Category Archives: Central Coast

Big Republican Money Keeps Coming in for Tony Strickland

Tony Strickland’s big oil-fueled campaign for Congress is getting a turbo charge of cash from some of California’s most extreme conservative special interests and high octane Republican bosses. Strickland has long tried to fool the voters of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties by pretending to be a moderate, environmentally-friendly Republican. But his actual record says otherwise: he has voted in favor of drilling along the California coast, denied the reality of climate change, and founded the so-called “Taxpayers Caucus” which opposes budgets with any added revenue including from oil companies making record profits, choosing instead to cut vital programs such as education. He is currently heading up Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in California, and is a founding member of the California chapter the of the arch-conservative Club for Growth, an organization explicitly devoted to expelling economic moderates from the ranks of the Republican Party.

So it’s not at all surprising that Strickland’s campaign is receiving a tainted wave of contributions from the big corporate backers he truly serves, including the Koch Brothers, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Valero and many others. Not to mention Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Republican budget architect Paul Ryan whose ranks Strickland hopes to join, and who openly voted to end Medicare but protected tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks for big oil companies.

And now Strickland is at it again, the beneficiary of a swanky high-dollar fundraiser at the home of California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro and other leading California Republican establishment figures.

All of that dirty and ideologically-driven money will no-doubt be used to falsely portray Strickland once again as a reasonable, “moderate” Republican he isn’t. This time, however, the voters in California’s 26th Congressional district won’t be fooled. The gloss is off of Strickland’s slickly polished image. Tony has four long years of hyperpartisan votes and fundraising on behalf of his big corporate donors and extremist Republican ideologues. With every dollar he raises from those same interests he confirms what Californians already know: Tony Strickland is bad for California and doesn’t deserve to make decisions for us in Congress.

Cross-posted from

Jason Hodge: a Republican in Democrat’s Clothing

Remember Jason Hodge, the corporate-backed Democrat running for California’s 19th Senate District who “doesn’t think you need higher taxes”, running against progressive Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson?

Well, I just got a nice big glossy mailer from an organization called the California Senior Advocates League, saying that Jason Hodge would be the Democrat most capable of defeating the Republicans and calling Hannah-Beth Jackson the derogatory nickname “Taxin’ Jackson.” What is the California Senior Advocates League? Well, it’s a group that only seems to exist come election time. It runs a now-defunct blog called the Silver Dog Blog, whose latest post trashes the Affordable Care Act. And its funders? Mostly the San Diego and California Republican Parties, big oil and pharmaceutical interests. Most recently it received $20,000 from something called JobsPAC. And who funds JobsPAC? Mostly Philip Morris, Chevron, Anheuser-Busch, Anthem Blue Cross, PG&E and a host of similar companies and institutions.

For what it’s worth, the “California Senior Advocates League” doesn’t appear to have made the necessary legal filing disclosures to the state, but they have made sure that flashy campaign mailers supporting their favorite “Democrat” Jason Hodge make it to left-leaning voters’ mailboxes right before vote-by-mail ballots get there in a few days. There has been no condemnation or mention of the mailer from the Hodge campaign. Keep in mind that this big-money front group didn’t just send out a piece to attack Hannah-Beth Jackson. They sent out a piece to promote Jason Hodge. Since the registration numbers dictate that a Democrat will almost certainly win the seat regardless, the big money boys know where their bread is buttered, and it’s with Mr. Hodge. After all, why fight an uphill battle to elect a Republican when you can elect a Republican in sheep’s clothing instead?

The Hannah-Beth Jackson campaign has responded:

“I’m not surprised that the oil and tobacco companies are behind the mailers attacking me,” Jackson said. “After all, I’m supported by the Sierra Club and the Consumer Federation of California. And look at my voting record – I always stood with consumers, working middle class families and the environment. I successfully banned oil tankers and barges from our coast, and have worked against oil company price gouging.”

Today is also when Fortune Magazine reported its new Fortune 500 with three of the four biggest corporations in the nation being oil companies, including Chevron.

“These oil and tobacco corporations think they are above the law,” noted Jackson. “It’s not enough that they launder their money through fake organizations, claiming to represent the interests of seniors. They have failed to report their expenditures against me, even though they were required by law to report the tens of thousands of dollars in postage that they paid last week for the mailers delivered to households today. I’m sure we’ll be seeing their reports now that we’ve exposed them as lawbreakers,” Jackson concluded.

This is why it’s so crucial to be involved in making the Democratic Party more progressive. No matter how one feels about what is going on in the White House, there are innumerable battles just like this one happening all across America. Battles where progressive Democrats are up against corporate-backed “Democrats” seeking to make the Party just that much more conservative and friendly to big business interests. These are fights we cannot afford to lose.

Cross-posted from Digby’s Hullabaloo

Linda Parks: A New Breed of High Broderist Politician

It’s hard to say which has been more harmful to the body politic in this country: the extremist tilt of conservative Republicans, or the crowd of aloof both-sides-do-it anti-partisans who give them cover. Normally the latter are confined to the traditional media, who follow closely in the footsteps of their patron bipartisan saint David Broder. Conservative extremists in elected office and partisan think tanks move on apace with their agendas; Democrats and even some progressives bend over backwards to give them most of what they ask for, in spite of the awful nature of the policies being espoused; conservative extremists smell weakness and demand even more; negotiations break down; and the traditional press tut-tuts over the horrible “partisanship” of it all. The stories written by these press flacks heave exasperated sighs at both parties for the futility of the debates, while covering the actual details of the policy arguments, the popularity of the proposals involved, and the depth of the actual concessions from each side with all the rigor of a children’s pop-up storybook. Jackie Calmes’ now legendarily terrible piece in the New York Times about the deficit reduction debate last year has become something of an archetype for this sort of vapid reporting.

Unfortunately, the passage of the top-two primary in California has created a new hybrid breed of anti-partisan politician. This relatively new species seeks higher office by attempting to marginalize both parties with the sort of detail-free bipartisan platitudes which the establish press has made its hallmark.

Case in point: Linda Parks, candidate for California’s new 26th Congressional District. Parks is currently the 2nd District County Supervisor encompassing much of Thousand Oaks and the surrounding areas. In 1996 she switched her registration from Democrat to Republican in order to win elected office in the mostly Republican district. She has a decent environmental track record, and is a moderate Republican swing vote on the Board of Supervisors. The local Republicans have attempted several fierce primary challenges against her, all of which failed due to Democratic crossover support (the district’s registration makes it very difficult for an actual Democrat to win there.) However, there was little chance for her to advance higher than the Board of Supervisors due to a lack of support for her in either Party.

But now Ms. Parks has seized on the top-two primary system to run for Congress, courting the Decline-to-State vote while marginalizing both parties and maintaining a conveniently substance-free platform. Because Jerry Brown signed a law recently dictating that the ballot must reflect the Party in which one is registered, Linda Parks re-registered with no party preference a few weeks ago. The June ballot for this majority Democratic district will now have four Democrats (at least two of them conservative), a conservative Republican state senator named Tony Strickland, and the “non-partisan” former Republican Linda Parks. If the Democrats split their vote, it’s entirely possible if not probable that the November run-off in this Democratic district will lack a Democrat entirely, and be a face-off between Parks and Strickland. Fortunately, fantastic progressive Assemblymember Julia Brownley is running for the district, but it’s no guarantee she’ll make it past June without a lot of help.

Ms. Parks’ issues page is frustratingly but predictably vague, with neoliberal austerity-friendly platitudes like:

Congress needs to stop the brinkmanship politics and work together to balance our nation’s budget and restore our bond rating.  This will give businesses the certainty they need to invest in capital projects and expand their workforce. This in turn will create demand for goods and services which will buoy our economy.

So yesterday I issued a challenge on Facebook to Ms. Parks saying the following:

It would be nice if Linda Parks would inform voters what she thinks Democrats have been too “extreme” and “partisan” on. Women’s health? The environment? The lowest tax rates in modern American history? I’m really curious. No more platitudes, please. Specifics are needed.

A number of respected people in the county “liked” the post, and Ms. Parks responded:

I know that to some, party is very important. I’ve heard some representatives say Republicans and Democrats won’t even look at each other when passing in the halls of Congress. I think I embrace many of the principles that you do. For example, I am pro-choice and pro-environment, and have a record of balancing the County’s budget, which had a structural deficit, growing a 10% reserve fund that increased the county’s bond rating. This makes borrowing cheaper so that we can build bridges, among other things. I do have a focus on making government operate more efficiently while providing services, like public safety, public health, and protecting the welfare of seniors, the mentally ill, and veterans. I’ll bring this non-partisan way of looking at problems to Congress, focusing on the issues that are important to Americans – like improving the economy and helping grow jobs -and I won’t be alone because there are others who are committed to setting aside partisanship to get us working again.

When it was pointed out to her that this was yet another platitude, she again came back with a response that would have made David Broder proud:

I think steadfast refusal to compromise and work towards common ground is polarizing. Hyper-partisanship (putting party before country) is the problem. For example one may agree with my positions but oppose me based on my party or in this case my non-party.

Somewhat exasperated, my response:

Please give me an example of Democrats at a local, state or national level “refusing to compromise” in a way that would have improved the policy outcome. Again, specifics please. Until then, these are simply platitudes that reinforce the false idea that 1) both parties are equally to blame; and 2) the “compromise” position would result in the most popular outcome. Neither claim is true.

Pressed on the subject, she resorted to yet more fact-free platitudes:

David asks for specifics on how Democrats have been too extreme or partisan or have refused to compromise. The failure of the parties to compromise is well documented. For example, S&P lowered our nation’s bond rating stating how they are “Pessimistic about the capacity of Congress” because “in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he’s learned that it takes bipartisan support to succeed in national security and foreign affairs and finds the current hyper-partisanship leads to polarization and eventually paralysis, jeopardizing our nation’s defense. Ben Bernanke discusses in the NY Times “Politics Hurt Markets and Nation.” So much can happen, in terms of give and take and collaboration if the parties worked together. I’d like to see a bipartisan committee that can bring the sides together.

Trying not to lose patience with the myriad ways in which her response demonstrated studied ignorance of the details of the negotiations, I shot back with:

1) Whose fault was the failure to reach a budget deal? On what speicifc items should Dems have compromised even further? 2) Did the S&P downgrade really hurt the nation’s economy or lower Treasury yields? How much should we have cut from Social Security and Medicare to please S&P and the Republicans? 3) On what pieces of foreign policy have Dems been too partisan, or undercut Secretary Gates. Specifics please. Also, bipartisan compromise gave us the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999 and the AUMF for Iraq. Were those good ideas because they were passed with bipartisan votes? Specifics please.

She has ignored my queries. And why not? It advantages her nothing to actually face the issues honestly, any more than it does pundits like Broder or Thomas Friedman. Their arguments break down instantly when subjected to the remotest scrutiny.

Digby and I spent much of the late summer of 2011 pointing out time and again the number of ways in which the President and other national Democrats were going far, far out of their way to give Republicans 90% of what they wanted toward reaching a “Grand Bargain” on deficit reduction. I went to Washington, D.C. that summer and met many Democratic representatives who privately expressed to me their furious rage with hard-right tilt of the negotiations, driven in large part by the President and his advisers.

On the S&P downgrade, this blog was also at pains to point out that S&P was never an honest broker in making the downgrade in the first place. More importantly, I also noted that the downgrade had the opposite effect from what others predicted:

A downgrade in U.S. debt means functionally that U.S. treasury bills are, in S&P’s oh-so-wise opinion, less trustworthy and a greater credit risk to investors. This comes only a day after investors fled the DOW and S&P500 into the safe and waiting hands of…you guessed it: U.S. treasuries. The same treasuries that S&P suddenly finds a more dangerous buy. So what does that say about the stock market, and the S&P500? Perhaps S&P might wish to re-evaluate the credibility of its own market index.

And yet politicians like Linda Parks and their High Broderist friends in the traditional press will continue to make these sorts of vapid statements because they can, and because nobody “serious” pays attention to Paul Krugman or to dirty hippies who just happen to have a blog–no matter how knowledgeable we are, or how right we’re proven time and time again.

Perhaps the greatest irony is that while Linda Parks and the arch-conservative Strickland gang on the Republican side of the CA26 race despise one another, Parks’ fact-free platitudes help give extremist Republicans like him all the cover they need to do what they do. I don’t necessarily blame politicians like Linda Parks for having no awareness of macroeconomics, or for thinking that a nation like the United States has to balance its budget as neatly as a County Board of Supervisors does. That’s a piece of parochialism for which she may be forgiven, as opposed to members of the press who should know better.

But I do blame them for being so unaware of their surroundings that they help along the very extremism they pretend to oppose.

Cross-posted from the original at Digby’s Hullabaloo

LA Times reports Republicans targeting Congressional District 24

Dear Calitics community:

I wanted to give you an update on my congressional race.

On Monday, the LA Times reported some good news about California’s redrawn Congressional districts.  According to the Times, Republican “party leaders aren’t happy about the situation.  Some say privately that the GOP could lose up to five of its 19 California congressional seats.”

However, the Times also quotes David Wasserman, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, who said “there are some Republican opportunities” as well.  Specifically, Republican strategists have targeted my race because Congressional District 24 “has been made more compact and more evenly divided between Democrats and Republican voters.”  LA Times link

Without question, my district is the toughest Democratic-held seat to defend in California.  The district has the slimmest margin of Democratic voters in the state.

During my time in Congress, I have developed strong relationships with the residents of my district.  But the Republican playbook is to “nationalize” this race and try to distract voters from my solid record working as their representative in Washington and providing effective constituent services.  

Already Karl Rove’s SuperPAC Crossroads GPS has run a false TV ad criticizing me for supporting Healthcare reform.  The National Republican Campaign Committee also ran a TV ad against me in the district that the Washington Post factchecker debunked, giving it “4 Pincocchios!”

There are at least three Republicans who have indicated they may run.  Millionaire Abel Maldonado is running and has already invested $250,000 of his own money in the race.  Tea Party favorites Tom Watson and Chris Mitchum are also running and they tied for first place in a recent straw poll, showing their ability to energize the Republican base.

Meanwhile, I’m not taking any chances.  Our experienced campaign manager, Kris Pratt, is on the ground now and we’re staffing up our finance and field teams so we can be ready for 2012.

I know there’s a big bulls-eye on my race, so I’m reaching out to you and progressive activists across California.  I hope you’ll play a big role in my campaign.  You can reach us at [email protected] or get involved at

We need your help to organize in my district and raise money so we can communicate with voters.  We need to win seats like CD24 to take back the U.S. House of Representatives.

So I hope you’ll join me in 2012 and help us keep California’s beautiful Central Coastal district blue.

Thanks, and happy holidays.


Greetings from the new 24th Congressional District

(Welcome to Rep. Lois Capps – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

By Rep. Lois Capps

Dear Calitics community:

After following your smart takes on California and national politics, I thought it was time I joined the conversation.   Here’s my first post — an update on my congressional campaign.

First, thank you for many years of support.  Without the help of grassroots activists, I never would have been elected to Congress.  And I never would have been able to write the Nurse Reinvestment Act to address our nationwide nursing shortage, help get Health Insurance Reform enacted, protect our coastline from more offshore drilling, vote against the Iraq war, stand up for a woman’s right to choose and provide more opportunity for the middle class.  I’m proud of my record and can keep going, but my message today is about politics.

This election is different.

There has been a lot of discussion here about the redistricting commission and their new maps.

The new, final map makes my 24th district the toughest Democratic seat to defend in California.  No other congressional district has lost as many registered Democrats as mine. For the past ten years, my district had an 18% Democratic registration advantage.  Now the seat has only 3% more Democrats than Republicans.

The Republicans are not waiting to take advantage of the new map.  In July, Karl Rove’s SuperPAC spent huge bucks running a misleading TV ad criticizing my votes for Health Insurance Reform.  The National Republican Campaign Committee had already run another misleading TV commercial against me in June.  This is a year before the primary and a full17 months before the general election.

Meanwhile, there is a battle brewing among Republican challengers.  Millionaire Abel Maldonado has so far given his campaign over $250,000 from his fortune.  And Tea Party candidate Tom Watson is again trying to join his brethren in Congress.

With the new “jungle primary” (that Maldonado put on the ballot) anything could happen between those two…

So get ready.  This is the hottest Congressional race in California.  And you’re going to hear a lot more about it in the months ahead.

And I hope you’ll join my campaign.  I’d love your help to educate, energize and mobilize voters in my district.

I’m also going to stay in touch with you on Calitics.  Your passion and ideas on this site will be a big boost to my campaign.  Together, we can keep California’s beautiful Central Coast district blue.

Please contact my campaign, be a part of our team and help us win.

Thank you,


Observations from the Citizens Redistricting Commission Hearing in Oxnard

The latest scheduled stop of the vaunted Citizens Redistricting Commission for local hearings was in Oxnard tonight, where the pros and cons of the process were painfully evident.

1) On the positive side, it is quite clear that the Commission is doing its utmost to attempt, if imperfectly, to fulfill the mission it was given. Not everyone agrees with the first draft maps (and indeed, MALDEF will likely sue over what many Latino activists see as inadequate attention to their needs and interests.) All in all, though, the non-partisan process has so far led to greater respect for communities of interest than the careers of incumbent legislators on both sides of the aisle. This creates more risk, certainly, but the upside for those seeking more progressive legislation is that as more Millennials and Latinos move into the likely voter pool, the pressure on red-leaning will grow cycle by cycle, even as competitive Dem districts grow safer. In a Democratic wave election, there may be a real potential to reach and even exceed the 2/3 requirement in a way that would not be present if maintaining safe districts and respecting patronage networks were the primary considerations.

2) On the Republican side, most of the animus came from redder East Ventura County (Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and Simi Valley), which is divvied up by the first draft, effectively deeply endangering Republicans Elton Gallegly (R-CA24) and Senator Tony Strickland (R-SD19). Due to the Commission’s need to respect Voting Rights Act considerations in Monterey, the dominoes eventually come to fall in East Ventura County, forcing either Simi Valley or part of Thousand Oaks to be taken out of the County when it comes to Congressional and State Senate lines–a fact of which the Commissioners twice reminded conservatives in the audience. Minions of the local Chambers of Commerce and local city elected officials from deeply Republican cities got there early, lining up to advocate for keeping both Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks within Ventura County confines and out of the clutches of hated Los Angeles or the hated coastal areas–with the neat side effect of keeping Strickland and Gallegly in safe seats. And in fact, self-defined communities of interest seemed to alchemically shift depending on whether the congressional or state senate seats were in question, which very conveniently benefited Strickland or Gallegly depending on the situation.

More credible activity came from activists affiliated with CAUSE (Coastal Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy), which presented an alternative redistricting map at the Assembly level that would keep whole the long-overlooked and long-cracked city of Oxnard, the largest city in Ventura County, while also keeping more of the Latino population in an assembly district of interest. Oxnard is currently set to be split once again by the first draft map. Politically speaking, this would have the net effect of significantly slightly reducing the safety of the seat held by Democrat Das Williams (D-AD35), while increasing the chances for Democratic victory in the district directly to east, most of which is held by Jeff Gorell (R-AD37). Democratic firefighter and Fiona Ma fiance Jason Hodge made a somewhat pre-emptive declaration for the seat, perhaps overly optimistically assuming favorable district lines similar to CAUSE’s proposal that had not been set in stone. If the Commission’s first draft holds, that district would be a nearly even split between Democrats and Republicans, making any Democrat seeking it hard-pressed to push Afghanistan veteran and Republican incumbent Jeff Gorell out of office, even given a Democratic field that would be unlikely to remain fully clear (disclaimer: I worked as campaign manager for the 2010 Democratic nominee for AD37, Ferial Masry. Ms. Masry currently has no plans to run again in the district.) CAUSE and its left-of-center allies are much less partisan than Chamber and its Republican allies, if for no other reason than that the new maps are all downside for the GOP, while shifting Democratic populations into Gorell’s district comes at the slight expense of Das Williams, so there are no easy answers from a purely Democratic partisan perspective.

Perhaps most amusing were the constant assertions, mostly from conservatives but from progressives as well, that the new district lines would present some sort of life-altering problems for local communities. A constant conservative refrain, for instance, was that coastal communities should remain coastal while inland communities remain inland. While this sort of claim certainly makes sense on a city boundary or school board boundary level, it makes much less sense from the perspective of Assembly, Senate and Congressional races. Given the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans, the simple reality is that a Democratic representative living on the beach has much more in common with another Democrat living in the deserts and mountains, than she does with a Republican in a beach house a few miles away. And vice versa. In actual reality rather than a Broderist non-partisan unicorn fantasy world, partisanship is a much, much larger divide for legislators than are communities of interest. Which, of course, turns the entire redistricting hearings into a farce: local partisan after local partisan steps up to the microphone to talk about “communities of interest” being affected, when the reality is that 99% of what is really affected has little to do with local divisions, and a great deal more to do with divisions in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Which means that politics is inescapably at the heart of the process. The Citizens Redistricting Commission would be much better served by having an ostensibly non-partisan board, but allowing local partisans to advocate openly without forcing activists into the gamesmanship of pretense through the fear that their statements and opinions would be discarded.

Finally, as to the character of the local Republicans and conservatives, it was clear once again that the GOP has a massive demographic problem. The vast majority of those who gave conservative testimony at the commission were white and over the age of 65, while those on the left-hand side skewed somewhat younger and considerably browner. The refrains included a panoply of coded racial resentments (“culture”, “lifestyle” “our interests” and “our heritage” being among them) expressing outrage, as the Ventura County Star’s Timm Herdt aptly notes, at being associated with Los Angeles, Oxnard or other dreaded areas where (gasp!) brown people might congregate:

The refrain for the evening was “We don’t love L.A.” – the antithesis of Newman’s ballad to the city.

Speaker after speaker urged the commission to recast its proposed Assembly, Senate and congressional district lines to avoid putting any part of Ventura County with its gargantuan neighbor.

“The reason I’m here is I wanted to leave L.A. I didn’t like it,” said Harry Copeland of Ventura. “Their representatives are going to be different from what we want.”

Republicans might want to be reminded of the fact that “white flight” does not constitute a community of interest, and “get off my lawn” does not constitute a valid political opinion. Like the rest of California, Ventura County is changing and rapidly so. No amount of gerrymandering can keep it safe for a literally dying demographic, no matter how hard the Chamber of Commerce tries to make it so.

AD-35: Williams Emphasizes Local Fundraising, Goes on the Offensive

Full disclosure: I have endorsed Das Williams, but do not have any official involvement in the campaign.  I am attempting to cover this race as evenhandedly as possible.

In my previous analysis of the AD-35 primary race, I included the competing press releases between the Williams and Jordan campaigns.  The gist of the issue was that while Jordan’s release emphasized a $10,500 advantage in cash on hand and $1,600 advantage in total funds raised, the Williams campaign emphasized the $12,500 personal loan made by Jordan to her own campaign to give those numbers a boost.  Also noted was the attempt by the Williams campaign to portray Jordan, despite her having held no elected office in the past, as a Sacramento pol, even as the Jordan campaign painted Williams as untrustworthy, opportunistic and overly aggressive and ambitious.

Williams’ latest press release is already doubling down on this campaign theme, emphasizing the comparatively large number of donations coming to Jordan from outside the district, compared to Williams.  And it is a staggeringly wide discrepancy to the tune of 85% to 22%:

Santa Barbara, CA – Following recent reports of strong early financial numbers, Assembly Candidate Das Williams today released the following comments regarding a breakdown of contributions that shows 85 percent of his campaign’s donations come from within the 35th Assembly district, while his main opponent, Susan Jordan, received only 22 percent of her contributions from district sources:

“I’m humbled by the outpouring of local grassroots support and enthusiasm about my candidacy,” said Williams.  “Voters are ready for a new vision, new direction and new priorities.”

As of the June 30th reporting deadline, Das Williams for Assembly raised over $120,000 – with no personal loans and no unpaid debt to report.

Das Williams is running to succeed Assemblymember Pedro Nava who will be termed out in 2010.  

Das Williams grew up on the Central Coast and is a product of local public schools. In 2003, he became the youngest person ever to be elected to the Santa Barbara City Council, and was re-elected in 2007. Das has worked as a teacher, a policy aide for former Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, and a community organizer who worked to stop the development of a Wal-Mart in Ventura and enact local living wage laws in Santa Barbara and Ventura. Das serves on the Peabody Charter School Board and is a national board member of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Das received his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley and holds a graduate degree in Environmental Science & Management from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

This is a risky strategy for Williams.  The numbers are impressive, certainly, and reinforce the idea that Jordan is leveraging statewide connections rather than local chops.  But it’s also the second aggressive release from the Williams campaign in a couple of days, and will do nothing to dispel the negative image helpful to the Jordan campaign of Mr. Williams as a back-climbing career politician.  At this early stage, the question seems to be: will the Williams campaign gain on substance from surprisingly good fundraising and strong local support, or lose on tone from negativity?

With no publicly available poll numbers yet, only time will tell.

Jesusita Fire Threatens Santa Barbara

As if on cue, Mother Nature reminds us that in a dry and fire-prone state such as ours, it is folly to plan to slash the ranks of firefighters. From the Santa Barbara Independent:

The flames are growing above Santa Barbara this afternoon, as a wildfire that seemed to start near Jesusita Trail in San Roque Canyon continues to march its way up the mountains.

Wildfire expert and Indy correspondent Ray Ford is with a fire crew about 400 yards from the fire, which has been officially named the Jesusita Fire. He said that it is burning straight uphill, with 40-foot high flames. He said that the wind is starting to blow hard, with 20 to 25 mph gusts, pushing the fire northeast and east into Mission Canyon. He’s watching two helicopters attack the fire, and says they are doing a good job of knocking it down. He has noticed a plume coming up from Mission Canyon and believes something may be burning there. But the fire does not seem to be moving back down San Roque Canyon at the moment.

Mandatory evacuations are underway in the Santa Barbara foothills, although the current path of the fire is quite unclear. This is pretty early in the year to see a major wildfire, as the “season” usually doesn’t start until June 1. But global warming and the drought are causing nearly year-round fire conditions across the state, putting an added strain on firefighting resources.

Something Arnold might want to think about before threatening to destroy Cal Fire as part of a tantrum over voters’ unwillingness to support Prop 1A.

The Insurgent Power Plays of Electrified Youth

So I was flying through Seacliff at about eighty miles an hour when the universe suddenly and spectacularly decided to align in my favor. An unseasonably glorious sun shone down on the 101 freeway, and as I threaded the California coastline’s spine on my way north to Santa Barbara, I felt the soft and deadly tentacles of contentment wrap themselves around my decaying cerebrum-and I was okay with that.

Yeah, because the combination of dramatic scenery, agreeable weather, a fast car, and an adorably earnest song about the collapse of Antarctic icebergs erupting out of the stereo was quiet a potent one, yo. I mean, you try to be a cynical asshole when the coda of “Larsen B” dumps you in its warm bath of epic Euro-echo right when the Rincon headlands loom up ahead like inverted Cliffs of Insanity. It’s virtually impossible-or at least that’s what I told myself in that giddy moment-so I just let it happen, you know?

That’s right, dude. I was returning to the scene of many delightfully depraved episodes that occurred during my wild and hairy youth, but today wasn’t supposed to be a nostalgia trip. No, I had a Vital Role to play in this dawning Age of Hope and Change. Indeed-even if the whole “crashing the gates” trip proved to be a silly bait-and-switch; even if I now belonged to the Party in Power, and even if I was now, effectively, an Arm of The Man-I had my own unique contribution to make for The Cause today. This had nevertheless proved difficult to explain to my wife the night before, however-a weird conversation that had gone something like this:

“So… what is it exactly that you’re doing in Santa Barbara tomorrow?”

“Um, voting for…let’s see…the ‘A.D. delegates for the Democratic Party.'”

“The what?”

“You know, the people who are more into the political party stuff than me-the ones who’ll go to Sacramento and bitch out the Governator and all the rest, so that I don’t have to.”

“Oh. You mean, other politics nerds?”

“Yeah, that’s about right.”

“Okay…well…have fun, honey. Just tell ’em to make those yoyos in the Assembly get that budget crap together. I need to stay employed.”

I cringed inwardly at the time-even though we’ve long since accepted each others’ obsessive foibles-but this morning I jumped out of bed full of Purpose, because I knew I would be doing Important Shit today. I mean, the Facebook group email had said so, right? Right. Anyway, I slithered off the freeway into Santa Barbara without incident-unless you count the screaming drivers at the stupid Milpas roundabout-and dutifully presented my credentials at the East Side Library where the A.D. delegates had convened to meet and greet their rabid supporters.

“Hi there,” I said to the official-looking woman at the desk outside. “Where’s this votin’ place I’ve been hearing so much about?”

She smirked at my affected cool and handed over the ballots, but before I could fill them out I was accosted by another woman who was actively politicking for a delegate seat. I cut her off right away-“sorry ma’am, I’m here as part of the ‘Ventura Axis of Youth Insurgency'”-and she smiled blandly, but her eyes were full of fear as she moved away.

“Did you say Ventura?” asked a balding old man who wandered over. “When you walked up I was sure you were one of the UCSB crowd, myself.”

I smirked. “Maybe ten years ago, but not now-it’s the acne, right?” He stepped back, puzzled, but seemed to accept that I was sane enough to merit an introduction. I don’t remember anything about him or his wife, though (who ambled over soon after) except that they drove up from Pasadena for some reason. I made my excuses and retreated quickly once I saw the targets of my support, Katherine and Dave, plow through a crowd of Genuine Youth that had just arrived from campus. I scrawled my vote onto the ballot, stuffed it in the box, and went to introduce myself to The Candidates.

I didn’t get far, however-a guy who called himself their “communication director” stopped me and asked if I’d be attending a Young Democrats meeting in Camarillo next week. “You fool,” I laughed. “There are no Young Democrats in Camarillo. Get out of my face with that craziness.”

I shoved him aside and aimed for the Power Couple on the ballot, who were of course all smiles when we got the opportunity to finally meet each other. “Good to see you,” smiled Katherine. “I’m surprised-we all thought you were a recluse who hated actual activism.”

“Yeah,” added Dave as he gave me a manly handshake, “what brought you up here on a beautiful day like this?”

“Bribery,” I replied. “What else? I only have so much time to make my influence felt before you take office, right?” I pressed a copy of my band’s CD into their hands, and they laughed politely. “Well, we have to actually win first,” said Dave, tactfully keeping me from falling socially flat yet again.

“See,” Katherine said, chucking him on the shoulder playfully, “I told you he wasn’t a complete chickenshit. It’ll be great to have a genuine local rock star in the fold.”

“Ho ho,” I chuckled. “You know better than that. I’m not famous around here at all, and I only said all bets were off when it came to that stage-hog Hanna-Beth Jackson. I’m good for anything else that’s non-solicitous, you know?”

She waved away my ancient prejudice with a flutter. “Never mind that-we’re happy to have your vote today. Here, take a picture with us, won’t you?”

I agreed, naturally, but promised myself I wouldn’t smile. I mean, I’m happy to be used, but not taken advantage of. Who knew what would happen with an image like that? It might be photoshopped into a hideous caricature and posted on malicious blogs within the hour. The candidates roped in a passing student photographer, though, so I was trapped. “Come on,” said Katherine, “smile!”

But I didn’t-for some reason, it all suddenly felt weird. The photographer moved in, Dave continued crushing my hand with his mighty grip, and I resolved to look grim and constipated in my first-ever photo-op. And then something totally unexpected happened: Katherine leaned into my ear and whispered a fluent string of curses so vile, so hilariously off-color, that I burst out laughing in spite of myself, et voila: the camera snapped, instantly creating a good-timey photo of three fast friends.

“You’re in it now, man,” said Dave. “You’ll be coming to Camarillo next week-you have no choice.”

I hung my head, knowing his words were true, but Katherine said something nice about maybe getting the band a gig at a local rally this year, as well as other blatant appeals to my massive ego, and before too long I was happy again and full of Purpose, glad-handling with the best of them at the beginning of a New Vibrant Era, and the good vibes stuck with me the rest of the day.

Yeah, so much so that when I finally made my exit, I couldn’t help but take a victory lap around Santa Barbara and re-visit the anarchic scenes of my Gauchoholic days of yore, back in that Wild Party for Rich Kids known as “the late ’90s.” I drove like a bastard around the hairpin curves of Alameda Padre Serra, cruised down State St. like I used to, powered up to the Mesa like a conquering hero, and wound my way through this Gorgeous Nucleus of the Central Coast Riviera for the next two hours, high on the fumes of Transferred Youth.

I never found out if they actually, you know…won the vote, but it didn’t really matter, because it was Sunday afternoon in Southern California, baby, and I felt like a native son.

Is Phony Tony Strickland Really a Phony?

Tim Herdt over at the VC Star’s 95 Percent Accurate* is a veritable fountain of information today.  This time he brings us news about our favorite new state senator, “Phony” Tony Strickland.  As readers may recall, Tony Strickland ran a bogus campaign claiming to be an alternative energy entrepreneur though his alternative energy company has yet to secure a contract, and his voting record has been a boon to oil companies and other polluting industries who richly rewarded him with a major infusion of campaign contributions.

But according to Tim Herdt, Strickland may actually be persuaded to honor at least a few of his environmental campaign promises, in order to lend real credence to what had been essentially dishonest fabrications concerning his views on environmental issues based on his record:

New Ventura County Sen. Tony Strickland, who ran this fall as a “renewable energy businessman” promising to promote the development of alternative energy, has taken the first step to show that he meant what he said.

Strickland told me last month that he does not agree with the provision in his fellow legislative Republicans’ budget proposal that calls for a delay in implementing California’s landmark global warming law. That regulations to implement that law, AB 32, call for aggressive steps to promote alternative energy, including a requirement that utilities purchase a third of their electrical power from renewable sources such as solar and wind energy.

Furthermore, Strickland said he intends to soon introduce a package of clean-energy legislation.

Sounds good, but several caveats spring to mind:

1) Promises made by Strickland to a media figure like Herdt may well turn out to be as unreliable as most of the other claims Phony Tony has made over the years.

2) His promises to oppose his fellow Republicans on environmental issues in the Senate mean little if he knows that said environmental initiatives will be blockaded by his other Republican allies.  If Strickland knows that these bills and addenda will be blocked by others, his support means little; in fact, his “support” would only serve to give him cover while still maintaining his preferred anti-environmental policy aims.  We will know Strickland is serious if he makes real attempts to persuade his Republican allies to alter their votes.

3) Strickland’s promise to introduce a “package of clean-energy legislation” is worse than meaningless if his bill is merely a watered-down version of a stronger Democratic bill.  Claiming to support popular Democratic policies by offering a weaker version of a Democratic bill is a tried and true Republican tactic.

4) Supporting clean energy bills that provide aid for renewable energy development mean little if they do not come at the expense of the current establishment of corporate polluters.  It is easy for a Republican to recommend spending money or creating incentives on windmills or solar panels; it is far harder to take the just as necessary steps of disincentivizing the use of pollutants.

5) California is in a major budget crunch, and has numerous other problems besides.  Even if Strickland has come to a true conversion on energy issues (which has yet to be seen), his retrograde Republican views on all other aspects of state business make him a bad fit for the district, and unacceptable for California as it struggles to regain its footing after the fiasco of Enron’s energy deregulation, Schwarzenegger’s mismanagement of the state at the Executive level, and the intransigence of the extremist Republicans in the statehouse.

In any case, the fact that Strickland is at least paying lip service–phony or no–to support of alternative energy is a small victory for progressive causes in itself.

Cross-posted at Ventura County Democrats