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Democrat McNerney Beats Newcomer Gill, Wins 4th Term in Congress

by Tara Siler

Rep. Jerry McNerney

Democrat Jerry McNerney’s victory in the 9th Congressional District comes despite predictions that his San Joaquin Valley race with newcomer Ricky Gill might be a toss-up.

By the time Gill called McNerney and conceded defeat early Wednesday morning, most people had already left the Democratic celebration. McNerney’s staff erupted in cheers and lit cigars.

In 2010, McNerney’s re-election took days to determine as results came in, and he said the early call from Gill was a relief.

“I was hoping I wouldn’t be waiting another two or three days for the results and its pretty decisive now. The voters have spoken and I appreciate that and the confidence they’ve given me and I want nothing more than to serve this community and do the best I can to make a difference in people’s lives.”

“I think he’s been very good to the community he comes back to,” said Laurie Mitnik, a substitute teacher from Stockton. “His door is open to people who want to talk to him. He’s very approachable.”

McNerney continues to have his work cut out for him. Stockton’s unemployment rate is more than 13 percent, the city recently declared bankruptcy and crime is soaring. McNerney said he plans to hit the ground running.

“I will not hold back,” said McNerney. “If I can find a grant, I will help my constituents get that grant. I want to bring federal dollars back to my district because we need it here.”

Throughout the campaign McNerney fought Gill’s depiction of him as a carpetbagger who moved to Stockton from Pleasanton because his district was redrawn. McNerney countered that his 25- year old challenger had far too little experience.

Outside conservative groups spent some $3 million to unseat McNerney. Unsuccessfully.

California Democrats May Have Supermajority in Both Assembly, Senate

(Justin Sullivan: Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan: Getty Images)

California Democrats are on the brink of a historic political achievement: Assemblyman John Perez has declared that Democrats have gained a two-thirds supermajority in the Assembly, and the California Senate is also trending that way.

If those totals hold, the Democrats will have attained a Proposition 13-proof advantage that would enable them to raise taxes without any votes from Republicans, largely intractable on the tax issue, or having to go to the voters, as Gov. Brown did with his Proposition 30.

But it’s not a done deal. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The party’s apparent capture of 54 seats in the 80-member Assembly and 27 in the 40-member Senate would mark the first time in nearly 80 years that one party controlled two-thirds of both houses, according to Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg. Continue reading

The House: Berman on Sherman and More Political Fratricide in California

What's more awkward than two belles sharing the same stage in the same dress? Two political candidates from the same party in a knock-down, drag-out fight to the bitter finish in November!

What's more awkward than two belles sharing the same stage in the same dress? Two political candidates from the same party in a knock-down, drag-out fight to the bitter finish in November!

Granted, California was not a swing state in the presidential election. We’re so dominated by Democrats, it’s hard to imagine anybody so much as blinked when Barack Obama won here. And Dianne Feinstein’s next term in the U.S. Senate? Even loyal Republicans were calling that one for her before the ballots were published.

But even in a True Blue state like this one, there was plenty of blood spilled in the California delegation to the House of Representatives. Between the way Congressional districts were redrawn after the last US Census and the state’s new top-two primary system, the stage was set for some high-pitched theater in two Republican districts and six Democratic ones. You might think that Democratic Party leaders would gather in some smoke-filled room somewhere in California and make the decisions required to avoid one party member going up against another. That’s not how it played out.

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Gov. Brown’s Proposition 30 Passes by Solid Margin, Will Fund Schools

California Gov. Jerry Brown during a rally on Monday in support of Proposition 30. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

California voters soundly passed Proposition 30, 54 to 46 percent. Many considered it the biggest measure on this California ballot.

Gov. Jerry Brown crisscrossed the state in recent weeks making his pitch, supported by union leaders, teachers and others keen to avoid the “trigger cuts” that would have hit had Prop. 30 failed. But even before the final count was in, the governor was in a buoyant mood at the Yes on 30 election night party in downtown Sacramento.

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Gov. Brown had a lot on the line with Prop 30. It imposes a temporary 1/4-cent sales tax and raises income taxes on the wealthy for seven years.

The failure of Prop. 30 would have triggered $6 billion in education cuts. And the governor staked his reputation on the measure, making it his top priority. Continue reading

Anti-DREAM Act Candidate Reveals He Entered U.S. Illegally As Child

Pedro Rios, Republican candidate for 32nd Assembly District.

Pedro Rios, Republican candidate for 32nd Assembly District. (Pedro Rios for State Assembly)

Thirty years ago, Pedro Rios was smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico by his uncle. Today he is a citizen and a Republican candidate for the 32nd Assembly District, which includes part of Bakersfield and an area to the north of the Central Valley city.

In between, Rios benefitted from President Reagan’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a 1986 law which provided a path to citizenship for people who had entered the country illegally. Rios became a citizen in 1996.

But these details were not public until late October. While his Democratic opponent, Bakersfield City Councilman Rudy Salas says he won’t make an issue of Rios’ prior undocumented status, people are taking issue with Rios’ refusal to back President Obama’s DREAM Act, a policy to allow young people who have come to the U.S. illegally to apply for legal residency.

Jose Gaspar, a columnist with the Bakersfield Californian talked to Candi Easter, chair of the Democratic Party of Kern County:

“I think it’s honorable that Rios came here undocumented and became a citizen,” Easter added. “But what I find dishonorable is his opposition to the DREAM Act,” she said. The DREAM Act is proposed federal legislation that would grant a path to citizenship for qualified undocumented youth in this country. And in fact, Rios admits he is against the legislation, saying he wants comprehensive immigration reform instead. Continue reading

California Congressional Races Changed by Top Two Primaries

Congress (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

It may have seemed like this campaign season would never end, but we can now safely report that it will — on Tuesday night. And unlike past elections where voters chose between one Democrat and one Republican, eight congressional races in California are choices between two candidates of the same party. That’s because of California’s new top two primary system.

California Report host Scott Shafer looks at these races with reporters Tara Siler from KQED in San Francisco, Steven Cuevas who reports from the Inland Empire for KPCC and The California Report’s election editor Tyche Hendricks.

Scott Shafer, Host: One thing is certain for the first time in memory about a dozen Congressional races in California are actually, well, competitive, up in the air, or even toss ups. We’re going to take a look now at some of them, starting in Northern California and working our way south. Reporter Tara Siler is covering the 7th Congressional District, the suburbs of Sacramento and beyond. Incumbent Republican Dan Lungren fighting for his life there, it’s a rematch from the 2010 election against a Democrat physician Ami Bera. So Tara, tell us what makes this race so interesting.

Tara Siler: Well, what makes it interesting is you have a four-term Republican, conservative Republican, who is fighting for his life. And he’s up against Ami Bera for the second time. And this district has changed; it’s more Democratic under redistricting. And Democrats really see an opportunity here to pick off a conservative Republican, and an incumbent at that. It’s attracted a lot of money, $8 million dollars in outside money. It’s one of the most expensive races in the country. And a lot of it is being thrown at Lundgren by these outside groups.
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Meet California’s First Majority Asian-American District

by Alice Walton

Before Assembly District 49 in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley was redrawn, a majority Asian-American state legislative district in California had never existed

Ed Chau (Alice Walton/KPCC)

Now, it’s a busy election season in the 49th, which is just east of Los Angeles and includes the cities of Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park, sometimes referred to as “the first suburban Chinatown.” In these communities, more than half of the residents were born outside of the United States, and three-quarters speak a language other than English.

Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause, says the Asian-American community has a long history in the region. “The area has become a gateway for a lot of Asian-American immigrants, and it has been that way for 30, 40 years now, to successive waves….” Continue reading

In Richmond, Volunteers Inform Ex-Cons About Voting Rights; Read Voting Guide For Current or Former Inmates

The presidential candidates are making a final push to let supporters know every vote counts in Tuesday’s election. Richmond voting advocates are on a similar mission, targeting the area’s infrequent voters. To that end, volunteers with various non-profits have been canvassing Richmond for weeks, and Rachel Witte with KQED News Associate Richmond Confidential reports that part of the effort is focused on ex-convicts.

“These formerly incarcerated men are going out into these neighborhoods and telling other formerly incarcerated men who don’t know that they are able to vote, that they can indeed vote,” she says.”And that they should go out and exercise that right if they truly want to exercise change in their community.”

California law restores voting rights to felons who have served their time and completed parole. Still, many ex-offenders don’t know their rights and don’t vote.

Read the full story on Richmond Confidential.

Now a Target, Lungren Wants Campaign Finance Reform

Photo from Office of Dan Lungren

The New York Times this week ran an article about some GOP incumbents who are not so big right now on the whole Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which has resulted in unprecedented amounts of money flowing into electoral campaigns. One of those disgruntled incumbents is the Sacramento-area’s Dan Lungren, locked in one of the most tightly contested races in the country against Democrat Ami Bera.

From the Times:

An expansive onslaught of negative political advertisements in congressional races has left many incumbents, including some Republicans long opposed to restrictions on campaign spending, concluding that legislative measures may be in order to curtail the power of the outside groups behind most of the attacks…

Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over campaign-finance issues, has been a target of negative advertisements. He has drafted legislation that he said would force more responsibility for the tone and messages of the campaign onto the candidates and political parties and away from the third-party groups. The staff of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is also working on proposals…

Lungren said the attacks on him began just months after the 2010 election, with radio advertisements and automated phone calls. They have accelerated into an onslaught of television commercials in what has become the most expensive House race in the country. Lungren’s opponent is Ami Bera, a doctor and Democrat.

“What I’m trying to do is transform the system so people participating as candidates can be held responsible for what is said,” Lungren said of the legislation he is drafting.

He said the 2012 experience could be transformative for other Republicans who have spent the past six months enduring the grim piano music and disconsolate faces of “voters” in negative ad after ad, sometimes against them, sometimes on their behalf but always without their signoff.

“We had to see how this worked out for a cycle,” he said. Full article

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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.