(Editor’s Note: For twenty years, The California Target Book has been the authoritative go-to guide for all interested in California elective politics. The Target Book contains detailed analysis of candidates, their supporters and background for each Assembly, State Senate and Congressional race in the state. To learn more about the workings of the California Target Book, Fox & Hounds Daily asked questions of the Target Book’s co-founder, Allan Hoffenblum.)

Q: The California Target Book is filled with minute details about candidates’ backgrounds, vote totals in the candidate races, how voters in every legislative district voted in presidential and gubernatorial races, and money raised and spent among other facts. How in the world do you gather all this data?

A: Knowing where to locate the data is the key. Much comes directly from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the California Secretary of State’s office. And, I have to give a tip of the hat to the California Morning Report, Scott Lay’s Election Track and Paul Mitchell and his team at Political Data. There are also a couple of sites that daily tracks candidate filings for congress and the state legislature. Compiling all that data, analyzing it and putting it out timely and in a readable format is what makes the California Target Book.

Q: What’s the history of the Target Book? How and why was in conceived?

A: Back in 1993 Al Pross – one of my Target Book editors –and I conducted seminars around the state, the subject being how our elective system works. One of the seminar inserts, which I titled the Target Book, gave brief analyses on those congressional and state legislative districts I thought would be targets in 1994. Several attendees of the seminar asked Al and I if we were going to keep the “Target Book” up to date through the ‘94 election cycle. We asked if we do, how much would they be willing to pay … and the California Target Book was born.

Q: What formats does the Target Book take and who uses this information?

A: I publish five separate hard copy editions during the two-year election cycle. In 2012 I placed the Target Book online. All subscribers have online access, but for an additional fee, subscribers who so chose can continue to receive the hard copy editions, which are now abridged versions of the online edition. To my surprise, the vast majority wanted to continue receiving their hard copy. Most of the heavy hitters, such as the CA Labor Federation, CA Chamber of Commerce, CA Association of Realtors, news media, political consultants and pollsters regularly go online. But many just use the book.

Q: Tell us about the frequent online updates.

A: Keeping track of the candidate filings and writing profiles on each of the candidates is what takes up most of my time. Lots of Google searches.

Q: What changes have you made over time to improve the information your subscribers receive?

A: In the earlier years, keeping track of the candidates and acquiring information on each candidate was a real chore. But thanks to the Internet, the speed and amount of information I am able to provide to subscribers has significantly increased.

Q: How do the editors work together? I see you list five editors beside yourself. Let’s run them down for our readers before you answer.

Al Pross, co-founder of the Target Book, a former Democratic consultant, former Assembly Speaker Leo McCarthy’s Chief of Staff, political and public affairs official with the Cable TV association and the California Medical Association.

Victor Griego, a political strategist who has worked with the United Farm Workers, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union and chief of staff for former Assembly Member Richard Alatorre.

Deborah Howard, involved in politics for over 35 years with time spent in Washington D.C. and Sacramento. She worked on many state ballot initiatives with the Goddard Claussen firm and currently serves as Executive Director of the California Senior Advocates League and is a public affairs consultant.

Tony Quinn, frequent writer and commentator on California politics (including for this publication), an expert on redistricting and demographics, a former Republican staffer, former assistant to the California Attorney General, former director of the Office of Economic Research and a former member of the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Darry Sragow, Democratic political consultant working on numerous California campaigns, Managing Partner of a Los Angeles law firm and Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at USC.

Of course, you Allan, besides being co-founder of the Target Book, were staff director of the Assembly Republican caucus, ran numerous GOP candidate campaigns over many years, are the go-to guy for political analysis for members of California’s political media.

So, how does it work?

A: None of the editors do any of the writing. All the political analyses and candidate profiles are done by me. As you noted, I am a Republican. Understanding the political demographics of the state, four of the five editors are Democrats. Their job is to keep me honest and assure I don’t allow my political biases to influence what I write. They are also close friends who I have worked with one time or another throughout my years in politics. I talk and meet with them regularly, keeping them fully informed on all aspects of the Target Book.

Q: Any changes planned for the Target Book?

A: Yes. Currently, the Target Book shows party voter registration, ethnic voter registration and past voting history on each of the state’s 53 Congressional, 80 Assembly and 40 Senate districts. I am now working on not only increasing the amount of political data shown on each of these districts, but also developing plans for subscribers to be able to obtain this data down to the precinct level.

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