The Presidential Race: But Seriously…

John J. Pitney, Jr.
Professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and coauthor of American Government and Politics: Deliberation

When George Wallace ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, his slogan was “Send Them a Message!”   Last night’s winners might as well have used the same catchphrase. The New Hampshire primary was a political Festivus, in which Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders performed feats of strength while the electorate undertook the airing of grievances. Voters wanted to show that they were fed up with the political and economic establishments, and the double-digit margins got the message across quite vividly.

Trump and Sanders have become the voices of discontent by positioning themselves as “outsiders.” In neither case is the mantle a perfect fit. Sanders has held office for 33 of the past 35 years, and has always caucused with congressional Democrats. His avowed socialism scarcely sets him apart in a party that has galloped leftward ever since Bill Clinton let go of the reins in 2001. Trump has direct experience in government. Rather, he bought his seat at the table of power by spreading money liberally among New York politicians. If Trump supporters are right that most political insiders are prostitutes, then Trump has distinguished himself by being a john.

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Hillary’s Tin Ear for Politics

Stu Spencer
Longtime California Political Consultant and Chief Political Strategist for Ronald Reagan

An article by Politico Magazine chief correspondent Glenn Thrush on Monday titled “Clinton Weighs Staff Shakeup” jogged my ancient memory.

As I recall this happened in the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign.  This year her complaints are that she is dissatisfied with the messaging and digital operations, which are two of the three main components of a campaign, the other being money.  This woman has been running since 2008 for the presidency, more than enough time to find the right political consultant and the right team to develop a campaign plan and how you’re going to message. A message that fits the world today and yes, have a relationship with the staff so that you can massage the message if needed by events.  

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Did Rocky Just Sink Loretta?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez’s best chance in the U.S. Senate race – the theory goes – is to grab the second spot in the June first round of the top two contest, and then rally against the frontrunner, Attorney General Kamala Harris, in the November runoff.

This Sanchez path to victory looked viable when there were three Republicans in the race, thus dividing that vote so that even the top GOP finisher would have less votes than Sanchez. But the path doesn’t look nearly so good after one of the three Republicans, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, quit the race last week.

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More Truthiness From CalSTRS’s CEO

David Crane
Lecturer and Research Scholar at Stanford University and President of Govern for California

In 2005 Stephen Colbert coined the word “truthiness” to describe “truths we want to exist.” His invention was timely because at that moment I was contending with truthiness as practiced by the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), to whose board I had been appointed that year. I discovered the organization was understating pension liabilities and overstating expected investment returns, a lethal combination with dangerous consequences for California’s public schools. After I encouraged the board to change those practices, an intense effort by special interests led to my removal. Later, when CalSTRS sought and received a bailout, truthiness reared its ugly head once again when the organization’s CEO was less than forthcoming about the real reasons for its deficit. Most recently, the CEO’s cover letter to CalSTRS’s latest annual report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015 (FY2015) indicates truthiness remains standard operating procedure in his office.

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Parking Up the Wrong Tree

Charles Crumpley
Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal

You may have heard that Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles recently proposed what he called a “Parking Bill of Rights” to bring some relief to long-abused motorists. When I read that, my heart started racing. I was a little unsure of what to do since it’s been more than 200 years since we last dealt with a Bill of Rights, but I was immediately ready to petition the Continental Congress or do whatever you need to do these days to get a bill of rights ratified.

But alas, when I read more about Gatto’s bill, I sunk back a bit. What he wants to do is alright, I suppose. But it just isn’t radical enough.

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Political Power Struggle Over PUC Reforms

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

The California Public Utilities Commission rightly faces questions about its effectiveness and responsibilities, but in the end the issue of reforms will come down to a question of power—the political kind.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s proposed constitutional amendment to replace the authority of the PUC will get the debate started and public sentiment should be on his side. The natural gas disaster at Porter Ranch follows in relative short order the San Bruno gas line explosion and the questionable dealings involving the San Onofre nuclear power plant. All these highly publicized issues have given the PUC a black eye.

The PUC’s stated mission is “protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure….”

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New Hampshire – Maker Of Presidents

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Iowa they say picks corn and New Hampshire picks presidents.  And in fact, that is exactly right.  New Hampshire not only makes presidents, it also rids us of presidents, two in recent history.  And this year it is going to play its traditional mighty role.

Hillary Clinton simply has to survive New Hampshire, but if she does better than expected, as some polls suggest, she will be the “comeback gal” just like Bill was the “comeback kid” in 1992.  For the Republicans, New Hampshire could make or break their candidates.  Before Saturday’s debate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was emerging as the establishment choice against Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz.  Then he had a bad New Hampshire debate.  His candidacy could go the way of other New Hampshire debate losers.

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Millions of Gallons of Wasted Storm Runoff Ignored 

Assemblyman Jim Patterson
Assembly Member Jim Patterson represents the 23rd District, which includes portions of Fresno and Tulare counties.

Last week the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation heard testimony from several of the state’s water bureaucrats about how they are spending water bond funds. Surprising to me was that after all the back-patting, there was not one mention of all the water we are wasting.

According to the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, more than 208,000 acre feet of water was flushed out to the ocean during the month of January.
We should be pumping that water out of the Delta to refill and replenish the reservoirs we will rely on for our next dry season.

Fresno County Farmer Wayne Western has been crunching numbers to keep the public aware of all the water waste.  “The people of California have been conserving for a major drought for over three years.  We’ve also been paying for it by lost jobs, fallowed fields,” Western said. “It’s time for the government to end the man-made drought and start pumping and saving water.”

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The Importance of the New Hampshire Primary

Richard Rubin
He writes about political issues and is President of a Public Affairs Management Firm. He also teaches courses on the Presidential & Congressional Elections at the University of San Francisco and is Vice Chair of the California Commonwealth Club.

The big story going into the New Hampshire primary—the first in the nation—is the shifting dynamics of one of the strangest presidential campaigns in American history.

Iowa’s caucus results are often not predictive of the final outcome—certainly on the GOP side where neither of the previous winners—Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum—received their party’s nomination.

But they do suggest that the simmering discontent in the general populace which candidates in both parties have been tapping into since the campaigning began is boiling up to the surface and the remaining contenders may ignore it at their peril.

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Mandating Victims of Gas Leak to Return in 8 Days Unacceptable 

Michael D. Antonovich
Los Angeles County Supervisor

In a weekend negotiation, the Southern California Gas Company and the City of Los Angeles agreed to a 7-night, 8-day timeframe by when residents displaced by the Porter Ranch gas leak must return to their residence otherwise reimbursement for relocation expenses will stop.

This deal victimizes the victims once again and violates the spirit of the Public Health officer’s 30-day return recommendation.  Residents and school officials should have the confidence once the well is sealed, that the area has been appropriately tested and assessed before the Gas Company discontinues paying for relocation expenses.  These residents have been forced out of their homes and their children forced out of their schools.  A 30-day return policy would be in the best interest of residents, students, and schools. 

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