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

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

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

Possible Successors to California Sen. Barbara Boxer

The Sacramento Bee details a relatively long list of potential candidates to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer, who will retire when her term ends in 2016. The list includes such names as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Kamala Harris and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

California Sen. Barbara Boxer’s announcement today not to seek a fifth term has unleashed a long-expected wave of speculation about who will challenge for the seat.

Democrats have a supremely deep bench of possible successors, along with some dark horses. The 2016 race also will be a test for whether Republicans can regain a Senate seat in the Golden State, which has eluded them since 1992.

Here’s a quick look at some of the possibilities. …

 

Carly Fiorina, the deadbeat presidential candidate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debra J. Saunders is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, 901 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103. Send email to [email protected]

This article was originally published by Statesman Journal

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

House Passes GOP California Drought Bill, But Senate Approval Unlikely

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Legislation addressing California’s drought reached an inconclusive high-water mark Tuesday, passing the House on a largely party line vote before trickling off to a bleak fate in the Senate.

While the Republican-controlled House approved the California water bill by a 230-182 margin, California’s two Democratic senators oppose it with varying degrees of severity.

The Senate resistance and the bill authors’ inability to reconcile competing state interests effectively renders the stand-alone California Emergency Drought Relief Act a Capitol Hill orphan. Last-minute efforts to add similar language onto a separate spending bill continue. …