Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

June 24, 2014
Bera co-sponsors bill to ease hospital wait times for veterans

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Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, and a Republican House colleague from North Carolina, Mark Meadows, introduced a bill Thursday that would extend visas for U.S.-educated foreign doctors to ease a shortage that's affecting care in veterans hospitals, especially in rural areas.

The bill, named the Doctors Helping Heroes Act, attempts to help fix a widespread problem in the Veterans Administration health care system. Audits have revealed a high percentage of veterans in multiple states who have to wait 30 days or more for appointments with the VA.

"This is one of many steps we need to take to make sure our heroes get the health care they deserve," said Bera, a doctor who was elected to Congress in 2012.

The long wait times, and the agency's attempts to cover them up, stoked a bipartisan firestorm in Washington and forced the resignation last month of Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

The bill brings together two freshmen lawmakers from opposite parties. It also addresses another issue where it's been more difficult to find agreement: immigration.

Bera, the only member of Congress of Indian descent, often talks about making it easier for foreign-born scholars in science, technology and medicine to stay in the country after they've finished school.

Current law requires foreign-born physicians to return to their home country for two years after their visas expire before they can apply to return to the U.S. Under the Bera-Meadows bill, the physicians would be able to stay up to three years longer if they agree to practice in medically underserved areas.

"Along with helping rural communities in Western North Carolina," Meadows said, "this legislation will give more of our brave veterans access to quality care from talented doctors."

PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, attends the California State Society's inaugural luncheon on Jan. 19, 2013, in Washington, D.C. McClatchy Tribune/Tish Wells

June 13, 2014
Democrats Bera, Peters say they're eager to debate GOP rivals

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A pair of targeted freshman California Democrats are as eager as their Republican challengers to debate in the general election.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, issued a press release the day after the June 3 primary saying he hoped Republican Doug Ose would agree to a debate "so that the voters get the opportunity to see where we stand."

Ose is also ready to debate, saying on election night he's willing to engage "anytime, anywhere." On Thursday, he sent a formal letter to his rival inviting him to a series of five debates because "the issues facing our great nation are too important to be left to 30-second TV ads and sound bites."

Challengers, who have less to lose, most often push hardest for debates. But it certainly isn't unheard of for incumbents to demand engagement.

In San Diego, Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, upped the ante the day after the primary, prodding Republican Carl DeMaio to participate in 10 debates, including five issue-specific forums.

DeMaio, who even before the primary signaled his willingness to stand toe-to-toe, said he looked forward to working out a debate schedule.

Editor's Note: This post was recast at 4:36 p.m. June 13, 2014 to reflect that Ose suggested a debate on the night of the election.

PHOTO: Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, attends his primary election party with supporters at Lamppost Pizza on June 3 in Elk Grove. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 11, 2014
Eric Cantor was big contributor to Calif. lawmakers, candidates

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, felled in a shocking upset by tea party challenger David Brat on Tuesday, helped channel at least $570,000 to California candidates over the last decade.

Cantor is considered one of the Republican Party's most skilled fundraisers, using his leadership PAC to support colleagues and challengers running across the country, according to a review of data compiled by CQ Roll Call's Political Moneyline.

Cantor's PAC, the aptly named Every Republican is Crucial, or ERIC PAC, contributed $30,000 each to Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock and Duncan D. Hunter, R-Alpine and $20,000 apiece to Reps. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale.

Brat challenged Cantor on his willingness to support "amnesty" for those in the country illegally, a point Cantor strongly denied in mailers to voters across Virginia's 7th district.

Michael Eggman, a Turlock farmer and Denham's opponent in November, seized on the issue and the PAC's contributions to his rival, contending Cantor's loss was a "resounding rebuke to a career politician who talked out of both sides of his mouth on immigration reform." "Congressman Jeff Denham has been put on notice," Eggman said.

Former Reps. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, Brian Bilbray, R-San Diego and Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, each received donations totaling $40,000, $40,000 and $35,000, respectively, according to the group's database.

Cantor's PAC also is supporting a handful of Republicans expected to face or pose tough competition in November.

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, got $20,000 and is fielding a challenge from Sanger Democrat Amanda Renteria.

Republican Tony Strickland, a former state lawmaker who lost a congressional race in 2012, has taken in $20,000. He's in an intraparty general election with Sen. Steve Knight.

Republican Carl DeMaio, a former city councilman in San Diego, received $10,000. He's taking on Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego.

Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestande netted $5,000 in his race against Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert.

And Republican Elan Carr, a gang prosecutor pitted against Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu, got $5,000 in his quest to succeed retiring Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills.

PHOTO: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., speaks to reporters after a House Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday. Repudiated at the polls, Cantor intends to resign his leadership post at the end of next month, officials said, clearing the way for a potentially disruptive Republican shake-up just before midterm elections with control of Congress at stake. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

June 6, 2014
Tom McClintock's GOP rival clinches spot in November election

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Republican Art Moore has advanced to a same-party showdown with Rep. Tom McClintock in the Roseville-based 4th Congressional District.

Moore was outpacing independent Jeffrey Gerlach by about 1,500 votes Friday. He owes the fall challenge to the new top-two election system that allows candidates from the same party to advance to November rematches.

McClintock's campaign acknowledged Moore's top-two status in a memo issued to reporters that carried the tongue-and-cheek title "Moore is Less."

Chris Baker, the general consultant to McClintock, wrote that Tuesday's results, in which the incumbent drew 56 percent of the vote demonstrate Moore is not a serious candidate. Baker notes that Gerlach spent virtually no money, made few campaign appearances and received scant press attention -- "in effect not really running a campaign."

Strategist Rob Stutzman said Moore, a combat veteran, was carrying out his National Guard duties and unavailable to comment.

"We are very gratified and looking to the fall," Stutzman said. "It's clear that even in a low-turnout primary that nearly half the voters went against the incumbent without there even being much of a campaign. We're optimistic about November."

PHOTO: Congressional challenger Art Moore, a Republican taking on Rep. Tom McClintock, talks with folks during a Political Awareness Day at Sierra College in Rocklin on April 30. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

May 29, 2014
Doug Ose lashes out at Democratic group for meddling

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Republican Doug Ose is pushing back on an outside group that has spent more than $100,000 in recent days on ads that portray the former congressman as more concerned about his own salary than protecting benefits for military veterans.

The House Majority PAC, a left-leaning group known for its searing attacks on Republicans, had already booked $189,610 in fall TV airtime ads to help protect freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove. With the primary election days away, the organization opted to begin advertising now.

The military-focused ads, which typically appeal to more conservative voters, are forcing Ose to protect his right flank as he campaigns against congressional aide Igor Birman and autism advocate Elizabeth Emken.

On Thursday, Ose called a news conference to denounce the attacks. Joined by combat veterans, he said the Democratic-affiliated PAC is mounting a deceptive campaign in an attempt to ensure Bera faces a weaker Republican in November.

"I don't think it comes as any surprise that Nancy Pelosi believes that I stand in the way of Democrats regaining the U.S. House Representatives' majority and that clearly she'll use her super PAC to advance that cause so that she can become speaker again," Ose said.

"Let's be clear about one very specific issue here: I stand with American veterans. I always have. I stand by my record. I stand by my commitment to those who have served out nation so faithfully and my record, my legislative record, my private activities, back that up."

The mailers and a 30-second television ad running in the 7th district contend Ose voted for a bill to slash $15 billion from veterans' retirement, pay and education benefits. They also attack him for a separate vote to allow for a congressional pay raise.

Ose said the outside group is distorting a vote he cast on a budget measure intended by Democrats to embarrass Republicans politically. He says that while he was in office, between 1999 and 2005, the Veterans Affairs budget swelled to $69 billion annually from $43 billion.

His campaign also issued a two-page list of legislation he supported to assist members of the military, veterans and their families by expanding healthcare, housing and retirement and noted that he represented two active and two decommissioned military bases.

As one of the House's wealthiest members, Ose said he never voted for his own pay raise but acknowledged casting a procedural vote that effectively allowed an automatic raise to take place.

"I made a mistake on that one vote in six years," Ose said. "I went back on the floor. I ate crow. I took my medicine. I clarified the record."

PHOTO: Former Rep. Doug Ose, a Sacramento Republican, chats with a group of military veteran supporters outside the state Capitol on Thursday. The Sacramento Bee/Christopher Cadelago.

May 28, 2014
Tom McClintock snags endorsement of California Republican Party

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Northern California Rep. Tom McClintock was endorsed Wednesday night by the California Republican Party, an unconventional step initiated by party activists after the conservative icon drew an intraparty challenger.

State GOP Chairman Jim Brulte announced the unanimous decision at the end of a telephone meeting in which McClintock pressed for the endorsement and his Republican rival, Art Moore, urged the state party board to remain neutral.

McClintock, R-Elk Grove, and a veteran of state politics, said he's devoted his life to the party's principles and to electing Republicans to office. He said he's contributed more than $700,000 to the party and GOP candidates over the last five years and has the support of party leaders from Washington, D.C. to Tuolumne County. Endorsements from groups as diverse as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the tea-party aligned FreedomWorks PAC demonstrate that there is no rift in the party's ranks over his candidacy, he said.

"The press is desperately trying to portray this as a Republican civil war. They want this party to be divided in the November election with the focus on Republicans fighting Republicans instead of all of us uniting behind our candidates," McClintock said by phone Wednesday. "But this is not a Republican civil war."

The California GOP has made it tougher of late for candidates to get its endorsement over fellow Republicans. California Democrats, on the other hand, have a regular process in which the party wades into contested intraparty races.

McClintock, who was elected to Congress in 2008, seemed poised to easily win another term this fall. But after Moore, a businessman and military veteran, entered the race on the day of the filing deadline, 10 county central committees across the massive district informed Brulte that there was widespread support for McClintock.

Many of the activists from Placer and El Dorado counties took issue with the 36-year-old political newcomer's attacks on their congressman. Moore, who grew up in the region, assailed his rival for living outside the Roseville-centered district and for accepting a taxpayer-funded pension despite refusing to do so in the past.

McClintock has hit back at Moore for never voting in an election. Later, he sent a mailer that contrasted his positions with independent Jeffrey Gerlach. Democratic activists who saw Moore as their best shot at taking out the incumbent were furious, accusing McClintock of trying to slyly boost Gerlach's standing given his pledge not to spend more than $5,000 in the primary.

GOP constituents from the 4th Congressional District thanked Moore for his military service – with at least one suggesting that they would consider supporting him in another race – but they questioned the wisdom of taking on a solid Republican.

On Wednesday, Moore said he believes the competition he would provide should he advance to the general election in November would be healthy for the party. Regardless of who wins, the 4th district will remain in the hands of Republicans, he noted.

"If I win, there is going to be a Republican who will bring a new set of skills to Congress, who will be a team player, and who will work hard with Chairman Brulte and Kevin McCarthy to fundraise and help other Republicans get elected," Moore said. "And if Tom wins, we all know what he brings to the table."

PHOTO: Rep. Tom McClintock at a November 2009 hearing on Capitol Hill. Abaca Press/Olivier Douliery.

May 8, 2014
Darrell Issa: 'No place' in GOP, governor's race for Tim Donnelly

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Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, forcefully rebuked a controversial social media post by the gubernatorial campaign of Republican Tim Donnelly linking rival Neel Kashkari to fundamentalist Islamic law.

Issa, a supporter of Kashkari's bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, said there is no place in public discussion "for this type of hateful and ignorant garbage."

"As far as I'm concerned, this type of stupidity disqualifies Tim Donnelly from being fit to hold any office, anywhere," Issa said in a prepared statement Thursday. "Donnelly is no longer a viable option for California voters."

Donnelly apologized for the post Wednesday after being confronted by Kashkari adviser Aaron McLear on KSCO AM 1080 in Santa Cruz. His Facebook page had carried a link to a 2008 U.S. Treasury Department program in which Kashkari was listed as a speaker. The event was meant to help "inform the policy community about Islamic financial services, which are an increasingly important part of the global financial industry."

After acknowledging the incorrect connection, Donnelly brushed aside the criticism.

"If the Washington political establishment would focus their energy of combatting the policies of the Marxist Progressives parading as Democrats rather than attacking other Republicans, then perhaps we would have a different president and jobs and prosperity instead of Obamacare. The ignorance and stupidity of Mr. Issa's comment is only surpassed by it's lack of any factual content," he said in a prepared statement.

"Fortunately the voters will be picking the next Governor of California, not Washington insiders like Mr. Issa, who in the interest of full disclosure, has endorsed my opponent, the architect of the big Gov't bailout of banks and billionaires known as TARP, a program vehemently opposed by Mr. Issa at the time."

The dustup comes as an increasing number of establishment Republicans coalesce around the moderate Kashkari and distance themselves from Donnelly, a tea party favorite and former minuteman. With his high profile as chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa stands to put the story on the national radar.

In his statement, Issa said he faced similar unfounded charges from an opponent when he ran for Congress — after having gubernatorial aspirations of his own. Issa, an Arab American of Lebanese Christian decent, said he was deeply resentful of the remarks.

"I was offended and outraged that someone who would run for the highest office in our state would resort to such hateful and disgusting rhetoric," he said. "It is crap like this that gives Republicans a bad name and there is no place in the Republican Party or in this race for someone like Tim Donnelly."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:15 p.m. to add a comment from Donnelly.

PHOTO: Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/ Carolyn Kaster, File)

May 6, 2014
U.S. Chamber ads tout Republicans Doug Ose, David Valadao

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is rolling out a series of television ads in competitive House races, including a 30-spot in the Sacramento region encouraging voters to support former Republican Rep. Doug Ose.

Ose, part of a trio of GOP challengers to Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, is portrayed in the upbeat ad as a businessman with close ties to the region — echoing major themes of his campaign.

"As a small business leader, Doug Ose created jobs in Northern California," states the ad set to air across suburban Sacramento's 7th district. "As our congressman, Doug Ose fought for families and jobs.

"We need a leader in Washington who gets things done. We need Doug Ose: a local leader with a proven record."

While the ad does not mention Ose's opposition to the health care law (some of the other chamber spots do), a group webpage established for the candidate reflects his view on the issue as well as his position on lowering taxes and reducing regulations.

The chamber is reportedly spending more than $3 million to air the ads on behalf of 11 House and 2 Senate candidates. The total buy in the region was not immediately available Tuesday.

Ose, with his 92-percent rating from the organization, is getting its pre-primary nod over Republicans Igor Birman and Elizabeth Emken. Birman has received modest outside support in the form of phone calls, mailers and internet advertisements from tea party-aligned and gun-owners groups.

The chamber rollout, which includes a spot championing Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, is among the first signs of what is expected to be a surge of television advertising in the Central Valley. Valadao is being challenged by Democrat Amanda Renteria.

PHOTO: Congressional candidate Doug Ose speaks at an Arden Arcade Rotary Club luncheon at Ruth's Chris Steak House on March 18, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/ Renee C. Byer

May 6, 2014
In four-way primary, Republican Igor Birman gets some outside help

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FreedomWorks for America, a tea-party aligned super PAC, has reported spending nearly $20,000 to boost the prospects of Igor Birman, one of three Republicans challenging freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove.

With just a month to go until the primary election, the group paid more than $18,000 for phone calls to promote Birman, on leave as the chief of staff to Republican Rep. Tom McClintock. It also helped to send emails, hang signs and push out social media and web ads, according to figures reported this week.

"Igor is an important race to us and we are going to do what we can," said Adam Brandon, executive vice president of FreedomWorks. "Not to give anything away, but you'll definitely see more grassroots" activity.

Internal polls show Birman in third place behind Bera and former Republican Rep. Doug Ose, though the margin in two of the private surveys has Birman within striking distance of second place. The top-two finishers on June 3 advance to November.

The fundraising picture has been less fluid. Ose, who contributed $250,000 on his own behalf, far outpaces his GOP rivals Birman and Elizabeth Emken in money raised and cash on hand to use in the primary and general elections.

The relatively modest outside expenditures to flow into the race so far include an additional $16,000 in mailers attacking Ose from the organization Gun Owners of America.

The 7th district, which includes much of suburban Sacramento County, is expected to host one of the most expensive contests in California.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct the amount spent by FreedomWorks. The figure was inadvertently double counted on federal reports.

PHOTO: Republican Igor Berman, running in the 7th Congressional District, listens to his parents talk before speaking with voters at a small private gathering in Elk Grove in February. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

April 30, 2014
Doug Ose takes aim at health care law, rips high-speed rail

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Former Rep. Doug Ose said he would repeal and replace the federal health care overhaul with a system that rewards healthy behavior and "puts the decision-making between a patient and a doctor."

"Obamacare offers options to consumers that essentially say you're going to take this, or this, or this, or this, and within those four options some of the services are available and some of them aren't," Ose told The Sacramento Bee editorial board on Wednesday.

He said too many individuals and families are losing their preferred doctors and the law does not provide incentives for people to live healthy lifestyles. Premium pricing, for example, does not differentiate between regular smokers or people who are overweight.

"I think that's a fundamentally flawed approach," Ose said. "Why should those of us who have made the right decision of not smoking or taking care of ourselves subsidize bad physical or bad health behavior in others?"

Asked about smokers and unhealthy people who may not be able to afford the higher monthly costs, he said "maybe they should stop smoking so they can - instead of spending their money on $8 packs of cigarettes." Ose did applaud Democrats for insisting those with preexisting health conditions not be denied coverage.

The health care law has been a key wedge issue heading into the midterm elections, with Ose and fellow Republicans Igor Birman and Elizabeth Emken using President Barack Obama's signature legislative effort to attack freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove.

Bera maintains he would have done things differently, but now that the law has been upheld by the courts and provided insurance for millions, lawmakers should make targeted fixes rather than scrap the new system entirely.

In the interview, Ose cast himself as the best fit for the district, saying he is the only candidate who went to kindergarten there. He also noted his opposition to the state's $68 billion high-speed rail system that endeavors to link Northern and Southern California, calling it a "boondoggle" and promising to unravel federal funding for the project.

"I would go to the appropriators and say we don't need to spend any federal money on high-speed rail in California," Ose said. Instead, he suggested "literally buy(ing) everybody lifetime passes on the airlines, or the Greyhound bus."

PHOTO: Congressional candidate Doug Ose speaking at a the Arden Arcade Rotary Club luncheon at Ruth's Chris Steak House on March 18 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

April 25, 2014
Counties press Calif. GOP to endorse Rep. McClintock

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The California Republican Party is poised to endorse Rep. Tom McClintock over a fellow GOP candidate, an unusual move for the organization in primary elections.

The state party in recent years has made it considerably more difficult for candidates - including incumbents - to get its official stamp of approval over intraparty challengers. Still, party officials confirmed they've started the process to endorse McClintock and Republican Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen, a key candidate for state Senate.

McClintock, a conservative icon facing a challenge from Republican Art Moore, has secured the support of 10 county central committees across the sprawling, Roseville-based 4th district. The state endorsement would allow him to present a unified front and burnish his grass roots credentials to help energize volunteers and raise money.

"We felt it was an important statement to make to demonstrate who in fact was and should be the Republican nominee in the 4th Congressional District," Placer County GOP Chairman Dennis Revell said Friday. "Contrary to what his opponent might want to suggest, Congressman McClintock enjoys the unanimous support of all 10 county central committees."

The contest has been personal from the start. Moore, a political newcomer with roots in the district, criticizes the incumbent for not being from the area and espousing intransigent views. McClintock and his supporters took aim at Moore for never voting in an election and for being the creation of moderate political consultants out for conservative blood.

As recently as Wednesday, he suggested Moore's campaign coordinated with a trio of Democrats ahead of the filing deadline to manipulate the field in an attempt to unseat the incumbent in November. Under new rules, the top-two finishers regardless of party advance to the fall election.

Moore and his campaign have repeatedly denied any coordination, though the candidate did acknowledge meeting with one of the Democrats before she decided against a run.

Jeff Wyly, a spokesman for Moore, said it was to be expected the state party would endorse an incumbent like McClintock -- regardless of the bureaucratic hurdles. "Once elected, Art looks forward to working with the state party and helping Chairman (Jim) Brulte rebuild it with fresh ideas," Wyly said.

Nguyen is perhaps her party's most important legislative candidate this cycle. Running against former Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio, she is hoping to flip the 34th district seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Lou Correa of Santa Ana.

The GOP for decades had stayed out of primary elections. In 2012, however, party officials met behind closed doors and picked more than 100 candidates.

Started under Brulte, the party's new multi-step endorsement process must be triggered at the local level and requires a two-thirds vote of the board of directors. Officials are barred from weighing in on statewide contests. Republicans without an intraparty challenger are automatically supported.

PHOTO: Rep. Tom McClintock address the Northern California Tea Party Patriots at a rally September 12, 2010 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

April 23, 2014
Mitt Romney backs Tony Strickland in California House race

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As part of his return to politics, Mitt Romney is choosing sides in the contest to succeed retiring Rep. Buck McKeon in Southern California.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee, on Wednesday endorsed ex-state Sen. Tony Strickland, calling him an experienced legislator, devoted husband and father and a longtime community leader.

"Tony Strickland is exactly who we need in Congress," Romney said in a statement. "Tony led the fight against the Democrats' excessive budgets in Sacramento and worked to bring California's crippling deficit under control. He will do the same in Congress."

The crowded field of eight candidates in the June 3 primary includes state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, and Democrat Lee Rogers. Under the state's new primary system, the top-two vote-getters regardless of party advance to the November general election.

Democrats said Romney's endorsement underscored the misguided priorities Strickland would champion if elected to Congress.

"Tony Strickland would be nothing more than a lockstep vote for Speaker Boehner's reckless Congress that would end the Medicare guarantee, raise middle class taxes and give tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas," said Tyrone Gayle, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Strickland is coming off a loss two years ago to Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley in the 26th district. He has maintained close ties to Romney over the years, serving as a state chairman for his presidential runs, hosting fundraisers on his behalf and hitting the trail to campaign with the Romney family in key swing states.

Strickland got to know 2010 California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman during Romney's first presidential run, and she recruited him to run for state controller.

Romney, a part-time resident of the seaside enclave La Jolla in northern San Diego County, has been laying low since losing the presidential race. One of his sons, Josh, recently took a photo of Romney waiting in line at a local post office to mail in his taxes ahead of the deadline.

A recent story on Romney's reemergence said he's publicly supported at least 16 candidates this cycle, many of them favorites of the establishment who backed his campaigns.

In Romney's latest endorsement, he said Strickland would fight to limit government spending and support economic policies designed to create jobs.

"He knows we cannot pass this unsustainable debt on to future generations, and Tony will face this problem head on so we can leave a stable, debt-free country for our children and grandchildren," he said.

Editor's note: Updated at 3:50 to add comment from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

PHOTO: Mitt Romney speaks to the VFW convention at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, before a major foreign policy address before he embarks on an international trip in July 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

April 18, 2014
Democratic super PAC reserves TV airtime in California

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In politics, it's never too early to plan.

A Democratic super PAC announced Friday that it has reserved more than $800,000 in television time for the home stretch of the general election in California.

House Majority PAC, which wades into contested congressional races, secured TV time in Sacramento, Riverside and San Diego counties for the weeks leading up to Nov. 4.

It includes $112,219 to protect Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, $189,610 on behalf of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, and $512,190 in the district held by Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego. The initial reservation for broadcast and cable nationwide is $6.5 million and covers 24 districts.

Early reservations typically allow candidates and outside groups to lock in lower advertising rates. A spokesman for the House Majority PAC said the group didn't make its initial television reservations last cycle until July. It spent money in more than 50 races, said Matt Thornton.

Ruiz, Bera and Peters swept into office as part of the Democratic wave in 2012. All three have outraised their closest Republican challengers Brian Nestande, Doug Ose and Carl DeMaio, respectively. In Sacramento County's 7th district, trailing Ose in fundraising are Republicans Elizabeth Emken and Igor Birman.

Separately Friday, Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call downgraded Nestande's chances of unseating Ruiz in the 36th district, shifting the race from leaning Democratic to Democratic-favored.

PHOTO: Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, is seen in his Longworth Building office in the U.S. Capitol complex on February 11, 2014. MCT/J.M. Eddins, Jr.

April 16, 2014
Rep. Ami Bera sitting comfortably in 7th district fundraising

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Rep. Ami Bera far outpaced his Republican challengers in first-quarter fundraising, bringing in more than $489,000 and elevating his cash on hand to $1.47 million.

The Elk Grove Democrat spent about $172,000 since the beginning of the year, doubling his rate from last quarter as the primary election approaches. His cash on hand again exceeds the combined amounts of Republicans Igor Birman, Elizabeth Emken and Doug Ose.

"It's just further confirmation that Sacramento County families want a problem solver who keeps his promises and puts them ahead of politics representing them in Congress," Bera said.

Ose, a businessman and former congressman, loaned his campaign $250,000, raised $227,000 and has $418,000 in the bank. A wealthy land developer, Ose has said he will spend what it takes to unseat Bera in the competitive 7th district.

"Our campaign is picking up steam because local folks know I'm going to serve them, not Washington, DC special interest groups," Ose said.

Emken, an autism advocate making her third bid for elected office, raised $110,000 and has about double that on hand. She owes her campaign $220,000 after repaying $65,000 toward a prior loan.

Birman, a congressional aide, raised $110,000. He has a combined $70,000 for the primary and general elections minus about $8,500 in debts.

March 31, 2014
In California, ballot labels vary for congressional delegation

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California voters unfamiliar with congressional candidates often rely on a brief description - generally limited to three words - as they scan down the ballot.

While many incumbents select a customary designation such as "United States Representative," others take the opportunity to get considerably more creative.

Northern California Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, and John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, nod to their rural roots with "U.S. Representative/Farmer," and "Congressman/Rancher," respectively.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, draws attention to his medical and education backgrounds before revealing his congressional affiliation with "Doctor/Teacher/Congressman," while Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock offers a pair of general occupations ahead of his day job with "Businessman/Farmer/Representative."

Fellow Central Valley Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, distances himself entirely from the post, stating simply "Farmer/Small Businessman."

Candidates can choose their own titles, and it's their responsibility to justify their proposed designation if it is challenged. The Secretary of State's list is available here.

Reps. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, keep it simple with "Congresswoman," whereas Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, goes all geographical with "Ventura County Congresswoman." The former longtime Los Angeles County resident, it seems, is still working to establish her bona fides.

Designations are unlikely to help bring business to moonlighting members, but if Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, needs a few extra bucks around tax time, his title, "United States Congressman/CPA," is unlikely to hurt.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:15 p.m. to clarify Brownley's place of residence.

PHOTO: Rep. Jeff Denham, chairman of subcommittee on railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials, listens during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 in Washington, D.C. MCT/Pete Marovich

March 27, 2014
Ami Bera honors pledge to return pension to taxpayers

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Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, two years ago promised not to take a congressional pension until key entitlement programs were secured for years into the future.

In addition to underscoring his support for reinforcing Medicare and Social Security, Bera's pledge also helped draw a contrast in his grudge match with Dan Lungren, who is entitled to taxpayer-funded retirement benefits from service in state and federal office.

As Bera prepares for a tough reelection bid in the 7th district, his office announced Thursday that he's made good on that oath, issuing a check for $4,915 to the U.S. Treasury Bureau of the Public Debt. The sum reflects the amount he accrued in pension benefits last year.

In a prepared statement, Bera said the country must honor the promises it made to parents and grandparents to provide them with the health care they need and a dignified retirement after a lifetime of work.

"My constituents should not be forced to pay for my retirement when many of their own retirements are still vulnerable," he said. "That's why I have pledged to not take a congressional pension until Medicare and Social Security are secure for this and future generations."

Bera's pledge could again put a Republican opponent in a difficult spot. His GOP challengers include former Rep. Doug Ose and congressional aide Igor Birman.

Ose, 58, estimates he will be eligible to receive about a $1,200 monthly pension when he turns 62. He has declined to make any pledges about his pension or congressional pay.

March 26, 2014
Igor Birman touts support of Rand Paul, other Republicans

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Republican Igor Birman announced the endorsement of GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on Wednesday, adding to his growing list of high-profile supporters in the crowded field taking on Rep. Ami Bera.

Rand Paul joins his father, the former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, in supporting Birman, a 32-year-old aide to Rep. Tom McClintock. In an interview with The Bee, Ron Paul pointed to Birman's journey to the U.S. from the Soviet Union as evidence that he doesn't take his new-found freedom for granted.

"I think Igor recognizing that as great as we are, and as grateful as he is being here, he sees some changes in the attacks on civil liberties that have motivated him to speak out," Ron Paul said. "When I see someone like Igor come along, I think it's great that he's doing it, and I want to encourage him. I have as much conviction that you have to change peoples' minds on policy as I do just putting new people in office."

Rand Paul said he had no doubt Birman would stand with him "as a strong and passionate defender of liberty." "Our nation needs Igor in the halls of Congress and I will do all I can to help get his voice to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives," he said.

Birman's candidacy also is supported by Republican Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, along with GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and tea party-aligned groups like FreedomWorks.

His chief Republican rival in the race, former Rep. Doug Ose, has been endorsed by a large share of the elected officials representing parts of suburban Sacramento's congressional district. That includes nearly two-thirds of the council members across the four cities and a majority from the five-member county Board of Supervisors.

Elizabeth Emken, the other major Republican, draws some of her support from elected state lawmakers.

The 7th district, captured by Bera two years ago in a close race, is expected to produce one of the most competitive and expensive House contests in the state and possibly the country.

PHOTO: Igor Berman, a Republican who is running in the 7th Congressional District, meets with voters in Elk Grove on Feb. 7. (The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas)

March 19, 2014
Dianne Feinstein reluctant to legalize marijuana in California

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U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein still has doubts about legalizing marijuana in California, adding her voice Wednesday to mounting debate about the wisdom of legitimizing the drug following tax-generating efforts in Colorado and Washington.

"The risk of people using marijuana and driving is very substantial," Feinstein, D-California, told the Associated Press in an interview.

It has been 18 years since California became the first state to decriminalize marijuana for medical purposes. Four years ago, voters here rejected Proposition 19, which would have lifted the ban on adults 21 and older from smoking, growing and transporting pot for recreational purposes.

At the time, Feinstein signed the ballot argument against the initiative. She called the proposal "a jumbled legal nightmare that will make our highways, our workplaces and our communities less safe."

In the interview Wednesday, Feinstein said it was unclear how the culture would improve through legalizing marijuana. She said serving during the 1960s on the California Women's Board of Terms and Parole gave her first-hand experience of how marijuana negatively impacted the lives of women inmates.

Said Feinstein: "I saw a lot of where people began with marijuana and went on to hard drugs."

Feinstein's remarks closely follow a nationally televised interview with Gov. Jerry Brown in which the Democrat questioned whether pot legalization would stymie the state's competitive advantages.

March 16, 2014
Key House races for GOP take shape as California convention closes

OSE.jpgBURLINGAME - Major California Republican congressional challengers steered clear of the state party convention, but the weekend of activism helped bring early definition to some of the state's most contested House races.

Republicans Doug Ose of Sacramento, Brian Nestande of Palm Desert, Jeff Gorell of Camarillo and Carl DeMaio of San Diego stuck to the campaign trail rather than rubbing elbows with the hundreds of delegates gathering here.

Their absence underscored a dynamic taking place through the races: The four contenders each have more conservative challengers running to their right -- in addition to the freshmen Democrats they hope to unseat in November.

Ose, the moderate former congressman, has focused much of his public attention on Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove. Yet the 7th district primary also features a pair of conservative GOP candidates -- Elizabeth Emken and Igor Birman, who both attended this weekend.

"This is far from the district, but it's important to inspire activists and volunteers to assist in what is shaping up to be one of the most contested races in the state," Birman said after to a liberty forum Saturday.

Ose's spokesman said he chose to remain in the district to attend an event honoring American veterans and to visit with voters. He's familiar with conservative challenges having lost the primary to GOP Rep. Tom McClintock in 2008.

In the Palm Springs-area 36th district held by Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz, Nestande is being opposed by former state lawmaker Ray Haynes. Haynes is more conservative, and in a recent interview said he wasn't confident in Nestande's ability to raise the kind of money needed to knockout an incumbent.

Gorell's conservative Republican challenger in Democrat Julia Brownley's Ventura County-centered 26th district is Rafael Dagnesses, who has tea party backing and reportedly signed a pledge to serve no more than eight years.

And the San Diego-area 52nd district controlled by Democrat Scott Peters features a political skirmish between the party's standard-bearer DeMaio and Kirk Jorgensen and Fred Simon. Jorgensen, a marine veteran, is backed by former Rep. Duncan Hunter and the conservative California Republican Assembly.

Photo: Former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose when he announced his candidacy for the 4th Congressional District seat on Feb. 1, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 12, 2014
One family will dominate Long Beach ballot this year

Lowenthal.JPGBack in the 1970s, San Diego was a hotspot for political namephreakers because the city had three top-drawer politicians named Wilson.

Pete Wilson, later to become a U.S. senator and governor, was San Diego's Republican mayor, Democrat Bob Wilson was a local congressman and another Democrat Bob Wilson was a state senator.

None of the Wilsons was related, but the situation created great confusion among voters, especially when they were merely urged in billboards and other media to "vote for Wilson."

An even odder three-way situation is shaping up in Long Beach this year, because Congressman Alan Lowenthal will be seeking re-election while his former wife, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, runs for mayor and their former daughter-in-law, City Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, runs for the Assembly.

Suja Lowenthal's former husband Dan, a Superior Court judge, was re-elected in 2012, so at least his name won't be on the ballot this year.

As political junkie Scott Lay points out in his Nooner blog, "If no candidate receives 50 percent in April 8's mayoral election and Bonnie places in the top two, three of the four Lowenthals will appear on the June 3 ballot for Long Beach voters."

Update: Modified at 3:16 p.m. to clarify family relationships.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach during session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 11, 2014
Sen. Mike Lee endorses Igor Birman, touts reform agenda for Calif.

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Utah Sen. Mike Lee said Tuesday that his national conservative reform agenda could be applied by California Republicans to help narrow the chasm with state Democrats.

"I think one of the reasons why we have struggled as a party in a lot of places has to do with the fact that we don't always connect the dots between our conservative policies and where we are trying to go with them," Lee said.

Lee, a favorite of the tea party movement, made the remarks in a telephone interview with The Bee to endorse Republican Igor Birman, who is challenging freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, in suburban Sacramento's 7th district.

Birman, 32 and an aide to Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, is hoping to emerge from a crowded field of GOP candidates that includes former Rep. Doug Ose and Elizabeth Emken, a former nonprofit executive who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2012.

Birman and his family emigrated from the Soviet Union two decades ago and his campaign draws heavily from their shared experiences. He believes the freedom too many here take for granted is in jeopardy because of government policies.

"He has experienced first-hand what it's like to live under exactly the kind of government regime that is oppressive and wrong having been born in the Soviet Union," Lee said. "He has seen the reasons why we need limitations on the authority of government and he understands standing up for the limitations imposed on government through the constitution, and sticking to conservative values, will be the best way to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy."

Lee's comments come less than a week before California Republicans meet outside San Francisco for their biannual state convention. Last week, he urged conservatives to redefine their movement and said failure to adopt new ideas would land them on the losing end of future elections for years to come.

"It's time for the Republican Party to stop talking about Ronald Reagan and start acting like him," he told the Conservative Political Action Conference.

PHOTO: Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., March 6, 2014. Associated Press/Cliff Owen

March 5, 2014
Bera reverses himself on health care, and GOP rival pounces

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Rep.Ami Bera, an Elk Grove Democrat who's facing a tough re-election in the fall, just gave his Republican opponents a bit more ammunition — by voting with them on health care.

Last summer, Bera voted to delay the mandate for employers to provide insurance, but not for individuals to get insurance. Wednesday, though, he voted for a House Bill to delay the individual mandate, a key component of President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

In a press release, former California Rep. Doug Ose, one of three Republican challengers vying to oust Bera, paraphrased a line that famously sank Secretary of State John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race.

"Congressman Bera was for Obamacare's individual mandate before he was against it," Ose said. "He can't be 'kind-of' for Obamacare one day, and 'kind-of' against it the next."

Ose even took a shot at Bera's involvement in a bipartisan group called the No Labels Coalition. Wednesday's vote, Ose said, demonstrated that Bera couldn't make up his mind.

"Bera's 'No Labels Coalition' should be renamed the 'No Position Coalition,'" Ose said.

In a statement on his website, Bera characterized his vote as a response to the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act last fall and a way to give people more time to sign up.

"While getting the uninsured coverage remains critical, there have been a whole host of problems with implementation starting with the roll-out of the website," Bera said, "and I couldn't in good conscience vote to penalize people who haven't yet enrolled."

PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, attends the California State Society's inaugural luncheon on Jan. 19, 2013, in Washington, D.C. McClatchy Tribune/Tish Wells

February 26, 2014
Ami Bera's post offends some Rancho Cordova Republicans

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A picture is worth a thousand words. Or, in this case, a maximum of 140 characters.

Earlier this week, Rep. Ami Bera's office posted a Facebook message asking constituents for ideas about how to cut government spending.

"It's inexcusable that your hard-earned taxpayer dollars are too-often wasted on misguided on inefficient government spending," stated the post, which has since been removed.

The accompanying photograph was of the Rancho Cordova sign, and the same image had been used before on other posts by the Elk Grove Democrat.

Still, some city officials weren't happy with the implication. Rancho Cordova Councilman David Sander responded to the congressman on Twitter: "If you are looking for government waste, you are looking about 2,400 miles too far west!"

Sander said he was alerted to the post by the city's mayor, Dan Skoglund. Both Republicans have endorsed one of Bera's opponents, ex-Republican Rep. Doug Ose, but insisted the matter was unrelated.

February 18, 2014
California Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod won't seek re-election

gloria_negrete_mcleod.jpgRep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, announced Tuesday that she will run for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors this year, ending her congressional career after a single term.

She becomes the sixth of California's 53 incumbents to announce they are leaving Congress after this year.

Negrete McLeod, who served a dozen years in the California Legislature before defeating then-Rep. Joe Baca in the redrawn 35th Congressional District in 2012, said she decided to leave Congress because "my desire to represent this community locally, where I have lived for more than forty years, and where I have long served as an elected official, won out.

"My federal, state, and local experience will allow me the opportunity to effectively represent the constituents of the Fourth District," Negrete McLeod, 72, added in a statement.

State Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, has been mentioned as a likely candidate for the 35th. She was elected to the Senate in a May 2013 special election to serve out the remainder of Negrete McLeod's Senate term.

35th Congressional District

Torres was not immediately available for comment. She has filed a statement of intent to run for re-election in the redrawn 20th Senate District.

In an interview, Baca all but ruled out another campaign in the 35th. He is running in the adjoining 31st.

"Things look good for me in the 31st. I'm staying there," Baca said, but added, "If you can convince me otherwise who knows. I'm not going to rule anything out."

Negrete McLeod becomes the second member of Congress from San Bernardino County to announce in recent days days that they won't seek re-election. Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga, announced his retirement last week in the 31st Congressional District.

Unlike Miller, whose re-election prospects were much in doubt, Negrete McLeod represents a safely Democratic seat and had no announced opposition for re-election.

Negrete McLeod has almost $900,000 on hand for a supervisorial campaign. Among her opponents is Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hill.

PHOTO: State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, speaks in the state Senate in June 2012. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

February 12, 2014
In vulnerable seat, Rep. Gary Miller says he won't seek reelection

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Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said today he will not seek reelection, boosting Democrats' chances of a pickup in the Inland Empire.

The eight-term congressman announced his retirement in a brief statement Wednesday, saying "while there is still a lot of work to be done, it is now time for me to pass the baton."

His departure marks the latest in a series of veteran California representatives to step down.

Miller was regarded as among the most endangered incumbents in the nation, representing a redrawn district in which Democrats enjoy a 7 percent voter-registation edge and President Barack Obama won by16 points in 2012.

Miller survived his last race by advancing to an intraparty runoff against former state Sen. Bob Dutton under the state's new top-two primary system.

The 31st district covers Redlands and San Bernardino and stretches through Upland and Rancho Cucamonga. It features a trio of Democratic challengers in Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, lawyer Eloise Gomez Reyes and former Rep. Joe Baca.

While that race favors Democrats, California Republicans are threatening in a handful of other districts, including in Sacramento, San Diego and Palm Springs.

Miller's resignation follows recent retirement announcements of Republican Reps. Buck McKeon of Santa Clarita and John Campbell of Irvine and Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of Beverly Hills and George Miller of Martinez. None of the seats are expected to change partisan hands.

Nationally, 11 incumbent House Republicans and 7 Democrats have said they will not seek reelection this year.

PHOTO: Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga

February 11, 2014
Democrat Kris Johnson drops challenge to Tom McClintock

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Democrat Kris Johnson has suspended her challenge to Rep. Tom McClintock, saying she was injured a week ago and "cannot fulfill the rigors of a sustained campaign."

The departure leaves McClintock, R-Elk Grove, without a Democratic challenger. The filing deadline is March 7.

"It truly breaks my heart to drop out of this campaign, with hundreds of supporters reaching out to me as soon as my candidacy was announced," Johnson wrote in a message to supporters. "I am hopeful another candidate will quickly step forward to take my place to serve as a true representative of the people and resources of our district, which has not been well represented by the incumbent for over five years."

Johnson, a Granite Bay businesswoman, launched her campaign for the Republican-heavy district less than a month ago, criticizing GOP representatives for their role in the partial government shutdown and for repeated votes to repeal all or parts of the federal health care law.

She faced an uphill climb in a district that's 45 percent Republican, 30 percent Democratic and 21 percent independent. Taking in portions of Roseville; it extends from Lake Tahoe past Yosemite National Park.

While not life threatening, Johnson said her injury would require a long rehabilitation period.

"For those who contributed to my campaign, we are returning the full amount of your donation," Johnson said in the note. "Thank you for your support, both emotional and financial."

4th Congressional District

PHOTO: Kris Johnson for Congress

February 6, 2014
Californians dominate 'most liberal' rankings in Congress

chu.jpgCalifornia's 53-member congressional delegation, like Congress as a whole, is deeply divided along ideological lines - but its Democrats may be the deepest shade of blue.

The National Journal, a leading publication on national politics and policy, calculates in its current issue that six of the House's 15 most liberal members, based on their voting records, come from California.

Conversely, none of the 15 most conservative members of Congress is from California.

The National Journal perused the voting records for an extensive examination of the ideological polarization of Congress and calculated that Californians Judy Chu, Sam Farr, Mike Honda and Jared Huffman are among seven members tied for No. 1 in liberalism while California's Alan Lowenthal and Linda Sanchez are tied for eighth.

And if you're wondering about the state's two Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, neither made the most liberal senator list.

PHOTO: Rep. Judy Chu, 2008.

January 13, 2014
Mark DeSaulnier pulling out of race to lead California Senate

DeSaulnier.JPGState Sen. Mark DeSaulnier said he is pulling out of the race to become the next leader of the California Senate to instead pursue a seat in Congress.

"Can't do both," DeSaulnier said Monday afternoon, a few hours after announcing he plans to run this year for the Congressional seat of retiring Rep. George Miller.

DeSaulnier, a Democrat from Concord, and Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, had been the front-runners in a bid to become the next President pro Tem of the state Senate. Current Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is leaving office at the end of this year.

DeSaulnier declined to say whether he would urge his supporters to back de León.

"He came in and said, 'I'd like your support,'" DeSaulnier said of de León. "I told him I'd like to talk to my supporters and see what they think."

De León said the race remains an "ongoing process" and declined to make any predictions, saying just that he plans to talk further with DeSaulnier in hopes of gaining his support.

"He's a senator who I respect tremendously and I'm looking forward to that conversation," de León said.

PHOTO: Sen. Mark DeSaulnier on August 11, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

January 7, 2014
Walt Gray says he won't run for Congress

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The Sacramento TV news anchor approached to challenge GOP Rep. Tom McClintock says he isn't running for Congress after all.

Earlier today, KXTV-TV anchor-reporter Walt Gray said he had been courted to run in the 4th Congressional District.

"I've always had a strong advisory group of rogues, friends and motorcyclists to raise money for charity and assist in all my endeavors in Sacramento the past 26 years," Gray told The Bee. "Should I need them ... they're here."

Gray, known for his annual motorcycle trek benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation, said in a statement hours later that he isn't running.

"I am humbled and flattered to have been contacted about running for the 4th District Congressional seat," he wrote. "I truly love spending time in that part of the state. It's just not something that I can see doing. I enjoy serving the people in my current role at News10 and hope to focus my attention on that and being around to help my wife, Monica, raise our three young kids. I will see you on News10 on Saturdays and Sundays at 6 a.m. and 8 a.m."

Gray spent 24 years as an anchor and reporter at KCRA-TV and made a brief stint hosting morning radio before returning to the television airwaves.

For what it's worth, Jon Huey, McClintock's campaign manager, had this to say about a possible run by Gray: "Tom has known and liked him for many years and believes he would be an interesting and articulate voice in the race."

PHOTO: Walt Gray. KXTV-TV News10

October 18, 2013
Nancy Pelosi, Doris Matsui talk up Dems' agenda in Sacramento

nancy_pelosi_doris_matsui_101813.JPGHouse Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday that her Republican colleagues in Congress either "didn't know ... or didn't care" that shutting the federal government down for more than two weeks would injure the nation's economy.

"We lost $25 billion in our economy," Pelosi said while talking to members of the media following an appearance at Sacramento State.

"Either they didn't know that or they didn't care about it. I think they probably care about it. Now they know about it, and hopefully they will make different decisions."

The San Francisco Democrat was in Sacramento as part of a nationwide tour promoting congressional Democrats' agenda to raise the national minimum wage, support the expansion of subsidized preschool and increase the availability of paid medical leave for workers. She appeared alongside Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento.

October 16, 2013
With shutdown off table, House to vote on Sacramento levee bill

RCB_20130904_LEVEE_0083.JPGThe House of Representatives will consider a water infrastructure bill next week that would authorize the completion of levee improvements in Sacramento, a vote delayed by the now 16-day-old partial government shutdown.

A bipartisan agreement reached Wednesday in the Senate virtually assured the government would reopen and that Congress would raise the federal debt limit just in time to avert a default on its obligations.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia told House Republicans in a closed-door meeting Wednesday that the chamber would vote on the Water Resources, Reform and Development Act next week.

The legislation has been a top priority for California lawmakers, especially Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. It was approved unanimously last month by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The Senate overwhelmingly approved a similar bill in May.

October 16, 2013
Ami Bera outperforms GOP contenders in third-quarter fundraising

LS BERA VOTING 4.JPGDemocratic Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove raised more than $462,000 in the third quarter of 2013, outpacing a trio of Republican challengers and bringing his total cash on hand to nearly $899,000.

Of the GOP contenders vying to unseat the freshman congressman, former Rep. Doug Ose raised $247,000 and finished the quarter with $256,000 in the bank, according to his July 1 through Sept. 30 report.

Igor Birman, the longtime chief of staff to Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, took in nearly $163,000 and finished with $139,000 and autism advocate Elizabeth Emken amassed $64,000 to bring her campaign coffers to $337,000.

Bera, a creative fundraiser who last year defeated former Rep. Dan Lungren to win the redrawn 7th Congressional District, is a top target of the GOP given the electorate's nearly even split between Democrats and Republicans.

Bera has raised more than $1 million this year but said his focus remains on representing the district through tumultuous times in Washington.

"That means rebuilding an economy that works for middle class families and dealing with the very serious budget crisis our country is facing," Bera said. "That said, I remain humbled by the persistent grassroots support for our campaign, which is just further confirmation that Sacramento County families want a problem solver representing them in Congress who puts people before politics."

Ose, the former three-term congressman, retired a $250,000 debt from his primary defeat at the hands of McClintock in 2008. After entering the race early last month, he said the results demonstrate that his campaign is off to a strong start.

"Clearly the community is not satisfied with their representative in Congress, and believes our country is adrift at a time when the local economy is struggling and in need of jobs," Ose said.

Birman, casting himself as the lone conservative, said his report showed he's the only candidate with the resources to defeat the "liberal" Ose in June. Birman received 19 contributions of the maximum $5,200, of which only $2,600 could be spent in the primary.

Emken loaned her herself $35,000 in addition to the previous $250,000 she provided her campaign.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, leaves his polling place at Foulks Ranch Elementary School on Nov. 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

October 15, 2013
VIDEO: Auburn woman urges McClintock to help end shutdown

7aSIX.St.4.jpegA Sacramento area cancer survivor whose potential treatment has been delayed by the partial federal government shutdown joined other activists Tuesday afternoon to deliver more than 140,000 signatures urging a compromise to GOP Rep. Tom McClintock's district office in Granite Bay.

Michelle Langbehn, whose ultimately unfruitful struggle to seek cancer treatment from the National Institutes of Health has received worldwide attention, said that thousands of fellow constituents in McClintock's Sacramento area district have been affected by the shutdown. She urged the congressman to put aside partisanship and break the stalemate.

"This needs to end tonight," said Langbehn, 30, of Auburn. "This needs to end right now."

McClintock, R-Elk Grove, said he appreciated Langbehn's leadership in trying end the impasse.

"She really has been an inspiration to a lot of people who want to see the government function as it was designed," McClintock said by phone from Washington.

Still, he noted that House Republicans earlier this month sent the Senate a continuing resolution that reopened the National Institutes of Health. The so-called "Research for Lifesavings Cures Act," passed 254-171. The Senate did not take up the measure, one of several piecemeal funding bills the House has passed.

"That's been supremely frustrating," McClintock said.

Langbehn and her allies say they want an "up or down" vote to end the shutdown.

VIDEO: The Sacramento Bee/Christopher Cadelago.

PHOTO: Cancer patient Michelle Langbehn receives a kiss from her daughter Lula as her grandfather Juan Torres and other family member surround her after speaking about the federal government shutdown at Rep. Tom McClintock's district office Tuesday in Granite Bay. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

October 8, 2013
Boxer: Shutdown stalling House vote on Sacramento levee bill

Barbara_Boxer_Senate_Races_US_Chamber.jpgSen. Barbara Boxer said Tuesday that the week-long federal government shutdown has delayed a vote in the House of Representatives on legislation that would help finish improvements to Sacramento's levee system.

The completion of the Natomas levee improvement project is one of the California Democrat's top priorities, but she said the legislation that authorizes it, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, has become "another casualty" of the shutdown.

"It was supposed to be on the floor this week," Boxer said. "Now, it's stalled."

Rep. Doris Matsui, a Sacramento Democrat who's long pushed for the Natomas project in Congress, expressed frustration at the delay.

October 3, 2013
Boxer slams House Republicans, says shutdown hurts California

Shutdown.JPGSen. Barbara Boxer told House Republicans to "grow up" Thursday and end a three-day-old government shutdown that's put 800,000 federal workers out of a job, including 50,000 in California.

California has more federal workers than any other state - even Virginia and the District of Columbia, where many federal agencies are concentrated. They work for the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense and NASA, among others, and Boxer said they're hurting.

"They don't have a check," she said, meeting with reporters at her office on an unusually deserted Capitol Hill. "They're scared."

Boxer added that if the shutdown continues into next week, there could be local impacts in California. The national parks are closed for the duration, including Yosemite. The closure follows recent Rim Fire, which burned more than 300 square miles in and near Yosemite. The region depends economically on the park for the tourism it generates.

Boxer said about two-thirds of her 60 staff members are furloughed in Washington and California, including six who exclusively perform case work. That covers passport requests, veterans benefits, housing and mortgage assistance, Social Security and Medicare, immigration and education. She said her office received about 16,000 such requests in 2010.

"They're proud of the work they do," she said of her staff.

September 25, 2013
Boxer-Vitter dispute could make things bumpy on highway bill

vitter.jpgSens. Barbara Boxer and David Vitter rarely agree on much. But the California Democrat and Louisiana Republican have proved they can cross party lines and work together on transportation and water-infrastructure issues.

On Wednesday, however, in a hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee, there was awkwardness in the air, after the Senate Select Committee on Ethics dismissed a complaint filed last week by Vitter against Boxer.

Boxer leads both committees.

Vitter is the ranking member of the environmental committee and sits next to Boxer during hearings. As most committee leaders do, they frequently lean over to talk to each other during testimony. But Wednesday, Boxer acknowledged Vitter's arrival, then focused her attention on the testimony from a large panel of transportation officials.

Vitter rocked uncomfortably back and forth in his chair.

September 12, 2013
Republican lawmakers urge action on immigration bill

cannellapress.jpgFifteen Republican state lawmakers today joined a chorus of business interests from California urging Republican representatives to act on an immigration bill stalled in the House.

"There is no policy debate more important to the future of California and America than passing comprehensive immigration reform," the lawmakers said in a letter to House Republicans from California. "By providing legal clarity to the status of millions of people in California, we can spur an economic renaissance, solidify families, and create an entirely new population of full taxpayers, many of whom who have strong entrepreneurial and work ethics."

The push by legislative Republicans follows similar lobbying efforts by GOP donors and business interests this year. Still, the lawmakers who signed the letter to Republican representatives today represent fewer than half of Republican lawmakers in Sacramento.

The U.S. Senate in June approved legislation that would pay for increased border security and create a guest-worker program and path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The bill is stalled in the House.

At a news conference at the Capitol this morning, Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale, said, "For Congress to put off once again enacting a policy that allows a reasonable path to citizenship for a group of people that contribute so much to the California economy is just wrong."

September 4, 2013
Bera says he's still not convinced U.S. should strike Syria

US_NEWS_CONGRESS_Ami_BERA_MCT.JPGRep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at a hearing Wednesday that neither he nor his constituents are yet convinced that the United States should launch a military assault on the Syrian regime over its use of chemical weapons in the country's ongoing civil war.

Bera, a freshman lawmaker who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said his war-weary constituents have told him they oppose a U.S. strike. The House and Senate are set to vote next week on whether to authorize such a move, though President Barack Obama could give the order anyway.

Bera told the panel's witnesses, including Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that Syria was too far away from the problems of people in Sacramento County.

"People don't want us to strike Syria," he said. "They're fatigued."

Bera asked Hagel, a former senator from Nebraska, how he could make his case in his district that a military operation in Syria was vital to the country's interests.

Hagel's answer: 9/11.

"There's a clear living example of how we are not insulated from the rest of the world," he said.

Hagel asked Bera how many of their constituents even knew where Afghanistan was prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, or what al Qaeda was.

Hagel added that the use of chemical weapons by any country has never been accepted in modern warfare, and that letting the Syrian regime off the hook would embolden other enemies of the United States, including Iran and North Korea.

"We've got to stay ahead of these things," he said.

Bera said he understood the universal condemnation of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, but that sending a message to the regime would do little to stop further attacks if the weapons stockpiles were left unsecured.

"My constituents and I still need to be convinced," Bera said. "We need to know exactly what our goals are."

PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, attends the California State Society's inaugural luncheon on Jan. 19, 2013, in Washington, D.C. McClatchy Tribune/Tish Wells

July 25, 2013
Census Bureau tool shows California's congressional contrasts

censusmap.pngCalifornia's 51st Congressional District, stretching along the state's border with Mexico, is nearly 70 percent Latino, its median household income is $38,528 a year, fewer than two-thirds of its residents have high school diplomas and just 13.2 percent are college graduates.

The 18th Congressional District lies 450 miles to the northwest, encompassing the San Francisco Peninsula and much of Silicon Valley. Fewer than 17 percent of its residents are Latino, they have median household incomes of $97,001 a year, 93.6 percent have high school diplomas and 57.3 percent have college degrees.

California is a land of great cultural, demographic and economic extremes and that extends to its 53 congressional districts as well, as a new Census Bureau interactive tool demonstrates.

Data about the characteristics of every congressional district in the nation - although not political data - are instantly available on the site, making comparisons easy. About the only similarities between the 51st CD and the 18th CD is that both have virtually the same size populations, 717,000 or so, and both are represented by Democrats, first-termer Juan Vargas in the 51st and 20-year veteran Anna Eshoo in the 18th.

July 12, 2013
CalChamber pushes House members to lead immigration debate

ZAREMBERG.JPGThe stalled effort in Congress to overhaul the nation's immigration system is more important for California's economy than any other state's, the head of the California Chamber of Commerce said Friday.

In a video likely aimed at Republicans, Allan Zaremberg, CalChamber's president, says California's members of Congress should dominate the debate instead of lawmakers from other states.

"They can't let somebody else who doesn't have a stake in this determine the outcome," he said.

The Senate approved a comprehensive immigration bill last month on a bipartisan vote of 68-32, but the Republican-majority House of Representatives plans to propose its own version.

The most conservative members of the chamber say the Senate bill isn't tough enough on border security, and many object to establishing a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, including 2.6 million in California.

CalChamber and 40 local chambers of commerce support stronger border security, a temporary guest-worker program for both high- and low-skill jobs, strict employer verification and an earned pathway to citizenship.

July 9, 2013
Igor Birman considering 2014 race against Ami Bera

igorbirman.jpgIgor Birman, Rep. Tom McClintock's chief of staff, is thinking about joining the field of Republican challengers vying for Democratic Rep. Ami Bera's seat in 2014.

Birman, 31, said he has an exploratory committee looking at the possibility of a run in the 7th Congressional District, and the reception so far has been "very favorable."

"Having been active in Republican politics in California since my college days, everything I've heard has been encouraging," Birman said.

After Birman and his family emigrated from Russia to the United States in 1994, he lived in the Sacramento area and attended UC Davis. He cited his experience as an immigrant as his motivation to go into politics.

"My parents risked their lives and everything they possessed to escape (the Soviet Union) and eventually they did. I want to preserve the same freedom we found in this nation for other families," Birman said. "That's what has led me into politics and that's what has led me to consider this race."

If he runs and wins in 2014, Birman said he thinks he would be the first Russian American member of Congress. He is currently registered to vote in Oakland, but said he would move back into the district if he decides to run. Birman said he would announce his decision around Labor Day.

July 9, 2013
Boxer pushes for Senate vote on EPA nominee McCarthy

ha_boxerblack.JPGSen. Barbara Boxer, said Tuesday that the Senate could vote next week on Gina McCarthy, President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which Boxer chairs, approved McCarthy's nomination in May, but with no Republican votes.

Asked if Boxer would support a rule change that would allow McCarthy's confirmation with a simple majority rather than the customary 60 votes, the California Democrat said, "I'd like to see her confirmed, period."

"She should get a huge majority," Boxer said. "She deserves it."

Many Republicans oppose Obama's plan to fight climate change by reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. McCarthy, who's currently an assistant EPA administrator, would help implement Obama's plan.

June 27, 2013
Rep. Valadao erects another hurdle to high-speed rail

High_Speed_Rail.jpgFreshman Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, has erected yet another hurdle to construction of the California high-speed rail project.

Using his seat on the House Appropriations Committee, Valadao on Thursday won approval by voice vote of an amendment that says the federal Surface Transportation Board cannot take action on initial construction phases until the board has given final approval to the entire project. The practical effect would be to stop initial construction for at least the foreseeable future, as a massive and necessary environmental impact study has not yet been completed for the project.

June 20, 2013
Elizabeth Emken formally announces challenge to Ami Bera

Elizabeth_Emken.jpgFormer U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken will once again run for office, this time challenging first-term Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove.

The Republican formally announced her campaign in a letter sent to her donors on Thursday, spokesman Mark Standriff said.

Former congressman Doug Ose also seems likely to join the field of Republicans contending for Bera's seat in California's 7th Congressional District.

Standriff said Thursday that Emken has closed on a house in Fair Oaks in order to run in the district.

In a statement posted on her website, Emken said her decision to run for Congress came from "the need to send someone to Washington who understands the struggles of our families and who is concerned about the direction of our country -- and our government."

Emken ran last year against the longtime incumbent, Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein, but came up short at the polls.

Emken has also championed autism research, serving as vice president for government relations at the advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

PHOTO: Then Republican Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken speaks during a news conference in Sacramento on April 10, 2012. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

June 19, 2013
Bera says Republican abortion bill 'is not going to go anywhere'

LS BERA VOTING 6.JPGRep. Ami Bera, a doctor who was elected to Congress last year, questioned Tuesday why his Republican colleagues brought a bill to the floor to restrict abortions beyond 20 weeks when they knew it had no chance of becoming law.

"Why aren't we talking about the things the public wants us to talk about?" the Elk Grove Democrat asked in an interview after he cast a no vote.

The measure passed the House of Representatives on a largely party-line vote of 228-196. Six Republicans broke with their colleagues against, as did six Democrats in favor. It's not likely to survive in the Democratic-majority Senate, and President Barack Obama said he'd veto it if it did.

The bill was designed to satisfy social conservatives after a Philadelphia abortion doctor recently convicted of murder in the deaths of three babies born alive. Kermit Gosnell was sentenced to life in prison.

June 19, 2013
House transportation bill denies high-speed rail funding in 2014

High_Speed_Rail.jpgCongressional skeptics of California's high-speed rail project make their feelings known in a draft transportation spending bill made public this week.

The bill from by the transportation subcommittee of the powerful House Appropriations Committee declares that "none of the funds made available by this act may be used for the California High-Speed Rail Program of the California High-Speed Rail Authority."

The language conforms with the views of skeptics like Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, a member of the appropriations committee, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, chair of the House railroad subcommittee and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, the House majority whip.

Denham said Wednesday his intent is to ensure that "Valley dollars stay in the Valley."

"We're working together in concert with the other concerned members from the Valley," Denham said.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has already received some $3.5 billion in federal funds, and was not anticipating getting any more in the 2014 fiscal year.

The high-speed rail language was included in a bill that, overall, provides $15.3 billion for an assortment of federal transportation.

PHOTO: Rendering by Newlands and Co. Inc. of a station in California's proposed high-speed rail network. The Sacramento Bee file, 2008

June 12, 2013
Matsui to live on food stamp budget for 3 days to protest cuts

ha_doris_matsui46897.JPGRep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento on Wednesday pledged to spend only $13.50 on food the next three days, joining nearly 30 of her fellow House Democrats in protest of cuts to the federal food stamp program.

The Senate on Monday approved a 10-year, $955 billion farm bill that includes a $400 million a year cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. A House proposal would cut the program by $2 billion a year.

Matsui said via Facebook and Twitter that 200,000 residents of Sacramento County rely on food assistance and that she'd take part in the "SNAP Challenge" and live off the average benefit of $4.50 a day.

"Feeding a family on SNAP is already challenging, and these cuts would make it even harder," Matsui wrote on her Facebook page. "That is why I am taking the SNAP Challenge to raise awareness of hunger in our nation and to highlight the importance of SNAP."

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the food stamp program helped 45 million low-income Americans in 2011. Nearly half of the recipients of food assistance are children, and nearly 1 in 5 are elderly.

Northern California Reps. Barbara Lee of Oakland and Jared Huffman of San Rafael are also participating. Lee will live on a $4.50 daily food budget for an entire week.

PHOTO: Rep. Doris Matsui listens to a speaker after U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer took a tour of the new terminal construction at the Sacramento International Aiport on Wednesday, June 7, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 12, 2013
Elizabeth Emken closer to challenging Ami Bera for House seat

emkendriveway.JPGThe field of potential challengers to freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, continues to grow, with former U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken filing a statement of candidacy.

Emken unsuccessfully took on incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2012, losing by a wide margin. The Republican's statement of candidacy, filed with the Federal Election Commission last week, lists Bera's seat in California's 7th Congressional District.

While Emken has not formally launched her candidacy, spokesman Mark Standriff told Capitol Alert that "she's in it."

"She's committed to run," Standriff said.

Former congressman Doug Ose, who departed the House of Representatives in 2005 and is considered a top Republican contender for Bera's seat, told Capitol Alert that he is still mulling the possibility of a run. He said Emken has contacted him to seek an endorsement, which he declined.

"I'm in the process of figuring out, is there a path to victory? If there's a path to victory, it'll be obvious what I'm going to do," Ose said.

PHOTO: U.S. Senate candidate and autism activist Elizabeth Emken at her Danville home on April 18, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

May 7, 2013
First 2 GOP amendments to Boxer's levee bill? They're about guns

TomCoburn.jpgThe Senate began consideration of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer's Water Resources Development Act Tuesday, but thanks to the first two Republican amendments, the legislation won't merely address flood control, port and navigation improvements and storm protection.

If Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has his way, the bill could allow people to carry guns on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property. A similar effort three years ago lifted a gun ban in National Parks.

Coburn's other amendment would require federal agencies to report the firearms they own or that were lost or stolen -- with national security exceptions for the Pentagon and CIA, provided those agencies explain their reasoning to Congress.

After a contentious, four-month debate, the Senate last month failed to enact any new legislation aimed at curbing gun violence, and most observers didn't expect lawmakers to revisit the issue anytime soon. Amid other polarizing debates on immigration and the federal budget, the water resources bill, cosponsored by Boxer, a California Democrat, and David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, was expected to have relatively smooth sailing.

"I hope it doesn't get bogged down in extraneous amendments," Boxer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. Among other things, Boxer's bill would authorize projects such as the Natomas Levee Improvement Program.

Read more here.

Later, Boxer expressed frustration at Coburn's move but said the Senate would consider them. The bill moved unanimously out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which Boxer leads, though some environmental groups object to some of its provisions.

"We will deal with those amendments," she said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in 2008. Doug Mills/The New York Times

April 17, 2013
Feinstein vows to keep fighting for ban on assault weapons

Feinstein_022713.jpgBy Curtis Tate
ctate@mcclatchydc.com

WASHINGTON -- A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines fell well short of the votes needed to pass the Senate Wednesday, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., vowed to continue her long fight for such legislation.

"I'm disappointed by today's vote, but I always knew this was an uphill battle," Feinstein said in a statement after her amendment garnered only 40 votes. "I believe the American people are far ahead of their elected officials on this issue, and I will continue to fight for a renewed ban on assault weapons."

Feinstein's amendment was part of a series of gun-related provisions the Senate considered Wednesday. But as victims of recent mass shootings and their family members watched from the visitors gallery, all seven amendments failed to get the 60 votes needed for approval, including a carefully crafted compromise on background checks for gun shows and online sales, as well as a crackdown on gun trafficking.

Before the vote on Feinstein's assault weapons ban, she stood and implored her colleagues to "show some guts."

But her amendment drew support from only one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois. Fifteen of Feinstein's fellow Democrats voted against it.

In a speech Wednesday morning on the Senate floor, Feinstein all but conceded that her effort, spurred by December's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed, would not succeed.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photos of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims are displayed behind Sen. Dianne Feinstein as she speaks Feb. 27 about her proposal to ban assault weapons. Susan Walsh / Associated Press file

April 17, 2013
Feinstein concedes likely failure of assault weapon ban

Gun_Control_Feinstein.jpgBy Curtis Tate
ctate@mcclatchydc.com

WASHINGTON -- In a speech to a mostly empty Senate chamber, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., all but conceded Wednesday that her long push to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines would not succeed.

The Senate was to vote Wednesday on a series of amendments to a broader gun bill spurred by December's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed.

"Not every issue we vote on in the Senate is a life or death matter -- I believe this is," Feinstein said. "I urge my colleagues to stand tall and support this amendment."

But few senators were present during Feinstein's 30-minute speech. One was Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat who was presiding over the empty chamber. She opposed Feinstein's amendment.

Other amendments, including a measure to expand criminal background checks to gun shows and Internet sales, were also expected to fail, as was an effort by gun-rights supporters to require states to respect concealed-carry gun permits issued by other states.

Feinstein, who led a successful push for an assault weapons ban nearly 20 years ago, said that if the Senate didn't act, states would, creating a patchwork of laws.

"If this bill goes, down, I believe states will pass other legislation," she said. "It is only a question of time."

PHOTO CREDIT: This video frame grab provided by Senate Television shows Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as she speaks about gun legislation, Wednesday, April 17, 2013, on the floor of the Senate in Washington. (AP Photo/ Senate Television)

April 3, 2013
Former GOP Sen. Tony Strickland files for House seat rematch

StricklandCalifornia Budget.jpgFormer state Sen. Tony Strickland is readying a second run against Democrat Julia Brownley in a Southern California congressional seat.

Brownley, a former member of the state Assembly, defeated Strickland by about 5 percentage points in the 26th Congressional District last November. The race for the open seat was a top target in 2012, attracting more than $5 million in spending by outside groups.

Now, Strickland is preparing for a rematch. The Hill reported today that the Moorpark Republican, who is now serving as a fellow at the University of Southern California, has filed a statement of candidacy.

Republicans are hoping to score wins in swing districts throughout the state in 2014. They believe turnout will be lower and less Democratic without President Barack Obama on the top of the ticket. Top Republican strategists say Obama's 23-point victory here last year made it all but impossible for their candidates to win down ticket.

Strickland, who served in both houses of the Legislature, has also run for state controller twice.

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Pete Aguilar, Ro Khanna announce bids for hot House seats

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Former GOP Sen. Tony Strickland takes fellowship at USC

PHOTO CREDIT: Then State Senator Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, speaks during a 2011 Senate floor session. AP Photo Rich Pedroncelli.

April 2, 2013
Pete Aguilar, Ro Khanna announce bids for hot House seats

RoKhanna.pngAguilar Photo.jpegIt's game on in two California congressional seats that are expected to home to be major fights in 2014.

Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar formally announced his plans to run again for the 31st Congressional District next year. GOP Rep. Gary Miller defeated a fellow Republican for the Inland Empire seat last November, after Aguilar, a Democrat, failed to make the runoff in what was considered by many observers a seat Democrats could win.

Miller is considered one of the state's most vulnerable incumbents because of a seven-point voter registration advantage for Democrats in the district. Labor unions have already run television ads criticizing the congressman.

March 26, 2013
Ami Bera sequesters himself, pledges cut of pay to charity

bera.jpgRep. Ami Bera said today that he is donating to charity a percentage of his salary equal to the across-the-board, federal budget cuts that took effect this month.

Bera's pledge comes as the Elk Grove Democrat -- and other incumbent politicians of both parties -- continue to take criticism over the sequester's $85 billion in mandatory budget cuts.

Bera said he will donate 8.2 percent of his salary, or $1,189, to a different charity each month through September, the end of the fiscal year. His first contribution, this month, was to a Meals on Wheels program in Sacramento County. He said he decided to donate a percentage of his salary last week after reading a story about the Meals on Wheels program in The Bee.

Bera said sequestration is a "dumb way to do business" but that elected officials should share in the pain.

"The message to my colleagues in Congress is, if we're going to ask everyone else to tighten their belts, we have to tighten our belts first," Bera said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has put up online advertisements claiming Bera was among lawmakers culpable for allowing the sequester to take effect, a claim repeated by an NRCC spokeswoman in an email today.

Though Congress members' salaries are not affected by the sequester, the 8.2 percent figure is in line with what members of Congress have been told to reduce their office budgets.

The amount is slightly less than the 8.4 percent calculated by Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. Duckworth said before the sequester took effect that she would return 8.4 percent of her salary to the U.S. Treasury each month.

Bera said he opted to donate his money instead of returning it to help programs affected by federal budget cuts. He said he does not plan to claim the contributions as charitable donations for tax purposes.

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

March 22, 2013
CA House races with same-party challenge also under way

BB DNC DAY 2 0626.JPGToday's Sacramento Bee takes a look at some of the very early campaign action in California congressional districts that are expected to be home to big fights between Democrats and Republicans in 2014.

Races unlikely to switch party hands are picking up as well.

California's new election laws, which allow two candidates from the same party to compete in the general election, mean tough primary challenges can extend into the fall. Two incumbents, Democratic Reps. Joe Baca and Pete Stark, lost to members of the same party as a result of the change in last year's election.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, is already trying to fend off a possible challenge from Ro Khanna, a 36-year-old attorney and former Obama appointee, in Silicon Valley's 17th Congressional District.

Khanna, who has more than $1 million in campaign funds in the bank, has yet to announce formal plans to run. But Honda is readying for a challenge by holding fundraising events to build a campaign war chest and trumpeting early endorsements from Obama, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel. This week, Honda's team released an internal poll that gives the congressman a 52-point lead over his potential challenger.

"Smart campaigns are hard working and prepared campaigns," Honda campaign spokesman Dan Cohen said. "The congressman and his team realize that if there is a race, they want to have the best possible team that's prepared and ready to win. And if there isn't, then they've done their homework."

RELATED STORIES:
Competition means an early start for California House campaigns
Ex GOP Rep. Doug Ose weighs challenge to Democrat Ami Bera
Elizabeth Emken eyes challenging Ami Bera in Sacramento seat

PHOTO CREDIT: Rep. Mike Honda speaks at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Brian Baer / Sacramento Bee file, 2008

February 22, 2013
Elizabeth Emken eyes challenging Ami Bera in Sacramento seat

Feinstein.jpgWill the third time be the charm for Republican Elizabeth Emken?

The former GOP candidate for House and U.S. Senate is exploring a run against freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in Sacramento County's 7th Congressional District next year.

Emken, who lost to Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein by double digits last year, has filed paperwork to raise campaign cash for a potential House campaign, her spokesman Mark Standriff said this week. While the Danville Republican has not made a final decision on where she might run, Standriff said her "focus is on CD 7 and Ami Bera" right now.

Bera, who narrowly defeated GOP Rep. Dan Lungren in a costly campaign last year, is expected to be a top target for Republicans, who believe lower turnout in the midterm elections could help them overcome Democrats' slight registration advantage in the new district.

A challenge to Bera would be Emken's third run for public office in the state. Before her loss to Feinstein, Emken came in last place in a four-way GOP primary for a Bay Area House seat.

February 19, 2013
Five California House members on 'most liberal' list

Does California's delegation in the House of Representatives lean to the left? So it would seem from an exhaustive ranking of 435 House members on their ideological positioning by the authoritative National Journal.

Five California Democrats are tied with nine Democrats from other states for the title of "most liberal," based on their voting records in 2012.

However, when it comes to "most conservative," the highest any Californian - San Diego County Republican Duncan Hunter - ranked was 18th.


February 8, 2013
National Journal charts rise, fall of Berman-Waxman machine

howardberman.jpgWhen Howard Berman lost the most expensive congressional race in the country last year - falling to fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman after the two were thrown together in the same district - it marked the end of a fabled Southern California political machine.

Berman and Rep. Henry Waxman, along with Berman's campaign/redistricting consultant brother, Michael, had been major factors in regional and statewide politics for decades, making or breaking countless political careers.

The rise and fall of the Berman-Waxman machine is chronicled in a lengthy article in the National Journal.

Shane Goldmacher, a former Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times Capitol reporter, charts how the organization got its start in campus politics before Waxman and Howard Berman moved to the Legislature and then to Congress, becoming major forces in domestic and foreign policy.

February 6, 2013
California GOP wants probe of Bera cameo in super PAC video

6NHLX.Xl.4.jpegFor California Democrats facing a tough path to re-election in 2014, a simple thank you can fuel attacks from opponents already shifting into campaign gear.

Freshman Democratic Reps. Ami Bera and Raul Ruiz, learned that the hard way this week, when the California Republican Party asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate cameos both members made in a Web video produced by a Democratic super PAC.

January 23, 2013
Debt ceiling vote gives Ami Bera chance to act on campaign pledge

LS AMI_BERA_FLUKE 4.JPGA political maneuver by House Republicans to include a "No Budget, No Pay" provision in legislation to temporary suspend the federal debt ceiling has given freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera the chance to act on one of his key campaign pledges.

The main purpose of the bill, which passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 285-144 today, was to prevent the government from going into default for at least four months by temporarily lifting a $16.4 trillion cap on federal borrowing.

But it also included language to withhold pay for members if their chamber doesn't pass a budget plan. The move was seen as a political poke at the Senate, which hasn't adopted a full budget resolution in years.

January 16, 2013
Politico says Sherman facing wrath of Berman's friends

BermanSherman.jpgFormer congressman Howard Berman's friends in Congress are making political life difficult for congressman Brad Sherman, who defeated Berman when the two Democratic incumbents were thrown into the same Southern California district, the Politico website reported Wednesday.

The Politico article indicated that the revenge - Sherman being aced out of committee positions he sought - was being orchestrated by Berman's long-time friend and political partner, Henry Waxman.

Waxman and Berman, along with the latter's brother, Michael, an expert on redistricting and mail campaigning, had headed a powerful political organization in Los Angeles for decades. Michael Berman was hired every 10 years by the state's Democratic politicians to handle redistricting matters.

January 3, 2013
Nine former CA legislators join 113th Congress freshman class

The 82-member freshman class taking seats in the U.S. House of Representatives today includes nine former members of the California Legislature.

Former Sens. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, and former Assembly members Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, Tony Cardenas, D-Los Angeles, Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, and David Valadao, R-Hanford, won election to the House in the November election. All but Cardenas served in the 2011-2012 legislative session.

They join more than a dozen other California Legislature alumni already serving in the House, including former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass.

"Officially sworn in as a member of the 113th Congress moments ago," the Los Angeles Democrat tweeted. "Hoping this Congress is a more bipartisan and productive one."

Fourteen of California's 53 seats are filled by freshman members this year. The state's congressional delegation saw more turnover than usual because of retirements, redistricting and the new "top-two" election rules.

Read more: Congress ushers in new members, with old divide

December 31, 2012
Capitol Alert's top 10 posts of 2012

California's state budget. Public-sector pensions. Taxes.

The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert readers avidly followed those issues this year, as the blog's top 10 posts of 2012 show. Here's the list, in reverse order:

MC_BERA_07.JPGNo. 10: "Rep. Dennis Cardoza announces resignation" (Aug. 14). In a surprise move citing his family's needs, the Merced Democrat said he was resigning from Congress.

No. 9: "FPPC says Arizona nonprofit laundered money to California campaign" (Nov. 5). "At $11 million, this is the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history," the Fair Political Practices Commission said in a news release.

No. 8: "Bera lead over Lungren wider in Sacramento County House race" (Nov. 9). Democrat Ami Bera wound up besting Republican Rep. Dan Lungren and will be sworn into Congress this week.

December 17, 2012
Ami Bera: CT shooting should be 'wake up call' for gun debate

MC_BERA_07.JPGDemocratic Rep.-elect Ami Bera weighed in on calls for stricter gun control laws in the wake of Friday's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, saying he hopes the rampage in Newton serves as a "wake up call that gives us the courage to engage in the conversation" about the politically sensitive issue.

"We have to be thoughtful in this approach but ... 27 people just lost their lives. We've had multiple tragedies here. We have to have the conversation. We have to have the courage to have the conversation," the Elk Grove Democrat told The Bee's editorial board today. "It is not an infringement on someone's rights if you ask them a few questions.

Bera called Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's plans to again try to revive a federal assault weapon ban a "good first step," but also said as a doctor he hopes to also take a close look at what can be done to improve mental health services to identify and help individuals who could become violent before they can do harm.

"That is a broader conversation than what kind of gun laws do we put in place and we have to have the courage to address that," he said. "I have to approach that as a doctor who has seen first hand how difficult it is."

December 11, 2012
Newspaper says defeated Macks may get own TV show

The November election was not kind to the Mack family - Florida Rep. Connie Mack and his wife, California Rep. Mary Bono Mack. Both Republicans lost to Democratic challengers.

However, the Tampa Bay Times notes that the couple has been making very frequent appearances of late on CNN's political shows and speculates that they may be auditioning, in effect, for their own TV show.

Both will remain in office until the new Congress is seated in January and thus may get a chance to vote on any deal between Republican leaders and the White House to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff."

November 15, 2012
Ami Bera ousts Rep. Dan Lungren in congressional race

Democrat Ami Bera has won his tight race against incumbent GOP Rep. Dan Lungren to fill the 7th District Congressional seat representing the suburbs of Sacramento.

The Associated Press called the race this afternoon as Bera's lead over Lungren had grown to almost 5,700 votes, according to the latest vote count.

Bera, an Elk Grove Democrat, led longtime Republican lawmaker Lungren by 184 votes on election night. His lead grew to about 3,800 votes on Tuesday.

As of today's count, Bera has 51.11 percent of the vote to Lungren's 48.89 percent.

November 15, 2012
Ami Bera's lead over Dan Lungren continues to grow

The tight race for Congress between Rep. Dan Lungren and Ami Bera is tilting further in Bera's favor. His lead has grown to almost 5,700 votes, according to the latest vote count released today.

Bera, an Elk Grove Democrat, led longtime Republican lawmaker Lungren by 184 votes on election night. His lead grew to about 3,800 votes on Tuesday in the race to fill the 7th District Congressional seat representing the suburbs of Sacramento.

As of today's count, Bera has 51.11 percent of the vote to Lungren's 48.89 percent. Brad Buyse of the Sacramento County registrar's office said officials still have more than 7,700 vote-by-mail ballots to count in addition to 31,000 provisional ballots.

The contest was one of the country's most expensive Congressional races this year, with outside groups spending more than $8 million - largely on negative advertising.

November 14, 2012
Nancy Pelosi to stay as House minority leader

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that she will keep her position for the next two years.

The 72-year-old San Francisco Democrat first met with fellow Democrats in a closed-door caucus session.

Pelosi will still need to win election to the post, though that is all but guaranteed. Pelosi's career announcement capped an extended period of speculation that began even before the Nov. 6 election, in which Democrats gained a handful of seats but failed to reclaim control of the 435-member House.

November 13, 2012
Bera widens lead over Lungren in tight Congressional race

Democrat Ami Bera extended his narrow lead Tuesday over GOP Rep. Dan Lungren in the hotly contested 7th Congressional District, moving 3,824 votes ahead in the suburban Sacramento seat.

Bera now leads the longtime Republican lawmaker by a 50.81 percent to 49.19 percent margin in the latest tally of 235,628 votes.

The Lungren campaign estimates there remain nearly 40,000 ballots left to count in the race. "We want to see more ballots counted," strategist Rob Stutzman said Tuesday.

Though vote counting continues, Bera is in Washington, D.C. this week for legislative freshman orientation.

"There are still ballots remaining, but we are confident that Sacramento County voted for new leadership that will put the people first," Bera said in a statement.

Bera led Lungren by a mere 184 votes out of 180,000 counted at the end of Election Night.

The local battle was one of the country's most expensive races, as outside groups spent more than $8 million. The next vote update is expected to come Thursday.

Post updated at 3:55 p.m. with a Bera comment.

November 7, 2012
Race between Bera and Lungren could be up in the air for days

Democrat Ami Bera clung to a razor-thin lead this morning in his fight to unseat Republican Rep. Dan Lungren, though both sides cautioned that it could be days before a winner is declared in the 7th Congressional District.

The two-time rivals for a suburban Sacramento swing seat spent Tuesday night locked in a near tie, with both candidates pulling ahead by margins of fewer than 1,000 votes at different points in the night. Bera now leads by just 184 votes out of more than 176,000 ballots cast.

Many more ballots still need to be counted. County election officials have not yet tallied all the absentee and provisional ballots turned in by Election Day, but spokeswoman Alice Jarboe said the sheer volume appears to be "record breaking."

"I can tell just by the bins and all.... the pink return containers that are filling up these hampers," she said of the scene at the elections office this morning.

Lungren's campaign manager estimated that tens of thousands of unprocessed ballots remain, telling supporters in an email that "we may not know the outcome of this race for days or even weeks."

November 6, 2012
Pelosi's road to majority hits roadblock before CA polls close

PELOSIBB DNC 0382.JPGHouse minority leader Nancy Pelosi predicted earlier this year that the road to a Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives would run through California.

"Simply put, to win back the House, to succeed in our drive for 25 ... California Democrats will lead the way," the former House speaker said in a speech at the California Democratic Party convention last winter.

Not so much.

Television network projections showed Republicans securing another two years in control of Congress before the polls in California even closed today, thanks to GOP wins in other parts of the country.

Still, a handful of GOP-held seats in California are expected to be close calls tonight. Reps. Dan Lungren, Jeff Denham and Mary Bono Mack are among the Republican incumbents facing a serious challenge.

RELATED STORIES:

Democrats optimistic about keeping Senate; House likely to stay GOP-led

Democrats' chances of big California congressional gains dim

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October 25, 2012
Both sides use gas tax as a line of attack in Bera-Lungren race

lungrengas.JPGThis month's record-high gas prices continued to fuel attacks in the 7th Congressional District race today, as Rep. Dan Lungren again accused his rival of supporting policies that could drive up prices even more.

"The idea that all we need to do is raise taxes and drive down consumption is one that frankly may work with the elite in San Francisco, but it doesn't work very well with those of us in this district who have to live, to work, to take their kids to school, take their kids to soccer practice and things like that," the Gold River Republican said at a press conference at a Citrus Heights gas station today.

Lungren's attacks are based on comments Bera made on a telephone town hall held during the 2010 race between the two rivals. The Elk Grove Democrat said in response to a participant's question that increasing the gas tax to reduce use is "worth exploring." Bera says now that he has never supported such a policy.

October 25, 2012
Jeff Denham plans to sue Democratic committee over TV spot

Rep. Jeff Denham says he is going to court to get a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ad attacking his record on veterans off the air.

The Turlock Republican announced yesterday that he will file a lawsuit against the national Democratic organization. His campaign consultant Dave Gilliard called that ad's claims that the congressman voted to cut military pay and increase congressional salaries" false and defamatory." Gilliard said he expects the lawsuit to be filed today.

The DCCC defended the spot in a statement: "It comes as no surprise that Congressman Denham doesn't want voters to know he voted to protect his own pay but not pay for the troops but he can't run away from his record no matter how hard he tries.".

Denham, a former state legislator, is facing a challenge from Democrat Jose Hernandez in the 10th Congressional District. Outside groups are spending heavily in the race ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

Editor's Note: This post was updated at 10:58 a.m. Oct. 25, 2012 to include the DCCC statement.

October 24, 2012
Congressional robocalls escalate Berman-Sherman contest

It's difficult to believe that the Southern California shootout between two veteran Democratic congressmen, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, could get any nastier after their recent physical confrontation. But it has.

A political website, BuzzFeed Politics, reports that two other Southern California congressmen, Democrat Henry Waxman and Republican Elton Gallegly, have recorded robocalls to voters in the San Fernando Valley's 30th Congressional District in which they disparage Sherman's character.

Gallegly terms Sherman's grabbing Berman during a debate "unacceptable" while Waxman, Berman's long-time partner in a local political organization, calls Sherman "an embarrassment."

Also Wednesday, the House Democrats' No. 2 leader, minority whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, endorsed Berman, who has received backing from virtually every prominent California Democrat, including Gov. Jerry Brown.

Berman, however, needs all the help he can get. Polls have shown him running behind Sherman, who has represented most of the 30th CD in the past. The two were thrown together in the redistricting plan written by a voter-approved independent state commission.

October 12, 2012
VIDEO: Howard Berman and Brad Sherman get physical in debate

Here's the You Tube video of the debate last night in which California Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman went nose to nose -- literally.

"You wanna get into this?" Sherman asks at one point -- before law enforcement interceded.


The two veterans are battling for one redrawn House seat in the San Fernando Valley.

Related: Read the AP story about the debate here.

October 9, 2012
Bill Clinton stumps for California Dems in tight congressional races

clinton.jpgFormer President Bill Clinton rallied thousands on the quad of UC Davis this morning, endorsing four California Democrats running for Congress and encouraging Californians to vote for Proposition 30 and against Proposition 32.

Clinton endorsed current Reps. John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney as well as challengers Ami Bera and Jose Hernandez. The four contests they're in are among the most competitive in the nation, and the national Republican and Democratic parties are spending big to try to take the seats.

The districts at stake span a 200-mile swath of the northern Central Valley from Modesto to Yuba City.

"The four people I'm on the stage with -- two in Congress, two trying to get there -- each in their own way, they represent the American dream," Clinton said. "They prove that a commitment to shared prosperity works better than 'trickle down, you're on your own.'"

October 1, 2012
CA high-speed rail funding gets little love at candidate forum

California's bullet train won little support from congressional hopefuls from the Sacramento region Sunday, with just one of five congressional candidates participating in an election forum vowing to vote for federal funding for the project.

Third Congressional District candidate Kim Vann , Rep. Dan Lungren, and 9th Congressional District candidate Ricky Gill, all Republicans, and Democrat Ami Bera, who is challenging Lungren in the 7th Congressional District, all came down against funding construction of the high-speed rail line, citing the high cost of the project.

"We have failing infrastructure all over the state," said Vann, a Colusa County supervisor. "Until we address the failing infrastructure that we have, we shouldn't be planning for something that we cannot afford today."  

September 20, 2012
Ask Dan Lungren and Ami Bera a question

The Bee, News10 and Capital Public Radio are sponsoring a debate next Tuesday in the 7th Congressional District contest pitting Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, against his Democratic challenger, Dr. Ami Bera of Elk Grove.

The hour-long debate will be webcast live on sacbee.com at 3 p.m. with full coverage online and in Wednesday's printed Bee.

Here's where you can help. Send us your questions for one or both of the candidates. We'll sift through them and try to ask one during the debate. Email your question with your name, city of residence and phone number to Dan Smith, Bee Capitol Bureau Chief, at dssmith@sacbee.com.

September 13, 2012
California's richest congressman slips to No. 3 in annual ranking

Rep. Darrell Issa is still one of the richest members of Congress, but he's apparently not as flush as he was.

An estimated $80 million drop in overall net worth from 2010 to 2011 caused the Vista Republican to slip from No. 2 to No. 3 in Roll Call newspaper's annual ranking of the wealthiest members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. A reported net worth of at least $140.5 million put him behind only Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, (worth $305.46 million) and Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts (worth $198.65 million) on the list.

Issa isn't the only Californian near the top of the list, which is compiled based on annual financial disclosure reports filed by members of Congress.

August 31, 2012
LaMalfa to resign from Senate, setting up Nov. 6 special election

Republican state Sen. Doug LaMalfa announced today that he would resign from the California Senate after the Legislature adjourns its 2012 session tonight so that a special election to fill his seat could be consolidated with the Nov. 6 general election.

LaMalfa, whose district sprawls over a wide region of northeastern California, is running for Congress to succeed retiring Republican Wally Herger. He is considered a shoo-in in the heavily Republican congressional district.

Two Republican assemblymen, Jim Nielsen and Dan Logue, are declared rivals for LaMalfa's Senate seat with LaMalfa backing Nielsen in what is expected to be a sharp-elbows contest.

LaMalfa said in a statement that he has met with Gov. Jerry Brown "and he told me he will move quickly to consolidate the elections."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect the correct date for the general election.

August 8, 2012
Ex-legislator gets a mouthful from Pete Stark over endorsement

Democratic Rep. Pete Stark apparently didn't take kindly to the news that former state Assemblyman Alberto Torrico has decided to endorse his Democratic opponent in the 15th Congressional District.

Torrico recounted his account of the conversation to the National Journal:

After "calling me a turncoat," Torrico said that Stark "questioned my mental health. He asked me if I was well, if I was ill. He said that he was concerned for the safety of my children, that maybe he should send a social worker to my house to check on their safety because I'm clearly ill." ...

During their conversation, Stark, who is the only openly atheist member of Congress, also questioned Torrico's Christian faith, Torrico said. "He took the opportunity to say he'd come to my house and teach my children about the Christian faith because I couldn't," he said.

"From an atheist, I found it interesting," Torrico added.

Stark later acknowledged in a statement to the National Journal that he "got a little heated," but said Torrico was "itching for a fight.

This isn't the first time bizarre behavior has landed the 80-year-old incumbent in the news this cycle. He said during one debate that challenger Eric Swalwell accepted "hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes" without providing evidence to back his claim. He also falsely accused San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders of contributing to his rival's campaign.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 4:37 p.m. with a comment from Stark.

August 2, 2012
Dan Lungren goes on air with new ad during Olympic Games

Rep. Dan Lungren is looking to tap into the patriotic sentiments of the Olympics as he seeks another term in Congress, airing a new campaign ad during coverage of the London games.

"It goes back to growing up. We were taught the American dream. We were taught that this country is exceptional," Lungren says over the soaring swells of violins amid images of children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Gold River Republican goes on to cite quotations attributed to Presidents Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, closing by telling viewers: "Those revolutionary ideas live now just as much as they did then."

The ad comes as Lungren is gearing up for a November rematch with Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera in the newly drawn 7th Congressional District. A close registration split in the Sacramento County seat has made the race a top target again this year. Many analysts believe this year's contest will be closer than in 2010, when Lungren won by seven percentage points.

A sense that you've seen the plaid shirt and country backdrop in the ads many times before doesn't necessarily mean you've been tuning in to too many hours of Olympics coverage. Campaign adviser Rob Stutzman confirmed that the the footage for the spot came from the same taping that was used for one of Lungren's 2010 ads.

August 1, 2012
House ethics panel says Rep. Laura Richardson violated rules

The House Ethics Committee has completed its investigation of Rep. Laura Richardson and the verdict isn't good for the California Democrat.

Here's a snippet from the Associated Press report, which is posted in full on SacBee.com:

WASHINGTON -- The House Ethics Committee says California Democratic Congresswoman Laura Richardson should be reprimanded for misusing her staff.The committee found she improperly compelled staff to perform campaign work and obstructed the internal investigation by altering or destroying evidence, failing to produce subpoenaed documents and attempting to influence testimony of witnesses

Read more at this link.

July 26, 2012
California congressional aides get nod for good looks

A handful of aides to members of California's congressional delegation apparently are turning heads on the Hill.

Six staffers for California representatives won recognition this week not for their work ethic or professional achievements, but for their good looks.

The aides were included in The Hill newspaper's annual roundup of Washington's "50 most beautiful people".

The Beltway publication's beauty list included Ryan Hanretty, a Sacramento native and former state legislative staffer who now works as a legislative assistant for Republican Rep. Jeff Denham.

Other aides to California members who made the cut were Bay Area transplants Allison Rose and Dan Lindner, who both work for Democratic Rep. Judy Chu; Amanda Muñoz, another Denham aide; Melissa Medina, a staff assistant and legislative correspondent for Republican Rep. Ed Royce; and Yvonne Hsu, a legislative assistant for Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff. Several others on the list hailed from the Golden State.

See write ups -- and glamour shots -- of all 50 honorees at this link.

July 16, 2012
California Democrats pick a side in several same-party races

The California Democratic Party is poised to take sides in a handful of same-party runoffs on the November ballot.

Democratic delegates throughout the state met over the weekend and last week to cast endorsement votes in a number of districts where no Democrat won the party's official backing ahead of the June 5 primary.

Here are the unofficial results of those votes, which CDP spokesman Tenoch Flores said will be certified as early as Friday if no challenges to the vote are filed.

Assembly District 18:Rob Bonta endorsed over Abel Guillen.

Assembly District 47: Joe Baca, Jr. endorsed over Cheryl Brown.

Senate District 13: Jerry Hill endorsed over Sally Lieber.

Senate District 15: Jim Beall endorsed over Joe Coto.

The party won't be taking a side in the heated 30th Congressional District battle between Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman. Berman won support of a majority of delegates at the weekend vote -- a reversal from a spring convention vote that put Sherman in the lead -- but failed to hit the 60 percent threshold needed to secure an endorsement.

The party automatically backs candidates who are the sole Democrat on the November ballot, unless a successful attempt to challenge that endorsement is filed. A list of pre-primary endorsements made at the party's spring convention is posted here.

RELATED POSTS:

Endorsement wars heat up at California Democratic Party confab

July 11, 2012
Ethics complaint lodged against Rep. Darrell Issa

Issa.jpgThe House Republicans' most dogged investigator of Obama administration doings, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Temecula, now faces his own ethics complaint.

On Wednesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed complaints against Issa with the Justice Department and the Office of Congressional Ethics. Both complaints revolve around allegations that Issa violated federal law by including material from a sealed wiretap application in the Congressional Record.

Issa chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and led the charge to secure a House vote holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. As part of the June 28 debate over the contempt charge, Issa placed in the Congressional Record information from a 2010 wiretap application that included specific details "concerning operational tactics and individual targets" of the law enforcement operation called Fast and Furious, according to the complaint filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

For the average Joe, revealing wiretap information is typically against the law. By placing the document in the Congressional Record, though, Issa can claim protection under the Constitution's Speech and Debate Clause, which shields congressional speech from prosecution. The CREW complaint asserts that Issa should nonetheless be disciplined for his actions.

"It is shameful that an organization purporting to support good and transparent government is instead making itself complicit in an effort to cover-up a reckless government effort that contributed to the death of a Border Patrol agent," Issa's spokesman Frederick Hill told Roll Call newspaper.

PHOTO CREDIT: Darrell Issa, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 29, 2012
Congress moving to pass transportation bill

The word "California" appears nowhere in the 596-page transportation package slated for congressional approval Friday. Nonetheless, the bill that's ridden a Capitol Hill roller-coaster for many months has a definite Golden State tinge.

The bill, for instance, includes a National Flood Insurance Program phase-in pushed by lawmakers including Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento. To prevent sticker shock among homeowners caught up in newly mapped flood zones, the provision phases in higher insurance rates over five years. Matsui called the result "real savings."

Politically, the 27-month, $120 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill is an achievement for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, the chair of the Senate Public Works Committee. Formally, it's called the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21.

The bill does not include funding for high-speed rail, but neither does it include language championed by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, in the original House effort that would have specifically blocked federal dollars from going toward California's high-speed rail project. Denham is trying to put similar language on other transportation-related bills.

Both House and Senate are slated to approve the legislation Friday before lawmakers depart for the Fourth of July recess.

May 18, 2012
'Purple' Super PAC launched to support California independents

A new Super PAC has started airing television ads in support of independent candidates running in California's June 5 primary.

icPurple announced today that it is backing four candidates running for office with "no party preference," including 26th Congressional District contender Linda Parks, who is running strong in a district targeted by both major parties.

The group is already running one ad in support of San Diego mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher, an assemblyman who recently dropped his Republican registration

It is looking at buying airtime for the spot supporting Parks, as well as one for Chad Condit, the son of former Democratic Rep. Gary Condit, in the Central Valley's 10th Congressional District. It has also endorsed Chad Walsh, the only candidate running against Democratic Assemblyman Paul Fong in the Silicon Valley-based 28th Assembly District.

The committee was created by Gateway founder Ted Waitt, who put up $300,000 in seed money to get the ad buys started.

Waitt said in a statement that voters are "demanding pragmatic and problem-solving behavior from our elected officials once again."

"We believe independent minded voters will see this as an opportunity for more than just a statement vote, but as a chance for real political change," he said.

Online versions of the ads are posted at this link.

May 11, 2012
Feinstein's bid for fundraising leniency stymies FEC

The Federal Election Commission this week struggled again with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's request for a loosening of the usual fundraising limits, in the wake of the massive embezzlement by former campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee.

The upshot: Feinstein didn't get the go-ahead she sought, but neither did the six-member FEC come to a official consensus decision on the key question. There could be more discussions to come.

Feinstein asked the FEC for permission to raise more money from contributors who had already maxed out under federal campaign limits, arguing that Durkee's admitted embezzlement meant the money was never really received.

A revised draft opinion debated Thursday would have denied Feinstein's request to seek replacement contributions from individuals whose money had been deposited in a campaign account. But with one Republican commissioner recusing himself from the deliberations, the 3-2 vote adopting the draft opinion fell short of the four votes needed for approval.

The FEC's general counsel will be redrafting an opinion that would allow more money to be raised only from those individuals whose prior contributions were never actually deposited in a campaign account. This may not cover very many donors.

April 16, 2012
Dan Lungren outraises Ami Bera in Sacramento County district

Republican Rep. Dan Lungren took in more than $500,000 for his re-election campaign in the first three months of the year, outraising rival Ami Bera for the first time since the Elk Grove Democrat emerged on the fundraising scene in mid-2009.

Lungren, of Gold River, ended March with just under $900,000 on hand, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission. Bera, whose filing has not yet appeared on the FEC website, said in a release issued last week that he raised $366,000. He ended the quarter with a cash advantage over his rival, saying he has roughly $1.15 million in the bank heading into the June 5 primary.

Bera, who lost to Lungren in 2010 by seven percentage points, had outraised Lungren in every quarterly filing period since the July 2009 reports. Lungren consultant Rob Stutzman said while both candidates took in significant sums, the latest numbers reverse "what has been what has been a mostly two-year streak."

"He's finding a lot of support and he's working very hard to gather the resources to take on Bera," Stutzman said of Lungren.

Bera's campaign, meanwhile, touted its own numbers as a sign of "grassroots" support, saying in a release that 60 percent of donors this quarter were giving to the campaign for the first time.

A close registration split has made the newly drawn 7th Congressional District a top target this election. Lungren and Bera have huge fund-raising advantages over the other two candidates running in the primary and are expected to face off in a rematch in November.

April 11, 2012
GOP gains registration edge in Rep. Dan Lungren's seat

Republicans have gained a slight voter registration edge in the targeted 7th Congressional District, closing for now a gap Democrats had argued would help challenger Ami Bera defeat GOP Rep. Dan Lungren.

The two major parties are now neck and neck in the competitive east Sacramento County district, with each representing about 38.7 percent of registered voters, according to updated figures from Sacramento County election officials. The new report shows Republicans outnumbering Democrats by a mere 202 voters.

That margin has closed significantly since January, when registration reports showed Democrats holding a one-point, 3,773-voter lead.

While Republicans were quick to credit voter registration efforts for the change, the number of registered voters in both parties -- and in the district as a whole -- fell in the new report.

April 10, 2012
Carmichael billboard targets Rep. Dan Lungren on Medicare

Billboard.jpgNational Democrats are taking their campaign against Rep. Dan Lungren to, well, above, the streets.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says it has put up a billboard in Carmichael hitting the Gold River Republican on his support for a Republican budget plan that would make major changes to Medicare. The billboard, which was erected by the intersection of Fair Oaks Blvd. and Garfield Ave., accuses Lungren of "Protecting Millionaires Instead of Medicare," according to a photo provided by the committee.

Democrats are hoping to make Medicare a major issue in the 7th Congressional District race between Lungren and Ami Bera, the Elk Grove Democrat who also challenged Lungren in 2010. They argue that provisions in the House GOP budget plan, which Lungren supports, will end up increasing health care costs for future seniors while providing tax cuts for the wealthy.

Lungren's consultant has dismissed the tactic in the past, arguing that voters will be more concerned by the effect the federal health care overhaul could have on the health care program for seniors and the disabled.

RELATED POSTS:

Voters in Sacramento-area district hit with political claims over Medicare

Dan Lungren ramps up re-election efforts in Sacramento Co. seat

Democrats targeting Reps. Jeff Denham and Dan Lungren again

PHOTO CREDIT: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put up a billboard targeting Rep. Dan Lungren in the 7th Congressional District. Photo courtesy of the DCCC.

April 5, 2012
Abel Maldonado breaks from family business amid IRS beef

ha_abel_maldonadoflag.JPGCentral California congressional candidate and former lieutenant governor Abel Maldonado Jr. is haggling with the Internal Revenue Service over some $470,000 in disputed taxes, court records show.

The IRS says the money is owed for errors in some complex deduction and depreciation calculations. Maldonado, in turn, is challenging the agency in U.S. Tax Court, even as he pledges to commit his own funds into a race against Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

"I believe we paid the correct amount of taxes and followed the rules as we understood them," Maldonado, a Santa Maria Republican, said. "If the IRS finds differently, I will pay the taxes due with interest."

The tax dispute concerns income from a family farming venture, Agro-Jal Farming Enterprises, as well as a rental partnership. After the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee posted an online reference to the Tax Court issue as part of a broader campaign attack, Maldonado said this week that he was filing paperwork to dissolve his involvement in Agro-Jal Farming.

"I'll miss working with my family members in the company I help found, but they don't deserve to have their privacy invaded every time my name is on the ballot," Maldonado said.

Maldonado faces Republican Chris Mitchum, a Santa Barbara resident aligned with the tea party, in the jostling to unseat the 14-year year House veteran Capps. Part of Maldonado's campaign platform is a pledge to "close the tax loopholes while keeping the tax burden down on working people."

April 3, 2012
Lawmakers challenge Army Corps on California levees

Leave it to something like levee vegetation to unite California lawmakers.

On Tuesday, in the latest round of a long-running flood-control dispute, Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, and 34 other House members from California urged the Army Corps of Engineers to revise its policies governing vegetation on levees. The lawmakers, mostly Democrats but with a few Republicans like Rep. Dan Lungren, D-Gold River, joining in, warned the Corps against what they call the "extremely high costs of levee construction and mitigation" entailed by a strict no-vegetation rule.

The stakes are high, as California officials have identified more than 2,100 miles of levees in the Central Valley.

The Californian lawmakers said they agree that new levees should be "constructed and maintained in full compliance with Corps vegetation policies" but called for a "a regionally adaptable approach" that permits woody vegetation on existing levees.

The corps believes vegetation can undermine the stability of levees, although a study released last year asserted that vegetation at the base of levees can actually be beneficial.

Related story: Corps' policy on levee trees holds -- for now

March 28, 2012
GOP sees four Democrat-held Cal congressional seats as winnable

A new appraisal by the National Republican Congressional Committee claims that state-by-state redistricting has enhanced GOP chances of retaining control of Congress by making 16 seats held by Democrats vulnerable, including four in California.

The NRCC memo written by its executive director, Guy Harrison, was revealed in a National Journal article Wednesday.

The memo says that Democrats Lois Capps of Santa Barbara, Jim Costa of Fresno and John Garamendi of Walnut Grove are potentially vulnerable. It also lists the vacant 21st Congressional District in the lower San Joaquin Valley as winnable by a Republican. Costa would have been the 21st District incumbent, but opted to move into the 16th District after Democratic Congressman Dennis Cardoza decided to retire.

March 20, 2012
Democrat Ami Bera says Obama hasn't done enough on economy

Congressional candidate Ami Bera is once again distancing himself from the country's top Democrat as he heads into the first of what could be two election battles with Republican Rep. Dan Lungren.

The Elk Grove Democrat, who is challenging Lungren in the newly drawn 7th Congressional District, was critical of President Barack Obama's record on improving the economic climate in an interview with News 10 this week.

"I don't think the president did enough in his first years in office," Bera said, noting Sacramento County's roughly 11 percent unemployment rate.

Bera, who called job creation "jobs one, two and three," said he believes officials need to look at both cutting regulations to help small businesses and approving shovel-ready projects, such as work on California's roads and levees, to put people back to work.

Bera tried to distance himself from Obama and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 2010 campaign, too, without success.

At one point he declared that "If I thought the Democrats were doing the right job in this country with moving forward, I wouldn't be running," and later said he would have been "reluctant" to vote for the health care law Obama and Pelosi championed

Still, two weeks before the 2010 election, a conservative group with ties to GOP strategist Karl Rove, aired a campaign ad asserting that Bera didn't think the overhaul of the nation's health care system went far enough.

"I've been consistent. I think the Affodable Care Act, the health care reform by President Obama misses the point," Bera said in the News 10 interview. "We've got to address the cost of health care. Far too many families, far too many business owners are paying more and more every year and we're getting less and less."

He said Obama's failure to take on the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to lower the cost of health care is "one of the biggest disappointments" of the overhaul.

March 13, 2012
Dan Lungren ramps up re-election efforts in Sacramento Co. seat

Rep. Dan Lungren is stepping up his re-election efforts this week, raising cash, recruiting volunteers and holding town hall meetings in his Sacramento County district.

The Gold River Republican faces a rematch with his 2010 challenger, Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera, in the newly drawn 7th Congressional District. A close voter registration split and high turnout in the presidential election are expected to make the race one of the most competitive congressional elections of the year.

Lungren, who has trailed his opponent in campaign cash both this election and in 2010, got some help from Republican leadership for a Monday fundraiser in Sacramento. House Speaker John Boehner flew into town for yesterday afternoon's reception at the California Chamber of Commerce's downtown office. A photo with the Ohio Republican set attendees back $5,000, according to a posting on Capitol Morning Report.

Lungren, meanwhile, took a shot at Democratic congressional leadership in a Monday email seeking money and volunteer commitments from supporters.

"Nancy Pelosi is already pouring money into the district, and every dollar helps," read a Lungren campaign email titled "The campaign begins today."

Pelosi, the Democratic leader, has identified flipping the seat as a top priority in her effort to win back control of the House. House Majority PAC, an independent campaign committee supporting House Democrats, has already been on the air with television ads opposing Lungren.

Lungren is also holding town hall meetings this week in Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova and Angels Camp. The first event is tonight at 8:30 p.m. at the Citrus Heights Community Center.

Lungren consultant Rob Stutzman said the campaign is "preparing for a huge battle" with this week's events.

"Pelosi has to beat Lungren to retake the Speaker's gavel," he wrote in an email. "We're not going to show up with padded gloves."

Friday was the deadline for candidates to file for the east Sacramento County seat, which stretches from Elk Grove to Citrus Heights. A full list of candidates was not immediately available, but Lungren and Bera, a doctor and former Associate Dean for Admissions at the UC Davis School of Medicine, will likely face off both in the June primary and the November general election under the state's new top-two primary system.

March 6, 2012
Cruz Bustamante won't run for Congress in the Central Valley

BB CRUZ INTERVIEW 031.JPGFormer Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante has decided not to run for Congress in a competitive Central Valley seat, according to The Fresno Bee.

The Elk Grove Democrat, who represented the Fresno area in the state Legislature, was weighing a run for the newly drawn 21st Congressional District. Democrats have been searching for a strong candidate to run against GOP Assemblyman David Valadao in the vacant seat since their top recruit, Democratic Sen. Michael Rubio, dropped out due to family concerns.

Bustamante also cited ""family considerations" in an email announcing his decisions to supporters Sunday night.

The Fresno Bee's John Ellis reports:

In an interview, Bustamante said he "found out in this process that there still is fire, and I don't think that it is over."

He said his short-term plan is to return to Elk Grove and then scout out "where to go and where to potentially run for office next.

The full Fresno Bee piece is posted here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Cruz Bustamante, 2006. Brian Baer/The Sacramento Bee

February 29, 2012
House passes California water bill

The House on Wednesday approved an ambitious California water bill that favors farmers, splits the state and pressures the Senate.

In a largely partisan vote, the Republican-controlled House approved the legislation which would lengthen irrigation contracts, override state law and boost deliveries to farms south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Most dramatically, the bill replaces one San Joaquin River restoration plan with something far less ambitious.

"Flushing water into San Francisco Bay is not helping to recover species, and people are suffering needlessly," said bill author Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, adding later that his bill "gives (water) reliability, not only to farms but to the environment."

Approved by a 246 to 175 margin, the bill marked one of the few times the full House has confronted California's water woes. The nearly five-hour debate, though, also underscored how the bill has magnified rather than ameliorated regional and personal differences.

"This is a power grab," said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. "It's a water grab, and it's an imposition of the federal government over the state."

February 29, 2012
California's David Dreier to retire from the House

dreier.JPGCalifornia's seniority standing in the House of Representatives will take another hit, with the announcement Wednesday by Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas, that he will be retiring.

Dreier, chair of the House Rules Committee, has served in the House since 1981. The committee chairmanship has given the 59-year-old Dreier a key gatekeeper's responsibility, making him responsible for setting the rules of debate on every bill that reaches the House floor.

Dreier surprised his colleagues Wednesday by announcing his retirement plans from the House floor.

Though the timing of the announcement was unexpected, the decision itself had been anticipated ever since a California redistricting commission redrew district lines to put Dreier into a much more competitive spot.

Dreier is the sixth House member from California to announce his retirement at the end of the 112th Congress.

PHOTO CAPTION: David Dreier/Associated Press

February 28, 2012
Competing forces line up on California water bill

On the eve of Wednesday debate over a big California water bill, the pros and cons were being lined up.

The Obama administration, in a formal Statement of Administration Policy, declared late Tuesday afternoon that it "strongly opposes" the bill authored by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia. The administration said the bill's ending of a San Joaquin River restoration program, and replacing it with a less ambitious plan, would "likely result in the resumption of costly litigation, creating an uncertain future for river restoration and water delivery operations for all water users on the San Joaquin River."

In a similar vein, the states of Oregon, Colorado and Wyoming weighed in against the bill, citing in part fears about the federal government tromping on state water rights.

On the other side, Nunes unveiled a list of 200-plus supporters, ranging from the Westlands Water District to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

February 27, 2012
Former GOP Assemblyman Anthony Adams to run for Congress

Former Republican Assemblyman Anthony Adams is looking to return to politics with a bid for an open inland Southern California congressional seat.

Adams, who recently changed his registration to decline-to-state, plans to run as a "no party preference" candidate on the ballot for the 8th Congressional District. The Republican-leaning seat, which stretches along the Nevada border, has attracted a handful of candidates already, including Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, and Minuteman Greg Imus, a former chief of staff to GOP Assemblyman Tim Donnelly.

Adams, of Hesperia, decided not to run for a third and final terms in the state Assembly in 2010 after surviving a recall effort sparked by his vote to temporarily increase taxes as part of a 2009 budget deal. He said at the time that he wanted to try to pass the bar exam and finish a novel he had been working on.


February 23, 2012
Carmichael 'Occupy' supporter plans to challenge Dan Lungren

A teacher and political activist from Carmichael announced plans today to challenge GOP Rep. Dan Lungren in the newly drawn 7th Congressional District.

Mario Galvan, who is registered decline-to-state, said his candidacy was inspired by the "Occupy" movement and widespread public dissatisfaction with the politics in Washington, D.C.. He said in a release announcing his campaign that he wants to ""Occupy the government."

Galvan, 64, told The Bee in an interview that a central theme of his campaign will be his commitment to representing the views of district residents of all political leanings, promoting a "democracy that's inclusive rather than adversarial."

"Our politics has become like a war, so polarized," he said. "My candidacy offers an alternative in the form of direct democracy that invites everyone to part in the political decisions on an ongoing basis."

A close voter registration split in 7th Congressional District makes the East Sacramento County seat, which stretches from the Galt area to Citrus Heights, a top target for both Democrats and Republicans in 2012. Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera, who lost to Lungren in 2010, has already raised more than $1 million for a rematch against the Gold River Republican.

Galvan, whose only other experience running for office was in a school board election in Loomis years ago, said as a "non-traditional" candidate, he does not intend to try to match the fundraising numbers of his rivals for the seat.

"Nobody can raise the money that these super PACS will raise," he said. "If we cannot clear our minds of the 30-second attack ad mentality in politics, then we're doomed."

February 22, 2012
Cruz Bustamante weighing bid for Congress in Central Valley

BB_cruz_bustamante_2006.JPGWill former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamane join the race for a competitive Central Valley congressional seat?

Bustamante, who lives in Elk Grove but represented the Fresno area in the Assembly during the 1990s, told The Fresno Bee that he is considering a bid in the 21st Congressional District.

"I'm not ready to make any kind of announcement at this time," Bustamante said. "I've not made all my due diligence calls. An announcement is premature."

Democrats lost their top recruit for the competitive seat when Sen. Michael Rubio, D-East Bakersfield, withdrew his candidacy to focus on his family.

Republican Assemblyman David Valadao of Hanford, and Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive John Hernandez, a Democrat, are currently running for the seat. The Fresno Bee reported that Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong, also a Democrat, is also considering entering the race.

Bustamante, a former Assembly speaker who lost a 2003 bid for governor in the recall election as well as a 2006 run for state insurance commissioner, told The Fresno Bee that he and his wife "need to figure out what we're going to do with the rest of our lives" now that their children are heading to college.

Read the full story here.

RELATED POSTS:
Michael Rubio decides not to run for Congress in 2012

PHOTO CREDIT: Then Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante speaks as then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger laughs behind him before the State of the State address on Jan. 5, 2006. Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

February 20, 2012
Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley to run for Congress

Democratic Assemblywoman Julia Brownley says she'll run for the 26th Congressional District.

The Ventura County Star's Timm Herdt reports:

Brownley, who lives in Santa Monica, has represented much of Ventura County in the Assembly for the past five years. Her district includes Port Hueneme, about half of Oxnard, Westlake Village and Oak Park -- areas that make up about 16 percent of the congressional district.

Brownley said she will move to an apartment in Oak Park this week.

"This is going to be a tough campaign -- no question about it," she said. "I think I'm a very strong candidate with my experience in the Legislature fighting to restore excellence in schools, expanding access to health care and investing in the 'green' economy."

Brownley, who is termed out, enters the race with the endorsement of Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, the top Democratic recruit for the seat who dropped out unexpectedly earlier this month. Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, a Republican who might identify herself as "no party preference" on the ballot, and four other Democrats are running for the swing seat, which became a top target when retiring GOP Rep. Elton Gallegly announced he would not run for another term in the newly drawn district.

The seat is considered a top target for Democrats seeking to win back the majority in the U.S. House.

Click here to read the full Ventura County Star piece.

February 17, 2012
Cook says 13 California congressional seats may be competitive

A fourth of California's 53 congressional seats could be competitive in this year's elections, thanks to extensive district boundary changes by the state's independent redistricting commission, says a new analysis by the Cook Political Report.

The Cook report is considered to be an objective analysis of national political trends and its list of California districts that loom as potentially competitive is contained in a nationwide rundown.

Many of the 13 California districts on the list are either held by incumbents or have incumbents running after changing addresses, while others are open seats without incumbents.

The incumbent seats are those held by Democrats Jim Costa, Lois Capps, John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney and Republicans Dan Lungren, Gary Miller, Brian Bilbray, Jeff Denham and Mary Bono.

The most threatened incumbents are in the "tossup" districts and Cook sees them as Republicans Lungren, Miller and Bilbray. Others are in districts that are more likely to go to one party or the other.

February 14, 2012
U.S. Chamber of Commerce airs TV ads backing Dan Lungren

Republican Rep. Dan Lungren is getting some early help for his re-election bid from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A new television ad airing in Sacramento area praises the Gold River Republican for "fighting to protect California jobs," singling out his support for repealing the federal health care overhaul.

"He believes free enterprise, not big government, will lead economic recovery," a narrator says of Lungren.

A slight voter-registration edge for Democrats in the newly-drawn 7th Congressional District and high turnout for the presidential election are expected to make Lungren a top target this year. He faces a rematch with Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera, the doctor and medical educator who lost to Lungren by 7 percentage points in 2010.

The Lungren spot, which is posted below, is part of a national ad campaign rolled out by the U.S. Chamber last week. The new spots, which include negative pieces against Democrats who supported the health care overhaul, target 12 congressional districts and eight U.S. Senate races.

"American families deserve to know who has the courage to fight for job-creating policies in Washington and who is hurting their pocketbooks," said U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue. "We're asking the public to hold members of Congress accountable for their positions on Obamacare, job-killing regulations, energy security, and a culture of wasteful spending in Washington."

Chamber spokesman Bryan Goettel said the ad began airing Thursday on both cable and broadcast channels and will run for two weeks. He declined to specify how much the group spent on the ad buy. The "voter education" spots, which urge viewers to call the offices of Lungren and others on the issues cited in the ads and are not subject to the same disclosure requirements as campaign advertisements.

The Bera campaign said it believes the early spending shows the incumbent's vulnerability.

"It's clear that they see him as someone who stands for their interests and that's why they're stepping up so early and spending a lot of money when most voters don't really want to be seeing TV ads this early in the game," spokesman Josh Wolf said.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 12:11 p.m. with comments from the Chamber. It was also updated to clarify that the ads began last week, contrary to the Feb. 13 date on a press release posted online.

February 8, 2012
Sacramento snags flood control funds

Sacramento-area flood control projects will be embellished with more than $8 million in new federal funds, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday.

The Folsom Dam Joint Federal Project will receive $7.42 million, and the Folsom Dam Raise project will receive $720,000. In both cases, the money comes from a Corps of Engineers' "reserve fund" established by Congress late last year. Unlike the old congressional earmarks, the reserve fund was set up to be distributed competitively.

The Folsom Dam projects are designed to provide 200-year flood protection for much of Sacramento.

February 7, 2012
Ex-GOP Sen. Sam Aanestad to run for California House seat

SamAanestad.JPGFormer Republican Sen. Sam Aanestad has decided to enter the race for a vacant Northern California congressional seat, setting the stage for a same-party showdown with Republican Sen. Doug LaMalfa.

Aanestad's newly retained campaign spokesman, former California Republican Party Communications Director Mark Standriff, confirmed today that the former legislator will be a candidate in the 1st Congressional District.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, will be Aanestad's campaign chairman, Standriff said.

GOP Rep. Wally Herger, who now represents the area, announced last month that he will not run for re-election in the district, which runs from Yuba City to the Oregon border. Herger, of Chico, endorsed LaMalfa shortly after announcing his own retirement plans.

Aanestad told The Bee last month that he was considering a run for the seat. The 2010 lieutenant governor hopeful said the 12 years he spent representing the region in the state Legislature make him a good fit for the district.

"I already know most of the local issues of each of the areas and the people involved in the history," he said at the time. "It wouldn't be much of a learning process in terms of getting up to date on what the issues are for the district."

Standriff said Aanestad is unavailable to comment on his plans today due to patient appointments at his Grass Valley dental and oral surgery practice. He plans to make a formal campaign announcement tomorrow.

RELATED POSTS:
Former GOP Sen. Sam Aanestad considering run for Congress
LaMalfa 'moving forward' for Congress run after Herger announcement

PHOTO CREDIT: Then-Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Penn Valley, listens to the debate in the California upper house on Friday, September 11, 2009. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

Editor's note, 1:09 p.m.: This post has been updated to reflect that Rep. Tom McClintock will be former Sen. Sam Aanestad's campaign chairman, not his manager.

February 2, 2012
Dan Lungren measure passes to cut House spending

Committees in the House of Representatives will cut their spending by an average of 6.4 percent, under a resolution passed Wednesday night.

With lawmakers mindful of the massive federal deficit, the House approved by voice vote the budget-trimming authored by Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River. Lungren chairs the House Administration Committee.

"All of our constituents need us to do more with less and to rein in government spending," Lungren said during the evening debate. "Families have been required to tighten their belts, and they constantly ask us to do the very same thing."

Some House Democrats opposed the measure, which exempts the House armed services and ethics committees from the cuts. The resolution does not need Senate approval.

January 31, 2012
Ron Calderon drops bid for Congress, endorses Linda Sanchez

California Sen. Ron Calderon is abandoning his bid for the newly drawn 38th Congressional District, opting to remain in the state Senate and back Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez for the Southern California seat.

"I have had the honor of representing portions of the Gateway Cities and San Gabriel Valley for the past nine years and I am incredibly proud of my record as a legislator committed to creating quality jobs, improving our system of public education, protecting frontline services and keeping our neighborhoods healthy and safe," Calderon said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing to represent many of the communities in this Congressional District as a Member of the California State Senate and I look forward to working with Congresswoman Sanchez to champion local job creation and economic development."

The Montebello Democrat's decision comes just over a week after Sanchez emerged as the overwhelming favorite for the state Democratic Party endorsement, winning more than 70 percent of the vote at the party's regional pre-endorsement conferences. Both candidates have yet to file their year-end campaign finance reports, which are due by the end of today.

Calderon, who will be termed out of the Senate in 2014, has also been dealing with personal hardships in recent weeks.The wife of his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, and his mother-in-law have both passed away since the start of the new year.

January 24, 2012
Former GOP Sen. Sam Aanestad considering run for Congress

Former Republican Sen. Sam Aanestad is weighing a run for the Northern California congressional seat being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Wally Herger.

The Penn Valley Republican said he learned of Herger's decision after returning home from Mexico, where he had been vacationing without access to his cell phone or lap top, several days ago. Since then, he has been "making phone calls to see if there is any support" for a run for the newly drawn 1st Congressional District.

Aanestad, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2010, said the addition of a new partner at his Grass Valley oral surgery practice has given him the time and flexibility to run. He said the 12 years he spent serving in overlapping state Senate and Assembly districts makes him a good fit for the House district, which runs from Yuba City to the Oregon border.

"I already know most of the local issues of each of the areas and the people involved in the history," he said. "It wouldn't be much of a learning process in terms of getting up to date on what the issues are for the district."

News that he is considering entering the race was first reported by FlashReport publisher Jon Fleischman on Twitter. GOP Sen. Doug LaMalfa, who succeeded Aanestad in the Senate, has already announced plans to run for the congressional seat with Herger's backing.

RELATED POSTS:

LaMalfa 'moving forward' for Congress run after Herger announcement

Chico Rep. Wally Herger to retire from Congress

January 20, 2012
Rep. Dennis Cardoza enters online gambling fray in Sacramento

Congressman Retiring Cardoza.jpgAdd Rep. Dennis Cardoza to the long list of individuals and interests weighing in on the online gambling legislation discussions going on under the dome.

The Merced Democrat was part of a group of racehorse owners and lobbyists for the Thoroughbred Owners of California trade association that met with members of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee this week "to discuss Internet poker, and other Internet gaming issues," according to a report by California Watch.

In a telephone interview, Cardoza said he is an unpaid member of the board of directors of the thoroughbred owners association. The House of Representatives' Ethics Committee approved his service last year, he said.

He said the Sacramento meetings were aimed at calling attention to the economic problems of the state's $2.8 billion horse racing industry. He was "absolutely not lobbying," Cardoza said.

"I wouldn't consider it being a lobbyist," he said. "It's just visiting friends, and I certainly am unpaid."

When asked whether his work with the association posed a conflict of interest, he said, "I don't have a conflict of interest - I'm a citizen who is talking to my old colleagues."

A renewed push to legalize and regulate Internet poker and other online gambling in California is expected to be the subject of intense lobbying this year, as Indian tribes, card rooms, horse racing entities and other interests fight for a stake in whatever system is crafted by legislators.

Democratic Sen. Rod Wright, who authored one of two online gambling measures that stalled last year, is planning to introduce another bill on the matter this spring.

>PHOTO CREDIT: Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2010. Associated Press/Harry Hamburg.

January 18, 2012
California Democratic congressional candidates get boost

Democratic strategists on Wednesday put more serious muscle behind two Central Valley challengers to incumbents in the California congressional delegation.

In a move that opens up campaign pocketbooks, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee elevated former astronaut Jose Hernandez of San Joaquin County and physician Ami Bera of Sacramento County to the highest priority in the party's bid to reclaim the House.

"They are problem solvers," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., the committee's chairman. "Who can be more of a problem solver than an astronaut, who has to decide 'all systems are go.' "?

On Wednesday, Bera and Hernandez joined 16 other top-ranked Democrats on the party's designated first team of challengers, dubbed "Red to Blue" candidates for their potential to take back Republican seats.

Bera is challenging Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Hernandez is challenging Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater.

January 17, 2012
California GOP Sen. Tony Strickland launches bid for Congress

Strickland.jpgSen. Tony Strickland has made his plans to run for Congress official, launching his campaign at a Camarillo news conference for the newly drawn 26th Congressional District.

The Moorpark Republican decided to enter the race after longtime Rep. Elton Gallegly announced plans to retire. Gallegly, who lives in Simi Valley, had been considering a run in the incumbent-free CD26 after his own home was drawn into the same district as fellow GOP Rep. Buck McKeon.

Strickland, who served three terms in the Assembly before being elected to the state Senate in 2008, cited national security and promoting alternative energy sources as top issues for his campaign.

"I expect the campaign ahead to be spirited but I'm committed to uniting our community; Republicans, Democrats, and Independents behind policies that create jobs and economic opportunity for those struggling to make ends meet," he said in a statement.

The open swing seat has already attracted a half dozen local officials, most of whom are Democrats, as possible candidates, according to an analysis by AroundtheCapitol.com.

Strickland's move opens the door for another Republican to run in the 27th Senate District, a swing seat that is expected to see one of the most contested state legislative races of 2012. Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, is reportedly considering a run, but is waiting for the Supreme Court to signal what it will do if a referendum of the Senate map qualifies. He would face Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and possibly former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, urges lawmakers to reject a plan to extend a tax increase for another year to help close California's state budget deficit, at the Capitol in Sacramento, June 10, 2011. (AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli)

January 12, 2012
Berman-Sherman battle stirs embers of 1980 speakership fight

The political shootout of the year, at least in Southern California, is the duel between two veteran Democratic congressmen who were thrown into the same district by the independent redistricting commission, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman.

Their high-octane contest in the new 30th Congressional District has divided Los Angeles' Jewish and labor communities. As it turns out, it has also stirred the embers of a bitter, 32-year-old battle in the state Capitol over the speakership of the state Assembly.

In 1980, Berman, then a state assemblyman, tried to oust fellow Democrat Leo McCarthy, who had become speaker six years earlier. That led to a year-long conflict that eventually ended in a draw. Willie Brown -- whom McCarthy had defeated for speaker in 1974 -- succeeded his old rival, elected over Berman by McCarthy Democrats and Republicans.

January 12, 2012
California Rep. Jerry Lewis announces retirement

jerrylewis.JPGRep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, announced Thursday he will be retiring at the end of the current Congress.

Lewis, 77, has served in the House since 1979, making him one of California's most senior and highly placed lawmakers. He was the first Californian to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and he has long prided himself on his ability to steer federal funds toward California.

"After months of consultation with loved ones and family, my wife Arlene and I have decided to retire from public life," Lewis said in a statement. "We are deeply grateful to so many who have provided their support over the years. I have worked hard to justify that support."

Lewis becomes the sixth California lawmaker to announce a stepping-down at the end of the 112th Congress.

PHOTO CAPTION: Representative Jerry Lewis

January 10, 2012
LaMalfa 'moving forward' for Congress run after Herger announcement

Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, announced his retirement Tuesday, ending more than three decades of representing the Sacramento Valley in Congress and the state Legislature.

The 66-year-old staunch conservative said he was prepared to be a homebody after years of traveling.

"We want to spend more time with the grandkids." Herger said in a telephone interview. "We just think it's time to begin spending more time with our family."

Herger and his wife have 11 grandchildren, and a 12th is on the way.

Herger's retirement after 13, mostly low-key terms in the House sets the stage for a congressional run by state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, among others. LaMalfa starts as a presumptively strong candidate in the safely Republican and newly renumbered 1st Congressional District, which stretches from Yuba City to the Oregon border.

While acknowledging that "I'm sure there will be a number of candidates," Herger said LaMalfa "has my endorsement and full support," and LaMalfa's upcoming campaign will be run by Herger's own consultant, Dave Gilliard.

"We're moving forward with the campaign," LaMalfa said by telephone Tuesday. "We're already in pretty good shape with the (district's) constituents already knowing me."

A native of tiny Rio Oso in Sutter County, where he still owns a house and ranchland, Herger first won election to a school board position before winning a state Assembly seat in 1980. In 1986, he won election to a House seat that he has held ever since; largely, with relative ease.

In 2010, Herger beat his Democratic opponent by a comfortable 57-43 percent margin.

"It's the end of an era," said former Rep. John Doolittle, a Rocklin Republican who first met Herger three decades ago. "Wally's been running for office every other year since 1980, and it's wearing, year after year, to do that. I think his life is about to get much better."

January 10, 2012
Chico Rep. Wally Herger to retire from Congress

herger.JPGBy Michael Doyle
mdoyle@mcclatchydc.com

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, is announcing his retirement today, ending more than three decades of representing the Sacramento Valley in Congress and the state Legislature.

Herger's retirement after 13, mostly low-key terms in the House sets the stage for a congressional run by state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale. LaMalfa will be the prohibitive favorite in the safely Republican and newly renumbered 1st Congressional District, which stretches from Auburn to the Oregon border.

"He's going to announce that he's retiring, and that he's endorsing Sen. LaMalfa," Herger's campaign consultant Dave Gilliard said an interview Tuesday.

Gilliard said that Herger had begun informing his congressional staff "around Christmas" of his impending retirement plans, and that he anticipates "spending more time with his grandkids."

"He has 11 grandchildren," Gilliard noted, adding that Herger "has been in Congress a long time, and he doesn't want to do the cross-country commute anymore.

December 6, 2011
Mother Jones magazine saying nice things about Darrell Issa

San Diego County Congressman Darrell Issa is one of those politicians that liberals love to hate -- especially since he took over the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee from Democrat Henry Waxman and promised nonstop investigations of the Obama administration.

That's why it's a minor miracle that Mother Jones magazine, a bible of the political left, is saying nice things about Republican Issa on its political blog.

Mother Jones political blogger Kevin Drum ponders the "mystery of Darrell Issa's low profile" -- i.e., not being the nettlesome Obama critic that many thought he would be -- and concludes:

"It pains me to say anything nice about Issa, the man who bequeathed us Arnold Schwarzenegger, but maybe he takes this stuff more seriously than his critics ever gave him credit for. Obviously he's going to focus his attention on conservative causes and he's going to focus his oversight on the Obama administration -- both perfectly reasonable things to do -- but perhaps he was sincere about avoiding petty nonsense. Stranger things have happened."

December 5, 2011
National congressional survey sees Dem gains in California

Democrats, who already hold 34 of California's 53 congressional seats, are likely to gain more next year under new districts drawn by an independent commission, according to a national assessment of congressional elections by the University of Virginia.

The university's Center for Politics, headed by Professor Larry Sabato, sees Republicans retaining control of the House next year, but Democrats gaining from one to five seats in California, depending on the outcome in four districts it rates as tossups.

"Sabato's Crystal Ball" sees 27 California seats as safely Democratic, with eight more either leaning or likely to wind up in Democratic hands, while 12 seats are considered to be safe for Republicans and two others leaning or likely for the GOP.

Veteran Southern California Congressman Jerry Lewis is considered to be the Republican incumbent most in danger of losing his seat, while GOP Congressmen Brian Bilbray and Dan Lungren are in tossup districts, Sabato says.

November 9, 2011
Rep. Darrell Issa opens probe of California Air Resources Board

The California Air Resources Board is now being investigated by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

On Wednesday, the committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, sent Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols a 13-page letter advising her that he was "expanding" the committee's ongoing investigation into the establishment of fuel economy standards. Nichols had earlier declined to attend a committee hearing on the subject.

"Your refusal to subject yourself and your office to congressional scrutiny is emblematic of the core concern that many in Congress share ... that CARB, as a state actor, is unresponsive to congressional concerns and unappreciative of congressional priorities," Issa wrote.

Issa accompanied his observation with a series of specific questions and document requests, dealing with California's role in the fuel economy standard deliberations. The board has until Nov. 23 to meet the demands.

Click here to read Issa's letter to Nichols.

October 26, 2011
Democratic House challengers flock to D.C.

Several Central Valley Democrats have joined more than 100 other House candidates in Washington, D.C., this week for a pep talk and some hands-on campaign tutoring.

Participating are Democrats Jose Hernandez -- a San Joaquin County native and former astronaut who's challenging Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater -- and Ami Bera -- a physician repeating his challenge of Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River.

All told, the candidates assembled by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee come from 36 states and from "all walks of life," according to a press statement by Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

Republicans put their own spin on the candidates' event, saying in their competing release that Hernandez was "rushing to the aid of Washington Democrats today in hopes of returning Nancy Pelosi to the Speaker's Chair."

Hernandez wasn't the only California candidate targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee's email blast. The group issued identical releases hitting two other Democratic congressional hopefuls running for a coastal Northern California seat.

The messages warned that both candidates, who are also in Washington this week, "will be nothing more than a rubber stamp for Obama and Pelosi's broken policies."

October 20, 2011
Dennis Cardoza announces retirement from Congress

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, announced his retirement Thursday, culminating a San Joaquin Valley political career that dates back to a college internship three decades ago.

The 52-year-old Cardoza said he will step down at the end of 2012 rather than battle it out in a newly redrawn congressional district with his long-time friend and colleague, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

"I love the people of the Central Valley, and thank them for the confidence they have placed in me," Cardoza said in a statement. "While I plan to retire from public service after this term in Congress, I will energetically continue my efforts to improve California as a private citizen."

But in voluntarily leaving a job he first won by unseating a former boss in 2002, Cardoza is also departing a Congress where he decries the loss of fellow moderates and the media focus on partisanship.

"The constant focus on 'screamers' and the 'horse race' of elections is smothering useful discourse and meaningful debate of public policy," Cardoza said.

Cardoza did not specify his career plans once he leaves the House of Representatives and its $174,000 annual salary. He and his wife Kathleen, a physician, currently live in a new, 4,130-square foot house on two acres in rural Maryland. They have three children.

Cardoza's decision leaves Costa as the favorite to represent the newly redrawn 16th Congressional District, which spans Merced and Madera counties and part of Fresno County. Democrats enjoy a 48-to-33 percent voter registration advantage in the new district.

Cardoza's decision did not surprise his colleagues or other political professionals, who had been reading the tea leaves for months. Tellingly, Cardoza's fundraising slowed considerably since July, and newly filed statements show his campaign treasury currently has only $62,471 available.

October 18, 2011
See how much California congressional candidates raised

California's congressional hopefuls have been busy building their campaign bank accounts ahead of the 2012 elections.

Reports tallying how much cash flowed in and out of the accounts during the most recent fundraising period, which ended Sept. 30, were due over the weekend. We've created a spreadsheet of the totals reported by campaign committees for incumbents and others planning to run on next year's ballot to aid our alert readers keeping track of the bottom line.

The campaign filings also shed light on the impact Democratic treasurer Kinde Durkee's alleged embezzlement scheme has had on some of her clients' funds.

Filings for U.S. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose full report has yet to be posted on the Federal Elections Commission's website, noted $4.7 million in losses, according to the Associated Press. Feinstein, who is up for re-election next year, has replaced those funds for now with $5 million of her own money. Filings by Reps. Linda and Loretta Sanchez and Susan Davis, all fellow Durkee clients, also disclosed six-figure losses in their campaign filings, the AP reported.

Durkee, who was arrested last month, has been accused by federal investigators and clients of stealing millions of dollars from accounts she managed.

Click here to open the spreadsheet in a new window. Full reports from the third quarter can be found on the Federal Election Commission's website.

October 18, 2011
Pipeline safety bill passes and gets another push

A pipeline safety bill inspired in part by last year's explosion of an underground line in San Bruno gets another push today, hot on the heels of Senate approval. Politically, this apparent horse-after-cart timing deserves a look.

The hearing today by a panel of the Senate Commerce Committee was scheduled to help build momentum for the pipeline safety bill, backed strongly by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein is the lead-off witness, in a hearing that also features the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board and others.

Monday night, on the eve of the hearing, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., dropped his one-man opposition to the bill. He secured an amendment in exchange; perhaps not coincidentally, he also avoided getting a black eye today.
The bill is supposed to improve safety on the nation's 2.5 million miles of oil-and-gas pipelines. It increases penalties for violations, requires automatic shut-off valves on new pipelines and makes other changes; over five years, pipeline operators will be paying $365 million in fees.

September 21, 2011
Californians worried, but Jerry Brown does well in PPIC poll

Californians are worried about the stagnant economy and are generally sour on the direction the state is headed, but Gov. Jerry Brown gets relatively high marks for his performance to date, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

PPIC found that 41 percent of Californians and 45 percent of likely voters approve of Brown's efforts to balance the state budget and otherwise govern -- not an overwhelming endorsement but, compared to most other politicians, relatively strong.

Just a few days earlier, the Field Poll came up with similar results, a 49 percent approval rating for Brown.

"Most Californians -- regardless of political party -- say things are going in the wrong direction in the state and the nation," Mark Baldassare, PPIC's president, says in a statement accompanying release of the poll results.

"Most don't see evidence that the president's attempts to stimulate the economy have had a positive impact -- although when asked to choose, they side with him over the Republicans in Congress," Baldassare added. "And for most Californians, the impact of the state's budget problems have hit home. In every region of the state, majorities say that state budget cuts have affected their local government services a lot."

Here are other findings in the PPIC poll:

September 21, 2011
Poll: Who should run against Dianne Feinstein in 2012?

Michael Reagan has ruled out a candidacy, and Republicans are still looking for a challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein next year.

Feinstein has had a relatively easy time of re-election over the years (save for the 1994 barn-burner with then-Rep. Michael Huffington). But this year her poll numbers are down with those of the rest of the politicians in Washington. She says her campaign funds have taken a hit thanks to the Kinde Durkee scandal.

Could the GOP have a chance, even in this bluest of blue states? First, the party needs a candidate. Weigh in below. If your choice is not listed, post a comment.

September 19, 2011
Federal public land policies bashed at Capitol hearing

By Matt Weiser
mweiser@sacbee.com

A congressional hearing in Sacramento on Monday provided a stage for complaints about the U.S. Forest Service, as off-roading groups, ranchers and others bemoaned access restrictions and steeper fees.

Held at the State Capitol, the field hearing by the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands featured just two of its 13 Republican members, including Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove. None of its 10 Democratic members attended.

The committee chairman, Rep. Rob Bishop, R- Utah, invited Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, to join the committee as a guest.

As is common at such hearings, the party controlling the committee weighted the witness list with individuals favorable to its legislative agenda. That includes GOP-backed bills to open more land to grazing and mining and to ban new national monuments.

The event was stacked with witnesses who want the Forest Service to reverse a modern-day emphasis on protecting habitat and recovering costs through steeper land-use fees.

September 7, 2011
Cruz Bustamante pitched for Indian ambassador's job

BB CRUZ INTERVIEW.jpgA Southern California congressman is now pitching former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante for the job of U.S. ambassador to India.

In a maneuver that seems to merge domestic politics with diplomacy, Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, is urging the White House to appoint Bustamante to the high-profile ambassador's slot. Bustamante is a former Fresno-area state legislator who endorsed Sherman in a newly redrawn congressional district that includes a large Latino population. Sherman, though, insists his ambassadorial recommendation is all about merit.

"Mr. Bustamante has a wealth of experience and an extensive knowledge of Indian culture, politics and business," Sherman advised President Barack Obama, in a letter now being prepared, adding that "Mr. Bustamante's appointment would bring strong leadership to the relationship between the United States and India."

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect that Sherman's letter is now being prepared. Updated at 10:47 a.m.

September 7, 2011
Dan Lungren won't challenge Tom McClintock for Congress

Rep. Dan Lungren has decided against challenging fellow Republican Congressman Tom McClintock and instead will run in what is a swing district that extends from Elk Grove to Folsom, his campaign manager said today.

"Unless something changes, he will run in the 7th Congressional District and is confident in doing so," Lungren adviser Rob Stutzman told The Bee.

Lungren had toyed with running against McClintock, the more conservative of the two, in the 2012 GOP primary for the 4th Congress