CA GOP Candidate Josh Hoover Defeats Assemblyman Ken Cooley in Assembly 7th District Election

Cooley concedes after slow 3 week vote counting

Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) conceded the Assembly District 7 election to Republican candidate Josh Hoover on Tuesday, ending one of the closest Assembly elections three weeks after election day.

Cooley, who previously was the Mayor and a City Councilman of Rancho Cordova  in the 2000’s and early 2010’s, was first elected to the East Sacramento County seat in 2012, replacing outgoing Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada. The Assemblyman won his next elections by at least 54% of the vote. However, redistricting in the last few years, as well as GOP efforts at signing up people to vote, made 2022 his first real Assembly election challenge.

Meanwhile, the GOP backed Hoover, the Chief of Staff to outgoing Assemblyman/incoming Congressman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) and a school board member of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, bringing both Assembly and elected experience. The election proved to be tight, with neither candidate managing to pull far out ahead in any pulls throughout the summer and fall. Early results on election day showed Cooley out ahead by only about 300 votes with 25% of the vote in. As more votes were counted, Hoover slowly took the lead, with mail-in votes, which usually favors Democratic candidates, going more towards Hoovers favor.

By November 18th, a large Democratic vote influx swung the race toward Cooley by over 900 votes. But the rollercoaster of the count continued, and by last week Hoover was up again. On Tuesday, the results stood at 50.5%, or 82,226 votes, for Hoover and 49.5%, or 80,749, for Cooley. With 92% of the votes now counted, the lead was seen as insurmountable for the Cooley campaign, who conceded late on Tuesday, officially flipping what was a Democratic seat.

“I received a call from Assemblyman Ken Cooley today,” said Hoover in a press release. “He was gracious in defeat and congratulated me on my victory. Thank you to the voters for entrusting me to serve the people of the 7th Assembly District and represent our community in the Legislature. I am truly honored.”

Many political experts noted that the win, while not being part of an overall red wave, showed that California is still competitive for Republicans, and may indicate a growing conservative voting base within the state in the coming years.

“Hoover’s win showed that there is still a strong GOP force in California, or at least one strong enough to keep flipping seats,” explained Michelle Wallace, a Washington political analyst of state and federal elections in Western states, to the Globe on Friday. “In terms of the House, California looks like it is going to gain GOP held seats for the first time in forever, Governor Newsom became the first Democratic candidate for Governor to get under 60% since 2006, LA almost elected a non-liberal Democrat as Mayor, and, while more of a mixed-bag, we are still seeing surprises like this pop up in Assembly and state Senate races. The Democrats just lost their Rules Committee Chairman in the Assembly.

“I think we need 2024 to make sure, as the Presidential election and the evening out of the chaos of redistricting can smooth it all out, but it looks like California might be in a gentle turnaround on conservative candidates and policies. There’s been a lot of efforts to turn it around, and with crime worries and growing wildfire, housing and homeless crises affecting everyone, the problems are much more visible and Democrats are being asked now why they didn’t prevent this. Hoover’s win was definitely part of this first tremor, taking an area long held by a Democratic candidate. Democrats now have to go on the offense in a lot more places than usual, and in California, they just aren’t used to that.”

Before Cooley’s concession on Tuesday, the Assembly 7th District race had been the closest in the state.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Battle for Congress? Not here. Bay Area Democrats on Average Serve Even Longer Than Supreme Court Justices

The Bay Area has changed radically in the last few decades — new companies, new residents, new energy. But the people we send to Congress? They’ve stayed — remarkably — the same.

As Democrats and Republicans mount a pitched battle across the nation for control of the House and Senate, a Bay Area News Group analysis shows why our political inertia is all but certain to survive election day: Our region is by far the least competitive major metro area in the country for congressional races.

No Bay Area House race outcome is likely to cross the lips of cable news pundits on Tuesday night. Amid nail-biting across the nation, our cluster of the political map will fill in with the deepest blue — once again.

The current slate of 12 Bay Area House members — all Democrats — won their 2020 races by an average of 47 points. In the runner up region of Boston, victors in House races had an average 40-point margin.

And when it comes to job security, our members also come out on top, serving an average of 9 terms, or about 18 years, in office. Lifetime appointment? Well, no. But it’s even two years longer than the average time on the bench for every justice who ever served on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It is extraordinary,” said Dan Schnur, a UC Berkeley politics professor. “If California is a blue state, then the Bay Area is down right indigo.”

Five of the Bay Area’s 12 representatives have each spent more than two decades on Capitol Hill. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, long villainized by Republicans as an enduring symbol of Democratic control, is the longest-serving member of the Bay Area delegation: She won re-election in 2020 by 55 points and is running for her 19th term. Barbara Lee, the Bay Area’s maverick progressive, captured 92.6% of the vote in 2020 and routinely beats her challengers by about 80 points. The Oakland Democrat is running for her 14th term on Tuesday.

No other major metropolitan area in the country comes close to the Bay Area’s longevity. Six terms, or about 12 years in office, is the average for House members in Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Seattle and Southern California’s Inland Empire, the news organization’s analysis found.

But it’s not just our House members who have record-long stays in DC. On Friday, Dianne Feinstein became the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history after crossing the 30-year milestone. At 89, Feinstein has stayed in office so long that even the Bay Area is now wondering whether it’s a good thing, with calls for her to retire over concerns her mental faculties have deteriorated.

Congressman Ro Khanna, D-Santa Clara, who shocked local Democrats by ousting eight-term Bay Area incumbent Mike Honda back in 2016, experienced full force what it’s like to fight against the Bay Area political establishment.

“Every endorsement was against me, from now-President Biden, to Speaker Pelosi, to every member of Congress,” said Khanna, who is facing a perennial Republican candidate — computer engineer Ritesh Tandon — whom he beat by 43 points in 2020.  “A lot of people were saying don’t run, it was disrespectful to run…. there was a sense that this was somehow not being a team player.”

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, stayed out of it at the time. But she pointed out that Khanna would now rely on the very same political establishment that attacked him in 2016 to defend him from a future challenger.

“Frankly, he would do the same thing [as Honda] and ask the party to defend him,” said Eshoo, who with 15 terms under her belt is the second-longest serving Bay Area representative. “When you are challenging an incumbent, you have to expect that, otherwise you are a political novice.”

While the challenge to find viable challengers exists in many parts of the country, the Bay Area has a particular issue: the Republican party poses virtually no threat to Democratic incumbents. Only 14% of voters are registered Republicans in our seven counties. In fact, there is no Republican challenger in three of the 12 Bay Area races this year. Republicans have not held a congressional seat in the Bay Area since Tom Campbell left the House in 2000 to launch an unsuccessful Senate challenge against Feinstein.

Campbell, a law and economics professor at Chapman University in Orange County, says that Republicans began to lose control in the region after the national party pivoted in the 1990s to emphasize conservative positions on social issues, such as abortion, gay rights and immigration, which were anathema to the region’s socially liberal identity.

“Many times, I would begin a [debate] answer by saying ‘Well, that’s the national party, not me,’” he said.

What’s just as rare in the Bay Area as an upstart like Khanna upsetting a same-party incumbent like Honda, is when incumbents say they are ready to retire. This year, incredibly, there are two: San Mateo Rep. Jackie Speier and Stockton Rep. Jerry McNerney are both retiring after eight terms. They are the first vacancies in the Bay Area delegation in six years, when Sam Farr gave up his Central Coast seat after more than 20 years, making way for Jimmy Panetta whose father Leon Panetta held the seat for 18 years before Farr.

So, here, longevity begets even longer tenures.

“All the things that were supposed to cure all this, we did them,” said veteran Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, referring to how the state tasked a panel of citizens, not politicians, with the job of drawing congressional districts and created the state’s open primary system that sends the top two vote-getters regardless of party to the general election.

And yet, the trend persists.

In many parts of the country, politicians complain of having to perpetually run for office. While that can force them to spend more time in their districts, tending to the needs of constituents, in today’s political climate it also can drive candidates to feel beholden to party bosses, especially as the GOP fractures.

So does it matter if our incumbent representatives can sit comfortably in office, sailing to easy 50-point wins year after year without even needing to campaign?

Khanna says it matters a lot — and it needs to change. Young challengers often have a better grounding in issues of particular interest to young voters, he argues, ranging from student loan forgiveness to tech reform to tackling climate change.

“Democracy depends on renewal,” said Khanna, who was co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

Eshoo sees it differently. She says that constituents benefit from having long-serving members, who have the experience, expertise, and power to get things done in Congress.

“Someone is half my age, so they’re twice as capable?” she asked rhetorically. “In the Congress, seniority is empowering. The manifestations of that power, together with the experience, really cannot be diminished.”

That experience in crisis was on display in the January 6 hearings with behind-the-scenes footage of Pelosi front and center calling the governor of Virginia to send in the National Guard to quash the rioters overtaking the Capitol. And Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a San Jose Democrat first elected in 1994, has played a key role in some of the U.S. government’s most critical moments of the last half century, from her work as a law student helping the House Judiciary Committee draft impeachment charges of President Richard Nixon to her service as a manager in President Trump’s first impeachment trial and as a member of the House’s Jan. 6 committee.

How exactly the Bay Area has become so immune from competition is a matter of debate.

UC Merced political science professor Jessica Trounstine, whose work focuses on the impact of incumbency in large American cities, said that the lack of competitiveness in the Bay Area is explainable in part by the unparalleled exodus of lower-income people from the region.

Though gentrification has impacted major metros throughout the country, none have been as heavily impacted as the Bay Area.

That means that incumbent House members have an easier time crafting popular economic policies, since they don’t have to appeal to voters across a wide range of incomes, and thus have an easier time winning re-election.

“It’s not just abortion,” she said. “Anytime a politician can create even a small coalition, it amplifies their presence.”

Campbell says that another reason that California House members generally fail to leave office is that there is no room for advancement. California has 52 House members, but, like other states, just 2 senators. That imbalance leaves House members with few options but to seek re-election until retirement or launch long-shot presidential runs, as Dublin Rep. Eric Swalwell attempted in 2020. This year, Khanna has sparked rumors he’s testing the presidential waters by employing consultants in early primary states.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

The Attorney General’s Taxpayer-Funded Political Advertising

We hate to pick on Attorney General Rob Bonta two weeks in a row, but he’s really given us no choice. Last week we chronicled his hypocrisy on data privacy by posturing as a champion on that issue while negligently allowing his Department of Justice to release sensitive information on Californians who hold carry concealed weapons permits.

What spurred today’s critique was an article in the Sacramento Bee with the headline, “Why is California’s Attorney General spending taxpayer money to send you emails?” First, a hat tip to the Sacramento Bee – typically no friend of conservatives – and its reporter Ryan Sabalow.

The article reports that two months before the June primary election, millions of California voters received an email from Bonta’s Department of Justice with the subject line, “I want to hear from you.” The message was from an official email account and said, “As Attorney General, protecting California and its people is my highest priority” and “your opinion truly matters to me.”

Those receiving the email might have wondered what it was all about. After all, it is unusual to receive an unsolicited email from a state agency unless you’ve opted in to remain informed on a particular topic.

But it’s really no mystery at all. Prior to the primary election, Bonta was serving as the appointed, but unelected, Attorney General. No doubt that his name ID wasn’t very high, and he was willing to do anything possible to elevate his profile. That’s one reason he directed his staff – shortly after his appointment – to include his smiling visage on these email solicitations to as many as 7 million voters.

The Bee article, citing several sources, accurately notes that what Bonta did was technically legal, even if ethically questionable. Indeed, the question of the extent to which elected officials or government agencies expend taxpayer dollars for political advocacy or “self-promotion” is one that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association gets a lot. In fact, our Public Integrity Project was formed precisely to monitor and to litigate when necessary illegal expenditures of public funds for illegal activity.

Fortunately, HJTA has had a string of successes in the courtroom including an action against the County of Los Angeles for producing a slick television ad advocating the passage of a sales tax to address homelessness. That action resulted in a $1.3 million fine against the county. Other successful legal actions include a suit against California’s then-Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, for spending an unauthorized $35 million contract with a politically connected public relations firm that referred to itself as “Team Biden” on its own website, ostensibly for nonpartisan “voter outreach” and public education.

The bad news is that there is a very high bar to prove illegality when it comes to public expenditures for non-election-related public relations campaigns. Rarely will an elected official or government entity be so foolish to use taxpayer funds for ads that say “Vote for Me” or “Vote for Measure X.”

But just because “outreach” communications, such as those emails sent by Bonta, may be technically legal, that doesn’t mean that they are ethically defensible. The attorney general is responsible for enforcing the law against other Californians. It looks pretty bad for him to skirt the law himself.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

Trump’s Political Vulnerabilities Mount

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa — Stunning new revelations about former President Trump’s fight to overturn the 2020 election have exposed growing political vulnerabilities just as he eyes another presidential bid.

A former White House aide last week described Trump as an unhinged leader with no regard for the safety of elected officials in either party as he clung to power on Jan. 6, 2021. The testimony from the congressional panel investigating the Capitol attack provided a road map for prosecutors to potentially charge Trump with a crime, some legal experts say.

Republican voters — and Trump’s would-be rivals in the 2024 presidential race — took notice.

Here in Iowa, the state expected to host the first presidential nominating contest in roughly 18 months, several voters signaled Thursday that they were open to another presidential candidate even if Trump were to run again. Nationally, some conservative media outlets issued scathing rebukes of the former president, and aides for multiple GOP presidential prospects indicated, publicly and privately, that they felt increasingly emboldened to challenge Trump in 2024 after the explosive new testimony.

Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, drew roughly 350 conservative activists to a congressional fundraising barbecue on Thursday in Sioux County, where Trump won 82% of the vote in 2020.

There was ample evidence of Trump fatigue. Interviews with a dozen attendees revealed strong interest in a 2024 alternative, even if Trump is on the ballot.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find people in this area who support the idea that people aren’t looking for someone else,” said Dave Van Wyk, a transportation company owner. “To presume that conservative America is 100% behind Donald Trump is simply not the case.”

Former White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson on Tuesday offered previously unknown details about the extent of Trump’s rage in his final weeks of office, his awareness that some supporters had brought weapons to the city on Jan. 6 and his ambivalence as rioters later laid siege to the Capitol.

Upset at the size of the crowd at his “Stop the Steal” rally — many supporters avoided entering because they were armed and didn’t want to go through metal detectors — Trump said words to the effect of, “I don’t care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me,” according to Hutchinson. She recalled hearing about a separate incident after the rally in which Trump tried to grab at the steering wheel of the presidential vehicle to go to the Capitol to join his supporters.

That detail has caused some pushback. The agent who was driving the vehicle and another official were reportedly prepared to testify under oath that Trump never lunged for the wheel.

But the renewed concern was evident.

The conservative Washington Examiner’s editorial board said Hutchinson’s testimony “ought to ring the death knell” for Trump’s political career. “Trump is unfit to be anywhere near power ever again.”

The often Trump-friendly New York Post blasted the headline “Tyrant Trump.” And the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Just when it seems as if Donald Trump’s behavior after his 2020 loss couldn’t possibly look worse, a new piece of wild testimony arrives.”

To be sure, conservatives have shared serious concerns about Trump repeatedly in recent years. And in every case, the former president has emerged largely unscathed, sometimes stronger. He has been caught on video bragging about sexual assault; he instigated a violent attack on the Capitol; and he has been impeached twice.

Trump is sitting on campaign funds that exceed $101 million and remains deeply popular with many Republican voters. Lest there be any question, Republican candidates in states including Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia have been battling one another this midterm season for his support.

“The American people remain hungry for his leadership,” Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich said, citing Trump’s strong endorsement record and fundraising success. “And as another witch hunt is blowing up in the faces of Democrats, President Trump is in a stronger position now than at any time before.”

But even before last week’s revelations, a new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 48% of U.S. adults say Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Views on Trump’s criminal liability break down predictably along party lines, with 86% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans saying Trump should be charged. Still, the fact that nearly half the country believes he should be prosecuted is a remarkable position for the former president, pointing to the difficulties he could face if he makes another run at the White House.

Trump reported raising nearly $9 million in March and April combined. Figures for May and June were not yet available, but aides to the former president say his fundraising has remained strong.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, eyeing a presidential bid in 2024, says he was hearing concerns about Trump from donors and voters alike before last week’s testimony, which adds to the “cumulative weight” of the former president’s political shortcomings.

“People are concerned that we could lose the election in ’24 and want to make sure that we don’t nominate someone who would be seriously flawed,” Christie said.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is also considering a 2024 run, said he considers Trump beatable in a GOP primary even if Republican voters aren’t paying close attention to the congressional hearings, as he suspects.

“His approval among Republican primary voters has already been somewhat diminished,” Hogan said. “Trump was the least popular president in American history until Joe Biden.”

Aides for other Republican presidential prospects said privately that Trump may still be the overwhelming favorite to win the next GOP presidential nomination, but they believe his standing with Republican voters has been in steady decline. There was a broad sense — or at least a hope — that Hutchinson’s testimony would accelerate that decline among voters and donors in a way that would open opportunities for others.

Marc Short, a senior advisor to former Vice President Mike Pence, another likely 2024 presidential contender, was blunt when asked about Trump’s political strength.

“Republican activists believed Donald Trump was the only candidate who could beat Hillary,” Short said. “Now the dynamic is reversed. He is the only one who has lost to Joe Biden.”

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who serves on the Jan. 6 commission and has not ruled out a 2024 presidential bid, cast Trump as a direct threat to American democracy in a Wednesday night speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

“Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution. We must choose,” she said.

Haley, who has said she would not seek the 2024 GOP nomination if Trump ran, declined to say Thursday whether the testimony has given her reason to rethink that plan.

Instead, she sounded an upbeat note.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Money Wars: Special Interests Spend Big In California Primary

If you haven’t noticed, your mail carrier certainly has: Election season has arrived in California and with it, the regular flood of political ads from unions, corporations and other special interest groups hoping to influence your vote.

Though contributions made directly to political candidates are capped by state law, no such limits apply to “independent expenditure” committees — so long as those outside influences are, in fact, independent and don’t coordinate with the campaigns they’re trying to help. 

With early voting already underway and just two weeks to go before the June 7 primary, millions of dollars of help is now inundating California, showing up in races up and down the ballot. Perhaps you’ve driven past a curious bobble-headed billboard, had your mailbox stuffed with mailers sponsored by innocuous-sounding neighborhood groups or been puzzled by campaign ads that seem to be promoting the wrong candidate

That’s all the handwork of what California election watchers refer to simply as “I.E.”

Though independent political spending is still dwarfed in California by old-fashioned direct contributions to candidates, it can play an outsized role in competitive elections, said Ann Ravel, who has served as the top campaign finance watchdog for both the state of California and the federal government. As an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for state Senate in one of 2020’s most fiercely competitive legislative races, she knows from first-hand experience. 

“When you see it in person, it’s a lot different than when you see it as a regulator,” said Ravel, whose South Bay race against fellow Democrat Dave Cortese became a $6.2 million proxy battle between organized labor groups, housing interests and tech companies including Uber and Lyft. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh God, now I have to go to all these meetings with all these people and suck up to them?’” 

Unlike relatively small individual contributions, six-figure spending by a single interest group in a close race can be difficult for a candidate to ignore, she said. “You have to be able to compete…I think that’s the problem.”

Another common feature of independent expenditure committees, said Claremont McKenna College political science professor Jack Pitney, is that they most often play the role of bad cop, attacking candidates they want to knock off. 

“It provides a certain degree of cover to the candidate who benefits,” he said. “They can’t be accused of going negative.”

Even for seasoned politicos and election reporters, the rivers of cash can be complicated to track — and sometimes even convoluted to make sense of. For the fascinated, outraged or perplexed voter, consider this your user’s guide. 

Shades of blue

Accounting and financial oversight doesn’t always inflame political passions, but the race to become California’s next controller is shaping up to be among the most competitive statewide races. With five well-financed candidates — four of them Democrats — and no clear front-runner, it’s a remarkably open race. Just in terms of money raised by the campaigns, themselves, it’s the highest-dollar statewide race. 

The conventional wisdom is that Lanhee Chen, the lone Republican, will snag one of the two spots for the November ballot. That leaves the four Democrats fighting for the second spot.  

Enter JobsPAC, an IE committee sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce. 

“The race for a spot in the general election is a jump ball between the four major Democratic candidates — each start with limited name ID and no statewide bully pulpit for communications,” reads a strategic memo produced by the committee earlier this month. 

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters