Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

July 24, 2013
Republican National Committee hires California state director

Priebus.jpgThe Republican National Committee announced Wednesday that Clinton Soffer will become its first California state director.

He joins new state directors in 11 other states -- Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin -- as part of a new RNC investment a year ahead of the 2014 elections..

California GOP Chairman Jim Brulte said the state party anticipates Soffer will work as a state field representative in their ground campaign to engage more voters.

"We're rebuilding the California Republican party from the ground up," Brulte said in an interview. "In order to do that, we want a very close relationship with our county parties but also with our national party."

In a statement, RNC chairman Reince Priebus said hiring state directors will allow the party to build "the most expansive field program the GOP has ever seen...Republicans have never made this kind of investment in an off year. The RNC will be in communities engaging with and listening to voters where they live, work, and worship-not months, but years before Election Day."

Soffer, 23, most recently worked on San Diego City Council member Scott Sherman's staff after managing his campaign in the primary election.

Soffer also ran former San Diego Assemblyman and Republican leader George Plescia's ultimately unsuccessful campaign to unseat Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego in 2012.

He graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor's degree in political science. While in college, Soffer was the state chairman of the California College Republicans.

PHOTO: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus gestures while speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, Monday, March 18, 2013. Associated Press/Manuel Balce Ceneta

July 24, 2013
Leticia Perez concedes 16th Senate District race


Republicans have won back the 16th Senate District.

Kern County Supervisor and Democrat Leticia Perez has conceded to her opponent, Republican farmer Andy Vidak, ending a costly and heavily contested race for the Central Valley seat.

"The voters have spoken and I want to congratulate Andy on his victory," Perez said in a press release, adding that "Andy has earned the right to represent us in Sacramento."

Perez trailed Vidak by several percentage points as of Tuesday night. The Secretary of State's office estimated on Wednesday morning that thousands of provisional ballots remained to be counted, but Perez said in the press release that "this campaign is over."

The win chips away at Democrats' two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate, reducing it to the minimum. The seat opened up earlier this year when Democratic senator Michael Rubio unexpectedly resigned, citing a desire to spend more time with his family, and took a job with Chevron.

PHOTO: Andy Vidak, in May. Fresno Bee.

July 24, 2013
CA officials encourage Latino students to pursue higher education

latino.jpgLegislators and state officials extolled the power of education to a group of 120 students participating in the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

High school juniors and seniors from across the state gathered in Sacramento for a weeklong leadership program that included meetings with lawmakers and mock policy debates.

Prominent Latino officials, like Anna Caballero Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing agency and Diana Fuentes-Michel executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, encouraged the students to seek higher education.

Caballero told the students her success would not be possible without education.

"Education is what opened the door to opportunities in my life," Caballero said. "To become a lawyer, to have my own business, to become the mayor of Salinas, to be elected to the state Assembly, and now to be appointed as a cabinet secretary to Gov. Jerry Brown."

More than 90 percent of the 3,800 students who have participated in the 31 years of the program have gone on to attend college. Alicia Vidales-Vera, a 17-year-old student from Wasco., hoped to become one of them.

Vidales-Vera's parents are farmworkers, who she said had to drop off her and her four siblings with a babysitter every day at 4 a.m. to get to work on time. Their struggle to support her family inspired her to apply to the program, she said.

"I am a first-generation college bound, and I am inspired to attend a university," she said. "Without the support given to me by my family and friends, I would not be here today."

July 24, 2013
California health advocates renewing tobacco tax push


A coalition of health organizations is working to revive a proposed $2-a-pack tax on cigarettes in California.

Carried by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, the bill would channel revenue from the new tax into health care and smoking prevention programs.

It is currently languishing on the suspense file. But Jim Knox, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, said the measure's supporters are "making another run at it."

"We're not taking no for an answer," Knox said. "We're going to push when we come back in August."

July 24, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: 'New grist for the political mill' on prison realignment

After all the controversy surrounding prison realignment in California, a newly contracted PPIC report might provide some answers, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

July 24, 2013
AM Alert: Will rising waters engulf California economy?


Earlier this year, graduating Berkeley students got to hear from Gov. Jerry Brown how climate change would be the preeminent issue of their time, with the "very slow but inexorable" effects including gradually mounting sea water levels.

Lawmakers are taking a more detailed look at the implications during a Select Committee On Sea Level Rise And The California Economy hearing assessing how rising water will affect the agriculture, tourism and fishing industries in a state renowned for its coastlines.

Speakers at the hearing, chaired by Assemblyman Richard Gordon, will include Mary Scruggs of the California Department of Water Resources; Norm Groot of the Monterey County Farm Bureau; Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations; and Jay Chamberlin, chief of the natural resources division for California State Parks. Things get under way starting at 2 p.m. at the Half Moon Bay Department Operations Center.

VIDEO: We may get some hard data on whether realignment is working, Dan Walters says.

POLLING ALONG: New Field Polls assessing Brown's public standing are out. You can take a look at some of the data here and check out our analysis here.

GREEN CHEMISTRY: A panel today will examine the new green chemistry laws that require more disclosure about hazardous substances in goods produced or sold in California. Participants include Dr. Megan Schwarzman of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health; California Department of Toxic Substances Control Director Debbie Raphael; and Dawn Koepke of the Green Chemistry Alliance. Starting at 12:15 p.m. at the law firm Morrison & Foerster's San Francisco office.

PHOTO: A view of the ocean on the Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner traveling from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Cruz.

July 24, 2013
Republican Vidak leads key California state Senate race

vidak.jpgRepublican Andy Vidak emerged early Wednesday with a nearly 6,000-vote lead in a hotly contested special election on Tuesday to fill a Central Valley Senate seat put in play by a Democratic senator's abrupt departure in February.

With 100 percent of the district's precincts reporting but thousands of late mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, Vidak tallied 54 percent of the vote to Democrat Leticia Perez's 46 percent.

In an interview with the Associated Press late Tuesday, Perez said she was hopeful she would overtake Vidak in the coming days as more votes are counted. Vidak told the AP he was "cautiously optimistic" his margin would hold through the vote tally in Fresno, Kings, Kern and Tulare counties.

Former senator Michael Rubio had been considered a moderate Democratic with a potentially pivotal role to play in overhauling the California Environmental Quality Act. But his surprise announcement that he was leaving the Legislature for a job with Chevron threw those plans into turmoil and ignited a fierce competition for the 16th Senate District seat.

Supporters poured millions into both campaigns, with independent organizations also flexing their muscle. Perez enjoyed substantial support from entities funded by powerful interests that include telecommunications firms, energy corporations and Indian tribes, as well as from labor unions. The California Association of Realtors backed Vidak.

If Vidak's leads holds up, the Democratic advantage in the Senate will be whittled to the bare minimum needed for the two-thirds supermajority secured in November elections. Democrats would control 27 seats, although they could bolster their majority if they hold the vacant seat that Democratic senator Curren Price recently departed for a spot on the Los Angeles City Council. The primary for Price's former seat is scheduled for September 17.

The winner will serve the remainder of Rubio's term, which expires in 2014. The current 16th Senate District has evaporated, courtesy of new lines drawn by a redistricting commission in 2010, so whoever wins will likely seek re-election in the newly forged 14th Senate district.

PHOTO: Andy Vidak, in May. Fresno Bee


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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