New political reality in California

The new political reality in California finds a moderate Democrat and a Republican elected to the State Legislature from a heretofore reliably bluest of blue Democratic district. Progressive hacks take note.

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When accounting for the new political reality in California, perhaps Eugene Burdick, author of the Ninth Wave, said it best, Ignorance Plus Fear Equals Power.

According to the political science professor from UC Berkeley, who was better known for his other novels, including Fail Safe, The Ugly American, and The 480, California elections could be won by a candidate’s ability to manipulate approximately 10% of the electorate. In Burdick’s mind most voters almost always support Republican or Democratic candidates. If the swing vote could be effectively manipulated, an election could be won. This is where instilling ignorance and fear comes in.

In the past 20 years, the California Democratic Party has been successful in pushing this narrative of scaring and intimidating to win elections. This has been done in a variety of ways.

  • Evil outside agitators such as Wall Street and the Koch Brothers want to take over the State.
  • Anyone who dares question the Progressive Agenda is a member of the Tea Party or some other sinister cult that wants to usurp the rights of the people
  • The State government needs more power and responsibility to protect the people
  • Without this power the State would fall to ruin and Darth Vader and the gang would take over

Whatever tea leaves being read or flavor of Kool Aid being digested; this narrative has propelled Progressives to a Super Majority in the legislature. Assisting them in building such immense power was the unpopular administration of Bush Jr. in Washington D.C. Republicans in the Golden State have been reduced to rubble and are still on semi-life support.

The new political reality in California

With no viable opposition in California at the State level coming from the GOP, (Arnold Schwarzenegger was the last Republican to hold Statewide office) a de facto one Party government has been created under Democratic control. This is where there has been a crack in the armor of late.

Because of Proposition 14 passed in 2010, the top two candidates in a primary compete in a run-off even if they are from the same party. This how Congressman Pete Stark was defeated in 2012 by newcomer Eric Sewell. Two years later Proposition 14 reared its ugly head again in the recent Steve Glazer-Susan Bonilla Special Election contest.

In this case the so called moderate Steve Glazer won over fellow Democrat Susan Bonilla who enjoyed the support as a Union and Democratic Party endorsed candidate.  When the dust settled Bonilla and her supporters felt they were jobbed because

  1. Glazer used the same tactics they have successfully used in marginalizing their opponents.
  2. Orinda’s Mayor at times sounded at more like a card carrying Republican than a liberal Democrat
  3. Glazer was unfaithful to the principle of following the edicts of organized labor in opposing BART strikes and proposing pension reform.
  4. By defining a Democrat as being synonymous with holding Progressive values, the State Democratic Central Committee has in effect changed the criteria for belonging to their organization. Apparently they do not feel Glazer, even though he is a lifelong Democrat, belongs in their club.

With their recent dominance in the legislature and electing statewide office holders, the Party has adapted if it ain’t broken why fix it philosophy.  Failure to adjust their so called “big tent” so less progressive party members can fit in, has left many mainstream Democrats being left out in the cold.

Ironically, this same criticism has been leveled on the Republican side of the ledger where moderates have complained that the ultra conservatives have not accepted them as being an intricate part of their organization. Currently, the GOP under the leadership of Chairman Jim Brulte, are trying to deal with these issues in an effort to make Republican’s a more viable force in the California political scene.

Those Democrats, Republicans, and decline to stater’s, who reside where Catharine Baker won last fall, were an intricate part of the 10% plus shift that crossed party lines propelled her to victory. These same groups of voters along with others from Susan Bonilla’s own Assembly district contributed to Glazer winning an astounding 55% of the popular vote.

California Republicans
Steve Glazer and Catharine Baker both from a heretofore reliably blue county, now occupy seats in the California legislature.”
It wasn’t enough for Bonilla’s campaign to fill mail boxes with the same old bogeyman threats, gender equality, and women’s right to choose, and influence from outside agitators threatening to ruin it for everyone. Voters did not fall for the time honored approach of GOP bashing in labeling Glazer one of the enemy.

With this being the case, the negative campaign tactics used by Steve Maviglio that have historically worked so well in the past, need to be retooled in subsequent elections. The problem is that it is difficult to blame moderate Democrats and Republicans for the failures in State Government because neither of these entities has had any power during the last decade.

Last Saturday at my political junkie’s Curmudgeons Coffee Club, the Progressives blamed the opposition for misrepresenting them. In doing this they failed to mention their own demagogic slander that also stuffed mail boxes every day during the campaign. And then there was the excuse that this was a special election which meant the Democratic Base did not show up with no presidential ticket to support turnout.

The fact remains, base or no base showing up at the polls; Steve Glazer and Catharine Baker both from a here-to-for reliably blue county, now occupy seats in the California legislature. Tim Sbranti and Joan Buchanan are not there, while Susan Bonilla will be termed out in 19 months. The days of Party hacks playing kingmaker for determining who should occupy legislative seats have been changed at least for the immediate future.

Is this a negative development? I think not as one group of individuals (Progressive Democrats) having almost total power is not a good thing. If this were the other way and right wing Republicans were running things, I would feel the same way. Having a two party system is essential in a democracy even if it has to be factions of one branch of the party in charge competing against another.

While the 7th District race was a welcome relief from recent elections which have been mostly uncontested or with weak GOP opposition, this development does not make the Republican Party relevant again. As a matter of fact had Susan Bonilla beaten Glazer and her Assembly  seat was open in yet another special election , they did not even have more than a token candidate to oppose Concord Mayor Tim Grayson and possibly Superintendant of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s wife Mae.

Until prominent Republicans are willing to come out of closet (we are not talking gay marriage) and declare themselves to be proud members of the GOP, we will not have a true two party system in California. Even so Progressives have been put on notice that they are going to have to do more than pledge allegiance to the Central Committee, give their undying support on all labor causes, and continue to oppose all meaningful pension reform. If this narrative is not changed, Democrats can look forward to more insurrections from within and more effective conservative opposition.

Making such subtle changes does not invalidate Eugene Burdick’s Ignorance Plus Hate Equals Power formula or that it is incumbent in surfer’s lingo to ride The Ninth Wave. In the future new tactics and approaches will need to be formulated by the Democratic Party to gain support from what is still an apathetic electorate.

A good test for this new political reality in California may come in the 2016 Senate race. Progressives trying to coronate Kamala Harris to fill Barbara Boxer’s seat may be a little premature in doing so right now. Instead of raising Labors’ red flag and riding on Hilary Clinton’s skirt, they may even have to discuss issues relevant with voters for a change.

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March 17th Special Election finish line approaches

In effect the March 17th special election is virtually over as Contra Costa Couunty Elections chief Joe Canciamilla estimates that 80% of the vote will be done by mail.

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It’s about a week until the special election takes place to determine which candidates will grab the two top slots to the run-off which is scheduled for May 19th. With the finish line so close, the three principal contestants Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla, and Steve Glazer, can almost smell the corned beef and cabbage that awaits them on St. Patrick’s Day.

While each candidate believes their own private polling that they have a good chance to win, there is the air of uncertainty that pervades this election. This is because the turn-out is going to be so low that winning and losing will likely be determined by which voting blocs will come out and support their candidate.

According to Contra Costa Elections Chief Joe Canciamilla, only 22% of those registered in the county where the vast majority of eligible voters in this election reside, will actually cast ballots. This means for the whole 7th State Senate District Special Election, only about 132,000 voters will determine which two candidates advance to the inevitable run-off.

In effect the March 17th special election is virtually over as Canciamilla estimates that 80% of the vote will be done by mail. This means there are few “undecideds” who will participate in selecting who will be the next District 7 State Senator. All that needs to be done is to count the votes for this expensive election which is estimated to cost tax payers over $2,000,000.

Breaking down each of those running we have:

Susan Bonilla: As an incumbent Assemblywomen Bonilla has a big advantage in this race. Her number of endorsements from prominent politicians including Mark DeSaulnier, Ellen Tauscher, Tom Torlakson, and the State Democratic Party head the list. Along with this comes money and manpower from labor unions. Bonilla’s large edge in her own district is canceled out to a certain degree by Joan Buchanan who has similar support in areas where she previously held office. The question for Bonilla is if the immense power of the Progressive, Martinez Wing of the Democratic Party can overcome the lack of appeal she has with Independent and Republican’s voters.

Steve Glazer: Those who support the current Mayor of Orinda are almost the opposite of his opponent from Concord. Glazer is well known for his opposition to BART strikes, and his fiscally conservative views on taxes and government spending. He is trying attract moderate Democrats, as well as Republican, and decline to state voters that comprise about two thirds of those registered in the Senate district.

MontyBurnsGlazer, who has few if any campaign signs littering the district. His campaign is almost entirely based on direct mail to make his case to voters. It has yet to be determined if there will be a resurgence or a hangover from his failed candidacy in the Democratic Primary last year for the Assembly seat Catharine Baker eventually won. While Glazer’s opponents organize precinct walks with an army of volunteers, Glazer seems to play the role of Mr. Burns from the Simpson’s staying in the background moving the chess pieces around to influence public opinion.

Joan Buchanan: Running the only campaign with a slogan that reads “Positively for Us”, the termed out Assemblywoman from Alamo appears to be campaigning on a middle of the road platform between Susan Bonilla and Steve Glazer. While her views on education, taxes, and the environment mirror Bonilla’s, Buchanan appears to be more of a centralist in an attempt to woo Independents and Republicans.

This is similar strategy used in her former Assembly District which is more conservative than Bonilla’s current district. The question for Buchanan is if she can garner enough support from Democrats, (especially in her district) and with other voting blocks to advance to the run-off in May.

Hobby HorseTerry Kremin and Michaela Hertle: These two candidates are on the ballot yet have no chance to gain enough votes to be contenders. Even though Hertle, to borrow a poker terminology, is “dead money,” she will likely gain approximately 10% of the vote by virtue of having the initial (R) beside her name. The effect of her endorsement of Steve Glazer is yet to be known.

These wasted votes only have importance because they take away support from Glazer and to an extent Buchanan. The same rules apply to Terry Kremin whose name on the ballot will likely only represent a handful of votes coming at the expense Susan Bonilla who also resides in Concord. With no publicity or even a ballot statement, Kremin’s appeal is as a spoiler, protest vote for those who dislike all of those running for the open Senate seat.

If perspective voters read even a fraction of the direct mail that is flooding their mail boxes, they likely end up being confused and mislead by what the political campaigns have been churning out.

As might be expected, the majority of Susan Bonilla’s appeal has been directed at mainstream Democrats. Most of her literature touts endorsements and ability to be a successful legislator in the State capital.

There has been a great deal of duplication delivering this message as a host of Political Action Committees (PACs) have been stacking up in mail boxes of those likely to vote. Whether this tactic will turn voters on or off will not be known until March 17th.

Joan Buchanan and Steve Glazer have done more targeting to specific groups, especially Independents and Republicans. Both of them are trying to uncork the genie that propelled Catharine Baker to victory last fall. The candidate that gets the support of the “Baker Coalition” will likely determine the fortunes of at least one of the candidates who will move on after the primary.

So far the election has been relatively clean especially between Bonilla and Buchanan, who have been political allies in the past. Virtually all of the hit pieces in the campaign appear to have been directed by, for, or against Steve Glazer.

Much of animosity comes from left where liberals are angry that Glazer is running as a Democrat while holding views they feel are more like a Republican. His literature criticizes the two women running against him for doing a poor job in being guardians of the public trust and being tied in to Sacramento lobbyists.

The most egregious hit piece thus far came from an alleged Chinese PAC (that is in reality funded by Progressive Democrats) sent to Republican households telling them to vote for Michaela Hertle, conveniently obfuscating her withdrawal from the race and subsequent endorsement of Glazer.

On the other side of the coin, one of Orinda Mayor’s mailers to Republicans quotes positive remarks made by Catharine Baker on Glazer’s views against BART strikes failing to mention Baker has not endorsed his candidacy.

How all of this will resonate with voters next Tuesday is anyone’s guess. Political junkies such as myself are often guilty of over analysis. What is more likely the case is voter burnout and apathy.

With the cost for the campaign (mostly spent on mailers) to be around $10.00 per vote cast, this is not exactly American Democracy’s finest hour. The only clear winner for the election seems to be consultants and the U.S. Postal Service with increased revenues from delivering all of the propaganda to households throughout the district.

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How ESPN might cover California’s State Senate DIstrict 7 special election

As the March 17th Special Election for the State Senate District 7 seat unfolds, there are, as they say on ESPN, “key match-ups” to watch between the three viable candidates, Democrats Susan Bonilla, Joan Buchanan, and Steve Glazer.

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As the March 17th Special Election for the State Senate District 7 seat unfolds, there are, as they say on ESPN, “key match-ups” to watch between the three viable candidates, Democrats Susan Bonilla, Joan Buchanan, and Steve Glazer. Continue reading “How ESPN might cover California’s State Senate DIstrict 7 special election”

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7th Senate District candidate Joan Buchanan supports schools, local government

7th Senate District candidate Joan Buchanan supports schools, small business, local government, fair wage and regional planning

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Running on a platform of supporting education, preserving the quality of life, and helping small businesses, Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) is conducting a vigorous campaign for California’s 7th Senate District seat.

Interviewed at her campaign headquarters in San Ramon on Thursday, February 12, Buchanan said investment in education is an investment in people, and people, she added, are “the most important infrastructure we have.”

When asked if lower tuition is needed in California’s public system of higher education, Buchanan replied, “Absolutely.” She said that graduates of higher education programs can amass as much as $100,000 worth of debt from student loans.

Buchanan said that California needs to help public-school teachers succeed, adding that she wanted to “good teachers to become great teachers.”

To teach at the elementary, high school, and community college level, California teachers must earn appropriate credentials in the subjects taught. In some school districts, there is a shortage of science and mathematics teachers. To remedy this kind of shortage, Buchanan advocates “alternative means of credentialing” to produce an adequate number of teachers.

“I think Silicon Valley is an asset to the state,” Buchanan said. She said that appropriate education can provide the intellectual capital needed to keep Silicon Valley flush with skilled employees.

Businesses, she said, often cannot find the intellectual capital they need.

Buchanan is running in the 7th Senate District which includes such communities as Antioch, Concord, Danville, Orinda, Lafayette, Moraga, San Ramon, Pleasanton, and Walnut Creek.

The 7th Senate District became vacant when incumbent State Senator, Mark DeSaulnier, was elected to the House of Representatives in November 2014. DeSaulnier was halfway through his second term in the State Senate.

A primary election will be held for the 7th Senate District on March 17. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the two top vote-getters will face each other in a May 19 runoff.

The three principal candidates running in the 7th Senate District primary are Buchanan, Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) and Steve Glazer (D-Orinda). Bonilla is currently serving in the California State Assembly. Glazer is a member of the Orinda City Council.

From 2008 to 2014, Buchanan served three terms in the California State Assembly. Because of term limits, she could not run for the Assembly again.

Buchanan called for reforming taxes on California businesses. She said that some businesses pay very little in tax while others pay the statutory rate of 8.84 percent on profits. California’s 8.84 percent rate is the eighth highest business-tax rate in the nation.

Buchanan said that she would consider legislation that eliminated tax breaks for some businesses in exchange for a lower rate on all businesses.

Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), a current state senator, has a plan to place a sales tax on services. Currently, only certain goods are taxed. Asked to comment on Hertzberg’s proposal, Buchanan said that if services are taxed, the overall sales-tax rate should decline.

On worker pay, Buchanan said that a “living wage” is needed. She said that it is also important to close the “skills gap” among workers.

On the subject of robotics, Buchanan said that the “trend is accelerating.” She added that “we need a new kind of skilled worker.”

Buchanan said she supported California’s minimum wage, which is currently $9.00 per hour. On January 1, 2016, the wage will rise of $10.00 per hour.

Asked to comment on the use of government funds to provide low-income workers with money for housing, medical care, and utility services, Buchanan said, “I don’t have a problem” with income supplementation. However, she said that such supplementation is “not a solution to low-wage jobs.

On the subject of Plan Bay Area, a scheme to add high-rise, high-density housing to local communities, Buchanan said that there is a need to protect the quality of life in local communities. She said that she does not object to letting local communities vote on Plan Bay Area.

Small business, Buchan said, needs more support. Access to capital for small businesses, she said, is important.

She said she liked programs like Start-Up NY, a New York State program to help start, expand, or relocate qualified businesses in special tax-free zones in New York State. Advertisements for Start Up NY, say that qualified businesses can, for 10 years, avoid sales taxes, business taxes, and property taxes.

When there are conflicts between the policies of the California state government and a local California government, the local government should prevail, Buchanan said.

On the subject of state-government pensions, she said that some state pension systems like CalSTRS (the California State Teachers’ Retirement System) and CalPERS (the California Public Employees’ Retirement System) are should use “conservative” investment goals, not “aggressive” ones.

Buchanan said that all state-government jobs should be part of Social Security and Medicare. This “makes sense,” she said.

Buchanan said she supports the Urban Limit Line, a plan to prevent too much suburban expansion. Without such a line, “We’ll have an LA [Los Angeles] here,” she said.

Concerning the Board of Supervisors of Contra Costa County, Buchanan said that the board’s recent decision to raise supervisors’ pay by 33 percent was excessive. She said that she signed a petition to roll back the increase.

Buchanan said she had no objection to the election of regional government authorities. In the Bay Area, the boards of directors of the Metropolitan Transportation Council (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) are selected from a pool of locally elected officials. MTC’s and ABAG’s directors are not elected directly by voters.

Transportation is a major issue in California, Buchanan said. She stated that she has objections to Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan for a high-speed passenger rail system linking Northern and Southern California. The plan is flawed. she said. Brown is a Democrat.

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Forums reveal differences between State Senate District 7 Candidates

Of the District 7 candidates, Steve Glazer is in favor of stronger measures to reform a system which he said is 220 billion dollars out of balance.

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After attending the Democratic State Senate District 7 candidates debate between Joan Buchanan, Susan Bonilla, and Steve Glazer at the Lafayette Library last week, I wondered if supporters of one of the contestants would actually change their preference because of a better answer provided by a different candidate? Continue reading “Forums reveal differences between State Senate District 7 Candidates”

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Bonilla Buchanan Glazer: Who said what at Feb 4 Candidate forum

Bonilla Buchanan Glazier: Who said what at Feb 4 Candidate forum hosted by the Democratic Club of Lafayette in advance of the Special Election for State Senate District 7 seat.

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Below see my notes from the meeting February 4 Candidate Forum in Lafayette for the Candidates running in the Special Election for the State Senate District 7 seat vacated by, now Congressman, Mark DeSaulnier. Continue reading “Bonilla Buchanan Glazer: Who said what at Feb 4 Candidate forum”

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