Tag Archives: Gloria Romero

A Day at the Lincoln Club: My Lunch With the Group Behind Citizens United and Prop. 32

This is an article written by Matt Fleischer for Frying Pan News. Check Frying Pan News for regular in-depth coverage of Prop 32, its funders, and how it will impact working Californians.

“We’re Up to $60 Million”

It’s an unreasonably warm October day, and I’m milling about awkwardly with a handful of suits at a mixer in a small banquet hall at Newport Beach’s Pacific Club-which, according to its website, is the gathering place of choice for the “distinctive life-style of Orange County’s business and professional leaders.”

An incredible thirst suddenly overwhelms me, as I look down and see I’ve practically sweated through my cheap suit. I try my best to keep control of my decorum, but when a busser passes by with a lone Arnold Palmer on his tray, I snatch it greedily from the outstretched hands of another guest and suck the saccharine concoction down in one gulp.

The hot weather may be playing a small role in my odd behavior, but my discomfort is mainly due to the fact this is no ordinary mixer. I’ve successfully infiltrated one of the most powerful and secretive Republican organizations in the country: The Lincoln Club of Orange County. Back in September, I discovered a chink in its otherwise iron-clad armor with this note on the group’s website:

This election year is the most pivotal in recent memory. Will we continue on the path toward expanding government or will we change course and choose liberty? In California, will we stand by while special interests bankrupt our state or will we finally return Sacramento to the voters?

Whether it’s supporting conservative candidates and issues locally or at the national level, Lincoln Club membership gives you an opportunity to put your beliefs into action and to stay informed about crucial happenings in local, statewide, and national politics.

Learn more about how you can make a difference this election year.

Join us! Members are encouraged to attend with their prospective member guests.

The organizational brains and bucks behind Citizens United and Proposition 32 was looking for new members. Who was I to say no?

Easier said than done.

The club only has a few hundred members-none of whom, certainly, would be willing to drag a strange journalist to an event unless the writer were on the Koch brothers’ payroll.

So I RSVP’d independently, hoping that anyone coherent enough to string together a few sentences would be welcome. The contemporary Republican Party isn’t exactly loaded with William F. Buckley-types. If James O’Keefe can occupy an elite niche in the GOP pantheon, surely I could squeeze my way in.

And here I am, in the teeth of the Conservative movement, surrounded by power suits and blonde bouffants, trying to be the best Republican I can be. In preparation, I shaved my sideburns up above my ears, and slicked my hair to the side-a Chappelle’s Show parody of a white guy. I must look the part, as I spy the blondest, most-intimidating bouffant of them all making its way toward me. It belongs to Teresa Hernandez, a onetime Republican congressional candidate who tried to take Hilda Solis’ seat after Obama appointed her Secretary of Labor. Almost as soon as I sign myself in, Hernandez introduces herself.

“Hi, I’m Teresa. I’m a member.” She lets that settle in. “So… ‘Allen,'” she says, staring skeptically at my pseudonymous name tag. “Where are you from?”

“Glendale,” I tell her, which is true, even though it’s an hour’s drive north in L.A. County – which has its own Lincoln Club.

“Glendale, huh? That must have been quite a . . . schlep.”

I breathe a sigh of relief. She doesn’t suspect me of being a journalist. I must have merely set off her Jewdar.

“Oy,” I say, laying it on thick, “a schlep indeed. No traffic, thank heavens.”

“So what brings you all the way down here, Allen?”

“Well,” I tell Hernandez, “if you want to become active in the conservative movement in California, this is the place.

The Lincoln Club of Orange County is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.”

This too, is true. Since the days of Richard Nixon, the Lincoln Club has been the Matrix-like ideological birthing chamber of California Republicanism, whose grandees and arbiters once guided Ronald Reagan, Pete Wilson, George Deukmejian and Arnold Schwarzenegger when their political careers were in their larval stages. That same Lincoln Club gave us the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court victory-which paved the way for Super PACs and unlimited, anonymous corporate donations-and, over the past year, had been instrumental in pushing Proposition 32 onto the California ballot. (The measure would permanently gut the clout of California’s unions by prohibiting automatic payroll deductions from being used for political purposes.)

“Well…that’s good,” Hernandez replies, suddenly uninterested and looking for an exit strategy. I wasn’t ready to let her go.

“So, how are the Prop. 32 efforts looking?” I ask, opening my eyes as wide as possible in my best simulacrum of Republican excitement. “Does it still have a shot?”

Her face immediately brightens: “We’re up to $60 million. We’re outspending them now! I think we’re going to do it.”

With that, more attendees filter in and Hernandez excuses herself to greet them. Many, quite honestly, seem like wealthy retirees with little else to do, although there are some GOP farm league players too, including Garden Grove city council candidate Phat Bui.

But make no mistake: The Lincoln Club is the real deal. And if they have their way, Citizens United is just the beginning of their political ambitions for the country.

Kingmaker of Southland Republicans

When Richard Nixon famously declared, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” after losing the 1962 California Governor’s race to Pat Brown, he may also have been predicting the future of his state’s Republican Party. The social revolution of the ’60s would eventually render the party a shrinking minority in an increasingly liberal state. But a group of Orange County businessmen, spurred on by Nixon’s defeat, vowed to never let a champion of conservative values suffer such an embarrassing defeat in California again. Lead by Walter Knott, the founder of Knott’s Berry Farm, and Si Fluor of the Fluor Corporation, they formed the Lincoln Club of Orange County to advocate for the interests of the business community-and the club has been playing kingmaker of Southland Republicans with grand ambitions ever since.

In 1978, the Lincoln Club helped launch the landmark California anti-tax initiative Proposition 13-which capped property taxes at an absurdly low rate and demanded all future tax raises in the state be approved by the legislature by a two-thirds margin. The initiative portended the anti-tax revolution that hangs over the country to this day.

Through the 1990s and early aughts, the Lincoln Club made several attempts to pass “paycheck protection” measures in California-which would have banned unions from taking automatic dues from members. These failed miserably, as voters were sophisticated enough to realize they spelled the political death of California’s 2.5 million union members

In 2007, with union power still too strong for any massive statewide overhauls, the Lincoln Club set their sites on the national election fray, by providing seed money for Hillary: The Movie-an anti-Hillary Clinton political documentary/screed they hoped would ultimately lead to a John McCain presidential victory in 2008. They were even given an executive producer credit on the film.

Hillary was scheduled to air on cable TV in the run-up to the election-but never did, after the Federal Election Commission declared it to be political propaganda and blocked it from being advertised or paid to be shown on television 30 days before the 2008 Democratic primary. The group that produced the film, Citizens United, sued and won its case before the Supreme Court-paving the way for Super PACs and unlimited, anonymous corporate donations to the political process. Where the money came from to support such a massive legal endeavor remains largely unknown, but many suspect the Lincoln Club dug fairly deep into its members’ pockets for the cause.

This year, the Lincoln Club was instrumental in qualifying and pushing onto the California ballot Proposition 32, which proposes limiting “special interest” political donations to elections by eliminating mandatory union and corporate payroll deductions from being used for political purposes – although there don’t seem to be many, if any, state businesses that politically tithe their employees.

Yes, the group that opened the floodgates for unlimited corporate donations to political campaigns, now purports to be interested in “stopping special interest” money from entering politics. Even more cynically, they’ve done so by appropriating Occupy Wall Street-inspired anti-corporate messaging into the political campaign. If passed, the law will likely be used as a model to quash unions in other states.

“A Small Group of People With Just a Little Bit of Money”

Back at the club, the banquet room has slowly filled, and 20 or so attendees sit at three small tables to feast on fried-chicken salad. A skeleton crew of stealthy Latino bussers ferries Arnold Palmers to the tables-one of which revolves around Teresa Hernandez, the other around Lincoln Club chairman and RKW Development president Richard Wagner. Then there’s the third, which revolves around, well, me I guess. It’s nearly empty, as the two other people sitting with me are together and largely engaged in their own conversation.

I’m clearly the reject of the room.

My fortunes, however, change instantly when Lincoln Club president Richard Loewen arrives, sits directly next to me, and begins attacking his fried chicken.

“Sorry I’m late everyone,” he announces to the room after a few bites. “Why don’t we go around and introduce ourselves?”

My palms are so sweaty that by the time my turn comes around I can barely hold on to my silverware.

“Hi, uh, I’m Allen Fleischer. I’m here because I have these, uh…conservative principles buried…uh…deep inside me. And I want to…let them out…”

This is going badly. I need to channel my inner Sean Hannity.

“Liberty and freedom are obviously under assault in America, and they won’t fight for themselves. Myself and other conservatives like to rant about the state of America’s political affairs in casual conversation or to our televisions, but we don’t do anything about it. So I’m here to get involved. And I can’t think of a better place to do that than the Lincoln Club of Orange County…”

Holy shit, that was smooth. Time for the big finish.

“The Lincoln Club is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.”


Like Loewen, most of the guests are buried in their chicken, though I can’t help but notice the approving nods of several cougars. (Still got it!)

After introductions, a brief history video of the club is shown. The topic of Citizens United gets a particularly lengthy discussion.

Richard Wagner, who was club president during the initiative, gets off a good line: “We backed Citizens United to bring down Hillary Clinton, which we did…and we got Barack Obama instead.”

Remorseless laughter fills the room. There’s a very obvious understanding that the sweep of Citizens United goes well beyond Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

After the video, Loewen takes the stage to talk up the current pride of the organization: Proposition 32.

“This measure is really a game-changer,” he says, smiling. “Over the past 20 years, we here at the Lincoln Club have tried getting paycheck protection passed in California three different times with no luck. The measures have just gotten killed by the public unions. Whenever the unions put their full support behind something, no one can beat them.

“But a couple of years ago, we figured, hey, let’s give it another shot. People said we were crazy. And they were probably right. But we started off slow, just to see what would happen. So we gave [conservative journalist] Steve Greenhut $75,000 to write his book Plunder, about how public employee unions are bankrupting the state. It did pretty well.

“Okay, we thought. How about qualifying this thing for the 2012 ballot? Once again, people said we were crazy. But the Tea Party suddenly became interested. With absolutely zero money, they got about 30,000 signatures. A long way off, but we figured it showed some serious interest. Our testing showed the key [to success], unlike our last paycheck protection measures, was including corporations in the measure.

“So we put a little money behind it-about $100,000-and, what do you know, we qualified for the ballot. The unions went ballistic. At first, we were getting killed on spending. But then, out of the blue a massive $4 million donation showed up and the money has been rolling in ever since. People are calling Prop. 32 the second most important vote in the country in this election cycle, after the president.

“So there you have it. A small group of people, with just a little bit of money and the right connections, can have a huge impact.”

We’re Not Racist

After Loewen’s ode to 32, Hernandez stands up to discuss the club’s next big political endeavor-luring Latino voters to the Republican cause.

“Latinos are 39 percent of the population in California and growing,” she says. “And they almost all vote Democrat. We’re never going to win unless we reach this demographic.”

Of course, with state Republicans historically allied with groups like the Minutemen and 1994’s Proposition 187-which, among other things, sought to prevent undocumented immigrants from having access to health care in California-it’s little wonder Latinos are skeptical.

“Even though they agree with us on many social issues, when Latinos think about the Republican Party, they’re thinking about us deporting their grandma or their cousin,” says Hernandez. “When Democrats call us racist-which we’re not-we have no response, no plan we can point to that Latinos can rally behind.”

That is where the Lincoln Club stands poised to jump in with a three-point plan: Securing the border, workplace enforcement and a guest worker program. Of course, Hernandez’s guest worker program doesn’t include a path to citizenship. It’s simply about using immigrants to drive labor prices down and then sending them on their way back home. Unions too, will reject the idea of guest workers, and fight against the plan at all cost. However, should Prop. 32 pass and cripple its ability to fund-raise for political purposes, there will be little labor can do.

Gloria Romero: “Isn’t She Great!”

With the event ending, I flag down Loewen.

“Mr. Loewen, I have to ask: How did you get a liberal like Gloria Romero to front for Prop. 32? That was really a stroke of genius.”

Indeed, nothing in this election season has been more surprising than the decision of Romero, an East L.A. Latina progressive and former California State Senate Democratic majority leader, to join with the Lincoln Club on 32. Romero won a hotly contested run for the California Assembly in 1998, largely by fighting the Lincoln Club on Prop. 32′s progenitor, Proposition 226-the first ‘paycheck protection’ initiative. Now, suddenly, not only is she in favor of 32, she’s become its primary spokesperson.

“Isn’t she great!” Loewen tells me. “We don’t even have to coordinate with her. She just goes for it.”


“She and Teresa are friends. Teresa and her husband own a restaurant in El Monte and a lot of political players tend to eat there-including Democrats. We approached her about 32 way back-maybe a year and a half ago. She told us she’d think about it. We didn’t hear from her for a while. Then, six months ago, she finally called Teresa and said ‘I’m in.’ She’s been 100 percent committed ever since

“We tried to get Common Cause to jump on board too. Their president, Bob Edgar, was actually for it. He’s a friend of mine. But the board ultimately came out against it.”

With that, Loewen flashes me a toothy “oh well” smile, and excuses himself to head outside into the endless Orange County summer.

“You Get a Lot of Wackos on Our Side”

Loewen’s response was typical of the mood at the meeting-a warm, good-humored affair, not tainted by the shrill chest-thumping of Fox News or the life-or-death rhetoric of the Tea Party. Most of those present were absolutely delighted just to be able to speak about these issues strategically, without getting ridiculed by their liberal Southern California colleagues, or having the conversation descend into uneducated birtherism.

“You get a lot of wackos on our side,” one prospective member admitted to me.

That said, of course they’re all good-humored. They’re rich, they’re powerful and they’re pretty much all white.

Their only stake in the larger political battle is holding on to a few extra tax dollars. But the fact is that being rich, white and sophisticated just isn’t enough to stay in control in the 21st Century. With America’s changing demographics, you need to be mercenary. So you plug away, peeling off your opponents’ key allies and hoping voters are foolish enough to vote for your Trojan Horse measures, or apathetic enough to ignore them.

If you lose, there’s no real worry. You finish your chicken salad with a smile, and go home to your wealthy suburban home to fight another day. Two weeks after the election, the Lincoln Club has a sleepover field trip planned at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, where they’ll peruse the new and bizarrely random “Treasures of Walt Disney” exhibit before enjoying a power dinner with Wisconsin’s union-busting Governor Scott Walker.

“Yes on 32, Huh?”

As I head to my car with a fistful of Prop. 32 bumper stickers, I catch one of the parking attendants, an elderly Asian man, dismissively eyeing my political propaganda. I turn to face him, expecting he’ll look away, but he doesn’t.

“Yes on 32, huh?” he asks.

“Oh, you betcha,” I say, channeling my whitest, inner white guy. “We’re going to take the state back from those special interests.”

He pauses for a moment, scanning me up and down. “I’ll be voting no,” he finally says, before walking away.

“What’ll it take to change your mind?” I shout after him.

He doesn’t even turn around.

I smile, hop in my car, and drive as fast as I can back to Los Angeles.

How Gloria Romero Became the Face of Proposition 32

This is an article written by Matthew Fleischer for Frying Pan News. Check Frying Pan News for regular in-depth coverage of Prop 32, its funders, and how it will impact working Californians.

“Money is the mother’s milk of politics,” Gloria Romero tells me on the phone. “It’s flowing to both sides. Government isn’t about drawing lines. It’s not about saying you’re on that side and you can’t come over.”

Her voice is friendly, somewhat placid, but it’s clear Romero is not thrilled with having to answer questions about her political alliance with the Koch brothers and other wealthy supporters of Proposition 32, and she conspicuously avoids bringing up their names. When pressed about the Kochs and the money behind behind Prop. 32, falls back upon her experience in Sacramento.

“I have sat in the belly of the beast,” she says. “I have seen the realities of money and its influence.”

With Election Day still one month away, the battle to pass Prop. 32 has seen its share of political shockers, including the sudden injection of $4 million of Koch brother money to the Yes on 32 campaign, along with millions more from Charles Munger Jr. But nothing has been more surprising than the decision of Romero, a former California State Senate Democratic majority leader, to serve as the measure’s frontwoman.

A liberal Latina firebrand from East Los Angeles, Romero was Occupy Wall Street before that movement existed. In 1990, as a member of the Latino Community Justice Center and a professor at Cal State Los Angeles, she co-authored an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times in support of striking Century City janitors who had been beaten by police. She used the cred acquired from that op-ed and several others to win a hotly contested run for the California Assembly in 1998, largely by decrying Prop. 32′s progenitor, Proposition 226-the first ‘paycheck protection’ initiative.

In 2001, she was elected to the State Senate – largely with the grateful backing of labor. In 2007 she received a 97 percent rating by Capitol Weekly for her positions on progressive issues. Now she’s seen as carrying water for the Kochs and anti-gay culture warriors like Howard Ahmanson and Larry T. Smith. Romero, however, casts Prop. 32 in terms of uplifting historical pageantry.

“We’re saying as Democrats we want to form a more perfect union,” she says. “It’s a civil rights movement and our schools are the ticket out of poverty.”

Despite her rightward ideological swing, Romero isn’t backing the entire Koch agenda. Instead, she’s become Prop. 32’s human face on behalf of the seemingly progressive political action committee (PAC) Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), where she serves as director of the organization’s California operation. An examination of DFER’s backers, however, shows that right-wing billionaires aren’t her only Prop. 32 bedfellows.

New York University Research Professor of Education Diane Ravitch, who has followed the lobbying efforts of DFER since its inception in 2005, is blunt about Romero: “She’s working for Wall Street hedge fund managers. That’s where her interest lies.”

Indeed, DFER is the brainchild of Whitney Tilson, founder of the hedge-fund firm T2 Partners – an LLC that, like other hedge fund contributors to DFER, is conveniently exempted from Prop. 32′s proposed donation restrictions. In a 2010 New York Times interview about charter schools, Tilson suggested that privatized education was a potentially lucrative investment target for Wall Street.

“[H]edge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital,” he said of his interest in the charter school movement.

And, in a 2010 documentary, A Right Denied, Tilson suggested that DFER was created because of Walmart patriarch John Walton’s support of vouchers and “school choice.”

In the film, Tilson recalled a meeting he had with Walton at the Harvard Club:

“We told John Walton, ‘Thank you, you’ve inspired us to do this and we’re going to create an organization with quite a similar mission to what you’re doing…You’re our friend. We’re doing something you would support, but we can’t take a penny of your money.’ Because the moment we take any Walmart money – that’s ‘anti-union,’ etcetera, etcetera – then it becomes a partisan issue again.”

Democrats for Education Reform takes pains to avoid such overt financial ties to right-wing backers like Walton. Tracing its finances isn’t easy, though. According to Form 410 documents that DFER filed with the Secretary of State’s office, it qualified as a political action committee in the state of California on November 21, 2011-meaning it had either raised or spent $1,000 for political purposes.

According to California Fair Political Practices Commission spokesperson Tara Stock, when a committee “qualifies,” it is supposed to file Form 460 finance disclosure documents.

“Once a committee hits $25,000 they are required to file electronically,” she explains. “Before that, they file on paper. From what it looks like, I don’t see that they have done either.”

Despite qualifying as a committee, DFER missed two necessary deadlines to file their 460 financial forms on January 31 and July 31 of this year. This lack of disclosure makes it impossible to tell where its money is coming from and where it’s going in the state.

Romero insists DFER’s activity in California is above board: “We’ve made no contributions in California at this time. We are not actively fundraising. We don’t even have an open bank account. The bulk of our work in California is done under our non-profit Education Reform Now.”

Interestingly, Despite Tilson’s protestations to the contrary, Education Reform Now has no problem accepting Walmart cash. In 2011, the non-profit lobbying wing of DFER received $1.1 million from the Walton Family Foundation.

That same year, Education Reform Now spent more than $36,000 on lobbying expenses to eliminate teacher protections in California and make it easier to privatize schools. In the organization’s filings, Romero is listed as the “responsible officer” behind these activities. Furthermore, that same year, she was given a warning by the FPPC for personally lobbying for these same measures extra-legally.

More recently, Education Reform Now spent $1 million on ad buys pushing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s talking points in September’s Chicago teachers’ strike.

Romero denies that her support for Prop. 32 is a move to foist a privatization agenda upon California’s schools.

“Do Democrats for Education Reform and myself support charters? Absolutely. Do I think 32 will help put more charters into place? No.”

However, as it turns out, this wouldn’t be the first time Romero has fronted for a conservative agenda in the state of California. Romero authored California’s 2008 “Parent Trigger” law, which allows parents in low-performance schools to vote on whether to hand over their administration to a private charter company.

“I call it the ‘parent tricker,” says Ravitch. “It tricks parents into handing control of their school to a corporation. It’s the equivalent of a group of people on a public bus who are unsatisfied with their ride, so they take it over and give it to a private company. Public schools belong to the community, not to the current crop of parents.”

Ravitch credits the Parent Trigger concept as originating from the neoconservative think tank American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), noting the issue has become part of ALEC’s “model legislation” that the group is lobbying for in multiple states.

Romero disputes the ALEC connection.

“When I wrote this law,” she says, “I didn’t know who ALEC was, quite frankly. Whoever picks it up and supports it, I respect that. The U.S. Conference of Democratic Mayors also supports the law.”

Ravitch says Prop. 32 shares much in common with the Parent Trigger. “I would see Prop. 32 in the context of the privatization movement. They want to kill off the unions because they are the guardians of public education.”

Romero did not win labor backing for her unsuccessful 2010 run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, but did garner support from charter school advocates. Some political observers believe her embrace of Prop. 32 is payback for the endorsement snub, although Romero denies being anti-union.  And despite blistering criticism of Prop. 32’s corporate loopholes and anti-union agenda from the editorial boards of California’s papers of record, she maintains that the measure is purely about campaign finance reform.

“I was against previous paycheck protection measures in California because it only targeted one side. Now that it goes after both sides, I feel comfortable putting my name behind it. This will change the culture of Sacramento.”

That seems unlikely. Even Prop. 32′s supporters argue the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling makes it impossible to remove money from politics. What Prop. 32 will fundamentally alter is the balance of power in Sacramento.

One thing that will undoubtedly change, regardless of the outcome of the election, is Romero’s reputation as a stalwart progressive.

1st Half Money Race: State Superintendent of Public Instruction

It’s not the most high profile race, but it does have some interesting candidates.  Gloria Romero is a state Senator, representing portions of East LA and the San Gabriel Valley. Tom Torlakson, is a long-time Bay Area politician. And then we have a political neophyte with an interesting background in education, Larry Aceves.  I’ve not heard about any Republicans jumping into this race, but it’s technically non-partisan. All candidates are in one heat in the June 2010 primary, with the top two going on to the November general if nobody exceeds 50%.

As of right now, Asm. Torlakson has a cash lead, but Sen. Romero is right behind and Mr. Aceves has done a respectable job raising money to be considered a strong candidate.

Check it out over the flip.

Larry Aceves

Let’s start with the newbie. Aceves is a long-time educator, in jobs ranging from teacher all the way up to superintendent. He’s made talking to stakeholders a priority of his campaign. But judging from the fundraising numbers, he’s not ignored that portion.  And this seems to be a grassroots effort, as most of his contributions have been on the small side, and many of them have been from educators. If he keeps up this level of fundraising, it would not be all that surprising to see him sneak into the run-off in November while the electeds focus on each other.

Contributions: $207,854.51

Cash On Hand: $144,799.22

Gloria Romero

Romero is a long-standing elected official, rising from a Community College Trustee to state senator.  She’s been known for advocating for some tough policies, such as sentencing reform. Recently, she’s turned much of her legislative focus to the educational realm, and has some significant accomplishments in that area. But, while she did avoid some of the worst budget votes, she did vote for much of the package.

Contributions: $134,566.15

Cash on Hand: $187,395.34

Tom Torlakson

Torlakson has also been in every position in politics from the East Bay. He was a Supervisor a ways back, and then moved up to the state level. He served in the Assembly for four years, the Senate for 8, and now is in his last term in the Assembly.  He’s focused a lot of his legislative efforts on education, and has been pretty productive in local governance issues.  On the other hand, he was a pretty solid vote on the budget. That may come to haunt him later.

Much of his contributions, over $356,000, come from a transfer from his assembly account. So this number should be taken with a grain of salt. His actual contributions this period were about $190,000.  Even with his cash advantage, nobody is really running away with this race because of money. Considering Torlakson’s burn rate so far, it’s still questionable how long he will have a cash lead.

Contributions: $545,807.00

Cash on hand: $349,283.80

CA-32: Two Weeks Out

The League of Women Voters sponsored a forum in Baldwin Park last night for candidates in the May 19 special election to replace Hilda Solis in the Congress.  The two front-runners in the race, Gil Cedillo and Judy Chu, emphasized their strengths.

Cedillo said he has had about 80 of his bills signed into law and said he has worked with the governor to save 25,000 jobs. Chu told the audience that she was proud to have the endorsement “of everybody in the family” of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who held the congressional seat until her cabinet appointment this year.

At the forum at Baldwin Park’s Julia McNeill Senior Center, many of the candidates agreed on some issues, including the need for immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship, eliminating tax loopholes for corporations using offshore accounts to shelter income and the need to reform education, especially regarding the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Calitician and Judy Chu netroots advisor Todd Beeton has more at his Twitter feed.

With two weeks to go, the signals I’m getting suggest that Gil Cedillo is nervous.  The massive unforced error of those negative Emanuel Pleitez mailers makes me believe that Cedillo fears Pleitez is capturing a good bit of the Hispanic vote.  The earlier negative mailers on Judy Chu showed a similar lack of substance (attacking someone for returning tax refunds OWED?).  Negative mailers don’t inspire turnout, they suppress it.  And the May 19 election will already feature low turnout.  Which magnifies the importance of GOTV, and with the Democratic Party and key labor groups having endorsed Chu, I would probably be throwing the kitchen sink at everybody in the race myself if I were Cedillo.

What I’d prefer to hear about, instead of who endorsed whom and such and such negative attack, are concerns of the local area.  El Monte is crashing.  The city made 60% of its tax revenue off of the auto dealerships that lined the city, and with the demise of the auto industry throwing auto sales off the cliff, revenue has shrunk.  Many cities with clusters of dealerships will soon face the same problem.  What can be done at the federal level to diversify the local economy, and shouldn’t the efforts to revive the economy in auto manufacturing states like Michigan extend to cities with a proliferation of car lots like El Monte?  If anyone from the campaigns is reading, maybe we can get an answer to that.

CA-32: Local Ethnic Political Fault Lines Revealed

(A tangled web being woven in CA-32, with discrete sets of competing interests. – promoted by David Dayen)

A little bird told me that Labor Secretary-designee U.S. Representative Hilda Solis would love to endorse Judy Chu to replace her in Congress representing the 32nd District but the Obama Administration has told her that Cabinet secretaries can not get involved in the political fight to replace them. State Senator Gil Cedillo is the only other declared candidate in the potential special election, after Gloria Romero dropped out of the race, endorsing Cedillo, and announced her intention to run for State Superintendent of Education in 2010. Romero also later endorsed Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia for her 24th District State Senate seat.

Capitol Weekly has an article in the Thursday January 22 edition on Solis’ confirmation process that also mentions some intriguing details on the intricate positioning that other politicians are doing to fill in the holes in the Southern California political power structure as one of their own is elevated in Washington.

More beneath the fold…

On Thursday morning, both the Service Employees International Union and and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor endorsed Chu.

There have been tensions between Romero and Maria-Elena Durazo, head of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. But Capitol sources say Romero decided to focus on the superintendent’s race after consulting with former Sen. Richard Polanco, among others.

The potential Congressional showdown has also divided the Capitol’s Latino Caucus, of which Cedillo is chair. Cedillo has tangled with Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, and has even threatened to challenge Perez for his Assembly seat in 2010.

Perez is the cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Villaraigosa is said to be leaning toward endorsing Chu, though his office did not return calls seeking comment.

Cedillo and Villlaraigosa were once close political allies, with Villariagosa using his clout to help Cedillo’s election to the Assembly in a 1997 pecial election. But tensions between the two childhood friends quickly grew, and eventually boiled over after Villaraigosa’s failed race for Los Angeles mayor in 2001. Villaraigosa threatened to run against Cedillo for Senate after his 2001 defeat, and the rift has never healed between the two. Cedillo stuck with Hahn when Villarigosa eventually defeated Hahn in 2005.


If Chu is to win the seat, she will have to earn some Latino support. The 32nd Congressional District is about 62 percent Latino. Asians make up about 20 percent of the district population. Latinos make up about half of the district’s voter registration. Asians comprise about 13 percent of registered voters.


Chu has already secured the endorsement of Assemblyman Ed Hernandez, D-El Monte, who has his eyes on Romero’s senate seat in 2010. Chu and her husband, Assemblyman Mike Eng, D-Los Angeles, — two of Hernandez’s top potential rivals — are said to be backing Hernandez for the Senate seat.


Romero’s exit from the congressional race sets up a 2010 showdown between Romero and Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, for state superintendent. The current superintendent, Jack O’Connell is being pushed out by term limits, and has announced his intention to run for governor in 2010.

Got all that? On one side you have John Perez, Antonio Villaraigosa, Ed Hernandez and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor with Chu versus Romero and Polanco with Cedillo in a 62% Latino district. I presume L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina (who previously rejected a run for the seat herself) will be on the side of Romero/Polanco/Cedillo, but only time will tell.

SD-24: Romero Endorses Monica Garcia As Her Successor

 Some news was made at the 45th Assembly District elections on Sunday January 11th where MadProfessah was elected to the California Democratic State Central Committee. State Senator Gloria Romero who last week announced that she would not run for Hilda Solis’ soon-to-be-vacant seat in the 31st Congressional district was present at Arco Iris  Restaurant in Highland Park and while there she endorsed current LA Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia as her immediate successor to the 24th State Senate district. This must have been something of a surprise to Assemblymember Kevin De León, whose chief of staff was in the room and running the DSCC elections. De León is termed out in 2012, but surely he was hoping to be promoted to the upper chamber and would have considered running for the 24th District seat in 2010.

Since I live in both AD-45 and SD-24 as well as Garcia’s Los Angeles school district (#2) I will be keeping close tabs on this race.

Monica Garcia has a lesbian sister and was very outspoken in her opposition to Proposition 8. I know that she is very close to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and has been seen as his strongest surrogate on the school board. De León is also a favorite of the Mayor’s, and is often described as “the BFF” of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.

CA-32: Field Cleared (Mostly) for Chu-Cedillo Matchup

I have to admit that this is kind of unexpected.  Not only did State Sen. Gil Cedillo announce his intention to run for Congress in the seat soon to be vacated by incoming Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, but Gloria Romero, who was widely expected to run for the seat, abruptly decided to bow out, endorsing Cedillo and announcing her intention to run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction instead.

Here’s a bit from Romero’s statement:

I have evaluated the wonderful opportunities before me and have chosen to listen to my heart.

My passion is education.  I understand that education is the civil rights issue of our time — the great equalizer in America .  My commitment — particularly now as the Chair of both  the powerful Senate Education Committee and Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Education — is to lead the Senate’s effort  to transform and hold accountable our state’s public education system.

It is for this reason that I have chosen to decline to run for Congress and to pursue my dream of becoming California ‘s next Superintendent of Public Instruction […]

I endorse Senator Cedillo and look forward to working with him to continue the “change we can believe in” both in California and Washington in these troubling times.

And here’s a bit from Cedillo’s:

State senator Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) today confirmed his intention to run for the 32nd congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Hilda Solis, the Obama administration choice for Secretary of Labor.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Latinos and the working people of East Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley. Hilda Solis has been a strong leader on labor and economic issues for the 32nd District. As a candidate I seek to continue that focus, creating a competitive workforce, securing access to affordable healthcare and investment into public safety and transportation,” shared Cedillo.

This changes the calculus of this race a bit.  Gloria Romero represented most of this district in the State Senate.  Gil Cedillo actually does not.  In fact, Judy Chu has represented maybe more of this area than Cedillo has.  Chu has already grabbed the endorsements of local Assemblymen Kevin DeLeon and Ed Hernandez.  And if more Hispanics join the field, that could certainly chip away at Cedillo’s support among low-information voters.  One of the Calderon brothers may still jump in.  And Dante noted last week that Emanuel Pleitez may run.

This kind of makes this astroturf piece by Paul Hefner, playing down expectations that Chu could win in a divided race and playing up Romero’s chances while disclosing midway through that he WORKS for Romero, look ridiculous in retrospect.  (What’s even funnier is the dueling astroturf comment in that piece from Judy Chu’s former chief of staff.)

I would be careful with assuming that ethnic support is monolithic.  The last special election we saw with an ethnic divide, in CA-37, was decided more because of strong labor support for Laura Richardson than identity politics, though it never stopped Richardson from trying to frame the entire race that way.  Chu absolutely can garner support in Latino areas, as much as Cedillo can in Monterey Park.  Labor’s endorsement is going to mean a lot.

On the merits, I would say that Cedillo would certainly be a strong progressive with a particular interest in immigration policy, and Chu has a good background through the Board of Equalization on taxes and economics.  Hopefully we’ll have both of them on Calitics in the near future to discuss their candidacies.

(P.S. This HuffPo article about the new Progressive Change Campaign Committee suggests that they might play in CA-32.  That ship has pretty much sailed, though if they got on board with Sen. Cedillo it may make some sense.

CA-32: Judy Chu Enters The Race

Last night at a holiday party for the West Los Angeles Democratic Club, state Board of Equalization Chair Dr. Judy Chu announced her intention to run for the Congressional seat vacated by Hilda Solis, who will become the Secretary of Labor in the Obama Administration.  Before getting on the Board of Equalization, Chu served the 49th Assembly district, which is inside Solis’ Congressional district and includes the heavily Asian Monterey Park, as well as El Monte and Rosemead.  Her husband, Mike Eng, currently holds that seat (I guess that means Eng isn’t running).  Before that, Chu served on the Monterey Park City Council.

Chu and likely candidate Gloria Romero have faced each other before, in a primary for state Assembly in 1998.  Romero won, but when she moved up to the State Senate in 2001 (replacing Solis) Chu took over the Assembly seat.  I think the race may depend on who else is in the field.  If Gil Cedillo or one of the Calderon brothers decide to run, Chu may have an advantage as the only Asian candidate among a field of Latinos.  Also, a lot may depend on whether or not Solis endorses.  Union support will also be critical.

Chu was an professor for 13 years, and in the Assembly she sat on the Transportation Committee and the Health Committee.  Her ratings in the Assembly from the major interest groups were all top-rate.  It should be a spirited race, and I hope to hear Chu’s stands on key national issues.

CA-32: Who Will Replace Solis?

Let’s have a brief respite from the coming California apocalypse to try and figure out which politician will beat a fast retreat out of Sacramento and into DC to replace Hilda Solis in the Congress.  There are actually some good progressive possibilities here, which one would hope considering that Solis was such a progressive leader.  The CapAlert early line matched with my expectations.

Democratic state Sens. Gil Cedillo and Gloria Romero say they’re exploring running for the East Los Angeles County congressional seat that’s expected to be vacated by Rep. Hilda Solis, reportedly President-elect Barack Obama’s pick for labor secretary.

While Cedillo was expressing his interest Thursday to reporters on the floor of the Senate, Romero wandered by and said she was “definitely” looking at jumping into the race.

Told that in addition to Cedillo, the Calderon brothers — Assemblyman Charles and state Sen. Ron — could be contenders, Romero declared, “I can beat them all” — and walked off.

I like the confidence.

Both Cedillo or Romero would be great additions to the House.  I would give Romero the edge because it’s actually her district – Cedillo serves a contiguous district.  Romero would be a rare voice for prison reform in Washington, and while her advocacy proved fruitless in Sacramento, ultimately she will be proven right if we see mass releases in the next few months, and having her on the national stage would be very helpful to the prison reform movement.  For Cedillo it’s the same, only on immigration reform.  I would imagine that both of them would join the House Progressive Caucus.

As long as the Calderons stay out of this seat, I’d be happy.

Other contenders are the sitting Assemblymembers in the district, Ed Hernandez and Mike Eng, as well as state Board of Equalization chair Judy Chu, who in a twist is married to Mike Eng, which would make for an interesting primary.  I think Chu is good in her position but I can’t say I know much about her on other issues.

The last special Congressional election gave us Laura Richardson.  Hopefully we’ll do much better with this one.

UPDATE: As per below, Jackie Speier won the last special election for Congress in CA, actually.

(CA80thAD) Gloria Romero & Dolores Huerta Endorse Perez

California Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero and celebrated labor leader and civil rights champion Dolores Huerta endorse Manuel Perez, Candidate for the 80th Assembly District.

“I feel honored beyond words”, says Mr. Perez, “to have received this support from two of California’s most distinguished leaders.  Both Dolores Huerta and Senator Romero have worked hard for those who have been marginalized and underrepresented.  I will attempt the same.”

This is one of the few California state seats in play this year, and the demographics indicate it should be blue by now.  Manuel Perez is an organizer, a healthcare provider, and a powerful progressive voice for this region.  Good thing I listened to netroots nags and ran for state delegate, because now I’ll have the honor of endorsing him this Thursday at our Pre-Endorsement meeting, and caucusing for him at the State Convention.   For your people-powered politics fix, read more about Manuel Perez on the flip.

Crossposted at Daily Kos http://www.dailykos.com/storyo…

Coachella School Board Trustee Manuel Perez grew up in both Coachella and Calexico, graduated from public schools and then from UC Riverside before coming home to teach. He later earned a Masters of Education from Harvard, worked as an organizer and health researcher and now provides health care access to thousands of families as Director of Community Health and Advocacy for a Community Health Foundation.  He and his wife Gladys are raising their family in the same community where they grew up, teaching their sons the same values they learned from their parents. – from latest press release from Agxibel Barrajas



For those who’ve already read David Dayen’s excellent profile on Manuel Perez, you know that UFW is integral to Perez’s life story.  Manuel had a date to introduce Dolores Huerta to the folks at the 1st Annual Southern Region Promotor Conference a few weeks ago, but had to miss it when he returned to Harvard to accept a 2008 Harvard Graduate School of Education Alumni of Color Achievement Award.  Clearly she has forgiven him.  About that conference, one Perez has worked hard on for many months:

Hello everyone,

As you know, Promotores from the Imperial and Riverside Counties have been working diligently to organize the 1st Annual Southern Region Promotor Conference entitled, “The People’s Conference-Sharing, Teaching and Learning for Social Change and Well Being.”   It is scheduled for Saturday, February 23, 2008 at Desert Mirage High School.  There will be many great workshops offered and the keynote will be legendary UFW organizer Dolores Huerta.  This conference is strictly for Promotores and we expect approximately 200 from throughout our regions.  However, if you would like to participate in the conference by hosting an informational/educational booth please let us know asap.  Because of our target population, the conference will be entirely in Spanish, but there will be translation services in English.  Attached are the registration form, a map, and a list for housing accommodations in case you may need a place to stay.  The attachments are in Spanish, including the Registration form.  However, if you need some help with the form, please do not hesitate to contact Poder Popular at 760-398-5327.  We are very excited about the event and we look forward to building and organizing community health with you.

Thank You,

Manuel Perez, Ed. M.

Southern Region Promotor Task Force-Member at Large

Director of Community Health and Advocacy

Borrego Community Health Foundation-

Centro Medico Coachella, Oasis, Cathedral City

This region was recently a Republican stronghold, but thanks to Bush, the neocons, and the general failure of GOP policies, Democrats are coming on strong in this region.  We have a real chance to elect a powerful liberal in the 80th, one who can advocate for better schools, equal access to health care in the context of his own experience in the field, one who can advocate for gay rights in Spanish.  This is who we need representing a region from Palm Springs to Calexico.  We need Perez in Sacramento, and now Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero and UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta have joined John Conyers, Joe Cota, Esteban Torres, LIUNA Local 777, and host of others in support of his candidacy.  

More photos here