All posts by babaloo

CA-10: The Back Channels Of Power

X-posted at Progressive Sundae

The special election to replace Ellen Tauscher in CA-10 is taking an ugly turn. The CDP has announced that its endorsement caucus will take place on August 1, and I’m already having flashbacks to Migden-Leno and the 2008 CDP convention.

You see, even though major flaws in the endorsement process were exposed over a year ago, nothing has changed; nor is there, at least to date, any apparent desire on the part of the CDP to address a situation where powerful outsiders are invited to skew the outcome of endorsements in local races.

I’ll do my best to explain it all on the flip…

First a brief lesson in how the endorsement process works in a special election. The chair of the party picks a caucus date and location, and all the members of the California DSCC (Democratic State Central Committee) who live within the district meet and cast their votes. In order to win the endorsement of the CDP, a candidate must receive 60% of the votes cast by these local party members.

So what is the DSCC and how do you become a member of it? Well, statewide, the DSCC is comprised of about 2800 people. Approximately one-third of them are elected by County Central Committees every two years; approximately one-third of them are elected through the ADEMs every two years; approximately one-third of them are appointed by elected officials (or nominees) and serve at their pleasure.

So the Central Committee and AD delegates serve for fixed two-year terms, but the people appointed by the electeds can be changed purely at the whim of their elected. And, as it turns out, there is no requirement in the CDP bylaws that the electeds select their appointees from within the district they represent.

So now that the endorsement caucus has been set for August 1, we can start to examine who will be showing up to vote that day. There will be members elected to the DSCC through the Central Committees of Alameda, Contra Costa, Sacramento, and Solano Counties — but only the ones who physically reside in CA-10. So, for instance, if you’re a DSCC member elected by the Solano Central Committee and you live in Fairfield (CA-10), you can attend the caucus; but if you’re a DSCC member elected by the Solano Central Committee and you live in Vacaville (CA-07), no dice. Same thing goes for the AD delegates. But it’s an entirely different story for the appointees of the electeds.

At least in theory, every Democratic state officer, Senator, Congressmember, State Senator, and Assemblymember in the entire state could dismiss their current appointees and replace them with people who live within CA-10 and are therefore qualified to vote in the caucus. And that’s a lot of appointees. The CDP Bylaws (PDF, Art. II, Sect. 2, beginning on P. 2) spell out how the appointees are allotted:

  • State Officers — 6 delegates each
  • US Senators — 6 delegates each
  • US Congressmembers — 5 delegates each
  • State Senators — 6 delegates each
  • State Assemblymembers — 5 delegates each

(And those nominees who ran for the offices listed above but did not win their election are allowed to appoint ½ the number of delegates as their elected counterparts — either 3 or 2, depending on the office).

So what’s happening in CA-10 right now? Well, reports have surfaced that the campaigns are pulling out all the stops to get electeds to replace their appointees with CA-10 residents.

So, several of the CD10 Democratic candidates’ campaign teams have in the past couple of weeks lobbied elected officials from up and down the state and asked them to appoint as their delegates folks who live in the 10th District and support their respective candidates.

As a result, the number of delegates in the 10th District has expanded to as many as 300, sources say. Reports put state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier in the delegate count lead over Lt. Governor John Garamendi and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan.

Well, that makes sense. A cursory look at the endorsements listed on the major candidates’ websites shows the following:

  • Joan Buchanan:  Not listing her endorsements at this time.
  • John Garamendi:  Five Congressmembers and one Assemblymember, for a total of 30 potential appointees.
  • Mark DeSaulnier:  One state officer, four Congressmembers, eleven State Senators, and eight Assemblymembers, for a total of 142 potential appointees.

Now, we currently have no way of determining whether the electeds who have endorsed are backing up their endorsements by appointing CA-10 residents (or, for that matter, whether electeds who have not formally endorsed are doing likewise). But just speculating, based on the raw numbers, it would look like Mark DeSaulnier is going to be the big winner of this sweepstakes. After all, he has a lot of friends from having served recently in both the Assembly and the Senate, and he has a major Congressional cheerleader in Rep. George Miller.

Indeed, if that 300 number is accurate, there’s already more stacking taking place than occurred even in the Migden-Leno conflagration of 2008. It’s exactly this kind of raw power play that turns loyal local Democrats who have been plugging away on behalf of their candidate into cynics who end up walking away from Democratic politics. And I’m saying this as someone who definitely leans toward supporting the beneficiary of this cronyism.

Here’s the thing. Whether they find the practice acceptable or repugnant, all campaigns are going to play the hand they’re dealt. And when the CDP bylaws offer candidates the opportunity to exploit the delegate selection process, they have to take it; frankly, they can do no less.

But, you know what? It doesn’t have to be that way. We now have a CDP chair who campaigned on the issue of reform. John Burton has been giving a lot of lip service to “grassroots activists”; yet here is a perfect example where the local stakeholders are being pushed aside by the electeds who are stacking the deck against them. If Burton really intends to walk the talk, he might want to start by taking action to amend the bylaws so that electeds are required to appoint their delegates from within their district.

It may be too late for CA-10, but this kind of rigged endorsement process should never be allowed to happen again.

CA-10: Garamendi Poll Riddled With Errors

X-posted at The Progressive Connection

The more I find out about the CA-10 poll John Garamendi released on Monday, the worse it smells. The press release about this poll from the Garamendi campaign gave out limited information as to how the poll was conducted, which raised a number of questions. However, Peter Charles left a comment at Calitics where he shared more information about the details of the poll. Those details exposed three glaring errors that jumped out from the information that was provided to the poll’s participants.

When the participants were given bios of the three Democratic candidates, here’s what they heard about Mark DeSaulnier, Joan Buchanan, and John Garamendi:

3a. Democrat State Senator Mark Desaulnier has served in the state legislature since 2004. Before that he served on the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors from 1996 to 2004. His top priority issues will be rebuilding the country’s economy, implementing clean energy programs, and regulating Wall Street banks. He is endorsed by Congress members Ellen Tauscher and George Miller, local firefighters, teachers, police and environmental groups.

3b. Democrat State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan was elected to the State Assembly last November. Before that she served for 10 years on the San Ramon (ruh-MOAN) Valley school board. Her top priority issues will be more jobs and improving the economy, increasing renewable energy programs, and reforming public education. She will likely be endorsed by local elected leaders, school board members, teachers, and civil rights and womens groups.

3c. Democrat John Garamendi is California’s Lieutenant Governor. He has lived in the Sacramento portion of Congressional District 10 for 30 years. He previously served as Deputy Secretary of the Interior for Bill Clinton. He is running for Congress to continue reforming health care, rebuild our economy around clean energy, and reform bank and credit card laws. He will be endorsed by local nurses, firefighters, teachers, police officers as well as former President Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

The problem here is that the pollster misrepresented all three candidates, and he did it in a way that predictably favored the candidate who hired him.

As we’ve noted extensively at The Progressive Connection, John Garamendi does not now, nor has he ever “lived in the Sacramento portion of Congressional District 10.” That’s just an outright falsehood, as are the representations made about both DeSaulnier’s and Buchanan’s record of public service.

Mark DeSaulnier joined the state legislature in 2006, not 2004. Before that, DeSaulnier served on the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors from 1993 to 2006. Thirteen years, not eight. Four terms, not two.

And Joan Buchanan served on the San Ramon Valley school board from 1990 to 2008.  Eighteen years, not ten. Five terms, not three.

You have to ask yourself this question. If a pollster will lie about both his own candidate’s and the opposing candidates’ biographies, what else will he lie about?

And those aren’t the only problems. To get into the really wonkerific world of why Garamendi’s polling sample is all wrong, flip it…

This is how the Garamendi press release described the polling sample:

The poll was conducted between May 1st and May 4th by Jim Moore and JMM Research. Interviews were conducted with a 400-person sample from the 10th congressional district. Turnout was projected at 30 percent, and likely turnout was projected to be 55 percent Democratic, 33 percent Republican, and 12 percent independent. The poll had a +/- 5 percent margin of error.

For starters, a +/-5 percent margin of error is large. For those of you who are new to polling, +/-5 means that you need to give a five percent leeway to each candidate in the race. Relative to this particular poll, that means that Garamendi’s numbers could be as much as 5 points higher or lower, AND DeSaulnier’s and Buchanan’s numbers could also be as much as 5 points higher or lower. So while, at one extreme, it could reflect a blowout with Garamendi at 29 and DeSaulnier/Buchanan at 8/6, the converse could also be true. You could also have Garamendi at 19 and DeSaulnier/Buchanan at 18/16 — or a dead heat.

But there are also real and significant flaws in the poll’s underlying assumptions.

To explain this part, I’ve gathered the following data from the March 2009 SoS registration statistics, along with the CA-10 primary results from June 2008, and the Proposition results from CA-10 in the June 2008 primary.

Voter Data for CA-10

Total Voters % Total Dems % Total Reps % Total DTS % Other %
March 2009 Registration for CA-10 367,306 100% 173,498 47.24% 106,275 28.93% 73,015 19.88% 14,518 3.96%
June 2008 CA-10 Primary Results w/win % 85,814 N/A 55,427 64.59% 30,324 35.34% N/A N/A 63 .03%
CA-10 Voter Turnout as a % of Registration 85,814 23.36% 55,427 31.95% 30,324 28.53% N/A N/A 63 .43%

Got that? 23.36% voter turnout in last June’s Congressional primary.

But what’s fascinating about this is that Democratic and Republican registration amounts to 76.17 of the total voters; DTS and the others account for the remaining 23.84%. Now, if you were registered either Democratic or Republican for the June primary, you automatically received a partisan ballot. If you were DTS, you would have received a partisan ballot only if you specifically requested it; otherwise, you would have received a ballot that did not allow you to vote in, specifically (for our purposes), the Congressional race. Of the remaining parties, only Peace & Freedom fielded a candidate, so the members of the other parties would also not have had a Congressional vote.

Now, there were two propositions on the ballot as well, where all voters could cast their vote, regardless of party affiliation. It’s interesting to note that the total number of votes cast on Props 98 and 99 (regarding eminent domain) in CA-10 was significantly higher than the number of votes cast in the CA-10 Congressional race.

Total Voters % Turnout
CA-10 Congressional Race 85,814 23.36%
Prop 98 113,139 30.8%
Prop  99 112,584 30.65%

So we can assume that at least 113,139 voters turned out in CA-10 in the June primary. But of those 113,139, only 85,814 cast a ballot in the partisan Congressional race — or 75.84% — almost exactly equivalent to the 76.16% who are registered with the two major parties. That would tend to prove the notion that DTS voters seldom pull Democratic or Republican ballots in primaries.

All of which is a really long-winded explanation for why I don’t see any way to justify setting up a poll to reflect a 12% DTS participation in the coming CA-10 special primary.  That pretty much leaves us with a deeply flawed +/-5 MoE poll that, in all likelihood, overestimates turnout and takes 12% of its data from people who are demonstrably unlikely to vote in the upcoming special election (remember, the margin of Garamendi’s lead is 11%), while undersampling Democrats by 10%.

Obviously, the Garamendi campaign was hoping to make a big splash with this poll and establish its candidate as the strong frontrunner. Instead, because the poll is so thoroughly riddled with errors of both fact and judgment, they’re just looking desperate.

SoCal Republicans put Barack Obama’s face on the $10 food stamp

California’s Inland Empire newspaper, the Press Enterprise is reporting on a recent newsletter that was sent out by the Chaffey Community Republican Women Federated. In that newsletter, the Republican Women speculated about what life would be like under a Barack Obama presidency.

The October newsletter by the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated says if Obama is elected his image will appear on food stamps — instead of dollar bills like other presidents. The statement is followed by an illustration of “Obama Bucks” — a phony $10 bill featuring Obama’s face on a donkey’s body, labeled “United States Food Stamps.”

The GOP newsletter, which was sent to about 200 members and associates of the group by e-mail and regular mail last week, is drawing harsh criticism from members of the political group, elected leaders, party officials and others as racist.

I dunno. What do you think?


The group’s president, Diane Fedele… said she simply wanted to deride a comment Obama made over the summer about how as an African-American he “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”  […]

“I didn’t see it the way that it’s being taken. I never connected,” she said. “It was just food to me. It didn’t mean anything else.”

She said she also wasn’t trying to make a statement linking Obama and food stamps, although her introductory text to the illustration connects the two: “Obama talks about all those presidents that got their names on bills. If elected, what bill would he be on???? Food Stamps, what else!”

Of course, this latest outrage comes on the heels of the revelation earlier in the week that the Sacramento County Republican Central Committee had material on their official website that linked Barack Obama to Osama Bin Laden and encouraged readers to “Waterboard Barack Obama”.

The California state GOP keeps backpedaling and apologizing, but it’s clear that the McCain/Palin campaign has dabbled in the dark arts and unleashed demons that they can no longer control. They MUST be held accountable.

Cross posted on Daily Kos

The Budget Game Plan?

Yesterday, Brian wrote a post about Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal. What was the Democratic response to plans to suspend Prop. 98 and make cuts to programs for children, the poor and the elderly? What was their response to a plan to close 48 state parks and release tens of thousands of prisoners? Well, Brian quoted Nunez saying, “Clearly if passed as written, it would cause a lot of permanent harm.”  Gee, you think?

Later yesterday, Dan Weintraub of the Sac Bee noted Schwarzenegger’s over-the-top proposals and the tepid response they elicited from the Democratic leadership. (emphasis added)

Some thoughts on the governor’s budget proposal:

–It’s not real. I know, as Schwarzenegger said in his speech the other night, “Duh!” He knows and we know that there is no way the Democrats in the Legislature are going to suspend Prop. 98 and then cut $4 billion from the schools next year. Nor are they going to cut a similar amount from Health and Human Services. […]

–But what about the Democrats? Perata and Nunez were softies at their press conference today. Perata sounded as if he was on medication, and Nunez sounded as if he needed to be on drugs. Maybe they’re just sick. But their tone was so conciliatory toward the governor that it sounded as if they had promised him that they would not attack him personally. It sounded as if the three of them have a game plan of some kind for how they want this thing to roll out, and it does not include all-out partisan warfare.

So what kind of a game plan could “the three of them” have for how this thing rolls out? Hmm…  There’s an election in three and a half weeks. I don’t suppose it could have anything to do with this, could it?

Breaking: Doolittle To Step Down?

(Big news here. If Doolittle is leaving, I’d rather someone personally tied to him like Rico Oller get the nomination. Pretty much every Republican in that region is tied to the Doolittle machine in one way or another, so that would still be a factor in the race. Obviously, though, things get much more difficult for Charlie Brown in an open seat scenario. – promoted by David Dayen)

Cross posted at The Progressive Connection

Hank Shaw has just put up a post on his blog saying that his sources have John Doolittle resigning:

I am hearing from my Sacramento Valley friends that John Doolittle is about to step down and will ultimately endorse Rico Oller, who apparently owns lots of property in Doolittle’s 4th District. Oller would still have to get past Assemblyman Ted Gaines of Roseville and Eric Egland of Rocklin. Rico is definitely conservative, and if he has the blessing of the NorCal GOP machine that Doolittle has created, he should immediately become the favorite in that primary.

Hardly unexpected but also not good news for Charlie Brown…

[UPDATE]:  Hank has just put up a clarification. His sources have Doolittle withdrawing from the 2008 race, not resigning. Still not good news for Democrats.

CDP: It’s All About Connectors

(Basic Blocking and Tackling – promoted by jsw)

Cross posted on The Progressive Connection

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOn Highway 99, near Chowchilla, stands a vacant metal building with a canopy that shelters a large orange sphere.

In the land before time, before there was McDonald’s or Burger King, there was Mammoth Orange, and its smaller relative, Giant Orange. These quintessential fast food joints, shaped like a citrus fruit and painted a violent shade of orange, served hamburgers and orange juice all up and down California’s Central Valley.

There were hundreds of them, landmarks of popular culture — and now there is just one left, the Mammoth Orange, on the east side of Highway 99 near the turnoff for Highway 152. Its days are numbered.

Progress is coming to this stretch of 99, one of the last bits of old four-lane highway with local access roads.

The old highway is being turned into a full-scale freeway. The crucial difference is that a freeway has limited access — drivers can’t enter or exit except on special on- and off-ramps. That means there’s no room on a freeway for roadside joints, like the Mammoth Orange.

The Mammoth Orange lost its battle earlier this year. Cut off from customers because of its poor access, the last-of-its-kind business weakened and then finally failed.

But the Mammoth Orange struck me as an apt, if peculiar, metaphor for California Democratic Party politics. You see, I have this image of the CDP as the new Highway 99 freeway. The Mammoth Orange is, of course, the grassroots…

Much like Hwy. 99 has what the Mammoth Orange needs (customers), the CDP has much of what the grassroots is desperately seeking. As promised in its 58-County Strategy, the CDP has the ability to offer both financial and logistical support in registering voters; it has materials and technological tools that it can make available; it has finance expertise it can share; it has liability insurance it can provide; and it has communications and research capability that it can deploy on behalf of Democrats.

But for the grassroots, much like the Mammoth Orange, the access provided by key connectors is critical to their success. With its 58-County Strategy, the CDP made the decision, for better or worse, to rely on the county Central Committees to deliver its services to the grassroots. In some counties with high-functioning Central Committees, this is a good plan. But in many, many other counties with dysfunctional Central Committees, it’s a lot like having a Mammoth Orange with no off-ramps.

So what’s to be done?

Well, the CDP unveiled some of its new plans at last weekend’s Central California Democratic Convention in Fresno. It’s my understanding that more details will be fleshed out at this weekend’s E-Board meeting in the OC (check out the Rural Caucus). In an attempt to strengthen the connectors that link the CDP to the grassroots, the Party will be meeting with every Central Committee to develop unique strategic plans for each county. Individualized goals will be fixed, timetables will be set, and benchmarks will be established which each Central Committee will be expected to meet.

Here are the guidelines set out by the CDP for the Central Committees:

Party Business:

  • Regular monthly meetings, Executive Board meetings, and Standing Committee Meetings
  • Full membership (either through election or appointment), alternate selection and associate memberships encouraged.  Alternate and associate memberships to be aimed at diversifying the membership to reflect county demographics to the greatest extent possible
  • Regular communications to members, Regional Directors and the CDP
  • Formalized endorsement process
  • Chartering and re-chartering process for clubs and encouraging club participation in the formal local party structure


  • Year round budget for all activities
  • Establish fundraising goals with diverse methods of sustaining funding

Electoral Strategies/Voter Contact:

  • Short and long term field plans: voter registration goals and targets, walk programs, key races, coordinated campaign development (coalition building with stakeholders)
  • Using the CDP’s Online Campaign Center voter file to maintain and build data from cycle-to-cycle

Volunteer Recruitment and Management:

  • Use of the Volunteer Management Database — to track, monitor and manage volunteers from within their county or those from outside who have indicated an interest in working in their county
  • Trainings — Campaign Skills, Treasurer’s and others, as needed

Visibility and Outreach:

  • Advertising events
  • Sponsoring and speaking at affiliated events
  • Earned media/Rapid Response team development
  • Current and viable websites for each central committee
  • Commitment to notify the CDP in a timely manner of changes in local party officers, chartered clubs — as well as upcoming events, so that the CDP website contains the most current information

Candidate Recruitment:

  • Candidate training for Congressional, Senate and Assembly races
  • Candidate training for down-ticket, non-partisan races
  • Working with labor and other allied groups for non-partisan seats
  • Elected official outreach; incumbent relations

Now, of all these guidelines, apparently only two will be optional: the use of the CDP’s Online Campaign Center voter file and the use of the Volunteer Management Database. Our Central Committees will be expected to fulfill all of the other duties listed above. Maybe, just maybe, these new and improved connectors will be just the shot-in-the-arm the grassroots has been hoping for.

Two Wrongs Compromise A Right

(Not precisely CA, but many of our Reps (and both Senators) are implicated – promoted by jsw)

Over the weekend, Rep. John Hall (NY-19) posted a diary on DailyKos announcing his intention to introduce a House resolution censuring Rush Limbaugh today:

I know that there is a back and forth about whether another condemnation is worth the time. I happen to believe it is in this case. Therefore, I’m introducing a resolution that shows emphatically that Congress will not condone ad hominem political attacks on U.S. troops. On Monday, I’m introducing legislation to express the Sense of Congress that this body rejects and condemns Limbaugh’s heinous remarks, and will continue to engage in a debate on ending our involvement in Iraq that eschews character-based attacks on our Armed Forces.

Hall’s action followed on the heels of an email blast sent out by Jerry McNerney under the heading Chickenhawk Limbaugh Goes Too Far:

Yesterday, right-wing icon Rush  Limbaugh insulted everyone who has served our nation in uniform.

In an exchange with a caller, he actually called troops who return from Iraq and voice their opposition to the war “phony soldiers.”

Where does Rush Limbaugh get the moral standing to pass judgment on our heroes who wore this nation’s uniform and returned to exercise their First Amendment rights? Even for Rush, that’s too far!

Will you join me in calling the following radio stations to demand they take Rush’s show off the air?

Meanwhile, Mark Udall (CO-02), the Colorado Congressman who is running for Senate in 2008, is seeking support for his own resolution to censure Limbaugh.

So why is it that after nearly 20 years of listening to Limbaugh’s blather, these Congressmen are suddenly SO offended by this particular comment? Gee, you don’t think it could be anything so politically craven and cowardly as a CYA for their votes in favor of censuring MoveOn, do you?

That’s right — all three of these Congress members voted to “condemn in the strongest possible terms the personal attacks made by the advocacy group impugning the integrity and professionalism of General David H. Petraeus.” So when they faced the inevitable strong blowback from their supporters (why are these guys always surprised by this stuff?), how did they respond? By trying to paint their stand as a noble, bipartisan defense of our troops. With all the problems facing us in the world, their primary concern is protecting our soldiers from rhetorical slings or barbs. You want to let them be blown up? Fine. But call them a name? Not on their watch!

Meanwhile, all of the members of Congress who voted to censure MoveOn and who are now contemplating censuring Limbaugh, have violated their oath of office: To protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

See how on the flip…

Here’s how Justices Black and Douglas put it, concurring with the majority opinion in BATES v. LITTLE ROCK:

First Amendment rights are beyond abridgment either by legislation that directly restrains their exercise or by suppression or impairment through harassment, humiliation, or exposure by government.

And why are these First Amendment rights held to be so inviolable? Again, I’ll defer to the Justices – this time Brandeis and Holmes in WHITNEY v. PEOPLE OF CALIFORNIA:

Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the state was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence [274 U.S. 357, 376] coerced by law — the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed. […]

Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.

Cross posted on The Progressive Connection

For Lack Of A Candidate…

(Righting a bit of a wrong here. This should have been frontpaged when it first appeared; not everything is or should be about the day-to-day slugfest. – promoted by jsw)

For lack of a nail, the shoe was lost;
for lack of a shoe, the horse was lost;
for lack of a horse, the rider was lost;
for lack of a rider, the message was lost;
for lack of a message, the battle was lost;
for lack of a battle, the war was lost;
for lack of a war, the kingdom was lost.

Northern California Democrats have been hearing a lot lately about how the CDP is targeting two of our most important races, CA-11 and AD-15. Both of these districts have historically elected Republicans, with CA-11 holding a 5.5% Republican registration advantage and AD-15 recently dwindling to a 2% Republican advantage. Now that the AD-15 seat is turning over due to term limits, the CDP is hoping to pick up a new Democratic Assembly seat while protecting the sole Congressional gain that California Democrats made in 2006.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketUnfortunately, the Democratic definition of “targeting” seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to catnapping. Take, for example, the City of San Ramon elections for mayor and City Council that were scheduled for this November.

As is true in most locales, San Ramon’s city offices are considered non-partisan. Yet in San Ramon, the mayor and the entire City Council are all Republicans, despite the fact that city-wide Democratic registration  stands at 9,988 compared to 10,589 Republicans, with a pool of 6,033 DTS voters.

So exactly what happened to San Ramon’s November 2007 election? Well, there’s not going to be an election. That’s because when the August 10 filing deadline rolled around, nobody had filed to run for mayor against the Republican incumbent; nobody had filed to run for City Council against the Republican incumbents. With nobody challenging them at the polls, the three incumbents were appointed to new terms on August 20.

So how does the lack of a nail lose the war?

Well, for starters, San Ramon’s incumbent mayor, H. Abram Wilson, is also running for the Republican nomination for AD-15. As the highest-ranking elected in the race, he has excellent name recognition and a sizable network of supporters, all of which led to him being considered by many as the early favorite in the Republican field. But his pesky mayoral race was widely viewed as a big negative, siphoning his time, money and energy away from the AD race. Would he be able to spend the bulk of 2007 running for mayor and then immediately jump into a heated AD race?

He addressed those questions head-on earlier this summer:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSan Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson has loaned his campaign $95,000. He has received $18,474 from other contributors.

Wilson described his loan as a pragmatic jump-start to his Assembly campaign, which he’s running concurrently with his re-election bid for mayor. San Ramon city elections will be held in November; the Assembly primary election is June 2008.

“People have asked me if I’m committed to the Assembly race because I am running for mayor and how could I do both,” Wilson said. “But when people see that you are willing to put your own funds in, they will see that you believe in yourself and you believe you can win.”

As of August 10, all of Wilson’s troubles vanished. Freed up from any work or expense in that mayoral race, he’s been able to focus exclusively on the AD-15 seat. That means that, three months ahead of schedule, all of his fundraising activities, along with all of his time and energy, are able to be fully deployed into the Assembly race, and the doubt that plagued his candidacy has been cast aside. Wilson’s position as the frontrunner seems stronger than ever.

And if Wilson wins the primary, he is clearly the most difficult of the Republican candidates for a Democrat to defeat. Genial, experienced, and very careful to present himself as a “moderate” Republican, Wilson’s presence on the November 2008 ballot would make the AD-15 seat that much more challenging for a Democrat to win.

But it’s not just AD-15 that’s impacted by the San Ramon race. As one of my readers pointed out, Jerry McNerney also has a dog in this hunt:

Why should building a farm team should be the responsibility of McNerney’s team?

He is the sole beneficiary. The farm team helps by eliminating officeholders down ballot that could be hostile and sling arrows at every opportunity they get. […]

Now I envision [Republican Congressional candidate Dean] Andal’s people using those GOP officeholders to close ranks and rally their base to take down McNerney, probably in direct mail to San Ramon and Danville voters, maybe not even use party affiliation, but just the fact that they are local office holders and they support Andal. It will be something like, “The entire City Council of San Ramon supports Dean Andal. Join us, as he shares our commitment to low taxes and economic growth” — or something like that.

So the Democrats’ inability to field a single candidate in San Ramon has serious consequences for a whole host of other races. And exactly who is to blame? Well, the list is long. As another of my readers pointed out, there was a fundamental failure at the local Democratic club and Central Committee level to get involved in the race and recruit candidates.

Likewise, with the CDP bragging loudly all year about how they were targeting AD-15 and CD-11, one might have imagined that, in addition to money, they would provide a little planning and a little effort on the ground. And, frankly, it just wasn’t that hard to look at the AD candidates, see Wilson as the strongest contender, and think, “Gee, maybe it would be good to throw up a few roadblocks to his campaign — like, you know, a competitor in his mayoral race.”

Then there’s Jerry McNerney, the Congressman who represents San Ramon. As the regional party leader, he had both the opportunity and the responsibility to recruit good candidates for the San Ramon races. And let’s face it, McNerney’s involvement in the race wouldn’t just have been an altruistic party-building mechanism; it would have come back to help him immeasurably — a classic win-win.

But instead, all of these Democrats complacently snoozed through the San Ramon city elections. So here we have, in this one race, a ripple that has the potential to be felt over a very large area. A contested race in San Ramon might have resulted in a Democratic counter-balance to the all-Republican San Ramon city government, might have helped build the Democratic base locally, might have helped develop a bench of Democratic officeholders, might have hampered the strongest Republican in his AD-15 primary race, and might even have shored up Jerry McNerney’s Congressional base. We’ll never know, though, because it didn’t happen.

This post is an amalgam of posts found here and here and here at The Progressive Connection.

Doolittle Draws New Foe

The Sac Bee is reporting that the Doolittle primary race just got a little more crowded. Right-wing veteran and counterterrorism consultant Eric Egland and Auburn City Council member Mike Holmes had already announced their candidacies in the CA-04 Republican primary. Now they’ve been joined by Roseville Assemblyman Ted Gaines (AD-04). Gaines has just announced that he’s forming an exploratory committee to test the waters.

The announcement by the Republican state lawmaker and former Placer County supervisor signals that Doolittle could face a well-funded GOP primary challenger if the incumbent seeks a 10th term as he has promised.

The decision by Gaines, long a loyal part of Doolittle’s base in the conservative 4th District, signal’s the congressman’s falling standing since an FBI raid of his Virginia home as part of the political corruption probe of disgraced Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

“I think voters have lost faith in his leadership ability,” Gaines said, in his strongest comments to date on Doolittle. He added: “When you lose the moral ability to lead you kind of have to re-evaluate. There are enough questions around Congressman Doolittle that are causing a lot of cloudiness and unclearness…in the 4th district.”

It looks like the Republicans are getting serious about taking Doolittle out of the race. And even though Gaines is only ostensibly testing the waters, once he’s raised $5,000, he’ll have to register with the FEC and submit financial reports. Come October 15, it should get a little easier to read the tea leaves surrounding Doolittle and his competitors.

Cross posted at The Progressive Connection

Accidental Partners In Opposition To The Electoral Reform Proposition?

While Democrats have been hyperventilating about Thomas Hiltachk’s proposed June ballot referendum, the Presidential Election Reform Act, even going so far as to attempt to place a counter-initiative on the ballot written by Chris Lehane, hardly anyone seems to have noticed that not all Republicans are supportive of such a wholesale change in our nation’s electoral system.

It seems like a central assumption for California Democrats has been that all Republicans, of course, would get behind a simple change that would increase their chances for holding onto the presidency in 2008. But apparently, some Republicans are capable of complex thought, even federalist ideology. Who knew.

Such an example would be Thomas Del Beccaro, the Vice Chair of the California Republican Party and the Chairman of the Contra Costa Republican Central Committee. Del Beccaro has recently written an interesting criticism of the current move to change California’s electoral system:

For those interested in immediate gratification, that would mean that California’s 55 electoral votes would not go in unison to Hillary in 2008 — but as many as 22 would go to the Republican nominee — thereby making it much easier for a Republican to win the Presidency.

However, before you blush with expediency, it may be worthy to pause.

Recall that the Electoral College is a rather unique American construct. 

Our Founders were loathe to accept the wiles of direct democracy so they established our Republic. Amongst the compromises necessary to craft our Constitution were concessions to smaller states.  Those concessions included two houses of Congress which featured a Senate giving each state, small and large, the same number of votes.  That was designed to be a moderating force.

It also included the use of Electors to vote for our Presidents and Vice Presidents.  The Electoral College, as it came to be known, was a bulwark against the prospect of large majorities in large states electing Presidents to the exclusion of the rest of We The People.

As a practical matter today, the Electoral College prevents the Democrats from winning the Presidency by the popular vote of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, etc. – all to the exclusion of the red, fly-over states.

Snazzy illustration on the flip…

Del Beccaro then points to this map as an example of the vicissitudes that could face Republicans if such a plan were to gain nationwide traction:

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[K]eep in mind that: the Democrats want to scrap the Electoral College altogether.  That is their determined goal because they really would need to do no more than to campaign in but a few blue places which, as this map displays, include the largest of cities.

Now, I have to admit that I’m not fully up to speed on all the issues swirling around the Hiltachk proposition and Lehane counter-proposition, but it seems to me that if there are sizeable pockets of Republican opposition to Hiltachk’s “Presidential Election Reform Act” proposal which can be exploited, along with a more general Democratic opposition, then perhaps that path might be significantly easier than the counter-proposition alternative.  Or is Del Beccaro a lone voice in the wilderness?