RECENT POSTS

Analysis: It’s Yes on Prop 30 or School Cuts; ‘Everything’ at Stake for Unions in Prop 32

This past weekend marked the start of autumn — and the final sprint to the November 6 election. On The California Report Magazine, host Scott Shafer talked to Anthony York, who covers politics for the Los Angeles Times.

Here’s an edited transcript of their conversation:

Proposition 30 is backed by Governor Jerry Brown and would raise taxes to fund education.

Proposition 30 is backed by Governor Jerry Brown and would raise taxes to fund education. (Image: California Secretary of State)

SCOTT SHAFER: Let’s talk about the November election. Gov. Brown has a lot riding on the outcome, especially with Proposition 30, which would raise income taxes on the wealthy and sales taxes on all of us. The Governor got mixed news from two polls this week. Tell us what they said.

ANTHONY YORK: They said that just about half of voters are still in favor of the Governor’s plan, Proposition 30, and that there are increasing numbers of voters that are unsure. There’s still a lot of uncertainty in these last six to seven weeks of the campaign.

SHAFER: And at the same time, there’s Proposition 38, which would raise income taxes on everyone — mostly millionares — but everyone would take a little bit of a hit. Opinion polls show there is more of a split, a little bit less support, under 50 percent, for Proposition 38. But does that (Proposition 38) add to confusion for voters? Continue reading

Support For Guv’s Tax Measure Holds Steady, But Undecideds Could Spell Trouble

(Tina Barseghian/KQED)

(Tina Barseghian/KQED)

Gov. Jerry Brown has been emphatic that if Proposition 30 fails in November, billions of dollars in cuts to public education are coming. He’s made that linkage so hard, in fact, that KXTV political editor and longtime Sacto observer John Myers once likened his Yes on 30 efforts to the famous National Lampoon cover in which the magazine threatened to shoot a dog if you didn’t buy the issue.

So is the public buying it?

On that front, a poll released Thursday shows mixed results.

Support for the measure is roughly the same since the last poll in July — 51 percent of voters in favor, 36 percent opposed. Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo told KQED’s Scott Shafer this morning that “They’re treading water, but at a rate that is not all that comfortable. But still there’s not a lot of evidence that their ‘yes’ side vote is deteriorating over time.”

However, an increasing number of undecided voters could turn out to be bad news for the measure. In July, 8 percent of voters were undecided; today’s poll shows 13 percent unsure.

Support for the measure is roughly the same since the last poll in July …“They’re treading water.”

“It’s our experience that if you don’t convince undecided voters, especially in the late going, to whatever it is you’re trying to get them to do, they tend to vote no more often than yes,”  said DiCamillo.

The Field Poll also shows another tax initiative, Prop. 38 — which would also finance education — at 41 percent of voters in favor, 44 percent opposed and 15 percent undecided. That’s up 8 percent since July. Continue reading

Sacramento-Area Race Proxy For Torrid Medicare Debate

By Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News

Rep. Dan Lungren and Dr. Ari Bera are campaigning to represent the newly drawn 7th Congressional district in northern California. (Photos: Republican Conference and Randy Bayne via Flickr)

Rep. Dan Lungren and Dr. Ari Bera are campaigning to represent the newly drawn 7th Congressional district in northern California. (Photos: Republican Conference and Randy Bayne via Flickr)

When Republican Rep. Dan Lungren faced a crowd of Tea Party supporters and Democratic detractors at a recent town hall meeting in the town of Carmichael, outside Sacramento, the arguments showed how explosive the Medicare debate can get in the hottest races in the country.

At La Sierra Community Center, the long line of seemingly irritated constituents made clear just what is on the minds of voters here: the Republican proposal to give future beneficiaries, those currently 55 and younger, a fixed amount of money to buy Medicare coverage from the government or private insurance companies.

Standing at a podium in the auditorium, Margie Metzler, a 67-year-old woman with the group Seniors Against Lungren, told Lungren that she had been laid off at age 61 and went four years without health insurance until she qualified for Medicare. “I don’t want to kick the people under 55 under the bus,” Metzler said of Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan.

“Lungren and Bera are very effective stand-ins for the two sides of the national (Medicare) debate.”

A few moments later, another woman took to the microphone with this reprimand: “All you protesters can think about is where your next government entitlement is going to come from. Rome is burning and you’re all acting like children.”

And those were the polite exchanges.

Eastern Sacramento is where the two Californias come together — where the liberal, urban coast meets the conservative exurbs and rural farmland. Lungren has had a safe seat in Congress in large part due to the district’s Republican majority. Continue reading

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

SF Seeks Poll Workers for Nov. 6 Election

Voters vote at a polling station February 5, 2008 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

(Bay City News) Poll workers are needed in San Francisco for the presidential election in November, according to the city’s Department of Elections.

The department is seeking more than 2,500 workers to handle duties for the Nov. 6 election. The workers will operate polling places on election day and help voters navigate the voting process.

A training course must be completed prior to the election, and workers will be paid between $125 and $170 for the one-day assignment.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and be U.S. citizens who are registered to vote in California.

Anyone interested can apply online at www.sfelections.org/pw or call the Department of Elections’ poll worker division at (415) 554-4395.

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.

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:

Redistricting:

“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.

 

 

Prop. 29 Explained in Five, Ten or Thirty Minutes

a doctor eats an apple

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.

Tease:

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.

Tease:

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.

Continue reading

The Home Stretch to California’s Surpisingly Hot June Primary

United States Capitol

Tyche Hendricks/KQED

The June 5 primary may look drama free. After all… The presidential contest? Settled. The U.S. Senate race? Not too exciting.

But thanks to retirements, redistricting and California’s new top-two primary, the conventional wisdom about incumbents having safe seats is being turned on it’s head.

Host Scott Shafer moderated the conversation on Forum Friday, zooming in on several hotly-contested Congressional races and analyzing two political reforms that have completely re-shuffled the deck.

He’s joined by:

  • Carla Marinucci, political writer for The San Francisco Chronicle
  • Eric McGhee, research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and author of “Open Primaries,” a report prepared for PPIC about the possible impacts of Proposition 14
  • Matt Rexroad, Yolo County supervisor, Republican political consultant and founding partner at Meridian Pacific
  • Robert Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies

Take a listen: