Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 3, 2013
Steve Knight running for Congress — or maybe not


State Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, will join a growing field of candidates competing to succeed veteran Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon should he retire at the end of next year.

"My commitment to this community has been for a lifetime," Knight said in prepared statement Tuesday. "Serving as a member of Congress representing my childhood friends, law enforcement colleagues, and neighbors would be an honor."

Knight's announcement comes just days after former Sen. Tony Strickland filed paperwork to run in McKeon's 25th Congressional District. A Strickland spokesman later said he would seek the seat only if McKeon doesn't pursue a 12th term in Congress.

Strickland avoided a rematch with freshman Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley when he withdrew from the 26th district race and endorsed GOP Assemblyman Jeff Gorell.

The 25th district is seen as a safe GOP seat despite Republican Mitt Romney carrying it by only two percentage points in 2012. Democrat Lee Rogers, who lost by nine points to McKeon in the last election, is mounting another run.

Steve Knight is the son of the late state Sen. Pete Knight, who for years represented the Antelope Valley. On Tuesday, he released a list of endorsements from Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Anotonvich, Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy, George Runner, a member of the Board of Equalization, former Sen. Sharon Runner, Assemblyman Scott Wilk, and former Assemblyman Cameron Smyth.

"The people of this area value service in the military, want to live in safe neighborhoods, and expect their local schools to be of the highest quality," Knight said. "I share those values and will be working with them to make these beliefs a reality."

PHOTO: Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, during session in the Senate chambers March 11, 2013.

December 3, 2013
Brown appeals feds' rejection of California's request for Rim Fire aid


Gov. Jerry Brown has asked President Barack Obama to overturn his administration's rejection of the state's request of a federal disaster declaration for last summer's Rim Fire.

In a letter to Brown early last month, Federal Emergency Management Agency's administrator W. Craig Fugate wrote that the severity and magnitude of the Rim Fire, which burned more than 257,000 acres and all but shut down the Yosemite National Park tourist industry, did not justify the major disaster declaration, which would free up additional federal aid to cover state and local costs.

Brown disagreed. In his appeal letter Tuesday, Brown said the fire cost the state at least $70 million. Local governments also incurred major costs and the environmental damage totals an estimated $115 million, among other impacts, he wrote.

"In the aftermath of the fire, the state and its communities face infrastructure damage, significant negative economic impact, as well as complex and multifaceted environmental damages," Brown wrote. "The burned area created an enormous potential for catastrophic flooding and debris runoff from winter storms."

The Rim Fire started Aug. 17 and was not fully contained until late October. It scorched part of Yosemite but destroyed relatively few structures, which officials credited to favorable winds.

In late August, the state received a fire management assistance declaration that gave the state some federal money. Those grants, though, covered only 29 percent of the fire's duration, Brown wrote.

So far in 2013, FEMA has made 60 major disaster declarations, none of them in California. FEMA granted major disaster declarations in 2003, 2007 and 2008 after devastating wildfires in Southern California.

PHOTO: Inmate firefighters walked along Highway 120 during the Rim Fire in August. Associated Press/Jae C. Hong

December 3, 2013
Republican requests recount in close California Assembly race

Dababneh_election.JPGThe Republican candidate in last month's extremely close 45th Assembly District special election has requested a recount in the district's Los Angeles County portion.

Susan Shelley lost to Democrat Matt Dababneh by 329 votes out of 29,639 cast, according to the statement of vote.

Shelley, though, said there is an "apparent discrepancy" of 206 more ballots counted in Los Angeles County than were available to count. Monday was the last day to request a recount.

"At this time, I believe the discrepancy may be an indication of errors in the count. It may be that these questions will be cleared up quickly, but in an abundance of caution, I have asked for a recount," she said in a statement.

The 45th also includes 1,359 voters in Ventura County, 151 of whom voted Nov. 19.

Here is a map of last month's results in the 45th's Los Angeles County precincts (below.)


Dababneh was the top vote-getter in 72 Los Angeles precincts while Shelley carried 65. In precincts where turnout was greater than 10 percent, Shelley received almost 51 percent of vote, the results show.

In precincts where turnout was less than 10 percent, Dababneh received about 55 percent of the vote.

Shelley and her supporters have to cover the cost of the recount. The county will refund the cost if the recount reverses the results of the election.

PHOTO: Matt Dababneh speaks to supporters on election night, November 19, 2013 in Woodland Hills. By Richard Salazar.

December 3, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Newsom's higher ed report lacks solutions

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom commissioned a new report on postsecondary education by the Committee for Economic Development that identifies plenty of problems with California's higher education system. But Dan says it lacks meaningful insight into possible reforms.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 3, 2013
AM Alert: Special election will cushion Assembly supermajority

Obama AIDS[8].JPG
The special election in the 54th Assembly District is guaranteed to add to Democrats' supermajority in the lower house, as all three candidates are Democrats. So the real political drama in today's primary is whether one of the three — accountant Christopher R. Armenta, real estate broker John Jake or former state Senate staffer Sebastian Ridley-Thomas — can win outright by garnering more than one-half of the vote.

Ridley-Thomas, whose father Mark Ridley-Thomas is chairman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and a former state legislator, has secured several high-profile endorsements, including Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. His fundraising dwarfs the other candidates.

If Ridley-Thomas doesn't seal the deal tonight, the top two finishers in the primary will face off again Feb. 4 for this Los Angeles-area seat. Columnist Dan Walters has more analysis on the impact of the race.

VIDEO: The latest report on the state of higher education in California needs more solutions, Dan Walters says.

DIMMING OUTLOOK: A new Field Poll reveals that California voters have an increasingly negative view of Pres. Barack Obama's job performance and the country's future. Although a slim majority still approve of the President's overall performance, the proportion of Californians who disapprove is up 8 percentage points since July, to 43 percent. A whopping 55 percent believe the country is seriously off on the wrong track, while only a third think it is moving in the right direction. Reporter Christopher Cadelago has a deeper dive into the numbers.

Here are the statistical tabulations provided exclusively for Capitol Alert.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner, R-Irvine, who turns 53 today.

PHOTO: President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks during a Worlds AIDS Day event, Monday, Dec. 2, 2103, in Washington. AP/Carolyn Kaster


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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