Author Archives: kqednews

Vice Presidential Debate Webcast, Chat and Live Blogs

Win McNamee and Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Tonight it’s up to Joe Biden to try to regenerate the mojo that his boss, by most accounts and many polls, lost during the first presidential debate.

You can watch Biden take on Paul Ryan in the first and only vice presidential mano-a-mano live at 6 p.m.

NewsHour Live Stream:

Debate chat from NPR featuring Frank James (NPR’s It’s All Politics blogger), Marilyn Geewax (NPR business editor), and Shirish Date (NPR Washington Desk editor)

We’ve also aggregated some live blogs. Pick your political persuasion…

House Vet Pete Stark in Tough Re-Election Fight; Videos: Stark on the Warpath

By Cyrus Musiker

Twenty-term incumbent Pete Stark has a well developed get-out-the-vote operation, but his opponent, Eric Swalwell, is capitalizing on Stark's reported negative attributes. (Photo: Cy Musiker)

Twenty-term incumbent Pete Stark has a well developed get-out-the-vote operation, but his opponent, Eric Swalwell, is capitalizing on Stark's reported negative attributes. (Photo: Cy Musiker)

Pete Stark has specialized in health care during much of his 40 years in Congress. He’s helped pass some of the nation’s most far-reaching laws in that area, including the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare” to some); a law that says emergency rooms are required to admit patients who can’t pay; and COBRA, which lets workers and their families temporarily remain covered under an employer’s health plan even after leaving their job.

Stark says he considers himself a health care “expert.”

“But there’s lots to be done,” he adds. “I would like to work until we see that every resident of the United States has access to health care regardless of their income or health status.”

In a normal year, voters would probably have granted him yet another term to do that work. But in this election cycle, he has to fight to be re-elected because of the state’s “Top Two” primary system and newly drawn congressional districts that have changed business as usual.

“In a Democrat vs. Democrat race, there’s a very reasonable chance [Stark] could end up out of Congress.”

Stark is now running in the redrawn but mostly Democratic 15th Congressional District — a sprawl of suburban cities, stretching from Hayward to Pleasanton, to the south and east of Oakland. In June he finished ahead of his Democratic primary opponent;  had it been a traditional primary, Stark would be facing almost certain-victory over a weak Republican in November.

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Rallying the Afghan Vote in Fremont

By Francesca Segre

Most Afghan-Americans came here as refugees — fleeing war, invasions and political repression. Yet many don’t exercise their right to vote in U.S. elections. The nonprofit group The Afghan Coalition is trying to change that dynamic, and they’re rallying voters in the heart of California’s Afghan population — Fremont.

Francesca Segre/KQED

The group organized a forum recently for Afghan-American voters to meet the four candidates running for mayor of the city. At the event, candidates fielded questions about immigration and how to combat Islamophobia. Aziz Akbari, an 18-year-old Muslim and one of the mayoral candidates, tried to warm up the crowd by introducing himself in Farsi. But the candidates know it’s complicated to encourage Afghan voter turnout.

Many Afghans are reluctant to vote because they were never given a chance to in their homeland. Continue reading

Super PACs Pour On the California Cash in National Battle For House

By Tara Siler

(Brendan Smialowski/AFT/Getty Images)

(Brendan Smialowski/AFT/Getty Images)

The recent redrawing of California’s congressional districts would seem to favor Democratic candidates in this deep-blue state.

But there are still 11 competitive House seats across California, and there’s a dogfight under way for every one of them, in large part because Democrats need 25 House seats to take control of Congress from Republicans. So national political groups on both sides are dumping buckets of campaign cash into races here in hopes of maximizing gains — or limiting their losses.

One of the more hotly contested races is in the Sacramento area’s 7th Congressional District. In fact, it’s considered one of the most competitive in the country

Volunteer Judy Vonn is working the phones for Democratic candidate and physician Ami Bera, who is challenging GOP incumbent Dan Lungren for a second time. Continue reading

Prop. 39 Would End Choice of Taxation Method For Out-of-State Companies

By Erik Anderson, KPBS

San Franciscan Tom Steyer spending millions of his own money to support Prop. 39. (Photo: Erik Anderson)

San Franciscan Tom Steyer spending millions of his own money to support Prop. 39. (Photo: Erik Anderson)

San Francisco hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has already fought and won a battle at the California ballot box. In 2010, he helped defeat Proposition 23. That measure would have rolled back California’s landmark global warming law. Now he’s putting $20 million of his own money into passing Proposition 39.

“It’s about tax fairness,” Steyer says. “We are closing a loophole, but all we are asking out-of-state companies to do is to pay taxes on their income exactly the way that we do. And what that will do is bring into the state of California over a billion dollars every single year, and all from companies from out of state.”

The Legislative Analyst’s Office has estimated that’s the amount of revenue the tax-change will generate. The LAO also said that “while only a small portion of corporations are multistate, [they] pay the vast majority of the state’s corporate income taxes.”

The history of Prop 39 is rooted in a change in the tax code that the California Legislature made in 2009. That’s when lawmakers gave companies a choice of how to pay their corporate taxes, says San Diego State University business professor Steve Gill.

“For years and years and years, we had a long tradition of using a three-factor apportionment formula,” Gill says, “which meant we look at three different factors that are economic drivers of income: sales, property and payroll.” Continue reading

Gov’s Prop. 30 Tax Hike: More For Schools, Criminal Justice…or More Money Misspent?

By Erika Kelly

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at L.A. City Hall on the state budget earlier this year.  (Kevork Djansezian: Getty Images)

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at L.A. City Hall on the state budget earlier this year. (Kevork Djansezian: Getty Images)

Gov. Jerry Brown has been blazing the campaign trail for Proposition 30 for several weeks now. It’s his big play to bring in new revenue, and he’s lined up a lot of support to pay for campaign ads that begin Wednesday. People and organizations have ponied up more than $41 million to back Prop. 30. Brown warns that without the added revenue, California schools would face something like financial Armageddon. That’s a message he served up at an August visit to San Francisco’s James Lick Middle School.

“If people say ‘no, we don’t want to tax the most rewarded and blessed among us, we want to close schools,’” he told the crowd, “okay, I’ll manage as best as we can. But I will tell you, and I’m telling you the truth, everything I’ve seen in my lifetime tells me that schools need more money.”

The “blessed people” Brown refers to are California’s highest earners. Under Prop. 30, they would see their income taxes go up for seven years. But it’s not just the wealthy who would be asked to chip in. Everyone who makes a purchase in California would have to pay an additional quarter-cent sales tax for four years. This year’s state’s budget assumes Prop. 30 will pass and billions of dollars of new revenue will flow into state coffers. But H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the State Department of Finance, says if voters reject the measure, significant cuts are coming — and fast. Continue reading

‘Honeymoon’ with Obama Turns to Reality of Married Life for Black Supporters

By Caitlin Esch

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson addresses Obama faithful at Everett and Jones restaurant in Oakland. (Photo: Caitlin Esch)

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson addresses Obama faithful at Everett and Jones restaurant in Oakland. (Photo: Caitlin Esch)

NAACP volunteer Gayle Akins pitches a table and spreads out voter registration forms at an anti-violence rally outside Oakland City Hall. She’s capitalizing on the support that President Barack Obama inspires locally: many new voters are registering simply to cast a vote for him.

Sometimes they act like, ‘I don’t know if my vote counts,’ but they know a lot about what’s going on,” Akins says. “If we can convince them — register to vote — and actually get out to vote … it’s a really good thing.”

Still, many African-American voters are frustrated. Four years ago, Oakland resident William Edwards says he was thrilled when Obama won. But Edwards has fallen on hard times; his home is in foreclosure, and he doesn’t think Obama is paying attention to the concerns of his community — things like too few jobs and too many African American men in prison.

“It’s almost like dating. You date someone and they show their great side, and you get married and it’s like ‘oh, they don’t pick up their socks.’”

“He’s got probably 95 percent of the black vote, but it’s nice to vote and support him,” Edwards says. “But, what are we gonna get for it? Everybody else has an agenda of what they wanna get. So what’s in it for us?”

Oakland Civil rights attorney Eva Paterson has had her own disappointments over the past four years, but she says the black community’s romance with the president has given way to something else. Continue reading

Unions: Prop 32 Ban on Political Donations Weighted Heavily Against Labor

By Rachel Dornhelm

Ed Kinchley with San Francisco SEIU Chapter 1021 is working the phone bank to encourage members to vote no on Prop. 32. (Photo: Rachel Dornhelm)

Ed Kinchley with San Francisco SEIU Chapter 1021 is working the phone bank to encourage members to vote no on Prop. 32. (Photo: Rachel Dornhelm)

I’m looking squarely at the Capitol building in Sacramento. The grass is manicured and green — the building sparkling white. But to Jake Suski, special interest money in politics keeps the Capitol anything but clean.

“Lawmakers — particularly during legislative seasons — host just a number of fundraisers. I think one day during this August they had 17 different fundraisers in one day,” he tells me.

Suski is the spokesman for Proposition 32. The measure’s backers say they simply want to get rid of special interest money in the Capitol. “Corporate lobbyists ask for their little pet projects to be passed and tell them which bills they don’t like,” Suski says, “and union lobbyists do the same thing on their little pet projects.”

Suski says Prop. 32 would accomplish its goal it in three steps.

  1.  Banning unions and corporations from giving directly to politicians
  2.  Prohibiting government contractors from political giving
  3.  Making it illegal to deduct money from paychecks to use in political campaigns Continue reading

Prop. 33 Asks Voters to Reconsider How Auto Insurance Discounts Work

By Erik Anderson, KPBS

Prop. 33 backers say many drivers would be eligible for discounts; opponents are skeptical. (Photo: Magie Mbroh)

Prop. 33 backers say many drivers would be eligible for discounts; opponents are skeptical. (Photo: Magie Mbroh)

California voters are getting a chance to tweak the state’s car insurance rules when they consider the fate of Proposition 33. The November ballot item asks voters to change the way car insurance rates are calculated in California. The measure proposes tweaking current rules to allow companies to consider a driver’s insurance history when setting how much they will pay.

It is not a new idea. In fact, Proposition 33 is similar to Proposition 17, a measure voters rejected just two years ago. Under Prop. 33 people who have had car insurance continuously for five years can get a discount. People who have an interruption in coverage would face much higher car insurance fees. In an effort to separate itself from the failed Proposition 17, Prop. 33 adds some exceptions that include the military, workers who have lost their jobs and children living with their parents.

It is a message the “Yes on 33” camp is putting on television spots hitting the airwaves on stations around California, according to Rachel Hooper, a consultant for the campaign. One ad features several drivers including a young woman who calls it a great idea for all drivers. Another person in the ad says Prop. 33 rewards drivers for maintaining car insurance. Continue reading

Riverside County Democrats Claim Fraud in Voter Outreach Project

By Lance Williams, California Watch

(David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

(David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

While Republican voter registration in California is in a long downward spiral, the GOP still holds sway in 31 of the state’s 58 counties.

Then there’s Riverside County, where Democratic activists claim that a Republican voter outreach project has employed an unusual fraud scheme to build a 51,000-voter registration advantage.

In a complaint filed last week with the county registrar of voters, the Democrats presented affidavits from 133 Democratic voters who said they had been re-registered as Republicans without their consent after they encountered petition circulators outside welfare offices and stores.

Re-registering Democrats as Republicans interferes with Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts … the party won’t contact a voter who is listed as a Republican.

One voter complained that his registration was changed to Republican after he signed what he thought was a petition to legalize marijuana. Another said he was told he was signing a petition to lower the price of gasoline, according to the affidavits.

Others said they were offered free cigarettes or a “job at the polls” if they signed some paperwork.

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