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Political transparency protests set for Thursday

Activists are planning 50 events in cities coast to coast – including Berkeley and Walnut Creek – on Thursday urging President Obama to sign an executive order requiring contractors that do business with the government to disclose their political spending.

The rallies will include a news conference outside the White House, at which hundreds of thousands of petitions will be delivered.

For now, companies bidding for public contracts need not disclose their campaign spending; activists say this creates a corrupt pay-to-play system in which money from government contracts can secretly be used to re-elect those who award the deals. With an executive order, Obama could force contractors to disclose their spending so citizens can see which elected officials get the most contributions from them.

Thursday was picked for the national event because it’s the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision, which increased the flow of money from corporations, unions and the wealthy into politics.
Activists will gather at from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at South Main Street and Olympic Blvd. in Walnut Creek with signs, music, petitions and information sheets.

In Berkeley, activists will have a table on the University of California’s Sproul Plaza near Sather Gate from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with en masse photos – featuring a large prop flashlight to “shine the light on political corruption – at noon and 2 p.m.

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East Bay Dem wants to take on Tom McClintock

A firebrand liberal from Walnut Creek says he intends to take on Gold Country conservative Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, in 2016, but his goal of enlisting national aid seems a longshot at best.

David Peterson made his pitch Monday night to the TriValley Democratic Club in Dublin, a good 60 or 70 miles from the nearest edge of McClintock’s 4th Congressional District.

David Peterson“I intend to oust Tom McClintock, a Republican in a very Republican district – he’s bad for America and we can do this,” he said, adding he was seeking this club’s support “because you are exceptional. We’ve done this before. We ousted Richard Pombo… and we’ve held the district ever since.”

A handbill he provided says he wants to “take the profit out of war profiteering,” “defund domestic spying,” “prevent Wall Street financial schemes,” “legalize whistleblowing of government crimes,” pursue women’s and LGBT equality, “fund rehabilitation and mental health services,” cut red tape for transitioning to green energy sources, and save Social Security and Medicare “from Republican pilfering and pocketing.”

Peterson said Tuesday he worked with moderate Republican former Rep. Pete McCloskey, who challenged Pombo in the 2006 GOP primary before endorsing Democrat Jerry McNerney in that year’s general election.

Peterson then tried to organize opposition to Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, who he deems a hawkish supporter of war profiteering. He said he switched from the Green Party to the GOP “because the Green Party was ineffective and nobody on the Democratic side would work hard to oust Ellen Tauscher.” When she left Congress to take a State Department post in 2009, he ran as a Republican in the special primary election to succeed her – partly to be a spoiler against Republican “Wall Street bankster” David Harmer but also “to get my message out as well,” he said.

Peterson also has tried to organize opposition to Democratic House incumbents such as Pete Stark, whom he said wasn’t delivering on his progressive promises, and Jane Harman, who he also deems too hawkish. More recently, Peterson ran as a Democrat against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francsico, in 2012 and 2014, believing she needed to be pulled toward more progressive stances like avoiding military involvement in Syria and more actively supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Peterson said Monday night that his goal is to spark a big voter registration drive to engage and mobilize Democrats in McClintock’s district, and get the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to target McClintock in 2016. He asked for the club’s support in phone banking, doing field work in the district, and contributions.

It’s hard to see how the DCCC would want to get involved. The 4th Congressional District’s current voter registration is 44.4 percent Republican, 28.6 percent Democratic and 20.9 percent nonpartisan, so there’s an enormous registration mountain to climb. No Democrat ran there at all last year; independent Jeffrey Gerlach was eliminated in the top-two primary, leaving McClintock to duke it out with comparatively moderate fellow Republican Art Moore in November. McClintock won by 20 points.

The DCCC usually focuses its resources in more winnable districts. McClintock’s district has a Democratic Performance Index – the average Democratic percentage over three similar past elections – of 39.4 and President Obama got only 40.6 percent of the vote there in 2012. That’s nowhere what the DCCC has deemed competitive recently:

  • CA-07, Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove: 49 DPI, Obama 2012 52%
  • CA-10, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock: 47.3 DPI, Obama 2012: 51.8%
  • CA-21, Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford: 49 DPI, Obama 2012 55.7%
  • CA-25, Rep. Steve Knight, R-Lancaster: 43 DPI, Obama 2012 49.1%
  • CA-26, Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village: 50.5 DPI, Obama 2012 55.2%
  • CA-52, Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego: 48.7 DPI, Obama 2012 53.3%
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    Buchanan calls poll ‘definitive,’ foe says it’s ‘BS’

    Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan is touting a poll she commissioned that shows she’s better-known and likelier to win the 7th State Senate District special election than the three other declared candidates.

    Buchanan, 62, of Alamo, has twice the name recognition of Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, 54, D-Concord, among 7th District likely voters – 65 percent to Bonilla’s 33 percent – according to the poll from GarinHartYang Research Group. Only 17 percent know Walnut Creek Republican Mark Meuser, 40, and only 8 percent know Concord Democrat Terry Kremin, 50.

    The poll found 31 percent of likely voters feel positively toward Buchanan while 14 percent feel so about Bonilla, 5 percent about Meuser and 2 percent about Kremin. For context, the poll found 60 percent feel positively about Gov. Jerry Brown; 34 percent feel positively about Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who just vacated the seat this special election will fill; 26 percent feel positively about Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, who just succeeded Buchanan in the 16th Assembly District; and 16 percent feel positively about Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, a Democrat who unsuccessfully sought the Assembly seat and has said he’s mulling this senate contest.

    In a four-way contest, 29 percent of likely voters preferred Buchanan, 12 percent preferred Bonilla, 26 percent preferred Meuser and 3 percent preferred Kremin, while 26 percent said they’re undecided and 4 percent said they supported someone else or nobody.

    And presented with a hypothetical head-to-head, 38 percent said they would support Buchanan and 17 percent said they would support Bonilla, with 35 percent undecided and 10 percent say supported neither or somebody else. Buchanan’s poll surveyed 401 likely voters this past Monday, Jan. 12, and has a 4.9-percentage-point margin of error.

    Buchanan blasted out an email to supporters Friday morning linking to the poll memo and calling the results “definitive… I am in an excellent place to win in this special election.”

    Susan BonillaBut Bonilla campaign consultant Josh Pulliam said Buchanan is pulling a page from a losing playbook. When she ran in the 2009 special primary election to succeed Rep. Ellen Tauscher, Buchanan touted an early poll’s results as evidence that she was in first place and best-positioned to win; she finished fourth, despite spending $1.2 million.

    “Considering Buchanan entered the race touting her slogan of running a ‘positively’ positive campaign, it’s sad that just a few weeks later Buchanan has already broken that campaign promise by attacking the viability of her opponents,” Pulliam said Friday. “But as we have seen from Buchanan’s past tactics, her polling memo is positively BS.”

    The special election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19, with the special primary on Tuesday, March 17. Bonilla and Buchanan will go head-to-head at a candidates’ forum next Monday, Jan. 19 hosted by the TriValley Democratic Club. Doors open for the event, at the IBEW 595 union hall at 6250 Village Parkway in Dublin, at 7 p.m.; the club’s business meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.; and the candidates’ forum should start by 8 p.m.

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    Mark Meuser launches Bay Area Republican PAC

    What’s Mark Meuser up to?

    Mark MeuserMeuser, you’ll recall, is the Walnut Creek civil litigation attorney who ran against state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, in 2012 (a race DeSaulnier won, 61.5 percent to 38.5 percent). More recently, he’s been donning Minuteman garb to deliver speeches on the nation’s Founding Fathers at meetings of local Republican groups.

    Reports filed Friday with the Secretary of State’s office show Meuser, 39, this year created the Bay Area Republican Political Action Committee, which he funded with $10,500 of his own money. Most of that money already has been spent, including $7,000 on television ad production and $2,500 for print ads in the Antioch Herald. He also registered a BARepublican.com website, though it’s not active yet.

    But Meuser is being a bit cryptic about what it’s all for.

    “The PAC has not spent any money on behalf of any candidate,” he said in an email conversation Monday. “The PAC is preparing for this November’s election and the money it spent was in preparation for that.”

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    CD11: Ex-Walnut Creek Councilman Kish Rajan won’t run

    Kish Rajan, GO-Biz director

    Former Walnut Creek Councilman Kish Rajan has taken his name out of the running for the 11th congressional district seat that Rep. George Miller will vacate at the end of the year after four decades  in the House of Representatives.

    Rajan left the city council in 2012 when he was offered a job as the director of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

    “I love working for Gov. Brown and feel we are doing good things for the California economy,” Rajan texted a few minutes ago. “So, I plan to stick with it.”

    That leaves only one name still floating around as a potential serious challenger to state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier of Concord: Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson.

    The senator declared his candidacy within minutes of Miller’s retirement announcement on Jan. 14 and has locked down endorsements from almost everyone who might mount a credible challenge against him.

    Lawson has said she is seriously considering running for the rare open congressional seat and is expected to make an announcement within a few days.

    The other declared candidates are retired immigration judge and Republican Tue Phan-Quang of Danville and Jason Ramey, a 33-year-old political newbie from Concord. You can check out Ramey’s website at www.jasonrameyforcongress.com.

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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.