On politics in the Golden State

Category: Democratic Party

Senator gets free trip to Super Bowl for campaign fundraiser

Super Bowl
State Sen. Kevin De Leon of Los Angeles is getting free travel expenses and a ticket to Sunday's Super Bowl game in New Orleans, and all he has to do is glad-hand some donors who are helping replenish the campaign account used to elect Democrats in California.

The Senate Democratic Caucus political staff "planned and organized a small but successful fundraising event at the Super Bowl this weekend to benefit the California Democratic Party," said Jason Kinney, a member of the staff. The party is paying the expenses for the event, including De Leon's attendance.

De Leon said the arrangements had been vetted by an attorney to make sure he does not violate the state’s $440 limit on gifts to legislators, which has an exemption for political party fundraisers. "It’s all reportable" to the public, De Leon said.

Tickets to the NFL championship game have face values starting at $850, and those for the fundraiser were purchased from the NFL.

Kinney said De Leon stepped in to attend the fundraiser when Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento had to bow out at the last minute. "Personally, I think it demonstrates impressive generosity of spirit that Los Angeles' own Kevin de Leon is willing to show up and pretend to root for a San Francisco team for three whole hours,'" Kinney said.


Brown commits to major Medi-Cal expansion

Healthcare law will have new Legislature scrambling

State of the State: 'California did the impossible,' Brown says

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) stretches with teammates including center Jonathan Goodwin (59) during practice Friday as they prepare for Sunday's Super Bowl. Credit: Mark Humphrey / Associated Press


Analysis: Legislature's Democrats are not a monolith

In the popular telling it’s touchdown time for Democrats in Sacramento -- now fortified with a two-thirds majority -- allowing the power-mad party to run unfettered through the halls of the Legislature, passing a fantasia of liberal initiatives: Higher taxes! More debt! More regulation! Free Love!

It’s the stuff of Republican nightmares, not to mention direct-mail solicitations, which prey on a combination of fear and ignorance (alarmism being the coin of the realm).

Don’t buy it.

There are procedural as well as practical advantages to the Democrats’ unprecedented clout, not least the ability to confirm Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointees in the Senate without a Republican whimper. But the Assembly presents a far different dynamic than the upper chamber. There the two-thirds majority is wispy as the paper it’s written on.

For starters, the 55-25 Democratic margin is likely to shrink, at least temporarily, in the next few months due to a series of vacancies stemming from members leaving the Assembly to move on or up. (Even if, as expected, Democrats hold onto those seats in special elections, it will be months before the new members are sworn in and the party gets back to full strength.)

More significant, the fanatical-two-thirds scenario ignores an important fact: Assembly Democrats are far from an ideological monolith.

“With that many Democrats, you cannot elect 55 San Francisco Democrats to the state Legislature,” said Allan Hoffenblum, whose nonpartisan Target Book is the bible of California election analysis. He counts at least nine Assembly Democrats, mainly from Orange County, the San Fernando Valley and Inland Empire, who are far from lockstep party-line votes, especially on business and fiscal matters.

(Topping the list: the Antelope Valley’s Steve Fox, a Republican-turned-Democrat who narrowly snuck into a seat the GOP took for granted and, by all rights, should have easily won. Running unsuccessfully in the 2008 Republican primary, Fox advocated, among other things, confiscating the property of illegal immigrants to “pay for their own deportation.”)

Indeed, the greatest friction in Sacramento over the next two years is likely to occur between the two legislative houses and along the left-center-left spectrum of the Democratic Party, with the state’s triangulating governor serving as a sort of arbiter.

The competition is likely to pit labor-backed, socially liberal Democrats representing sea-blue coastal districts against more business-friendly, culturally conservative Democrats representing the faintly purple-ish interior of the state.

The one-party Democrat command of the state may not be ideal. For all the recent reforms, including a fair-and-square redrawing of the state’s political boundaries, millions of Californians who register Republican or sympathize with the party and its principles may grow even more estranged from Sacramento. That’s not healthy from a good-government perspective.

“When you undercut that trust, it makes people suspicious about raising taxes, upping investment in infrastructure, suspicious of whether money’s being wasted,” said Stanford professor Bruce Cain, a longtime student of California politics. “It undermines the confidence you need to build public service.”

Gone are the days, in both Sacramento and Washington, when pragmatic lawmakers on both sides would push off their party extremes and find compromise somewhere near the political center.

But until the California Republican Party recovers from years of self-inflicted damage and has the strength and resolve to engage in Sacramento, it may be as good as it gets — unless Democrats add to their margins in 2014, which, given the demographic direction of the state, is not out of the question.

Then the GOP may look back fondly on these days of comparative Democratic constraint.


Brown commits to major Medi-Cal expansion

Healthcare law will have new Legislature scrambling

State of the State: 'California did the impossible,' Brown says

 -- Mark Z. Barabak

Head of Burbank teachers union clashes with Assemblyman Mike Gatto

California Budget.JPEG–07089
A vote on delegates to the Democratic State Convention has led to some acrimony, with the head of the Burbank teachers union accusing Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silverlake) of using heavy-handed tactics to win.

A slate of candidates endorsed by Gatto to serve as delegates from his Assembly district to the convention won Monday after the leader of a competing slate of candidates was a no-show.

Lori Adams, president of the Burbank Teachers Assn. and one of the candidates on the competing slate, cried foul. "There was no need to use the intimidation and threats that you used toward the leader of our slate and endorsed school board candidate, Steve Ferguson, in order to eliminate our slate altogether," Adams wrote in a letter to Gatto. "I find this action to be contrary to our democratic principles."

Adams sent copies of her letter to a who’s who of teachers union leaders, including California Teachers Assn. President Dean Vogel and United Teachers of Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher. Ferguson, a candidate for the Burbank school board, said the threat was "implied but clear'' that Gatto would work to try to take away a key endorsement if Ferguson challenged his slate of delegates, so Ferguson skipped the meeting. "It was a headache I didn't want to deal with,'' Ferguson said.

Gatto denied threatening to get an endorsement pulled if Ferguson showed up. He said he talked to Ferguson only about collaborating. Adams' letter "struck me as an attempt to explain a poor showing," Gatto said. A political aide, Stacey Brenner, said she was in the car with Gatto during his call to Ferguson and only heard "a few questions regarding his previous promises of cooperation,'' no "threats.''


Gov. Jerry Brown commits to major Medi-Cal expansion

Gov. Jerry Brown wants changes at state university systems

Democratic legislative leaders relieved by Gov. Brown's budget

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Assemblyman Mike Gatto, center. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

California lawmaker pushes ballot measures on budget, constitution

The supermajority held by Democrats in the California Legislature appears to have emboldened lawmakers to think big this session, with several talking about changing the state Constitution now that Republican votes are no longer needed to put measures on the ballot.

So far members have proposed 13 ballot measures.

The latest come from State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), who this week introduced two ballot measures including Senate Concurrent Resolution 2, which would initiate an independent review of the California Constitution with the aim of coming up with recommendations for improvements.

DeSaulnier also has introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 6, which would prohibit submitting future initiatives to the voters that add to state costs unless they also include a new source of revenue to cover those costs. Both of his proposals would need a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature to be placed on the ballot, something more likely this year than in past years.

"Through independent review of our state Constitution and greater fiscal accountability in the initiative process, these measures will provide solutions to the deficiencies that have plagued our state’s budget and Constitution," DeSaulnier said in a statement.

In proposing creation of the Constitutional Revision Commission, he cited a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California that showed voter support for reforms that make state government more effective.


GOP may scale back its goals

Berman-Sherman House race sets spending record

Lawmaker revives bill to ease firing of teachers in sex abuse cases

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Skelton: Capitol lacks compromise and camaraderie

Capitol Christmas tree

Skelton hedSacramento is on its way toward becoming a one-party town. Democrats are expected to control both houses of the Legislature, and they already hold every statewide elected office.

In Monday's column, George Skelton says it's another sign that bipartisan compromise is becoming further out of reach.

"Democratic and Republican legislators just don’t hang as they used to," he writes.

Former Assemblyman Jim Brulte (R-Rancho Cucamonga), who's being recruited to take over the Republican Party, said conservative lawmakers need to focus on "serious proposals."

“A good idea is a good idea regardless of how many Republicans are supporting it. If it’s really a good idea, the Democrats will steal it and put their name on it. But the Republicans’ goal should be to get good public policy enacted.”

All of Skelton's columns are here.


California sees strong October for tax revenue

Federal budget standoff could hurt California economy

Proposition 30 win no guarantee of fiscal safety for California

Photo: A crane places a Christmas tree in front of the Capitol in Sacramento on Nov. 7. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / 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

After election, what's next in California? [Google+ hangout]

Times reporter Evan Halper will join city editor Shelby Grad in a Google+ hangout at 2 p.m. to discuss the passage of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure and the likely Democratic supermajorities in the Assembly and Senate.

From Halper and The Times' Anthony York's story Thursday:

The supermajorities would mark a dramatic shift in Sacramento's balance of power, where GOP legislators have aggressively used their ability to block state budget plans and prevent revenue increases to scale back the scope of state government.

Coupled with the approval of Brown's tax plan, Proposition 30, the Democrats now have not only the power but also the money to break free of the deficit that has paralyzed state government for years.

The pressure on Democrats to restore funding for the many services slashed to balance the budget in recent years will be intense.

Already, activists are pressing lawmakers to pump new money into such programs as college scholarships, dental care for the needy and, of course, public schools.

But the first move Brown and legislative leaders made Wednesday was to reassure voters that they would show restraint.

They promised there would be no frenzy of tax hikes.

"Voters have trusted the elected representatives, maybe even trusted me to some extent, and now we've got to meet that trust," Brown said at a Wednesday news conference in the Capitol. "We've got to make sure over the next few years that we pay our bills, we invest in the right programs, but we don't go on any spending binges."

Still, lawmakers can appear to hold the line on revenue generation without actually doing so.


Secret Arizona donation failed to dent Democrats and unions

California 'moved further to the left,' state GOP chairman says

More than 792,000 ballots uncounted in L.A. County, registrar says

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.

Janice Hahn wins 44th Congressional District

Janice Hahn

With all voter precincts reporting, Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn beat fellow Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson in a newly drawn district that runs north from the Port of Los Angeles through several working-class, strongly minority communities, preliminary election returns show.

Hahn, elected to Congress a little more than a year ago in a special election, saw her largely coastal turf carved up in last year’s remapping, and her San Pedro home ended up in the new 44th District. Richardson, a five-year veteran of the House, moved into the district from Long Beach to challenge Hahn.

Hahn bested Richardson by 20 points in the June primary. She won by the same margin in Tuesday's election, election results show. Richardson, who had won tough races before, predicted that a bigger fall turnout would help close the gap.

FULL RESULTS: California races

Richardson was reprimanded and fined after a House Ethics Committee investigation concluded she had improperly pressured members of her congressional staff to do campaign work.  She had trouble raising money and had substantial turnover in her congressional staff and campaign leadership. 

Race was a factor in the contest. African American leaders believed it could be won by a black candidate, such as Richardson. Some were shocked when Hahn, who is white, ran against her rather than the more senior Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), who got much of Hahn’s turf in the redistricting.

Richardson is one of four black House members from California. Some African American leaders supported her, not wanting to see the number drop. Hahn, whose father was deeply admired among the area’s black residents, drew support from others who said she would do a better job.


Munger’s Proposition 38 fails, according to AP

Prop. 40, on state Senate districts, passes, per AP

Proposition 36 on three-strikes law passes, AP says

-- Jean Merl

Photo: Rep. Janice Hahn is congratulated by L.A. City Councilman Joe Busciano early Tuesday evening at Ports O' Call Restaurant as early election returns come in. Source: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times.

Fran Pavley wins 27th state Senate District

State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) defeated Republican prosecutor Todd Zink in the newly drawn 27th Senate District, preliminary election results show.

The race was seen by both parties as crucial to Democrats' hopes of gaining a supermajority in the upper house.

Pavley beat Zink by 5 percentage points, according to election results with all precincts reporting.

FULL RESULTS: California races

Pavley, 63, already represented much of the newly drawn district in the Senate. About 40% was represented by Republican state Sen. Tony Strickland of Moorpark, who is running for Congress. 

Each candidate spent more than $1 million and was helped by outside expenditures -- largely from business groups for Zink, a 43-year-old deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County, and from organized labor for Pavley.

Zink, a Westlake Village resident, is a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve and has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pavley was a Moorpark school teacher and mayor of Agoura Hills before she was elected to the Assembly in 2000. She was elected to the Senate in 2008.


Munger’s Proposition 38 fails, according to AP

Prop. 40, on state Senate districts, passes, per AP

Proposition 36 on three-strikes law passes, AP says

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento


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