Obama, Romney Race to Reach Every Voter in Battleground States

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The White House the prize, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney raced through a final full day of campaigning on Monday through Ohio and other battleground states holding the keys to victory in a tight race. Both promised brighter days ahead for a nation still struggling with a sluggish economy and high joblessness.

“Our work is not done yet,” Obama told a cheering crowd of nearly 20,000 in chilly Madison, Wis., imploring his audience to give him another four years.

Romney projected optimism as he neared the end of his six-year quest for the presidency. “If you believe we can do better. If you believe America should be on a better course. If you’re tired of being tired … then I ask you to vote for real change,” he said in a Virginia suburb of the nation’s capital. With many of the late polls in key states tilting slightly against him, he decided to campaign on Election Day in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where he and Republicans made a big, late push.

The presidency aside, there are 33 Senate seats on the ballot Tuesday, and according to one Republican official, a growing sense of resignation among his party’s rank and file that Democrats will hold their majority. Continue reading

San Diego Mayoral Candidates Fighting to Appeal to Undecided Voters

City Councilman Carl DeMaio (R) and Congressman Bob Filner (D) are facing off in the San Diego mayor's race.  Credit: DeMaio and Filner Campaigns

Republican City Councilman Carl DeMaio (left) and Democratic Congressman Bob Filner (right) are facing off in the San Diego mayor's race. (Images: DeMaio and Filner campaigns)

On a sunny day this fall, Republican city councilman Carl DeMaio and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders walked through a local, bayside park to a podium surrounded by a barrage of news cameras and reporters.

It was a good day for DeMaio. The mayor, a fellow Republican, was endorsing him — despite the two being long time political foes.

“Only one candidate has demonstrated the detailed knowledge of our city that will be required from his first day on the job.” Sanders intoned. “Only one candidate has the focus and the energy that will sustain him through difficult times. That candidate is Carl DeMaio.”

Sanders’ endorsement was followed a few days later by the announcement that Democratic philanthropist Irwin Jacobs was also supporting DeMaio.

But it hasn’t been a bad season for Democratic Congressman Bob Filner either. He’s consistently led in the mayoral polls. Still, as the election draws closer, the outcome is becoming harder to predict. Different polls yield different results. In mid-October one poll gave Filner a seven point lead, while another put DeMaio ten points ahead. Continue reading

Oakland: De La Fuente Trying to Unseat Kaplan For Councilmember At-Large

by Caitlin Esch

After 20 years representing Oakland’s District 5, City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente is giving up his position to run for Councilmember At-Large. De La Fuente is hoping to unseat popular incumbent Rebecca Kaplan.

De La Fuente is known for his tough-on-crime attitude. But in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, bookkeeper Jose Dorado says support for De La Fuente among many merchants is eroding as crime in the neighborhood continues to soar.

“The kinds of efforts that Mr. De La Fuente has put forth to deal with that has not been anywhere near even adequate in our opinion,” said Dorado.

“I absolutely understand their frustration,” De La Fuente said. “The reality—it is true: crime going up, our inability to deal with that, absolutely has increased. That’s the reason why I have tried so hard to give the police the tools to do their job.”

De La Fuente strongly supports gang injunctions and youth curfews. But At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan criticizes him for voting to cut police staffing to balance the budget.

“If he keeps cutting the police force, it’s not gonna work to just say, well this smaller number of cops should do more other things.”

Kaplan voted against the layoffs and says OPD doesn’t have the resources to enforce curfews.

Suit Filed Against Arizona Campaign Donor Group

Wednesday was the deadline, and now the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has filed suit in Sacramento Superior Court. The watchdog group wants the Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership to release all documents related to a mysterious $11 million contribution, including emails and texts.

At issue is whether Americans for Responsible Leadership violated state law by accepting donations earmarked for specific campaign purposes in California. The group instead sent a letter to the FPPC saying they had no contributors who had specified that their funds be used in state campaigns.

But Ann Ravel, FPCC Chair, says that is not the issue. “The standard of trust is not whether or not (money) was earmarked, but if those contributors knew or should have known the money would have come to a campaign in California.” 

The FPPC expects a quick decision by the court. It says the November 6th election is drawing near.

The FPPC is the state agency charged with upholding California’s Political Reform Act which includes reporting requirements about the disclosure of donors supporting or opposing state ballot measures.

Does The Death Penalty Provide ‘Closure’ to Victim’s Families? Three Perspectives

This coming election Californians will decide on Proposition 34, which would outlaw the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It would also direct $30 million a year for three years to investigate unsolved rape and murder cases.

San Quentin Prison has housed California's only death row for male inmates since 1937. (Michael Glogowski-Walldorf: Flickr)

San Quentin Prison has housed California's only death row for male inmates since 1937. (Michael Glogowski-Walldorf: Flickr)

The measure is the latest chapter in a seesaw legal and political dispute over capital punishment that stretches back 50 years in California.

But setting aside the main argument of the “Yes on 34” camp, that the billions of dollars spent on the death penalty could better be used to solve crimes; and “No on 34” backers, that the death penalty process could be made more efficient and cheaper, there’s another issue that often comes up in the overall debate.

Many supporters of the death penalty say it is the only fair societal consequence for the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes, and that it gives victims’ families a sense of closure. Scott Shafer has been following this question around the death penalty for more than a dozen years, and he frequently addresses the question of closure in his reporting. Continue reading

Californians Again Consider the Death Penalty, This Time in Proposition 34

San Quentin Prison has housed California's only death row for male inmates since 1937. (Michael Glogowski-Walldorf: Flickr)

San Quentin Prison has housed California's only death row for male inmates since 1937. (Michael Glogowski-Walldorf: Flickr)

In February of 1960, Gov. Pat Brown had a tough decision to make. His office was being flooded by clemency appeals for death row inmate Carryl Chessman. Convicted of kidnapping, robbery and rape, Chessman maintained his innocence.

“Well I don’t know if I ever had hope,” Chessman said in an interview then. “It’s like a soldier out in the field, the battlefield. I don’t know if he has hope or not; he just keeps slogging forward as much as possible and then waits for the results.”

Letters and calls poured into the governor’s office on Chessman’s behalf. As Pat Brown recalled in a 1986 KQED documentary, the most urgent appeal to stop the execution came from his own family.

“My son asked me to do it and said ‘Dad, this man didn’t kill anybody. I think you should commute it to life imprisonment,'” Brown said.

In 1972 the California Supreme Court declared the state’s death penalty unconstitutional. For the next 20 years, capital punishment bounced back and forth, with voters restoring it and then the courts striking it down.

His son Jerry Brown, who had been studying for the priesthood, apparently made a persuasive case. “I says ‘I’ll do it,'” Brown said. “And I did it. And they damn near executed me!”

The governor’s 60-day reprieve didn’t save Chessman, who died in the San Quentin gas chamber two months later. But his case helped ignite international opposition to capital punishment. Continue reading

Perspective: Has Government Helped You?

Redwood City resident Suzanne Sellers Chowla said she has a long list of ways in which she’s been helped by government.

California's capitol

Photo: David Paul Morris/Getty Images

“I certainly wouldn’t want to be without a single one of the things … that government provides,” she said, responding to a question recently posted on Facebook by KQED News in conjunction with Perspectives, our listener-essay radio series.

Perspectives is airing first-person accounts in advance of the November election about politics, government and the future of the country. As part of that series we asked our Facebook followers for their thoughts: Why is government important? Is it doing too much or too little?

We received a few comments; the most comprehensive was Chowla’s, who said government has assisted her with her education, protected her right to freedom of religion and speech, and ensured she can get health insurance if she loses her job, among a list. It has set aside parks and open spaces that she enjoys. Continue reading

What’s Government For? Share Your Story

Pak Gwei/Flickr

What role should government play in the lives of Americans? Is it doing something now that it shouldn’t? Have you had an experience with good government or bad government that you’re willing to share?

We want to hear from you for Perspectives, KQED’s listener essay series. In the coming days we’ll be posting these fill-in-the-blank questions on social media:

  • Government should stop _____________.
  • We need government to _____________.
  • I know government is too big because _____________.
  • Government really helped me to _____________.

You can answer by sharing your thoughts on, Tweeting @KQEDnews or posting a comment below. We will be reviewing the answers and reaching out to some of the respondents to ask if they’re interested in being part of a series of election-themed Perspectives later this year.

So post a comment and let us know what you think!

California’s Prop. 37: Are GMO Labels A Scarlet Letter?

By Amy Standen

Genetically-engineered lettuce can sprout in a hot, dry climate.

Genetically-engineered lettuce can sprout in a hot, dry climate.

Proposition 37 could make California the first state in the country to require labels on foods made with genetically-modified ingredients. It’s shaping up to be one of the most contentious — and certainly the most expensive — battles on the state’s November ballot.

On one side are organic food groups that have spent about $3 million in support of the labeling law. On the other are biotech firms like Monsanto and food giants including Pepsi, Sara Lee, and General Mills, which have contributed upwards of $28 million to try and keep GMO labels off food packages.

If Proposition 37 passes, you’ll see a change in nearly every part of the grocery store.

To the “No On 37″ camp, there is nothing benign about a label

Take the cereal aisle, where Stacy Malkan with the “Yes on 37” campaign recently picked up a box of granola and pointed to the ingredients panel.

“Many of these products have corn syrup, cornstarch, sugar beets, and soy products that are genetically engineered,” she said.

In the United States, up to 90 percent of those foods are grown from seeds that have been genetically modified. Scientists made changes in the plants’ DNA to make the crop resist pests or stay fresh longer, to name two examples.

Malkan thinks that’s something consumers should know about. Continue reading