Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 14, 2014
California Republicans let media see one gubernatorial candidate, not another

GOPsigns.jpgBURLINGAME - After letting reporters listen to remarks from one Republican candidate for governor, Neel Kashkari, county chairmen at the state party's biannual convention Friday closed the room for the speech given by another candidate, Tim Donnelly.

The move visibly frustrated Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, who had wanted the meeting to be open press.

He said afterward, "That's tweetable, right there."

Mark Pruner, president of the county leaders' group, said later Friday that momentum had been building throughout the day to close the meeting to the media and had only to do with Donnelly holding a later speaking spot than Kashkari.

County chairmen, he said, "were concerned about what the press would write ... It kind of built up, built up, built up."

The state party comes into the weekend laboring to reverse decades of decline. No Republican holds statewide office, and the GOP has seen its voter registration fall to less than 29 percent statewide.

"This is a party that, whether we like it or not, has been in decline for over two decades in this state," Jim Brulte, chairman of the state party, told reporters. "We have a significant rebuilding operation on our hands."

Donnelly and Kashkari met in passing Friday, and they shook hands, while Kashkari and a third candidate for governor, Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount, engaged in friendly conversation at a dinner.

"How are things? Things are good? Kashkari said to Blount.

Blount said they were.

"How about you, man?" he asked Kashkari. "I see your signs everywhere."

PHOTO: Supporters of rival gubernatorial candidates Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari post signs beside each other at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 14, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 14, 2014
Tim Donnelly's gun history marked by controversy, tragedy

By David Siders

BURLINGAME - Tim Donnelly, who has made gun rights a centerpiece of his campaign for governor, has a complicated history with firearms.

The Legislature's most outspoken Second Amendment advocate, he pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors after carrying a loaded gun into Ontario International Airport in 2012, and he acknowledged recently that the gun was not registered in his name.

As he's traveled the state in recent months, he has handled and fired guns at campaign events, raising questions about whether he was complying with the terms of his probation.

He has also experienced tragedy, the death of a family member following a gun-related arrest. His brother Paul E. Donnelly hanged himself in a Laurens County, S.C., jail in 2000 after he was arrested on charges that included assault with intent to kill, according to records reviewed by The Bee.

In a lengthy interview with The Bee on Friday, Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, talked about his brother's death and gun ownership. What he will not say is how many guns he owns. While he said "everything that I have is legal," he declined to say whether all of his guns are registered.

"I find gun registration to be offensive," Donnelly said. "I think gun registration is simply so that someday the government can confiscate it."

March 14, 2014
Actress featured by Tim Donnelly expresses concern about campaign

timdonnellyvideo.jpgBURLINGAME - Maria Conchita Alonso, the actress Tim Donnelly has appeared with at campaign events and featured in a web ad, still thinks Donnelly would be a good governor, but campaign developments in recent weeks have given here some pause.

As she prepares to join Donnelly for a party at the California Republican Party's biannual convention this weekend, Alonso said in a telephone interview Friday that she is concerned about this week's departure of Donnelly's campaign manager, Jennifer Kerns, and a tweet in which Donnelly compared President Barack Obama's gun control policies to those of leaders such as Adolf Hitler.

"This is something that I've got to talk to him about," she said. "I want to hear first what he has to say before I can make a comment."

Alonso appeared with Donnelly in a bilingual web ad in January that gained thousands of hits for its quirkiness and brash language. Her support is considered significant to Donnelly, a former member of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project, in appealing to Latino voters.

Donnelly told supporters in an email that Alonso would be the special guest his "Liberty Extravaganza" party at the convention on Saturday night.

The Venezuelan-raised actress said she will focus her remarks at the party on events in Venezuela.

"I've read certain things about what's going on with Tim," she said. "I spoke to him, I spoke to the other people, but we have to sit down and talk ... what and if the next step is going to be."

She said, "I do like him, I do believe in him, that he can do a good job, but there have been some issues that we need to just sit down and discuss."

PHOTO: An image from a Tim Donnelly web ad shows the candidate with actress Maria Conchita Alonso.

March 14, 2014
Sacramento legislative races take shape


Forget basketball: it's March Madness for California elections.

The deadline to file for legislative races came and went this week, an election cycle milestone that maps the field for the 2014 campaign season. The Secretary of State still needs to certify the filings, but here's a preliminary look at what we learned in the Sacramento area:

6th Senate District

Two incumbent Assembly Democrats will compete to replace Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who is termed out of at the end of the year.

Assembly members Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan will vie for Steinberg's soon-to-be former post, a race whose outcome will be less predictable with the entry of Republican challengers James Axelgard and Jonathan Zachariou, who ran for Dickinson's seat in 2012. It's a heavily Democratic district, but the presence of some Republicans raises the possibility that either Pan or Dickinson won't finish in the top-two in June and advance to the general.

6th Senate District

By jumping into the Steinberg sweepstakes, both Dickinson and Pan have forfeited their Assembly seats. There's no shortage of prospective state legislators happy to fill the void.

7th Assembly District

Two Sacramento City Council Democrats will seek the 7th Assembly District seat Dickinson now holds: Steve Cohn and Kevin McCarty. McCarty, who has distinguished himself as a skeptic of a new Sacramento Kings arena, narrowly lost to Dickinson in the 2010 primary.

Also vying for the reliably Democratic district is Democratic West Sacramento City Council member Mark Johannessen. Counterbalancing the 7th District Dems are Republican Ralph Merletti, who unsuccessfully sought a school board seat in the Sacramento City Unified school district, and Republican Oliver Ponce.

7th Assembly District

8th Assembly District

In the 8th Assembly District, incumbent Democratic Assemblyman Ken Cooley will fend off challengers from Libertarian candidate Janice Marlae Bonser and Republican Douglas Haaland, who worked as a staffer for Republican members of the Legislature like Phil Wyman and Shirley Horton.

8th Assembly District

9th Assembly District

Then there is Pan's seat in the 9th Assembly District. Like the 7th, the 9th has a marked Democratic voter registration advantage, which should mean a fierce fight between Democratic Sacramento City Council member Darrell Fong, Elk Grove City Council member Jim Cooper and Sacramento City Unified school district trustee Diana Rodriguez-Suruki.

Appealing to the district's conservatives are Republicans Manuel J. Martin, a libertarian-leaning conservative activist, and Tim Gorsulowsky, who moved to Elk Grove in 2012 after a failed write-in bid for the Saratoga City Council.

9th Assembly District

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:50 p.m. to reflect Merletti's party designation.

PHOTO: Election officials process the ballots by machine as a last step after the hand count at the Sacramento County Elections office on November 13, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

March 14, 2014
Brown, Chiang sued for diverting $369 million in mortgage money


Gov. Jerry Brown and Controller John Chiang unlawfully redirected $369 million in homeowner relief secured by Attorney General Kamala Harris, according to a lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court on Friday morning.

A coalition of Latino and African-American faith groups and an Asian-American home counseling organization brought the suit, demanding that California send millions to homeowners trying to stave off foreclosure.

"To this day, countless California victims of the mortgage and foreclosure crisis and their supporters are waiting to receive any benefit, much less the full benefit, of the settlement the Attorney General obtained for the State of California as compensation for the harms
the victims suffered and continue to suffer," the lawsuit reads.

The plaintiffs are represented by Neil Barofsky, who achieved prominence as the Treasury Department's inspector general policing the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, which bailed out the spiraling banking industry.

Harris in 2012 was instrumental in extracting a landmark $25 billion settlement from banks related to the predatory lending practices that helped fuel the housing market's collapse in 2007. Struggling homeowners were supposed to get financial relief from the deal, but the lawsuit filed today demands that Brown repay millions diverted to plug budget gaps.

"The frontline victims of the crisis, struggling homeowners, received mostly unfulfilled promises they would get the help they desperately needed," Barofsky said during a press conference.

As California struggled for ways to balance its books through years of recession-crippled revenue, borrowing from other funds became a common stopgap. The budget lawmakers passed and Brown signed in 2012 transferred $410 million out of the mortgage settlement account.

"The Governor had no legal right to divert these funds in the first place and, even if he did, he certainly has the statutory duty to replenish them in this year of surplus," reads the lawsuit.

A spokesman for the California Department of Finance defended reallocating the money.

"While we haven't yet seen the complaint, we're confident that our budget actions are legally sound," H.D. Palmer said in an emailed statement.

The budget maneuver was controversial. Harris herself opposed using the money to cover a budget deficit, saying in a statement at the time that "While the state is undeniably facing a difficult budget gap, these funds should be used to help Californians stay in their homes."

The Legislative Analyst's Office, in contrast, supported the move.

In announcing the lawsuit, National Asian American Coalition general counsel Robert Gnaizda praised Harris for having done "an outstanding job for the homeowners" but said Brown undercut the settlement's purpose, faulting the "slow and often inadequate pace of homeowner relief."

The lawsuit asks for the money to be channeled back into a special fund that Harris would then administer. Gnaizda said Harris has so far declined to meet with the plaintiffs but that they would seek to meet with the attorney general to "see how she can play a role in expediting" the payments to homeowners.

Read the suit:

Complaint Final (B&W Petition) (1)

PHOTO: A foreclosed home in the Oak Park neighborhood October 18, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Autumn Cruz.

March 14, 2014
Kuehl pleads for money using old television connection

Kuehl.JPGFor months, former state Sen. Sheila Kuehl stood alone as a candidate to replace termed-out Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

No more. Several rivals have emerged with the most prominent being Santa Monica City Councilman Bobby Shriver, brother of California's former first lady, Maria Shriver, and a member of the Kennedy political family.

A seat on the five-member board is widely regarded as one of the state's top political prizes because of its power in a county with more than 10 million residents. Two of the five seats are being vacated this year due to term limits. Former congresswoman and labor secretary Hilda Solis is considered to be a shoo-in to succeed Gloria Molina in the other one.

Shriver has declared that he won't abide by voluntary campaign spending limits and will at least partially finance his campaign with family money - and that's causing Kuehl to put out urgent pleas for campaign money in anticipation of a high-dollar shootout for the seat in the June primary election and possibly a November runoff.

One of Kuehl's appeals for money harkens back to her career as a television actress before becoming a lawyer and politician - to the early 1960s when, as Sheila James, she played lovelorn "Zelda" on the popular TV comedy, "The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis."

Kuehl is staging "A Night at the Movies with Zelda" on April 5 to raise money, including screenings of old episodes from the show, and says some of her Hollywood pals will make an appearance.

LA Observed, a website that covers local affairs, has the whole story.

PHOTO: Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, holds a rally on the north steps of the state Capitol on Monday Jan. 28, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer.

March 14, 2014
National Republicans target Ami Bera for a vote he didn't take


Freshman Rep. Ami Bera has been fielding attacks from a trio of Republican rivals on everything from his jobs record to his support for the federal health care overhaul.

Now Bera, D-Elk Grove, is being assailed for something he didn't do. On Thursday, the National Republican Congressional Committee issued a news release accusing Bera of voting against House Resolution 3973.

"Bera's failure to support a common-sense check on this administration shows that he's putting Washington loyalties and special interests before his constituents," the NRCC said in the release.

In fact, Bera voted to support the Faithful Execution of the Law Act, which requires the attorney general to provide Congress with an explanation when agencies decide not to enforce the law.

"I supported this commonsense check on the administration because I took an oath to put the people of Sacramento County before politics, and that means holding the president, his administration, and Congress accountable for their actions," Bera said.

He is facing off against Republicans Igor Birman, Elizabeth Emken and Doug Ose.

Both the NRCC and its Democratic counterpart frequently issue news releases from their respective sides that feature identical or nearly-identical wording covering a wide swath of members and candidates. Similar versions of the NRCC's cut-and-paste release targeted at least three-dozen other Democrats across the country.

"It was a staff error that was corrected once we noticed the mistake," NRCC spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton said of the anti-Bera release. "Regardless, California voters won't forget Ami Bera's support for ObamaCare come November."

PHOTO: Ami Bera at a press conference in 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling/

March 14, 2014
Democrats meet Republican convention with a digital prod

fightfortheright.jpgCalifornia Republicans open their biannual convention in Burlingame on Friday, and the state Democratic Party is lobbing over a digital stink bomb., a website posted Friday, features images of the two main Republican candidates for governor standing nose to nose in a boxing ring under the headline, "The Confrontation for the Nomination."

On the left is "'Wall Street'" Neel Kashkari. On the right, "Tim 'Tea Party' Donnelly," a Twin Peaks assemblyman.

The site criticizes Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, for his role overseeing the federal bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, though many Democrats supported the measure.

It calls Donnelly, the Legislature's most outspoken gun rights and anti-illegal immigration advocate, the "designated flag-bearer for 'true conservatives' in Golden State."
The site pokes both candidates for missing voting in several previous elections.

Tenoch Flores, a spokesman for the California Democratic Party, called the site a "voter education tool."

Donnelly and Kashkari are expected to have major presences at the convention. They and a third Republican candidate, Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount, are all expected to address delegates Sunday.

PHOTO: Image from , a website posted by the California Democratic Party on Friday, March 13, 2014.

March 14, 2014
AM Alert: Condoleezza Rice headlines Republican spring convention

Condoleezza_Rice.JPGThe California Democratic Party's annual convention last weekend exposed some intraparty tensions and produced some soul-searching about its future, but was mostly a celebratory affair.

The California Republicans face a more difficult challenge when they meet in Burlingame for their spring convention starting today -- whip up excitement for the election slate of a party that has become a superminority in the Legislature and no longer holds a single statewide office.

Leading the charge will be Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State under President George W. Bush and current professor at Stanford University, who will deliver the keynote address at Saturday's luncheon. Gubernatorial candidates Neel Kashkari, Tim Donnelly and Andrew Blount also have speaking slots. Newly-elected San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus kick off the festivities on Friday evening.

Stay tuned to Capitol Alert throughout the weekend for updates on the convention from reporters David Siders and Christopher Cadelago.

VIDEO: Election year raises create a political conundrum for legislators, Dan Walters says.

INTERNET SAFETY: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg attends Google's Online Safety Roadshow assembly at Leonardo Da Vinci School at 9 a.m. for a presentation to middle school students about being smart with the content they share online. Steinberg introduced a bill last month that would prohibit websites and apps used for educational purposes from compiling and selling information about K-12 students.

STEM THE TIDE: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will welcome high schoolers from across the state to the FIRST Robotics Competition and speak about the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, 5 p.m. at the ARC Pavilion at UC Davis.

SACRAMENTO SPLASH: Actress Daryl Hannah joins environmental activists for a rally and march calling for an end to fracking in California, Saturday at 1 p.m. on the north steps of the Capitol.

GIFT DATABASE: The Bee's Data Center has updated its database of legislative gifts with the 2013 filings. See every gift given to state legislators and their aides by lobbyist employers since 2000, now totaling more than $5 million.

PHOTO: Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivers a speech after unveiling the new statue of late U.S. President Ronald Reagan during a centennial commemoration in Budapest, Hungary on June 29, 2011. The Associated Press/Bela Szandelszky

March 14, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Election year raises create conundrum for legislators

Assembly_chamber.JPGThe possibility of pay raises in an election year is tricky political ground for a Legislature that is still unpopular with many voters, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Twenty-eight of the new Assembly Members undergo orientation inside the Assembly Chambers on Nov. 12, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer


Capitol Alert Staff

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. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. Twitter: @jimmiller2

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

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

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

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @akoseff

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

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