CARTOON: Reid calls it quits

Reid cartoon

Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

Not A Good Look: Human Trafficking Bill Held Up Over Attention To Detail

The reasons Senate Democrats give for suddenly slammed the breaks on an anti-human trafficking bill this week are numerous, but one thing is clear: for them, it’s definitely been awkward.human trafficking

The 68-page anti-human trafficking bill has 13 Democratic cosponsors and was supposed to pass easily Tuesday, but Democrats suddenly reversed course and are now holding the bill hostage over standard language preventing federal funding of abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother.

Democrats claim they didn’t notice the abortion language until this week, and accuse Republicans of “sneaking” it into the bill. Republicans say that’s bogus, and accuse the Democrats of lying about it for political gain. (RELATED: Dems Remember To Read Bill They’re Pushing, Throw A Fit)

Whatever the case, it’s not a good look for Senate Dems.

The language of the bill has been publicly available online since it was introduced in January, and the abortion language is on page 4 of the bill. In February, it passed unanimously through the Senate Judiciary Committee after Republicans and Democrats on the committee examined the bill and offered amendments.

So it’s hard to believe not a single Democrat or any of their staffers read the bill carefully enough to catch the abortion language. And yet, that’s exactly what they claim.

“Republicans were aghast that Democrats were sticking to their insistence that their aides had not read the bill,” wrote Politico’s Burgess Everett and Seung Min Kim.

Their aides. Had not. Read. The bill … which was months old and less than 70 pages.

“In order to think that people missed it, and all of a sudden discovered it just this week really is not plausible,” Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a sponsor of the bill, said at a press conference Thursday.

A Senate aide told The Daily Caller News Foundation it’s a fundraising ploy. “Democrats are basically trying to fundraise off of this,” he said. “They’re trying to make it sound like they are standing up for women’s rights by holding up a bill that is protecting women.”

“Look how quickly they turn on their own people,” he added.

Maybe they did create this mess on purpose to score points with pro-abortion groups, such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood, who are now condemning the bill and calling on Senators to remove the abortion language with the hashtag “StrikeTheBan.”

Or maybe they did it to obscure a different objection to the bill — an amendment designed to curb illegal immigration proposed by Republican Sen. David Vitter. (RELATED: Senate Democrats Fight For More Illegals In Anti-Prostitution Bill)

“It appears they’re scared to vote on amendments like mine, to close the birthright citizenship loophole,” Vitter told TheDCNF.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered to let Democrats offer an amendment stripping the bill of the abortion language, if they stop blocking the bill, but they refused his offer.

Maybe Senate Democrats aren’t actually blocking a bipartisan bill that would help trafficking victims for political purposes. But that would mean they failed to read the bill carefully enough to catch the abortion language.

“Of course we read the bill,” Adam Jentleson, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, told TheDCNF. “But it’s easy to miss the language if you’re not looking for it, which we weren’t since Republicans told us it wasn’t in the bill.”

Read it, but not carefully, he said.

Is it worth then killing bill over the abortion language?

“No. We want the bill to pass,” he said.

So Reid and McConnell are in yet another face-off.

“I’ll say this to everybody out there who cares about this bill,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. “We’re going to stay on it until we finish it.”

Reid also insisted the bill would pass, but without the abortion language. ”The legislation dealing with human trafficking is going to pass this Congress, but it’s going to pass this congress without abortion language in it,” he said on the floor Thursday.

The Senate will take up the bill again next week.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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Condoleezza Rice Will Not Run For Senate — Despite Widespread Support

Political pundits and strategists finally are taking seriously that, despite topping polls, Condoleezza Rice is not running for the U.S. Senate. The decision by the former U.S. secretary of state puts California Republicans back on their heels. For the state GOP, the hunt is very much on for a heavyweight who could vault over the Democrats’ field of contenders in the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.

The opening Boxer will create in 2016 has attracted frenetic attention in California. So far Attorney General Kamala Harris successfully has kept competitors in her own party from declaring candidacies of their own. Nevertheless, challengers are expected — especially Latinos from Southern California — and the Republicans to step forward so far face a decidedly uphill climb.

Top Republicans, the Daily Caller reported, have shown an interest in Rice since at least January. In what some interpreted as a politician’s act of being coy, Rice permitted her staff to say in mid-February she was staying put in academia. “The poll doesn’t change her position about running for Senate,” Chief of staff Georgia Godfrey said at the time via email. “She plans to stay at Stanford.”

In another disavowal, Godfrey used even sharper language. “It’s not even a consideration,” he emailed The Hill. “She’s happy here at Stanford!”

But in late February, The Hill reported, the Black Conservatives Fund tried to nudge her toward the race anyway, distributing a fundraising email to back up the polling with donated cash. The email itself enthused:

“Condi is a true American success story. Her father was a minister. She’s an accomplished pianist, diplomat, and a role model for millions. But the best news of all is that if she runs, she can steal California’s U.S. Senate seat from the Democrats.”

A former provost of Stanford University, Rice has taken on what are now three concurrent titles: Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and professor of political science.

Hopes dashed

As Reuters reported, a Field Poll released last month showed Rice with a somewhat surprising lead against the entire field of possible candidates to replace Boxer. Rice sat atop the pack with 49 percent support. At the time, the poll listed 18 possible candidates, including some who have since bowed out, such as former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

But it raised hopes for California Republicans. In several election cycles past, they have put their party’s statewide fortunes in the hands of big-name would-be saviors, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO who now heads Hewlett-Packard.

An unclear path

On the other hand, enthusiasm for Rice could have been tempered by the state GOP’s track record with star candidates lacking in political experience. Although former HP chief Carly Fiorina has gone on to indicate she might seek the Republican nomination for president, she floundered in her own 2010 Senate bid in California. Whitman’s failed campaign cost her $140 million that same year.

And Schwarzenegger’s tenure in Sacramento was ultimately judged by many in the party to have been more trouble than it was worth. Some insiders viewed it as a squandered opportunity to rebuild the party and anoint a political heir — two items that seemed not to top Schwarzenegger’s own agenda.

With Rice gone, however, the fact remains that the current crop of would-be GOP challengers ranked at the bottom of the Field Poll. Although one poll cannot decide a race before it begins, the results reinforced a solidifying perception that someone of great stature was required to beat Harris.

The Field Poll’s results, for instance, did not even place Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who last November lost a race for state controller, in the lead among Republicans not named Rice. Swearengin finished with 22 percent “inclined” to support her, just after former state Sen. Phil Wyman, at 24 percent.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Here’s the full list from the Field Poll:

field poll us senate 2016

Villaraigosa Won’t Challenge Harris for Senate Seat

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced he won’t challenge state Attorney General Kamala Harris for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Barbara Boxer in 2016. That boosts the prospects of fellow Democrat Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Garden Grove.

Villaraigosa announced his decision Tuesday in a post on Facebook that foreshadowed a run for governor in 2018.

“I am humbled by the encouragement I’ve received from so many to serve in the United States Senate,” the former Democratic Speaker of the California Assembly wrote. “But as I think about how best to serve the people of this great state, I know that my heart and my family are here in California, not Washington, D.C.”

If Villaraigosa’s statement that his heart remains “here in California” wasn’t a clear enough indication of a future run for governor, he added he’ll continue his “efforts to make California a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

“We have come a long way, but our work is not done, and neither am I,” he concluded.

Kamala Harris

Villaraigosa’s decision to pass on an application for membership in “the world’s most exclusive club” follows similar announcements by Treasurer John Chiang, billionaire climate-change activist Tom Steyer and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

It didn’t take long for Harris, the only major announced Democratic candidate, to issue a statement praising the former Los Angeles mayor.

Kamala-Harris-hands“The city of Los Angeles, and our state and nation, have benefitted [sic] greatly from his leadership,” Harris said in a prepared statement tweeted by her campaign. “I know he has much more to offer. I wish him and his family all the best.”

Although Harris welcomed Villaraigosa’s exit from the race, the biggest beneficiary could be Loretta Sanchez. A moderate Orange County Democrat, Sanchez would have appealed to similar voters — Latinos and Southern Californians — as Villaraigosa.

Sanchez may prove formidable challenger to Harris

She hasn’t received the same media hype as Villaraigosa, but in some respects Sanchez may prove to be a more formidable challenger to Harris. The 10-term Democrat has said she’ll make a decision later this year. Sanchez has a head start on fundraising with nearly $400,000 in federal cash on hand, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

Loretta SanchezHer statewide name identification, albeit lower than Villaraigosa’s, comes without the personal baggage. Early in his tenure as mayor, Villaraigosa disclosed an affair with a Telemundo newswoman. That was followed by photos showing the mayor partying with Hollywood bad boy Charlie Sheen at a hotel opening in Mexico.

But as pointed out by CalWatchdog.com, the biggest weight on a Villaraigosa campaign could be his support for Esteban Nunez, the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. Esteban pled guilty to manslaughter for the fatal stabbing of a 22-year-old college student. Villaraigosa, on official mayoral letterhead, wrote a letter of support for “a young man of good and upright character.”

The case was riddled with political favoritism, as detailed in a lengthy profile by the Los Angeles Times, and ended with Nunez friend Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s commutation of Esteban’s sentence.

Latino Caucus: Senate contest bigger than any one candidate

Villaraigosa’s decision to pass on the race also does nothing to cool the burning frustrations of Latino political leaders, who are being pressured by some Democratic leaders to clear the field for Harris.

Earlier this year, former Speaker of the Assembly Willie Brown, who at one time dated Harris, said Villaraigosa should forgo a campaign out of respect for his friendship with the attorney general.

“His loyalty and his relationship with her should be so valuable, and he should, in my opinion, see it as an opportunity to demonstrate that,” Brown told the Sacramento Bee.

That comment inspired grumblings from members of the California Latino Caucus, who say the race is bigger than any one Latino candidate. Earlier this month, the group released a poll showing a Latino candidate could contend with Harris. The survey of 600 likely Latino voters, according to CalBuzz, showed Villaraigosa leading Harris, with Sanchez not far behind in third place.

“The U.S. Senate race has importance beyond the contestants themselves,” Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, said in a press release. “This is not about one candidate or another. An exciting race can generate enthusiasm among voters that have not been energized in years.”

Other Democratic candidates that are considering the race include Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, Rep. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles and former Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera.

On the Republican side, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Carlsbad and former California Republican Party chairman Tom Del Beccaro are seriously exploring bids.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Boxer Exit Begins CA Youth Shift in Congress

Girls may run the world, as in the Beyonce song, but women run California’s congressional delegation. More specifically, older Democratic women — but that could change soon.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s retirement announcement earlier this month kicks off a major demographic shift in California’s congressional delegation, as aging Democratic women move closer to retirement. Democratic women are the oldest group in California’s congressional delegation from both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

California’s Congressional Delegation: Democratic women oldest group

The 104 women in the 114th Congress make up 19 percent of the members. In California, that percentage doubles — with women claiming 21 of 55 slots, or 38 percent.

Those numbers don’t tell the full story. There’s only one Republican woman from California in Congress, Rep. Mimi Walters of Orange County. Twenty Democratic women represent California in Washington, D.C. — near parity with their 21 Democratic male counterparts. Yet that parity is likely in jeopardy due to one factor: age.

At 81 years old, Dianne Feinstein is the oldest member of the United States Senate. She isn’t alone. Of the 15 members of California’s congressional delegation that are 68 years old or older, Democratic women take up 11 slots. The average age of California’s representatives in the 114th Congress, including both U.S. Senators, is 59 years old. For Democratic women, that figure jumps nearly a decade to 67 years old.

Even when you exclude Boxer and Feinstein from the tally and just go with House members, Democrats from California bring up the average age of the delegation. Five of the six oldest members of California’s congressional delegation are Democratic women:

  • Rep Grace Napolitano of El Monte, age 78;
  • Lois Capps of Santa Barbara, age 77;
  • Maxine Waters of Los Angeles, age 76;
  • House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, age 74;
  • Lucille Roybal-Allard of Commerce, age 73.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach, another 73-year-old California Democrat, is a few months older than Roybal-Allard.

year of the woman

1992 Year of the Woman

Many of California’s Democratic women first claimed a spot in Congress in 1992’s “Year of the Woman.” While the history books highlight the record number of women elected to the U.S. Senate, California also sent Lynn Schenk, Jane Harman, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Anna Eshoo and Lynn Woolsey to the House of Representatives.

Robin Swanson, a California political strategist who has worked for the state’s top Democratic politicians, is optimistic that California is ready for another wave of women.

“We’re long overdue for another Year of the Woman,” she said.

More Democratic retirements around the corner

The remaining members of the class of 1992 are now among the oldest members of Congress and are, obviously, more likely to retire.

When asked about a possible retirement in 2016, Napolitano’s office was unambiguous. “Congresswoman Napolitano is not retiring,” said Jerry O’Donnell, her press secretary. “She plans to run for re-election.”  Despite her advancing years, Napolitano isn’t slowing down. Last week, she reintroduced H.R. 291, “W21: Water in the 21st Century,” a plan to provide “new incentives and investments to help local water agencies, residents and businesses to conserve, recycle and manage limited water supplies.”

A spokesperson for Capps was less emphatic, saying it was still too early to know whether the eight-term Central Coast congresswoman would call it quits this term.

“It’s been less than two weeks since the 114th Congress began, so her focus isn’t on 2016 yet,” said Capps’ spokesperson Chris Meagher. Her focus is “on representing the people of the Central Coast and fighting for the issues they care about.”

Intra-party challengers not waiting for retirements

Even if Capps and Napolitano decide to seek reelection, they could face upstart intra-party challengers —  thanks to California’s Top Two primary system. Older House Democrats have faced spirited challengers from younger politicians in the last two election cycles.

In 2012, then 80-year-old Rep. Pete Stark was unseated by fellow Democrat and 31-year-old challenger Eric Swalwell. Last November, Ro Khanna came within a few points of knocking off 73-year-old Rep. Mike Honda.

Age was a clear factor in both races, where the younger challengers portrayed the seasoned veterans as out-of-touch, especially on technological issues. Honda, according to emails obtained by San Jose Inside, needed his government staff’s help to “set up his personal Netflix account.”

In 2016, state-level politicians eager to move up California’s political food chain could get impatient, knowing un-elected Democratic challengers, such as Swalwell and Khanna, have cut in line.

Shift in Congressional demographics: 113th to 114th Congress

The 113th Congress, according to the Congressional Research Service:

  • An overwhelming majority of Members of Congress with a college education.
  • The dominant professions of Members are public service/politics, business and law.
  • Most Members identify as Christians, and Protestants collectively constitute the majority religious affiliation.
  • Roman Catholics account for the largest single religious denomination, and numerous other affiliations are represented.

In the 114th Congress, according to The Hill:

  • There is a record number of female lawmakers at 104, alongside 430 men, following the departure of former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).
  • Lawmakers have an average age of 57. The Senate is older than the House, with an average age of 61 to the lower chamber’s 57.
  • Democrats on average are older than Republicans in both chambers, at 62 to 60 in the Senate and 59 to 54 in the House.

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

CARTOON: Red Senate

Red State cartoon

Kamala Harris to run for U.S. Senate

On Tuesday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate. She seeks to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer, who last week announced her retirement. Both are Democrats.

Even though the election is more than 21 months away, it’s a smart move by Harris — whose career has been market by smart moves, beginning with her being elected attorney general of San Francisco. The early announcement gives her momentum against any potential Democratic rivals, such as former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa or hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer.

Steyer is a billionaire and certainly could out-spend Harris — or just about anybody else. But as the ill-fated campaign of airline executive Al Checchi showed in 1998, an open checkbook isn’t necessarily the path to higher office. He spent $30 million in a bid for governor, but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, who went on to become governor.

Even though California is gigantic and statewide candidates depend on TV ads, grassroots organizing still matters. Davis had spent decades cultivating such powerful interest groups as the unions for teachers, guards and police. They formed the bulwark of his campaign.

Even for Republicans, last fall’s victories at the local level in California depended to a great extent on the “ground game” state GOP Chairman Jim Brulte instituted when he was given that post two years ago.

Borrowing from football, in political parlance a “ground game” is such things as registering voters and getting them to show up at the polls, as opposed to TV ads.

Issues

Likewise, Harris’ early start gives her almost two years to cultivate the unions more than she already has, while also giving her national exposure from which to raise funds across the country. Following Davis’ cue of almost two decades ago, she has taken liberal positions on such issues as same-sex marriage and health care reform, while cultivating a “tough on crime” record.

When running for attorney general in 2010, she highlighted her “71 percent success rate in obtaining felony convictions” as San Francisco’s DA. She also has opposed legalizing marijuana, although last year she was coy about her stance.

The next election will siphon off a lot of money from rich donors to the presidential campaigns. It makes sense now for Harris to start making appeals for funds before Hillary Clinton and other Democratic hopefuls for the White House announce their own campaigns.

For Republicans, Harris’ gubernatorial candidacy will prove a serious obstacle. When she ran in 2010, she barely beat Steve Cooley, the Republican nominee and at the time the district attorney of Los Angeles County, 46 percent to 45.5 percent. But in 2014, she handily beat Republican Ronald Gold, 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent.

It’s still early. And anything can happen. But Harris has to be considered the odds-on favorite to win Boxer’s seat.

Which brings up another situation. If she’s elected to the Senate, whom will Gov. Jerry Brown replace her with as California attorney general?

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Sen. Boxer Announces Retirement

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., today announced her retirement. In office since her 1992 election, she has been considered one of the country’s most liberal senators.

Elected the same year as the more moderate Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the two were called the “Thelma & Louise” of the Senate, after the 1991 feminist “buddy movie” starring Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon.

Yet Boxer has been amenable to compromise with Republicans on some issues, such as water policy. As CalWatchdog.com reported last November, “Remarkably, Sen. Boxer had co-sponsored with Feinstein the Senate bill that became the basis of Feinstein’s negotiations with California’s House Republicans” on water policy over the state’s severe drought.

After serving as a supervisor in Marin County, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 and quickly became a major liberal voice in Congress. As she ran for the Senate in 1992, a brief scandal erupted over her bouncing 87 checks on the special House Bank.

The scandal only fazed her campaign, as she went on to beat conservative Republican stalwart Bruce Herschensohn by 4.9 percentage points. He was hampered in the last weeks of his campaign by revelations that he had attended a strip club, something that wouldn’t matter in the post-Bill Clinton era, but did 23 years ago.

After that, Boxer more handily won her re-election bids against Republican opponents: in 1998 against Treasurer Matt Fong; in 2004 against Secretary of State Bill Jones; and in 2010 against former HP CEO Carly Fiorina.

However, Boxer’s victory margins always were less than those of Feinstein.

Issues

On economic issues, Boxer opposed President Bush’s tax cuts. But she supported his 2008 bailout of the financial system at the start of the Great Recession.

She has been a major supporter of President Obama’s programs, especially his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. And she backed the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

On social issues, throughout her career Boxer has been pro-choice on abortion. And she strongly backed legalizing same-sex marriage.

On foreign policy, she broke with Feinstein over Iraq policy. Feinstein supported the resolution in Oct. 2002 authorizing force against Iraq, which gave the green-light to President Bush invading Iraq in March 2003. Boxer opposed it.

She has favored more gun control. But oddly for a liberal, she has opposed legalizing marijuana because it could increase crime and car accidents.

After Boxer

Boxer’s exodus from the Senate sets off a scramble to replace her in the 2016 election. With Republicans doing much better in last November’s election, even they might have a chance of taking the seat in Nov. 2016. Should he choose to run, Neel Kashkari, who lost to incumbent Jerry Brown for governor, would have a leg up this time because this would be an open seat.

But most attention would be on the Democratic field in the June 2016 primary. Top candidates include Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Treasurer John Chiang, a rising star the last eight years for his open-government reforms as state controller.

A new Democrat in Boxer’s seat won’t so much be less liberal, as a different kind of liberal because of a change in generations.

Currently, the three top elected posts in the state are held by Democrats who came of political age way back in the 1960s: Brown, 78; Boxer, 74; and Feinstein, 81. Like Boxer, Feinstein lives in wealthy Marin County, something unlikely to be repeated by a new senator.

Boxer’s retirement is the beginning of the changing of the guard in state politics.

This post originally appeared on CalWatchdog.com

GOP Can’t Find Bridge For Troubled Water Bill

The fate of a bipartisan drought bill passed Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives is as cloudy as California skies in recent days. The bill was crafted by GOP congressmen with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., although she opposed the final version.

But even if the bill didn’t face certain drowning in the U.S. Senate, President Obama has pledged to veto it. So drought relief floats into 2015, when Republicans will add to their control of the House the control of the Senate.

What happened? Acrimony between Democrats and Republicans in the House poisoned the well in the Senate. Every California Democrat in the House whose district includes parts of the Delta region voted to reject the bill. As the Sacramento Bee reported, “These Democrats say they were cut out from the negotiations. At one point, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., said House Republicans refused to brief California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer when she insisted on inviting House Democrats.”

Behind closed doors earlier this year, Feinstein secretly had carried out painstaking negotiations with California’s Republican delegation to the House of Representatives. Last month, Democrats and environmental activists pushed Feinstein to abandon her own water bill.

Last-minute labors

Despite the problems in the Senate and over the  objections of environmentalists, California Republicans introduced the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014. It was sponsored by Rep. David Valadao of Hanford, who was joined by Rep. Doug LaMalfa of Redding, Rep. Ken Calvert of Riverside and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. McCarthy has made the bill a top priority as the 2014 legislative session hastened to a close.

The bill cleared the minimum bar for bipartisanship by including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, among its co-sponsors.

But Feinstein’s troubles with Democrats drowned out bipartisanship. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has forcefully condemned the new bill. According to KPCC:

“LaMalfa says the legislation reflects agreements on particular issues they reached with Senator Feinstein.

“‘Some of our other Senators are standing in the way of that,’ says LaMalfa, a reference to Boxer, who heads the Senate environment committee.”

But Feinstein will be expected by Democrats to use her power in the Senate to sink the House bill — even though it includes language from the draft legislation she negotiated with the California Republicans in the first place.

Hoping to navigate the controversy without further embarrassment, Feinstein was restrained in her comments. “It’s my hope that we’ll reach agreement on legislation that can pass both the House and the Senate and enact a bill that moves water to Californians suffering from the drought and helps all of the state while not waiving environmental protections,” she said, according to the Bee.

As the San Francisco Chronicle observed, however, Feinstein made clear she favored acting quickly because of her diminished clout in next year’s Congress, when Democrats switch from majority to minority status.

Remarkably, Sen. Boxer had co-sponsored with Feinstein the Senate bill that became the basis of Feinstein’s negotiations with California’s House Republicans. But environmentalists and other liberal activists will find it harder to criticize Feinstein or Boxer as their legislative influence fades.

Troubled waters

For Republicans, that has put drought relief on the agenda for 2015.

Obama likely will be inclined to veto a bill next year as well. But he will face an emboldened Republican majority and a weakened delegation of California Democrats.

He also will have much on his agenda in other areas over which to battle Republicans: the budget, taxes, immigration, wars and crime.

As President Clinton  showed when Republicans took control of Congress in 1995, sometimes it’s easier for a president to cut deals with the other party when it’s in the majority, than to deal with intramural struggles within his own party.

Meanwhile, 3,000 miles from Washington, despite the recent rains, California still needs drought relief.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

2015 State Senate Elections Triggered by Vacancies

The Nov. 4 vote didn’t end this election cycle, but sparked a new round. Three sitting state senators won seats in the U.S. House of Representatives: Sens. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Walnut Creek; Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley; and Mimi Walters, R-Irvine.

They will resign their positions in the state Legislature sometime before Jan. 5 to take their places in Congress.

Within 14 calendar days of each resignation, Gov. Jerry Brown must, in accordance with the California Elections Code, call a special election between 126 and 140 days later. If no candidate claims 50 percent of the vote plus one in the first round, a run-off election will be held between the top two candidates. Two years ago, when state Sens. Juan Vargas and Gloria Negrete McLeod resigned to take their seats in Congress, on Jan. 7 the governor called for March 12 special elections.

A fourth state Senate seat is already open from a vacancy created by the conviction and resignation of state Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood. That special election in the 35th Senate District is scheduled for next Tuesday, Dec. 9, with a potential run-off on Feb. 10.

Special elections routinely cost county elections offices nearly a half-million dollars each. In 2013, the special election for Senate District 32 cost Los Angeles County $483,240, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Here at CalWatchdog.com, we’ve assembled your go-to guide for the 2015 special elections.

State Senate 7: Mark DeSaulnier heads to Congress

With DeSaulnier heading to Washington, his open seat speeds up the timeline for what would have been a 2016 showdown, because he was term-limited, between a former and current member of the Assembly, both Democrats.

For six years, Joan Buchanan represented the 16th Assembly District, portions of which overlap with the open seat. She’ll face stiff competition from Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord, the largest city in the district.

Bonilla has a long history in the district. Prior to joining the Legislature, she served as a Contra Costa County supervisor as well as Concord mayor and council member.

Local attorney Mark Meuser, the Republican candidate who lost to DeSaulnier by 23 points in 2012, has also jumped into the race, according to the Antioch Herald.

Another candidate that could benefit from a Buchanan vs. Bonilla slug-fest is moderate Democrat Steve Glazer. An adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, Glazer was Public Enemy No. 1 of the state’s powerful labor unions in the June 2014 primary for the 16th Assembly District. He finished in third place, with just 22 percent. In a close election on Nov. 4, Republican Catharine Baker beat Democrat Tim Sbrianti.

State Senate District 7 voter registration numbers:

  • Democrat: 43.6 percent;
  • Republcian: 28.7 percent;
  • Decline to State: 22.0 percent.

State Senate 21: Replacing Steve Knight

Knight’s win in the 25th Congressional District will trigger a special election in Los Angeles County. But the strongest candidate to replace Knight has already decided not to enter the race. KHTS reported last month that Assemlyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, already has ruled out a run for the seat.

“I love the district that I represent and I expect to be named vice chair of a very important committee that I want to be a part of” in the Assembly, Wilk said. “And I believe that we can find a very electable Republican that can do a great job. We’ve got a lot of momentum and we want to keep it going.”

There’s buzz that former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is mulling a bid for the seat, according to the Desert Dispatch. In the June primary election, the Republican lost a bid for governor.

However, Donnelly doesn’t live in the district, which could be a big problem with voters. The district sent Knight to Congress over better-funded opponent Tony Strickland, a former Republican state Senator, who did not live in the 25th Congressional District.

Victorville businessman Sal Chavez has already launched his campaign for Knight’s seat. So has Hesperia City Councilman Eric Schmidt. Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford has formed an exploratory committee, but isn’t formally committed to the race. Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris is similarly toying with the idea of running for the seat. All are Republicans.

Democrats now hold an edge in voter registration, which could help a lone Democrat reach a run-off. Star Moffatt, the 2012 Democratic nominee who lost to Knight by 15 points, has also announced for the seat.

State Senate District 21 voter registration numbers:

  • Democrat: 38.3 percent;
  • Republican: 35.7 percent;
  • Decline to State: 20.2 percent.

State Senate 35: Special to fill Rod Wright’s seat

Wright’s resignation kicks off the state Senate Special election season on Dec. 8. Former Assemblyman Isadore Hall is expected to cruise to victory after forcing his toughest competition, Assemblyman Steven Bradford, out of the race. Both are Democrats.

Hall has come under fire from his opponents for frequent junkets and lavish campaign spending, which included a trip with lobbyists to the 2014 Kentucky Derby.

Hall’s opponents are businessman James Spencer, a Republican; and two Democrats, retired teacher Louis L. Dominguez and Harbor Planning Commissioner Hector Serrano. “We are a working-class community, and we don’t live that type of life of luxury, taking trips all over,” Serrano told the Los Angeles Times.

State Senate District 35 voter registration numbers:

  • Democrat: 61.0 percent;
  • Republcian: 14.2 percent;
  • Decline to State: 20.4 percent.

State Senate 37: Succeeding Mimi Walters

Walters, who cruised into a safe Orange County congressional seat, will see at least two Republicans duke it out for the remainder of her term in Sacramento. As reported by CalWatchdog.com, outgoing Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach has announced his candidacy for the 37th state Senate District. He’ll face current Assemblyman Don Wagner. If Wagner were to prevail, it would result in yet another special election to fill the remainder of his term in the Assembly.

Another big-name Orange County politico, GOP party chairman Scott Baugh, briefly flirted with a run for the seat. He is a former Assembly Republican leader. However, he now says he doesn’t intend to run.

A potential Moorlach vs. Wagner match-up could turn into a nasty intra-party feud. Wagner has recently run into trouble with conservative Tea Party activists.

“Wagner was one of two local Assemblymen out of a total of 15 Legislators statewide who were signatories to a letter encouraging Congress to pass an amnesty bill,” wrote Kelly Hubbard, a Tea Party activist in Orange County. “The letter has never received too much media attention, but has no doubt been a very hot topic with local activists and with many members of the Tea Party grassroots in Orange County!”

State Senate District 37 voter registration numbers:

  • Democrat: 28.7 percent;
  • Republcian: 42.6 percent;
  • Decline to State: 23.9 percent.

(H/T to AroundtheCapitol.com for providing voter registration data.)

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com