Duf Sundheim, former state GOP chair, jumps into 2016 Senate race

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

Former California Republican Party chair Duf Sundheim, 62, is jumping into the 2016 U.S. Senate race, in what’s expected to be a tough race against the Democratic front-runner, state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Sundheim, a moderate, pro-choice Republican who has worked with former Secretary of State George Shultz and former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed on political reform issues that include redistricting, open primaries, and pension and education reform, vows to bring a bipartisan approach to the job.

A former member of the Republican National Committee board of directors, Sundheim has long been active in trying to broaden the appeal of the California GOP, which lags 15 points behind Democrats in state voter registration. …

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Legislation Hiking Initiative Filing Fee Faces Resistance

VotingUnexpected bipartisan opposition has formed against a piece of legislation designed to cut down on California’s sometimes outrageous ballot initiatives.

In addition to the left-leaning Consumer Watchdog organization, citizens’-rights groups like the California Taxpayers Association and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association have mustered their members against the bill. Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, told the San Francisco Chronicle “that only six of the 26 states that allow citizen initiatives have filing fees and that the highest is $500, in Mississippi and Wyoming.”

Hoping to stave off a shift in fortunes, Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, has already tweaked Assembly Bill 1100 in an effort to calm the drama. Co-authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, the bill originally proposed a massive increase in the fee charged by the state to file an initiative. Currently just $200, Low and Bloom set out to hike the fee to $8,000 — a daunting number for some, but calculated to just about cover what it costs the state to pay the attorney general’s office for drafting each initiative’s title and summary.

Low was inspired to push for the reform by a contentious recent effort that would have created a so-called Sodomite Suppression Act. “Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin submitted a ballot measure in February that would have ‘any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method,’” as the Sacramento Bee recalled. “Determined to prevent the measure from moving forward, Attorney General Kamala Harris took the measure to court and was relieved of the official duty to write the title and 100-word summary necessary before signature-gathering.”

A checkered past

Proponents of Low’s reform insisted that the bill was about more than shutting down such lurid proposals. California’s ballot initiative system has seen its fair share of half-baked ideas over the years, drawing criticism from more conservative analysts concerned that the state’s view of direct democracy was too romantic and naive.

As the Chronicle noted, initiatives have now been filed that would ban alimony, create a secession commission, eliminate private power companies, fly the state flag above the national flag, “and call the state’s top elected official ‘president of California.’”

Another ongoing challenge, some critics noted, was guiding voters away from voting in favor of unaffordable but otherwise appealing measures.

In fact, Low’s efforts to curb crazy initiatives have not been the first — nor the first to do so by jacking up the price of admission. “Given the sheer number of proposals that have been submitted recently, the Legislature has actually already tried to make filing fees more expensive,” Civinomics noted. “Laws were submitted in 2009, 2010, and 2011 to raise the fee, but two of them were vetoed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the other was dropped by the bill’s author.”

GOP opposition

For now, Republicans have recently tended more toward supporting a permissive initiative process, concerned that California lacks many other effective hedges against the state’s near-one-party rule and its more liberal judges, who largely dominate the courts. So when AB1100 came to a vote in the Assembly, votes for and against split almost exactly along party lines. Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, put forth a popular argument on the right, warning “the higher fee would make it difficult for individuals and nonprofit groups to file for an initiative,” as the Los Angeles Times reported. “She said that if the increase in the cost of living since the fee was implemented was figured in, it would now be $2,700.”

Then, as the bill made its way to the Senate, reality set in. In committee, “the filing fee was trimmed from $8,000 to $2,500 and then to $2,000,” the Chronicle recounted. “The plan to hike the charge in lockstep with increases in the Consumer Price Index also disappeared.” Nevertheless, the changes weren’t enough to satisfy critics, who will likely have to count on Gov. Jerry Brown to stop the bill from becoming law.

California and the GOP Debate

Republican presidential candidate businesswoman Carly Fiorina stands on stage for a pre-debate forum at the Quicken Loans Arena, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015,  in Cleveland. Seven of the candidates have not qualified for the primetime debate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Looking for California in the GOP debate presented some challenges even with one candidate who has tentative ties to the Golden State and the state’s Democratic governor who tried to put himself into the debate via a letter to the candidates on climate change.

There was only one Californian (sort of) in the field of 17 — Carly Fiorina who made her name as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and was handily defeated by Barbara Boxer for the California U.S. Senate seat in 2010. She now lives in Virginia.

She did fairly well in the first debate, many pundits declaring her the winner. And it appeared that former Texas governor Rick Perry has Fiorina lined up for the Secretary of State job if he becomes president. In criticizing the Iran nuclear deal Perry said, “I’d rather have Carly Fiorina over there doing our negotiation rather than (Secretary of State) John Kerry.”

Major California companies Google and Apple also made it into the first debate with Fiorina saying they should cooperate with the government on investigations that might prevent terrorism.

Apparently, Jerry Brown sent his letter to the wrong recipients for the main debate. California’s Democratic governor tried to work his way into the debate when he sent a letter asking GOP candidates how they would address climate change. He should have sent his letter to the Fox News Channel debate moderators. They didn’t bother to engage the candidates on climate change in the debate featuring the 10 leading candidates.

There was a reference to climate change in the first debate held for candidates in positions 11 to 17 in the polls. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham responded that if he debated presumptive Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton on climate change she would argue cap-and-trade that would ruin the economy while he would focus on energy independence and a clean environment. Cap-and-trade is a key strategy in Brown’s camapign on climate change.

Immigration was a big issue at the debate although nothing specific to California. However, the situation on sanctuary cities was raised in both the earlier and later debates. The sanctuary cities issue gained headlines after the shooting death in San Francisco of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant who had been deported many times but still came back. Candidates from Jeb Bush to Ted Cruz, to Bobby Jindal said they would eliminate federal funds to sanctuary cities.

There are a number of presidential candidates working with individuals with strong California ties. To name a few: Jeff Miller is campaign manager for Rick Perry, Mike Murphy is a strategist for Jeb Bush and Todd Harris is communication director for Marco Rubio.

While California didn’t have a big role in the debates one of her favorite sons was mentioned frequently –Ronald Reagan. And that will carry over with the next Republican debate scheduled for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley September 16.

Originally published of Fox and Hounds Daily

CA GOP Can Wield Power During Special Legislative Sessions

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Jerry Brown made the Republican legislators relevant again. Brown’s call for special sessions for transportation and Medi-Cal funding invariably brings talk about possible tax increases. With a two-thirds vote needed to raise taxes, and the Democratic majority shy of the super two-thirds mark, Republicans must be part of the conversation.

Despite their best efforts offering innovative approaches to some of California’s difficult problems during the legislative session, the Democrats on major bills and the budget that needed simple majority approval mostly have sidelined Republicans. But that will not be the case when revenue solutions are sought and debated during the special sessions.

According to the governor, the special sessions are about permanent revenue sources to bolster transportation infrastructure and Medi-Cal. While Republicans put forward plans to use current revenues to satisfy funding concerns for the roads, much of the talk will focus on tax and fee increases. Republicans have said no to the need for new taxes since the state is awash in new money. Even post budget signing, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported the state brought in a half-a-billion dollars more that the budget anticipated.

(As an aside, Republicans may have already supported a tax in their road funding proposal depending on how a court rules. One Republican suggestion is to use cap-and-trade funds recently put on gasoline production to fund transportation. The California Chamber of Commerce has gone to court claiming cap-and-trade amounts to a tax. If the Chamber suit is successful part of the Republican transportation package is a tax.)

Republicans position on taxes will also be tested in any Medi-Cal fix. One of the leading proposals to fund Medi-Cal is to increase the tobacco tax. If the governor is searching for a permanent revenue source to fund Medi-Cal, tobacco tax seems a poor choice. The tobacco tax is a diminishing resource as fewer people choose to smoke. Increasing the tax on smoking is supposed to discourage the practice thus limiting future revenues. Relying on the tobacco tax to rescue the Medi-Cal program would seem short sighted given the governor’s stated goal.

Given the need for Republican votes for tax plans, Republicans are in the middle of the debate and can offer savings ideas and plans re-directing current revenues that cannot easily be dismissed by the majority. If the GOP simply gave in to raising taxes then the issue of Democrats needing a supermajority is moot. Republicans will use their leverage to be deeply engaged in any solutions.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Writing the Rules for the Republicans’ Big Quiz Show


Some years ago I worked in game show development for a wonderful actor and TV host, Bert Convy, who’d recently formed a production company. He asked me to create game elements for a new show, and we negotiated an agreement that would pay me a very minimal royalty. I remember sitting in an upholstered leather chair in his office as he stood leaning against the front of his desk, looking irritated.

“I’m really a producer now,” he said ruefully. “I’m screwing the talent.”

Today, I’m going to use this odd talent to solve the problem of how to get 16 Republican candidates into one televised debate.

In addition to my background in game shows, I present my credentials as a former Republican candidate in a primary for U.S. Congress and two elections for the California Assembly. I have participated in debates and forums where there were two candidates, three candidates, four candidates, and 10 candidates. Once I was excluded from a debate and spent the evening in the parking lot talking with members of the press and public.

I offer my considered opinion — as a uniquely qualified professional in the field of bells, buzzers, questions and cameras — that it is a really bad idea to hold a debate with 10 candidates on stage and six in the parking lot.

Aside from the problems inherent in the selection process, 10 is too many candidates to have on stage at the same time. Answers will be repetitive and viewers will struggle to remember who said what. Candidates will pay joke writers for zingers to help them get into the news stories.

And the spectacle will become the story. An MSNBC host will remark that the candidates look like boarding group B for a Southwest flight to Cleveland. Fox News will respond that Hillary Clinton flies on private jets because nobody could afford the airline fees for that much baggage. CNN will cut to a report on a missing plane.

Instead, the Republican presidential debates should follow a format similar to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, where players take the field for just two or three innings. It would work like this:

Segment 1: Four candidates take the stage. Each is given a 20-second introduction by the moderator. Each makes a one-minute opening statement. Then a question is randomly chosen from a selection of questions on domestic policy, and the candidates each have two minutes to answer. Next, a question is randomly chosen on foreign policy, and each candidate has two minutes again. Finally, the candidates each have 30 seconds for a closing statement.


The format repeats until all the candidates have been heard. Current polls would be used to determine the order in which candidates take the stage. The suggested timings would present 16 candidates, in four segments, in two hours.

To give viewers the opportunity to hear more, the sponsoring news organization would conduct interviews of each candidate in advance and post the full-length videos on its website as the debate begins. It’s not the Nixon-Kennedy era anymore — we have the “second screen” to offer options for deeper content than television alone can provide. Viewers can be pointed to the online material with on-screen graphics and comments by the moderator.

This format treats the candidates respectfully and provides clarity for viewers, with a reasonable blend of pace and depth. And it accomplishes the most important goal of a televised debate: enabling voters across the country to see and hear the people who are seeking to become the next president of the United States.

After all, this isn’t a game.


Reach the author at Susan@SusanShelley.com or follow Susan on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

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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VIDEO: Gov. Scott Walker Explains How He Would Fix Our Immigration Mess

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, one of early front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, discusses his views on immigration policy and reform with Orange County Register Opinion editor Brian Calle.

CARTOON: Crash Test Dummy

State of the Union


Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

CARTOON: Red Senate

Red State cartoon

Carly Fiorina, the deadbeat presidential candidate

Carly Fiorina is gearing up to run for president. National Journal reports she already has begun hiring staff.

Fiorina has run for office only once, as the Republican challenger to Sen. Barbara Boxer of California in 2010 – and she lost. Still, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO won prime attention by running and losing. She’s on “Meet the Press” all the time. She’s still rich and still good-looking. (In 2010, Fiorina and husband Frank claimed a combined net worth of $30 million to $120 million.) Insiders think she’s probably running for vice president; if Hillary Clinton is the Dems’ nominee, the GOP nominee likely will be looking for a female running mate. Or maybe “she’s running for enhanced fame, image and possibly the Cabinet,” opined GOP consultant Kevin Spillane. “There’s really no downside with her running.”

So maybe it isn’t totally crazy that Fiorina is running for president, even if she’s never won an election. But it is totally crazy that Fiorina is running for the White House when, according to federal election reports, her 2010 campaign still owes $486,418 to creditors. Who wants a deadbeat for president?

Like the evil George Wickham in “Pride and Prejudice,” Fiorina skipped California owing buckets of cash to her onetime pals. She owes $60,000 to former campaign manager Marty Wilson, who now works for the California Chamber of Commerce, and another $20,000 to his former communications firm. She shorted campaign counsel Ben Ginsberg, formerly of Patton Boggs, to the tune of $44,000. She owes $3,750 to a former press secretary, $5,000 to another communications aide and $7,500 to her erstwhile political director. She stiffed political consultant Joe Shumate, who died in 2010, to the tune of $30,000. (Yes, she stiffed a stiff – even though she lauded Shumate as a “trusted adviser and friend” upon his death.)

Shumate put “his heart and soul into this campaign, and I would hope that Carly Fiorina would pay his widow the money that was owed him at the time of his death,” fellow creditor and GOP strategist John Allan Peschong told me.

When HP fired Fiorina, she walked away with a $21 million golden handshake. But when Fiorina lost the Senate race, some of her employees didn’t get a handshake. They got a finger.

In Fiorina’s defense, Wilson offered that it’s hard to raise money when so many Republicans already gave her the maximum donation. “The only effective way she could discharge that debt would be for her to write a personal check,” Wilson added. Then again, she can afford it.

I tried to reach Fiorina through a contact person, who said she had to go through another contact person, and I never heard back from anyone. Thus, I never got an explanation as to why, according to her campaign report, Fiorina paid back to herself $1 million of the $6.8 million she had lent her campaign on the day before the election. (After the election, win or lose, a candidate cannot get back most loan money.) If Fiorina had not repaid herself that $1 mil, her campaign coffers would have had enough money to discharge all of the campaign’s debts.

Maybe Fiorina felt that her consultants had let her down. Maybe Fiorina wishes that she hadn’t spent $2 million on ads after the RealClearPolitics poll average showed her a point behind Boxer in October. (In November, she lost by 10 points.) Maybe Fiorina blames the people below her for depriving her of a victory she believes should have been hers. That’s the best explanation I can muster for a well-heeled candidate’s failure to settle campaign accounts – and it doesn’t mitigate the offense.

“There was an expectation that she wasn’t going to run for office (again), so there wasn’t much we could do about it,” Wilson told me. He says he suggested to Fiorina that she pay creditors something “like 40 cents on the dollar.” Again, no word from Fiorina, but her failure to settle with her creditors these four years speaks volumes.

Fiorina won’t be the last politician to leave a trail of debt. Still, it takes a certain kind of brass to not pay off your political operatives and then set up shop to run for the highest office in the land. Wilson isn’t sure who will want to work for Fiorina, but he does offer a suggestion for Fiorina 2.0: Ask for the money upfront.

Debra J. Saunders is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, 901 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103. Send email to dsaunders@sfchronicle.com.

This article was originally published by Statesman Journal