All posts by Calitics Editorial Board

November 2010 Statewide Endorsements

Let’s get this party started!


Governor: Jerry Brown There are two reasons to vote for Brown. The first is that Meg Whitman is a right-wing extremist who will destroy what is left of our public services and our prosperity. Her goal is to massively cut taxes on the wealthy, paid for by privatizing core public services such as schools. Whitman’s California is a place without any green jobs, without mass transportation, and without meaningful economic recovery – a state where everyone is poorer so that the rich can get richer. She wants to exploit workers, especially Latinos, and does not believe undocumented students deserve to be educated. We guess they can just sit around all day doing god knows what.

The second is that Jerry Brown has shown some important signs of progressive leadership. He strongly supports AB 32, the creation of green jobs, and high speed rail. He also strongly opposes, using powerful moral language, the efforts of Meg Whitman and her right-wing allies to scapegoat and attack Latinos and immigrants. He has stood up for labor unions as being relevant and valued parts of the political process, even as he pledges to cut their pensions – we don’t agree with those cuts, but at least Brown treats it as a policy issue and not as a “unions are villains” issue.

Calitics is well aware of Brown’s shortcomings. He is not progressive enough on law-and-order issues and tends to reinforce anti-tax frames. We can expect to have some pitched battles with him as governor, just as progressives did in the 1970s and 1980s. Still, we’re better off with our opportunities for offense under Brown rather than constant defense under Whitman.

The choice is clear: with Jerry Brown, California can stop the bleeding and have a chance at fixing this state. With Meg Whitman, things will go from very bad to much worse. Give Jerry Brown a third term.

US Senator: Barbara Boxer The choice here is stark and simple: a progressive champion who fought against the war in Iraq and led the effort to pass a strong climate bill (among MANY other accomplishments) or a right-wing extremist who praises the Tea Party and defends her record of shipping tens of thousands of jobs overseas. Barbara Boxer had our back in the Senate when few others did. She deserves our support now against Carly Fiorina’s radicalism. Further, if Boxer wins, it is very difficult for the Republicans to retake the US Senate, another reason to vote for Boxer and maintain the firewall.

More over the flip, including all statewide races, ballot propositions, and even the State Supreme Court retention votes.

Lt. Governor: Gavin Newsom This office is not that meaningful, but it IS important that it be held by a Democrat. (Brown is in his 70’s, after all.) Newsom deserves a chance to show a statewide audience what he can offer in terms of progressive leadership, and Abel Maldonado is merely waiting in the wings hoping that, if he wins and Whitman loses, he can carry on Schwarzenegger’s legacy with a bid for governor himself in 2014. Screw that. Let’s see what Newsom can do.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris There are a lot of reasons to vote for the current San Francisco District Attorney over her opponent, LA’s right-wing District Attorney Steve Cooley. But two words should be at the top of this list: Proposition 8. Because our current AG, Jerry Brown, has refused to defend Prop 8 in court (along with Governor Arnold Schwarzengger), it is possible that Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional will not be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court. Steve Cooley, an opponent of LGBT rights, has vowed to defend Prop 8 in court. That not only guarantees an appeal, but by putting the considerable resources of the state of California behind the defense of Prop 8, it raises the chances that Prop 8 will be found constitutional by a higher court.

There are other reasons to support Harris – Cooley is a retrograde “law and order” type who believes in tougher sentencing laws and more prisons, and cannot be counted on to help implement Prop 19 if it passes. There’s also the chance he might do something like join a lawsuit against the federal health care bill or go easy on the banks’ fraudulent foreclosures. Harris, on the other hand, will stand up for Californians and their rights. She deserves our support.

Secretary of State: Debra Bowen In her first term she has cleaned up California’s elections and positioned herself as a leader in the effort to make government more accessible to the people through the use of innovative new technologies and through greater citizen involvement. Add that to her progressive views and she has been an ideal Secretary of State (although we wish she were more supportive of Election Day voter registration). That alone earns her our strong support. But the fact that her opponent, Damon Dunn, is a right-wing nobody with no experience is another powerful reason to ensure Bowen gets four more years.

Treasurer: Bill Lockyer Lockyer has been a good treasurer overall, managing California through some very difficult fiscal straits. His opponent, Mimi Walters, is a right-wing rising star from Orange County who is using this race to build her statewide visibility. Lockyer hasn’t been perfect – his call to privatize the UC system is something we vehemently disagree with (see note below) – but he’s a far sight better than Walters, who would be an ally of the Wall Street banksters and make flawed investment decisions. Walters also cannot be relied upon to support selling infrastructure bonds at a time when rates are historically low and when we desperately need the jobs and the projects the borrowed funds would build. So we need to keep Lockyer there for four more years, while we look for a more progressive replacement.

Note: Bill Lockyer’s campaign emailed Calitics to dispute this claim about the UC system and said that he never proposed privatization, and that he opposes it. They also pointed to this 2007 op-ed where Lockyer called for more funding for the UC system. That’s good to hear, and merely reconfirms our endorsement of his candidacy.

Controller: John Chiang John Chiang is probably the only bona fide hero produced by the recent budget wars in Sacramento. He refused to go along with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ridiculous, reckless schemes to reduce hundreds of thousands of workers to minimum wage, and has managed the state’s cash flow in a way that has generally avoided IOUs, not an easy feat. Chiang is a progressive rising star, and he deserves four more years.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones: Dave Jones is a solid progressive who has been a champion of consumers during his time in the Assembly.  The insurance commissioner doesn’t necessarily do what you would expect it to do, namely, it doesn’t directly regulate most health care insurance. The Department of Managed Care does that.  That being said, Jones will bring solid understanding of the failings of our current health care system, and will work with the state and federal government to at least make incremental change.  He will also continue to stand up for consumers in the other major insurance industries. His opponent, Mike Villines, is a right-winger that is out of touch with the state and in the pocket of the industry he proposes to regulate.  The choice here is clear: Dave Jones will be a big upgrade over outgoing InsComm Steve Poizner.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson If you believe that the problem with public schools lies with its teachers, and that hedge funds and billionaires should be given more control over K-12 education, then vote for Larry Aceves. If you, like most other Californians, believe that most teachers do a wonderful job and deserve more support, more resources, and not more right-wing pseudo-reforms, vote for Tom Torlakson. Torlakson bucked his party to vote against the Race to the Top scam and understands that California needs to bring parents, teachers, students, and the community together to improve our schools, rather than ram unwanted right-wing policies down people’s throats. This is a very important race for the future of education in California, and it’s important that Torlakson wins it.

State Supreme Court retention – Tani Cantil-Sakauye: no recommendation Voters are asked every 12 years whether to retain State Supreme Court justices. In this case, voters are being asked whether to confirm Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pick to replace Chief Justice Ron George. Cantil-Sakauye is seen as an uncontroversial judge, but then again she IS Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pick, and he is not likely to pick anyone but a judge who shares his views on corporate power. If you think Jerry Brown can pick a better chief justice, vote no; if you think Canti-Sakauye is fine and/or you worry that Meg Whitman will win and pick someone worse, vote yes.

State Supreme Court retention – Ming Chin: NO Chin was in the minority on the 4-3 In re: Marriage Cases decision in 2008, meaning he voted to uphold the state’s ban on marriage equality. Chin again opposed marriage equality in May 2009, joining the majority that upheld Prop 8. Chin has been one of the most right-wing justices on the state Supreme Court. Californians can and should have better justices than this, ones who will uphold the equal rights of ALL Californians.

State Supreme Court retention – Carlos Moreno: YES In contrast to Chin, Justice Carlos Moreno has been a strong advocate for judicial recognition of equal rights. In addition to his vote to overturn the marriage ban in In re: Marriage Cases and he was the only justice to vote to overturn Prop 8 at the State Supreme Court, passionately arguing against enshrining discrimination in the state Constitution. Beyond Prop 8, Moreno has been a reliable vote for equality in other cases in his 9 years on the bench, and deserves to be retained.


Prop 19: YES The war on drugs has failed. Prohibition is not a sensible way to deal with marijuana. It’s time we accepted reality and made marijuana legal for Californians over age 21. Prop 19 is a long overdue reform to our drug laws, getting nonviolent offenders out of prison, and potentially saving state and local governments billions of dollars in the process, enabling them to focus on real criminal problems (like gangs) while also dealing a huge blow to the drug cartels.

Some may quibble with the wording of Prop 19. But any possible problems can be fixed by the state legislature. Prop 19 does NOT tie the hands of the legislature; all it says is that future legislative action can only be in the direction of making sure cannabis is legal for adult Californians. Tom Ammiano already has a bill proposed to provide statewide regulation of cannabis pursuant to Prop 19. More importantly, Prop 19 signals to the legislature that the public will no longer accept Prohibition as an answer to cannabis, and instead demands it be treated within the same kind of regulatory framework as alcohol and tobacco. Prop 19 deserves your vote.

Prop 20: NO This is a siren song to progressives, who would do well to make like Odysseus and plug their ears. When a right-wing billionaire like Charles Munger, Jr. puts a proposition on the ballot to give an unelected commission where Republicans have more seats than they deserve (given the proportion of voter registration in the state) the power to redraw Congressional district lines, progressives should run away as fast as they can. This proposition has one purpose only: to undermine progressive Democrats in Congress by making them defend seats in California instead of playing offense elsewhere. If you want to hand power to conservatives, Prop 20 is for you. If you want to support progressives, join us and vote no.

Prop 21: YES This is as sensible a ballot proposition as we’ve ever seen. It increases the vehicle license fee by a mere $18/year, and in return Californians get to protect and improve their state parks, ensuring they remain open and that the maintenance backlog is finally address – as well as giving all Californians access to all state parks and beaches free of charge. Some people whine about “ballot box budgeting” but here’s the problem: as long as the 2/3rds rule exists for budget and taxes, the legislature will remain incapable of producing good budgets, and voters will have to step in from time to time to protect our priorities. Further, Prop 21 actually helps the general fund by freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars each year to fund other programs, since the state parks will now have their own funding source. This is also a smart way to show Californians that spending money for public services is a good idea, since they’ll get to see and enjoy the fruits of their $18/year VLF increase. Prop 21 deserves your yes vote.

Prop 22: no recommendation Prop 22 would permanently end the raids on local government funds, as well as force an immediate repayment to local governments of the money they’re owed. This may seem straightforward, but it poses a difficult choice for progressives, and Calitics is split on whether it deserves support.

The argument for Prop 22 is this: raids on local government funds have dealt a huge blow to progressives as well as to public trust in government. Cities and counties have been forced to make crippling cuts to public services because of these raids, which fuel the belief that the state’s budget crisis is a result of government incompetence and not the result of problems in Sacramento such as the 2/3rds rule or a lack of taxation on the rich. These raids have also helped fuel backlash at public pensions, and generally have made it harder to make a progressive case for government.

The argument against Prop 22 is this: it would force an immediate repayment to these local governments out of the general fund, which would force further cuts to schools and health care services. Redevelopment agencies also get their money back, and it’s hard to justify that given the state’s ongoing budget mess.

Prop 23: NO By now you should know the story here. Texas oil companies and the notorious Koch Brothers are funding this proposition, which would effectively repeal AB 32, the state’s global warming law. It would destroy our green jobs economy in order to give more money to oil companies, and it would stop us from being able to do anything about climate change. Worse, it would send a national signal that voters don’t want to do anything about global warming, that we all want to go down with the ship as sea levels rise, as droughts become more common, and as whole industries shrivel up and die. It is extremely important that Prop 23 be defeated. California’s future depends on it.

Prop 24: YES During the 2008 and 2009 budget deals, Republicans leveraged the 2/3rds rule to demand and win the creation of huge new tax loopholes for large corporations that will total about $2 billion a year. If you think that giving corporations a tax cut is more important than keeping teachers in the classroom or ensuring poor children have health care, then vote no. If you don’t, and if you believe that schools and health care services matter more than letting the rich get richer, join us and vote yes on Prop 24.

Prop 25: YES The most important reform to the government of California – the tree blocking the tracks – is eliminating the 2/3rds rule for budget and taxes. Prop 25 gets us part of the way there by restoring majority rule on the budget, and leaving the 2/3rds rule in place for taxes. Big corporations like Chevron and Safeway have been spending millions to try to defeat it, preferring to let Republicans keep holding up the budget and making demands like the creation of the tax loopholes Prop 24 would close. It would also be another way of protecting AB 32 – in 2008 and 2009 Republicans initially demanded the gutting of AB 32 in return for their votes for a budget. It’s time to end the Sacramento hostage crisis and start fixing our state government by voting yes on Prop 25.

Prop 26: NO This is one of the sneakiest propositions on the ballot. Prop 26 would create a new 2/3rds rule, taking us in the wrong direction by requiring a 2/3rds vote to increase any fee. This is sneaky because it’s an attack on AB 32, which depends on these fees to fund state efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Prop 26 would retroactively eliminate any fee enacted after January 1, 2010, which includes the AB 32 implementation fees on polluters. It’s just as important that we defeat Prop 26 as it is that we defeat Prop 23.

Prop 27: YES Prop 27 would eliminate the unelected redistricting commission created by Prop 11 two years ago to redraw state legislative district boundaries. Prop 11 very narrowly passed, suggesting that many Californians are skeptical of this commission and worry about what kind of boundaries it will draw. And they should be skeptical – the commission gives an unfair advantage to Republicans by giving them equal representation with Democrats, even though there are significantly more registered Democrats in the state than Republicans.

Some may criticize legislative redistricting. But that doesn’t mean any old reform is a good reform. The commission will make matters worse while not doing anything to help fix state government, since redistricting is not a cause of any of the problems in Sacramento. Vote yes on Prop 27 and provide a better set of solutions to how we draw district lines.

Calitics June 2010 Endorsements

It’s that time again. Just a few weeks until the primary election, and your ballot just might be sitting on your kitchen table taunting you. Well, the Calitics Editorial Board has taken a look, and here are our endorsements. This year we’re only making endorsements on the 5 ballot propositions, and staying out of contested Democratic primaries. By the way, you can find a good summary in the Courage Campaign Progressive Voter Guide.

Proposition 13: Seismic upgrades reassessment: Yes

Ghastly name, isn’t it? Prop 13? And this one is even (sorta) related to 1978’s Prop 13, in that they both deal with property taxes. That’s about as far as it goes, however – this is a minor change that would encourage seismic upgrades.

When the board first heard of this measure, several of us leaned towards no. However, after talking with San Francisco county assessor Phil Ting (he of, opinions began to shift. The way the rules work now is that seismic renovations can’t be reassessed for ten years. So they end up in the “unreassessable” pile. In theory, assessors could come back to those in ten years and reassess to include the seismic upgrades. However, in practice, few, if any, assessors actually do that. Instead, they just stay in that pile until they are transferred and reassessed as a whole. If we aren’t going to actually reassess them, we might as well tell owners that. It’s unclear if there will be a huge upswing in seismic upgrades because of this, but the certainty could spur some folks to make the upgrades.

There’s no real campaign on either side of the initiative, and it’s really not a huge deal in terms of policy. In any situation where you have a split between de facto and de jure laws, it’s not the end of the world to recognize the situation and move on. It’s been endorsed by some pretty anti-Prop 13 (the 1978 version) groups, including AFCSME and the Courage Campaign. This Prop 13 certainly is no 1978 Prop 13 – and of course, the fight will continue to close Prop 13’s corporate loopholes and fix the damage the proposition as whole has created for 32 years and counting.

Prop 14: “Open” Primary: NO!

St. Abel’s Payback: This measure was put on the ballot at the demand of Abel Maldonado and his puppetmaster the Governor. In return for his vote, St. Abel demanded that this Open Primary measure pass the legislature. He felt that he couldn’t be elected in the primary, probably an accurate summary of the situation. We’ll see if that’s true in a few weeks in the LG primary, but this measure is a stinker for progressives.

From a crass Democratic perspective, this is a massive resource waste.  If this measure was applied to 2008 races, you would have seen 6 Dem on Dem general elections, and only one Rep-on Rep. In Washington State in 2008, the first cycle where this top-two system was used in the Evergreen State, it had the effect of pushing numerous primary battles out into the general election, sucking resources away from other important fights (like keeping the governor’s mansion). We can envision the same thing happening here in California.

It takes away the Democratic nomination from Democrats, decreasing the power of progressives. But that’s the entire point of Prop 14 – to move the Democratic Party to the right, using the guise of “reform.” It’s the David Broder solution to California’s problems – blame the left and force everyone to move to a “center” that is actually on the right.

It decreases (small-d) democracy by allowing only 2 parties into the general election, offering fewer choices to voters. Third parties, like the Greens, will have no hope whatsoever of making the general election ballot. It will make it more difficult to turn red districts blue. Progressives should reject Prop 14.

Prop 15: Fair Elections: YES!

This is a pilot program for fair, publicly financed, elections put on the ballot by the Legislature. It will put the 2014 Secretary of State election into the hands of the people rather than the corporations, paid for by increased registration fees for lobbyists. Currently, lobbyists pay a whopping $12.50 to register annually; this increases the fee to $300. (Yes, there are enough lobbyists to cover those fees…sad, isn’t it?)

It also repeals a ban on public financing, so that local governments can create their own systems – and the system can be extended to other statewide offices with a vote of the legislature and the signature of the governor. Perhaps a Governor Jerry Brown might be inclined to sign a bill creating a public financing system for the 2014 governor’s race, given the abhorrent spectacle of Meg Whitman spending $68 million and counting to buy the governor’s office?

This isn’t a full solution, but it starts us down the path of cleaning up our elections and returning power to the people. It is a great way to show the people of California that we can have democracy again, and not corporatocracy. Vote Yes on Prop 15!

Prop 16: PG&E Monopoly Protection: NO!

PG&E has been fighting public power for years in Northern California. They got sick of having to pay $10 million here, $5 million there for all the elections to carpet bomb the areas with their mail and radio spots. So, they thought they would circumvent all that democracy with a bit of supermajority craziness. Prop 16 would require a 2/3 vote of the people in order to add to any areas to public power provider or to form a community choice aggregation program (CCA) that would allow municipalities to sell power.

Their ads are deceptive, saying that Prop 16 would “give taxpayers the right to vote.” The truth is just the opposite. As it stands today, the voters have the final say by electing their representatives and by having approval over taxes and/or bonds to create a public power provider. If representative democracy is good enough to make the decision to go to war upon Iraq and cost the nation thousands of our soldiers and over a trillion dollars, certainly it is good enough for public power. The insanity of taking power decisions out of the system of governance is beyond ridiculous.

It’s anti-democratic, and progressives should absolutely vote NO, NO, NO to PG&E’s power grab.

Prop 17: Mercury Insurance Wants To Save Cost You Money Initiative: NO

Prop 17 was placed on the ballot by Mercury Insurance. If you’re sensing a theme about corporate money in the initiative system, you get a cookie.  Allegedly, the measure is to “save you money” by looking at continuity of insurance across providers for the continuous coverage discount.

What does that actually mean? If you have a gap in coverage – even if it’s just a day – then insurers could charge you as much as double the premium you’d originally be charged. Mercury claims they’re doing this just so they’ll get less money. Don’t believe their lies. In reality, Nevada has this rule, and premiums went up.

This rule also hurts those who choose to drop insurance for perfectly good reasons, San Franciscans who choose to live without a car, soldiers who don’t need insurance when away from the country, etc. We shouldn’t require people to carry insurance for just the discount. This is an unnecessary change as a camel’s nose under the tent to pick apart Prop 103’s reforms.

Vote No on Prop 17.

An Open Letter to Garry South


Please resign.

For the good of the progressive movement, for the good of the state of California, and for the good of your candidate, Janice Hahn, you should resign your post as chief strategist to the Hahn campaign.

In this time of profound economic and political crisis, California deserves a campaign that is focused on solving the issues that have brought our state to its knees, a campaign focused on restoring the California Dream. Petty attacks like those you have begun to level against other candidates — including attacks on Jerry Brown’s age — not only distract from those issues, but they undermine your own candidate.

Your attack on Gavin Newsom is highly unethical. (See below the fold.) By using against him conversations you held with Newsom while he was a client of yours you are not only breaching the trust you held as a senior advisor to Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign, you are also potentially making Newsom into a sympathetic figure, further undermining Hahn’s cause.

Janice Hahn has a lot to offer Californians — she is a successful local government official who has a long record of effectively implementing progressive policies. She has built a considerable amount of support across the state during her campaign because of her pledge to bring a local government perspective to a profoundly broken state government. You risk undoing that work by resorting to your typical, failed approach of attacking the opponent instead of showing the electorate why your candidate deserves their support.

We write not as supporters of any particular candidate or potential candidate, but as progressive Californians who are sick of watching you run promising campaigns into the ground with your destructive style of vicious personal attacks. All you accomplish is electing Republicans. Do the ethical and honorable thing and resign from the Hahn campaign immediately.


Dante Atkins

Calitics Editorial Board

Robert Cruickshank

Public Policy Director, Courage Campaign

Marta Evry

Venice for Change

Rick Jacobs

Founder & Chair, Courage Campaign

Brian Leubitz

Calitics Editorial Board

Julia Rosen

Online Political Director, Courage Campaign

Shayera Tangri

Dan Ancona

Joel Wright

David Atkins

Note: for an in-depth explanation of why Garry South is a disaster for Democratic candidates, peruse the open letter Calitics posted laying out South’s failures in January 2007.

Note 2: It should be emphasized that this isn’t really about Janice Hahn, we were impressed with her during our interview last year. But Garry South is really doing her a disservice over the last few weeks. Mudslinging just isn’t the way to win a Democratic primary.




I am surprised and perplexed that my friend and former client Mayor Gavin Newsom apparently has decided to jump into the lieutenant governor’s race at the last minute – especially against an already-announced candidate who would be the first woman lieutenant governor in California history.

In every one of several conversations we had about the job while he was running for governor, the Mayor expressed nothing but disinterest in and disdain for the office of lieutenant governor. In fact, he was derisively dismissive of Gray Davis’s decision to run for and serve as lieutenant governor prior to running for governor (“I’m not a Gray Davis,” he said). On a couple of occasions, he directed me to repudiate publicly in the strongest terms that he had any interest in ever running for lieutenant governor.

The Mayor himself told the Chronicle in October that rumors he may run for lieutenant governor were “absurd” and “a complete lie,” and angrily accused Jerry Brown of personally spreading false information to that effect. As recently as December, he himself said flatly “no” when asked directly on a San Francisco radio show whether he intended to run for lieutenant governor.

In addition, when he precipitously pulled out of the governor’s race in late October – against my advice – he said he couldn’t continue as a statewide candidate because he was a husband, a new father and the mayor of San Francisco. So far as I know, he’s still a husband, a new father and the mayor of San Francisco. So it’s pretty hard to see what’s changed over the last four months that would now allow him to run for another statewide office.

If the Mayor does run, it is his responsibility to explain why he now claims to want an elected office he summarily dismissed publicly numerous times over the last several months, and which just earlier this year he called “a largely ceremonial post” … “with no real authority and no real portfolio.”

Paid for by the Janice Hahn Lieutenant Governor 2010 Committee

777 S. Figueroa Street, Suite 4050, Los Angeles, CA 90017

Calitics Policy on Candidate Diaries

As we approach the silly primary season for 2010, candidates are starting to post diaries.  The Calitics Editorial Board may promote some of those candidate diaries to the front page, based on whether the Editorial Board believes the diary communicates substantive policy positions of which the Calitics community should be aware.  

The Editorial Board understands that this policy will result in some candidate self-promotion and links to candidate pages in front page posts, and is willing to live with that tradeoff. Front page promotion of a candidate’s posts does not imply endorsement of the candidate.

Candidate personnel should be aware that merely posting more diaries are unlikely to get them more promotion, and partisans should be aware that complaining about perceived inequities will have little effect.

An Open Letter to the California Senate Democratic Caucus

Dear fellow Democrats,

Your most important task right now – above all others – is to solve California’s political and economic crisis. And as your own leader explained, at the heart of that crisis is the undemocratic rule creating a conservative veto over all state policy via the 2/3rds rule.

Therefore, in order to deal with that task, your highest electoral priority is to win a 2/3rds majority in the State Senate. The party a clear majority of Californians have asked govern this state – the Democratic Party – should be able to govern this state and lead us out of the worst crisis we’ve faced in decades, if not longer.

Without a 2/3rds majority, California faces deeper budget cuts that will produce very real suffering for many of your constituents. In addition, the ongoing budget crisis continues to give Republicans an opportunity to reverse recent Democratic gains, which at some point may include the State Senate itself. Those factors should be enough to convince you that when you have an opportunity to win a 2/3rds majority, you should take it.

Especially when this year you have seen the fruits of not having a 2/3rds majority – and the fruit of cutting a bad, self-defeating political deal involving the same Abel Maldonado.

When your previous leader, Don Perata, agreed to prevent a Democrat from launching a meaningful challenge to Maldonado in the 15th State Senate district, not only were Central Coast Democrats denied a realistic chance to be represented in Sacramento, but a golden opportunity to get to the 2/3rds mark in the Senate was lost. After all, the most recent registration numbers show that SD-15 is a blue district, with 41% Dems, 34.5% Reps, and 23% DTS. It is a district Obama won by over 20 points.

It is a district that, because of Don Perata’s deal, sent Abel Maldonado back to Sacramento without a real reelection fight. Once there, Maldonado used his role as a deal-maker to force through a major change in how state elections work in the form of the top two primary. Most of you don’t like it, and are going to try and defeat it, and if it passes it’s going to seriously screw with your future plans.

But it, and other bad deals, are constantly coming your way because you don’t have a 2/3rds majority.

2010 offers an invaluable opportunity for you to finally reach 2/3rds. Of the key State Senate races next year, the only seat you have a chance of flipping from red to blue is SD-12. Anna Caballero is going to run a great campaign and win that seat. But unless you can find another seat to add to her victory and bring us to 2/3rds, nothing will change.

That is, unless you vote to confirm Abel Maldonado, and put SD-15 into play. Sure, you could wait until 2012 when the seat comes open – but by then legislative districts will have been drawn by the Prop 11 commission, and who knows what the landscape will look like. Why pass up an opportunity to have a Democratic governor and 2/3rds in the Senate – especially when we can find 3 seats to pick up in the Assembly?

Now, some may complain about giving Abel Maldonado a leg up on the competition. This is a ridiculous consideration for two reasons. First, even if it were true, it’s a price well worth paying to get to 2/3rds, which is after all your top priority.

Second, even a cursory glance at the politics shows Maldonado will not be much of a threat, and should be easily defeated by a Democrat next fall. In case you’ve forgotten, he is hated by the Republican base for his February budget vote. Those people have long memories. Even before that vote he was having trouble winning primaries thanks to the fundamental and deeply-seeded racism of the California Republican electorate.

Even if Maldonado somehow staggers through the primary, he will be bloodied and bruised, and quite a bit poorer for the effort. We are confident that either Dean Florez or Janice Hahn will be able to defeat him in the general election.

Calitics has been a strong critic of Abel Maldonado. He is certainly not our first, second, or seventy-third choice for the Lt. Gov. office. But we are willing to swallow it for the greater good. You need to do so as well.

There is no credible reason to refuse to confirm Maldonado. The only reason you would be doing so is by placing the ambitions of other Senators above your own, and above the needs of a state facing a crisis so deep and so crippling that it threatens much more than Republican control of the Lt. Gov. office.

We need a party and a Senate Democratic caucus that is aggressive, assertive, bold, and confident in its ability to lead California out of the crisis. If you refuse to confirm Abel Maldonado, you would be showing Californians that you in fact lack that confidence.

We don’t know how much clearer we can make it. If you refuse to confirm Abel Maldonado as Lieutenant Governor for any reason other than incompetence or ethical misdeeds that make him unfit to serve, then you are abandoning your obligations to California Democrats and to the people of this state.

Lakoff: Voters Set Democrats Free, Will They Act Like It?

David Dayen mentioned this earlier today, but it is worth reproducing here.

Hooray! The outrageous propositions 1 A-E have been crushed by voters who just can’t take any more.

California voters have rejected the nonfunctional minority-rule government that has bankrupted the state, along with the governor who led the state into bankruptcy.

The voters want a functional democracy, and that means majority rule. No more blackmail by a 1/3 plus 1 Republican minority.

In short, the voters have given the Democrats a new freedom – if they will only take it.

The Democratic leadership should listen to its grassroots. They should immediately stop negotiating with the governor and other Republicans on how to destroy even more of what makes our state human. The Democrats, as a whole body, not just the leadership, should assert their majority, decide for themselves how they want to deal with the shortfall, and then invite the defeated Republicans publicly to join them and take their proposals to the public, first organizing serious grassroots support.

What is the point of doing this if the Democrats still don’t have the 2/3 votes to pass a budget bill? The point is drama! Most Californians are not aware of the minority rule situation. This could dramatize it and place the blame where it belongs. Drama matters. There might still be a later compromise. But the drama would set the stage for a 2010 ballot initiative.

The Democratic leadership should immediately take the initiative on a 2010 ballot measure, a supremely simple one-sentence measure. It would go something like this:

All budgetary and revenue issues shall be decided by a majority vote in both houses of the legislature.

One sentence. Simple. Straightforward. Understandable. And democratic. It should be called the California Democracy Act. From grade school on, we associate democracy with majority rule. It will make sense to voters – at last!

The term “revenue” would cover taxes without waving a red flag.

Up to now, Democrats have been acting like sheep being herded by the Republican minority. They need to show courage and stand up for what they believe. That’s what the voters are waiting for.

On the 2010 ballot initiative:

Get rid of the 55% proposals. People understand that majority rule means democracy. 55% means nothing.

Even if you don’t address taxes and just address the budget process, the Republicans will still say you’re going to raise taxes. You may as well go for real democracy.

And finally, get a unified message that can be supported by the grassroots. Do grassroots organizing for 2010, starting now. Organize spokespeople to get that message out. Organize bookers to book your spokespeople in the media. You Democrats are a majority. Act like it. The public will respect you for it.

For example, if the Republicans claim that this vote showed a tax rebellion, point out that only Prop 1a was about taxes. The other propositions failed. And the voters rejected a spending cap. What are you waiting for, you Democrats.  You have been set free.

If it is claimed that the vote was meaningless because so few people went to the polls, reply that the refusal to vote on these propositions was itself a vote against having such an election and such a lame way of running the state.

The voters have spoken. You Democratic office-holders have chance to come out on the side of the voters. Take it!

George Lakoff is the author of The Political Mind, just out in paperback. He is Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley.


Arnold Schwarzenegger Should Resign

For six long years, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been talking a big game. From the day he announced his candidacy on Jay Leno, saying there was a total disconnect between the people and the politicians of California, the multi-millionaire “man of the people” has consistently claimed he would transform the state from top to bottom, and bring the politicians to their knees. He said then that Gray Davis had failed the people of California, and that he needed to be recalled.

The unfortunate part is that everything Arnold said that day in 2003 works equally well today. Schwarzenegger’s approval numbers today are similar to Gray Davis’s numbers circa April 2003. The state is in a far worse economic crisis than it ever experienced during the five years of the Davis Administration, and what’s more, this one has nothing to do with Enron. Five years after vowing to “blow up the boxes,” the boxes sit in Sacramento in pristine condition. After his boasting of being the “Collectinator” in DC, California still pays out in federal taxes far more than it takes in. The only difference between 2003 and 2009 is that Darrell Issa isn’t rushing to throw in cash for any recall of the Governator. But California’s Schwarzenegger Experiment has failed from every possible perspective.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger has any integrity, he will resign in the wake of what was largely a vote of no-confidence in the May 19 Special Election. In overwhelming numbers, the state’s voters told Governor Schwarzenegger — for the second time in four years — that we do not want his style of government or what he calls “reform.”  The measure which he championed most vocally, Proposition 1A, went down by a margin of at least 25 points. The measures that would have actually brought in some money to the General Fund also were easily defeated.

Fundamentally, the people of California do not want to see state services slashed.  A large majority in a recent poll opposed the ballot measures because of the spending cuts, rather than the tax increases. Polls, such as this Field Poll (PDF), show that Californians are willing to pay higher taxes, but that they will not abide these massive cuts to programs that are simply too important for the long-term future of the state.  And yet, Arnold’s May 20 solution would include an astounding array of cuts, raids of local government coffers, and attempts to sweet-talk the federal government into allowing him to slash services below the required level to qualify for federal stimulus money.  Schwarzenegger actively seeks to cancel out the stimulus and mire the state in an even deeper recession that it already faces.

This is not the first time he has failed to convince voters to support his agenda. Voters rejected the 2005 special election propositions by large margins. Arnold Schwarzenegger is poised to leave office with no major positive accomplishments. The media erroneously credits him for the 2006 global warming law – he decided to switch positions and sign AB 32 only at the last minute, and quickly issued executive orders limiting the law’s scope. His re-election was facilitated by a fratricidal Democratic primary, a poor campaign from Phil Angelides, and Schwarzenegger’s false promise to lean more toward the political center. In the last two and a half years that promise has been broken numerous times, as Arnold continued to run the state into the ground.  And on the day of his most recent failure in the special election, he ducked out of town to DC to tout a tailpipe emissions law that Democrat Fran Pavley wrote and passed while he was out promoting Collateral Damage.

There are many reasons for California’s persistent crises and failures.  But the buck stops with the Governor.  He has shown no leadership ability, even amongst his own party. Knowing that we had massive deficits, it still took him 16 months to get even the few Republican votes that he was able to muster in February. Only 30% of Republicans approve of him. Republican talk show hosts, and many hardcore grassroots movement conservatives, now revel in images of his severed head on a blade. Despite his mildly (32%) higher approval rating amongst Democrats, few in the party have any respect, or patience, left for the governor. If what Arnold meant by post-partisan was that voters of all parties would despise him, then he perhaps he has found one area of success.

The state would be far better off without Mr. Schwarzenegger at the helm. We shouldn’t have to wait for 2010 to get this state moving, nor should we have to pay for a costly recall.  If Arnold Schwarzenegger really loved the State of California, he would pack his bags at the suite in the Hyatt and go back to pretending to be a hero.

Welcome Dante Atkins to the Calitics Editorial Board

You all know Dante Atkins from his posts around here and probably from his work on DailyKos as well. We are excited to announce that Dante is now joining the Calitics Editorial Board. The Editorial Board works to provide quality content for the blog, occasionally moderates the blog, and votes on the “Calitics Editorial Committee” endorsements.

In addition to his voluminous blogging efforts, Dante has been involved in the California Democratic Party, serving on the platform committee, and helped to produce the Home Invasion ad during the closing days of the Prop 8 campaign.

We are working to ensure that the Editorial Board works for the site and the broader progressive movement.  We’ll keep you updated on future changes, and you can always find more information about the blog and Calitics on the “About Calitics” page.

Calitics Endorsement: CA-32

In 2007, Calitics watched as Laura Richardson ran a nasty, race-baiting campaign in a special election in CA-37, emphasizing that the seat “should be held by someone from our community” and using what amounts to an identity politics wedge to carry her to victory.  We found that distasteful, and hoped that Democrats in future campaigns would not resort to such dirty politics.  When the race to replace Hilda Solis in CA-32 began, we thought the candidates, nominally progressive Democrats, would highlight their policy positions and positive attributes instead of using divisive tactics.  The major candidates, Board of Equalization member Judy Chu, State Sen. Gil Cedillo and former Obama transition official Emanuel Pleitez, all espoused generally progressive ideas throughout the campaign.  But then again, so did Richardson, and we do believe that, at some level, how you campaign does dictate how you govern.

Therefore, we have been extremely disappointed in Gil Cedillo’s divisive and often false attacks on his rivals.  He started his campaign talking about “our community” and “our people”, clearly attempting to play upon a Latino/Asian divide inside the district, which has a larger Hispanic population (which is an odd tactic for someone like Cedillo, who has never represented anyone from the 32nd district, to take).  Cedillo’s blatantly false mailers against Judy Chu during the race, attempting to blame her for the economic crisis by associating her with unrelated headlines and claiming that “Politicians like Judy Chu give tax breaks to their big corporate contributors,” when as a BoE member she merely returned tax refunds owed corporations, were bad enough.  But the mailer against Emanuel Pleitez, using Facebook images to build a false narrative of Pleitez as a drunken womanizer who hangs around with non-Hispanic women (a deliberate effort – we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this mailer only went to Hispanic women) and throws “gang signs” (actually that’s the sign for Voto Latino, an organization for which Pleitez was a past board member), goes beyond the pale.  This slandering, not only of Pleitez but of women in general, as if appearing in a picture at a bar connotes being a slut, goes well beyond what should be expected of a public official, and certainly beneath someone asking to be given a promotion and sent to Washington.

Calitics was generally comfortable with giving no official endorsement on this race until the events of the past couple weeks.  We find Dr. Chu to be a progressive leader and Pleitez to have a significant amount of knowledge and energy, and Cedillo has been a past champion on significant issues like immigration.  But the events of the past couple weeks have forced us to end our silence.  Our somewhat unusual endorsement for voters in CA-32 is to vote for ANY DEMOCRAT BUT GIL CEDILLO.  The behavior he has displayed in this campaign should be rejected, not rewarded.

April 14, 2009 Open Thread

Did you finish your taxes? Better get them in, the state needs your money. Maybe toss in a tip for your favorite state employee.  Here we go with the links

  •  Yahoo is laying off more workers. But the say the best comopanies of the next tech wave emerge from the recessions, so maybe we're about to see the next big thing from Silicon Valley.
  • Our Congress critters aren't the best at getting federal dollars. Well, we probably knew that already, as we are a big net donor state, but now we know how bad. 49th to be exact.
  • The investigation into the murder of former Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey is under some scrutiny, with allegations of insubordination and misconduct being bandied about. A former handyman for the Your Black Muslim bakery has been charged in the murder, but there is a lot of speculation about some leaders of that group being involved in the murder.
  • Carla Marinucci is quite skeptical that Nevada can be a model for California's state government despite California Republican suggestions otherwise. She points out that Nevad's state government spends the lowest per capita on its citizens, rates terribly on quality of life issues, and Las Vegas is now the biggest US city without an art museum. Yeah, let's get moving on becoming that.
  • Once and future(?) AD-15 candidate (and Walnut Creek mayor) Abram Wilson is scheduled to speak at the Pleasanton tea-bagging event.  Nothing shows that you care about the district and about state government than throwing food products on the ground with some right wingers.  I don't know if Mayor Wilson noticed, but the sitrict now has a 4.6% Democratic registration advantage.  Perhaps cowtowing to the right isn't the best way to get elected in such a district.