On politics in the Golden State

Category: Congress

Two California state senators resign to join Congress

APphoto_New CongressAs expected, state Sens. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and Gloria Negrete-McLeod (D-Chino) are stepping down from state office Wednesday so they can take seats in Congress, to which they were elected Nov. 6.

Negrete-McLeod's resignation is effective at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, while Vargas' resignation takes effect at 5 p.m. Both members wrote in their resignation letters to Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) that they were honored to have served in the Senate.

 "I look forward to continuing to work with you and my successor to further strengthen the relationship between the state of California and federal government,'' Vargas wrote.  Negrete-McLeod wrote  "it is with great sadness and joy that I ask you to accept my resignation as an elected member of the California State Senate.”

Negrete-McLeod and Vargas are scheduled to be sworn in to their congressional seats Thursday.

Gov. Jerry Brown now has 14 days to call a special election to fill the two Senate seats. Senate Democrats are hoping for a March primary and May general election so the new senators can be on board in time for the annual budget vote, said Rhys Williams, a spokesman for Steinberg. Candidates are already lining up to run for the two seats.

Assemblywoman Norma Torres (D-Pomona) and San Bernardino County Auditor/Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector Larry Walker are among those running for the Negrete-McLeod seat, while Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-Logan Heights) has announced his candidacy to replace Vargas.


Jerry Brown pardons 79 felons

Jeffrey Beard sworn in as prisons chief

Even the "graybar hotels" get a Web review

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Rep.-elect Gloria Negrete-Mcleod (D-Chino).  Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press



Pelosi to host memorial service for Mervyn Dymally in Washington

Obit Dymally JPEG-0c89e
The late Mervyn M. Dymally, a pioneering Los Angeles-based lawmaker for decades, will be honored at a Dec. 12 memorial service in Washington, it was announced Tuesday.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) will host the event, scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. at the House  Visitors Center, Room 215.

Among those slated to speak are Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Karen Bass of Los Angeles and Janice Hahn of San Pedro. 

Dymally, who served in Congress and in the state Legislature, was the first African American to be elected California lieutenant governor.  He helped foster the political careers of many others in the Los Angeles area, earning him the nickname "Godfather of African American politics"  in California.

He died Oct. 7 at 86.

Born in Trinidad, Dymally was the first foreign-born, naturalized citizen elected to Congress, where he served Los Angeles' 31st District from 1981 to 1993.

Anyone wishing to attend the event may call (202) 256-0499 or email tkarim@teclawgroup.com.


Healthcare cuts questioned by lawmakers

Senate leader questions plan for childrens' healthcare

Republicans aim to save children's healthcare program

--Jean Merl

Photo:  Mervyn M. Dymally. Credit: Nick Ut/Associated Press




Lungren unseated by Democrat for Sacramento-area House seat

Ami BeraDemocrat Ami Bera has defeated veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren in a nationally watched  Sacramento-area race, the Associated Press declared Thursday.

A Lungren spokesman, however, said the congressman was not conceding.

"It will be an honor to serve Sacramento County in Congress," Bera said in a written statement.

"Now is the time to find common ground and move forward to rebuild an economy that works for the middle class," he said. "Congressman Lungren deserves our appreciation for his long record of public service."

While thousands of ballots remained uncounted, Bera campaign manager Josh Wolf said that Bera has been widening his lead over Lungren since election day. On Thursday, Bera led Lungren by more than 5,000 votes.

The tight race has created an awkward situation on Capitol Hill where Bera, a physician, is attending an orientation for new House members organized by the Committee on House Administration, chaired by Lungren.

The race was among the House contests that drew the most outside money -- more than $9 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Lungren has been a political fixture in California: a former state attorney general, Republican nominee for governor and one of the few members of Congress to have represented two different districts hundreds of miles apart.

Last week's election -- following the redrawing of district boundaries by a citizens' commission instead of politicians and a spate of retirements by incumbents -- has led to the biggest shake-up of the California congressional delegation in 20 years.


Poll: Enthusiasm for ballot measures motivated state voters

Assemblyman Chris Norby loss cements Democratic supermajority

County Supervisor Antonovich recalls last Assembly supermajority

 -- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.

Photo: New U.S. Rep. Ami Bera. Credit: AP Photo / The Sacramento Bee, Lezlie Sterling

Bono Mack declines to concede, citing uncounted ballots

APphoto_California Congress[1]Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs, who is trailing
Democrat Raul Ruiz by just over 4,500 votes with all precincts reporting, on Wednesday declined to concede defeat because of a large number of ballots that have yet to be tallied.

“With more than 180,000 ballots still to be counted around
Riverside County, it is premature to consider any election results final," said Marc Troast, the congresswoman’s political director.  “Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack and her campaign will be awaiting the impact of this large number of remaining ballots before making any further statements on the 36th Congressional District race.”

The number of uncounted ballots Troast mentioned is the countywide total, not the number of uncounted ballots in the much smaller area of the 36th Congressional District. A representative of the Riverside County Registrar of Voters said the office did not have an estimate for the number of uncounted ballots in that congressional district.

It's common to have uncounted ballots remaining in the days or weeks after a major election. They include mail-in ballots that arrived on election day, plus provisional or damaged ballots that must be inspected by election officials.

Ruiz, an emergency room doctor, grew up in the Coachella Valley as the son of a farm workers and he has been an active proponent of providing greater medical care to the underserved area.

This was Ruiz's first political campaign, and he proved to be the toughest challenger Bono Mack has faced in her 14-year congressional career. Bono Mack was first elected to replace her husband, singer Sonny Bono, in Congress after his death in a skiing accident.  

Bono Mack had attacked Ruiz as a “radical” for taking part in a Native American protest of Thanksgiving when he was a Harvard medical student in the late 1990s, including reading a letter written by a Zapatista rebel leader from Chiapas, Mexico, in support of Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Ruiz attacked Bono Mack for supporting the budget plan of GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, which he said would decimate Medicare. The Democratic Party also has aired television ads criticizing Bono Mack for benefiting from tax breaks for Florida residents.

The parties and outside political groups have spent more than $3.3 million on the race.

--Phil Willon

Photo: Rep. Mary Bono Mack. Source: Bono Mack campaign.

Pete Stark, veteran Calif. congressman, defeated by 31-year-old

Pete Stark, Fremont's 80-year-old dean of California's congressional delegation, has been defeated by a fellow Democrat, a 31-year-old city councilman from nearby Dublin, according to the Associated Press.

Eric Swalwell's campaign against Stark, one of Congress’ most outspoken liberals, put the incumbent in the toughest campaign he had faced since he was elected in 1972. Stark, a multimillionaire former banker, is fifth in seniority in the 435-member House.

Stark faced a tough race because of two big political changes in California: the political map drawn by an independent citizens commission that put him in a new district a bit less liberal, and the state's new top-two primary system that set up the Democrat-versus-Democrat clash.

FULL RESULTS: California races

Stark finished ahead of Swalwell in the three-candidate primary, 42.1% to 36.2%. Swalwell is a deputy district attorney who was elected in 2010 to the city council of Dublin, a suburb of 46,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was an intern to former Rep. Ellen Tauscher in 2001-02.

Stark first gained national attention as the "hippie banker" who, during the Vietnam War, put a peace symbol on the headquarters of the bank he founded in the East Bay. He was an architect of landmark legislation that allowed workers to extend health coverage for a time after leaving their jobs and required emergency rooms to screen and stabilize anyone who showed up at their doors, regardless of their ability to pay.

He also played an important role in developing the 2010 Affordable Care Act, President Obama's healthcare law. He also has called for cutting the defense budget and creating a Department of Peace.

His legendary outbursts probably cost him the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee when Democrats were in the majority.

Stark once called a Republican lawmaker "a whore for the insurance industry" and another a "fruitcake." During the George W. Bush presidency, he said that troops were being sent to Iraq to "get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

Swalwell has sought to highlight Stark's flammable personality, saying it has contributed to Congress' sorry image.

-- Richard Simon in Washington

Berman concedes in 30th congressional district

Rep. Howard Berman has conceded to fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman after a bitter fight with his younger House colleague over a San Fernando Valley seat.

In his concession statement, Berman said, "I congratulate Brad. ... I will do whatever I can to ensure a cooperative and orderly transition."

The battle between the two men with similar voting records grew from two recent changes in the state’s political landscape: fresh political maps that put both their homes in the reconfigured 30th Congressional District and a new top-two primary system that lets two members of the same party compete in the general election.

Sherman, 58, went on the attack almost from the start, taking swipes at the 71-year-old Berman’s age and criticizing his votes on foreign trade agreements and initial legislation to rescue the nation’s troubled financial  institutions.  

FULL RESULTS: California races

Berman at first tried to stay above the fray, emphasizing his achievements in three decades in Congress and his reputation for working effectively across party lines. But he changed course after finishing 10 points behind Sherman in the primary, and the race grew increasingly testy. Berman launched a “BS Report” to knock Sherman’s style and what it characterized as Sherman’s lack of substantive legislation.   

Things grew so contentious that the two got physical at a Pierce College candidates forum.  Berman stepped close to Sherman as the congressmen argued hotly, and Sherman thrust his arm around Berman, shouting, “You want to get into this?”

 Spending by the campaigns and outside groups had surpassed $13 million as election day neared.

 -- Jean Merl

Riverside, Alameda county polling places to get federal monitors

Venice polling place, 2011Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice will be monitoring polling places in Riverside and Alameda counties along with nearly 50 other jurisdictions across the nation on Tuesday to ensure that federal voting rights laws are not violated.

The federal government began monitoring polling sites in Riverside County after the agency’s Civil Rights Division filed a complaint against the county for failing to offer election-related information and assistance to Spanish-speaking voters, a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The county and the Department of Justice reached a settlement in February 2010 that included having federal observers at polling stations.

A similar settlement was reached with Alameda County in 2011 after the federal government accused the county of failing to train an adequate number of poll workers to help Mandarin-, Cantonese- and Spanish-speaking voters on election day.

The Department of Justice will be monitoring polling places in 23 states.

Andre Birotte Jr., the U.S. attorney based in Los Angeles, on Friday also appointed Assistant U.S. Atty. Dennis Mitchell to serve as the department’s official election officer for the Nov. 6 election, to handle all citizen complaints of possible voting rights violations in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

“Even a potential violation of voting rights is an extremely serious matter," Birotte said in a statement. “Every citizen is entitled to vote without interference or discrimination. Citizens should not hesitate to report possible violations of voting rights laws.’’

Voters can contact the nustice Deparmtment online, at (213) 894-2484, or at voting.section@usdoj.gov.

-- Phil Willon in Riverside

 Photo: Venice polling place. Source: Al Seib, Los Angeles Times.

Bloomberg's Super-PAC spends $2.35 million to defeat Rep. Baca

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Super-PAC "Independence USA" poured an additional $2.35 million into a television advertising campaign to defeat Democratic Rep. Joe Baca of Rialto.

Baca is being challenged by fellow Democrat, state SMayor Bloombergen. Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino, in the 35th Congressional District in San Bernardino County.

Bloomberg, a billionaire political independent who has endorsed Democratic President Barack Obama for president, in October announced that he was forming the Super-PAC to back candidates in either party who support his top causes, including tougher gun laws and same-sex marriage. The Super-PAC is targeting Baca because the mayor believes he is weak on gun control laws, he told the New York Times.

The $2.35 million will support a television ad campaign opposing Baca and supporting McLeod, according to a disclosure filed with the Federal Election Commission. That will be in addition to more than $400,000 spent by Bloomberg’s PAC on the race for mailers and other campaign material.

Baca, in a statement released Thursday, criticized Bloomberg’s campaign as being “full of lies.” Baca, first elected to Congress in 1999, is the only Democrat representing the Inland Empire in Congress.

“It is appalling that an East Coast outsider like Mayor Bloomberg is trying to dictate the outcome of a congressional race thousands of miles away,’’ Baca said.


California sets new record for voter registration

Arizona nonprofit must turn over records, judge orders

Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to pick a central Prop. 30 sales pitch

-- Phil Willon in Riverside

Photo: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Source: Associated Press.

California sets new record for voter registration

A record number of Californians have registered to vote for the Nov. 6 election, with a new online registration system and growing interest in the tight presidential race helping to create a surge of applications in recent weeks.

As of Wednesday, counties have reported a record 18.14 million people are registered to vote, eclipsing the previous record of 17.33 million registrants, set in February 2009.

The numbers will go up as some counties this week finish counting new registrants, according to Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc., which is analyzing the numbers. He predicted the final number will be about 18.4 million registered voters.

Mitchell said a key factor in the surge is the state's decision to allow online voter registration for the Nov. 6 election, which drew more than 1 million applications in the last few months.

State officials including Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who authored the law allowing online registration, hailed the new record. “I am thrilled to see so many Californians participating in our democracy," Yee said in a statement. "While other states created illegitimate ways to suppress the vote, we found ways to increase the voter rolls."

Mitchell’s firm found that 48% of new voters registered as Democrats, 20% as Republicans and the remaining 32% as "decline to state" or other parties. Yee noted the 28-point Democratic advantage is more than double the current partisan spread. The surge in new registration could change the dynamic of some legislative and congressional contests, Mitchell said.


Skelton: Proposition 39 fixes lawmakers' tax mistake

Ex-Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez takes hit in real estate market

Berman, Sherman mix it up -- again -- in congressional race forum

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento



Attacks flying in Coachella Valley congressional race

Mary Bono MackRepublican Rep. Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs has sharpened her attacks against her Democratic challenger, emergency room doctor Raul Ruiz, in a race that’s attracting money and attention from across the country.Raul Ruiz
Representatives of Bono Mack’s campaign on Thursday released a 1999 audio recording that they said captured Ruiz reading a letter written by a Zapatista rebel leader from Chiapas, Mexico, in support of Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  

It was Bono Mack’s latest attack on Ruiz for taking part in Native American protests while he was a Harvard University medical student in the 1990s, as the race for the 36th Congressional District grows tighter and more contentious by the day.

The recording came from a pro-Native American protest at Plymouth Rock, Bono Mack’s  campaign representatives said. The week before, Bono Mack called Ruiz a “radical” for taking part in a similar protest two years before and being arrested.  The charges were later dropped. Ruiz said he had been taken into custody because he was protecting a tribal elder from being beaten by police

Bono Mack's attacks on Friday drew a sharp rebuke from the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations. The coalition of nine Southern California tribes includes the politically influential Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Springs, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in Highland and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Temecula.

“We were deeply hurt and offended by your attack against your congressional opponent on the basis that he stood with tribal people to protest the deplorable historic treatment of American Indians and the dual, arguably controversial, symbolism of Plymouth Rock," Tribal Alliance’s leaders said in a letter to the representative. “We resent the suggestion that choosing to respect Indian heritage and giving voice to Indian issues is “un American” and “radical.”

Ruiz released a contrite statement about the recording on Friday evening.

"I've always been passionate about standing up for people -- that was true then, and it's true now.  I shouldn't have read that letter, I was wrong -- I believe anyone who is convicted of killing FBI agents should be punished to the full extent of the law," the statement said. “Congresswoman Bono Mack is launching desperate personal attacks because she's down in the polls and losing this race -- voters are appalled by her record on the issues that matter to them like voting to end Medicare and failing to create jobs."

Marc Troast, the political director for Bono Mack’s campaign, earlier had criticized Ruiz for initially saying he did not recall reading the letter.

“Raul Ruiz has deceived the voters of  the 36th Congressional District, and the evidence is crystal clear," Troast said.


Skelton: Proposition 39 fixes lawmakers' tax mistake

Ex-Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez takes hit in real estate

Berman, Sherman mix it up -- again -- in congressional race forum

--Phil Willon in Riverside

Photos: Democrat Raul Ruiz, Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack. Source: Candidate campaigns.


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