Nine Secrets For Getting Elected

Getting elected 2Suddenly it seems that everyone is ready to dive into politics. Neighbors, people at work, friends; they all want to get involved – so they call you, someone who’s won campaigns and held elected office. Maybe the thing that finally pushed them into the political arena was small, such as another $65 parking ticket.

Or maybe it’s something big, like the daily turmoil churning Washington, D.C. They tell you the national leadership is driving them crazy and they’re ready to do something about it. Or maybe they believe it’s not being nearly aggressive enough and they’re ready to do something about it.

But your time is limited and you can’t organize their campaign for them, raise money, make phone calls, or walk the precincts they’ll need to win. You barely have enough time to deal with your responsibilities.

I’m with you. And that’s why I wrote “Nine Secrets For Getting Elected.” It’s for all the people who’ve decided it’s time to get involved but aren’t sure how to start.

“Nine Secrets For Getting Elected” looks at the questions every politician – newbie or veteran – ultimately has to answer:

•      Can you raise the money needed to win?

•      Are you prepared to deal with the special interests, political factions, and gadflies?

•      Have you figured out why exactly you want to run and are you able to explain why constituents should give you their vote?

•      How do you gain the name recognition you need to win your race?

•      Do you know how many votes you need to win, and do you have a plan to get them?

“Nine Secrets For Getting Elected” chronicles 7½ years of wonderful and bizarre encounters as an elected official in the sun-splashed Hermosa Beach. It offers a rare chance to pull back the stage curtain and observe how political rabbits are smuggled into the government hat.

Everything in the book actually happened. Only the names have been changed.

The full manuscript for “Nine Secrets For Getting Elected” is available on Amazon in digital format, paperback or hard cover.

https://www.amazon.com/Nine-Secrets-Getting-Elected-Candidates/dp/1947368052/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507430348&sr=8-1&keywords=kit+bobko

Patrick “Kit” Bobko was a two-term Mayor and City Councilman of Hermosa Beach and a Republican candidate for Congress in 2011. Kit is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and former Captain in the U.S. Air Force. He currently practices law in Los Angeles.

Early California presidential primary could backfire and help Republicans

As reported by the Washington Examiner:

California has done it again: rescheduled its presidential primary so that it will vote earlier in the presidential selection process. Instead of voting in early June, at the end (or just about the end: Utah voted later last time) of the primary and caucus system, California will now vote in March. Of course that may not be early enough to make California the central focus of presidential politics. In the 2008 cycle it voted in February, and even then 33 states voted earlier or on the same day.

Which is not to say that California has not made a difference in selecting presidential nominees. Voting in June, it provided narrow but decisive victories for Barry Goldwater over Nelson Rockefeller in the 1964 Republican primary and for George McGovern over Hubert Humphrey in the 1972 Democratic primary. From those results, and from Ronald Reagan’s success in the 1966 Republican gubernatorial primary and the 1966 and 1970 general elections for governor, some (including me, at the time) drew the conclusion that California was partial to the (arguably) extreme candidates of both parties, and would tend to tilt their nominations in that direction.

There was a certain tension between that idea — that California was somehow at the leading edge of both conservative and liberal politics — and that it was a reasonable bellwether of national opinion. In support of the latter view, however, you could cite data that showed California voting very much like the nation as a whole in presidential general elections, generally not varying as much as 5 percent off the national Democratic and Republican percentages (more in 1968, when George Wallace took 14 percent of the national vote but won only 7 percent in California).

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Current One-Party System is Bad for California

californiaTechnically speaking, California’s political system is a “two party system,” but that is largely in name only in most places in the state.

California has become a “one party state” controlled by the California Democratic Party and California Democrat politicians.
Two key drivers was the decline of the Republican Party in the wake of Pete Wilson’s Prop. 187, and the redistricting deal in the early 2000s that helped Congressional Republicans and Republican incumbents by making most of California’s districts solidly Democrat or solidly Republican, according to a conversation with the late Allan Hoffenblum, legendary GOP strategist and former publisher of the California Target Book.

Republicans are not competitive in the vast majority of districts, and once the 2016 election is over it has been reported by David Crane, Stanford University, that there will be no open Assembly seats in the state until 2024. Campaign consultants are already sulking over the lack of potential competitive elections in the years following 2016.

This lack of party competition will primarily hurt California working families and the declining middle-class and help powerful special interests. The reason is that the lack of a viable political opposition in the vast majority of districts allows politicians to pander to their “core constituencies” and ignore the vast majority of voters including independents and the political center.
The one bright spot is the passage of the “top two primary system” as the result of a back door budget deal which has enabled the rise of the “moderate democrat” in California politics which tend to be less tied to the Democratic pro-labor base and more sensible on business and independent voter issues (i.e. taxes, government regulation).

Republican challengers, and their backers, tend to be the ones who can challenge California Democrat politicians on their weakest policy stances including taxes, out of control government spending, and onerous and costly government regulation.
But in most legislative races in California the Democrat establishment candidates do not have a viable Republican challenger. The result is that many of the key issues facing California are not even debated in the campaign. This is bad for the state’s political system and its voters.

Most competitive legislative races in California are characterized as a race between a far-left “progressive, pro-labor” Democrat, and a more moderate “pro-business” Democrat. This trend is the result of the state’s relatively new “top two primary system” and is surely better than having no competition but does not provide the same benefits as a true two party system.
Most “moderate Democrats” are still pro-labor, just not as far left as the organized labor establishment–backed Democrat candidates. And most “moderate Democrats” stick to the California Democratic Party platform on most economic and social issues. They are essentially Democrats, with a pro-business slant, which is good for the state and its political debate, but does not tend to challenge the Democratic status quo on most important issues in the state.

For example, take the example of Senator Bill Dodd (D), running as a moderate Democrat in the Sacramento valley in 2016. He is selling himself as a reasonable centrist Democrat who can work with both Democrats and Republicans to get things done. But he is still “pro-labor” and tied to the Democrat labor base on most issues including environmental regulation and state spending issues–perhaps the state’s two most important current policy issues.

Perhaps most alarming, is that after 2016 many of the “moderate Democrats” may not even have the threat of a viable moderate pro-business challenger, which makes it likely that they could sway back to the left, even the far-left, staked out organized labor and California Democratic Party.

In conclusion, there are really two potential paths to bringing back electoral competition to California politics.
First, the Republican Party and its candidates could move closer to the political center to better challenge Democrat candidates. This is unlikely to happen because the state’s Republican candidates are simply a reflection of the state’s Republican voters who tend to be very conservative.

Second, the more likely scenario is that you will see an increasing split in the California Democrat Party between its “pro-labor” base and “moderate Democrats.” This split has increased dramatically in the last year, and likely to continue.
If one considers voting data, one finds that the political center is huge, larger than either party, and there is really a lot of room for new varieties of Democrat candidates to stake out a more centrist positions that appeal to independent voters who tend to be more fiscally conservative than the Democratic base yet still pro-environment. These voters tend to be more reasonable on regulatory issues and other common sense policy positions, such as keeping a lid on the state’s rising tax burden and expansion of the welfare state.

Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain, the state’s current one-party system is bad for California and the average voter, particularly independents, who in many cases do not even have the option to vote for a candidate that fits their political and policy preferences.

Kersten Institute for Governance and Public Policy

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Supreme Court Justices Are About To Tip The Scales In California Politics

Photo courtesy Envios, flickr

Photo courtesy Envios, flickr

California politics could be shaken up this spring when the U.S. Supreme Court hands down its decisions in two potentially landmark cases.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution thought they were keeping the judiciary out of politics, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Today the Supreme Court exercises so much power over our lives that if one of the justices mentions retirement, half the country experiences chest pains. And the stress is not unwarranted: Policies that were created by judges can be reversed by judges.

Right now the Supreme Court is considering whether to change the rules that control state redistricting, and whether to abolish mandatory union dues for public employees. The impact of the two decisions could make California’s predictable elections a lot less predictable.

In the redistricting case, Evenwel v. Abbott, the issue is whether Texas should be allowed — perhaps even required — to draw its legislative district boundaries based on eligible voters instead of total population.

For example, an Assembly district might have a population of half a million people but far fewer citizens who are eligible to vote. The court’s ruling could result in the district’s boundaries being redrawn to take in new geographical areas with more citizens and fewer immigrants. The decision could scramble the political map in Texas and potentially in other states with a high proportion of non-citizens, including California.

Until the mid-20th century, the federal courts stayed out of state redistricting. That changed when Chief Justice Earl Warren decided to get involved.

As governor of California in the 1940s, Warren had opposed a plan to draw district lines based on population instead of geographical area. At the time, rural Senate districts with fewer voters had the same political power as urban districts jammed with voters. The votes of city residents were, in a sense, unequal to the votes of rural residents. Los Angeles was outvoted on everything.

As chief justice, Warren had second thoughts about the fairness of that arrangement. In two landmark decisions, Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, the court imposed a “one person, one vote” standard that required voting districts to have roughly equal populations.

But the Evenwel case could be a new landmark.

The second case that could shake up California politics, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, may determine whether public employees have the right to refuse to pay union dues. Ten California teachers are suing the CTA over the automatic deduction from their paychecks of “agency fees,” or what unions call “fair share fees.”

Public employee unions have had the power to collect fees from non-members ever since the Supreme Court ruled in a 1977 case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that mandatory dues were legal as long as no one was forced to pay for a union’s political activities. But the teachers argue that everything the union does is a political activity, because it negotiates with government officials for salaries and benefits paid from tax dollars.

If the court rules against the union, the continuous stream of cash that has flowed from teachers’ paychecks to the California Teachers Association could slow to a trickle. That may limit the CTA’s campaign spending, which for decades has flooded the political landscape to elect union-friendly lawmakers. Other public employee unions could find themselves in the same boat.

The Supreme Court’s decisions could unsettle California politics virtually overnight.

We’ve had some low-turnout elections, but this must be some kind of record. Thirty-eight million people live in California and its future may be decided by nine voters.

 

CARTOON: Death of Vaccination Referendum

vaccination cartoon

California Assembly Democrats Seem Determined to Completely Eliminate Minor Party Candidates

VotedOn April 15, the Assembly Elections Committee passed Assembly Bill 372, a bill which seems motivated by a desire to completely rid the November ballot of minor party candidates. Even though the bill has a Republican sponsor, it received no votes from either Republican member of the committee. But it passed because four of the five Democrats on the committee voted for it.

Ever since the top-two system went into effect in 2011, there have been virtually no minor party candidates on the November ballot for Congress or partisan state office. There were only three such minor party candidates in 2012, and just three in 2014.  All six of the minor party candidates were running in races in which only one person had filed to be on the primary ballot. So, the minor party candidates noticed there was only one person on the primary ballot, and they all then filed to be write-in candidates in the primary. In all six cases, the minor person then placed second in the June primary, with write-in votes, and were allowed on the November ballot.

AB372 says if someone places first or second in the primary via write-in votes, that person still can’t be on the November ballot unless, after the primary is over, he or she pays a filing fee of 1 percent of the annual salary of the office (for U.S. House and Legislature), or 2 percent of the annual salary (for statewide office). California does not ask declared write-in candidates to pay a filing fee, because in 1972 the State Supreme Court enjoined the filing fee for write-in candidates, in Steiner v. Mihaly.

The bill’s author is Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, from the 5th assembly district in the Sierra Nevada counties. He had a Libertarian opponent on the November 2014 ballot who had qualified via write-ins. That Libertarian, 25-year-old Patrick Hogan, received 26 percent of the vote against Bigelow in November. Assemblyman Bigelow feels that since he had to pay a filing fee to get his name on the June primary ballot, therefore Hogan should have been required to pay the same fee after the primary was over.

If AB372 is signed into law, the effect will be that fewer minor party candidates file to be declared write-in candidates, in races in which only one person qualified to have his or her name on the primary ballot. And that will mean even more one-candidate races in November. One-candidate elections for important office like U.S. House and state Legislature are not good policy, especially when other candidates want to run. An analysis of the one-candidate partisan races from November 2012 reveals that, on the average, 25.3 percent of the voters who cast a ballot leave the ballot blank when there is only one candidate on the ballot. This is especially so, given that California no longer allows write-in votes in November for Congress or partisan state office.

The four Democratic members of the Assembly Elections Committee who voted for AB372, and who seem to like one-candidate elections, are Richard Gordon, Kevin Mullin, Henry Perea and the committee chairman, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas. At the hearing, no one mentioned that the California Constitution itself would seem to block this bill. Article 2, sec. 5(a) says, “The candidates who are the top two vote-getters at a voter-nominated primary election for a congressional or state elective office shall, regardless of party preference, compete in the ensuing general election.”  A mere statute cannot override the state Constitution, and the state Constitution seems to say that people who place first or second have a right to appear on the November ballot, whether they come up with $1,100 after the primary or not.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

ditor of Ballot Access News

​Union-backed organizations trying to dupe voters and taxpayers

Because of Proposition 13, the unions representing California’s government employees — employees that are the highest paid in all 50 states according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — have a huge stake in who is elected to the state Legislature.

While most Californians are aware that Proposition 13 limits increases in property taxes — they can be increased by 2 percent annually — they are less familiar with the requirement that new or increased state taxes receive a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature.  Proposition 13 authors Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann included this provision because they feared that if they were successful in saving taxpayers money, lawmakers, no doubt with union support, would turn around and attempt to increase the tax burden in other areas.

So the government employee unions are constantly working hard to increase their support in the legislature, with the goal of achieving a super-majority of compliant lawmakers to increase taxes and make even more money available for payroll.  This explains why the government unions have been making all-out efforts in special elections that are often overlooked by the general public.

For example, government union leaders have ramped up their efforts to influence the outcome in the upcoming May 17th special election for a vacant senate seat in the Bay Area.  Although the race is between two Democrats, they fear the election of Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, a self-described fiscal conservative and social progressive. His experience in city government has taught him the importance of responsible budgeting, and this, to the unions, is intolerable. To assure his defeat and the election of union compliant Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, they are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of union dues to finance a mailing from a group calling itself “Working families Opposing Glazer for Senate.”

The problem is that the unions apparently do not want those who receive the mailing to know who is paying for it. State law requires that the top two contributors of more than $50,000 be listed on the mailer, but the names of the State Council of Service Employees, which gave $185,000, and the California School Employees Association, which gave $75,000 are nowhere to be found. Glazer has filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission, but more voters will see the misleading mailers than are likely to hear of a FPPC decision, and the damage is done.

Government employee unions being shy about public exposure is not unusual.  Unions back a number of organizations that at first glance appear to be looking after taxpayers’ interests.  In San Diego, they have set up the Middle Class Taxpayers Association that has opposed pension reform.

And, of course, there is the California Tax Reform Association, whose president, a former ’60s Berkeley radical, is dedicated to the overturning of Proposition 13’s taxpayer protections.  The group’s funding and board of directors come primarily from the government employee unions.

So when a group whose name makes it sound like a pro-taxpayer organization, or that it is representing average working folks, pushes policies that would raise taxes and the cost of government, it would be wise to look carefully for the union label.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’s rights.

Originally published by the HJTA.org

Independent voters on track to surpass state’s GOP voters

As reported by the Orange County Register:

California Republicans found a moment to celebrate last year when they broke Democrats’ two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature. But that may prove a fleeting diversion from ever-growing signs of doom.

Democrats hold every partisan statewide elected post, as well as large majorities in the Legislature and among the state’s congressional delegation.

New data shows that if current voter registration trends continue, the state’s independent voters will outnumber Republicans within four years.

Voters with no party preference now account for …

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Don’t Tax Independent Expenditures, Eliminate Candidate Donor Limits

The bill authored by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) to tax independent expenditure campaign spending has a point, although the measure itself is likely to find resistance in both the halls of the legislature and in the courts. Levine’s goal is to see campaigns conducted by candidates who would be accountable for the political messages delivered during a campaign.

With independent expenditures, which legally cannot consult or inform a candidate’s campaign of its activity, messages sent out on behalf of a candidate may not represent the candidate’s view, or his or her opinion of an opponent. Yet, the candidate often has to answer for this unsolicited “help.”

Assembly Bill 1494 would try to discourage use of independent expenditures (IE) by taxing the money spent in an IE campaign. Such a tax is probably unconstitutional. As election law expert Rick Hasen of UC Irvine told the Los Angeles Times, “You can’t design a tax with the purpose of trying to suppress speech. …The clear import of something like this would be to discourage people from making independent expenditures.”

Before such a law would face a legal challenge it would have to maneuver through a field of obstacles in the legislature. Well-off groups such as labor and business with sway under the capitol dome want to keep their ability to influence elections. Legislators themselves are likely to be concerned that the tax will limit the money that would be spent in their future campaigns.

Independent expenditure spending on campaigns has greatly increased since a 2000 ballot measure limited the amount of money that can be given directly to a candidate.

One goal of that measure was to increase the influence of political parties, according to supporters. However, independent expenditures arose and as Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters wrote there was a more cynical reason politicians supported the ballot measure:“(l)aundering campaign money to disguise its source is exactly what state legislators intended when they wrote Proposition 34 a decade ago. Its “strict limits” were designed to give the appearance of reform while encouraging money-laundering and so-called “independent expenditures” so that candidates wouldn’t be accountable to voters for their sources of campaign funds.”

A solution to the problem of beefing up candidate-controlled committees is to end the donation limits. Let candidates receive as much as a donor wants to give, report the donations immediately so that the public is aware of the donors, and let the candidate and his or her consultants fashion the campaign messages and be accountable for any promises or outrageous claims made during the campaign.

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

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

The Unintended Consequences of CA’s Top Two Primary System

California’s new “top-two” primary system has some Golden State Democrats worried. Though they’re confident about holding onto the seat being vacated by departing U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in 2016, Democrats may come to rue the new set-up, which allows the two top vote-getters to advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. In a low-turnout primary crowded with vote-splitting Democratic candidates, it’s not out of the question that two Republicans could lead the field. That almost happened in one of last year’s statewide primaries.

In the June 2014 primary for state controller, two Republicans squared off against three Democrats and a Green Party candidate. Republican David Evans, an unknown accountant from Central California, spent just $600 on the race but managed to garner 850,109 votes thanks to his bare-bones ballot statement—“Most qualified for Controller”—and the clever ballot designation he put after his name: “Chief Financial Officer.” Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin (a Republican) eventually won the primary, but Evans held the second-place spot for several days while votes were counted—putting him ahead of the two leading Democrats—until he was finally edged out. He finished fourth, with less than one percentage point separating him from the second-place finisher, Democrat Betty Yee. If Evans had held on, two Republicans would have competed in the general election, ensuring the first statewide GOP victory in almost a decade. Yee went on to beat Swearengin in November.

For Democrats, it was an uncomfortably close call. Democratic political consultant Garry South summarized the implications: “One of the lessons we’ve learned in ’12, and now in ’14, is that in a very low turnout primary, which this was, with a disproportionate share of Republicans turning out, Democrats have to be careful they don’t overload the ballot with candidates splitting too few Democratic voters.” These are the conditions of almost every California primary, however.

Reformers had hoped that the top-two primary structure would put more moderates on the general election ballot. It’s not yet clear that this is occurring. What’s certain is that the system is proving problematic for California’s Democrats, who have long dominated statewide offices. The reasons are two-fold. First, as South describes, with lower turnouts and higher percentages of Republicans participating, primaries are more challenging for California Democrats. Total voter participation figures still favor Democrats in these races, but it’s a much closer split than in the general election. Second, with a deeper bench of potential candidates, California Democrats have too many contenders for a limited number of statewide offices.

Even in traditional primaries, operatives of both parties have long practiced the art of “clearing the field” to limit the number of candidates on the ballot. The top-two primary amplifies the importance of field-clearing. Paradoxically, the new system was meant to weaken the political parties’ sway over the primary process, but it may wind up strengthening it. A reform intended to increase options for voters might actually reduce them.

The 2016 Senate primary is already exposing potential cleavages on the Democratic side. The first Democrat to declare for the seat being vacated by Boxer is state attorney general Kamala Harris, a woman of Jamaican-American and Indian descent. But discontent is mounting among Latino Democrats. The California Latino Legislative Caucus recently made a public call for a Latino to run for the Senate seat. Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa contemplated a run but bowed out this week. Latino attentions have shifted to Orange County congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and Los Angeles congressman Xavier Becerra.

As Los Angeles Times Sacramento columnist George Skelton recently wrote, “Latinos feel insulted by blacks. Angelenos are suspicious of San Franciscans. Democrats are squabbling. It’s inevitable. It’s the unintended consequence of a one-party dominated state.” And the unintended consequence of a top-two primary system may well be to exacerbate these conflicts.