Eric Swalwell, an Alameda County prosecutor and Dublin City Councilman is running against longtime congressman Pete Stark. Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED
By Cy Musiker
The June primary is providing a rare sighting for California vote-watchers: competitive congressional elections.
New districts drawn by a citizen panel and the new “top-two” primary have shaken up the status quo for incumbents. Those include Congressman Pete Stark, representing parts of the East Bay and suburbs. He’s California’s senior Congressmember, with 40 years in office.
Stark, who is 80 years old, says he works hard to take care of constituents. Just ask him about his accomplishments. “It’s just been a historic record of bringing great advantages to the East Bay,” he says.
Those include billions of dollars in stimulus funds, and tens of millions for teachers’ jobs and to improve schools.
And Stark says he helped draft and pass Obama’s health care measure, using his clout as a senior member of a House health care subcommittee.
If voters send him back to Washington, Stark says, constituents can expect him to continue to protect Medicare and Social Security from what he calls the Republican onslaught. “Which wants to turn it into a voucher system, that would bring about Newt Gingrich’s idea of letting it wither on the vine.”
That performance and agenda has guaranteed Stark re-election by big margins for nearly all his 40 years in office.
But this year Stark is vulnerable for the first time in decades because of a series of gaffes, the state’s new top-two primary, a new, more moderate district, and an ambitious Democratic challenger. He’s Eric Swalwell, an Alameda County prosecutor and Dublin City Councilman. Swalwell recently told a small group of Castro Valley residents that when he decided to run, he had in his favor that he knows the area.
Mitt Romney took reporters on "magical mystery tour" of Solyndra. Photo: Peter Jon Shuler/KQED
The Romney camp loaded select reporters on to a bus early Thursday and took them on a mystery field trip. (read: a press conference at an undisclosed location that by many reporters’ accounts was simply “weird”). The secret location ended up being Solyndra, the now infamous and bankrupt solar company that received $528 million in federal loans. Here’s a compilation of social media chatter on the outing, much of it from the journalists actually on the bus.
KQED’s Cy Musiker spoke to USF’s Corey Cook about San Francisco’s Measure A, which seeks to change San Francisco’s waste collection from a regulated monopoly with Recology to a competitive bidding process. He also checked in with folks on both sides of the measure. At stake is San Francisco’s current eco-friendly waste collection system and potentially $40 million in savings. The piece lasts about 4 minutes. Click here to have a listen.
The following is a transcript of a story that originally aired on The California Report.
A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that support for Prop. 28 is high among voters. Photo: David Paul Morris/Getty Images
Host, Paul Lancour: Proposition 28 on the June 5th primary ballot would modify California’s legislative term limits. At last poll, more than 60 percent of likely voters – from both sides of the aisle – said they were likely to vote for it. Roughly 30 percent of those the Public Policy Institute of California surveyed oppose the measure. The California Report’s Rachael Myrow spoke with John Myers, political editor at KXTV in Sacramento and former KQED Sacramento Bureau Chief about the proposition and what it would do.
John Myers: What Prop. 28 would do is, it would modify the existing term limits law for members of the state Legislature. Now we’ll remember that term limits were put in place by voters back in 1990. They limit a lawmaker to no more than six years in the State Assembly and no more than eight years in the State Senate. That could be 14 years if they could serve in both Houses but it would limit them to those amounts and it has for 20 years.
Prop. 28 would change that, it would allow a lawmaker to serve 12 years instead of those limits, but all in one House. So the backers of Prop. 28 say, “Well look it, this is a reduction in time in office for a lot of people from 14 years to 12 and they say you can also serve it in one House and therefore have a little bit more experience, a little bit more seniority to understand how the state works.'”
And opponents of Prop. 28 say this whole idea of just making it a more efficient government is really just another way of kind of hiding the fact that this would let people be in office for longer. And this really does, I think, come down to the question of incumbency and for voters, what do they think the value of incumbency is. Is there a value to being in office longer, learning the job or do they want people to serve less time and go back home and do whatever they do? That’s really the question they have to figure out on Prop. 28.
The race to represent the 10th Congressional District is proving to be a good test for California's new top-two primary system. Photo: Jefferson Beavers
By Sasha Khokha
One test of California’s new top-two primary system will come in Stanislaus County’s 10th Congressional District. That primary comes down to a fight between the son of a disgraced Congressman and a farmworker-turned-astronaut.
You’ve got to admit, Jose Hernandez has a pretty compelling story: a migrant farmworker who starts out picking tomatoes and cucumbers, and ends up soaring into outer space as an astronaut.
And Hernandez is eager to zip up his royal blue flight suit and share that story. In a crowded gymnasium at a Modesto elementary school, he plays a DVD of his mission to the international space station.
And Hernandez tells them he made it to space because of advice from his Dad:
“He said, ‘The same effort you put in picking cucumbers out in the fields, that same work ethic, you put it in your books and getting good grades, and guess what, you’re going to be able to reach your dream.'”
But today, families here face double-digit unemployment, and some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.
“I was talking to those parents, and they were losing faith that their kids could achieve that American dream, and that scared me,” said Hernandez.
KQED’s Mina Kim reports from the 2nd Congressional District on front runners, up-and-comers, and the battle to fill Lynn Woolsey’s seat.
By Katie Orr
The pension debate in San Diego is complicated by the fact that city workers do not participate in Social Security. Photo: Tomcio77/Flickr
Franklin Lamberth took a break from his garbage route and stood in the sun next to the truck he drives for ten hours a day, four days a week. Lamberth has been a San Diego sanitation worker for nearly 20 years. He says he wouldn’t want to do anything else. But still, morale in his department is low, and he says his coworkers keep turning to him for reassurance.
“And they come to me because they think I have the answers,” said Lamberth. “And all I can tell them is, through life I roll with it. I’ve had a nice run. I don’t see any promise.”
Lamberth will get his pension when he retires, about $24,000 a year. But that’s all he can count on. Like all current city employees, Lamberth won’t receive Social Security because the city isn’t enrolled in the system.
"Sin taxes" are sometimes used by governments to deter people from harmful behaviors. Image: Getty Images
On June 5, Californians will be asked to vote on Proposition 29. If approved, the measure would increase cigarette taxes by $1.00 per pack, with the revenue going toward cancer research and smoking prevention programs.
This tax is an example of a “sin tax,” an excise tax used by governments to deter harmful behaviors.
We’re asking you: Should the government impose “sin taxes” on behaviors that have societal costs?
By Tara Siler
Ricky Gill campaigns at a community event. Photo: Tara Siler
Bob Benedetti is a political science professor at Stockton’s University of the Pacific. “My lord!” he exclaims as he looks over before-and-after versions of the congressional district map that covers San Joaquin County.
“The first thing I think that hits you is that the current one is compact and the one we had been using is not,” he says.
That’s an understatement. The lines of the old 11th District are an abstract mess. The new 9th District is far tidier–covering the Delta, with Stockton and agriculture at its center.
“San Joaquin County is one of the top agricultural counties in the United States, probably in the world,” Benedetti says. “But politically the valley has tended to be conservative, whether it registers Democrat or Republican.”
Voter registration numbers would seem to favor the incumbent, Democrat Jerry McNerney. But the GOP candidates are trying to swing some conservative-leaning Democrats their way.
At Stockton’s Cinco de Mayo festival, Ricky Gill works the mostly Latino crowd. An Indian-American, Gill is a recent law school graduate. The day of the festival is also the day he turns 25-that’s the minimum age the Constitution sets to serve in the House of Representatives.
Most of us don't have time for lunch, let alone time to research propositions. Photo: Getty Images
You’re busy. We get that. But you also want to be an informed voter. We definitely get that. So we put together this list of resources on Proposition 29 with your calendar in mind.
If you have five minutes:
Read the State of Health’s blog post on Prop. 29. It’s a quick look at the proposition and why it may pass or why it may fail.
The Centers for Disease Control has found increasing the price of cigarettes reduces demand. Teenagers are especially sensitive to price, so if the tax is approved, fewer of them would pick up the habit. Right now about 12 percent of Californians smoke. That rate could drop significantly if Prop 29 is approved.
If you have 10 minutes:
KQED’s Lowdown blog explains the initiative and provides context like how much other states pay in tobacco taxes, the societal cost of smoking, and who’s financing campaigns on either side of the issue.
California’s current cigarette excise tax (an excise, by the way, means a tax levied on specific commodities) is pretty low compared to most other states (18th lowest, to be precise): right now the tax here is 87 cents/pack, almost 60 cents lower than the national average and a whopping $3.50 less than in New York, whose tobacco tax is $4.35, the nation’s highest.