Monthly Archives: June 2012

High Court Ruling Vindicates Obama, What’s Next for Romney?

A man protests against the Obama administrations health care plan during a protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, on June 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(AP) — Marking a pivotal point in the presidential campaign, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Barack Obama’s sweeping federal health care law handed the Democratic incumbent crucial election-year vindication for his signature legislative accomplishment.

Republican rival Mitt Romney, an ardent opponent of the law, prepared to use the decision for his own political gain and planned to cast himself as the next best hope for the millions of Americans who favor the law’s repeal.

The decision put an end to what had been one of the biggest unknowns in the presidential race. Four months from Election Day, both Obama and Romney will seek to use the high court ruling to bolster their vision for the country, as well as raise money for their campaigns.

The Romney campaign said it had collected more than $100,000 in online donations in the hour after the decision was announced.

Both men were expected to comment around midday Thursday from Washington. Romney was scheduled to speak first, followed by Obama.

The high court announced Thursday, in a 5-4 decision, that it was upholding the requirement at the heart of the health care law: that most individuals must buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

The decision means the historic overhaul will continue to go into effect over the next several years, affecting the way people receive and pay for personal medical care. The ruling also handed Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in requiring most Americans to have health insurance.

The Obama and Romney campaigns have been quietly preparing for months how they would respond to the ruling.

While the White House publically expressed confidence that the overhaul would be upheld, Obama aides feared the political ramifications for the president if the law were to be overturned.

In anticipation of the law being overturned, Romney aides cautioned against excessive celebration, fearing that could alienate voters who could lose health care benefits as a result of the decision.

Romney, who as Massachusetts governor signed a health care law on which the Obama’s federal law was modeled, previewed his likely response to the decision during a campaign event earlier this week.

If the court upholds the law, Romney told supporters at a northern Virginia electronics manufacturer Wednesday, it’s still bad policy. “And that’ll mean if I’m elected president we’re going to repeal it and replace it,” he said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the decision sets the stakes for the Nov. 6 election.

“Now, the only way to save the country from Obamacare’s budget-busting government takeover of health care is to elect a new president,” Priebus said.

The court’s ruling will have a far-reaching impact on the nation’s health care system. About 30 million of the 50 million uninsured Americans would get coverage in 2014 when a big expansion begins.

Polling suggests that most Americans oppose the law, but an overwhelming majority want Congress and the president to find a new remedy if it’s struck down.

The court’s announcement was expected to be followed almost immediately by a barrage of advertisements and fundraising appeals from Democrats and Republicans all trying to cast the decision in the most advantageous light for their candidates.

Obama’s campaign began trying to raise money off the ruling even before it was announced. In a Thursday morning fundraising email with the subject line “Today’s Decision,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told supporters “no matter what, today is an important day to have Barack Obama’s back.”

Outside groups also are ready to unleash a flood of advertising, including a 16-state, $7 million ad buy from the conservative political action group Americans for Prosperity.

Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Act

Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Act Update, 7:27 AM, More details on nuances from the individual justices: Now from Kennedy is reading a dissent saying the whole thing should be invalid. Meanwhile Ginsberg writes it should be entirely valid. “Justice Ginsburg makes clear that the vote is 5-4 on sustaining the mandate as a form of tax.

Read more at:

Democrats Pin Hopes on Calif. to Gain New Seats

By Amy Isackson

For the last decade, California’s races for the United States House of Representatives have held few surprises. Just one seat has changed parties in the last decade. This election, newly drawn district lines have put California in play and emboldened the Democrats, who are depending on the state, help regain the House majority. However, two races in the Inland Empire shows it will be a tough fight.

Democratic candidate Mark Takano has run his campaign for the House of Representatives out of his two-bedroom condo.

He’s a candidate in a newly formed district in Riverside. The Democratic Party hopes he’ll be able to pick up one of the 25 seats they need nationally to take back the House.

“My living room is a mess,” said Takano.

Volunteers and campaign workers who camp out on the couches have left a trail of stains

“We’ve been saving some money by running everything out of a condo. But I think it is a testament to American democracy that in a humble space such as this, we’re going to change the world,” said Takano. Continue reading

Primary’s Lesson: Every Vote Counts

Primary Voters in California

Flickr/Old Man Lee

Two weeks after the June 5 primary, county elections officers are still hard at work counting ballots. There are still more than 300,000 absentee and provisional ballots yet to be processed around California. And lots of races hinge on those votes.

For starters: the fate of Proposition 29, the state tobacco tax hike. Support for the measure still lags, but the gap is narrowing. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the “Yes” votes were 17,571 behind the “No” votes. That’s a tiny fraction of the five million votes cast. And the margin against Prop. 29 has been shrinking steadily.  On June 12, it was 28,000, down from 63,000 votes the day after the election. And 337,977 ballots are still to be counted.

In addition, five congressional races and ten state assembly races are too close to call… with margins of less than two percent between the second and third vote-getters (only the top two will advance to the Nov. 6 general election).

In Congressional District 2, which stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, Democrat Norman Solomon trails Republican Daniel Roberts by 1,241 votes. The winner will face off against Democrat Jared Huffman in November.

In Congressional District 8, in the sparsely populated region east of the Sierras, three Republicans and one Democrat are all within about 900 votes of each other. The candidate currently in third place is just 215 votes shy of second place.

In Congressional District 21 which runs from south of Fresno down to Bakersfield, Democrat Blong Xiong trails Democrat John Hernandez by 492 votes. The winner will face Republican David Valadao.

In Congressional District 38, in Los Angeles County, Republican Jorge Robles is 632 votes behind Republican Benjamin Campos in a fight to take on Democratic incumbent Linda Sanchez.

And in Congressional District 52, in San Diego County, Democrat Lori Saldana is just 713 votes behind Democrat Scott Peters in a race to take on incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray.

In all those races, there are still thousands, if not tens of thousands, of ballots still being tallied.

The moral of the story? Your vote COUNTS!

Two thirds of California’s registered voters didn’t make it to the polls on June 5. But just a few hundred more votes in any of these close races could have swung the outcome. By voting — or staying home — you’ve had an impact on the election.

Voter-Approved Pension Reform — First of Many?

San Diego and San Jose both passed measures Tuesday to reform pension benefits for public employees. Photo: Michel Boutefeu/Newsmakers

By Peter Jon Shuler

Overwhelming voter support for pension reform measures in San Diego and San Jose could open the floodgates for rollbacks to rising pension costs in other cities and counties. It could also give a boost to Governor Brown’s proposals for statewide pension reform.

Both city measures are designed to rein in pension costs for existing employees and create less generous retirement packages for new hires. Cities around California have been watching the measures closely.

“I have no question we’re going to be seeing lots of different agencies attempting to adjust benefits very similar to what San Diego and San Jose did,” said Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility. She calls the Tuesday elections a mandate.

San Jose and San Diego unions quickly sued to block the measures. But Fritz says voter sentiment may take the issue to the state level and force Democratic lawmakers in Sacramento to take up Brown’s proposals.

Listen to the radio version of the story:

Statewide Election Results

California voters said 'yes' to new term-limit laws. Photo: David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Prop. 28 Wins Big

California voters want their state lawmakers to spend more time in one legislative house or the other and less time in office overall.  Californians passed — in a big way — Prop. 28 — which tweaks the state’s term limits law.

Proposition 28 limits lawmakers to 12 years, two shorter than under the current system, but lets them spend all that time in one house or the other.

Lawmakers are now limited to eight years — two terms in the State Senate, and six years — three terms in the Assembly.

The good government groups that sponsored the measure argued the new system should give lawmakers more time to learn their jobs.

“What Prop. 28 lets legislators do is stop jumping immediately into a campaign for their next office, as soon as they’re elected. It lets them take time to gain the expertise to become proficient at both the issues and how to work in the legislature,” Trudy Schafer, Program Director with the League of Women Voters, said.
Continue reading

Quick Look: Local Election Results

Wondering how measures in your county fared? KQED’s News Fix blogger Jon Brooks is on it. Are we missing something? Tell us in the comments below.

Local Measure B – Coit Tower policy Full results here Coverage: Measure B – City of San Jose pension modification Full results here Coverage: U.S. Congress District 15 Coverage: Full results here Coverage:

Read more at:

Low Voter Turnout, But an Election Worth Watching

A stack of voter stickers.

Voter turnout was low, but this was an election of firsts in California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While some may call this primary election a snoozer, this is actually a rather fascinating, if not historic, election. A new top-two primary system is being tested statewide for the first time, redistricting has pitted longtime colleagues against one another, and a cigarette tax and term limit propositions are on the ballot.

The California Report hosted a live primary night special.

We recommend having a listen, but if you can’t spare an hour, here are some highlights:


“In some ways we we’re redistricting about 20 years worth because the last couple of redistrictings had really been incumbent protection districts.”

“That was a problematic district from the previous redistricting…Congressman Berman’s district, when his brother, who did the line drawing, drew those districts, they very specifically set out to carve, to basically pick voters for the congressman and the district did really not make sense.”

— Maria Blanco, former member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission and vice president of civic engagement for the California Community Foundation on the ‘Battle of Ermans’ in the San Fernando Valley.

More on Berman v. Sherman:

“It’s just gonna wear everybody out. Because we know they’re going to face each other again in November. Essentially what they’re doing today, is trying to tell donors that they are pretty likely to win”

“It essentially brings the Republicans alive a little bit in a Democratic district [because] they’re potentially the balance of power in there.”

“Berman especially has been trying to get endorsements from Republicans…. Sherman could turn around in November and say ‘I’m a little bit more independent. Look, they haven’t all endorsed me so if you want someone to be a pain in the neck for the big party people, I’m your guy.'”

— Raphe Sonenshein, executive director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles

Top-Two Primary:

“The top two shakes up everybody’s way of thinking of running for office in California.”

“It’s the end of third parties in California.”

“This really strikes me as the world as designed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

“If you look at the redistricting commission, the top two, all of these things were meant to create more moderate candidates who are not tied to the two parties. Now, poor Arnold, didn’t do much on the budget, but his legacy may end up being some quirky rules that allow quirky people to get in who don’t necessarily have to follow the pledges of either party.”

— Raphe Sonenshein

“There are two sets of dynamics you are seeing in the top-two primary, one is the safe party district where you have this slug fest within the party and the other is this phenomena where you have essentially a three-person race — its sorts out as a Democrat, a Republican and some version of a moderate –either a moderate Democrat, a moderate Republican, decline-to-state voter or some version of that.”

— Corey Cook, director of the Leo McCarthy Center at the University of San Francisco

“You’re really looking at the refurbishing of the Republican party against its will.”

— Raphe Sonenshein

Around the State:

“This is an example where we may possibly have an Independent versus a Republican and no Democrat on the November ballot, and that would be a first.

— Sasha Khokha, KQED Central Valley Bureau Chief on Stanislaus County’s District 10 race between Chad Condit v. Jose Hernandez v. Congressman Jeff Denham

“If you’re anti-war and pro-marijuana you probably represent the views of a lot of voters.”

— Mina Kim, on the 12 candidates vying to win Lynn Woolsey’s seat in the liberal Northbay  District 2.



Live Blog: June Primary Election Night

11:00 pm: Calling It a Night

Well folks, with 28.4% of the precincts reporting in, we’re calling it a night. We need our sleep so we can bring you final results and analysis bright and early on The California Report and KQED News. Until then, enjoy some of the choice quotes from the evening.

10:40 pm: Incumbents Advance in Low Turnout Calif. Primary

(AP) — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein easily advanced to the November ballot in California’s statewide primary Tuesday and voters overwhelmingly approved a change to the state’s 22-year-old legislative term limits law. Early returns showed voters split on adding a $1-a-pack tax on cigarettes to fund cancer research in an election that tested sweeping new political reforms.

The primary was the first statewide use of a top-two voting system and newly redrawn legislative and congressional districts. Voters also weighed two ballot initiatives: one to alter legislative term limits and the tobacco tax.

Proposition 28, which would cut the total time lawmakers could serve in the state Legislature, passed easily, with 65 percent of the vote in early returns Tuesday night.

Feinstein, the 78-year-old incumbent Democrat, easily advanced to the general election, where she will face the next highest vote-getter. Elizabeth Emken, an autism activist who won the GOP’s endorsement, had a healthy lead in a crowded field of 23 challengers, 14 of them Republicans.

Some voters were hopeful that the new top-two system will deliver more competitive contests and more moderate candidates even as they were confronted with a longer, more complicated ballot. In some cases, candidates of the same party are vying to meet again in November, but early returns showed independent candidates not faring well.

“I think it helps to level the playing field,” said attorney Susan Hyman after casting her Democratic ballot at a skilled nursing facility in Long Beach. “The districts have been too entrenched by party.”

Two long-serving Democrats, Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, advanced to a November showdown in a bitterly contested San Fernando Valley area House district that was a marquee matchup among California’s congressional races.

Two Democrats also appeared headed for a same-party showdown in the Central Coast’s 13th Senate District, where Assemblyman Jerry Hill of San Mateo faced former Assemblywoman Sally Lieber of Redwood.

Election officials reported few problems at the polls and traffic was slow throughout the day, with some pundits predicting voter turnout could be as low as 25 percent, which would be a record low for a presidential primary.

“It looks abysmal,” Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir. “It looks like this could be an almost all mail-in ballot elections. It’s seemingly that bad.”

Weir estimated that about 20 percent of ballots might not be processed Tuesday, which could mean candidates could wait to find out if they make the November runoff.

In San Diego, four well-known candidates were running for a spot in the fall runoff which will feature the top two finishers.

Republicans Carl DeMaio, a city councilman, and Bonnie Dumanis, a three-term San Diego County district attorney, ran against U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, the lone Democrat, and state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who switched his affiliation from GOP to independent.

DeMaio led with 33 percent of the vote in early returns, with Filner in second place.

The top-two primary has triggered a new phenomenon where some of the hottest contests are those in which candidates of the same party are likely to meet again in November.

Democrats hope to pick up as many as six seats in California’s 53 congressional districts and have been working to register more voters in traditionally Republican-leaning areas of the Central Valley and the Inland Empire region of Southern California.

9:36 pm: Photo Dispatch: Huffman Campaign Party Sticks to Enviro Roots

Good eye, Mina Kim.

9:20 pm: City Pension Reform on Path to Approval in San Jose, San Diego

(AP) — Early returns show voters overwhelmingly approving measures to cut benefits for government workers in two major California cities.

In San Diego, 69 percent are in favor of Proposition B while 31 percent are opposed. Nearly 16 percent of precincts are reporting.

The margin in San Jose is even wider, with 71 percent in favor of Measure B and 29 percent opposed. More than 13 percent of precincts are reporting.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed issued a statement thanking voters for commitment to fiscal reform.

9:06 pm: Early Returns Show Prop. 28 Leaning Toward Passage, 29 in Dead Heat

With 10% of the precincts counted, Yes on Proposition 28, a measure that would revise California legislator term limits, is earning 65% of the vote.

Proposition 29, the proposed cigarette tax, is coming in at 51% Yes, 49% No. What do you think about these kinds of taxes? Tell us in our little “quiz.”

8:04 pm: Polls Close, Results Trickle In

You can find statewide results at the Secretary of State’s site.

Local returns can be tracked by going to individual county sites.

8:00 pm: Live Election Special, Tweets From the Studio

Listen live to the program now.

7:12pm: Recall Effort Falls Short As Walker Survives In Wisconsin

via NPR and AP:

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has survived his recall election, the AP projects.

The AP adds: “Walker becomes the first governor in American history to stay in
office after a recall challenge. The Republican governor rose to national prominence last year after taking on public-sector unions shortly after being sworn in. That fight also triggered the recall and set up a rematch with Tom Barrett, who was defeated by Walker in 2010.”

Read the full article at

6:00pm: Races to Watch Tonight

The statewide ballot

Prop. 28 – The term-limit measure. “Prop 28 would tweak our term limits law,” Hendricks explains. “Currently somebody can serve in the State Legislature for 14 years, six in the Assembly and eight in the Senate. Under this new law, you would only be able to stay in the legislature for a maximum of 12 years, but with no limit to serving in either house.”

As for Prop. 29, the proposed $1.00 per pack extra tax tacked onto a pack of cigarettes, Hendricks says:

Twenty percent of the money would go to prevention and smoking cessation programs. The bulk would go to cancer research and research into other tobacco-related illnesses. Proponents argue that California’s tobacco tax is now below the national average. They also say the higher the tax on cigarettes, the less likely people they are to take up smoking, especially teens. Tobacco industry funding against the measure has been quite heavy, but there are anti-tax Republican groups against it as well. California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro has been outspoken in opposing the measure on anti-tax grounds. Others say it’s a regressive tax that hits poorer people hardest.”

Local elections and measures

Locally, there are two congressional races of particular interest. Longtime Democratic congressman Pete Stark of Alameda County is in trouble for a number of reasons. His district has moved further East and is now more conservative, for one. He’s also getting a serious challenge from fellow Democrat Eric Swallwell, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor.

“If we didn’t have the top-two primary,” says Hendricks, “they would go head to head in June and one would emerge to face a token Republican in November, since it’s a Democratic district. But now Stark will probably have to face another Democrat in the general election.”

The 80-year-old Stark has also suffered a string of self-inflicted embarrassments, though he did recently land an endorsement from President Obama.

The other House race drawing attention locally is the battle for retiring congresswoman Lynn Woolsey’s seat in a newly drawn district that runs from Marin all the way up to the Oregon border. Of the large field running to replace Woolsey, political analysts are predicting the top two vote-getters will both be Democrats. The four candidates considered to be at the front of the pack: State Assemblyman Jared Huffman, author and progressive activist Norman Solomon, Marin County supervisor Susan Adams, and co-founder of UC Berkeley’s Center for Entrepeneurship & Technology Stacey Lawson. The leading Republican is Marine Corps veteran Dan Roberts.

Pension reform

In San Jose, Measure B is drawing a lot of attention as a belwether of voters’ willingness to allow municipalities to cope with shortfalls in pension funding by cutting benefits for public employees. KQED’s Peter Jon Shuler reports:

Measure B would require employees to make additional contributions to their plans — up to 16 percent of their pay — to help cover projected shortfalls.

The measure allows employees to avoid the extra fees by opting into a less generous plan with smaller payouts and later retirement ages [and] would provide new employees with a stripped-down retirement plan, but leaves the details for the city council to decide later. Councilman Pete Constant, who supports the measure, notes that it would leave existing pension commitments intact.

Public workers say it’s unfair to expect them to bear the brunt of a problem they didn’t create. And they say most retirement pensions are not luxurious. The average for San Jose is about $40,000 a year with a cost of living allowance of three percent…

Even opponents of Measure B agree the city needs to overhaul the terms of employee retirement benefits. But they say putting it on the ballot has turned the conversation over pension costs in San Jose into an ugly feud. Read full article

Around the country:

It’s Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin. We’re no strangers to a recall election here in California, and this one is a doozy. Will controversial Governor Scott Walker hold on to his seat? Our colleagues at NPR are all over this one. (As of this update, the race in a dead heat.)

4:30pm: Election Night Coverage Begins … Now

Greetings. We’re gearing up for an evening of live coverage, including a one-hour California Report special broadcast at 7pm.

We’ll hear from reporters across the state, and talk to guests about what’s at stake, and what the results might mean for California.

If you haven’t already, you’ve got just over three hours left to get to your polling place. Don’t know where it is? Smart Voter has you covered.