Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 12, 2013
California Democratic chairman's still brooding over broccoli

RP BURTON HAND.JPGCalifornia Democratic Party Chairman John Burton doesn't seem too concerned about the possibility that Republican Abel Maldonado will challenge Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014.

"I bet Jerry Brown's wetting his pants," Burton quipped at a reception to kick off the party's annual convention in Sacramento.

Maldonado, a former state legislator and farmer from Santa Maria who was appointed lieutenant governor by GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010, recently filed paperwork to start raising money for a gubernatorial run. Some GOP strategists think Maldonado's candidacy could be key in helping the embattled California Republican Party woo Latino voters.

Burton's thoughts about the potential challenger, however, were limited to an incident involving some bad smelling broccoli.

April 12, 2013
Citizens United critic weighs run for California secretary of state

cressman.JPGThe field of possible contenders to succeed Debra Bowen as the state's chief elections officer is growing by the day.

Derek Cressman, an activist with the nonprofit Common Cause, told The Bee today he is "seriously considering" running for secretary of state in 2014, when Bowen will step down because of term limits.

Cressman said he is currently looking at whether he can fulfill existing commitments at the political watchdog group, which advocates for stricter campaign finance rules and increased transparency in politics, in time to launch a campaign for next year's election.

The Sacramento Democrat, a longtime critic of the role of money in politics, is currently leading a national effort to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision on campaign spending. He said his experience with Common Cause has prepared him to tackle problems with the state's campaign finance, voter and business filing system.

"Working over the last several years to improve California's voting systems and campaign finance issues, I have come to realize that the next secretary of state is going to be a really important job, probably more important than that job usually is, because there are a number of improvements that need to be made," Cressman said, adding he finds it "embarrassing for the home state of Silicon Valley to be so behind the times in the technology."

Democratic state Sens. Alex Padilla and Leland Yee have already announced plans to run, while several other Democrats have opened campaign committees to raise money for a possible 2014 campaign. Cressman, who ran for a spot on a proposed Sacramento Charter Commission that voters opted not to create last year, said he believes his role as an outsider will give him credibility with voters should he decide to run.

"California needs somebody who actually wants to be secretary of state, rather than using that office as a stepping stone for higher office or just a place to land after term limits," he said.

Padilla declares Secretary of State candidacy, will take on Yee
Democrat Leland Yee announces 2014 CA secretary of state bid

PHOTO CREDIT: Derek Cressman. Sacramento Bee file photo.

April 12, 2013
California state revenue up $254 million in March, officials say

RBBudget2.JPGSunny indeed - and not just the weather.

Spring is getting off to a good start in California's state budget, too, with general fund revenue for March exceeding Gov. Jerry Brown's budget forecast by $254 million, state finance officials announced Friday.

Year-to-date revenues are slightly $5 billion above the forecast of $59.645 billion, records show.

Employment and housing are helping to lead the way.

California's unemployment rate fell to 9.6 percent in February, its lowest level in more than four years, finance officials said.

Home prices in the state rose for the 12th consecutive month. The median price of an existing single-family home sold in February was $333,880, an increase of 24 percent over the past year, according to the California Association of Realtors.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown explains his 2013-2014 budget proposal at a news conference in January. Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee file

April 12, 2013
VIDEO: For Jerry Brown in China, tourism kickoff is a party

IMG_1399.JPGSHANGHAI - If the strobe lights and house music did not make clear this was an unusual place for Gov. Jerry Brown, the host's introduction certainly did.

"It's not a press conference," he said Friday. "It's a party!"

In an auditorium at the Ritz Carlton in this city of more than 23 million people, Brown joined Caroline Beteta, president and chief executive officer of the tourism group Visit California, to announce a $1.6 million campaign to draw more Chinese tourists to the Golden State.

There were drawings for prizes, appeals to "shake" and "let's do it," and a countdown to a ceremonial launch that involved Brown, Beteta and a button on stage. The tourism group said it will promote California in online ads and on a dozen electronic billboards around Shanghai.

The 75-year-old governor, in China for a week-long trade mission, acknowledged the event was a "bit more glitzy than I'm used to," but he said, "it pales in comparison to the sparkle of California."

Earlier Friday, Chinese officials hosted Brown at a banquet at the government-owned WH Ming Hotel. Brown's hosts set up a massive, red banner in the banquet hall: "Welcome the delegation from California, USA headed by Governor Brown," and a march played as Brown walked to the podium to offer remarks.

Lighter music was playing as Brown left. He stopped for a moment to listen to the string trio.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown participates in the announcement of a tourism campaign in China involving electronic billboards on Friday, April 12, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

April 12, 2013
Jerry Brown opens trade office, links family to Shanghai Communiqué

IMG_1348.JPGSHANGHAI - Presiding over the opening of a foreign trade office here Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown suggested his family participated in a far more significant event in the improvement of U.S.-China relations - or what the governor called "the Brown family's contribution to the Shanghai Communiqué."

"As we open and look to the future, it's well that we keep grounded in the past," Brown said. "And as I was sitting there looking at 2013, I couldn't help but think of 1972, when Richard Nixon signed the Shanghai Communiqué that broke the logjam and opened the doors of friendship between China and the United States."

Ten years before Nixon made his historic visit to China and signed the diplomatic paper, he ran unsuccessfully for governor of California.

"He was unsuccessful because my father beat him," Brown said, causing a roomful of Chinese and American businesspeople to burst into laughter. "But that was not the end of Richard Nixon. He decided to leave California and move to New York, where a few years later he became president. And then as president, he was the first American to break so many years of antagonism and going against so much of the political thinking in America at that time to sign the Shanghai Communiqué."

IMG_1357.JPGThe trade office's opening was a central event of Brown's week-long trade mission to China. The Democratic governor is seeking to lure Chinese investment into the Golden State. The privately-funded office is California's first official presence in China since the state closed its 12 trade offices amid controversy in 2003.

"I would like to think in just a small way," Brown said, "that we are continuing that history of breaking new ground, opening doors and recognizing that while different, China and America, we still have certain key elements in common."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an event celebrating the opening of a trade office in Shanghai on Friday, April 12, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

April 12, 2013
Jerry Brown defiant of contempt of court threat in prison case

IMG_1342.JPGSHANGHAI - Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday his administration will not comply with a federal court order rejecting his effort to avoid reducing California's prison population, pledging to litigate "until the Supreme Court tells us that we're not on the right track."

The Democratic governor, in China for a week-long trade mission, said he was unaware that a three-judge federal court on Thursday had threatened to hold him and top prison officials in contempt of court, though he appeared unfazed by the prospect.

"I'm sure the people in L.A. would like to see more prisoners out on the streets," Brown said. "See, we have two problems here: Some are saying there are too many people being let loose, and then we have the judges saying, not enough, we need another 10,000 out there. So somewhere we're going to find the golden mean, and I will do my best to make it work."

April 12, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California's health-care boom

California's economy is dominated by health care, and Dan says the Affordable Care Act's imminent implementation will expand that domination.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

April 12, 2013
AM Alert: California Democratic Party throws itself a party

ha_dem_convent25170.JPGYou might have already gathered this from a certain buzz in the air around the Sacramento Convention Center and the Sheraton Grand Hotel, but delegates are arriving in Sacramento today from across the state for the California Democratic Party's annual convention.

The list of speakers for the weekend confab runs long. It includes Controller John Chiang, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

Also on the agenda are Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, Democratic National Committee Vice-Chair Maria Elena Durazo, the California Labor Federation's Art Pulaski, California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel, Secretary of State Debra Bowen and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

The schedule doesn't portend much drama, but it will include an election to determine the party's next secretary. The man now holding the post, first-term Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, is not seeking re-election.

Things kick off with a couple of shindigs tonight. The Pro Active Democrats are hosting a party, featuring DJ Quik, in the Sheraton's magnolia ballroom. Rep. Tony Cardenas, state Sen. Alex Padilla, and Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra are expected to attend. There will also be a "live from the blue carpet" party (get it?) honoring Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, at the Assembly Night Club on K Street, with DJ Spinderella of Salt-n-Pepa.

VIDEO: Dan Walters takes a look at the single largest chunk of California's economy -- a sector that he expects to keep growing.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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