Tag Archives: Ellen Tauscher

CA-10: DeSaulnier’s Endorsement Trouble

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier has based a lot of his campaign strategy in the quick-sprint Congressional race for CA-10 on endorsements.  Not a day goes by when he doesn’t release some endorsement by one character or another into my inbox.  The other day he touted that he received a “majority of endorsement votes” from California Democratic Party delegates at their endorsement meeting over the weekend, without mentioning that he did not reach the 60% threshold that would be required for an official CDP endorsement.

However, one endorsement has caused DeSaulnier a bit of a headache – the support of the former holder of this seat, Ellen Tauscher.  DeSaulnier has made no secret of that endorsement, including it in mailers and on his TV advertisement.  One problem with all this: with Tauscher now at the State Department, some have raised concerns that her endorsement while working at a federal agency violates the Hatch Act, which prohibits executive branch employees from participating in partisan politics.  DeSaulnier’s camp has countered that the endorsement, which was made before Tauscher was confirmed for the post at State, always says “Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher” and thus indicates that it was made prior to that appointment.  But the State Department has weighed in, asking DeSaulnier’s campaign to remove the endorsement.

The U.S. State Department has asked 10th District Congressional candidate and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier to remove all references in his campaign materials to his endorsement from former congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, who is now undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security at the U.S. State Department.

While a legal adviser to the U.S. State Department concludes that the endorsement broke no laws or policies, “Under Secretary Tauscher is committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct. To avoid even the appearance of impropriety, on behalf of Undersecretary Tauscher, I have asked Senator DeSaulnier to remove all references in his campaign material of any endorsement she may have made,” wrote James Thessin, deputy legal adviser and designed agency ethics official.

The DeSaulnier campaign is fingering John Garamendi for complaining to the State Department about the use of Tauscher’s name.  Actually, the complaint was made by Jason Bezis, an individual who claims not to be affiliated with any campaign, but who apparently enjoys filing complaints with the State Department and the FEC (he filed one there against DeSaulnier’s campaign over a health care mailer).  It looks like the DeSaulnier campaign won’t change current materials already printed, but will consult the State Department “about what qualifies and what doesn’t under their request.”

I actually question whether this means as much as the DeSaulnier team seems to think, but their strategy all along has been to gather up local endorsements.

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.

End the Draft – John Garamendi Running in CA-03 is for Conservatives

There have been a few voices suggesting California Lt. Governor John Garamendi abandon his bid to replace Liebermanesque Ellen Tauscher and instead run in California’s third congressional district against Dan Lungren.

And if you are a Democrat – especially a Progressive Democrat – that is good news. Strategically, such a move would be counterproductive for Democrats.

It Makes No Sense for California Democrats

The biggest problem in California is the Republican Veto. This means that Democrats may have a majority in the legislature, but not a functioning majority. With the artificial budget control by Republicans, it actually hurts Democrats if a legislator ascends to congress in a Special Election. With state Senator Mark DeSaulnier and Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan both running for Tauscher’s seat, in all likelihood a Democratic legislator will win unless Garamendi runs.

There are two forces at work that make it counterproductive for Democrats to support a legislator in a special election:

  • California law requires a vacancy in the legislature to be filled by a special election which can take as long as five months from the time the vacancy occurs.
  • California law also bases the 2/3 necessary to pass the budget off of the total number of legislative seats, not the total number of legislators serving

Together, these two rules mean that electing a legislator creates a situation where it will take even one more GOP vote to pass a budget. As we see pretty much every year, it is the last vote that is the hardest and requires the most caving by Democratic legislative leadership.

So if Garamendi doesn’t run in the 10th, it actually strengthens the GOP in California who are all but expecting a legislative special election to weaken the Democratic caucus. Unfortunately, it makes sense for them to stall on the budget until the vacancy occurs to force even more cuts to the budget.

And it could get even worse. The last East Bay congressional special election occurred when Ron Dellums resigned from congress in 1997. This set off an infamous series of special elections where there were legislative vacancies for over a year. Absent Garamendi running, the frontrunner is Mark DeSaulnier. If he wins, he would have to give up his senate seat setting up a second special election. Assemblymember Tom Torlakson can’t run, but Assemblymember Joan Buchanan has already indicated a willingness to run for higher office in a special election and if she won, it would set up another special election (and it is doubtful Democrats could hold her seat).

However, if Garamendi were to win it does not strengthen the GOP hand in Sacramento. In fact, since Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would get to appoint a replacement, it could actually help passing a budget if Schwarzenegger picked a legislative Republican.

In short, the realities of California’s constitution mean we want legislative vacancies on their side of the aisle, not ours. A vacancy on our side dramatically increases the ability of the California Republican Party to hurt California more via budget cuts.

It Makes No Sense for Progressive Democrats

I would have loved a move like this in 2006 and it still would have been good in 2008, but right now we are in an entirely different situation then we were back in the days many of us were fighting to expand the playing field. Back then, it was the traditional dogma we were fighting against, but ironically now some of the strategies we once used have become the dogma which is clouding the judgment of some.

If Garamendi were to run in the third instead of the tenth, it would actually be counterproductive for progressives. The battle is no longer to get in the majority, the battle lines are within our safe majority. It actually helps progressives standing within the caucus more to have Garamendi then it does to have Garamendi and a conservative (DeSaulnier or Buchanan).

But more likely is that Garamendi running in the third would result in a moderate winning in the 10th and Lungren being re-elected. While Garamendi does have name recognition, his entire gubernatorial campaign has raised less than $200,000 under the federal rules he would be operating under. While he would be able to raise enough money for a sprint in a special election, it is unlikely he could raise enough to win as a challenger absent serious national support in a year when the DCCC is playing defense and it makes far more sense for small donors to contribute to senate candidates then try and expand the majority in the House.

Even if Garamendi won in the third, he would be a far better Representative coming from the 10th. Since Democrats lost control of the next redistricting, Garamendi would have to spend all of his time running for re-election while the moderate winner in CA-10 would be free to spend time screwing progressives (the Ellen Tauscher tradition).

The Worst Case Scenario

The best thing for conservatives is for Garmendi to run in the third. This will make it nearly inevitable that the GOP will have a far stronger hand during budget negotiations, ensure Ellen Tauscher is replaced by another moderate, and give Garamendi at best a 50-50 chance of picking up a seat that won’t change anything in DC.

While I’m sure supporters of DeSaulnier will keep pushing this absurd idea, the fact that it is the best case for conservatives might be why Ellen Tauscher thinks DeSaulnier will do such a great job carrying on her work.

Progressives should applaud Lt. Governor Garamendi running in CA-10. It makes it likely that Ellen Tauscher will be replaced with a progressive stalwart and will hopefully prevent the disaster of either of the conservative legislators winning the seat and making things Sacramento even worse.

Tuesday night Matt Lockshin, the internet director for the California Democratic Party put up a poll on the subject:

Hopefully this bad idea will end and we can replace Ellen Tauscher with a progressive.

Garamendi Runs for Congress – But in the Wrong District

With his fourth run for Governor failing to get traction, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi yesterday announced his plan to run for Congress in the East Bay’s 10th District – in a special election to replace Ellen Tauscher.  On name recognition alone, Garamendi will be the front-runner in a crowded field – although State Senator Mark DeSaulnier has key endorsements that will make it competitive.  But while running for Congress is a smart move for Garamendi, it would be far better for Democrats – and progressive politics – for him to run in District 3 against Republican incumbent Dan Lungren.  Tauscher’s seat is safe for Democrats regardless of who runs in the special election, while Garamendi is probably one of the few candidates who can win District 3.  He has deep roots in the 3rd District – which includes a large swath of the Sacramento suburbs, along with Garamendi’s native Calaveras County.  It is traditionally a “red” district, but Barack Obama carried it last November – and Lungren came unexpectedly close to losing to an under-funded Democratic challenger.  At a time when Democratic activists are pushing the Party to take back “Red California,” Garamendi’s choice of districts could not be more disheartening and misguided.  Expect this to become an issue at this weekend’s State Democratic Convention.

Tauscher Seat Draws Many Candidates

Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher has been nominated for a high-level position in the State Department, and expects to resign her seat after getting confirmed.  While no special election has been scheduled yet, many politicians in the East Bay’s 10th District (which includes most of Contra Costa and Solano Counties) are already positioned to replace her.  With no term limits in Congress, an open seat is truly a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for ambitious politicos – and there is no shortage of viable home-grown Democrats ready to make a run.  The 10th District was a conservative, suburban area when Tauscher first won it in 1996 – but Democrats there now have an eighteen-point edge in voter registration, making it (for all intents and purposes) a “safe” blue seat.

State Senator Mark DeSaulnier of Concord already has Tauscher’s blessing for the seat, along with endorsements by Congressman George Miller, State Assemblyman Tom Torlakson and State Senate President Darrell Steinberg.  State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo – who picked up a “red” district in the last election – is also considering a run, although some have wondered if it’s a good idea.  Former San Francisco Examiner reporter Adriel Hampton is actively campaigning, and Anthony Woods – a Harvard-educated openly gay African-American Iraq War veteran – is contemplating a run.  All of these candidates are Democrats.

Based on polling for the race prior to Garamendi’s entry, “undecided” was the landslide winner – because all four candidates have very low name recognition.  As a four-time candidate for Governor, two-time State Insurance Commissioner, and current Lieutenant Governor, it is fair to assume that John Garamendi will be the new front-runner.  And with the compressed schedule of a special election, Garamendi would benefit from the crowded field to win a relatively easy victory by a plurality vote.  It’s no surprise that Garamendi has dropped out of a grueling run for Governor (where he was simply outgunned by three better-funded opponents), and going to Congress is a nice consolation prize.

But is it wise for Garamendi to run for Congress in District 10 – or should he run in District 3 against Dan Lungren?  Garamendi currently lives in Walnut Grove, in the southwest corner of Sacramento County – at the very edge of District 10.  Half of the town is in District 10, but the other half is in District 3.  As he told the San Francisco Chronicle, his house literally straddles the border.  Rather than enter a crowded field of Democrats, Garamendi would better serve the Party’s goals and the progressive cause by running in the 3rd District.  All he would have to do is change his voter registration to his family ranch in Calaveras County – where he has deep roots.

Lungren Seat is Tough, But Winnable

As I’ve written before, California is a deep blue state that is only getting bluer – as Republicans are increasingly turning off voters in places like Orange County and the Central Valley.  New registration statistics from the Secretary of State’s Office show that, for the first time, Republicans don’t have a majority of registered voters in a single Congressional District.  And last November, Barack Obama carried eight Congressional Districts that currently have Republican incumbents – although the Democratic Party did not target them.  In California, Democrats have seats ripe for the picking.

One of these districts is Congressional District 3 – which includes the suburbs east of Sacramento, parts of Solano County, and stretches to the Nevada border to include all of Alpine, Amador and Calaveras Counties.  Right-wing Republican Congressman Dan Lungren (who lost to Gray Davis in the 1998 Governor’s race by a 20-point landslide) has represented it since 2004, and initially expected to have a safe seat.  For the longest time, Democrats assumed that fielding a candidate there was a hopeless cause.

But in 2006, an upstart Democrat named Bill Durston challenged Lungren – with no real support from the State Party.  He lost by 22 points, but tried a second time in 2008.  Again, the Party offered him few resources – but he came within 5.5% to scoring an upset.  On the same ballot, Barack Obama beat John McCain in the 3rd District.  Demographics played a role – the latest voter statistics show that registered Republicans outnumber Democrats there, but only by two percentage points.  Five years ago, the margin was seven points.  The national Democratic Party plans to target District 3 for 2010, and a candidate with high name-recognition could be what it takes.

Durston, however, has ruled out a third attempt to challenge Dan Lungren.  Without Garamendi, there is no clear candidate yet.

Garamendi’s Roots in District 3

If John Garamendi were to run for Congress, the logical place would be District 3 – not District 10.  He was born in Calaveras County, and his family has a ranch there – where he has many high-profile political functions.  In 1974, he was first elected to the State Assembly to what was then the 7th District, which includes much of the same territory.  In 1976, he won a seat to the State Senate – which he represented for fourteen years.  Again, it contained much of the same territory.  While Democrats should be diligent and leave no district behind, it’s also important to field candidates who can actually win.  And there are not many Democrats with Garamendi’s stature who could relate to rural voters in that way.

Because he was running for Governor, Garamendi has about $750,000 “cash-on-hand” in campaign contributions.  Assuming he can clear the legal hurdles to transfer these funds to a Congressional race, it would dwarf Dan Lungren’s re-election warchest of $121,000.  Of course, Garamendi could also easily outspend any of the Democrats in District 10 – but the more than six-to-one advantage he would have over Lungren proves that the race is eminently winnable.  In fact, the only way I could see why Garamendi wants to run in District 10 is that it would be easier.  But everyone else would miss out — it would replace a spirited race full of “new blood” candidates in District 10 with a lame coronation, while shutting out the Democrats’ best opportunity to win an extra Congressional seat.

Garamendi has been running for Governor since 1982, when he lost the primary to Tom Bradley.  He ran for State Controller in 1986 (a stepping stone for Governor), but lost the primary to Gray Davis.  He was elected State Insurance Commissioner in 1990, but passed on re-election to run for Governor in 1994 – only to lose the primary to Kathleen Brown.  After working for the Clinton Administration, he was again elected Insurance Commissioner in 2002.  In 2003, he entered the race for Governor during the Gray Davis recall – but dropped out two days later when it was apparent Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante had more support.  Three years later, the two men ran for each other’s job – which Garamendi won.  Shortly afterwards, he announced his plan to run for Governor in 2010 – where he has lagged behind other Democrats in polling and fundraising.

It’s no surprise that Garamendi has formed an “exit strategy” to run for Congress – given how the California Governorship has eluded him for three decades.  But if he wants a legacy that helps Democrats and progressives get stronger, Garamendi should run in District 3 – where his candidacy would be more helpful.  A group of bloggers have already launched a website that urges him to switch into the District 3 race.  Garamendi would be wise to listen to such counsel.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Hogarth will be a delegate at this weekend’s California Democratic Convention in Sacramento.  Stay tuned for a preview and updates in the next few days.  He is the Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, San Francisco’s Alternative Online Daily where this piece was first published.

CA-10: I Expect to Run for Congress

(Let’s welcome the Lieutenant Governor to Calitics. – promoted by David Dayen)

I am proud today to announce that if current Rep. Ellen Tauscher is confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve in the Obama administration, I expect to run for the 10th Congressional District, a district that includes parts of Contra Costa, Solano, Alameda, and Sacramento counties. I am excited by this unexpected potential opportunity in my own backyard, and with your support, I will return to Washington to help shape a better future for California, our country and a very special Congressional District.

As a Lieutenant Governor, former Deputy Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton, twice elected California Insurance Commissioner, University of California regent and California State University trustee, state legislator, and chair of the State Lands Commission and Commission for Economic Development, I have led the fights against an insurance industry run amok, seemingly yearly student fee increases, California’s broken budget process, and off-shore oil and liquefied natural gas drilling.

I am ready to lend a progressive and pragmatic voice to find solutions on debates ranging from renewable energy to green collar jobs to universal “Medicare for All” health care to water policy to equality for all to market oversight to mass transit to the importance of fully funding education. As I learned during my time in the Peace Corps, developing solutions first requires being able to ask the right questions.

More over the flip…

Please join us on our Facebook supporter page and follow us on Twitter. President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Democrats in Congress are prepared to move this country forward, and with your help, we can send them a capable and progressive representative ready on Day One.

P.S. I will be at the California Democratic Convention this weekend in Sacramento and will host a meet-and-greet with bloggers. Details are pending, but I hope to see you there.

CA-10: DeSaulnier Solidifies Support While Others Circle

The biggest news out of the CA-10 race today is that, according to Lisa Vorderbrueggen, both Ellen Tauscher and friend of Calitics Rep. George Miller have endorsed Sen. Mark DeSaulnier for the future special election.  That’s a fairly big deal.  There are essentially four power structures in the political scene CA-10, and DeSaulnier has swallowed up three – Tauscher, Miller, and Tom Torlakson.  Considering that he’s the chair of the Senate Labor Committee, the fourth power structure, the local unions, should be his as well.

Nevertheless, other prospective candidates are making news as well.  Joan Buchanan’s operatives clearly dropped a poll to Politico, showing her leading DeSaulnier narrowly:

The poll shows Buchanan leading DeSaulnier 21 to 18 percent, with Republican San Ramon mayor Abram Wilson at 14 percent and former GOP Assemblyman Guy Houston at 13 percent.  

Neither Republican has yet expressed interest in the race.

Despite DeSaulnier’s experience representing the area in the state legislature, both Democrats have comparable name recognition, according to the poll. Buchanan is recognized by 34 percent of voters, while 31 percent offer an opinion on DeSaulnier.

That was a survey of 400 voters with a high margin of error (4.9%), so I wouldn’t take it too seriously.  Buchanan would see institutional support dry up fast, but could leverage an outside group like EMILY’s List.

The insufferable California Blue Dog is floating that former Mod Squad member Asm. Joe Canciamilla, who previously announced he was considering the race for Attorney General, might jump in, but DeSaulnier hasn’t just beaten him in the past, he’s beaten his whole family (DeSaulnier beat Canciamilla’s wife in a Senate primary in ’08).

Meanwhile, there’s “one of SF’s top political minds,” if he does say so himself, Adriel Hampton, who is intent on dropping a press release a day to get reporters to chase coverage.  Yesterday he urged passage of S. 582, the Interest Rate Reduction Act, which is actually a solid policy goal to cap interest rates on credit cards and loans, sponsored by Bernie Sanders.  Today he went hard negative against DeSaulnier:

California 10th Congressional District candidate Adriel Hampton (D-Dublin) is not mincing words in his criticism of State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier considering leaving the Legislature just months after being elected. If Sen. DeSaulnier were to resign his seat, it would result in a minimum of 112 day period where an additional Republican vote would be need to pass a budget or raise revenue under California’s unique 2/3 requirement.

“When DeSaulnier ran for his office, he signed up for a four year hitch, not a few-month fling,” Hampton said. “His fickle recklessness would strengthen the Republican bargaining position and could cost Californians billions in cuts to health care, education, and public safety.”

Restaurant-owner DeSaulnier was sworn in to the state senate just last December. If he runs for Congress, it would be the third different office he has run for in as many years. If legislative Republicans believe he has a chance of winning, it would incentivize them to stall a budget compromise until after the election, further extending the period of gridlock that would result in Sacramento by his candidacy.

There’s a lot about this that is arrogant and ridiculous (“restaurant-owner DeSaulnier” is kind of a lame epithet to put on a guy who’s been elected by these same constituents multiple times), but Hampton raises a point I raised as soon as Tauscher announced she was leaving.  The merry go-round of special elections will put Democrats in the legislature down a body or two well into next year, and in the case of Buchanan threatens the loss of the seat.  Now, this logic maybe appeals to a junkie like me, but my guess is it will have approximately no appeal to those inside the district, who will want to pick the best candidate for the job.  In addition, this is a hard negative message that only argues for someone not in the legislature to be elected, and since the field has in no way assembled fully, I don’t see that as a political winner.  Not to mention the pose that DeSaulnier is a fickle part-time legislator made by someone who apparently is still working a full-time job and thinking he can run for Congress at the same time.

Oh, and Sully Sullenberger won’t run, either.  In case you were wondering.  But there are more candidates who may enter, FYI.

CA-10: Tom Torlakson Endorses Mark DeSaulnier

Conveniently answering two questions in one press release, Assemblymember Tom Torlakson is announcing that he will continue to run for State Superintendent of Public Education, and will endorse State Senator Mark DeSaulnier for Tauscher’s seat – which is the first clear indication that DeSaulnier will actually be running for that seat:

Assemblymember Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, said today he will continue his campaign for state schools chief and not run for a congressional seat currently held by Rep. Ellen Tauscher….

In making the announcement, Torlakson, who has held elective office in Contra Costa County for 30 years, said he would endorse Senator Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, to succeed Tauscher….

“The East Bay has been fortunate to have been served by Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher the past 12 years, and I wish her well as she prepares for this important new position with the Obama Administration,” said Torlakson. “Mark DeSaulnier is the best person to continue her tradition of strong and effective leadership in Congress. He has the experience, intelligence, and character necessary to represent the residents of the district. I am pleased to endorse him and offer my full support for his upcoming campaign.”

There’s been some speculation that Asm. Joan Buchanan will run for the seat as well, which is possible, but it looks like the establishment is moving to unite behind DeSaulnier. Will that create an opening for a progressive candidate in the race? We shall see.

CA-10: It’s Official

Ellen Tauscher is leaving Congress:

“For the past 13 years, I have had the honor and privilege of serving you in Congress. Representing California’s 10th Congressional District always has been and remains – especially in these trying times – my first priority.”

“Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asked me to serve as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.”

“While her offer is both generous and flattering, I did not take the decision lightly. I accepted it after much soul searching and long discussions with my family and friends.”

Her mission will be an important one – to fulfill the Obama Administration’s goal of eventually ridding the world of nuclear weapons, and in the near term reducing stockpiles through trade agreements with Russia and ensuring the security of loose nuclear materials around the world.  Given that she has supported the Reliable Replacement Warhead system in the past, which would usher in a new generation of nuclear weapons and work directly counter to proposals like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, I am dubious that this is her best role:

Those of us who are interested in working toward a world free of nuclear weapons realize that progress will involve many steps, some large, some small. One important step will be ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Some CTBT supporters suspect that the outlines of a deal are coalescing: those who want the RRW will try to make the CTBT and the RRW a package deal, arguing that we will be able to maintain a reliable, safe nuclear deterrent without testing, as the CTBT would require, only if the weapon labs are allowed to proceed with weapon modernization. The Congressional Strategic Posture Commission interim report appears to be at least sympathetic to this view. This artificial link is based on both faulty logic and a long list of unstated and unsupportable assumptions.

The assertion that our nuclear weapons need any modernizing implies, usually implicitly, that current weapons are antiques that are not quite up to snuff. Chilton, in the article cited above, specifically links U.S. modernization to Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons. This superficially makes sense: after all, we don’t send our military out to fight with World War II vintage tanks, ships, and airplanes. Certainly the United States should be armed with the latest and best nuclear weapons; at the very least, our weapons have to be at least as modern as any possible competitors, right? The simple analogy to conventional weapons doesn’t hold because of the types of tasks assigned to nuclear weapons and some confusion about just what a “nuclear weapon” is […]

Simple uranium bombs with high reliability and yields of twenty kilotons (or the power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima) or more would be easy to manufacture. We could design such a weapon, perhaps build one or two, and put the plans on the shelf in case we ever needed it. I can’t help but imagine those language-free schematic assembly instructions that come along with unassembled Ikea furniture, describing how to put a bookshelf together without special skills or complex tools. We should design the Ikea Bomb. The DOE’s arguments for a new nuclear bomb design would be a lot more convincing if DOE were eagerly trying to design themselves out of a job rather than looking at a future that has them building nuclear weapons forever.

Nuclear weapons modernization is a complete myth, and Tauscher has perpetuated it.  Regardless of the positives of her leaving Congress, she is a terrible choice for the safety of the world.  I’ll leave it to you to determine the relative benefits of the trade-off.

The Governor will not need to announce any special election for this seat until Tauscher is confirmed, which could take “weeks, if not months,” as she notes.  District sources tell me that labor’s voice matters here, and all the serious candidates come from the legislature, in particular Asm. Tom Torlakson and Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (who lives outside the district in Concord, but that’s not required under state law).  Of the two, only one will run, and Torlakson has been gearing up for a statewide run for a while, though Congress may offer a more attractive platform.  While Buchanan has seemingly been groomed for this position, it’s probably too soon for her to make the jump, and AD-15 does not have a deep Democratic bench and would be likely to flip back to the Republicans if she vacates.  Either way, we’re looking at a special election for Congress, followed by another special election for the legislature.  At this rate, the legislature will be missing bodies until early 2010.  And that’s horrible news, given the conservative veto and the need for every single vote on budget and tax issues.

CA-10: Ellen Tauscher Headed to the State Dept

One of the big stories that Calitics wasn’t able to cover thanks to the server outage yesterday was the news that, as Atrios put it, Ellen Tauscher may will be “raptured” to a post at the State Department:

A California congresswoman with experience in military matters is the Obama administration’s choice to be under secretary of state for arms control and international security.

Congressional and administration sources told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher is the administration’s pick. The sources requested anonymity because the announcement is not official.

Could this joyous news be true? Could one of the bankers’ best friends and leader of the DLC-like New Democrats in the House be taken off our hands by the Obama Administration? We will see – and we will hope.

UPDATE: The Hill reports that yes, it IS true – Ellen Tauscher will go to the State Department.

This would open up yet another special election here in California to fill the seat. Who would be some of the most likely Democratic candidates to run for the seat?

  • Tom Torlakson. Former State Senator, now serving his third and final term in the Assembly (AD-11; his first two terms were from 1996-2000).  He’s currently planning a run for State Superintendent of Education in 2010, but might be interested in moving to the Congressional seat should it open up. He’s probably got the highest political profile of the field owing to his 12+ years in the Legislature.
  • Mark DeSaulnier. Replaced Tom Torlakson in SD-7 when he was termed out last year. DeSaulnier and Torlakson are close and would probably not challenge each other for the seat, so if Torlakson decides to stay in California, DeSaulnier could make the move to DC. He has spoken out on the need to fix California’s broken government and for action on global warming.
  • Joan Buchanan. Elected last November to the Assembly from AD-15. As a newly elected state official she may have a lower profile than Torlakson or DeSaulnier, but can’t be ruled out as a possible candidate.

I’m sure there are other possible candidates out there who could fill this seat but those are the folks who have been generating the most discussion in the last 24 hours. We’ll see what happens next. I for one will be glad to be rid of Ellen Tauscher and hopefully we can get someone more progressive to represent the 10th District.

Ellen Tauscher’s Insatiable Appetite For More Homeless People

Late last week, Democrats temporarily shelved a bill that would allow bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of mortgages on primary residences (also known as “cram-down”).  Moderates who put the hold on this legislation, particularly former Wall Street investor Ellen Tauscher, crowed about it to the media.

This hardly amounts to a breakthrough win for party moderates – or a major concession by the speaker. But it was a consequential moment in the minds of moderate leaders who often find themselves marginalized in a caucus dominated by liberals.

“It shows we have bench strength, and it shows we can flex,” said California Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, who chairs the New Democrat Coalition and played a central role in negotiations over the bankruptcy bill […]

Moderates worry Pelosi is routinely staking very liberal positions to push House versions of big bills as far to the left as possible to enhance their standing in negotiations with the historically centrist Senate. This might be a smart tactic, but it often hurts Democrats who rely on Republican votes to win reelection. Put bluntly, it makes them look too liberal […]

That prompted lawmakers, like Tauscher, to limit the scope of the bankruptcy bill as much as possible, even though this measure is only loosely related to the president’s broader proposal.

Tauscher’s New Democrat Coalition teamed with their natural allies in the Blue Dog Coalition to impose 10 significant changes, including requirements that bankruptcy judges use federal guidelines to determine the fair market value of a home and that modified loans must be “unaffordable and not just underwater” to prevent wealthy homeowners from taking advantage of the process, according to a widely distributed e-mail from Adam Pase, executive director of the New Democrat Coalition.

This, of course, angered some liberals. “The New Dems’ position is the banks’ position,” a senior Democratic aide involved in the bankruptcy negotiations complained on Friday. “New Democrats are shills for the banks.”

It’s confounding that any New Democrat thinks their constituents give a ring-a-ding about banking industry concerns, and are not in fact the very people struggling to keep their homes that this legislation would help.

More, including Tauscher staffers lying to bloggers, on the flip…

When Chris Bowers used Tauscher as the face of the moderate backlash against working people facing foreclosure, her office responded by saying they supported the rule on the bill (HR 1106), and that their changes would “strengthen” the bill, and that they didn’t meet with anyone in the financial services industry about it.  But David Waldman explains why that, simply put, is a crock – she voted for the rule because it incorporated the changes she wanted to make.  And if that was the only hurdle, why didn’t the legislation get a vote last week?

Now, that amendment was approved by the Rules Committee last Wednesday night, the 25th of February, and the rule was adopted on Thursday morning, the 26th. That locked in place that the voting on the bill would include a vote on an amendment incorporating Tauscher’s list of changes.

So why, if she supports the bill, would work on it be suspended on the afternoon of Thursday, the 26th? She “supports the bill,” and voted for the rule that locked in a shot at making the changes she proposed to the Judiciary Committee, and yet here we are, waiting over the weekend for… what, exactly?

Ellen Tauscher supported the rule because it made an amendment in order that would incorporate her list of demands. That’s all. But she must clearly want more changes, because even after winning these concessions, the bill is still stalled, and the news reports on the stall have Tauscher’s name all over them.

Jane Hamsher has a lot more on Tauscher, who is clearly putting banking industry interests ahead of her constituents’.  She doesn’t have to necessarily talk to anyone in the financial services industry personally, because Adam Pase, the chairman of the New Dmocrats, works out of her office:

Pase is is a former lobbyist for the Twenty First Century Group, whose client, the Coalition for Fair & Affordable Lending, is an astroturf group, financed by the banking industry, that lobbied on behalf of. . . you guessed it. . . sub-prime lenders. Contrary to what you might hear on Morning Joe, it was national civil rights leaders who joined together to fight the Coalition’s predatory lenders as they tried to pass the Ney-Kanjorski bill, which would have enabled banks to get around predatory lending laws and make more bad loans. This they justified based on the oh-so-high-minded need to provide loans to low income and minority borrowers. It was true scumbaggery.

Pase was also the senior policy adviser for Dennis Moore when Moore organized Blue Dogs to oppose mortgage write-downs on behalf of the banking industry in 2007, and he is evidently the one driving policy on this one for the New Dems. But one has to wonder — what is Tauscher thinking? Her district is one of the hardest hit by the mortgage crisis, as you can see from the map. Why is she trying to limit mortgage write-downs to subprime loans only, on behalf of banks, when every foreclosure brings down the value of all houses in a neighborhood? Her claim to care so very much about people still struggling to pay their mortgages rings hollow.

Shaun Donovan, the HUD Secretary, is headed to the House today to whip support for the bill.  This legislation would save perhaps 800,000 families from foreclosure without one penny of cost to the taxpayer.  All the bill would do is give leverage to homeowners who have been screwed by their lenders at practically every step of this process.

Homeowners burned by Blue Dogs and New Dems like Tauscher are not likely to forget the treachery.  Firedoglake has some action items.

We’re asking you to do two things:

Write a letter to the editor of your local papers (just enter your zip code) saying you expect your Member of Congress to represent you, not the banks, and you’ll be watching to see if they oppose Tauscher and her bank lobbyist cronies.

Sign a petition to Nancy Pelosi telling her not to “buckle” to pressure from bank lobbyists working through greedy corporatist Members of Congress, and to act swiftly to give judges the authority they need to write down mortgages.  The banks must take responsibility for their own bad judgment; taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to pick up the tab.

These same people killed efforts in 2007 to allow bankruptcy judges to write down mortgages at that time, which could have helped us from ever getting to this place.  It’s time they stop pretending that they care about their constituents when they’re only being tools of the banking lobby.

I think it’s more about telling Pelosi we’ll have her back if she stands up to these cretins.  You know what to do.