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SD9: Robert Reich endorses Nancy Skinner

A state Senate battle between two like-minded progressives rolls on in the East Bay, with some new heat from a prominent liberal’s endorsement.

Nancy SkinnerFormer U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, now a UC-Berkeley professor, endorsed former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner this week in next year’s 9th State Senate District race. Skinner, D-Berkeley, is vying with former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, in this race – two labor-backed liberals with no daylight between them on most notable issues.

“Nancy Skinner is a proud progressive leader who is not afraid to take on powerful corporate interests and fight for our families,” Reich said in Skinner’s news release. “We need a fighter like Nancy Skinner in the State Senate.”

Skinner, who was term- limited out of the Assembly late last year and now is an energy and transportation senior fellow at UC-Davis, said she’s honored to have Reich’s support. “Not only is he a personal hero, he is one of the most thoughtful, compelling and effective progressive leaders in America. Reich has dedicated his career to combating injustice and making a real difference in the world.”

Skinner less than two weeks ago announced her endorsement by 12 current state Senate Democrats. But Swanson began rolling out his own endorsements at the start of this past summer, which have included nods from both the assemblymen now representing the district; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Teamsters Joint Council 7; and 9th District incumbent Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who’ll be term-limited out next year.

Skinner had about $922,000 ($925,176, less $2,878 in outstanding debt) banked for this race as of June 30, while Swanson had about $50,000 ($80,387, less $30,443 in outstanding debt).

Republican Richard Kinney, San Pablo’s vice mayor, also is running for the seat; he had about $750 banked as of June 30. But in a district that’s 63 percent Democrat to 8 percent Republican, it’s hard to imagine him making it into the June primary’s top two in order to advance to November.

A third prominent Democrat, former Assembly Majority Leader and current Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, dropped out of this race late last month.

“Over the past six months, I am proud to say that we had successfully begun to build a campaign based on local support, community action and alliances with like-minded groups in Sacramento, Chan wrote in message to supporters. “Unfortunately, political races are increasingly dependent on money and less on grassroots support and action. It has become clear that the window of time I have to raise the necessary funds will be difficult given my responsibilities to my constituents. It has also become clear that the needs of my family must come first.”

Chan noted that although she can use some of the money she had raised for this race for her supervisorial campaign committee and the rest for like-minded candidates and causes, she will honor individual contributors’ requests for refunds.

The 9th District is a swath of Contra Costa and Alameda counties from Rodeo in the north to San Leandro in the south, including Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Piedmont, Emeryville, Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Hercules, Kensington and other communities.

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SD9: Sandre Swanson rolls out early endorsements

Former Assemblyman Sandre Swanson is seeking early dominance in next year’s three-way (at least) Democratic showdown for the 9th State Senate District – in part, at least, by calling in old favors.

Swanson, D-Alameda, will face former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan – also a former assemblywoman – in the race to succeed state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who’ll be term-limited out in 2016.

Swanson on Thursday announced the endorsement of Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, whose district includes about half of the 9th Senate District’s voters. Thurmond said Swanson’s “Swanson’s record of standing up and fighting for our children, seniors, and working families is second to none.” Swanson was one of Thurmond’s earliest endorsers – way back in June 2013 – in last year’s very crowded 15th Assembly District race, while Skinner backed Elizabeth Echols. Chan endorsed Thurmond too, but not until well after the June primary.

On Wednesday, Swanson had announced his endorsement by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, who has the other half of the 9th District’s voters. “He is someone that has stood up and done the right thing for our community, time and time again, showing a track record of being a true leader,” Bonta said. Swanson in 2012 had endorsed Bonta to succeed him.

And Swanson two weeks ago reminded everyone that he has the incumbent’s stamp of approval from Hancock – although that’s old news, given that she actually endorsed him for this race way back in 2012 in exchange for his dropping a possible challenge to her.

But Swanson’s early rollout of prominent endorsements might be to compensate for a cash disadvantage.

Filings with the Secretary of State’s office show Swanson’s campaign had about $13,500 banked at the start of this year, and has raised about $8,500 in big-ticket contributions since then. He has a fish-fry fundraiser scheduled for next Friday, June 26 near his Bay Farm Island home.

By contrast, Skinner started 2015 with almost $396,000 banked, and her old Assembly campaign committee shut down in March after transferring $435,278 to the Senate committee — so that’s a little more than $831,000 ready for deployment.

And according to filings with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ office, Chan’s 2014 supervisorial campaign committee started this year with about $57,000 in the bank – money that’s transferrable to her 2016 senate committee. Chan’s state senate committee then held a May 27 fundraiser at a Fremont steakhouse, for which tickets ranged from $125 to $8,500; she has not yet had to file a report reflecting how much she raked in. Don’t forget, Chan – who was term-limited out of the Assembly in 2006 – has wanted this seat for a loooong time, having lost the 2008 primary to Hancock after a sometimes-ugly race.

As I’ve noted before, this will be a very different dynamic from this year’s 7th State Senate District special election in which centrist Democrat Steve Glazer defeated liberal Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. Because Swanson, Chan and Skinner will be fighting over the same pool of liberal endorsements and contributions, who gets what could be a better-than-usual indicator of which way the winds are blowing.

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The East Bay’s next big intra-Democratic battle

Sick and tired of the Democrat-on-Democrat showdown that’s drawing an obscene amount of special-interest spending and burying voters beneath an avalanche of sleazy mailers in the 7th State Senate District special election? Well, the East Bay might have another Democrat-on-Democrat fight right around the corner.

Actually, make that Democrat-on-Democrat-on-Democrat. Former assembly members Wilma Chan, Nancy Skinner and Sandre Swanson all seem primed to run for the 9th State Senate District seat, from which Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will be term-limited out in 2016.

Wilma ChanChan, 65, of Alameda, served in the Assembly from 2000 to 2006, including a two-year stint as majority leader. She ran unsuccessfully against Hancock for this seat in 2008’s Democratic primary. An Alameda County supervisor from 1994 to 2000, she returned to the board in 2010.

Chan’s 2016 Senate committee hasn’t filed any reports yet, but wrote in a recent fundraising email that she has “had a busy Spring meeting friends old and new, and introducing my campaign for California State Senate representing the communities of the East Bay.” Her next campaign event, hosted by fellow supervisors Scott Haggerty and Richard Valle, is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27 at the Spin-A-Yarn Steakhouse in Fremont; tickets start at $125, but co-hosts are paying up to $8,500 each.

Skinner, 60, of Berkeley, was a Berkeley City Councilwoman from 1984 to 1992 and was elected to the Assembly in 2008; she was term-limited out of the 15th Assembly District seat last year, succeeded by Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond. She’s now a part-time senior policy fellow at UC Davis’ Energy Efficiency Center, Institute of Transportation Studies, and the Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy.

Skinner’s 2016 Senate campaign reported having $395,816.39 banked as of Dec. 31, and her old Assembly campaign committee shut down in March after transferring $435,278.05 to the Senate committee – so that’s a little more than $831,000 ready for deployment.

Swanson, 66, of Alameda, was a top aide to Rep. Ron Dellums and Rep. Barbara Lee for 30 years before serving in the Assembly from 2006 to 2012, and then serving as Oakland’s deputy mayor through the end of last year. He considered challenging Hancock in 2012, but withdrew – and she responded by endorsing him for 2016.

Swanson’s 2016 Senate committee started the year with $13,461.93 cash on hand but $25,659.86 in debts; in April, it reported $8,500 in contributions from the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. He has a fundraiser scheduled for Sunday, June 7 at a home in the Oakland Hills, with Barbara Lee as a headliner; tickets start at $250, but campaign sponsors can pay $4,200 to bring up to eight guests.

This race probably will have a very different dynamic from the current 7th District contest, where Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, is the labor favorite, while big business is spending money on centrist Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer’s behalf. Chan, Skinner and Swanson are all dyed-in-the-wool East Bay labor liberals – you’re not likely to see the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC anointing any of them as it has Glazer – and will be fighting over many of the same endorsements, contributors and voters.

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Chan plans hearing on health care reform impacts

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan – a former Assembly Health Committee chair who championed health insurance for kids – on Monday will host the first in a series of hearings on local implementation of national health care reforms.

The hearing, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors’ chambers on the fifth floor of 1221 Oak St. in Oakland, will bring together local health care leaders for an overview of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on the county. Speakers will include Richard Thomason, program officer at the Blue Shield of California Foundation; Alex Briscoe, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency; and Peter Harbage, the state’s former Assistant Secretary for Health under Gov. Gray Davis.

Chan’s office says that by 2018, more than 150,000 people in Alameda County will be newly covered by Medi-Cal or private insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Health care providers are getting ready for major delivery system changes, including more availability of medical homes and integrated care delivery through accountable care organizations.

Future hearings will address a different issue area each month, trying to fit specific local issues into the big picture through community feedback and policy recommendations.

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Candidates woo Dem lawyers in Oakland

Having all four candidates for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 3 seat on the same stage might’ve been the high point of this afternoon’s Alameda County Democratic Lawyers’ Club endorsement luncheon.

Chan, Johnson, Lowe & Filipovich (photo by Josh Richman)Former Assembly Majority Leader Wilma Chan of Alameda, San Leandro political activist Lou Filipovich, Alameda Mayor Bev Johnson and Oakland financial advisor Harold Lowe each said her or his piece, and then the panel took a few questions from the crowd in the back room at Everett & Jones near Oakland’s Jack London Square.

Filipovich, the lone registered Republican in the bunch, spoke about ensuring that taxpayers don’t continue subsidizing non-productive citizens, and so forth; boy, was this the wrong room for him, and he eventually acknowledged as much.

Lowe said current supervisors have no answer for the loss of jobs at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), no clear plan for the county’s economic development and job creation, no sense of how to capitalize on the county’s three major sports franchises. “Nothing is going to change unless we have real citizens pushing the envelope,” he said, warning that without good planning, “we are five years away from becoming Vallejo.”

(Vallejo just can’t get any love, even during its self-declared Tourism Month.)

Johnson touted Alameda’s economic development successes over the past dozen years (she was elected to the city council there in 1998 and has been mayor since 2002), including Webster Street’s bounce-back from the Naval Air Station’s closure, improvements on Park Street and the South Shore Center’s revitalization as Alameda Towne Center. With a $184 million county budget deficit, bringing new jobs to the area is more important than ever, she said.

And Chan billed herself as the one who can “hit the ground running, who doesn’t need any training,” having spent six years on the board before her six years in the Assembly. She noted it was legislation she authored that required Anthem Blue Cross to notify the state about its now-notorious, now-withdrawn rate hike proposal; she said she expects she would spend most of her first term working on a top-to-bottom restructuring of the county’s health care system, as tens of thousands of county residents newly insured under the federal health care reform law start seeking care.

Chan got the club’s endorsement.

Justin Jelincec (photo by Josh Richman)Luncheon attendees also heard today from Justin Jelincic, the self proclaimed “conservative Democrat” and “Bible believing Christian” who’s taking on Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in the 13th Congressional District’s Democratic primary. He said he was there to represent “the other side of the big tent” in the party, and filed to run only when he realized nobody else would; Jelincic said Stark himself noted 38 years ago, as he ran to unseat a longtime incumbent, that 30 years in Congress was too long because a lawmaker would lose touch with those he represents. A contested primary is “an opportunity for us as a party to say to people, ‘We want the best and the brightest.’”

Stark staffer Jason Teramoto read a message on his boss’ behalf, saying he’d been a longtime advocate for seniors, workers, children and the disabled, especially when it comes to health care, and he wants to continue doing so for another term. Stark got the club’s endorsement.

Bob Wieckowski (photo by Josh Richman)And Fremont City Councilman Bob Wieckowski sought the club’s endorsement in his campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 20th Assembly District; opponent Garrett Yee wasn’t there. “My opponent is a nice guy, served in Iraq, has a wonderful family, but this is not about being a nice guy,” Wieckowski said – rather, it’s about being a forceful advocate for Democratic ideals. He vowed that if the oil-severance tax to fund education isn’t successful as carried this year by Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, he’ll reintroduce it next year because he’s “mad as hell” about cuts to state colleges and universities. Wieckowski got the club’s endorsement.

Others at the luncheon included Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro; Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley; and Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, all of whom are unopposed in the primary election.

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East Bay candidacy and campaign odds and ends

Although many expect former Assemblywoman Wilma Chan to seek and probably win the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Distrct 3 seat (to which incumbent and former Chan aide Alice Lai-Bitker won’t seek re-election), it doesn’t mean the field will be clear: Alameda City Councilwoman Lena Tam filed a candidate intention statement for the seat Jan. 25. District 3 includes the cities of Alameda and San Leandro; the San Lorenzo, Ashland and Hillcrest Knolls unincorporated areas; and Oakland’s Fruitvale, San Antonio and Chinatown districts.

The Democratic primary race for the 20th Assembly District seat (from which incumbent Alberto Torrico is term-limited out, and running for Attorney General) seems pretty evenly matched, moneywise. Fremont City Councilman Bob Wieckowski reported raising $50,810 and spending $13,132.81 in the latter half of 2009, leaving him with $95,672 cash on hand and $7,905 in debt ($87,767 unencumbered) at year’s end. Ohlone College Trustee Garrett Yee reported raising $70,864 and spending $42,663 in the latter half of 2009, leaving him with $126,660 cash on hand and $53,188 ($73,472 unencumbered) at year’s end. But there isn’t much happening on the Republican side: GOP candidate Adnan Shahab reported raising $1,455 – of which $1,350 seemed to come from him and his family – and spending $1,232 in the latter half of 2009, leaving him with $223 cash on hand and no debt at year’s end.

If Republican Jeff Wald of Fremont is going to give incumbent state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, a run for her money this November, he’d better start finding some money of his own. Wald reported having raised $400 and spent $225.50 in the latter half of 2009, leaving him $174.50 cash on hand at year’s end; the 48-year-old computer network specialist, who challenged but lost to Torrico in 2008, received $100 from Sondra Wald of Henderson, Nev., and $300 from himself. Meanwhile, Corbett raised $80,505 in the latter half of 2009, leaving her with $227,368 cash on hand and $2,179 in debts at year’s end.

Three candidates have emerged so far for the one vacant Alameda County Superior Court seat on June’s ballot. Administrative Law Judge Victoria Kolakowski of Oakland, who ran unsuccessfully for a Superior Court seat in 2008, filed a new candidate intention statement Jan. 29. Criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Louis Goodman of Hayward has filed papers as well. And Deputy District Attorney John Creighton confirmed to me this afternoon that he’s running; the 25-year veteran of the DA’s office was in the headlines for a while about a year ago as he handled the early phases of prosecuting Johannes Mehserle, the former BART Police officer charged with murder in the death of Oscar Grant.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley isn’t up for re-election to a fourth term in his District 4 seat until 2012, but that didn’t stop him from raising $26,362 in the latter half of 2009. Of that amount, $1,000 is came from the “canna-business” sector supporting medical marijuana and total legalization: $500 from Tax Cannabis, the committee supporting the legalization measure expected to be on this November’s ballot; $250 from the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, now known as the Patient ID Center; $200 from the Berkeley Patients Group; and $50 from medical marijuana attorney/activist Robert Raich of Oakland. And as in the past, Miley has kept some of his campaign spending in the family, paying $2,000 to his son, Chris, of Alameda.