I Guess They Don’t Actually Want A 2/3 Majority

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, back in July:

The 2/3 requirement that we have in this state. I know it’s a tired old saw. But when you really think about, that is the cause of so much of the dysfunction in the legislature. you have a minority party that obviously worked in tandem with the governor that cost the state 6-7 billion dollars tonight for no good reason. To somehow improve your negotiating position. It is without question the most irresponsible act that I have seen in my 15 years of public service…I hope that the significance will truly capture enough attention that the people will decide it is time to change the system that allows the minority to essentially rule the day. That’s not just the Senate Republicans, it was the Governor too, who was apparently out to prove a point. And he proved a point.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, today:

State Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) released a statement expressing “grave doubts” about the choice. Maldonado needs the approval of the Democratic-dominated Legislature to take the post.

Steinberg cited the $2-million cost of the special election that would be required to fill Maldonado’s Senate seat, suggesting the money could be better spent scaling back recent fee hikes at state colleges and universities.

The Senate leader, under pressure to keep the post open for Democrats running for lieutenant governor themselves in next year’s election, also suggested he would like to see the job left vacant.

“It may be both fiscally and politically prudent to permit the people to make their own selection for this statewide office next year and avoid the expense of a costly special election,” his statement said.

Once again, we see that the State Senate is unwilling to actually do what it takes to overcome the 2/3rds rule that has crippled our state. Instead of seizing a golden opportunity to win one of the two seats we need to get a 2/3rds majority, Steinberg prefers to help coddle a fellow Democratic Senator’s unwillingness to face Maldonado in a general election.

Steinberg and other Senators are starting to put out the talking points to defend their weakness. But none of them hold water. The election to replace Maldonado here in SD-15 can be combined with the June primary, saving money. But even if it weren’t combined, the $2 million or so is statistically negligible when compared to the billions of dollars in cuts Steinberg is apparently willing to accept by refusing to take the chance to win a 2/3rds majority next year (along with the race to replace Jeff Denham in SD-12, a district with a D+12 registration advantage).

Additionally, voters themselves are going to have the chance to pick the next Lt. Gov., and confirming Maldonado will not change that fact, as Steinberg implies. If Steinberg believes Maldonado is a formidable candidate in the GOP primary or in the general election, he is badly misreading the political landscape.

Another argument we’re hearing is that Maldonado’s seat isn’t all that winnable:

Capitol Democrats said there was a more calculated political reason for not wanting to let Maldonado go. Democrats were humbled by this year’s election results in New Jersey and Virginia, and fear that 2010 could be a bad Democratic year. In addition, a low turn-out special election may make it tougher for a Democrat to win the 15th Senate District seat currently held by Maldonado.

Democrats have a slight 41-35 percent registration advantage in the district. Nearly 20 percent of the district’s voters are decline to state.  The district has been home to moderate Republicans like Bruce McPherson, and overwhelming voted for Schwarzenegger over Phil Angelides in 2006 – 61 percent – 34 percent. But in 2004, John Kerry narrowly carried the district over George W. Bush – 52 percent – 46 percent.

What the article doesn’t note is that Obama carried the seat by 20 points last year. And if it is turnout they’re concerned about, a candidate like John Laird will have no problem generating enthusiasm from progressives and Democrats across the state, who will gladly spend a late spring here on the Central Coast to put a good progressive in the State Senate.

More damning is the basic philosophy behind this “gee, winning the 15th is gonna be hard” nonsense. If Democrats are scared of winning a seat where they hold a 6 point registration advantage, a seat Obama won by 20 points, then they really have a serious problem providing the leadership this state needs.

Next year we’ll hear Democratic legislators exhorting us to help them in other Assembly and Senate races, saying that we have to help them win 2/3rds. But by refusing to actually go for 2/3rds when given the chance, they’re showing the California Democratic base that the Senate is fundamentally unserious about restoring majority rule.

The only conclusion one can draw from this is that Senate Democrats don’t actually care about the 2/3rds rule. That they prefer the status quo to having to actually take the opportunities they are given and take a winnable seat, or to set up a hated rival (Maldonado) to spectacularly fail when he can’t get elected Lt. Gov. next year.

UPDATE: The Courage Campaign, where I work as Public Policy Director, released this statement today on the Maldonado appointment:

“The best thing we can do right now is to remove Sen. Abel Maldonado from a position of importance where he can do great damage, the California State Senate, and place him in an irrelevant post, the Lt. Governor’s office,” said Rick Jacobs, Chair of the 700,000-member Courage Campaign. “For once, we agree with the Governor – Abel Maldonado should be demoted to Lt. Governor.”

22 thoughts on “I Guess They Don’t Actually Want A 2/3 Majority”

  1. If the leaders of the party are so risk averse that the fear that the SD-15 is lost (so what, no net loss) and there’s a warm body in California’s bucket of spit office, then I don’t think they have any business being in charge any more.

    They are saying that their own personal careerist goals are more important than taking steps towards fixing our state, which is in huge, serious trouble.

    The election wasting money is the stupidest thing I’ve heard. Democracy is now too expensive?? I thought we cut a lot of things in this state, but I guess elections are too expensive, so we’ll just leave the incumbents there for life. I’m not sure what we’ll do when they die. Can they leave their titles by devise or inheritance?

    Fuck these people.

  2. I hear risk aversion. How about:

    1. It’s the economy, stupid.  No one wants to talk spending when the majority of the citizens (voter) in California are operating at the subsistence level of Maslow’s hierarchy, worried about their job, their home, their life savings.

    2. Howard Jarvis Phobia.  If Social Security is the 3rd rail of national politics, Prop 13 and all of the other tax dodges is the equivalent in CA.  I have not heard a single incumbent in CA run for office on the basis of a total tax reform.

    3. But I’m on the Corporate Dole. Even as I sort through the money politics of water, I find the influence to be far too strong, flowing from Billionaires like Stewart Resnick who would pollute CA water policy directly to Darrell Steinberg whose legislation gave Resnick almost all that he wanted.  Face it, even CA’s weak campaign finance laws may soon become outlawed if Hillary, the Movie is identified as protected free speech rather than a campaign activity. I’ll admit that one of the major reasons Greens lose is that Greens will not take corporate donations. So, be glad that Corporate Donations gave you Steinberg.


  3. If the Majority Leader is not spending every waking hour trying to figure out how to achieve a 2/3 majority, than it’s time for a new Majority Leader.

  4. why should I even bother voting for legislative officers any more if this is the kind of bland bullcrap they’re gonna pull. They don’t need my money and that whole “it’d be worse with the GOP in charge” thing doesn’t fly. this IS as bad and they are as much accomplices in the destruction of the state as Arnie and his rabid attack dogs are.

  5. Okay, I certainly think getting the 2/3 majority in either House is important, but let me throw a dash of cold water on you. Sooner or later our friends in the GOP are going to figure out that nominating fringe candidate after fringe candidate for statewide office is the reason Democrats have had a stable lock on constitutional and federal office in California since 1998 (obviously with a few exceptions).

    Maldo is young, handsome, charismatic, wealthy, telegenic and a Latino. Oh, and he sounds and acts like a moderate. He is exactly the kind of candidate they will need to be competitive in statewide races. And he’s exactly the kind of candidate it will take for them to reemerge as the majority party in California, as he represents a fundamental departure from the angry conservative white male base of the California Republican Party.

    Giving him statewide exposure as Lt. Governor would be, in short, a disaster. He could prove a very tough challenger to Feinstein in 2012, or succeed Brown in 2014. Are any of you considering this? Has this factored in at all? Don’t be so fixated on the present crisis that you inadvertantly trade a tactical advantage they have (the minoritarian rule in California) for the strategic advantage we have (the ability of Democratic candidates to actually make it statewide).

    Nothing in politics is static. Had Arnold not been so shortsighted in 2006 and actually gotten behind Abel, Maldo may very well be the state controller right now (esp. Since Arnold did so well with Latino voters–who constitute more than a small portion of Californians and certianly constitute the critical portion of Democratic strength in the seat). Arnold seems to have recongized his mistake; and sooner or later, the California Republican Party will no longer be controlled by its fascist base.

    Let’s not become so fixated on a small win today that we trade away our biggest advantage tomorrow.  

  6. the current setup gets them nice offices, corporate donations, and a ready excuse for never having to choose between contributors and voters. they can blame every failed attempt on republicans. they don;t want out of the tortuous comfy chair that is the 2/3 supermajority requirement.

  7. That was the opinion of one talking head on ABC7News tonight.  The political analyst,Tony Quinn, seemed to side with Robert. I quote: “The Democrats would just be absolute idiots not to take this opportunity.”

    So, given that challenge, I would guess that they will prove Quinn right.  

  8. As was mentioned, the GOP will eat their own in a primary.  Let Abel be LG for a little while. Janice Hahn is a great campaigner and is someone Dems of all stripes can get behind.

    I agree with others that we must push our leadership to lead.  And we should push them to increase our majority by going after the Senate seat.

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