On politics in the Golden State

Category: redistricting

Lawmakers assigned to serve areas temporarily without representatives

Lowes Muslims .JPEG–0bca5Many state Senators will serve as caretakers for communities outside their official districts for the next two years to address a quirk caused  by the redistricting process.

Legislative district boundaries were redrawn in 2011, with some new districts overlapping old ones. Only half of the 40 Senate districts, the newly drawn odd-numbered districts, were up for election last year. Some communities in the old odd-numbered districts were moved into new even-numbered districts, but the election for even-numbered districts will not occur until 2014.

That has left nearly 4 million Californians without an elected representative in the Senate for the next two years, while others temporarily have two Senators. The Senate Rules Committee last week approved a plan to have many Senators serve as caretakers, providing constituent services for areas that would otherwise be unrepresented in the upper House. For instance:

Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) of the 28th Senate District will serve as caretaker senator for parts of Santa Monica, Rancho Palos Verdes, Brentwood, West Hollywood and Westwood that would otherwise go two years without an elected representative.

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) of the 20th Senate District will be the caretaker for parts of Studio City and Sherman Oaks.

Sen. Bill Emmerson (R-Riverside) of the 23rd Senate District will temporarily represent parts of Palm Springs, La Quinta and Idyllwild.


State's Judicial Council puts new courthouses on ice

Assembly speaker warns UC officials against fee hikes

State says crowding report for Valley State Prison was overstated

--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Caption: Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) will temporarily serve residents of some West Los Angeles neighborhoods left without representation for two years by the new redistricting plan. 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

Jerry Brown, California Democrats appear to be big winners in election

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

Gov. Jerry Brown’s $6-billion-a-year tax initiative to rescue California schools and the state's finances appeared to squeak by with a victory early Wednesday, and Democrats' grip on Sacramento tightened as the party crept toward winning a super-majority in both houses of the Legislature.

Tuesday's election also brought an end to the three-decade-long congressional career of Rep. Howard Berman, who early Wednesday morning conceded defeat in his political slugfest against fellow Democrat Brad Sherman in the San Fernando Valley.

The bitter contest between Sherman and Berman, awash in more than $13 million in campaign spending by the candidates and independent political groups, was triggered when California's newly drawn political boundaries put the two incumbents in the same district.

"I congratulate Brad. ... I will do whatever I can to ensure a cooperative and orderly transition," Berman said in a concise concession statement early Wednesday.

FULL RESULTS: California races

In a similar high-profile mash-up between Democrats, Rep. Janice Hahn of San Pedro was cruising to an easy win against Rep. Laura Richardson of Long Beach in a newly drawn district that includes many minority, working-class communities, election results showed.

Among other closely watched races for California House seats, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Oak Park) narrowly defeated state Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) in Ventura County, and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) bested former Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, according to results with all voter precincts reporting in those districts.

California's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, won an easy reelection victory over nonprofit executive Elizabeth Emken, her underfunded, little-known Republican challenger.

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

The governor woke up Wednesday as one of the biggest apparent victors in Tuesday’s election, however.

Facing well-funded opposition, Brown campaigned heavily for Proposition 30 as a way to restore fiscal sanity to Sacramento and to stave off deep cuts to public schools and universities. The initiative calls for a quarter-cent increase to sales taxes for four years and a seven-year tax hike on California’s highest earners.

Californians have not approved a statewide tax increase since 2004.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a competing measure bankrolled by millionaire civil rights lawyer Molly Munger -- Proposition 38 – which would have increased income taxes for most Californians to raise funds primarily for schools and early childhood education.

In one of the highest-profile state ballot measures, labor unions appeared to defeat Proposition 32, which would have reduced their political influence by barring unions from using paycheck deductions for political purposes.

Californians also soured on a measure to abolish the death penalty -– Proposition 34 -- which was trailing badly with most of the voter precincts reporting Wednesday morning.

Other law-and-order measures were greeting more warmly. Voters favored Proposition 36, which would change the three-strikes sentencing law so offenders whose third strikes were minor, nonviolent crimes could no longer be given 25 years to life in prison.

Voters also supported Proposition 35, which promoted increased punishment for sex trafficking of a minor. Both led by wide margins with most ballots counted.

With most ballots tallied across California, initiatives to label genetically engineered foods and change state law to create a new car insurance discount appeared headed for defeat.

One of the biggest surprises of the election was the Democrats' strong showing in legislative races. Democrats appear on the verge of winning a two-thirds majority in the state Senate and Assembly, enough to approve tax measures without Republican support.

In Los Angeles County, veteran prosecutor Jackie Lacey became the county's first female and first African American district attorney after defeating Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson. Jackson conceded early Wednesday morning.

Lacey, 55, touted herself as the only candidate with the experience to run the office. She had the support of her boss, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who is retiring after three terms.

Los Angeles County voters also approved a local measure requiring adult film actors to wear condoms. With most precincts reporting, a measure to fund transportation projects by extending a countywide sales-tax increase for an additional 30 years remained just shy of the two-thirds vote required for approval.

Some races remained too close to call, including the San Diego congressional race between Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (R-Carlsbad) and Democrat Scott Peters, a San Diego environmental attorney. In the Coachella Valley, Democratic emergency room doctor Raul Ruiz was leading Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs) with just under two-thirds of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning.


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

-- Phil Willon

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown addresses supporters of Proposition 30 and 32 at the Sheraton Hotel in Sacramento Tuesday. Source: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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

Proposition 40, a referendum to uphold newly drawn state Senate districts, has passed, according to the Associated Press. Passage means the boundaries drawn last year stand. 

The measure was the least controversial one on the ballot. Even the Republican interests that put it there, in an attempt to invalidate the Senate maps, did not campaign for it. 

In fact, they reversed themselves and urged voters to say “Yes.”

LIVE RESULTS: California election | National election

Republican officials, believing the new districts could hurt some GOP candidates, had hoped the courts would block them. But the state Supreme Court ruled that they were properly drawn.

As a result, the Republican interests decided not to launch a campaign.

“Due to the State Supreme Court's ruling ... we have suspended our campaign,” Julie Vandermost, chairwoman of Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, wrote in the official ballot pamphlet for the election.


Feinstein reelected, Associated Press reports

Munger’s Proposition 38 fails, according to AP

Proposition 35, on human trafficking, passes, per AP

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

California GOP chairman will not seek another term

The chairman of the California Republican Party has decided not to seek another term.

Tom Del Beccaro, who was elected as head of the state GOP in 2010, announced his decision in an email to party insiders this week, saying "it is time for me to pause from Party politics."

In the missive, he said he was working on two political books and wanted to spend more time with his family.

"That doesn't mean that I will be leaving the cause -- just joining a different phase that has always been a goal of mine," he wrote of his decision.

Del Beccaro's tenure at the helm of the state GOP has been a rocky one, marked by declining registration numbers and financial troubles.

Republican strategists had criticized him for his role in a plan to spend millions of dollars on a referendum in hopes of tossing out newly drawn state Senate districts. After getting the measure on the November ballot, organizers dropped their campaign for it, citing a state Supreme Court ruling that the districts were drawn properly.

The party's elected leaders, led by U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), started their own recruitment and fundraising operations.

For his part, Del Beccaro cited his work on Latino outreach.

"The number one issue for me was always talking to more voters and beginning a sincere dialogue with the Latino community and other voters like that," he told the Sacramento Bee. "That's what I said I wanted to do and that's what I spent a lot of time doing and I feel good about that."


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

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento



GOP activists behind redistricting referendum drop campaign plans

Republican activists went to the trouble of qualifying a measure for the November ballot to overturn new voting districts for the state Senate.

But with the state Supreme Court having upheld the legality of the redistricting plan, those behind Proposition 40 said Thursday they will not campaign to have the districts tossed out. If a majority votes "no" on the referendum, the redistricting plan would be overturned.

In an statement submitted for inclusion in the official ballot pamphlet, Orange County businesswoman Julie Vandermost wrote that the goal of the measure had been to make sure the new Senate maps were not being used for this year’s election.

But the Supreme Court decision resulted in the new Senate maps being used in the June primary and they will apply for the  November general election.

"With the court's action, we are no longer asking for a no vote," wrote Vandermost, chairwoman of Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, a group that also includes state Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Niguel).


Feinstein challenger Emken wants to debate

Campaign treasurer Durkee admits to $7-million theft

San Francisco restaurant claims exemption from foie gras ban

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento



Surprises shake up congressional races in the Inland Empire

Click for interactive primary results mapOne of the biggest upsets in Tuesday’s “top two” primary came in a San Bernardino County congressional race where the top Democratic candidate, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, appears to have failed to collect enough votes to make it to the November runoff election, according to the preliminary ballot count.

The top two finishers were Republicans -- Rep. Gary Miller of Diamond Bar and state Sen. Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga.  What makes it so surprising is that Democrats have a five-percentage-point edge in registered voters in the district, which spans from Redlands to Upland.

Democratic leaders in Washington were hoping to pick up the seat, one of a handful in California they consider critical to the party’s effort to recapture control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

INTERACTIVE MAP: California primary results

The race in the 31st Congressional District was tight: Miller nabbed 26.7% of the vote, compared to 24.9% for Dutton and 22.8% for Aguilar.

The remaining votes went to a trio of other Democrats on the ballot: Justin Kim, Rita-Ramirez-Dean and Renea Wickman. Combined, they received a quarter of the votes, siphoning support away from Aguilar, who was backed by the Democratic Party.

The Redlands mayor missed making it to November by slightly more 1,000 votes, according to the state’s preliminary election results. Some votes still need to be counted, however, including provisional and late-arriving mail-in ballots.

That congressional race was among the top targets of "super PACs" and other independent expenditure committees, which spent more than $1 million. The vast majority came from the National Realtors Assn., which backed Miller.

Continue reading »

The political sands are shifting in California

Click for live coverage of the California primaryVoters are still trickling into polling places throughout California, but already there are a few safe bets on how the state’s new “top-two” primary system and political boundaries are changing the political landscape.

“There will be incumbents who lose tonight," said Republican consultant Rob Stutzman.

It’s a culling of the field that happens, to varying degrees every 10 years after a new U.S. Census count, when political districts are redrawn and incumbents find themselves in unfamiliar territory or pitted against fellow lawmakers. That’s especially true this year, when the new boundaries were drawn by a panel of citizens instead of politicians prone to gerrymandering districts to protect those already in office.

LIVE RESULTS: California primary

Don’t expect to see a ton of independent or centrist candidates in the November runoff election.  California primaries have traditionally attracted a low turnout, meaning that many of the voters who take the time to cast ballots will be pretty partisan.

“There’s one group of people who may be disappointed, and that’s the political observers who believe these reforms will automatically lead to the election of more moderate candidates,"  said Dan Schnur,  director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

The vast majority of candidates who survive the primary still will be loyal Democrats or Republicans, but there may be enough reaching out to independents or voters in the rival party to have a pretty big impact.  “We are going to see a greater number of competitive elections, and that’ll lead to the election of more responsive candidates, he said. “That’s going to lead to a fundamental change in the dynamic in the capital this year."

The most powerful political players in California, including labor and business groups, already have caught on.  “Any time you change the rules, smart people adapt and figure out how to get in on it," said Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.

Case in point: a Service Employees International Union California political action committee spent more than $60,000 opposing tea party Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks. The independent campaign has boosted the prospects of the other GOP candidate in the race, Big Bear Lake Mayor Bill Jahn.

“If you want someone who is going to be friendly to labor, you’re better off not getting a Democrat into the run off. They’ll get crushed in a district like that," Sonenshein said. “It’s better to have a moderate Republican.


A statistical snapshot of California's primary

Economy top priority for many Westwood voters

New rules, low turnout mark state's primary election

--Phil Willon in Los Angeles

Photo: Tracy Bree looks over her ballot while voting in Sacramento. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

California government gets B-minus in corruptibility report

Photo: Tourists and spectators on the grounds of the Capitol in Sacramento walk through the rain. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times California does a poor job providing the public with access to government information but has a safeguard against corruption in aggressive auditors, good disclosure of lobbying activity and the way it redraws legislative districts, according to a survey done by good-government groups.

Overall, California was given a B-minus in the State Integrity Investigation, a data-driven assessment of transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms in all 50 states. The grade put California among the top five states, falling just behind New Jersey.

"California scored relatively highly on the State Integrity Index, but the state could improve in such areas as campaign finance enforcement and pension fund management," said the report by the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and Global Integrity.

The state's overall grade was dragged down by a D-minus in the category of public access to information, and a C-minus in the area of judicial accountability, but it received A's in the areas of lobbying disclosure, internal auditing and redistricting. Last year, the state took the redrawing of legislative districts away from legislators and gave the job to a citizens panel.

Last week, a more limited study by the California Public Interest Research Group faulted Gov. Jerry Brown's decision to take down a "transparency" website in giving the state a D-minus on public reporting of spending.


Gov. Jerry Brown faulted for taking down transparency website

Panel exempts city officials from conflict rules on appointments

State ethics panel delays disclosure of judges' financial disclosures

 -- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Tourists and spectators on the grounds of the Capitol in Sacramento walk through the rain. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Candidate filing deadline passes -- for some

The deadline for candidates to file in this year’s congressional and legislative races passed at 5 p.m. Friday. But that doesn’t mean the field has been set. For one thing, the filing period is extended to Wednesday (March 14) in districts with no incumbent running. 

And in this first election cycle since political maps were redrawn, it’s not always easy to tell who’s “the” incumbent. Sure, there are rules for deciding, but they’re complicated and sometimes come down to such details as whose current district accounted for the largest part of the new district. So elections officials in some counties were saying late Friday that they wouldn’t know for at least several hours which districts would have their filing periods extended.  

Then there’s the time it takes to verify every would-be candidate’s paperwork — up to several days after the filing period ends. And it doesn’t help that many candidates wait till the last minute to flood local registrars' offices with their nomination papers.

Friday’s deadline prompted several candidates to get into the races at the eleventh hour. 

Among them was Fullerton Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva, a Democrat, who jumped into the contest for the newly drawn 65th Assembly District, whose seat is currently held by Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton).

Another last-minute candidate was financial advisor Dante Acosta, a Republican who on Friday joined a growing field of contenders to take on Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) in the 25th Congressional District. Among them is Catherine Wright, the daughter of former state Sen. Cathie Wright, a Republican from Simi Valley.


A Fish and Game faux pas

Fish and Game official faces ethics complaint over hunting trip

Hunters show support for Fish and Game commissioner who killed cougar

-- Jean Merl

 Photo: A recent election day.  Credit: Associated Press


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