On politics in the Golden State

Category: Tablet

Bill Clinton endorses four in tight N. Calif. congressional races

Bill Clinton endorses four Democrats
Former President Bill Clinton attended a UC Davis rally Tuesday to endorse four Northern California Democrats in tight congressional races.

Clinton gave resounding backing to Reps. John Garamendi of Walnut Creek and Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton, as well as former astronaut Jose Hernandez, who is challenging Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater), and physician Ami Bera, who is making his second run at Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River).

Garamendi faces opposition from Republican Kim Vann, a Colusa County supervisor, and McNerney is challenged by Republican Ricky Gill, a farmer and small-business owner.

"The four people I'm on stage with — two in Congress, two trying to get there — each in their own way, they represent the American dream," Clinton told the crowd.  "They prove that a commitment to shared prosperity works better than 'Trickle down, you're on your own.'"

The former president also referred to the ads that the National Republican Congressional Committee has been running locally against all four Democrats. He called allegations in the ads, that Democrats  have cut Medicare benefits, false.

All four races are among 10 in California that are targeted by both major parties as they battle for control of the House.


Gov. Brown vetoes bill restricting how motorists pass bicyclists

California budget stumbles as redevelopment funds prove scarce

Jerry Brown signs restrictions on Buy Here Pay Here used-car lots

--Jean Merl

Photo: Former President Bill Clinton campaigning for President Obama in New Hampshire earlier this month.  Credit: Jim Cole / Associated Press



Mail ballots go out starting Tuesday

Election clerk Michael Daniels takes a mail ballot from a voter at a drive-up collection point in Sacramento on the day of the June 5 primary. Vote-by-mail ballots for the Nov. 6 general election will be sent to voters starting Tuesday.
It's nearly a month till election day, but Tuesday marks the start of "election month." That's when mail ballots start going out to voters who request them, elections officials said Monday.

Any California voter may opt to vote by mail instead of marking a ballot at the polls, so long as he or she requests a mail ballot by the Oct. 30 deadline. County elections officials must receive a mail ballot by the time polls close Nov. 6 for it to be counted.

Local elections officials will begin mailing ballots on Tuesday because post offices were closed Monday for Columbus Day.

Mail ballot applications are available through county elections officials and on sample ballots recently sent to voters. The last day to register is Oct. 22.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen said mail ballots accounted for 65% of the June 5 primary vote.

The increase in mail balloting's popularity has created a challenge for candidates, who can no longer wait until shortly before polls open to get their messages to voters. Nor do they want to do so too soon, before voters are paying attention.


Gov. Brown vetoes bill restricting how motorists pass bicyclists

California budget stumbles as redevelopment funds prove scarce

Jerry Brown signs restrictions on Buy Here Pay Here used-car lots

-- Jean Merl

Photo: Election clerk Michael Daniels takes a mail ballot from a voter at a drive-up collection point in Sacramento on the day of the June 5 primary. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press




DeLong, Lowenthal face off in high-stakes congressional race forum

Alan Lowenthal, left, and Gary DeLong, squared off in a public forum.

This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

In a classic two-party contest for an open, newly drawn congressional district seat, Republican Gary DeLong and Democrat Alan Lowenthal squared off at a well-attended candidates forum Friday evening.

Lowenthal, who is finishing his last term in the state Senate, and DeLong, who is serving his second term on the Long Beach City Council, clashed over such areas as the role of the federal government in education and what should be done about Social Security and Medicare.

But they agreed on a surprising number of issues, including the need for campaign finance reform that limits the influence of special interests and immigration reform that includes securing borders but providing  a way for otherwise law-abiding and productive illegal immigrants to stay in the country.

They both listed improving job growth and reducing the federal deficit as among their top priorities.  Lowenthal, however, was quick to pin the nation's economic woes on the policies of the George W. Bush administration and congressional Republicans, citing costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and tax breaks for the wealthy.

DeLong told the audience of nearly 400 at Cal State Long Beach that he disagreed with his party on some issues -- he is pro-choice and supports gay marriage, for example. "But I am very fiscally conservative," DeLong said, citing his record of balancing budgets and reigning in costs in his six years on the City Council.

In one of the rare contentious moments of  the evening, DeLong blamed Lowenthal and the rest of the Legislature for the state's fiscal problems. Lowenthal blamed Republicans for refusing to keep expiring taxes in place longer, leading to deep cuts for the state's public universities and community colleges.

Lowenthal, who served on the Long Beach City Council before being elected to the Assembly, then the state Senate, said his long record on environmental issues, campaign finance reform and "fighting for the community" should give voters  a good idea of what they could expect from him as a congressman. "What you see is what you're going to be getting," Lowenthal said.

DeLong said, based on Lowenthal's tenure in Sacramento, that would be higher taxes and continuing budget problems.

Sponsors of the forum included the university and the Long Beach Area League of Women Voters.  The 47th Congressional District also includes part of Orange County.

[For the record,1:10 p.m. Oct. 6, 2012: An earlier version of this post mischaracterized Gary DeLong as blaming Alan Lowenthal and other Democrats in the Legislature for the state's fiscal problems. DeLong blamed Lowenthal and the rest of the Legislature.}


Opponents prime arguments for corporate tax campaign

Procter & Gamble stands aside as corporate tax battle heats up

Assembly speaker backs Proposition 39's corporate-tax revamp

-- Jean Merl

Photos: Alan Lowenthal, left; Gary DeLong. Credits: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press; Gary DeLong for Congress

Online registration boosts voter rolls sharply, officials say

A record 150,000 new voters were added to the rolls last month, Los Angeles County elections officials said Wednesday.

Officials attributed much of the increase to California's new online voter registration system.

"Online voters registration is fast, convenient and secure," county Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan said in a statement. "In a short time we have seen the impact of this expanded access."

Loan said there are about 3 million county residents who are eligible to vote but are not registered.   They have until Oct. 22 to do so in order to participate in the Nov. 6 election.

Online voter registration is available here.


Unions raise nearly $10 million to fight Prop. 32

Bid to curb union spending gets big Democratic backer

California voters leaning against campaign finance initiative

--Jean Merl

Photo: Voters cast ballots at a Van Nuys restaurant during the June 5 primary. Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times

Sen. Lowenthal answers U.S. Chamber attack

Lashing back after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched an ad campaign against him, state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) gathered some local business owners to rebut the chamber's attack.

Lowenthal is running for Congress in one of about 10 districts in California that both major parties are competing for in the battle for control of the House this fall.  Last week, the U.S. Chamber spent about $2.8 million for radio and TV ads in eight of those districts, including the newly drawn 47th District, where Lowenthal is competing with Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong, a Republican.

The chamber ad  does not mention DeLong but features a scowling Lowenthal and claims his bills "have been  called job killers."  The ads follow a similar format in the other districts with only the candidates' names changed.

At a news conference Wednesday at Lola's Mexican Cuisine in Long Beach, Lowenthal said he  found the chamber attack "just inexcusable" because no one in the organization knew him or his record and did not bother to talk with local business groups before launcing the ads.

He cited his efforts early in his political career to clean up pollution in the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports, efforts resisted by port businesses at first.  On Wednesday, Lowenthal read a statement from an official of Maersk, one of the two ports' largest businesses, praising the lawmaker's leadership and "ability to find common ground."   It concluded, "we believe he would be an excellent addition to the U.S. Congress."

Others touting Lowenthal's business record included Lola's owner, Luis Navarro Jr., and Betty Jo Toccoli, president of the California Small Business Assn.

"The U.S. Chamber certainly doesn't speak for me and they obviously don't know Alan," Toccoli said, recounting Lowenthal's efforts over the years to meet with business owners and respond to their concerns.

A representative of DeLong's campaign sat in on the news conference and handed reporters a list of "gifts"  to Californians from the state Legislature, including high taxes and a low state credit rating.


Unions raise nearly $10 million to fight Prop. 32

Bid to curb union spending gets big Democratic backer

California voters leaning against campaign finance initiative

 --Jean Merl

Photo: State Sen. Alan Lowenthal is applauded as he prepares to leave the Legislature last month. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press





Berman attacks Sherman over (legal) loans practice

Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman. Berman is now attacking Sherman over (legal) loans practice.
Rep. Howard Berman, trying to come from behind in his fight with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman for a San Fernando Valley congressional district seat, Monday slammed Sherman for having earned interest on loans he made to his campaigns over the years he has been in office.

The practice is legal  and not uncommon; but Berman strategist Brandon Hall said he has found that the matter resonates with voters, and the campaign will begin using the issue in TV ads and political mailings.

In a telephone news conference with reporters, Hall said he believes voters think it “inappropriate for a member of Congress to view their campaign accounts as investment vehicles.”

He said Sherman earned nearly $461,000 in interest on loans he made to his campaigns over more than 20 years in elected office. The Berman campaign launched a website, www.Sherman-Scam.com, to  help make its case to voters.

The accusations are “false at worst and highly misleading at best,” the Sherman campaign responded, adding that Berman was “trying to distract voters from his own astonishing recording of abusing public office to enrich himself and members of his family.” Sherman consultant Parke Skelton rattled off a list of “abuses” on Berman’s part, including taking 176 free trips abroad and upgrading to first class flights at taxpayer expense, among others.

Monday’s volley signaled that an already contentious election is about to get even nastier.  

Skelton said Sherman lent his campaign money beginning early in his career and earned less — averaging under 2% a year — than he would have had he invested the money elsewhere. Hall noted that Sherman appears to have stopped the practice recently and suggested he did so because he realized it could “create a perception problem with voters."

Other members of Congress have collected interest from loans they made to their campaigns. Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk), for example, lent her campaign $150,000 in 1998 and had collected more than $158,000 in interest by early 2009.

But Berman supporters say they have found no other House member who has earned as much  from self-lending or who kept  the loans on the books for long periods.

Hall took care to point out that he was not accusing Sherman of doing anything illegal and said it would be “up to voters” to decide about the ethics of the practice, which Hall called a “scheme of personal enrichment.”

Berman finished second, 10 points behind Sherman, in the seven-candidate June primary. A recent poll taken for KABC-TV showed Sherman with a 13-point lead.


California prisons object to open media access

Pelican Bay inmates file solitary confinement suit

Amnesty International calls prison isolation 'inhumane'

-- Jean Merl in Los Angeles and Richard Simon in Washington

Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman during a candidates forum early this year. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times


U.S. Chamber of Commerce spends big on California GOP candidates

Adding to the stakes in  hotly contested congressional races in California, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday launched an advertising blitz to help at least eight Republican candidates.

Both major parties have targeted 10 races in California as part of their struggle  in the Nov. 6 elections for control of the House, now in Republican hands.

The chamber said it has bought advertising time on broadcast or cable TV stations to tell voters "where their candidates stand on policies that will advance job growth and investment."  It did not disclose the amounts but others keeping tabs on ad purchases estimated the total at $2.8 million.

Among the races the chamber is airing ads in are those in Santa Barbara County, where  Democratic Rep. Lois Capps is facing a challenge from Republican and former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, and in Ventura County, where Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Oak Park) and state Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) are battling for an open seat.

The chamber also bought advertising to promote Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong, who is running for an open congressional seat against state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach); Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Carlsbad), who is facing a stiff challenge from former San Diego Councilman Scott Peters, and GOP Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione, battling community college trustee and Democrat Mark Takano for an open Inland Empire seat.

Democrats blasted  the chamber, which is not required to disclose donors to the ad campaign.

"This confirms what we've always known was a certainty -- that outside GOP money would flood the Golden State given the sheer number of Democratic pickup opportunities," said Andy Stone, spokesman for the House Majority PAC, a Democratic fund-raising group.

Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the ad blitz was a sign that "the tea party Republicans' majority is in jeopardy and California Republicans are on the ropes," prompting the chamber to weigh in.

The chamber said the ads were part of the "largest voter education campaign in its 100-year history to elect pro-business candidates to Congress."


Poll shows close call for Jerry Brown's tax plan

Cal State system to hike tuition 5% if Prop. 30 fails

UC regents brainstorm changes if voters reject Prop. 30

--Jean Merl

Photo: Voting at a Van Nuys restaurant during the June 5 primary. Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times

Sen. Roderick Wright wins court delay

Attorneys for state Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) won a delay in his voter fraud and perjury case that makes it virtually certain he won't face a jury until after the Nov. 6 election.

Wright's next court date is for a pretrial conference Oct. 31.

The veteran lawmaker was indicted two years ago by a county grand jury on eight felony counts. Prosecutors allege that he lied about living in a rental unit he owns in order to qualify to run for state Senate in 2008. They said his real residence is a home in Baldwin Hills, outside the district.

Wright has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

The district that Wright seeks election to is overwhelmingly Democratic.  His opponent is a little-known, underfunded Republican and Wright is expected to win handily.

It remained unclear whether Wright would be forced to leave office if he is convicted of the charges.


Brown again taunting GOP with veto pen

As Gov. Jerry Brown considers bills, campaign cash pours in

Ethics czar angers bloggers with proposal to shine light on campaign pay

--Jean Merl

Photo: State Sen. Roderick Wright in 2010. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press



Voter groups spearheading daylong registration drive Tuesday

A broad coalition of groups across Los Angeles County is sponsoring a daylong series of events Tuesday aimed at getting eligible citizens to register to vote in the Nov. 6 elections.

Black Eyed Peas fans can hear Taboo join with local officials at a noon news conference at Cal State L.A., and commuters can register at Union Station downtown and aboard Metrolink trains.

Starting at 6 p.m.,  rapper and radio personality Maya Jupiter will headline a National Voter Registration Day at MacArthur Park that will feature food vendors and local artists.

Several organizations, along with the county registrar-recorder's office, are leading the daylong events. The groups include Voto Latino, Rock the Vote, the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, the California Participation Project, California Common Cause and others.

Similar voter registration events will be taking place throughout the country on the same day. For more details and a list of events, go to www.nationalvoterregistrationday.org.


Brown again taunting GOP with veto pen

Political lines drawn on life sentences for teen killers

Gov. Jerry Brown legalizes sale of home-cooked food in California

-- Jean Merl

Photo: Voters cast ballots at a Van Nuys restaurant during the June 5 primary. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Brad Sherman leading Howard Berman in race, independent poll shows

Rep. Brad Sherman had a 13-point lead over fellow Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, according to a poll taken for KABC Channel 7.

Conducted by SurveyUSA, the poll is the first independent sampling of voters released since the June primary, in which Sherman finished 10 percentage points ahead of Berman for the San Fernando Valley congressional district seat.

According to the poll, Sherman led Berman 45%-32% among likely voters. But 23% of respondents said they had not yet made up their minds.

The survey of 800 registered voters, 628 of whom were deemed likely to cast ballots, was conducted Sept.18 and 19. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points in either direction.

The poll found voters liked both men but higher numbers said Sherman was a more effective legislator and was more focused on the needs of area residents.

Sherman is better known in the new district because he has represented a considerably larger portion of it in the past.

Berman campaign strategist Brandon Hall downplayed the poll, saying he believes the race is actually "very close."

The two veteran lawmakers have been battling for the same San Fernando Valley congressional district seat in a costly, widely watched race. New political maps put their homes in the same strongly Democratic district and California's recently implemented election changes allow candidates of the same party to advance to the general election if they are the first- and second-place primary finishers.


Brown again taunting GOP with veto pen

As Gov. Jerry Brown considers bills, campaign cash pours in

Ethics czar angers bloggers with proposal to shine light on campaign pay

--Jean Merl

Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman at a candidates forum early this year. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times





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