High-Speed Rail Needs More Oversight, Audit

high speed rail trainThe Jan. 27, 2016, Assembly Budget Subcommittee hearing labeled “Oversight of High Speed Rail” turned out to be anything but a hearing on oversight.  (Video of Hearing)

The hearing, prompted by pressure from Republicans when an explosive LA Times article reported the Authority had failed to include and ignored cost increases predicted by its prime contractor, Parsons Binkerhoff (PB), while the 2014 business plan was developed and published.

The cost increase predicted by the PB report was about $9 billion, a 31 percent increase for the Merced to Burbank segment.  The report also showed an overall increase of about 5 percent for the whole Phase I of the project, with a net increase of about $3.5 billion to the baseline project for the San Francisco to Los Angeles segment.  Indeed the 2014 business plan, simply incorporated the 2012 business plan cost estimate of $68 billion. 

Reading the staff report prepared for the hearing, it was easy to predict the result of the hearing. The staff report included “cut and paste” excerpts from the Authority’s business plan, but no such excerpts from the LA Times’ article.  The only speakers were to be from the Authority, Dan Richard (Chair) and Jeff Morales (CEO).  From the Authority’s Peer Review Group Lou Thompson appeared.

Thus the whole hearing was setup to be a “white wash” of the issues the Times’ article raised.

Richard spent about 10 minutes telling the world (again) how well run and open the Authority has been in carrying out this project.

Then Morales gave his input, essentially seeking to discredit the Times’ article by claiming the PB report included going all the way to Burbank whereas the comparison cost routing would stop at Sylmar (about 16 miles shorter in distance). Morales claimed about $4.5 billion of the cost difference was due to the PB report extending the segment to Burbank. Claiming this extension would cost $4.5 billion to go only 16 miles on level surface when a corridor like the San Fernando road could be used, is simply not believable. The other $4.5 billion of the PB projected cost increase was simply discarded by the Authority by claiming elimination of elevated structures in the PB estimate with building on berms would save this $4.5 billion.

This brings up the question of why pay PB to produce cost estimates, when the Authority can just claim we will build the segment differently and substitute our own costs? All of this testimony from Morales came without his producing any data for his testimony, since all of this is labeled “DRAFT.”

The Authority surely needs more oversight. Lou Thompson echoed this need in his testimony. The Authority resists additional oversight with all its might.

Morales had written the Chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee a letter in which he was opposed to the approval of an audit of the Authority proposed by Senator Andy Vidak.

Let me give you a personal example for this need.

I commented on the need for an audit of the Authority previously. Since that article was published, additional information has appeared.

The reply from the Authority on Sept. 18, 2015, to my public record request of Sept 8th 2015, stated:

The June 30 Funding Contribution Plan (FCP) is expected to be posted in the near future.When it is available, it will be posted to the following website:  http://www.hsr.ca.gov/About/Funding_Finance/funding_agreements.html

The June 30 FCP was indeed finally posted on Jan. 21, 2016. That is about 4.5 months after my request. But what is really interesting is an inspection of the FCP reveals it was produced on July 28, 2015 (see the properties snapshot of the FCP) the FCP was available well before my initial request. Public Record Requests are mandated by law to be filled within 10 days, not 4.5 months later.

Los Angeles Times reporter, Ralph Vartabedian, has authored another article since the Jan. 27 committee hearing. It explains a lot.

The High Speed Rail project is the largest such endeavor in the nation. It needs more oversight and it needs an audit from the non-partisan State Auditor now. It is time for the Democratic  legislative leadership and the Authority to stop denying such an audit.

esident of Menlo Park and Founder of DERAIL, a grassroots effort against the California high-speed rail project.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Audit the California High Speed Rail Authority

high speed rail trainThe California High Speed Rail Authority once again opposes oversight of its actions. On Tuesday the Joint Legislative Audit Committee held a hearing on the request by state Senator Andy Vidak to have the State Auditor conduct an audit of the Authority’s activities.

The Committee, on a strictly party line vote, denied the request. The request was triggered by the explosive Sunday, Oct 25th L.A. Times article, which disclosed a previously undisclosed report by the Authority’s contractor, Parson Brinkerhoff (PB).  The report projected a $9 billion increase in construction costs of the initial Merced to Burbank segment. (The article also disclosed from interviews with experts, that time lines, and budget targets would not be met.) 

The Times article, authored by Ralph Vartabedian, noted the cost increase report was delivered months before the 2014 business plan was released. The 2014 business plan did not include the projected $9 billion cost increase and instead continued to use cost projections from the 2012 business plan.

The first responses from the Authority to the Times article were: We don’t know about such a report, followed then by a blunt statement from Authority Chair Dan Richard, stating the article was “bunk.”

The Authority’s often-restated position is that the Authority is the most transparent of public agencies. Yet its actions reveal a completely different picture.

The Times article, was followed by numerous Freedom of Information act requests, which belatedly forced the Authority to release the report. The report was in the form a PowerPoint presentation, and was presented several months before the 2014 Business Plan was released.

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins then announced that a hearing would be held on the issues raised in the article. The hearing is now set to take place on Jan 27th.  Indeed the argument used by Democrats at the JLAC hearing to deny the audit was that an audit by the State Auditor was unnecessary and would be redundant to what would be revealed at the Legislative hearing.

But there is a whole world of difference between an audit conducted by the non-partisan State Auditor, and any legislative hearing being conducted by a Democratic controlled committee. Indeed, already announced by Atkins was that subpoenas would not be issued by the committee conducting the hearing.

Transparency and oversight in the Authority’s view, have many restrictions. The Authority denies many public record requests using one excuse or another. Many times disclosure comes only after immense pressure is exerted on the Authority. This was certainly the case which finally caused the release of the Powerpoint report disclosed in the LA Times article. This was also the case regarding final disclosure last year to the public, of the responses from private investors to the Authority’s request for Expressions of Interest in the project. (None of the finally revealed 36 responses indicated any willingness to invest.)

The Authority, throughout its existence, has used many tactics to avoid oversight. During 2010 to 2012, when the state Senate Housing and Transportation committee was led by Democrats, Senators Alan Lowenthal and Joe Simitian, numerous hearings were held and on many occasions the committee had to fight very hard to obtain needed information.

Last year the Authority managed to get the Legislature to remove the Authority’s obligation to report twice yearly and instead only reporting once every 2 years; removing one more level of oversight.

During the JLAC hearing on Tuesday, the State Auditor, Elaine Howle, presented her plan for the audit. She disclosed the audit would take about 2,100 hours and would need 5 months to complete. Considering the Authority has now spent almost $2 billion, the cost of this modest audit was hardly a consideration. Nevertheless, the Democrat-controlled committee rejected the request.

The Authority has stopped releasing the Funding Contribution Plans. These reports are mandated by the funding agreement between the Authority and the Federal Railway Administration (FRA). The reports are due quarterly within 30 days after the end of a quarter. The last report disclosed was the March 2015 report. Thus, as of this date, the June and Sept. 2015 reports are delinquent, and at the end of this month, the Dec. 2015 report will also be past due. These are the key reports showing how the Authority is performing on its project. Apparently the FRA has quit worrying about the Authority’s compliance with the funding agreement. The FRA has thus far not replied to my Freedom of Information request concerning the missing Funding Contribution Plans.

A just released poll from the Stanford University Hoover Institution reported “53 percent of Californians would vote for a ballot measure ending high-speed rail and using the unspent money on water-storage projects.” (poll details) The poll also reveals only 20 percent strongly approve, whereas 33 percent strongly disapprove of the California HSR project.

esident of Menlo Park and Founder of DERAIL, a grassroots effort against the California high-speed rail project.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Brown Admits Nobody Knows How To Solve Climate Change

Global WarmingGov. Jerry Brown warned at a recent climate change workshop that trillions of dollars, the transformation of our way of life and a worldwide mobilization on the scale of war will be required to stave off climate change’s “existential threat” to mankind.

Brown also said the problem is so complex that it’s likely no one knows how to solve it.

Emissions Targeted

The governor conveyed his warning at the California Air Resources Board’s Oct. 1 workshop, “California Climate Change Scoping Plan: 2030 Target.”

The 2030 target reduces California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels in the next 15 years. Brown also designated a 2050 target: emission reduction to 80 percent below the 1990 level.

The 2030 target is “the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions over the next decade and a half,” said Brown in an April 29 statement.

The governor began his remarks at the workshop with an admission of ignorance on climate change science.

“I come today because this is a topic that is not easy to grasp,” he said. “It’s complicated. The more you dig into controlling air pollution or measuring greenhouse gas emissions or attempting to understand the [climate] models that examine and attempt to predict how world climate patterns will change over time, it definitely is a very complicated science that we mere lay people just get little glimpses of.”

That complexity makes it easy for climate change skeptics to disseminate misinformation, according to Brown.

“It allows people who have bad motives or soft minds to then raise doubts that are not based on science or facts, but are able to be communicated without people reacting with total ridicule,” he said. “And it takes enough knowledge that it’s hard to be in this conversation at any level of depth.

Relying on Climate Scientists

Brown said we should rely on climate change scientists who “have clearly stated that human beings and the industrial activity of our modern lives is affecting climate by building up heat-trapping gases, and that the effects over time will be catastrophic.”

“When and how all of that unfolds is something that cannot be said on a precise date,” he continued. “But we know with a high degree of confidence that we are facing an existential threat to our well being and the well being of the generations that come afterwards.”

Brown acknowledged that the public has thus far been largely indifferent to the climate change issue, ranking it well below crime and jobs among issues they are most concerned about. That indifference or ambivalence may be due to the omnipresence of fossil fuels in the quality of our lives.

“What we are looking at is making a shift in the way life shows up,” Brown said. “We are who we are because of oil, coal and natural gas. Fossil fuels is what makes it. I assume that most of the people here are here because fossil fuels got you here, clothed you, medicated or whatever way you are functioning as a modern person, you are dependent on fossil fuels.

“So when we say we are going to reduce [emissions by] 10 percent, 20 percent, 40 percent, we are setting forth a hugechallenge that is very easy to state. But anybody who has any understanding of what is implied by what is being called for, realizes this cannot be done lightly or without a mobilization globally that we have never seen before outside of time of war.”

Potential Economic Meltdown

Brown, citing a Sept. 29 speech by the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, warned there is a potential for a global economic meltdown when energy companies are forbidden from using up to a third of their fossil fuel resources.

“Once it becomes conventional wisdom, once we get it that climate change is going to be catastrophic and that becomes clear and vast majorities of people at all levels of society agree with that, it may be too late because we’ll be too far down the road,” he said.

“If the oil and gas companies are undermined, the financial system itself can be undermined. We can’t wait until everybody gets it. We have to start now.”

Brown said the state’s current annual output of 460 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions must be reduced to 431 million tons by 2020 and down to 260 million tons by 2030.

“To go from 460 where we are to 260, that takes heroic effort, scientific breakthroughs, massive investments, a lot of cooperation and a political understanding that does not exist today,” he said. “So this is not stuff for amateurs. This is quite challenging.”

“It’s a political problem,” Brown continued, “but also it’s a technical problem. And it’s going to require a lot of breakthrough, a lot of research and billions, tens of billions of dollars, invested by many, many different sources.”

It will also require Californians driving a lot less, he said, by living closer to where they work and telecommuting. “Californians drive over 330 billion miles a year – 32 million vehicles of various kinds moving around on almost entirely fossil fuel,” he said. “We’re going to reduce and take fossil fuels out of our lives and out of the economy.

“And we’re going to creep our prosperity and ability to keep inventing and improving the quality of everybody’s life. And not only here, but we’re going to do it all over the world. And we’re going to add a couple billion people besides and probably another billion cars.”

Changing Lifestyles

The governor admitted, “How the hell we do that, probably nobody knows. But the people who have the best understanding and the best capability to do things [are] right here.”

Brown acknowledged that it will be a big challenge convincing people to change their lifestyles. He also admitted that even getting the conversation started is tough:

In my world of politics this is … a dark reality that you just can’t even talk about. Because it’s too obscure, too complicated, it’s not high in the polls, “don’t bother me now.” But if that mood persists … it will be too late then, and there will be a real catastrophe.

People don’t like to think that something horrible could happen. We all like our happy time news in the morning. But you got to see it, and then we have to take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen.

This is about taking the steps to deal with fuels, the investment in biofuels, [energy] efficiency in appliances and buildings, across the whole range of how our modern civilization works, within the limited reach that the Air Resources Board has confidence and the legal authority to do, which is quite a lot. Everything that can be done will be done. California will do what it has to do.

Leading the Way

Brown believes California is setting an example other states and countries will follow.

“People know about California, people are watching what’s going on, and there’s a lot of goodwill to get us to the goal,” he said. “Of course, it’s going to take a lot more than goodwill. It’s going to take billions, trillions of dollars. And it’s going to take commitment all over the world.”

Brown’s pep talk received a standing ovation. After the applause died down, CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols said, “You can see why I get up raring to go to work every morning.”

Facing Opposition

No one at the workshop questioned whether California’s efforts will do much to prevent the planet’s climate from changing, and whether the cost will be worth it.

But state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, issued a statement on Oct. 7 in opposition to Brown signing into law Senate Bill 350, which mandates an increase in renewable energy among other emission reduction actions:

The district I represent is still reeling from the Great Recession and the devastating years-long drought. Too many people in rural and inland communities are impoverished; standing in food lines because they can’t find work to make ends meet.

Senate Bill 350 is a devastating measure that will force already-struggling families deeper into poverty by drastically increasing energy costs that are already some of the highest in the nation.

It’s wrong when parents have to choose between the necessities of keeping the lights on and feeding their children. The governor’s signature on SB350 kicks folks while they are down. It is a selfish gesture designed to fluff up his “legacy” and pander to coastal elites’ “environmental” self-righteousness.”

The impact on most Californians from the state’s climate change regulations has been minimal thus far. The state has been averaging a 1 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions annually. That pace is projected to continue through 2020, and is enough to meet the 2020 reduction goal.

But residents and businesses will be hit harder after that. Emissions will need to be reduced by at least 5.2 percent annually from 2020 to 2030 in order to meet the 2030 target.

“This gives an indication of the challenge of the work that we have ahead of us in the scoping plan to develop an approach, to develop a set of measures that can contribute to and achieve this ambitious greenhouse gas reduction level for 2030,” said ARB Assistant Executive Officer Michael Gibbs.

An analysis of the economic impacts of the climate change regulations will be conducted as a part of the scoping plan. No cost estimates were provided at the workshop, but several officials in addition to Brown said that billions of dollars in increased funding will be required.

“Investment in [energy] efficiency [in buildings] will need to be quadrupled or quintupled from today’s levels in order to reach the scale necessary to meet the 2030 and 2050 goals,” said Patrick Saxton, representing the California Energy Commission. “Clearly this is much more than ratepayers and taxpayers can fund on their own.”

Regional workshops on the scoping plan will be held this fall; the Air Resources Board will receive an update on Nov. 19. The draft plan is scheduled to be released in spring 2016. The final plan is expected to be approved in fall 2016.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

On Bullet Train, Voters Finally May Get to Apply the Brakes

high speed rail trainPencils have erasers. Computers have the undo command and the escape key.

If you had it to do over again, would you vote for the bullet train?

It was called the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act” on the 2008 ballot, and it authorized $9 billion in bonds — borrowed money — to “partially fund” a high-speed train system in California.

The ballot measure required that there would be “private and public matching funds,” “accountability and oversight” and a focus on completing “Phase I” from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Anaheim. Bond funds could not be spent on the other corridors, like Fresno to Bakersfield, unless there was “no negative impact on the construction of Phase I.”

Today the estimated cost is over $68 billion, private and federal funds are not in sight, and accountability has been cut back — instead of two spending reports to the Legislature every year, only one report every two years will be required. And “Phase I” broke ground in Fresno.

Place your finger on the escape key and stand by. State Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Fresno, has introduced a bill, co-authored by Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, to put the bullet train before the voters again. If Senate Bill 3 (SBX1-3) can muster a two-thirds vote in the state Senate and Assembly, it will be on the June 2016 ballot.

The measure would freeze spending on the bullet train and direct unspent funds to the Department of Transportation to be used for roads, which would come in handy because California needs $59 billion just to maintain the freeways for the next 10 years. Gov. Jerry Brown has called a special session of the Legislature to look for revenue to fill the state’s transportation budget pothole after signing a “balanced” budget that left that item out.

The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office offered some suggestions that illustrate the difference between what tax increases can raise and what the bullet train costs.

• Raising the tax on a gallon of gasoline brings in $150 million per 1 cent increase.

• Raising the tax on a gallon of diesel fuel collects $30 million per 1 cent increase.

• Raising the vehicle registration fee nets $33 million per $1 increase.

• Doubling the vehicle weight fees raises about $1 billion.

• Raising the vehicle license fee hauls in roughly $3 billion per 1 percent increase.

There are other options. The LAO says lawmakers could prioritize the budget to use money from the general fund to maintain and construct roads. Billions in cap-and-trade revenue, collected from fees now levied on gasoline and diesel fuel, could be used for highway projects that reduce traffic and improve mileage.

Additionally, $900 million that was loaned from state transportation accounts to the general fund could be repaid and used for roads. “Efficiency and effectiveness” could be improved by prioritizing cost-effective maintenance projects, increasing accountability and oversight, and examining Caltrans’ “capital outlay support” program to see if it is “operating efficiently.” Hint, hint.

The scrimping, saving and tax hikes needed to maintain the freeways can’t begin to address all the other transportation infrastructure needs, and we still have to pay for the rising costs of Medi-Cal, unfunded pensions and health benefits for state employees, and desperately needed water projects.

In 2008, the ballot argument for the bullet train promised high-speed rail “without raising taxes,” but it’s a shell game if tax revenue is spent on the train while taxes are raised for the roads.

Sen. Vidak’s bipartisan bill ought to have the support of every lawmaker. Voters deserve a chance to undo the bullet train and escape from this mess.

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Reach the author at [email protected] or follow Susan on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

A Few Good Fits for Desperately Hungry Republicans

PHOTO BY RBERTEIG

The wave that swept Republicans back into power in blue states such as Colorado, Maryland, Maine, and Massachusetts didn’t quite reach California, the state that once produced Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. In fact, every Republican candidate for statewide constitutional office lost. Governor Jerry Brown creamed his Republican opponent—and Brown didn’t even run a campaign. Democrats maintained strong majorities in both legislative houses. So why are California GOP officials so giddy about how the election played out?

Two reasons come to mind. First, Republicans won three critical state senate races and stopped the Democrats from holding a supermajority in that body. Election night results looked good for Republican prospects in the state assembly, too, though the final counts in two races will determine whether the GOP prevents a Democratic supermajority in the lower house. Democrats need at least two-thirds of those seats to meet the state constitution’s threshold for passing tax increases. Republicans, as a rule, oppose every new tax increase in a state that already has the nation’s highest individual income-tax rate.

Second, while it still has no idea how to win a statewide election, the California GOP has figured out how to win in targeted districts—even in some that lean Democratic. In the last legislative session, Democrats lost their supermajority in the state senate after scandal drove three legislators from office. One was convicted of voter fraud and perjury, and two others face federal corruption charges. But Republicans chose not to focus on Democratic foibles. Instead, under the leadership of former state senator Jim Brulte, the party put its resources into a handful of winnable races.

Sacramento-based GOP political consultant Jeff Randle said that the Republicans “had to show incremental progress [Tuesday] night and we did that by winning with really good candidates.” Randle, who helps recruit viable candidates through the Trailblazers program, credited the party’s successes to its newfound emphasis on “finding candidates that match their districts.” The best example may be Senator Andy Vidak, a Spanish-speaking cherry farmer from the San Joaquin Valley. Though Democrats enjoy a 20-point voter-registration edge in Vidak’s heavily Latino district, voters in the politically moderate farm region tend to favor independence. Vidak, a cowboy hat-wearing conservative populist, beat his Democratic rival, Fresno school board trustee Luis Chavez, by 10 points.

Republicans also held a senate seat that many pollsters and professional political operatives predicted they would lose. Anthony Cannella, the former mayor of the San Joaquin Valley city of Ceres and son of former Democratic state assemblyman Sal Cannella, prevailed in part by drawing union support away from his Democratic challenger, Shawn Bagley. And Republicans scored a key win in ethnically diverse and politically competitive central Orange County, where county supervisor Janet Nguyen won a state senate seat in a race in which Republicans effectively tapped Asian support. Asians now represent 12 percent of California voters, and they turn out in higher percentages than many other ethnic groups. So Nguyen was another GOP candidate who matched well with her district.

In the assembly, the Republicans did well in all but one of their targeted races. In the eastern Bay Area, the socially moderate Catherine Baker took a hard line on public-employee unions, strongly opposing the 2013 Bay Area Rapid Transit strike in a district that spans Orinda and Walnut Creek east of the Berkeley Hills to the Tri-Valley—in other words, a district full of voting commuters hard hit by two four-day work stoppages in July and October of last year. Pending a final count of absentee and provisional ballots, Baker leads Democrat and union activist Tim Sbranti in the contest for an open assembly seat. Retired police officer Tom Lackey unseated the Democratic incumbent in the Palmdale area, and Korean-American Young Kim, a former staffer for veteran Republican congressman Ed Royce, ousted incumbent assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, 56 percent to 44 percent, in northern Orange County.

One could argue, however, that the Democrats should never have held some of these seats in the first place. “It’s true Republicans did well, but that’s only because Democrats overreached so far,” said Grant Gillham, a political consultant and former Republican staffer. “You’re living in an alley, eating out of garbage cans and you find half of a Big Mac and you think you’ve hit the jackpot. That’s the situation with Republicans now,” he said, jokingly. He’s got a point, but half a Big Mac is looking pretty good to a desperately hungry party.

This piece was originally published on by City Journal.

Dems Lose State Senate Supermajority

With impressive showings in Orange County and the Central Valley, Republicans have succeeded in blocking a Democratic super-majority in the State Senate.

Republican Senators Andy Vidak and Anthony Cannella easily won reelection in their Central Valley districts, while Orange County Supervisor Janet Nugyen clobbered former Asm. Jose Solorio by twenty points in a highly-contested open seat. The GOP victories come just eight months after corruption scandals cost California Democrats their super-majority in the State Senate and give Senate Republicans some leverage in votes on taxes and procedural motions in the upper house.

Two years ago, the Senate Democratic Caucus under Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg won every contested race. This time around, Senate Democrats under new leader Kevin de Leon struggled in districts that are considered safe Democratic seats.

In the 12th Senate District, Cannella, a first-term Republican, cruised to reelection against Democrat Shawn Bagley, a produce-broker and businessman from Salinas. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, the Republican lawmaker nearly doubled up on his opponent, capturing 62 percent to Bagley’s 38 percent of the vote.

Although Democrats hold a 13-point advantage in voter registration, Cannella built a sizable war chest, which staved off serious challengers. A moderate Republican, Cannella won over independent voters and moderate Democrats by co-sponsoring legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. He also pushed national Republicans to adopt comprehensive immigration reform and voted in favor of the Dream Act, a controversial bill to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain conditional permanent residency and in-state tuition benefits.

State Senate 14: Vidak’s impressive win

In the 14th Senate District, early returns showed a potential upset of Vidak, who won the seat in a 2013 special election. But, with 90 percent of precincts reporting, Vidak had established a comfortable 11-point lead over Fresno School Board Trustee Luis Chavez.

Republicans across the state benefited from a combination of low voter turnout and Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to ignore a serious statewide campaign. However, they have reason to celebrate Vidak’s win as progress in reaching moderate Democrats and independent voters.

On paper, Democrats should win the 14th State Senate race every time. Democrats have 20 point advantage in voter registration in the district that is also half Latino. According to absentee ballot data from Political Data, Inc., this year’s absentee turnout was higher than 2010 and almost as high as 2012.

Vidak, the legislature’s leading critic of high-speed rail, has questioned pay-to-play politics in the contracting process and called for the public to re-vote on the controversial project. He also stood firm in calling for the Senate to expel several members accused of corruption and bribery.

State Senate 34: Nguyen’s Win

In the 34th Senate District, Nguyen, a first generation Vietnamese-American immigrant, withstood a barrage of negative attacks to defeat former Assemblyman Jose Solorio by 20 points. With 99.1 percent of precincts reporting, as of 12:55 a.m., Nguyen had 70,438 votes, compared to 46,867 for Solorio, a trustee on the Rancho Santiago Community College District Board.

Nguyen, the youngest supervisor in Orange County’s history, is headed to Sacramento thanks to a strong turnout by Vietnamese-American voters. Asian turnout among absentee voters, according to data made available by Political Data, Inc., was up significantly in the district, where 80 percent of the district’s Asian voters are Vietnamese. The race was considered to be one of the most competitive legislative races in the state. Surprisingly, Nguyen added to her vote total from the June 3rd primary, when she captured 52 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

Republicans also performed well in the 32nd Senate District, where Downey Councilman Mario Guerra kept Democrat Tony Mendoza on the ropes in a safe Democratic seat. With 97.5 percent of precincts reporting as of 2:02 a.m., Mendoza had 51.6 percent of the vote, a 3 percent advantage over Guerra.

Senate intra-party feuds

Under California’s Top 2 elections system, the highest vote-getters in the June primary advance to the November election. In two Democratic intra-party feuds, the moderate candidates prevailed in closely-contested races. In the 6th Senate District, Assemblyman Richard Pan defeated fellow Democratic lawmaker Roger Dickinson by roughly six points.

In the 26th Senate District, liberal activist Sandra Fluke was blown out by fellow Democrat Ben Allen. A member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School Board, Allen held a nearly 2-1 lead over the women’s rights activist who became a darling of the left after her national spat with conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. With 84 percent of precincts reporting as of 2:02 a.m., Allen had 61 percent to Fluke’s 38.8 percent. The Torrance-based seat was previously held by moderate Democrat Ted Lieu, who was winning his campaign to replace retiring Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills.

The only Senate contest between two Republicans remained too close to call. With 63 percent of precincts reporting, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone held a six point lead over former Republican Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia in the 28th Senate District.

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com