President Moonbeam, Part IV

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

Attorney General Jerry Brown’s nomination for governor is now certain, and given the rapid Republican decline in California, he has to be the odds on favorite for November. So it is time to concentrate on Brown’s next campaign for president.

President you ask? Well, each time he has been elected governor (1974 and 1978), he has immediately begun running for president (1976 and 1980). He even ran when he was not governor, in 1992. So a fourth campaign for president should not be totally dismissed, even if, as is likely, Brown denies it.

Additionally, there is a logic for another quixotic run in 2012. Brown always runs for president from the left, and the left wing of the Democratic Party is increasingly disenchanted with President Obama. He has betrayed them on public option health care, on withdrawing from Afghanistan, on closing Guantanamo. This is the fodder Brown has used in his past campaigns; there is no reason he cannot reprise this strategy again.

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A Switcheroo for Tom Campbell?

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci reported recently that Tom Campbell may be dropping out of the governor’s race to run for the US Senate against Sen. Barbara Boxer. If this is true, it could be a blockbuster event in campaign 2010.

Campbell’s thinking seems driven by two realities; he doesn’t have enough money to compete in the GOP gubernatorial primary, and the nomination may be worthless anyway as some polling shows Attorney General Jerry Brown poised to win in a landslide.

But if he shifts to the Senate contest, he will have one huge impact – and it is not his nomination, but that of Assemblyman Chuck Devore. A Campbell candidacy probably finishes off the GOP establishment favorite, businesswoman Carly Fiorina. Her base is among the Silicon Valley GOP types, as is Campbell’s, and with the declining Republican Party in California, there is simply not room for two Silicon Valley Republicans.

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Maldonado – The Nuclear Option

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

The likelihood is growing that the Democratic legislature, in a fit of partisan pique, will turn down Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s nomination of GOP Sen. Abel Maldonado to be lieutenant governor – at least that’s what the capital rumor mill says.

Maldonado was chosen in part because he was one of the few Republican legislators to work with the governor and the Democrats to solve the state’s fiscal problems – often joining with the Democrats to vote against his own party. But the fact that Maldonado could be found in the Democratic foxhole seems not to be sufficient to keep the Democratic leadership from shooting down the fellow that helped them the most.

It will be a long cold day in hell before any other Republicans crosses the aisle to work in a bipartisan way, and lots of luck to Senate Leader Darrel Steinberg and Assembly Speaker (enter name here) in getting bipartisan cooperation to close the next multi-billion dollar budget hole.

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A Campaign Finance Loophole leads to Allegations of Money Laundering

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

Proposition 34, the so-called campaign finance limit, is one of the worst laws ever written. That’s no surprise, it was written by politicians for their own benefit. The objective was to supplant a 1996 campaign finance initiative that set very strict contribution limits. Proposition 34, put on the ballot by the legislature and passed in 2000, loosened the contribution limits. It limits an individual contribution to a legislative candidate to $3,900. But it also created a big fat loophole for the pols to launder money to themselves. And that is just what has been happening over the past decade. Now one politician may be in trouble for it.

Last month, the San Diego Union reported that in May Assemblyman Joel Anderson (R-La Mesa) contributed $32,400 from his 2008 campaign fund to the Fresno County Republican Central Committee. In June, he sent $32,400 to the Placer GOP committee and an equal amount to the Stanislaus County committee. Also in May, three members of the Hamann family of El Cajon – longtime supporters of Anderson – contributed $30,000 to the Fresno Committee. In June, the Barona Band of Mission Indians in San Diego County gave $10,000 to the Fresno party.

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Helping Nancy — Projections for Congressional Redistricting

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

Redistricting is still a year and half off, but the first solid numbers indicating what to expect have now appeared. At a conference on 2011 district drawing, researchers at the Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College unveiled population projections for all 53 California congressional districts.

The Rose researchers relied on data developed by Caliper, the nation’s leading redistricting software company, the US Census Bureau, and the state Department of Finance. The Census Bureau currently projects the 2010 California population at 36.8 million; Caliper at 37.4 million; and Department of Finance at 38 million. The Rose analysis used the middle number and disaggregated the figures to the census block level – and then combined the blocks into existing congressional districts.

The figures are obviously not exact – the actually census will not be taken until April 2010 – but Caliper’s population models take into account housing patterns and county projections, and so they provide a remarkably reliable projection of what the actual count will show.

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Why Voters Favor an Open Primary but not a Part Time Legislature

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

The Public Policy Institute of California’s September survey asked several questions on proposed political reforms, and one that that caught the attention of PPIC head Mark Baldassare and a number of observers was an apparently contradiction on issues of legislative reform. Voter confusion about political reforms is nothing new, but this one stood out.

When asked whether an open primary with a top two runoff was a good or bad idea, 70 percent of voters favored it. But when asked if a part time legislature was a good or bad idea, only 23 percent were in favor.

“Californians seem to be yearning for political reforms that will build on the independent redistricting initiative that they passed last November. Seven in 10 voters across party lines would like to change the closed primary system to an open primary – allowing the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation to square off in the general election,” Baldassare wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Cleansing the GOP of Independents

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

If Sarah Palin wants to find death panels, she need look no farther than the executive committee of the California Republican Party. The California GOP leadership has shown one and only one political skill in recent years, losing elections. In the past 15 years they have elected one insurance commissioner and one governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom they all detest. Other than in gerrymandered districts, the GOP cannot elect anyone in California.

So it no surprise that the GOP executive committee has now decided – or will shortly – to ban independent voters from voting in GOP primaries. Independents are the largest growing share of the California electorate and include many young people and newly registered voters. It is no surprise that a party whose demographic is largely elderly white people would want to exclude them.

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May 19th Winners and Losers

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

Bring on the autopsy. If the polling is any indication, California voters will defeat the five budget balancing measures, Propositions 1A through 1E, on May 19. Not only do both the Field and PPIC polls show the measures losing, but opinion seems to be hardening against them. According PPIC, those voters following the measures closest are the most vigorously opposed. Fifty two percent of likely voters oppose Proposition 1A, the spending cap/tax measure. But among those following the measure most closely, 65 percent are opposed and only 29 percent are in favor.

If the measures go down, two factors will be at play. The voters do not seem to believe the legislature is capable of reforming itself, thus they are unimpressed with the “rainy day” spending cap Gov. Schwarzenegger and proponents have pushed so hard for.

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Return of the Open Primary: A Midnight Miracle

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

In the dead of night last week, Sen. Abel Maldonado managed to pull off an incredible coup: getting a two thirds vote to place the open primary on the June 2010 ballot in exchange for his vote on the budget. In the light of day partisans of all stripes are howling their heads off, but it too late. The measure is on the ballot.

A little history. In 1996 voters enacted an open primary constitutional amendment that allowed all voters to vote for all candidates for each partisan office in the primary. The parties hated this, and sued in federal court. In 2000, the US Supreme Court declared the California open primary unconstitutional as a violation of “parties associational rights” (whatever they are) because Republicans could help choose the Democratic nominee for office, and vice versa.

But the court left a loophole. If you did not have party nominees, you could have a “blanket” open primary. The state of Washington had long had the blanket primary, and to meet the Supreme Court mandate, Washington in 2004 enacted a blanket primary, top-two runoff with no party nominees. (Candidates can show that they “prefer” a party). This new law was upheld by the US Supreme Court in 2007 and Washington used it for the first time in 2008.

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Referring the Tax Shuffle

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

The tax and fee scheme dreamed up by legislative Democrats and probably soon to be signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger is rightly called the “nuclear option” because it blows away legislative Republicans by allowing tax increases to be passed with a majority vote. This is probably the first step in rendering Republicans powerless because the Democrats are sure to come up with a way to get around the two-thirds budget vote as well.

This is nothing new – it has been around for a long time. It was just never triggered until now. Here’s how it works: Democrats are raising sales, income and oil company taxes but lowering the gas tax, thus creating a “tax neutral” situation. Their lawyers tell them this does not trigger the constitutional two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases, it can be done with a majority vote. Democrats then replaced the gas tax with a 39 cent per gallon “fee.” “Regulatory fees” are majority vote thanks to a 1997 court case called Sinclair Paint. In 2000, business tried to pass an initiative to disallow majority vote fees but it failed.

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