Democrats continue to support tax and spend policies and a big government agenda. If McNerney doesn’t retire soon, voters are going to deliver his retirement for him.”

McNerney, D-Stockton, was one of 10 House Democrats whose districts were targeted with this message, and the only one in California. I just can’t imagine why the NRCC continues to see McNerney as vulnerable, given that he just whupped the NRCC’s anointed “Young Gun,” Ricky Gill of Lodi, by 11.2 percentage points last month – the largest victory margin McNerney has ever had. He also now enjoys the largest Democratic voter registration edge (12 points) he’s ever had, so it’s hard to see how the NRCC sees a foothold there.

But hey, email is free, right? The true test will be when we see how much money the NRCC does, or doesn’t, put behind the next Republican to challenge McNerney.