Tag Archives: lieutenant governor

California Race Chart 2010 (Part 1 of 3: Statewide Races)

Cross-posted at Swing State Project, Daily Kos, and Democracy for California.

Here I will cover the eight constitutional offices, three State Supreme Court justice confirmations, and nine ballot measures. In the second diary, I will cover the U.S. Senate race and the House races, and in the third the state legislature. I will also combine my regular registration updates within the diaries.

Speaking of registration updates, as you will see in the layout of the statewide registration numbers, Democrats are more pumped up here, adding almost half a million voters to their rolls since 2008. The Republicans in comparison added just 13,000 in the same amount of time. So if you are looking for a lethargic Democratic base, look elsewhere because you won’t find it here!

More info can be found at the 2010 Race Tracker.

Here is the most recent registration data: http://www.sos.ca.gov/election…

Here is the list of candidates that will appear on the ballot: http://www.sos.ca.gov/election…

Statewide Layout

Democrats: 7,531,986 (44.32%)

Republicans: 5,257,669 (30.94%)

Decline to State: 3,427,395 (20.17%)

Others: 776,025 (4.56%)

Key: I will list the incumbent first, in boldface (in the case of open seats, the incumbent party first without boldface), and all minor parties after the two major parties.

D: Democratic

R: Republican

L: Libertarian

G: Green

AI: American Independent

PF: Peace and Freedom

NP: Nonpartisan

SW: Socialist Workers

Race Ratings

Toss-up: Margin by less than 5%

Lean: Margin by 5-10%

Likely: Margin by 10-15%

Strong: Margin by 15-20%

Solid: Margin by more than 20%

Governor: Ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) vs. Attorney General Jerry Brown (D), Laura Wells (G), Dale Ogden (L), Chelene Nightingale (AI), Carlos Alvarez (PF), and Lea Sherman (SW-W/I)

Profile: I see no way Whitman can win. Running as an outsider when the current governor, who also ran as an outsider, is leaving office with 20% approval ratings, is a surefire losing strategy. And pissing voters off by running ads nonstop and spending nine-figure sums of money while they’re forced to cut back is not going to help at all. Brown is leading by example, running on a shoestring budget and calling for everyone to sacrifice, meaning no sacred cows. Polls may not yet show it, but in my opinion I think Whitman is finished. In fact, I’ll be very surprised if she even manages to make it a low-teen loss.

Outlook: Likely to Strong Brown (D pickup)

Lieutenant Governor: Interim Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado (R) vs. S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom (D), Jimi Castillo (G), Pamela Brown (L), Jim King (AI), and C.T. Weber (PF)

Profile: Here we have quasi-incumbent Abel Maldonado, appointed after John Garamendi went to Congress, running to be elected in his own right against Newsom. While Maldonado is moderate for a Republican (though that is not saying much), being closely associated with Arnold is going to be a huge liability, which I do not think he will overcome.

Outlook: Lean Newsom (D pickup)

Attorney General: S.F. DA Kamala Harris (D) vs. L.A. DA Steve Cooley (R), Peter Allen (G), Timothy Hannan (L), Dianne Beall Templin (AI), and Robert J. Evans (PF)

Profile: This is the only statewide race in California I am worried about, and where my theory (that California has just become too Democratic for even a moderate Republican to win barring unusual circumstances) will be put to the test. Cooley is not that bad for a Republican, having had the audacity to stand against popular opinion of issues such as three strikes and Jessica’s Law, though he is also against dispensaries for medical marijuana. Harris is a rising star in Democratic circles, and is a more formidable opponent than any of Cooley’s challengers in the past. The wild card is the big enchilada of L.A. County, where Harris’ name ID is low and she’d need to win by 18-20% to win statewide. I am of course pulling for Harris because I want our bench to stay nice and full for the inevitable retirements of DiFi probably in 2012, Boxer probably in 2016, and for the open governorship in 2014 or 2018; and also because she has courageously stood up to Prop 8, while Cooley pledges to defend it in court.

Outlook: Toss-Up

Secretary of State: SoS Debra Bowen (D) vs. businessman Damon Dunn (R), Ann Menasche (G), Christina Tobin (L), Merton D. Short (AI), and Marylou Cabral (PF)

Profile: Bowen is a lock for reelection.

Outlook: Solid Bowen

Treasurer: Treasurer Bill Lockyer (D) vs. State Senator Mimi Walters (R), Kit Crittenden (G), Edward Teyssier (L), Robert Lauten (AI), and Debra Reiger (PF)

Profile: Lockyer is a lock for reelection.

Outlook: Solid Lockyer

Controller: Controller John Chiang (D) vs. State Senator Tony Strickland (R), Ross Frankel (G), Andy Favor (L), Lawrence Beliz (AI), and Karen Martinez (PF)

Profile: A rematch from 2006, only with Democrats more pumped up, Chiang will win by a wider margin this time around.

Outlook: Strong to Solid Chiang

Insurance Commissioner: State Assemblyman Mike Villines (R) vs. State Assemblyman Dave Jones (D), William Balderston (G), Richard Bronstein (L), Clay Pedersen (AI), and Dina Padilla (PF)

Profile: In California, when a non-damaged Democrat is up against a generic Republican, the Democrat wins. Take it to the bank.

Outlook: Likely to Strong Jones (D pickup)

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Retired Superintendent Larry Aceves (NP) vs. State Assemblyman Tom Torlakson (NP)

Profile: Torlakson voted against Race to the Top and believes parents, teachers, students, and communities alike all need to come together to improve our schools, while Aceves believes that the problem with public schools is the teachers and hedge funds and billionaires should have more control over K-12 education. This will be a close one.

Outlook: Toss-Up

State Supreme Court confirmation – Tani Cantil-Sakauye: Voters are being asked whether to confirm Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Arnold’s pick to replace Chief Justice Ron George. She is seen as uncontroversial, but likely to share Arnold’s views on corporate power.

Outlook: Lean Confirm

State Supreme Court retention – Ming Chin: Chin was in the minority that voted to uphold the state’s ban on marriage equality in 2008, and is one of the most right-wing justices on the state Supreme Court. I want to see him go, but it doesn’t look likely.

Outlook: Likely Retention

State Supreme Court retention – Carlos Moreno: Moreno was the only justice who courageously voted to overturn Prop 8 at the State Supreme Court last year, and has been a reliable vote for equality and so should be voted to be retained.

Outlook: Likely Retention

Ballot Measures: Nine measures will be on the California ballot this fall. Information can be found here: http://www.smartvoter.org/2010… Field has released polls on 19, 23, and 25. http://www.field.com/fieldpoll…

Prop. 19 (Marijuana): If passed, this proposition would legalize the possession and growing of marijuana for personal use of adults 21 years and older, and allow state and local governments to regulate and tax related commercial activities. This proposition winning may make Washington reexamine its own policy towards marijuana, since what happens in California often makes it way to the other side of the country. Polls have shown Yes leading by single digits, so I’ll call 19 a passing proposition.

My recommendation: YES!

10/21/2010 Outlook: Lean Pass

Prop. 20 (Redistricting Congressional Districts): This proposition would amend the state Constitution be amended to have the Citizens Redistricting Commission (prop 11 from 2008) redistrict for the U.S. House of Representatives seats. This initiative calls for each district being composed of people of the same income level and people with the same work opportunities, which to me feels like a backdoor to the old bygone Jim Crow ways. And passing this prop while giving free passes to Republican-controlled legislatures in Texas and Florida to gerrymander the hell out of those states is likely to put California at a disadvantage when competing for federal dollars. In addition, there is no way this commission can be held accountable.

My recommendation: NO!

10/21/2010 Outlook: Toss-up/Lean Fail

Prop. 21 (Vehicle License Surcharge): Establishes an $18 annual vehicle license surcharge to provide funds for maintaining the state parks and wildlife programs, and grants surcharged vehicles free admission to the state parks. Our cash-starved state parks could use the extra funds. In addition, the governor can’t take funds from this coffer when other coffers are low. The tough economy may dampen the chances of this prop passing, though.

My recommendation: YES!

10/21/2010 Outlook: Toss-Up

Prop. 22 (Local Government Funds): Prohibits the state from taking funds used for local government services. It is well-intentioned but flawed. The cities and counties would get an immediate payment of over $1 billion, forcing further cuts to vital public services.

My recommendation: NO!

10/21/2010 Outlook: Toss-Up/Lean Fail

Prop. 23 (Suspension of AB 32): Backed by Texas oil interests, this prop would suspend AB 32 until unemployment dropped to an unrealistic 5.5% for a whole year and hurt the state’s fledgling green jobs industry, doing the exact opposite of what its backers claim: it would actually kill more jobs than create more jobs. (Here in “business-friendly” Texas, the economic situation is also pretty bad, with unemployment here at its highest level since the late ’80s [and me being unable to find a job to save my life] and an $18 billion deficit for the 2011 budget session, which will make 2003 look like the good old days.) Polls have shown a low double-digit lead for the No side.

My recommendation: NO! NO! NO!

10/21/2010 Outlook: Likely Fail

Prop. 24 (Corporate Loopholes): A long-overdue measure that would close corporate tax loopholes, reducing the budget deficit by $2 billion.

My recommendation: YES!

10/21/2010 Outlook: Toss-Up

Prop. 25 (Majority Vote on Budget): Another very long-overdue measure that eliminates the ridiculous 2/3rds rule to pass a budget in the state legislature. This prop is passing by double-digits in the polls.

My recommendation: YES! YES! YES!

10/21/2010 Outlook: Likely Pass

Prop. 26 (Two-Thirds Vote on Fees): Would require two-thirds vote approval for the imposition of certain state and local fees, including those on businesses that adversely impact the local community and environment. The last thing we need is higher vote thresholds.

My recommendation: NO! NO! NO!

10/21/2010 Outlook: Toss-Up

Prop. 27 (Redistricting Commission): This proposition eliminates the Citizens Redistricting Commission from Prop 11, which barely passed, suggesting some voters have some doubts about its effectiveness. This commission also gives Republicans much more power than their current share of the population.

My recommendation: YES!

10/21/2010 Outlook: Toss-Up

The Model for True Change

I’m proud to support Mayor Newsom for many reasons, however, as a pre-medical student, I find his advocacy of accessible healthcare especially noteworthy. When speaking to students on my campus about Mayor Newsom’s accomplishments, I exclaim that San Francisco is the birthplace of American universal healthcare, and continue on about the success of “Healthy San Francisco.” Launched in 2007 with former SF Supervisor and current Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Healthy SF has made groundbreaking efforts to provide health care access for San Francisco’s 73,000 uninsured.

Over the past 3 years, more than 50,000 SF residents have benefitted from this plan. Leaving no one behind, Mayor Newsom expanded his focus from young adults to all city residents who need affordable and accessible healthcare. While improving the quality of living in SF, Healthy SF has consistently been applauded as a model for universal health care. As such, Mayor Newsom was appointed as the chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Health Care Reform Task Force, working towards a plan for federal health care reform. Real-life experience, at both a local and national level, is why Mayor Newsom stands as the leading candidate for Lt. Governor.

What this program shows about Mayor Newsom’s character is that he is truly compassionate about the issues affecting his constituents. One of Mayor Newsom’s top priorities is ensuring that the needs of working and middle class families come first. Since the beginning of his mayorship, he has promoted societal inclusiveness through innovative programs similar to Healthy SF including SF Promise, JobsNow, and Sunday Streets. Whichever plan you look at, there is one common denominator: a consistent understanding of what people truly need.

Mayor Newsom looks towards providing Californians with the same ear, intent on listening to their problems and fighting for solutions. Under the leadership of our future Lieutenant Governor, Californians will be provided with accessible and affordable programs under the principles that guided the formation of Healthy SF.

Manisha Goud is the Los Angeles Regional Director of Students for Gavin Newsom. Join Students for Gavin Newsom on Facebook at www.facebook.com/studentsfornewsom.

The Costs of an Education: Why Students Matter in November

Meg Whitman just spent $100 million in her bid for Governor of California, $91 of which came from her own pocket. It disgusts me that a candidate who claims she can get California on the right track injects into her campaign millions of her own wealth to fuel her own ambitions and propaganda. What could come of that money? Surely, enough to ease some of problems facing hardworking Californians. For students, this money could actually place importance on the value of our education. It made me wonder what this money could do for the student who couldn’t return to college this fall because of a reduction in his financial aid, about the student who couldn’t pay the latest UC fee hikes, and about the student whose family cannot afford to send her to college at all.

Attorney General Jerry Brown, on the other hand, knows the issues facing parents and students, starting two public schools in Oakland in his tenure as Mayor. He understands the value of an education and how to engage students with all interests. Brown whole-heartedly agrees that more attention must be due to California’s public school system in order for it to survive. Similarly, we must also turn to leaders like Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose City and County of San Francisco shines in California as the epitome of innovative ideas and pragmatic solutions put to practice.

As young people become more disenfranchised by California’s political system, it is crucial to change the status quo that is tearing our state apart. Those who place personal ambition over proposing legitimate solutions to fix California must be stopped. As a student who fears the loans awaiting her upon graduation, I highly trust Brown and Newsom’s abilities to help students like myself gain affordable higher education.

One of Mayor Newsom’s main priorities as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor is to get the public education system back on track, by increasing the quality and accessibility of schools within the CSU and UC systems. He understands every student’s desire for a quality education without being penalized by endless fees, finding themselves ineligible for state grants, and carrying a heavy burden of loans upon graduating. Higher education should be accessible to all, regardless of financial background. How else will California move forward with the leaders of tomorrow if they can’t afford the rights to an education?

While shaking up San Francisco, Mayor Newsom made unprecedented progress in promoting an affordable and accessible higher education by launching “SF Promise,” an initiative that guarantees an college education, with financial support provided, at San Francisco State university to all qualified San Francisco State Unified School District students. Projects like this, which benefits hundreds of students, can easily grow at the state level, spurring enrollment in colleges across the state.

The partnership of Brown and Newsom in Sacramento will bring the Golden State out of a depression it suffers on all levels. Our state will thrive once again through job growth, environmental protection, reduced crime rates, clean energy expansion, a strong education system, and so much more that will rebuild California.

Students of California, this is our election to win. We can no longer sit and watch as unqualified persons are elected to office only to serve private interests. By mobilizing by the thousands, we’ll be able to fight for our rights as young people looking towards a brighter future. By electing Gavin Newsom for Lt. Governor, we’ll have our voice heard on the UC Board of Regents and CSU Board of Trustees, strongly fighting for affordable education for everyone. No more will students forego a higher education or be prevented from returning to school. Please join students from across the state as we build the movement to reform California at www.studentsforgavinnewsom.com.

Manisha Goud is the Los Angeles Regional Director for Students for Gavin Newsom. Join Students for Gavin Newsom on Facebook at www.facebook.com/studentsfornewsom.

Interning at Gavin Newsom’s Campaign for Lieutenant Governor of California

After clinging to the comfort of undergraduate education for five years at my university in Austin, Texas, the time came to load up the truck, sedate the cat, and drive the 1,789 miles back to my family home in the Bay Area. Driving literally and figuratively toward my future, a Moriarty-esque companion would have been a welcome change from the mostly flat, unpopulated areas through which I-40 runs. Instead, my companion was my own mind, which ran a looped broadcast of the same thought: “What am I going to do with my life?”

Luckily, a week after making the journey back to my hometown, FaceBook led me to an opportunity (other than the opportunity to procrastinate). I chanced upon a recent post by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom calling for interns to join his campaign for Lieutenant Governor of California. One interview and two weeks later I had joined the family at “Newsom Land” with a bevy of other young interns.

Most interns begin their day at the civilized hour of ten in the morning. Such was the case on my first day in mid-July. After a brief introduction to the obligatory guidelines and relaxed office atmosphere, we began our first project: identifying supporters. Equipped with highlighters, pens, and an endless pile of names, we began our work in utter silence. For an hour we continued in this fashion, all undoubtedly trying to be productive in spite of being distracted by the obvious question: when were we going to meet Mayor Newsom?

I’d lost myself to the data entry entirely, completing each sheet with a rhythmic enthusiasm fueled by first day jitters. The silence persisted until a suited figure appeared from behind the partition.  “Can’t we get some music in here?”

I turned to the intern next to me and inquired after her views on Lady Gaga.  Interns at other tables followed suit and the office became pleasantly cacophonous with the varied musical tastes of my coworkers. Mayor Newsom soon came to every station and personally thanked each of us for our time. I shook his hand and told him that I took his advice and was the first to break the silence to the tune of “Alejandro”. I sincerely hope my suggestion to bring in Lady Gaga for a campaign concert is taken seriously.

Now in our second week, interns and volunteers have gotten used to Mayor Newsom’s presence at campaign headquarters. It’s a mutually distracting relationship; he’ll crack jokes about installing a bowling ally as we call undecided voters; we’ll banter with him as staffers coax him back to important meetings. We all affirm the common perception: Mayor Newsom is an extremely personable individual. More importantly, we enjoy being able to attach our stars to a man who espouses our political philosophy and has therefore earned our respect and support.

Waking up to catch the bullet train from the South Bay, I know I’m headed to an office brimming with dedicated individuals. The occasional outburst of laughter brought puts us all at ease as we create a campaign, block by block, to ensure that citizens of California elect a strong leader who has demonstrated countless times that he talks the talk and walks the walk. Since the first day, I’ve become increasingly confident about the importance of my roll in the campaign. Not only will the experience be professionally rewarding for me as I seek more work after November 2nd, it’s also great to see our efforts come to fruition, be it voter turnout at weekend rallies or a full guest list for the office opening party. Most importantly for me, I’m stimulated and energized by working toward the tangible and crucial goal of helping Mayor Gavin Newsom become the next Lieutenant Governor of California.

Alexis is proud to be an intern with Gavin Newsom’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor of California. If you are interested in being an intern or a volunteer, please email Eric Lee at [email protected]

Could Newsom Become the Phil Angelides of 2010?

Mayor Gavin Newsom has entered the race for Lieutenant Governor, a job he ridiculed while running for Governor – and his supporters include San Francisco progressives who figure it’s an opportunity to get rid of him.  Nonetheless, an endorsement list that includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Teachers Association and Sacramento’s legislative leaders (along with an opponent with unimpressive fundraising totals) should make Newsom the front-runner for the Democratic primary.  But it won’t be pretty – given that Garry South (who ran his gubernatorial campaign) now works for his competitor, L.A. City Councilmember Janice Hahn.  The Hahn campaign has been vicious on Gavin so far, using the kind of scorched-earth tactics that South is famous for.  Newsom may win the nomination on June 8th, but he could end up suffering the same fate as Garry South’s last victim.  Phil Angelides had much of the Democratic leadership behind him when he ran for Governor, but only won the primary after a bruising fight with South client Steve Westly.  And it left him so bloodied that he went on to lose the general election by a landslide.

As a student of San Francisco politics, I’ve found the local chatter in the past few weeks surrounding Gavin Newsom’s run for Lieutenant Governor to be just plain bizarre.

His allies in the business community are incensed that he’d abandon the city to become Jerry Brown’s bridesmaid – and (God forbid) allow those crazy lefties on the Board of Supervisors to pick the next mayor.  Chuck Nevius’ column in the SF Chronicle last week read like it came from a jilted lover.   “Newsom wasn’t supposed to be the average career politician,” he lamented.  “Now he’s Gray Davis.”

Meanwhile, progressive are all too eager to show Gavin the door.  Supervisor Chris Daly, who once suggested at a public meeting that the Mayor was a cokehead, has endorsed him – and I’ve heard from tenant activists who now say that they will walk precincts for Newsom.  How in the world could any politician win statewide office, when your closest friends don’t want you to run – and your rivals are delighted to see you take the plunge?

But believe it or not, Newsom is poised to win the nomination on June 8th.  State Senator Dean Florez dropped out of the race the minute he got in, saying Gavin “commands a formidable lead that would be hard to surmount.”  And the Newsom camp sent out a list of endorsements that includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Assembly Speaker John Perez, State Senate President Darrell Steinberg, the California Nurses Association, the California Teachers Association, the UFCW Western State Council and Dolores Huerta.

The fundraising totals of his sole Democratic rival – Los Angeles Councilmember Janice Hahn – are also worth considering.  As of December 31st, Hahn had only raised $421,000 – and reported a cash-on-hand total of $341,000.  For comparison’s sake, at this stage of the Lieutenant Governor’s race four years ago John Garamendi had raised over $1.37 million – while his Democratic rival Jackie Speier was at approximately $1.28 million.

But Hahn has something Newsom lacks – Garry South, who was the Mayor’s chief strategist until he dropped out of the Governor’s race.  South, who worked for Gray Davis in 1998 and 2002, is the sole Democratic consultant in California to have run a successful campaign for Governor in 25 years – something not to be sneezed at.  And it was viewed as quite a coup when Newsom initially retained him in 2008.

And while Hahn’s fundraising leaves much to be desired, Gavin has the same problem.  The Mayor can transfer his defunct gubernatorial campaign account to the race for Lieutenant Governor, but there isn’t much left of it – only $40,000 as of December 31st.

Granted, Newsom raised over $2 million last year – and can now go back to his donors and ask again.  But while state law lets contributors give up to $25,900 to gubernatorial candidates, the Lieutenant Governor’s race limits donations to $6,500.  A quick look at Newsom’s campaign for Governor shows that over $1 million came from donations exceeding that amount, and half a million from contributors who gave over $20,000.  In other words, he won’t be able to raise $2 million from those people.

And with Garry South now running Hahn’s campaign, the attacks on Newsom have been brutal.  Gavin had disparaged the role of Lieutenant Governor before opting to run, even publicly admitting he had no idea what the job does – a point the Hahn campaign has fully taken advantage of.  But South has gone so far as to betray the confidence of his ex-client – divulging private statements Newsom made when South consulted him, where the Mayor had told him he was no “Gray Davis.”

Of course, we can expect nothing less from Garry South.  Known in California politics as the “King of Mean,” South has a long history of running scorched-earth campaigns – the most recent example being in 2006, when he ran Steve Westly’s campaign for Governor.  

In that race, Westly’s rival – Phil Angelides – had the endorsement of Senators Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and most of the Democratic Party establishment in the primary.  But in what can only be described as a muder-suicide pact, South waged an intensely negative effort against Angelides – leaving the bloodied front-runner limping past the finish line in June when it was all over.  

South then spent the whole summer and fall denouncing Angelides as a “weak nominee” who could not beat Governor Schwarzenegger, rendering it a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Many Democrats (including myself) will never forgive South for that conduct.

Could the same happen to Newsom if he beats Hahn?  The likely G.O.P. nominee – Abel Maldonado – lacks Arnold’s celebrity status, but has cultivated a moderate image that will make him tough to beat – especially in a year where Democratic turnout could be dangerously low.

Newsom could and should win the primary on June 8th, but his progressive rivals in San Francisco shouldn’t be celebrating a new Mayor just yet.  Gavin will still have to face a Republican in November, and if Garry South has his way he might not win that election.

Paul Hogarth is the Managing Editor of BeyondChron, San Francisco’s Alternative Online Daily, where this piece was first published.

I Guess They Don’t Actually Want A 2/3 Majority

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, back in July:

The 2/3 requirement that we have in this state. I know it’s a tired old saw. But when you really think about, that is the cause of so much of the dysfunction in the legislature. you have a minority party that obviously worked in tandem with the governor that cost the state 6-7 billion dollars tonight for no good reason. To somehow improve your negotiating position. It is without question the most irresponsible act that I have seen in my 15 years of public service…I hope that the significance will truly capture enough attention that the people will decide it is time to change the system that allows the minority to essentially rule the day. That’s not just the Senate Republicans, it was the Governor too, who was apparently out to prove a point. And he proved a point.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, today:

State Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) released a statement expressing “grave doubts” about the choice. Maldonado needs the approval of the Democratic-dominated Legislature to take the post.

Steinberg cited the $2-million cost of the special election that would be required to fill Maldonado’s Senate seat, suggesting the money could be better spent scaling back recent fee hikes at state colleges and universities.

The Senate leader, under pressure to keep the post open for Democrats running for lieutenant governor themselves in next year’s election, also suggested he would like to see the job left vacant.

“It may be both fiscally and politically prudent to permit the people to make their own selection for this statewide office next year and avoid the expense of a costly special election,” his statement said.

Once again, we see that the State Senate is unwilling to actually do what it takes to overcome the 2/3rds rule that has crippled our state. Instead of seizing a golden opportunity to win one of the two seats we need to get a 2/3rds majority, Steinberg prefers to help coddle a fellow Democratic Senator’s unwillingness to face Maldonado in a general election.

Steinberg and other Senators are starting to put out the talking points to defend their weakness. But none of them hold water. The election to replace Maldonado here in SD-15 can be combined with the June primary, saving money. But even if it weren’t combined, the $2 million or so is statistically negligible when compared to the billions of dollars in cuts Steinberg is apparently willing to accept by refusing to take the chance to win a 2/3rds majority next year (along with the race to replace Jeff Denham in SD-12, a district with a D+12 registration advantage).

Additionally, voters themselves are going to have the chance to pick the next Lt. Gov., and confirming Maldonado will not change that fact, as Steinberg implies. If Steinberg believes Maldonado is a formidable candidate in the GOP primary or in the general election, he is badly misreading the political landscape.

Another argument we’re hearing is that Maldonado’s seat isn’t all that winnable:

Capitol Democrats said there was a more calculated political reason for not wanting to let Maldonado go. Democrats were humbled by this year’s election results in New Jersey and Virginia, and fear that 2010 could be a bad Democratic year. In addition, a low turn-out special election may make it tougher for a Democrat to win the 15th Senate District seat currently held by Maldonado.

Democrats have a slight 41-35 percent registration advantage in the district. Nearly 20 percent of the district’s voters are decline to state.  The district has been home to moderate Republicans like Bruce McPherson, and overwhelming voted for Schwarzenegger over Phil Angelides in 2006 – 61 percent – 34 percent. But in 2004, John Kerry narrowly carried the district over George W. Bush – 52 percent – 46 percent.

What the article doesn’t note is that Obama carried the seat by 20 points last year. And if it is turnout they’re concerned about, a candidate like John Laird will have no problem generating enthusiasm from progressives and Democrats across the state, who will gladly spend a late spring here on the Central Coast to put a good progressive in the State Senate.

More damning is the basic philosophy behind this “gee, winning the 15th is gonna be hard” nonsense. If Democrats are scared of winning a seat where they hold a 6 point registration advantage, a seat Obama won by 20 points, then they really have a serious problem providing the leadership this state needs.

Next year we’ll hear Democratic legislators exhorting us to help them in other Assembly and Senate races, saying that we have to help them win 2/3rds. But by refusing to actually go for 2/3rds when given the chance, they’re showing the California Democratic base that the Senate is fundamentally unserious about restoring majority rule.

The only conclusion one can draw from this is that Senate Democrats don’t actually care about the 2/3rds rule. That they prefer the status quo to having to actually take the opportunities they are given and take a winnable seat, or to set up a hated rival (Maldonado) to spectacularly fail when he can’t get elected Lt. Gov. next year.

UPDATE: The Courage Campaign, where I work as Public Policy Director, released this statement today on the Maldonado appointment:

“The best thing we can do right now is to remove Sen. Abel Maldonado from a position of importance where he can do great damage, the California State Senate, and place him in an irrelevant post, the Lt. Governor’s office,” said Rick Jacobs, Chair of the 700,000-member Courage Campaign. “For once, we agree with the Governor – Abel Maldonado should be demoted to Lt. Governor.”

An Open Letter to the California Senate Democratic Caucus

Dear fellow Democrats,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it Maldo? (Lt. Gov) Implications for Legislative Races

The Fresno Bee editorial blog seems to be suggesting that of the two names left on the Governor’s short-list, Abel Maldonado is far more likely than Cogdill. KQED’s John Myers agrees in this tweet.

I’ve thought Madlo would be the nominee unless the Legislature just told Arnold that they wouldn’t take anyone, or that a Democrat should replace a Democrat. But, we know this Legislature isn’t prone to taking tough stands, are they?

This does have some interesting (if you’re a Cal Politics junkie anyway) ramifications in an interesting race for an assembly seat.

Currently, AD-33 (San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Paso Robles) is held by minority leader Sam Blakeslee, who will be termed out in 2010. He has already filed papers to run for SD-15 when Maldonado terms out in 2012, but an imminent special election would make things interesting.

When Blakeslee originally won election in 2004, he defeated far-right candidate Matt Kokkonen (who is also running for AD-33–he’s always running for something) by trying to appear not as far to the right. There are currently four Republicans running campaigns for the GOP nomination in AD-33. They come from different geographical regions of the 33rd and from different ends of the narrow GOP spectrum. I would not be surprised to see one of them (Kokkonen, especially) take a shot at SD-15 in a special election where anything can happen.

There is currently only one Democrat in the race, Hilda Zacarias. The AD-33 voted for Obama in 2008, so there is an opening here. SD-15 is much bigger, stretching from Santa Maria all the way up to Santa Clara county. My sense is that it is a more red district, but, in an election with two or three Republicans who might split the vote and Scozzofava each other, if the Democrats can agree on one person only, they might have a chance to pick up a senate seat, at least for 2 years. I would suggest that this not be done at the expense of the more doable AD-33 win.

It’s all speculation based on rumors based on speculation, but that’s what makes political blogging so fun, right?

CA-LtGov: Calitics Sits Down With Janice Hahn

For most of 2009 the two Democratic candidates for the Lieutenant Governor’s race in 2010 were State Senators Dean Florez (Fresno) and Alan Lowenthal (Long Beach). With anemic fundraising numbers, Lowenthal is likely expected to drop out.

However, a new candidate has tossed her hat in the ring – Janice Hahn, who represents San Pedro, Wilmington, and parts of South LA on the LA City Council. Already she seems well-positioned in the race – a poll by Fairbank, Maslin showed her leading the field with 24% of the vote, whereas Florez and Lowenthal had 8 and 7 respectively.

Over the weekend at the CDP E-Board meeting in San Diego, Brian Leubitz and I had a chance to sit down with Janice Hahn and talk about the race and some of the major issues facing the state, from water to economy to structural reform. I confess that, before last week, I knew very little about her at all. I know a lot about her now, and I was very impressed by what I saw in this conversation.

You can watch part of the interview at right; the full interview is over the flip. Some elements that stood out:

• She believes CA wants an outsider and not a legislator for the LtG spot, which she intends to use as a bully pulpit for economic recovery and protecting education. Previous LtGs “haven’t used the office well.”

• On education, she said “we cannot balance the budget on the backs of students.” She would vote against the proposed 30% UC fee increase at this week’s UC Regents meeting were she Lt. Gov. (one of the commissions the LtG sits on).

• She wants to promote economic recovery through job growth that includes new, sustainable, environmentally friendly work. She goes beyond the usual mantra of “green jobs” to explain that California needs to support apprenticeship programs that can offer employment options in a sustainable industrial economy to a broader range of people.

• Understands the needs of fishermen in water dispute, seeks a balanced solution to that issue. (Note: I didn’t get a chance to ask her about the proposed water bond, and would be curious to hear her answer.)

• Believes state government needs reform, but is nervous (rightly, in my view) about a Con-Con. Supports majority vote on budget and majority vote on local tax increases, as well as protecting local government from raids.

• Strongly supports high speed rail and is willing to be a strong statewide advocate for the project, something we currently lack.

Ultimately I think she is a very compelling candidate – not just for this office, but for California Democrats as a whole. Whereas Jerry Brown isn’t willing to offer a clear progressive path forward for the state, it seems Janice Hahn is very much interested in doing that. She is smart, personable, and seems to understand what California needs at this time. The Lt. Gov. office may have limited power, but Janice Hahn seems interested in using that power to its fullest, and using it as an opportunity to make a case for a better California.

She deserve a close, hard look by California Democrats and progressives. I think they will find much to like about Janice Hahn.

The Most Important Vote I Have Ever Cast

I have had one of those weeks that you remember for the rest of your life. On Tuesday, I won a congressional election. On Thursday, I was sworn in by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and got to cast the first vote of my congressional career: a resolution honoring female veterans and military personnel. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to cast the most important vote of my 34 years in public service.

The health care reform bill that cleared the House yesterday, if approved by the Senate, will transform this country’s health care delivery system. Denial of treatment for pre-existing conditions will be a thing of the past. None of us will have to worry that if we fail to report the chicken pox, we’ll be denied treatment from our insurers for cancer. Out-of-pocket expenses will be capped and subsidies and tax breaks will be made available to consumers and small businesses. This combined with the reduction in administrative overhead costs, the savings associated with an emphasis on preventative medicine, and other measures will provide us as individual consumers and as a nation with substantial long term cost savings. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the health care reform bill will cut the deficit by over $30 billion over the next decade and will continue to create a surplus over the next 20 years.

Yesterday’s plan also includes a public option that, while not as expansive I would have liked, is still very worthy of support. And as most of you are well aware, we had an unfortunate setback for women’s health in yesterday’s voting. But on the whole, this is change we can believe in.

When I was California’s Insurance Commissioner, my staff fielded thousands of calls from California residents who fell victim to the insurance industry shenanigans. When large fires hit San Diego, Oakland, and elsewhere, hundreds of consumers were victimized a second time by their insurance companies. My capable staff was successful at coming to a consumer-friendly resolution for almost all cases, but at times, I had to personally ring up high ranking industry executives to use all forms of persuasion available to my office to make sure my constituents were treated fairly.

When one’s business model depends on collecting monthly payments from people in the hope that you’ll never have to provide them with the services they are paying you for, it’s disappointing but not shocking that the insurance industry looks for loopholes to maximize its profits.

More over the flip…

It is from this motivation that we get babies denied health insurance because they’re “too fat” and women kicked off their insurance after requesting payment for emergency gallbladder surgery because their husbands failed to report high cholesterol. That’s why government intervention is sometimes necessary, to make sure the invisible hand of the market doesn’t become a closed fist.

In my run for Congress, I told anyone who asked that I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to return to Washington, DC to cast one of my first votes for comprehensive health care reform that includes the public option.

This week, I’m traveling to Livermore for my first town hall as a Congressman, and I will have four more through the month of December (at least one will be virtual, stay tuned). Given the rise in the unemployed and uninsured in my district, I expect many grateful supporters, but I also expect some naysayers. I am prepared to defend my vote, because I know it is best for my constituents and will help save lives. I also know most of my constituents have my back. After all, most of us know a friend or family member who has been on the wrong end of insurance industry malfeasance. Listen to my floor speech here to hear about what one friend of mine is going through.  

We still have a big fight ahead of us in the Senate, and I encourage all of you to call your Senators and demand they pass a good comprehensive health care reform bill that includes the public option. With helpful endorsements from the AARP and American Medical Association, and with two different congressional districts affirming their support for comprehensive health care reform in elections last week, momentum is on our side.

So thanks again for all you’ve done to make this bill a reality; believe me, it’s noticed. After the health care debate, we will move on to other big issues facing the nation: transportation, job creation, No Child Left Behind, troop placements, and the list goes on. If we pass comprehensive health care reform this year, it will mark the end of an important chapter in our nation’s history: the 40+ years between the passage of Medicare and the subsequent years we failed to live up to our country’s promise, letting millions of Americans live and die without adequate coverage. It will also mark the beginning of a new chapter: the years it will take us to lower the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 0. I’m hopeful we can beat four decades.

Congressman John Garamendi represents Northern California’s 10th Congressional District, which includes portions of Contra Costa, Solano, Alameda, and Sacramento counties. Prior to his election to Congress on November 3rd, 2009, Garamendi served as California’s Lieutenant Governor, where he fought to keep college affordable for students, developed innovative strategies to create green jobs, and kept California’s coastline pristine by preventing oil companies from drilling off California’s coast. With more than three decades of public service experience, Garamendi has been an Insurance Commissioner, Senate Majority Leader, Deputy Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton, University of California Regent, California State University Trustee, and Peace Corps volunteer. To learn more, please follow Garamendi on Facebook and Twitter.