California Democrats Rewrite Voting Rules in Their Favor

VotedElection night was painful for California Republicans, but it was nothing compared to the slow torture we’ve endured ever since.

For three agonizing weeks, Republicans have watched registrars update their tallies with late absentee and provisional ballots. From Orange County to the Bay Area, it’s the same story playing out with different candidates: Democrats flipping seats with late ballots.

First, Mimi Walters. Then, Young Kim. Now, David Valadao.

It’s not unusual for late absentee and provisional ballots to break against Republicans. What is unusual is the scale of the carnage. As of this writing, Republicans lost election night leads for five members of Congress, three state Assembly races, two state Senate seats and a Board of Equalization candidate.

Even the Associated Press was caught off-guard by late ballot counting. It has called California’s 21st Congressional District for Republican incumbent David Valadao only to retract its decision three weeks later. If the independent organization “which sets the standard for calling races across the journalism industry” is getting races wrong, something’s changed in California.

Legislative Democrats have rewritten election rules in their favor to expand voter eligibility, automatically register every voter, eliminate voting integrity laws and encourage questionable campaign tactics, such as ballot harvesting.

California has entered an era of near universal suffrage with illegal immigrants, felons, inmates and minors registering to vote. San Francisco now allows “people in the country illegally and other noncitizens the right to vote in a local election,” according to the Associated Press. The city has spent at least $310,000 in tax dollars to register 49 non-citizens to vote. …

Click here to read the full article from the OC Register

Lowest-Paid Legislators Wear Distinction As Badge of Honor

Richard RothOnly in public office could the distinction of lowest paid be worn as a badge of honor.

But Richard Roth, a Riverside Democrat, has refused every pay increase since being elected to the state Senate in 2012, making $90,526 per year in base salary.

Most members of the California Legislature make $100,113 per year, with leadership drawing checks for as much as $115,129. In fact, Roth is the only senator currently paid below the going rate, although there are several like-minded members of the Assembly.

Roth spokesperson Shrujal Joseph told CalWatchdog that Roth believes he has an obligation to perform his duties at the pay rate voters agreed to when he was elected.

“If fortunate enough to be re-elected, Senator Roth will accept the pay that is in effect then, whether it be higher or lower,” said Joseph.

Members of the Assembly

Fullerton Republican Young Kim is the lowest paid member of the Assembly, earning $95,291 annually. Like Roth, she’s refused every pay increase since being elected in 2014 — including one that passed right before she was elected but came into effect afterwards.

Six other members of the Assembly refused one pay increase, earning $97,197. Four are Republicans: Catharine Baker of San Ramon, Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, David Hadley of Torrance and Tom Lackey of Palmdale. Two are Democrats: Ken Cooley of Rancho Cordova and Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks.

California Citizens Compensation Commission

Pay for legislators, and constitutional officers like governor and attorney general, is determined annually by the California Citizens Compensation Commission, which will meet again on April 27. The CCCC also determines benefits.

The CCCC is a seven-member panel, appointed by the governor, which is supposed to represent different segments of the community and different areas of expertise, including one member with expertise in compensation (like an economist); one representing the general public (like a homemaker/retiree/person of median income); one representing the nonprofit world; one who is an executive at a large CA employer; one who represents small business; and two labor representatives.

According to Tom Dalzell, the CCCC chairman, it’s unclear if another raise will be in order as he hasn’t “begun to think about it,” but noted the sacrifice many legislators make by leaving lucrative careers for public office. And in general, pay is considered one of the biggest lures of top talent.

Dalzell, who is a business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 and occupies one of the CCCC’s labor seats, said that in determining whether to increase, freeze or reduce pay, the CCCC considers the state budget, the consumer price index and survey data on local elected officials.

Pay Scale History

California has the highest paid state legislators in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. They are also paid well above the state’s median income of around $61,084.

On the whole, base salary for legislators has increased since 2005. To be more precise, legislators have received six increases, three freezes and two reductions since 2005. To be even more precise, base salary went from $99,000 in 2005 to the $100,113 base salary it is today — after salaries had been frozen between 1999 to 2005.

The two reductions were largely orchestrated by the former chairman Charles Murray, a holdover appointee from the Schwarzenegger administration. Murray stepped down almost a year ago to the day.

The six increases: 2005 – 12 percent increase; 2006 – 2 percent increase; 2007 – 2.75 percent increase; 2013 – 5 percent increase; 2014 – 2 percent increase; 2015 – 3 percent increase.

The two decreases: 2009 – 18 percent reduction; 2012 – 5 percent reduction.

And the three freezes were in 2008, 2010 and 2011.

As readers can probably imagine, the decreases were unpopular in Sacramento. In fact, one former legislator fought a cut — the 18 percent reduction in 2009 that slashed salaries from $116,208 to $95,291 — by appealing to both Brown and the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.

Neither appeal was successful.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Assembly GOP Leader Kristin Olsen Introduces New Stars

 

Ling and Young2014 was a solid year for California Republicans. In the state Senate, the GOP prevented Democrats from regaining a two-thirds supermajority.

And in the Assembly, Republicans defeated three Democratic incumbents, which also reversed a Democratic supermajority.

“We unseated sitting Democrats for the first time in 20 years because Californians want positive change and because we had great, hard-working candidates on the ballot this year, candidates who are connected with their communities and know the challenges facing people in their districts,” newly elected Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen told CalWatchdog.com. “They were more diverse than ever – in gender, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic upbringing and background.”

Is the GOP changing? In the Assembly, women make up a greater share of the Republican caucus than the Democratic caucus. Although Democrats hold nearly a two-thirds majority in the lower house, there are nearly as many Republican women (seven) as there are Democratic women (currently 10; or 11 if Patty Lopez defeats Raul Bocanegra in AD 39 in a tight race — Lopez currently leads by seven votes; both are Democrats).

The Friday following the election, Olsen introduced to the Sacramento press the three most talked about new members of her caucus — each of whom has a major achievement by virtue of her election. Catharine Baker is the first Republican to win a Bay Area legislative seat in years. Ling-Ling Chang is the first Taiwanese-American Republican woman to join the Assembly. And Young Kim is the first Korean-American Republican elected to the lower house.

Young Kim: First Korean American GOP woman elected to State Assembly

Kim’s election was significant for the Korean-American community and Republicans’ efforts to court Asian-American voters. Kim’s victory, which was front page news in Korean-language newspapers, resonated in Orange County’s  Koreatown and the much larger Koreatown in Los Angeles.
“In particular, the election of Young Kim is being evaluated as a political upset by even the mainstream community,” the Korea Times noted. “In politics, there is a huge advantage of being an incumbent. The probability of a first-time candidate to win over an incumbent is almost impossible. However, Young Kim was able to overcome difficult obstacles and disadvantages and win.”

For the next two years, you can expect Kim to be an almost daily fixture in the Korean-language newspapers, where she’ll be talking about lowering taxes and improving California’s business climate.

“Now that we’ve broken the Democrats’ supermajority in both houses, taxpayers can sleep a little better at night knowing that Proposition 13 is safe, at least for the next two years,” Kim told CalWatchdog.com, referencing the 1978 tax-limitation initiative.

She says she’ll focus on creating a business-friendly environment to help spur job creation in California as well as keeping our communities safe by putting a focus on public safety.

Fast-track to GOP leadership: Ling-Ling Chang

If there’s one freshman Republican on the fast-track to leadership, it’s Chang. She’s a smart, articulate assemblywoman-elect with impressive fundraising at a time when Republicans are serious about re-branding the party.

It’d be a no-brainer for Chang to land a spot on the Assembly Health Committee, one of the most coveted assignments in the lower house. An expert on public health, Chang has experience in both the non-profit and for-profit side of health care. She’s worked in the corporate sector training physicians and medical staff at various hospitals across Southern California.

jay obernolteWith a spot on a juice committee, Chang would boost her already robust fundraising, which aided GOP targets in November. In the final two months of the campaign, Chang contributed more than $60,000 to party committees and legislative targets, including colleagues Kim, David Hadley, Tom Lackey, Marc Steinorth, Catharine Baker and Eric Linder.

When CalWatchdog.com asked her about the incoming GOP class, she quickly focused the spotlight on her colleagues. One colleague, who is getting buzz as an expert in technology, is Jay Obernolte, a fellow Southern California Republican freshman.

“Jay is one of the smartest, most technologically savvy individuals I know,” Chang told us when we asked about the new freshmen class. “His experience as a software and video game developer and business owner will bring a cutting edge perspective for Republicans to the issues facing California.”

Obernolte, the mayor of Big Bear Lake, founded FarSight Studios, a successful video game company that makes “family videogames for the PlayStation3, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Apple iPhone, and the PC.” For a caucus looking to make inroads with Silicon Valley, who better than a video-gaming geek who graduated from UCLA and CalTech?

Catharine Baker: Lone GOP voice in Bay Area

Republicans also benefit from Baker’s representation of the Bay Area. For years, Republicans have been without any state or federal elected officials in the region. An attorney from Pleasanton, Baker becomes the most prominent Republican official for hundreds of miles in the Bay Area.

In practical terms, that’s a very big deal. It means she’ll be sending out field representatives to PTA meetings, distributing certificates at chamber breakfasts and fielding constituent calls to help with the DMV– all the boring things that win elections.

“Voters sent a message on Election Day that the culture of corruption and one-party rule in the Legislature is unacceptable and not healthy for our state,” Olsen said.

She added, “Now, our Assembly Republican Caucus will take the responsibility voters have given us and work hard together to put California on a better path for ALL Californians in each and every neighborhood.”

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Democrats lose super-majority in CA Assembly

Republicans, who have already blocked a Democratic super-majority in the California Senate, have also succeeded in defeating a Democratic super-majority in the Assembly.

The only question remaining: How many seats will Democrats lose in the lower house?

Buoyed by low voter turnout and an effective ground operation, Republicans picked up two Southern California seats and held a slim lead in another Bay Area district, which was considered the top priority of the state’s labor unions. Those pickups, which aren’t expected to change with the counting of late absentee and provisional ballots, would be enough to make up for losing a coastal Ventura County seat currently held by a moderate Republican.

Entering yesterday night, Democrats held 55 seats in the Assembly, compared to 24 seats for Republicans, with one vacant GOP-leaning seat.

From the Bay Area to Los Angeles, the GOP recruited non-traditional candidates to prove the party means business about expanding its base and intends to adapt to the state’s changing demographics. Republican candidates for Assembly posted stronger-than-expected results, with some safe, off-the-radar Democratic seats remaining too-close-to-call for most of Election Night.

Young Kim wins in Orange County

In the 65th Assembly District, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, lost by double digits to Republican challenger Young Kim, a former congressional aide to Rep. Ed Royce. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the first-generation Korean American immigrant held a commanding 12-point advantage.

A gracious Quirk-Silva conceded the race late Tuesday night and offered her best wishes to Kim. “We fought hard, we worked hard, but tonight is not our victory,” the former mayor of Fullerton posted on Twitter. “I wish my opponent #YoungKim the best in her new position, congratulations!”

More than $5.2 million had been spent on the race by the candidates, political parties and independent expenditure committees. Although Democrats have a 1.7-point advantage in voter registration, the district is considered a “lean Republican” seat, according to the ATC Partisan Index, which ranks districts based on their competitiveness. Kim performed well among absentee voters and benefited from strong support from thousands of Korean-American voters in the district.

In the 36th Assembly District, Asssemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, another first-term Democrat, lost reelection by a wide margin. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Republican challenger Tom Lackey held an impressive 23-point lead in a district that Republicans let slip away in 2012 during late absentee and provisional counting.

This time, Republicans dispatched their top ground operatives to the Los Angeles County-based district to make up for a disastrous 2012 campaign. Fox, who won in 2012 by less than 200 votes, was pummeled this election with damaging mailers that reminded voters of his ongoing legal troubles.

The losses by Quirk-Silva and Fox marked the first time in two decades that a Democratic incumbent has lost reelection to the Legislature, according to GOP political consultant Matt Rexroad.

“1994 was the last time a Democrat incumbent lost to a Republican in CA Legislature,” Rexroad, an award-winning political consultant, tweeted. “Two will lose tonight.”

Parties split open targets

The two parties split a pair of open seats at opposite ends of the state.

In the 16th Assembly District, moderate Republican Catharine Baker, an attorney from Pleasanton, defeated Democrat Tim Sbranti, the mayor of Dublin, by four points with all precincts reporting. It is unlikely that Baker would lose the race with the remaining absentee and provisional ballots left to be counted. Her win will give Republicans enough seats to block the Democrats from reaching a super-majority.

Republicans, who traditionally struggle in the Bay Area, dedicated millions of dollars of their limited campaign funds to the competitive race after a brutal June primary. Aided by millions of dollars in independent expenditures from labor unions, Sbranti was ultimately weighed down by his ties to the unions, especially after a vicious primary against moderate Democrat Steve Glazer.

Several hundred miles south, Democrats picked up an open seat in the 44th Assembly District that was vacated by moderate Republican Jeff Gorell. The Ventura County-based seat was an expensive race between Republican Rob McCoy and Democrat Jacqui Irwin. With all precincts reporting, Irwin led McCoy 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.

Other Democratic incumbents in trouble

At least one other Democratic lawmaker remains in danger of losing reelection.

In the 66th Assembly District, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, was losing to Republican challenger David Hadley by more than 2,000 votes. The South Bay district was expected to be competitive, in part, because of low voter turnout.

Asm. Adam Gray

In the 21st Assembly District, Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, defeated a late challenge from Republican Jack Mobley. With all precincts reporting, Gray had 52 percent to Mobley’s 48 percent.

Republicans largely ignored Republican Jack Mobley’s challenge to Gray. A moderate Central Valley Democrat, Gray endeared himself to the state’s business community by occasionally delivering pro-business votes on hot-button issues. But the weak incumbent needed more than $310,000 in support from the party to beat back a last-minute campaign push orchestrated by CA GOP Chairman Jim Brulte.

Big upset: Democrat defeats Democrat

The biggest potential upset of the night was in the 39th Assembly District. Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, was losing to unknown Democratic challenger Patty Lopez by 182 votes. However, with late absentee and provisional ballots left to count, that race remains too close to call.

In two other safe Democratic districts, the results were closer than expected.

In the 57th Assembly District, Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, held a slim lead over Republican Rita Topalian. Calderon, the son of former Assemblyman Charles Calderon, was weighed down by corruption charges filed against his uncle, outgoing state Sen. Ron Calderon.

In the nearby 48th Assembly District, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, defeated Republican Joe Gardner by single digits.

This article was originally published at CalWatchdog.com

Assembly 65 swing-seat spending tops $5.2 million

 

Sharon Quirk SilvaTwo years ago, legislative Democrats pulled off an upset in the heart of conservative Orange County.

“I was a surprise win in the last election,” Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, said in a recent interview of her four-point victory over Republican Chris Norby. “And from the moment I won, there has been an effort to take back this seat.”

Quirk-Silva isn’t exactly giving up her seat without a fight.

As of October 18, the first-term Democrat had spent roughly $2.4 million this year to stave off her Republican challenger, Young Kim. To put that number into perspective, the Democratic governor of New Hampshire has spent roughly the same amount on her competitive re-election campaign, according to recent figures from the Associated Press.

young kimKim, a former aide to GOP Congressman Ed Royce, is no pauper either, having spent $1.4 million over the same period.

With its two fundraising powerhouses, the campaign for the 65th Assembly District is on track to be one of the most expensive races — at any level — in the country. Combined spending by both candidates, the two political parties and various independent expenditure committees is on pace to exceed $5.2 million.

Spending on the race had already surpassed the $4.7 million mark on October 18, when the candidates had another half-million dollars at their disposal in cash on hand. Those preliminary figures also don’t account for other late expenditures expected to be spent on this weekend’s get out the vote efforts.

Big labor, big business fund Quirk-Silva’s campaign

Just two years ago, Maplight estimated each member of the California State Assembly, on average, raised $708,371, an average of $970 every day during the 2012 cycle. So, where is all of this additional money coming from?

On Quirk-Silva’s side, the funds can be traced back to both big business and big labor through party committees. Of the $2.65 million raised for her campaign, nearly $2 million has come from either the California Democratic Party or various Democratic central committees throughout the state. Those Democratic committees have accepted large checks from special interest groups that routinely lobby the Legislature, including insurance companies, defense contractors, oil companies and labor unions.

Kim’s campaign, which has raised $1.8 million, owes a third of its support to the California Republican Party, which has relied heavily on political activist and physicist Charles Munger Jr. for its support.

Race to decide Assembly supermajority

Both sides have invested big money in the race that could decide whether Democrats hold a two-thirds supermajority in the lower house, and thus have the votes to raise taxes without any GOP defections. And understandably, tax issues have taken center stage in the race.

In its early endorsement of Kim, the Orange County Register highlighted her position on taxes. “Ms. Kim is the better choice when it comes to protecting taxpayers and restoring the beleaguered California economy,” the paper wrote. “In her bid to serve the residents, she has focused on fixing the education system, making California more business-friendly, improving public safety and dealing with California’s crippling water and infrastructure issues.”

Taxpayer groups have also played an active role in the campaign. Eariler this month, Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, took umbrage with a mail piece from the Quirk-Silva campaign that implied an endorsement.

The first-term Orange County Democrat put her name alongside the taxpayer organization’s name, stating their shared support for Proposition 2, the Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Fund Act. The not-so-subtle goal of the slick mailer was to associate Quirk-Silva with the state’s most trusted taxpayer group, which has endorsed Kim. Coupal described it as “the most unusual attempt at deception we’ve seen this election.”

Neither side forgetting grassroots

The questionable tactics by Quirk-Silva’s campaign demonstrate the challenge that Democrats have in holding the seat. Although Democrats have a 1.7 percentage-point advantage in voter registration, the district is considered a “lean Republican” seat, according to the ATC Partisan Index, which ranks districts based on their competitiveness in the 2014 election.

The GOP’s hope for reclaiming the seat stems from a candidate who delivered a strong showing in the June primary. Kim, a first-generation Korean-American immigrant, earned the highest vote percentage of any GOP legislative challenger in the June 3rd primary, garnering 55 percent of the vote in the Democratic district.

She won voters over with her powerful immigrant success story.

“As many immigrant families did, my parents worked hard and struggled, but they also instilled in me the value of individual responsibility and living within a person’s means,” Kim wrote in a personal narrative featured in the Orange County Register earlier this year.

Kim’s message appears to be resonating with Asian voters, who have returned their absentee ballots at a slightly higher rate from two years ago. According to absentee ballot data from Political Data Inc., Asian absentee voting is up a point from 2012, while early voting by Latinos is down a point. The net gain of two points for Asian voters over Latino voters is expected to benefit Kim.

Political Data Ballot Tracker

Republicans are also optimistic about the party breakdown of returned absentee ballots. Of the 27,372 absentee ballots that have been returned, 45 percent have been from Republicans, an 8 percentage-point advantage over Democrats, according to Political Data’s ballot tracker. That’s an improvement from 2012, when Republicans held a 6 percentage-point edge in absentee ballots.

Enticing volunteers with Korean BBQ

But don’t think that Kim’s advantage in early voting has made her complacent. On Thursday afternoon, Kim’s campaign enticed Republican activists to participate in the final weekend’s “Get Out The Vote” efforts by offering Korean BBQ.

“We need as many volunteers as possible to contact voters and tell them to cast their ballots for Young Kim, and I’m hoping you can join us,” Kim’s campaign wrote in its latest email alert to supporters. “Our office will be open 9a-9p every day between now and Election Day, with 3-hour shifts of canvassing and phone banking.”

This piece was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Two Nov. 4 races critical for maintaining Prop. 13

It’s late October and that means there are a lot of people out there wearing masks. But this isn’t about Halloween. This is about all the fake taxpayer interests – organizations and candidates – who are trying to gain an advantage in the upcoming election by portraying themselves as defenders of homeowners and Proposition 13.

At some level, we at Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association ought to be pleased that others are attempting to use our name and the Prop. 13 label. This fakery, if nothing else, is an acknowledgment that taxpayer issues are very important to voters – even in a left leaning state like California. After all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Perhaps.  But we should not – and will not – countenance deception.

Exhibit A in the “fake” category is in the hotly contested state senate race in Orange County between Janet Nguyen and former Assemblyman Jose Solorio.  Nguyen is a solid pro-taxpayer candidate and Solorio is a typical liberal politician who would, if given the chance, repeal Prop. 13 in a heartbeat.  The problem for Solorio is that this district is in Orange County whose voters are more conservative and hostile to higher taxes.

That is why Solorio has enlisted the services of none other than Governor Jerry Brown himself to do both radio and television ads in a flailing effort to convince voters that, no – he really does like Proposition 13.  But recent polling suggests that Orange County voters aren’t fooled and that HJTA’s strong endorsement of Janet Nguyen is far more powerful than the Governor’s push for Solorio.  (The fact that Solorio consistently received “Fs” on HJTA’s legislative report card while he was in the Assembly makes his attempt at deception particularly difficult.)

This contest is critical for the preservation of Proposition 13.  It is the most high stakes race in the entire state because if Janet Nguyen wins, this will prevent the tax-and-spend California Legislature from passing tax increases at will and placing anti-Proposition 13 constitutional amendments on the ballot.

In addition, it’s not just candidates who attempt to hold themselves out as pro-taxpayer just to fool voters.  In the current election cycle, a group we’ve never heard of before is selling its endorsement in favor of local tax hikes and left leaning candidates.  The so-called “California Republican Taxpayers Association” has no bona fides as a legitimate taxpayer association.  Moreover, its use of the word “Republican” has party officials incensed and strongly considering litigation for trademark infringement.

Finally, the most unusual attempt at deception we’ve seen this election is a mail piece from Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva who is running against pro-taxpayer Republican Young Kim.  Like the Nguyen-Solorio race, this is a battle being fought in mostly conservative Orange County. And, like Solorio, it is hard for Quirk-Silva to hide her anti-Prop 13 animus.  So what is her strategy?  Simple – she puts her name beside Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in a mail piece which simply notes that both she and HJTA support Proposition 2 – a mostly meaningless initiative on the November ballot.  (Prop. 2 is a marginal improvement to the state’s existing “rainy day” fund law so we support it.  Note, however, it is not the hard spending limit we would prefer).

By putting her name next to HJTA, is Quirk-Silva attempting to associate herself with the “gold standard” of California taxpayer groups Apparently so.  But this plan could easily backfire by giving Young Kim an opening to inform voters that it is she who has the endorsement of the HJTA Political Action Committee.

These examples are but a few of the often silly efforts at attempting to trick voters into believing that anti-taxpayer interests are not what they really are.  Voters need to be aware of this treachery.  Fortunately, most know who to trust.  And it sure as heck isn’t the candidates and groups who are “Jarvis Jesters.”

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’ rights.