Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

July 7, 2014
Counties scramble to begin California controller recount

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Election officials across California began preparing Monday for hand recounts in thousands of precincts in the tight race for state controller.

With July normally a slow time on the election calendar, counties were calling back employees from vacation, getting in touch with potential members of recount boards, and generally boning up on the state's complicated recount procedures after former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez filed papers Sunday seeking hand recounts in 15 counties where he defeated Board of Equalization member and fellow Democrat Betty Yee.

"We've been working on this all morning," said Mary Bedard, registrar of voters in Kern County, No. 1 on the list of counties where Pérez seeks recounts. Bedard said employees on vacation have been summoned back to the office.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office is scheduled to hold a conference call with election officials in the 15 counties at 4 p.m. today.

It was still unclear Monday how long the recount could take and if that will hamper preparations for the Nov. 4 election.

Pérez wants the first recounts to be in Kern and Imperial counties. Bedard did not have an estimate of how long it would take her county to do the requested recount, and Imperial County Registrar Debbie Porter said it would take her county an estimated week-and-a-half to finish the all-county recount sought by the Pérez campaign.

But the Yee campaign said state law prohibits such simultaneous recounts. For now, Yee consultant Parke Skelton said, the campaign is watching and waiting and will consider seeking a recount of its own if Pérez's recount gives him the lead.

Skelton left open the possibility of litigation, citing the legal fight after the 2000 presidential election when Vice President Al Gore sought recounts in just Democratic-leaning counties in Florida.

"We're just assessing what our options are," Skelton said.

PHOTO: Under the watchful eyes of observers for then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken, election official Kay Schuch sorts through ballots during the 2008 recount in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race. Mankato Free Press/John Cross

July 7, 2014
In Florida, Mike Curb can still stir the gubernatorial pot

curb.jpgMike Curb, the former lieutenant governor who famously made trouble for Gov. Jerry Brown when Brown was governor before and traveled out of state, demonstrated over the weekend that he is still capable of stirring the gubernatorial pot.

The Sporting News reported Friday that a political ad for Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist was removed from a car competing in a race at Daytona International Speedway after state Republican officials and Curb, a music producer and sponsor of the car, complained.

"I did it out of respect to Mike Curb, who is a staunch Republican and he didn't feel comfortable and he's been a huge supporter and a partner to us from the very start," Phil Parsons, the car's owner, told the Sporting News. "In respect to Michael, we decided to take it off."

Curb, 69, was lieutenant governor from 1979 to 1983, when Brown, a Democrat, was governor before. Brown traveled out of state frequently in those days, and Curb, left behind as acting governor, made mischief. Among other things, Curb tried to elevate a Republican judge to the appellate court - an appointment Brown rescinded - and signed a bill permitting a temporary increase in the lead content of gasoline.

PHOTO: Acting Gov. Mike Curb with tax crusader Paul Gann on February 26, 1979. The Sacramento Bee/Harlin Smith

July 3, 2014
Undervote in California controller's race cost candidates

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The ultra-tight finish in California's controller race might have been a lot different if some 422,000 voters last month had completed their ballots.

As of Friday, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee led former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez by 481 votes for second place. Monday is the last day to request a recount.

There were 4.46 million ballots cast statewide, but only 4.04 million votes in the controllers race – a difference of almost 422,000 votes and an "undervote" rate of 10.45 percent.

More than a quarter of those ballots were in Los Angeles County, where about 111,000 voters skipped over the controller's race, an undervote of 13.5 percent.

Pérez topped Yee by 4.8 percent in Los Angeles County. In the more than 3,200 county precincts where the Los Angeles Democrat beat Yee, turnout averaged almost 16 percent – county turnout was 17 percent – and the undervote was 13.3 percent.

In the more than 1,450 precincts where Yee outpolled Pérez, turnout averaged 20 percent but the undervote was almost 14 percent.

Undervote ballots sometimes become part of the recount process, with campaigns checking if election officials missed actual votes. But Yee consultant Parke Skelton said he doubted that would happen.

"You can inspect undervotes, but there is no reason to assume they will break differently than the electorate as a whole," Skelton said in an e-mail.

PHOTO: Mike Lee marks his ballot while voting in Sacramento in the June 3 primary election. Associated Press Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

July 1, 2014
California controller's race among tightest in U.S. since 2000

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The margin separating Betty Yee and John A. Pérez in the race for second place in the California controller primary is smaller than those of all but four statewide elections across the country that triggered recounts from 2000 through 2013, records show.

The difference in the controller's race represents just one-hundredth of 1 percent – 481 votes out of more than 4 million ballots cast as of Tuesday, the canvassing deadline.

That is less than 19 other contests that have had recounts since 2000. Of the four races that also had .01 percent margins, ensuing recounts changed the Election Day results in two cases while upholding the results in two others.

The Pérez campaign issued a statement Tuesday saying that it is still determining if a "recount is warranted."

The chart below shows recount history since 2000, sorted by margin separating the two candidates:

Statewide recounts in U.S. since 2000
StateYearOffice/InitiativeRequested or automaticRecount resultOriginal marginRecount marginShift
Data source: The Center for Voting and Democracy
Arizona2010Proposition 112AutomaticUpheld0.01%0.01%0.00%
Minnesota2008U.S. SenateAutomaticOverturned0.01%-0.01%0.02%
Virginia2013Attorney GeneralRequestedUpheld0.01%0.04%0.03%
Washington2004GovernorAutomaticOverturned0.01%-0.01%0.01%
Virginia2005Attorney GeneralRequestedUpheld0.02%0.02%0.00%
Florida2000PresidentAutomaticUpheld0.03%0.01%0.02%
Oregon2008Measure 53AutomaticUpheld0.06%0.07%0.01%
Vermont2006Auditor of AccountsRequestedOverturned0.06%-0.05%0.11%
Colorado2000State Education BoardAutomaticUpheld0.08%0.01%0.07%
Washington2000U.S. SenateAutomaticUpheld0.08%0.09%0.01%
Georgia2004Court of Appeals JudgeAutomaticUpheld0.08%0.09%0.00%
Montana2000Superintendent of Public InstructionRequestedUpheld0.10%0.10%0.01%
Alabama2004Amendment 2AutomaticUpheld0.13%0.13%0.00%
North Carolina2006Court of Appeals JudgeRequestedUpheld0.22%0.22%0.00%
Alabama2006Constitutional AmendmentAutomaticUpheld0.32%0.39%0.06%
Wyoming2004Amendment A**AutomaticUpheld0.35%0.32%0.03%
Minnesota2010GovernorAutomaticUpheld0.48%0.48%0.01%
Wisconsin2011Supreme Court electionRequestedUpheld0.49%0.47%0.02%
Washington2000Secretary of StateAutomaticUpheld0.49%0.48%0.01%
Wyoming2004Amendment C**AutomaticUpheld0.52%0.50%0.02%
North Carolina2010Court of AppealsRequestedUpheld0.55%0.62%0.06%
Alaska2004U.S. SenateRequestedUpheld3.31%3.22%0.08%
Pennsylvania2009Superior court RaceRequestedUpheld4.59%4.60%0.02%

PHOTO: Under the watchful eyes of observers for then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken, election official Kay Schuch sorts through ballots during the 2008 recount in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race. Mankato Free Press/John Cross

July 1, 2014
California law sought to prevent recount fights

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In 2010, California lawmakers approved legislation meant to reduce the incentive for expensive and contentious ballot recounts of the sort looming in the exceedingly close race for second place in the state controller's primary.

But the law went dormant at the end of last year and will have no bearing on the controller's contest between Betty Yee and John A. Pérez.

In a statement Tuesday, the Pérez campaign said it is conducting a review to "determine whether a recount is warranted."

"After nearly a month of counting votes and a vote margin of just 1/100th of one percent, out of more than 4 million votes cast, nobody would like to the see this process completed more than we would," the statement said. "Since this is one of closest statewide elections in the history of California, we have an obligation to review and ensure that every vote cast is accurately counted. During our review, we will also determine whether a recount is warranted."

The 2010 law invited counties to conduct "postcanvass risk-limiting audits" – statistical sampling to verify election results – instead of the 1 percent sampling of ballots that's been the norm since the 1960's.

The audits "have the potential to reduce the need for election recounts because the audit model begins with a small sample and gradually escalates – potentially to a full hand count – if significant differences persist between the machine and manual tally results," read a committee analysis of Assembly Bill 2023, which was sponsored by Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

June 26, 2014
Measure to reduce sentences for theft, drugs on California ballot

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An initiative to reduce crimes such as drug possession and receiving stolen property from felonies to misdemeanors - and to use the savings for mental health and drug treatment programs - has qualified for the ballot in November, the secretary of state announced Thursday.

The push by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and former San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne would require misdemeanor sentences for petty theft and writing bad checks of $950 or less. It would require resentencing for those serving time for such nonviolent felonies unless the court finds it a risk to public safety.

Through March, proponents' "Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools" committee had raised $1.3 million and spent just over $1 million, including $938,000 on signature gathering.

The top contributors through March were the Atlantic Advocacy Fund, a New York-based charity established by billionaire Charles Feeney that gave $600,000, and businessman B. Wayne Hughes Jr., who gave $250,000.

The initiative comes two years after voters passed a measure to roll back the three strikes law by imposing life sentences only when new felony convictions are serious or violent. The latest effort still allows for felony sentences if the person was previously convicted of rape, murder or child molestation, or was required to register as a sex offender.

Budget analysts predict the measure could save hundreds of millions in annual court and criminal justice costs that could go to truancy prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment and victim services.

PHOTO: San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, right and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, left, smile during a news conference in front of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco on May 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

June 19, 2014
California health exchange wants to analyze rate initiative

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California's health insurance exchange pressed for answers Thursday to how an initiative slated for the November ballot would affect its operations.

Covered California board members said they want an expedited analysis of the measure, including its influence on the exchange and its consumers. The as-yet-unnumbered initiative, advanced by Consumer Watchdog and Democratic Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, would allow the insurance commissioner to reject excessive health insurance rate hikes.

The measure and a separate initiative to raise the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in malpractice cases are expected to produce two of the most contentious and expensive ballot-box fights this fall.

Susan Kennedy, a former aide to Govs. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said she was "painfully aware" of the agency's hesitation in weighing into the fierce political clash. But she urged officials to act aggressively so voters have time to sort out the findings.

"I am a little afraid that we are tiptoeing around this when the impact from my perspective could be really huge and very negative on our ability to function," Kennedy said. "And that inability to function will trickle down to the risk being padded into the rates on consumers."

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 13, 2014
VIDEO: No dancing, but Chris Christie calls success in blue state proof Kashkari has a chance

christiekashkari2.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that his own victory in a Democratic-leaning state in 2009 is evidence a Republican can win the governorship in California, but he stopped short of committing resources from the Republican Governors Association to the state's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Neel Kashkari.

"No one thought I was going to win in 2009," Christie, chairman of the RGA, told reporters at a flower store in San Francisco. "I'm out here to support Neel to let him know it can happen, but what you have to do is reach out to everybody."

The appearance was Kashkari's first major event since advancing from the primary election last week, defeating tea party rival Tim Donnelly. But Kashkari faces an uphill climb against incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown. Kashkari finished about 35 percentage points behind the third-term Democrat in the primary election, and Brown enjoys a massive fundraising advantage.

Christie, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, overcame a Democratic registration advantage to win election in New Jersey in 2009. His opponent, Jon Corzine, was highly unpopular, however, while Brown's job approval ratings are soaring.

Christie was in California raising money for the governors association. He suggested any direct financial assistance to Kashkari is not imminent.

Watch: Christie busts a move on "Tonight Show"

"I will do whatever is possible for us to do to make this race competitive," Christie said. "Now, at the end of the day it's up to him. You know, as I said before, each race is up to the individual candidate. And what the RGA can do is when we have a close race we can be the folks who help to push that person over the finish line. He's got work to do. He knows he's got work to do. He didn't just wake up this morning, OK? He knows how difficult this race is. But I believe he's going to do the work, and when he does do the work you're going to see not only the RGA but lots of Republicans across the country, when they see an opportunity to win here in California, are going to be really rushing here to try to make that statement."

PHOTO: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigns with California Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari in San Francisco on June 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 13, 2014
VIDEO: Chris Christie calls Rick Perry 'wrong' on homosexuality

christiekashkari.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that Texas Gov. Rick Perry's remarks comparing homosexuality to alcoholism are "wrong," as Christie campaigned in San Francisco with Neel Kashkari, California's Republican candidate for governor.

Asked about Perry's comments, which caused a stir in San Francisco, where he made them, Christie said, "I'll just say that I disagree with them, and I don't believe that's an apt analogy and not one that should be made, because I think it's wrong."

Perry and Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, are both potential presidential candidates. Asked about another comment of Perry's, in which the Texas governor reportedly praised Hillary Clinton for her time as secretary of state, Perry demurred.

"I have to tell you the truth," he said. "I haven't spent a lot of time analyzing Secretary Clinton's time at the State Department. If there comes a time when I need to, then I'll give you my analysis then, but I don't have one now."

PHOTO: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigns with California Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari in San Francisco on June 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 12, 2014
Bera, other vulnerable Democrats vote to block high-speed rail

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Health care isn't the only issue where Rep. Ami Bera finds himself breaking with his party as he runs for for re-election in one of the most competitive congressional races in the country.

On Tuesday, the Elk Grove Democrat voted with three other California Democrats to block California's beleaguered high-speed rail project from receiving federal funds.

The amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, sponsored by high-speed rail foe Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 227-186. However, it's not likely to survive in the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority.

Including Bera, four of the six Democrats who voted with Republicans were freshmen from California, underscoring the number of tight House races in the state this year.

The others were Rep. Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, Julia Brownley of Westlake Village and Scott Peters of San Diego. The remaining two, Reps. John Barrow of Georgia and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, belong to a shrinking group of fiscally conservative Democrats known as "Blue Dogs."

"If you're facing a competitive election in California," said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont-McKenna College, "opposition is probably the smart move."

The $68 billion high-speed rail project is one of the signature efforts of Gov. Jerry Brown and President Barack Obama. But like Obama's Affordable Care Act, it's also encountered near-universal opposition from Republicans. Denham, who's chairman of the House Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, has made numerous attempts to kill the project.

Bera supported high-speed rail when he ran for Congress in 2010, losing to Republican Rep. Dan Lungren. Bera narrowly won a rematch with Lungren in 2012, but by then had turned against the project after the cost had nearly tripled.

"With the many critical infrastructure projects that need funding in California right now like our levees, our bridges and roads, and other more highly traveled train routes," Bera said in an emailed statement, "now is not the time to be spending billions in taxpayer dollars on this project."

Bera has criticized the president's health care law and has voted with Republicans on different attempts to make changes. But former Republican Rep. Doug Ose, is betting that his staunch opposition to the law will help him defeat Bera in November.

Pitney said high-speed rail isn't as potent a weapon for Republicans as health care, but it's on the radar in California this year because of the governor's race, putting even more pressure on Bera and his fellow freshmen.

"Early on, you're shoring yourself up," Pitney said. "You don't want to be a one-term wonder."

PHOTO CREDIT: Ami Bera greeted volunteers in his Carmichael field office while he campaigned for the 3rd Congressional District on Saturday, October 16, 2010. Randall Benton, Sacramento Bee.


June 11, 2014
Tuck to Torlakson: Don't appeal Vergara ruling

Marshall_Tuck.JPGPortending what could become a major policy issue in November's runoff for state superintendent of public instruction, challenger Marshall Tuck called on incumbent Tom Torlakson Wednesday to support a recent court decision striking down California's teacher tenure laws.

"As one of the named defendants in the lawsuit and California's top education official, you are not merely a bystander in this case; legally and morally, you play a central role," Tuck wrote in an open letter to Torlakson.

"That is why I am writing to urge you to immediately drop any plans to appeal the Vergara ruling, and stop wasting taxpayer resources defending a broken system."

The decision issued Tuesday in Vergara v. State of California declared unconstitutional California rules establishing a two-year probationary period for teacher tenure, the process for firing teachers and seniority-based layoffs.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu argued that these laws deprive students of their constitutional right to a quality education by keeping subpar teachers in the classroom. Teachers unions sharply criticized the ruling and will likely appeal.

Torlakson, who was among those named in the lawsuit and would have a role in deciding whether to appeal the ruling, did not respond to Tuck's letter.

"He's focused on improving education for children and doesn't have time to waste on political stunts by his opponent," spokesman Paul Hefner said.

Torlakson issued a brief statement Tuesday that removing protections might make it more difficult for schools to attract, train and nurture top talent.

"Teachers are not the problem in our schools, they are the solution," he said.

Tuck and Torlakson have been locked in a costly and ideologically charged battle for the office of state schools chief. Millions of dollars in outside spending have poured into the race, with organized labor backing Torlakson and Tuck receiving big support from the private sector.

Tuck has been vocal about overhauling California's public education system, which ranks perennially low in national exams, and he has heavily criticized Torlakson's close relationship with teachers unions.

"Do you stand with California's kids, or with your Sacramento political supporters?" he wrote in Wednesday's letter.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:50 p.m. to include comments from Torlakson spokesman Paul Hefner.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Marshall Tuck

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 9, 2014
Neel Kashkari presses Jerry Brown to debate, recalling Brown's words

kashkarikfbk.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari is challenging Gov. Jerry Brown to debate him 10 times in the race for governor, echoing a call Brown made four years ago for 10 debates with Republican Meg Whitman.

Brown, a third-term Democrat, has been noncommittal about debating, while Kashkari, who is far behind in fundraising and public opinion polls, could benefit from the exposure debates afford.

Four years ago, when Brown was outspent by Whitman, he said the campaign should not be "decided on the airwaves in a scripted, prepackaged advertisement," but "mano a mano, one candidate against the other."

Kashkari used Brown's remarks in recent radio interviews and in a letter to Brown on Monday to press the issue. He challenged Brown to at least one town hall-style contest and one formal debate in five regions: Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Central Valley.

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Brown, said in an email that Brown would consider the request.

"We'll certainly consider debating," he wrote, "providing we can work out the scheduling and details to offer something substantive and worthwhile to voters."

Brown and Whitman ended up squaring off in three televised debates in 2010.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 9, 2014
Local tax and bond issues fared well in June primary

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Local school districts and governments fared well in getting voter approval of their bond issue and tax increase measures last week, according to a compilation of results by the California Local Government Finance Almanac.

Overall 65 of 85 local bond and tax measures, 76 percent, gained voter approval, according to the compilation by the almanac's founder, Michael Coleman, a veteran of local government finance – the highest rate of any recent election.

Forty-four of the measures were school district bond issues totaling $2.36 billion, according to a separate breakdown by the California Taxpayers Association, and 33 of them achieved the required 55 percent vote margin, plus one that required a two-thirds vote. The largest of the bond measures, $650 million, was sought by the Fremont Unified School District and it was one of those approved.

There were only five school district parcel tax measures offered to voters and all five achieved the two-thirds vote required. That's fewer than other recent elections, indicating that school officials elsewhere are waiting to see whether the Legislature votes to lower the vote requirement for parcel taxes.

Seven of eight city-sponsored general tax increase measures were approved but just two of five county special tax proposals, which required two-thirds votes, made it. Twelve of 17 non-school parcel taxes won approval, including all six aimed at improving library services.

The passage rate of local tax and bond measures, 76 percent, is higher than in any other recent election. It was 67 percent in June, 2012.

PHOTO: A student drinks from one of the few drinking fountains that work on the campus of Isleton Elementary School in September 2006, two months before California voters approved a $10 billion school construction bond. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

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

June 6, 2014
Republican, ex-GOPer in top two of Davis-based Assembly race

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With ballots still being counted, preliminary results in the strongly Democratic 4th Assembly District show a Republican and Republican-turned-Democrat advancing to November.

Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd, a business-backed Democrat who left the GOP less than two years ago, believes he'll receive enough votes to be among the top two vote-getters in Tuesday's primary election.

"Based on the number and county origin of the remaining ballots it is a statistical improbability for Dodd to finish outside the top two vote-getters," campaign strategist Matt Reilly said in an emailed statement.

Dodd finished election night trailing Republican Charlie Schaupp by a single vote in the district that covers Yolo and Napa counties. On Friday, an updated tally had Schaupp at 26.1 percent and Dodd at 25.4 percent.

Democratic Davis Councilman Dan Wolk trailed Dodd by 522 votes. In a statement, he said there remained as many as 20,000 votes left to count.

"We are still optimistic that, in the end, we'll be moving on to November's General Election!" the statement said.

The Democrat who advances will be a heavy favorite in the fall. Schaupp, a farmer and military veteran, raised no money and had $100 on hand at the end of the last reporting period. There also was no spending on his behalf by outside groups.

Meantime, corporate allies of Dodd and labor union supporters of Wolk, the son of Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars to help elect their preferred successor to liberal Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis.

The outside spending ranked fourth in races across California.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Bill Dodd.

June 6, 2014
Kamala Harris' GOP challenger favors pot legalization

Ronald_Gold.jpg.JPGRepublican Ron Gold, the presumptive challenger to Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris, wants California to legalize and tax marijuana and use the proceeds for substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Gold, a Woodland Hills lawyer and former deputy to Attorney General Evelle Younger, told The Bee that decriminalizing pot would decrease the costs of enforcing victimless crimes and allow the state to direct more resources to serious criminals.

"I just think that police resources are so few, and we have so much to do, that going after someone who is having a joint in West Hollywood is about as useful as having another Carter's Little Liver Pill," Gold said.

"An adult is an adult," he added. "If you use those things - and you're stupid - we can't bar stupidity."

Harris is an overwhelmingly favorite to win reelection in November. A rising star of the Democratic Party, she's received 53 percent of the votes tallied so far in the seven-candidate primary election Tuesday.

Gold's stance puts him at odds not only with Harris but other high-profile Democrats like Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Gold favors adopting a version of Colorado's law.

"Basically, I am to the left of Harris on an issue that's always been very popular and critical in California," he said. "I view it as a matter of principle."

Gold's chief GOP rival in the primary was former veteran lawmaker Phil Wyman. He said in a recent news release that state lawmakers found guilty of certain crimes should face the death penalty.

Gold paused when asked what he thought of Wyman's suggestion.

"I think it's a little absurd," he said.

PHOTO: Ron Gold. Courtesy of the Ron Gold campaign.

June 6, 2014
AM Alert: California primary election postmortem time

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The tumult of Primary Election Night has given way to bleary-eyed day-after commentating as vote totals ticked upwards, which in turn has given way to a more thorough look at What It All Meant.

The experts will take on the perennial Why Does Nobody Vote question today during a Public Policy Institute of California talk. To no one's surprise, turnout on Tuesday was pitiful - historically so, it seems - a showing that will be dissected by a roster including Ethan Jones, chief consultant for the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee, and Sacramento County registrar of voters Jill LaVine.

Discussion gets under way at noon at the CSAC conference center on 11th street. In the meantime, let us refresh your recollection of the election:

-How Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari clawed back in the end, and how Republican gov voters divided geographically
-What Tuesday's results meant for the Top Two system
-Whether ballot tea leaves foretell anything about the odds of the Democratic supermajority persisting
-And how races for state controller and for top education guru became competitive

CAP AND TRADE: Having made clear where he wants to spend anticipated billions from California's cap-and-trade law, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, will elaborate on his plan with some Los Angeles bigwigs today. Joining Steinberg at an L.A. Metro Facility will be his incoming replacement as Senate head honcho, Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

ACCREDITATION CONSTERNATION: The battle for City College of San Francisco continues. California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt will join community college faculty members and students at a rally outside the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges meeting today, urging the body to reconsider its decision to revoke City College's accreditation. Follow the chants to the Citizen Hotel starting at 11.

PHOTO: The garage of a two-story home in Davis is used as a voting location on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 in Davis, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

June 4, 2014
Tim Donnelly lauds effort in losing campaign

donnellypunjabi.jpgOne day after rival Republican Neel Kashkari dispatched him in the race for governor, Tim Donnelly said in a message to supporters Wednesday that he was proud of a low-budget campaign that "nearly matched the millions spent to defeat us."

"Our campaign may have failed to win the top spot, but we showed that grassroots and meeting people in person is a powerful way to build support," the tea party-backed candidate said in a message on his website.

Donnelly did not mention Kashkari, an establishment-backed candidate who came from behind to finish second on Tuesday and advance to a November runoff against Gov. Jerry Brown. Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, was hammered by conservatives for his vote for Barack Obama in 2008 and for his liberal social views, and is unclear how successful he will be in winning them over.

Kashkari praised Donnelly at a news conference in Corona del Mar earlier Wednesday, saying "he worked really hard, and if there's anything I respect, it's hard work."

He also made overtures to Donnelly's supporters, saying "they put themselves into this race, and I appreciate that."

"Too often we as Republicans spend time fighting with one another," Kashkari said. "If we are united, supporting each other and focusing our energy on changing Sacramento, we will be much more successful."

Donnelly said his campaign had "united a small, but hardy band of Californians who refuse to be controlled by their government, and our numbers are growing."

He said, "This part of the journey may have ended, but one thing became clear: the political establishment remains the greatest threat to California's future, and last nights result showed that without spending a penny on traditional advertising, we nearly matched the millions spent to defeat us."

PHOTO: Tim Donnelly campaigns at the Punjabi American Festival in Yuba City on May 25, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 4, 2014
Democratic supermajority in spotlight after California primary

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Last election cycle, the main story was Democrats claiming a decisive two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature.

Tuesday night's primary results foreshadowed how that dominance may change come the November general election, with a handful of close contests poised to reshape the makeup of the Legislature.

Democrats aren't concerned about retaining a majority in both houses. But that supermajority - which enables Democrats to raise taxes, place measures on the ballot or have laws take effect immediately without Republican votes - is more precarious.

In the Assembly, Democrats currently hold 55 seats - one more than the minimum two-thirds margin. Most of those are safe seats, nestled in districts where the Democratic skew of registered voters makes a Republican takeover unlikely.

But in some districts, Democrats have a more tenuous hold on power. That opens a route for Republicans to push Assembly Democrats below the two-thirds margin.

"The key path for the Republicans is, they need to pick up two seats and hold what they've got," said Matt Rexroad, a Republican consultant. "If Republicans are trying to pick up seats in a general election, when it's a presidential election it's extremely difficult. If they're going to do it, this is the time."

Moderate Democrat Rudy Salas, a first-term assemblyman from Bakersfield, won a plurality with 43 percent of the vote. But his two Republican challengers split the conservative vote, securing a combined 57 percent in a district where registered Democrats have an 18-point edge. Salas will face Republican Pedro Rios.

Two other vulnerable first-term Democratic incumbents placed behind Republican challengers. Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, trailed his November opponent Tom Lackey by just under nine points in the 36th Assembly district. In the 65th, endangered incumbent Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, finished almost ten points behind general election foe Young Kim.

Those are widely seen as the three pivotal Assembly races. In a trio of others, incumbent Democrats fared poorly despite healthy voter registration advantages: Assembly members Ian Calderon of Whittier and Al Muratsuchi of Torrance both finished behind Republican challengers, while Roger Hernández of West Covina could not muster a majority. Steven Maviglio, a prominent Democratic strategist, dismissed those results as flukes of a primary featuring historically low turnout.

"This is wildly different from how it will be in November," Mavigilio said. "We will have many more Democratic voters and independent voters who will vote Democrat. There's no match between June and November when it comes to election results."

Another opening for Assembly Democrats emerged in the 44th Assembly District, thrown open by the departure of Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo. Democrat Jacqui Irwin advanced to the general election with a 44 percent plurality of the vote, although the remainder split between her two Republican opponents. Republican Rob McCoy secured the second-highest total.

In the Senate, Democrats need to pick up two seats to regain the two-thirds majority they lost with the suspension of three senators facing criminal charges.

Republican incumbents performed well in two of the races viewed as potential Democratic pickups. Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, who won a doggedly contested special election last year, easily finished first in the 14th Senate district. It was a similar story for Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, who sailed to a first-place finish in the 12th Senate District.

The third Senate race to watch has Democrats vying to keep the 34th district seat currently held by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana. There, former Assemblyman and Democrat Jose Solorio advanced to the general election with 34 percent of the vote. He lagged far behind Orange County Supervisor and Republican Janet Nguyen, who secured 51 percent.

PHOTO: Charles Rich, 61, of West Sacramento votes in a room at fire station #45 on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 in West Sacramento, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

June 4, 2014
California's voter turnout headed to record low

voter.JPGThe turnout of voters in Tuesday's primary election appears destined to drop to a new record low, but how low depends on how many late and provisional ballots remain to be counted.

The official election night returns were that just 3.2 million or 18.3 percent of the state's 17.7 million registered voters cast ballots, but those numbers will increase when the number of still-uncounted ballots becomes clear in the next few days.

"I'm going to be surprised if it doesn't get to 20 or 23 percent," Paul Mitchell, a political number analyst for Political Data, Inc., said Wednesday.

Reaching 23 percent would mean another 800,000 or so ballots, mostly mail-in ballots delivered to election officials in the final hours of the election, remain to be counted.

However, even were turnout to reach 23 percent, that still would be five percentage points below the lowest statewide primary turnout ever recorded, 28.22 percent in June, 2008.

That was a presidential election year, when turnout usually rises, but California held its presidential primary in February that year, hoping to become more relevant in the selection of presidential candidates, while legislative, congressional and local primaries were held in June.

Four years ago, when California was last filling its statewide offices, the turnout was 33.63 percent.

Initial turnout tallies varied widely among California's 58 counties this year, ranging from a high of 69.5 percent in the state's smallest county, Alpine, to a low of 13.1 percent in its largest, Los Angeles - not counting the ballots yet to be counted.

PHOTO:Charles Rich, 61, of West Sacramento votes in a room at fire station #45 on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 in West Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

June 4, 2014
David Evans - who? - injects some drama into controller's race

DavidEvans.jpgHe wasn't part of public pre-election polls. He raised and spent so little money that he didn't meet the threshold requiring him to file campaign-finance reports electronically.

But David Evans had a ballot designation – chief financial officer – made to order for a state controller's candidate.

Now the Republican from remote California City has an outside chance to make the runoff in the race to succeed Controller John Chiang. As of Wednesday morning, Evans had 21.6 percent of the vote, good for third place behind Republican Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin (24.4 percent) and Assemblyman John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles (21.7 percent) and just ahead of Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a Democrat (21.5 percent).

Evans ran strongly around the state, outpolling Swearengin in many counties outside Swearengin's San Joaquin Valley base.

"The ballot designation helped, no doubt about that," said Evans, who ran for controller in 2010, finishing second to then-state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark. But Evans, who got almost 40 percent of the GOP primary vote for controller in 2010, said he wasn't surprised at his strong showing.

"We did well then and did well now," he said. "For 30 years, I've worked around the state. I've been campaigning for the past three or four years."

June 4, 2014
Indicted senator Leland Yee in third place for secretary of state

Leland.JPGCharges of corruption and gun-running conspiracy notwithstanding, almost a tenth of California voters Tuesday thought suspended state Sen. Leland Yee should become secretary of state.

Yee was in third place with 9.8 percent of the vote in the eight-candidate field for the state's top elections officer. Democrat state Sen. Alex Padilla and Republican Pete Peterson, who leads an education institute at Pepperdine University, secured the top spots. Thousands of ballots remain to be counted.

Yee was arrested in late March and indicted several days later as part of a sweeping investigation into organized crime. Federal authorities say Yee traded official acts for campaign donations and cash as well as tried to engineer a weapons-buying deal with an undercover federal agent.

Unofficial results show that Yee got solid support across much of the state, with some of his highest backing in and around his Northern California district. In San Francisco, where the media's coverage of the longtime elected official's arrest and indictment has been intense, Yee received 9.8 percent of the vote – mirroring his statewide share.

Maybe Yee's ballot statement helped win over voters.

"Under the Constitution, the Secretary of State's job is to empower Californians to govern California, to guarantee fair elections, expose special interests, and prevent corruption," Yee wrote. "I am the Democrat who will represent everyone. I hope to be your Secretary of State."

PHOTO: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, speaks to members of the press in his office at the Capitol in Sacramento on February 14, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

June 4, 2014
State's most expensive legislative fight looks headed for Democrat-vs.-Republican runoff

Glazer.JPGThe primary fight in the East Bay's 16th Assembly District consumed millions of dollars, including $4 million in spending by outside groups.

Yet with all precincts reporting early Wednesday, it looks like the fall campaign will be a traditional Republican-vs-Democrat showdown: Republican Catharine Baker of Walnut Creek has the top spot, and Democrat Tim Sbranti of Dublin has more than a 4,000-vote advantage over Democrat Steve Glazer for the No. 2 spot, 17,270 to 13,137.

Glazer, an Orinda councilman and adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, and Sbranti, a teacher and Dublin mayor, trashed each other during a months-long campaign that featured heavy spending by unions lining up behind Sbranti and business groups and charter schools backing Glazer.

A Baker-Sbranti matchup could be competitive. Democrats hold a seven-point registration edge in the district, but almost 22 percent of voters have no-party preference. Republicans viewed Sbranti as their preferred fall opponent.

Here is the latest from Sacramento-area congressional and legislative contests. Other interesting finishes in primaries around the state Tuesday...

Assembly

44th Assembly District: Democrat Jacqui Irwin will go up against Republican Rob McCoy in the fall after a primary race that saw business-backed outside groups spend heavily in a failed bid to get Mario De La Piedra into the runoff for this seat now held by Republican Jeff Gorell.

Senate

10th Senate District
Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, clinched the top spot in this strongly Democratic district, with Republican Peter Kuo leading former lawmaker Mary Hayashi, a Democrat, by more than 3,000 votes for second place. Wieckowski and Hayashi, and allied groups, spent months and hundreds of thousands of dollars bashing each other.

26th Senate District
Democrats Ben Allen and Sandra Fluke will face off in the fall following an eight-person primary race. Former lawmaker Betsy Butler was in fourth place in her bid to restart her legislative career.

28th Senate District
Four candidates – three Republicans and one Democrat – are within three percentage points of each other. Republican Jeff Stone has a slight lead, with less than 300 votes separating Republicans Glenn Miller and Bonnie Garcia and Democrat Philip Drucker.

Congress

17th Congressional District
Rep. Mike Honda and fellow Democrat Ro Khanna will continue their old-vs.-new battle into November after a bitter primary fight.

25th Congressional District
Democrats posted a strong showing against longtime Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon in this Southern California district in 2012. Now they won't even have a candidate on the fall ballot to succeed the retiring McKeon. Former lawmaker Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, and state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, clinched the top-two spots, with Democrat Lee Rodgers several percentage points behind.

31st Congressional District
Democrats are biting their nails this morning, anxious to avoid a CD-25 scenario and a repeat of their June 2012 debacle in this Democrat-leaning district. Republican Paul Chabot and Democrat Pete Aguilar held the top slots but Republican Leslie Gooch is less than 400 votes behind Aguilar.

33rd Congressional District
Republican Elan Carr and state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, will face off in November in this strongly Democratic Santa Monica-centered district after an 18-person scrum to succeed the retiring Rep. Henry Waxman.

PHOTO: Assembly candidate Steve Glazer, right, walks with Gov. Jerry Brown, at a meeting with the League of California Cities on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 in Sacramento.

June 4, 2014
California congressional races: Bera-Ose advance, incumbents win big

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Several incumbents cruised while former Congressman Doug Ose secured a chance to take on Rep. Ami Bera in Sacramento-area congressional contests Tuesday night.

Following are the results from races to represent the Sacramento region in Congress, with 100 percent of precincts reporting but thousands of provisional and mail ballots still to count:

1st Congressional District

Incumbent Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, had an easy first-place finish over runner-up and Democrat Heidi Hall, securing 53.1 percent of the vote to Hall's 30.4 percent.

3rd Congressional District

Incumbent Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, will face off in November. Garamendi ran up a nearly double-digit margin, securing 54.6 percent against Logue's 45.4 percent.

4th Congressional District

No drama over who finished first, with Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, claiming the top spot with 55.5 percent of the vote. Art Moore, a more moderate Republican, held a narrow lead for second place with 22.8 percent of the vote.

6th Congressional District

As with McClintock, no trouble for the incumbent: Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, piled up a big margin over Republican challenger Joseph McCray, winning 73.4 percent compared to McCray's 26.6 percent.

7th Congressional District

The most competitive of these races. Bera, the first-term incumbent and a top target of national Republicans, will face off against Ose in November. Falling short were Republicans Igor Berman and Elizabeth Emken. Bera got earned 47 percent of the vote while Ose's slice of the split Republican vote was 26.8 percent.

9th Congressional District

Another unambiguous first-place incumbent finish, here for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Antioch. His November opponent will be Republican Tony Amador. McNerney won 50.4 percent of the vote, double Amador's 25.2 percent.

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.

June 4, 2014
California legislative contests: Pan-Dickinson, McCarty-Cohn runoffs loom

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A leadership shuffle in the California State Senate rippled through Sacramento-area legislative races on Tuesday, as the departure of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, later this year set off a cascade of competitive contests in Democrat-heavy districts.

Here are the results from Sacramento-area campaigns for seats in the state Legislature, with 100 percent of precincts reporting but with thousands of provisional and mail ballots still to count.

6th Senate District

Two Democratic Assembly members from Sacramento, Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan, emerged as the top vote-getters in the contest to succeed Steinberg. Dickinson outpaced Pan with 40.2 percent of the vote against Pan's 31.2 percent.

3rd Assembly District

With Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, leaving the seat, representatives of both major parties moved on to November. Republican James Gallagher and Democrat Jim Reed claim spots on the fall ballot. Gallagher won 43.4 of the vote, Reed 34.9 percent.

4th Assembly District

Another seat thrown open by an incumbent leaving – in this case, term limits forced out Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis. Her potential replacements remained locked in a close race with all precincts reporting: Democrat Bill Dodd, Democrat Dan Wolk and Republican Charlie Schaupp all claimed about 25 percent of the vote.

7th Assembly District

Democratic Sacramento City Council members Steve Cohn and Kevin McCarty will square off for a chance to claim the seat Dickinson is leaving for a shot at the Senate. McCarty secured 34.6 percent of the vote, while Cohn had 28.4 percent.

8th Assembly District

First-term incumbent Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, cruised to the top spot. He'll try to fend off a November campaign by second-place finisher and former legislative staffer Republican Douglas Haaland. Cooley received 52.1 percent while Haaland secured 40.9 percent.

9th Assembly District

Two Democrats advanced in an overwhelmingly Democratic district: Elk Grove City Councilman Jim Cooper and Sacramento City Councilman Darrell Fong. Pan left this seat to run for the Senate against Dickinson. Cooper earned 31.4 percent of the vote against 28.6 percent for Fong.

A handful of drama-free races featured only two candidates, guaranteeing that both moved on. Those contests:

1st Assembly District

No nails bitten here. The only two candidates advance in the heavily Republican rural district, with incumbent Assemblyman Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, to face Democratic challenger Brigham Sawyer Smith. Dahle eclipsed Smith by a 69-to-31 margin.

6th Assembly District

Incumbent Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, sailed into first place with 63 percent of the vote and will meet Democrat Brian Caples in November.

11th Assembly District

Freshman Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, and Republican challenger Alex Henthorn, will face each other again in the fall; Frazier got 60.8 percent of the vote against 39.2 percent for Henthorn.

4th Senate District

Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, and Democrat CJ Jawahar advance, with Nielsen netting a convincing 63 percent of the vote.

8th Senate District

See you in November, Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, and Democrat Paulina Miranda. Incumbent Berryhill (64.4 percent) emerges as the clear favorite over Miranda (35.6 percent) in the vote totals.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, spoke to reporters in April 2014 about rail cargo safety. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

June 4, 2014
California state controller: outcome unclear in tight race

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The fall lineup in the race for state controller remained muddled early Wednesday, with none of the six candidates having a lock on the top-two spots.

Leading contenders to advance to a November runoff include former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, who is compelled by term limits to leave the Legislature; Fresno Mayor and Republican Ashley Swearengin; Democratic Board of Equalization member Betty Yee; and Republican David Evans.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Swearengin had built a lead of a few percentage points for the first slot but none of the three others could break away from the pack to clinch the second. The standings as of 5 a.m.:

Swearengin: 24.4 percent
Pérez: 21.7 percent
Evans: 21.6 percent
Yee: 21.5 percent

Those results will change in the coming days as election officials process tens of thousands of uncounted provisional and mail ballots.

PHOTO: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin gives her State of the City address at a lunch meeting at the Fresno Convention Center Wednesday, June 1, 2011. The Fresno Bee/Craig Kohlruss

June 4, 2014
California state superintendent race: Fall runoff looks likely

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Tom Torlakson, California's top elected education official, may not have garnered enough votes in Tuesday's primary to fend off a general election showdown against challenger Marshall Tuck.

Because California state superintendent of public instruction is a nonpartisan position, a candidate who gets 50 percent-plus-one in the primary wins outright. Torlakson, an incumbent who has the strong support of the state's teachers unions, hovered near that threshold all night in the three-candidate contest.

But with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Torlakson had not established a decisive winning margin over Tuck, a former charter school administrator supported by business-backed education groups seeking to shake up the status quo of teacher tenure and evaluation rules. Torlakson registered 46.9 percent against 28.6 percent for Tuck as of earlier this morning, with tens of thousands of ballots still to count.

If those results hold, it could set up a costly campaign that pits teachers unions against deep-pocketed rivals in the education community. The race attracted millions of dollars in outside spending despite the state superintendent having limited policy-making authority.

PHOTO: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, urges legislators to support the tax extension proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown. on March 14, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 4, 2014
California statewide races: Kashkari, Peterson, Padilla advance; controller's outcome uncertain

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Republican gubernatorial contender Neel Kashkari and secretary of state candidates Pete Peterson and state Sen. Alex Padilla were among the statewide candidates Tuesday to clinch a spot in the November election.

That incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown was the top gubernatorial vote-getter came as no surprise in a race where the intrigue surrounded the Republican contest for second place.

Facing Brown in November will be Kashkari, a former treasury secretary anointed by the Republican Party establishment. After lagging in the polls for much of the race, Kashkari finished ahead of conservative Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, whose stances on issues like immigration and gun control place him firmly in the party's right wing.

An unusual amount of attention surrounded the secretary of state's race, where candidates pledged to respond to a series of corruption scandals that have clouded the Legislature. Advancing to the November runoff were Padilla, a second-term state senator, and Peterson, who runs a Pepperdine University think tank.

The November lineup for controller remains unclear, with four of the six candidates in position to potentially capture one of the top two spots once all the votes are tallied.

Rival education policy perspectives clashed in the race to become California's top educational official, the state superintendent of public instruction. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, incumbent Tom Torlakson , who had strong backing from teachers unions, had not run up a large enough margin to avert a runoff against Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive who drew significant financial support from groups that want to overhaul the school system.

Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, easily won a spot in November's election. There she will face either Republican Ronald Gold or Republican Phil Wyman, who were separated by a thin margin with all precincts reporting.

Other statewide races brought few surprises. As expected, incumbent Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a Democrat, will face Republican state senator Ted Gaines; current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, will field a challenge from former state Republican Party head Ron Nehring; and the treasurer's race will be between outgoing State Controller John Chiang, a Democrat, and Republican Greg Conlon.

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari talks to reporters at an event in San Jose on April 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 3, 2014
Padilla, Peterson take top two in secretary of state's race

Padilla.JPGDemocratic State Sen. Alex Padilla and Republican think tank administrator Pete Peterson will advance to the general election, having topped an eight-candidate field in the race to replace Debra Bowen as secretary of state, according to early returns.

The Associated Press called the race for Padilla and Peterson. Both have about 30 percent of the vote, far ahead of Sen. Leland Yee, a San Francisco senator who was suspended after his indictment on federal conspiracy and corruption charges. Former FPPC chairman Dan Schnur is running fourth.

Yee had about 11 percent and Schnur had 9 percent of the vote.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 9 p.m. with the Associated Press call.

PHOTO: Senator Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, listens to floor debate on the budget plan before the Senate votes on the plan. Photo taken Wednesday Feb. 18, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer.

June 3, 2014
California election night roundup

Californians went to the polls today to choose candidates for governor and a handful of other statewide offices, 100 state legislative and 53 congressional seats and scores of local offices.

This is the second time voters will be using the state's "top two" primary voting system for state races - the first time for statewide offices such as governor. Ballots for state and congressional races will include certified candidates from all parties. Voters can choose one candidate in each race, and the top two finishers will advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

For the superintendent of public instruction's race and most city and county government offices, a candidate can win outright at this election if he or she gets more than 50 percent of the votes cast.

LATEST:


* Proposition 42: Open records ballot measure wins

* Padilla, Peterson take top two in secretary of state's race

* Bera, Ose headed for a fight over 7th congressional district

* Governor: Tim Donnelly congratulates Neel Kashkari

ON SACBEE.COM/ELECTIONS

Results: Get up-to-the-moment results beginning just after the polls close at 8 p.m. for local and state races.

Live chat replay: See the transcript of the live chat with Bee columnist Marcos Breton.

Voter Guide: Learn about the candidates and issues.

Bee endorsements: See The Sacramento Bee's recommendations.

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General voting information

Secretary of State: (916) 657-2166

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To report fraud or misconduct: Call the secretary of state's confidential hotline at (800) 345-8683.

June 3, 2014
Democratic Party pours $550,000 more into Jerry Brown's war chest

brownvotearrival.jpgThe Democratic State Central Committee of California poured another $550,000 into Gov. Jerry Brown's war chest on the eve of the Tuesday primary election, raising the state party's total support for the governor's re-election bid to about $3.6 million.

Brown, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth term, has amassed about $21 million for the general election campaign, after largely sitting out the primary. His Republican opponents, Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, are competing for second place in the election and a spot in the runoff against Brown.

While support continues to flow to Brown from state Democrats, it is unclear how helpful he will be to down-ticket members of the party in the November elections. The governor has traditionally focused his political energies on his own races and initiatives.

Asked on Tuesday morning if plans to help other Democrats running for statewide office, Brown was noncommittal.

"I don't have any plans this morning," he told reporters after voting in Oakland. "But I'm sure that, as people meet with me, I'll be glad to talk with them. We will have a unified campaign. We have a very good Democratic Party under John Burton, and I think ... there'll be opportunities for what we call constructive engagement at the international level."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, walk with their dog to the polling place where the governor voted on June 3, 2014 in Oakland. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 3, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown at ease for now, cautious about November

brownvotes.jpgOAKLAND - Gov. Jerry Brown strolled from his home in the Oakland hills on Tuesday to the fire station where he regularly votes, the heavy favorite not only to finish first in the primary election, but also to win a historic fourth term in November.

This is despite running no visible campaign, an effort so nonchalant that one of Brown's advisers, unable to find a microphone stand, fashioned one from a chest of drawers taken from a "free" pile by a dumpster near the polling place.

Taking his place behind the piece of furniture, Brown said projected low turnout in the primary election may indicate "people are relatively confident and are not troubled by any great challenge or issue." He said it makes no difference which Republican, Tim Donnelly or Neel Kashkari, advances to face him in the runoff election, and he declined to say if he would debate either one of them.

He may not have to. Forty years after he first won election to the governor's office, in 1974, Brown enjoys high public approval ratings and has amassed about $21 million for the general election campaign. He is far ahead in public opinion polls.

Asked about his prospects in November, Brown was circumspect.

"Confidence is a tricky business in politics, because if we've learned anything it's that the future is uncertain, that fortune is fickle, and one kind of goes forward with a certain amount of trepidation. And, yes, everything looks good, but no one knows what tomorrow will bring. There's always issues, there's catastrophes, there's scandals, there's mistakes. So, I'm a bit wary as I do this for the fourth time."

But the general election is five months away. As for the primary, Brown was planning to go hiking on family land outside of Williams, as he has on previous election days, before watching returns in Sacramento.

Brown told reporters, "The fact that you have so few questions, I think indicates the impending result."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, arrive at the fire station in Oakland where Brown votes on June 3, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 2, 2014
California veterans bond gets some help

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There's no organized opposition to Prop. 41, the measure on Tuesday's ballot that would authorize $600 million in bonds to build apartments and other multifamily housing for low-income and homeless veterans.

But some Democratic lawmakers' ballot-measure committees have spent big in recent weeks to help the measure, records show.

The ballot-measure committee of former Assemblyman Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana, a candidate for state Senate, spent $70,000 on pro-Prop. 41 independent expenditures, state filings show.

"Vote for Vets," reads one of the Solorio-funded signs, with "Jose Solorio" in equally large type underneath. Solorio is the only Democrat running in the 34th Senate District, which is expected to be among the most competitive Senate contests this fall.

Late last month, the ballot measure committee of Assembly Speaker Emeritus John A. Pérez, a candidate for state controller and the author of the legislation putting Prop. 41 on the ballot , reported contributions of $29,000 and $60,000 to Prop. 41's campaign committee.

Also, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins recently changed the name of her ballot measure committee from "California Works: Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins Ballot Measure Committee" to "California Works: Yes on Prop. 41 for Veterans' Housing, supported by Speaker Toni Atkins Ballot Measure Committee."

The renamed committee, which had $215,000 on hand as of May 17, has not reported any late independent expenditures or late contributions.

Unlike candidates' campaign committees, ballot measure committees are not covered by contribution limits. As for Prop. 41, its campaign committee had $96,000 on hand as of mid-May, with no outstanding debt.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks in October 2013 after signing legislative bill AB 639, which became Prop. 41 on Tuesday's ballot. Twenty-five percent of homeless veterans in the United States live in California. Associated Press Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

June 2, 2014
VIDEO: Tim Donnelly dismisses latest poll

donnellypunjabi.jpgPublic opinion polls have been favorable to Tim Donnelly for much of the year, and he ballyhooed them to assert his frontrunner status in the Republican race for governor.

Along with endorsements from local Republican groups, the polls served the tea party-backed candidate's efforts to counter attacks from establishment Republicans such as former Gov. Pete Wilson, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, and strategist Karl Rove.

On Sunday, however, a USC/Los Angeles Times poll showed Donnelly's GOP rival, Neel Kashkari, ahead of Donnelly by a narrow margin, 18 percent to 13 percent among likely voters.

Donnelly was dismissive.

"The only poll that is going to matter is tomorrow, and we're close enough that I'm not worried about any other polls," Donnelly told reporters at the Capitol on Monday. "And at people's doorsteps, I've discovered that this whole thing is up for grabs, and it's going to be whoever turns out their votes, that's who's going to win."

Kashkari, in a spate of radio interviews Monday, said the poll is evidence his recent spending on mailers and TV ads is paying off.

Before he started advertising, Kashkari said on KGO 810 radio in San Francisco, "most voters had not been paying attention to the race," and all he needed was "to introduce myself to voters."

PHOTO: Tim Donnelly campaigns at the Punjabi American Festival in Yuba City on May 25, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 1, 2014
Poll: Kashkari, Donnelly in dead heat in race for governor

kashkaridam.jpgRepublicans Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari are locked in a statistical dead heat in the Republican race for governor, according to a new USC/Los Angeles Times poll.

Eighteen percent of likely voters support Kashkari and 13 percent support Donnelly, with 10 percent undecided, according to the poll.

Both Republicans remain far behind Gov. Jerry Brown. The Democratic incumbent registered 50 percent support among likely voters. The race between Kashkari and Donnelly is to determine who will advance to a runoff against Brown in the fall.

The difference between Kashkari and Donnelly is within the poll's margin of error. But it represents a major improvement for Kashkari, who consistently trailed Donnelly in public opinion polls all year. The poll released Sunday follows an advertising push by Kashkari in the final weeks of the campaign.

PHOTO: PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at Oroville Dam on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 30, 2014
Ads tie Bill Dodd to Bay Bridge morass in costly Assembly race

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Democrat Bill Dodd is being hit with a barrage of union-funded ads that blame the Yolo-Napa county Assembly candidate for faulty materials on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

Dodd, a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, is pictured in a series of recent campaign mailers that question his ability to grasp the "nuts and bolts" of his post -- costing taxpayers $135 million.

The ads fault Dodd, a past chairman of the regional transportation agency and Napa County supervisor, for the nearly three dozen cracked steel anchor rods and assert he failed to properly inspect the manufacturing materials during two separate trips to China.

Dodd was a member of the Bay Area Toll Authority at the time of the trips, which exerts some oversight over bridge funding.

The Sacramento Bee has reported extensively on the issues facing the new $6.5 billion San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The mailers leave out that the so-called bolts were made not in China, but in the United States. Dodd's campaign consultant, Matt Reilly, also noted that reports have largely placed the blame not on the commission, but on Caltrans and contractors.

"The distance between where they say the bolts are made in China when they are made in (Ohio) is about the same as the distance between these mailers and the truth," Reilly said.

The union attacks are part of a series of back-and-forth outside spending for and against Dodd and Democrat Dan Wolk, a Davis city councilman and the son of Sen. Lois Wolk. The outside spending ranks No. 4 in races across California.

A previous mailer from pro-business Dodd supporters erroneously claimed that Wolk voted to increase water rates without community input. The group has made other spurious claims about Wolk's record.

The 4th District race also includes Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza and a pair of Republicans.

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 28, 2014
Tim Donnelly phones in to Andrew Tahmooressi rally

donnellypunjabi.jpgWhen Tim Donnelly was asked at a debate this month about the plight of a Marine Corps veteran jailed in Mexico on a gun matter, Donnelly said if he was governor he would go to the border to lobby for the American's release.

"We need to make a lot of noise," Donnelly said, "and if I was the governor of the state of California, I would have taken a helicopter, and I would be landing on the border and holding a protest and demanding that they free our Marine."

On Wednesday, Donnelly said on Twitter that he called in to just such a rally, in San Ysidro, south of San Diego. He lacked the imprimatur of the governor's office but took the opportunity to make noise.

"Just spoke via phone at the SD protest rally demanding his release!" Donnelly wrote. "Let us not rest until he is home! Godspeed."

The controversy surrounding the incarceration of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi involves not only a border crossing but carrying guns where they are not allowed. Donnelly knows something about that: The former member of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project is on probation for carrying a loaded firearm into Ontario International Airport in 2012.

Tahmooressi said he mistakenly crossed the border when he made a wrong turn, according to the UT San Diego. Donnelly said he forgot he had the gun in his carry-on.

For the purposes of the governor's race, Donnelly has said his gun case will only help him with Second Amendment advocates. And with rival Neel Kashkari closing on him in public opinion polls less than a week before the June 3 primary election, the opportunity to remind voters of his credentials may not hurt, either.

PHOTO: Tim Donnelly campaigns at the Punjabi American Festival in Yuba City on May 25, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 28, 2014
California Republicans are shrinking. Here's where:

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California Republicans are a shrinking group. But where are they diminishing fastest?

The Bee's data expert takes a county-by-county look at Republicans' share of registered voters.

Traditionally Democratic areas like San Francisco and Marin counties saw the largest proportional drop in Republican voters, writes Phillip Reese. No county in the state is now majority Republican. Only two small counties – Lassen and Modoc – increased the proportion of voters registered as Republicans over the last decade.

Read the post and check out the map for yourself here.

PHOTO: President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan at the Capitol in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Mitch Toll

May 27, 2014
Tim Donnelly calls financial difficulties proof he can relate

donnellyscrum.jpgRepublican Tim Donnelly said Tuesday that his past financial difficulties are evidence he can relate to regular Californians, firing back at Neel Kashkari, his better-funded rival in the governor's race one week before the primary election.

"I'm not a millionaire, I didn't make a killing off the taxpayers by running TARP and bailing out Wall Street," Donnelly said in an interview on KMJ News Talk Radio in Fresno.

Kashkari, who managed the federal government's $700 billion bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, made about $145,000 a year while working at the U.S. Treasury Department, his campaign said.

Donnelly's remarks come after Kashkari portrayed Donnelly in a mailer as financially irresponsible. Kashkari criticized Donnelly for a foreclosure on an investment property in South Carolina in 2012, and for a $2,829 tax lien the state filed against Donnelly's former business, Donnelly Plastic Equipment Inc. San Bernardino County listed the lien as being released in March.

"Hey, I lost a piece of property in the downturn," Donnelly said. "I did everything I could to save it. I put a lot of money into it ... And a balloon payment came due and there was nothing I could do."

Kashkari, appearing immediately after Donnelly on KMJ, said Donnelly's personal finances are part of a less-than-conservative fiscal record.

"It's fiscal conservatism for everyone but him," Kashkari said, "and I think people appreciate knowing the truth."

Gov. Jerry Brown is widely expected to finish first in the primary election, with Donnelly and Kashkari competing for a spot in a runoff election against Brown in the fall. Kashkari has donated $2 million to his own campaign in recent weeks, while Donnelly has reported debts exceeding cash on hand.

Kashkari defended his role managing TARP, as he has previously, saying the program helped avert an economic collapse.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday to include information from Kashkari's campaign about his pay while working at the U.S. Treasury Department.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 27, 2014
Down-ticket statewide candidates take to California airwaves

padilla_ad.jpgWith the June 3 primary election less than a week away, candidates for a pair of lesser-known statewide offices have taken to the TV airwaves for a final push.

The campaigns of state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who is running for secretary of state, and former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, a candidate for state controller, recently released upbeat ads in their respective contests.

Padilla's ad, "Anything is Possible," highlights Padilla's upbringing while not mentioning the secretary of state's office until almost the very end. "I'll protect voting rights for everyone and make it easier to start a business," Padilla tells the camera at one point.

Click here to see the Padilla ad.

The Padilla campaign said the ad is airing in the Los Angeles and San Francisco media markets. According to his latest campaign filing, Padilla spent $620,000 on TV and radio costs through May 17. The most recent Field Poll suggests that Padilla will clinch one of the two slots next week for the November runoff.

Pérez, though, is in a close race with Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a fellow Democrat, for the No. 2 spot behind Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican.

Pérez has started running an ad called "Turnaround." The commercial said Pérez "partnered with Gov. Brown to pass three balanced budgets on time for the first time in 30 years."

"Now John Pérez is running for controller to keep fighting for balanced budgets," the ad says.

Click here to see the Pérez ad.

Pérez's latest campaign filing does not show any significant spending on TV and radio ads through mid-May. In areas covered by Time Warner Cable Media, the Pére campaign paid about $26,000 for ads from May 24 through June 2, according to public records.

In another down-ticket contest, the race for California superintendent of public instruction also has gotten some TV time – but not from the candidates themselves.

The California Teachers Association has paid for ads promoting incumbent schools chief Tom Torlakson. Those commercials, though, are issue-advocacy ads and don't mention the election – unlike the more than $2.2 million in CTA-funded radio ads supporting Torlakson and opposing Torlakson's main rival, Marshall Tuck.

"Anything is Possible"

"Turnaround"

PHOTO: An image from a new campaign ad by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who is running for secretary of state.

May 27, 2014
California elections: AD 9 field narrows as Rodriguez-Suruki exits

Rodriguez-Suruki.jpgSolidifying the field days before a primary election, Diana Rodriguez-Suruki has ended her campaign for the 9th Assembly District race and thrown her support to fellow Democrat and Elk Grove City Councilman Jim Cooper.

"I have gotten to know Jim over the course of this campaign. He brings significantly more
experience to the job than his remaining opponents and is committed to working on the issues that affect children and their families," Rodriguez-Suruki said in a statement.

By bowing out, Rodriguez-Suruki - currently a Sacramento City Unified School District trustee - has left two Democratic candidates vying for a top-two spot in the heavily Democratic district. Cooper faces a challenge from Sacramento City Council member Darrell Fong. Rodriguez-Suruki's name will remain on the ballot, but she will not campaign for the seat.

Business security consultant Tim Gorsulowsky and computer technician Manuel Martin populate the Republican field in the district, seeking a seat that Assemblyman Richard Pan has vacated as he seeks a state Senate seat.

Voters go to the polls next Tuesday.

May 25, 2014
Kashkari, Donnelly hit festivals, fairs in final days of campaign

donnellypunjabi.jpgYUBA CITY - California is so large a state its gubernatorial campaigns are typically waged not door to door, but in television and radio ads, direct mail and, to a growing extent, online.

But tradition calls for candidates to wade into shopping malls, festivals and fairs in the final days of a campaign. So on a sweltering Sunday afternoon, Tim Donnelly put on his National Rifle Association hat and distributed literature at the Punjabi American Festival in Yuba City, while Neel Kashkari pet a baby goat and met with Republicans at the Sacramento County Fair.

Within hours they would be heading in opposite directions, Kashkari driving north to the festival Donnelly was attending and Donnelly considering a stop further south, in Bakersfield.

Just more than a week before the June 3 primary election, the two Republicans are locked in a close race for second place and a spot in the November runoff election against Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. The contest has drawn little outside money or interest, largely because neither Republican is expected to unseat Brown.

At the Punjabi American Festival, organizers were disinterested in controversy around comments Donnelly has made linking Kashkari, who is Hindu and of Indian heritage, to Islamic law. Interest in the candidates themselves was not exactly brimming over, either.

Tej Maan, a local councilman and one of the festival's organizers, pointed to U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who was waiting behind a stage. The presence of the federal lawmaker, Maan said, was "much bigger than the two governor candidates," and even that wasn't what the crowd came to see.

"Our focus is right in front of you, the youth," he said, as a group of youngsters began a traditional dance.

PHOTO: Tim Donnelly campaigns at the Punjabi American Festival in Yuba City on May 25, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 23, 2014
Pérez holds fundraising lead in California controller's contest

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The leading candidates for state controller headed into the final weeks of the June 3 primary campaign with more than $2 million on hand to try to win over voters in the down-ticket contest.

Almost all of that money was in the campaign account of former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who continued to have a huge cash advantage over his main Democratic rival, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee. Pérez, whose campaign this week began airing TV ads, reported having more than $1.8 million on hand May 17 compared to Yee's $116,000.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, had $70,198 on hand after raising more than $287,000 since March 18 following her late entry into the controller's race.

Recent polls suggest that Swearengin will easily make the November runoff, with the main battle between Yee and Pérez for the No. 2 slot.

The charts below show how much each candidate raised and spent from Jan. 1 through May 17, and their cash on hand.

PHOTO: Then-Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 22, 2014
Tim Donnelly holds about $70,000 for campaign's final stretch

donnellyscrum.jpgTim Donnelly, laboring to stay ahead of a surging Neel Kashkari in the Republican race for governor, is struggling to maintain even his shoe-string budget, reporting Thursday he had cash on hand of just more than $70,000 as of last week.

Donnelly also reported $155,667 of outstanding debt.

Kashkari, who still trails Donnelly in public opinion polls, has gained ground on the Republican frontrunner after pumping $2 million of his own money into the campaign. In his campaign finance statement Thursday, covering a period from mid-March through mid-May, Kashkari reported an ending cash balance of just more than $1.4 million.

Kashkari is also getting help from establishment Republicans concerned about the effect Donnelly, a tea party favorite, might have on the GOP if he beats Kashkari and advances to a November runoff against Gov. Jerry Brown. Republican benefactor Charles Munger Jr. and billionaire Robert Day this week donated $350,000 and $50,000, respectively, to an independent expenditure committee financing mailers supporting Kashkari and opposing Donnelly.

One mailer incudes former Gov. Pete Wilson's public rebuke of Donnelly last week and brings up his past criminal cases. Donnelly has said Kashkari's self-financing and outside assistance is a sign of desperation.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 22, 2014
VIDEO: Neel Kashkari pressed on social views, vote for Obama

kashkarifederated.jpgFRESNO - Republican Neel Kashkari has gained ground on rival Tim Donnelly in the race for governor in recent days, aided by $2 million of his own money and support from establishment Republicans.

But the GOP's most conservative crowds remain problematic for Kashkari, who is repeatedly asked to explain his moderate social views and vote for Barack Obama in 2008.

When Kashkari took the podium at a lunch in Fresno on Thursday, a Donnelly volunteer was in the audience to press the case.

"How do I handle this with my child, when someone is calling themselves a Republican?" said Gina Wallace, who teaches political science at California State University, Fresno. "How do I explain to him, it's Ok, he voted, he voted for Obama."

Kashkari said, "To me, being a Republican is about personal responsibility, and it's about fiscal responsibility, and it's about economic growth."

Donnelly, a tea party candidate who also addressed the crowd, was unimpressed with Kashkari's answer.

"I think people want to know what your record is," he said. "I think they're going to vote based on what your record is."

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari addresses a lunch hosted by the Fresno County and City Republican Women Federated in Fresno on May 22, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 21, 2014
Outside donor group comes to Neel Kashkari's aid

kashkarikfbk.jpgNeel Kashkari will get a lift from a newly formed independent expenditure committee in the final days of the gubernatorial primary campaign, with Republican benefactor Charles Munger Jr. and billionaire Robert Day financing mailers supporting Kashkari and opposing rival Tim Donnelly, according to reports filed with the state Wednesday.

A group called "Californians for Kashkari for Governor 2014" filed its statement of organization on Monday, with a $350,000 donation from Munger and $50,000 from Day, chairman of Trust Company of the West. James Hunter, vice chairman of Baron Real Estate, donated $10,000.

The group on Wednesday reported spending on mailers supporting Kashkari and opposing Donnelly.

The independent expenditure committee's formation comes as Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, tries to make up ground on Donnelly, a tea party favorite and the frontrunner among Republicans running for governor.

Kashkari has recently donated $2 million of his own money to his campaign.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 21, 2014
Schools chief candidate files ethics complaint against teacher union

Marshall_Tuck.JPGMarshall Tuck, one of two challengers in this year's race for state superintendent of public instruction, has filed an ethics complaint against the California Teachers Association for a series of television ads supporting incumbent Tom Torlakson.

The complaint filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission, California's political ethics enforcement agency, alleges that CTA misleadingly characterized the ads as "issue advocacy" rather a campaign expenditure, which involves more financial disclosure, in violation of the "transparency required by the letter and spirit of the Political Reform Act."

The trio of ads applaud Torlakson for his work as state schools chief and encourage the viewer to "tell Tom Torlakson to keep fighting" for either local control of school funding decisions or career training. (One ad is in Spanish.)

FPPC regulations specify that any political spending to influence voters for or against a particular candidate qualifies as an expenditure, but among the exceptions is spending "urging the public to adopt a particular position and to contact the candidate with respect to the matter or issue."

"Unlike true issue advocacy, no specific legislation which is currently pending before the State Legislature or the State Office of Education is mentioned," Tuck's complaint reads. The ads are "unmistakably, unambiguously suggestive of only one meaning -- to urge viewers to re-elect Torlakson"

CTA spokeswoman Becky Zoglman called the complaint "frivolous." She said CTA decided at its state council meeting in March to support several ongoing legislative efforts and that the $1.95 million ad buy, which aired for three weeks in late April and early May, was unrelated to June's primary election.

"This is a political stunt by the Tuck campaign," Zoglman said. "If this was actually a concern, why didn't they file the complaint back in April?"

Spokesman Jay Wierenga confirmed that the FPPC had received the complaint and is reviewing whether to pursue an investigation.

Within 60 days of an election, the commission can consider not just the text of the advertisement, but also its tenor and timing, to determine whether the ad "unambiguously urges a particular result" in a race.

Tuck and Torlakson are locked in a heated battle for state superintendent that has attracted big money from labor unions and the private sector. In early May, an independent expenditure supported primarily by CTA spent more than $2 million on radio ads supporting Torlakson and opposing Tuck, while Los Angeles businessman Bill Bloomfield has poured more than $700,000 into slate mailers and campaign literature in favor of Tuck.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Marshall Tuck

May 21, 2014
Neel Kashkari likens Tim Donnelly to Jerry Brown in latest ad

donnellybrown.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari is comparing GOP rival Tim Donnelly to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in a new attack ad being mailed to conservative primary voters in the gubernatorial race.

"Tim Donnelly & Jerry Brown: A crazy train of irresponsible spending," the mailer says in red letters.

Kashkari, a moderate Republican, criticizes Brown for his support of California's $68 billion high-speed rail project - a project Kashkari and Donnelly, a tea party favorite, both oppose.

The mailer goes on to call Donnelly a "wreck," saying "he didn't pay his company's taxes or his mortgage." Donnelly did have a foreclosure on an investment property he owned in South Carolina. The tax lien the mailer references was listed as being released this year.

The ad also says Donnelly "gamed the system" to get additional pay. But per-diem payments and a subsidized car are benefits available to lawmakers without any special maneuvering required.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari likens GOP rival Tim Donnelly to Gov. Jerry Brown in the most recent mail piece of the gubernatorial campaign

May 20, 2014
Grover Norquist calls John Burton's Reagan support 'childish'

Perry_Norquist.JPGAnti-tax activist Grover Norquist's plan to name 3,000 items after former President Ronald Reagan - including a mountain overlooking Las Vegas - drew a tongue-in-cheek endorsement from California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton.

Burton, a former state legislator, said in the open letter Monday that he remembers "fondly" when then-Gov. Reagan signed the largest tax increase in more than a century and approved a bill that "liberalized abortion," the Therapeutic Abortion Act.

"I think it's wonderful that you're willing to honor somebody who has such a liberal progressive record," Burton wrote to Norquist.

The president of Americans for Tax Reform wasn't amused, calling the letter "childish" and pointing to Reagan's role in ending the Cold War.

"How does he look Polish Americans in the eye and say that the legacy of Ronald Reagan was a tax increase in California or a vote on therapeutic abortions in California?" Norquist said.

In an interview with The Bee, he compared Burton's argument to "attacking Eisenhower for something he did when he was 40 and missing the Second World War."

He said Republicans were far more accepting of naming things after John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and suggested Democrats should be more open.

"It's a petty partisan jab at naming things after the greatest Californian in American history and one of the greatest presidents we've had who turned the economy around from a failure created by a House, Senate and president all from Mr. Burton's party," Norquist said.

This isn't the first time the two have sparred, with one notable exchange centering on Gov. Jerry Brown's successful push to raise taxes. Norquist said golf and cocaine would be "more constructive" ways to spend time than negotiating with Democrats.

"I have always considered golf a good walk spoiled," Burton responded. "As a recovering cocaine addict, I am surprised that anyone would think that it is at all constructive to spend one's free time using that drug."

"One would think that Mr. Norquist made this comment with a straw in his hand bending over a mirror full of white (powder)."

Norquist at the time shot back at California Democrats for their attention to him.

"Focus on cutting the spending, guys," he said.

PHOTO: Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, right, talks with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, before a panel discussion at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md. The Associated Press/Susan Walsh

May 20, 2014
Joe Krovoza laments spending, ads in Yolo-Napa Assembly district

Krovoza.JPGIn the 1992 vice presidential debate, Admiral James Stockdale famously said he felt like he was watching a ping pong match between "expert professional politicians" Al Gore and Dan Quayle.

That sentiment, albeit on a considerably reduced scale, sums up a letter from Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza denouncing the "volley of negative attack ads" against a pair of fellow Democrats running to replace termed out Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis.

"There are plenty of policy decisions about which I disagree with my opponents, but the topics of these recent attacks are baseless and dishonest," Krovoza wrote in an open letter Monday about the string of independently funded hit pieces.

One of the misleading ads criticizes Davis Councilman Dan Wolk for joining with his colleagues to hike water rates without community input. There was ample participation in the process, according to local press reports.

Meantime, an attack on Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd rips the official for signing off on board member pay raises. The boosts were reportedly mandated by county ordinance.

The slew of outside spending for and against Wolk, the son of Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Dodd, a former Republican, has made the race for the Yolo and Napa County-centered district among the most expensive in the election cycle.

Much of the independent support for Wolk (nearly $150,000 through May 14) has come from labor unions while roughly $150,000 opposing him was from a group funded by insurance companies. Unions spent more than $125,000 hitting Dodd and supporters including realtors, dentists, insurance agents and energy companies spent $200,000.

"I do see a dire need for campaign finance reform," wrote Krovoza, the odd man out in the spending spree. "But in the meantime, the best we can do as voters is to be politically engaged and not be duped by the lies coming from special interests on both sides of the political spectrum."

PHOTO: Joe Krovoza in 2010. Sacramento Bee File Photo.

May 19, 2014
Bonnie Garcia's campaign blasts GOP rival for 'oldest profession' link

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Republican Bonnie Garcia's campaign denounced a comment attributed to Jeff Stone, saying the GOP rival in Riverside County's 28th Senate District is equating her fundraising efforts to prostitution.

Stone and fellow Republican candidate Glenn Miller teamed up last week to condemn the influx of money to support Garcia in the GOP-dominated district. Among the contributors is moderate Republican benefactor Charles Munger Jr., a Stanford physicist whose Spirit of Democracy California committee has spent more than $300,000 on behalf of Garcia, a former assemblywoman from Cathedral City.

"Ronald Reagan once said: 'Politics is the second oldest profession, although it bears a close resemblance to the first,'" Stone said in the news release. Prostitution is often called the oldest profession. "We can see this now first hand in this election."

Garcia strategist Matt Rexroad said Stone's critique goes too far.

"They basically call Bonnie Garcia a whore," Rexroad told The Bee.

"This is politics at the worst, and should be denounced by any group that wants to see women elected to office at any level," he added.

Stone's campaign rejected the link.

"Those are their words, not ours," Dave Gilliard said. But he stuck by the campaign's assertions that Garcia would represent the interests of her financial supporters.

Stone and Miller charged Garcia with cozying up to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by supporting the state budget to receive an appointment to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

"She is selling out her votes – like she has done in the past – in order to fund her campaign," Gilliard said.

The rivalry between Garcia, a former lawmaker, and Stone, a county supervisor, has grown more personal as the June 3 primary nears. Each has accused the other of ethical lapses.

While there are two Democrats in race, new election rules allow the pair of Republicans to prolong the competition by advancing to the general election in November.

This isn't Munger's first foray into Riverside County politics. In late 2012, Munger largely bankrolled a Republican voter registration effort meant to help GOP candidates in the county.

PHOTO: Ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger explains tape-recorded remarks about Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia at a news conference in 2006. Schwarzenegger apologized for saying during a closed-door meeting that Cubans and Puerto Ricans are temperamental because of their combination of "black blood" and "Latino blood." Garcia said she was not offended by the governor's comments. AP/Reed Saxon

May 16, 2014
Karl Rove warns Tim Donnelly will hurt GOP candidates nationwide

karlrovesits.jpgKarl Rove, the prominent Republican strategist, said Friday that Tim Donnelly will be a liability for Republicans nationwide if the tea party favorite finishes second in the gubernatorial primary election and advances to a November runoff against Gov. Jerry Brown.

"If the California Republican Party has as the leading candidate, the leading statewide candidate on the ballot this year somebody who has said the outrageous things that he's said and prone to the outrageous behavior that he routinely engages in, it will be used to tarnish not only the California Republican Party, but they'll throw it at everybody else on the ballot, and everybody else will, across the country, disavow the guy," Rove told the conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on his show.

Rove said, "Every time he goes out and says something, and as we've seen, Mr. Donnelly is quite prone to sharing the weird recesses and corners of his mind, it could be really problematic for the GOP."

Rove's remarks come a day after former California Gov. Pete Wilson issued a similar warning, and other prominent Republicans have rebuked Donnelly, a former member of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project. Among other controversies, he pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors after carrying a loaded gun into Ontario International Airport in 2012 and tried recently to tie his opponent, Neel Kashkari, to Islamic law.

Donnelly has dismissed warnings against him as coming from elite Republicans out of touch with the party's base.

"When the GOP is talking about the threat (I pose), they're right," Donnelly told the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board on Wednesday. "I'm a threat to the country-club Republicans. I'm a danger because I might bring a little more country into the club."

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, leads Kashkari, a more moderate Republican, in public opinion polls.

PHOTO: Then White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove listens as President George W. Bush, not shown, speaks with reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington in this April 2, 2007, file photo. Associated Press Photo/ Gerald Herbert

May 16, 2014
Neel Kashkari drops another $1 million into governor's race

kashkaridam.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari has dropped another $1 million into his run for governor, his campaign said Friday, re-doubling his efforts as he tries to make up ground on GOP rival Tim Donnelly.

Kashkari has now donated $2 million to his campaign, accounting for about half of all money he has reported raising. It also represents a personally significant sum. Kashkari, who previously said he did not intend to self-finance, put his net worth at less than $5 million before the campaign began.

Despite greatly outspending Donnelly, Kashkari lags behind the Twin Peaks assemblyman in public opinion polls. Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs executive and former U.S. Treasury Department official, has recently started paid advertising, while Donnelly is unlikely to have any traditional advertising effort before the June 3 primary election.

Donnelly and Kashkari are the two main Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown, a third-term Democrat, is widely expected to finish first in the June primary election, leaving Kashkari and Donnelly to compete for second place. The top two finishers advance to a runoff election in the fall.

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at Oroville Dam on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 16, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown builds case for fourth term as governor

Gov. Jerry Brown stopped by The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board on Thursday. He touched on subjects ranging from education and water to why voters should give him another four years.

May 15, 2014
Neel Kashkari fires on Tim Donnelly in only scheduled debate

johnandkendebate.jpgANAHEIM - Republican Neel Kashkari tore into rival Tim Donnelly on Thursday, saying one reason many prominent Republicans are endorsing his candidacy for governor is because they fear Donnelly's impact on the party.

Donnelly, in the only scheduled debate of the campaign, responded by asserting his front-runner status among Republicans, and suggesting Kashkari's endorsers are out of touch.

"They don't kick a dead dog," Donnelly said. "They only attack you when you're the frontrunner."

Kashkari's remarks came after a relatively cautious initial 30 minutes of the campaign, when he was asked why Republians shouldn't vote for Donnelly. Kashkari referenced recent controversies in which Donnelly tried linking him to Islamic law, and to a vote in the state Assembly in which Donnelly opposed banning the sale of Confederate flags in state-run gift shops.

"You've managed to denigrate Latinos, African Americans, Jews, Muslims, Hindus," Kashkari said. "That's true."

The crowd erupted in jeers, with one audience member swearing at Kashkari.

The two candidates were set to debate for 90 minutes at the Ayres Hotel Anaheim, in a live broadcast of "The John and Ken Show," a conservative program on KFI AM 640 in Los Angeles.

The debate is the only one scheduled before the June 3 primary election, and the atmosphere was unusually boisterous for a gubernatorial debate. There was no ticketing. About 150 people, some of whom lined up hours in advance, filled a hotel conference room and adjoining buffet area for the debate. The hosts said they would take questions from anyone in the audience.

Neither Donnelly nor Kashkari is likely to beat Brown, a popular Democrat, and Brown has all but ignored them. The debate's hosts said Thursday that Brown did not respond to a request to join the debate, and in his place they put a skeleton with a "Jerry" name tag on the stage. The radio show hosts dressed the skeleton in a shirt and tie and one of them, John Kobylt, rubbed petroleum jelly on his head.

The race between Donnelly and Kashkari is a race for second place and a spot against Brown in the November runoff election.

Donnelly leads Kashkari by a wide margin in public opinion polls, but he lacks resources for traditional advertising. Kashkari has poured $1 million of his own money into the campaign and is airing what is likely to be a limited run of ads on TV.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is backed by many members of California's political and professional classes, and he has announced endorsements from prominent Republicans such as former California Gov. Pete Wilson and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Donnelly has enjoyed fervent support from rank-and-file conservatives, and debating at the Ayres Hotel is something of a coming home. Donnelly said he came to a "John and Ken" event at the hotel when he was first running for the state Assembly, in 2010, distributing campaign literature and trying, unsuccessfully, to get on the air.

PHOTO: Republicans Tim Donnelly, right, and Neel Kashkari wait in Anaheim to start a debate hosted by "The John and Ken Show" on KFI AM 640 on May 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 15, 2014
Jerry Brown withholds judgment of GOP rivals, ignores debate stunt

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Gov. Jerry Brown, campaigning for a historic fourth term, said he has no preference which Republican challenger emerges from the primary to face him in November.

"My eleventh rule is don't interfere with the other party's selection," Brown said in a wide-ranging interview with The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board on Thursday.

The Democratic governor spoke as his two main GOP rivals -- Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari -- were preparing for a debate hosted by KFI AM-640's "John and Ken Show."

Instead of the customary empty chair to mark Brown's absence, hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou dressed a skeleton in shirt and tie and affixed bushy eyebrows and a name tag that reads "Jerry." Brown briefly glanced at a reporter's photograph of the stand-in but declined to comment on the stunt.

"I've talked to Jon and Ken and what I found is I could be in the middle of making a very impressive point and they turn down my volume and continue to talk," he said. "As long as those are the rules, I don't think I am going to play that game."

Brown did acknowledge how different this campaign is from his last, noting that Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman had spent upward of $80 million by this time in the election four years ago.

"It's amazing how you can waste money in these campaigns," Brown said. "Cause they hire consultants, and then you don't know what the hell you're doing so you hire another consultant to advise you on the consultant you hired. And then you hire a few more. Pretty soon there you are."

Brown holds a commanding fundraising advantage and is far outpacing Donnelly and third-place candidate Kashkari. He added that there are other distinctions between the election cycles.

Said Brown: "Look, it's very different to be 76 then to be 71."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown meets with The Bee's Editorial Board for an endorsement interview Thursday. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

May 15, 2014
Pete Wilson blasts Tim Donnelly, saying he would damage GOP

Petewilson2008.jpgFormer Gov. Pete Wilson urged California Republicans on Thursday not to support Tim Donnelly, the party's frontrunner in the gubernatorial race, saying his theatrics and personal controversies would drag down other Republicans on the ballot in the fall.

"Keeping public focus on the real and important issues facing California will require a candidate who does not have to defend Tim Donnelly's bizarre votes and statements or his irresponsible personal behavior," Wilson said in a letter first published on the conservative blog FlashReport.org. "With Tim Donnelly on the ballot, it would be a losing campaign, risking injury to our party and our state, and to other Republican candidates who deserve to win."

Wilson, who has endorsed Donnelly's main Republican opponent, Neel Kashkari, is the latest prominent Republican to publicly rebuke Donnelly. Many members of the GOP's political and professional classes fear Donnelly, a tea party favorite, could damage the party's effort to attract independent voters and minorities if he finishes first among Republicans in the June 3 primary election and advances to a runoff against Gov. Jerry Brown in the fall.

Last week, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, said "Donnelly is no longer a viable option for California voters," and the Lincoln Club of Orange County this week approved a vote of no confidence in Donnelly.

Wilson said in an interview Thursday that he was disturbed by Donnelly's past criminal cases. Donnelly has blamed a larceny case in Michigan in 1985 on a drunken "prank," while the assemblyman more recently pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors after carrying a loaded gun into Ontario International Airport in 2012.

Donnelly, a former member of anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project, has also sparked controversy for his recent attempt to tie Kashkari to Islamic law.

"Most recently the thing that I found offensive, offensive notwithstanding its stupidity," Wilson said, "was attempting to, by implication, assert that Neel Kashkari is someone who has supported Shariah law."

In a meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board on Wednesday, Donnelly said elite Republicans are out of touch because "they're too busy golfing or drinking together," the newspaper reported.

"When the GOP is taking about the threat (I pose), they're right," Donnelly said, according to the newspaper. "I'm a threat to the country-club Republicans. I'm a danger because I might bring a little more country into the club."

Wilson, a former U.S. senator, assemblyman and San Diego mayor, chaired Meg Whitman's failed gubernatorial campaign in 2010. His early endorsement of Whitman in that race was significant in the GOP primary, including for his declaration she would be "tough as nails" on illegal immigration.

But Wilson has been viewed as less of a public asset to Republican candidates in general elections. Many Latino voters still have a visceral reaction to Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative, later overturned by the courts, Wilson championed to restrict public services to undocumented immigrants.

Donnelly leads Kashkari by a wide margin in public opinion polls. The two Republicans will meet Thursday night in Anaheim for their only scheduled debate ahead of the primary election. Donnelly's campaign RV was parked outside the hotel and supporters were parking in the parking lot hours ahead of the highly-anticipated head-to-head.

PHOTO: Former California Gov. Pete Wilson give a thumbs up while looking at his PDA during the start of the Republican National Convention in 2008. Brian Baer/The Sacramento Bee

May 14, 2014
Condoleezza Rice throws support behind Neel Kashkari

kashkaridam.jpgFormer U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has endorsed Neel Kashkari in California's gubernatorial race, the Kashkari campaign announced Wednesday.

The endorsement in the latest of series of high-profile endorsements for Kashkari, a moderate Republican who trails tea party favorite Tim Donnelly badly in public opinion polls. Former California Gov. Pete Wilson, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have all endorsed Kashkari.

Rice is beloved by California Republicans, many of whom have hoped for years that she would run for governor. Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, has said he would not have entered the race if she were running.

Rice spoke at the California Republican Party convention outside San Francisco in March, urging delegates "to rebuild this party, to rebuild our nation, and to rebuild our world."

Rice, a professor at Stanford University, has repeatedly said she is not interested in running for elected office.

In the endorsement release from the campaign, she said Kashkari's "focus on uniting Californians around fiscally conservative economic principles is the right message to help us grow the Republican Party in California and across the nation."

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at Oroville Dam on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 14, 2014
Campaign spending surges as unions weigh in for Torlakson, Pérez

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Independent expenditures in California statewide and legislative races have more than doubled in the past week, with reported spending by dentists, teachers and dozens of other groups exceeding $11.4 million as of Tuesday evening. The total stood at about $5.5 million a week ago.

Click here for a searchable list of independent expenditures.

Almost half of the increase reflects a $2.7 million infusion into the race for state superintendent of public instruction by the California Teachers Association. With three weeks until the June 3 primary, a CTA committee supporting incumbent Tom Torlakson reported Tuesday spending $1.36 million on radio ads to support Torlakson and $1.36 million on ads opposing his main rival, Marshall Tuck.

In other statewide contests, the largest union representing state workers, SEIU Local 1000, reported spending $50,000 on radio ads to help former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez in his race for state controller.

And in legislative contests, the primary fight in the Sacramento-area 6th Senate District exceeds $479,000 in independent spending. All of the money is either in support of Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, or opposing his Democratic rival, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento. The district is one of seven where reported independent spending tops $400,000, including almost $2.8 million in the Bay Area's 16th Assembly District.

Independent spending on Pan's behalf is coming mostly from unions — the California Faculty Association and the California State Council Of Service Employees — and a group that includes doctors, dentists and Realtors.

The charts show the contests with the most independent expenditure activity as of Tuesday evening and the main sources of the money (hover over the charts for more information).

Type the name of a candidate, committee or contest into the filter box to find all reported independent expenditures.

PHOTO: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, urges legislators to support the tax extension proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown. on March 14, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 9, 2014
Neel Kashkari drops another $500,000 into campaign

kashkaridam.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari is dropping another $500,000 into his run for governor, his campaign said Friday, as Kashkari tries to overtake GOP rival Tim Donnelly in the final weeks of the campaign.

The donation increases Kashkari's total personal contribution to the effort to $1 million. He announced the first $500,000 on Monday.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, lags behind Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman and tea party favorite, in early polls. But Donnelly lacks resources for traditional advertising.

Kashkari has raised more money than Donnelly, but less than he had once expected. His second $500,000 contribution will increase the total amount he has reported raising to about $2.9 million. The former Goldman Sachs executive has put his net worth at less than $5 million.

Donnelly and Kashkari are the two main Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown this year. Brown, a third-term Democrat, is widely expected to finish first in the June primary election, leaving Kashkari and Donnelly to compete for second place - and a spot in a runoff election against Brown in November.

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at Oroville Dam on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

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 8, 2014
Report: Rate-regulation measure would shake up Covered California

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A California ballot initiative allowing the state insurance commissioner to reject health insurance rate increases would disrupt the new health care overhaul, destabilizing negotiations between the exchange and insurance companies and inviting costly legal challenges by outside organizations, according to an analysis released Thursday.

The report, commissioned by Californians Against Higher Healthcare Costs - a group of doctors, hospitals and health plans opposing the measure - concludes it would undercut new authority afforded to Covered California. It was performed by Wakely Consulting Group's Dr. Jon Kingsdale, an expert on health care funding and the former head of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority in Massachusetts.

Kingsdale said the state exchange should be given time to work.

"One could decide three, four years into health reform that competition is not working, so let's take a different approach," said Kingsdale, an adviser to the Obama administration on the health care law. "This would be asking the voters to decide less than one year into a whole new approach. We don't even know until the end of this year what kind of rate increases we are going to see for next year. It feels like it's absolutely the wrong time."

The initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot is being advanced by Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. It seeks to provide the commissioner's office similar regulatory authority that it wields over property, casualty and automobile insurance.

Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, took issue with the figures analyzed in the report (the authors say they got them from the Department of Insurance). He said the study dramatically overstates the delays resulting from outside rate challenges.

Since 2002, the group successfully intervened in 71 non health insurance cases for a savings of $2.9 billion. But he said most the savings resulted from an "informal deterrent effect."

"We have saved huge amounts of money for (consumers) because insurers know better than to raise rates," Court said.

What's more, challenged rates remain in effect until there's a resolution - so there's reason for the insurers not intervenes, to draw out the process, he said.

He said health insurance companies that helped fund the study don't want public scrutiny of the process. The real purpose of the study is to scare the public by influencing the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office's fiscal analysis of the measure, Court said.

May 8, 2014
Donnelly apologizes for tweet, tangles with Kashkari adviser on air

donnellyscrum.jpgRepublican Tim Donnelly, defending his campaign's social media posts linking rival Neel Kashkari to Islamic law, was on a conservative talk radio show Wednesday when a Kashkari adviser called into the station to protest, resulting in more than 10 minutes of unusual, head-to-head bickering and an apology by Donnelly for a tweet he acknowledged was inaccurate.

The exchange came after Donnelly's gubernatorial campaign this week included on its Facebook page a link to a program for an "Islamic Finance 101" seminar at the U.S. Treasury Department in 2008, when Kashkari was a senior Treasury official. Kashkari was listed as providing opening remarks for the seminar, the purpose of which was described as helping 'inform the policy community about Islamic financial services, which are an increasingly important part of the global financial industry."

Accompanying the link was the comment, "Given the recent stories and protests around the outrage of the discriminatory nature of Sharia law, we're horrified that Kashkari would support Sharia anything."

Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, said on KSCO AM 1080 in Santa Cruz that he "just allowed a post to go up" on Facebook referring to a 2008 commentary in The Washington Times. He said, "I didn't say that Mr. Kashkari is somehow, you know, a supporter of Sharia law, but he certainly was the host of this seminar, and on it was Sharia compliance."

Donnelly was confronted on air by Aaron McLear, a political adviser to Kashkari.

"It sounds like the assemblyman is once again a bit confused about the truth, and so I thought it'd be helpful to educate him on exactly what's going on," McLear said. "Neel Kashkari, first of all, is a Hindu, not a Muslim, as Mr. Donnelly is trying to insinuate."

Donnelly said he "never insinuated anything," and he shot back at the Kashkari campaign for posting a website attacking Donnelly on a variety of issues.

"Hey, Aaron, you guys put up a website trying to educate people about me, and it's completely fabricated and full of nonsense," Donnelly said.

The two men argued over each other briefly, after which the host said, "OK, one at a time, guys."

McLear said of Donnelly, "He tweeted, he tweeted, he directly accused Neel Kashkari of submitting to Sharia law. That's a big accusation. What actually happened was Neel was teaching Islamic bankers how to promote free market principles in Islamic societies under Sharia law, so it was actually the exact opposite."

McLear asked Donnelly if someone had hijacked his Twitter account, and he said, "These are big accusations. You need to back it up, Tim. If you can't prove it, you shouldn't say it."

McLear and Donnelly tangled until the radio station went to a break. When the show came back on, with McLear off the air, Donnelly said he had reviewed the tweet McLear complained about and agreed it was inaccurate.

"You know what? Aaron's right. We did re-tweet something that wasn't 100 percent accurate," Donnelly said. "We owe Mr. Kashkari an apology for that."

However, Donnelly said, "What is disappointing is that (Kashkari) sent his hired hand to call in, instead of calling in himself."

Donnelly said the purpose of the Treasury conference was to educate people in government about Islamic finance, "So what exactly was the Sharia compliance portion of it? It doesn't sound like promoting free market principles."

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 7, 2014
California races surpass $5.5 million in independent spending

ha_schnur7656.JPGThe San Francisco Bay Area's 16th Assembly District remained the leader in independent campaign expenditures reported through Tuesday, but a trio of Democrats in Sacramento-area legislative races are drawing independent support from business groups.

Unions, charter schools, and others have poured more than $5.5 million into legislative and statewide contests, according to state filings through Tuesday evening. Almost a fifth of that has come from businessman and 2012 congressional candidate William E. Bloomfield, Jr., who has spent almost $1.1 million, including six-figure expenditures in recent days to help elect state schools superintendent candidate Marshall Tuck ($376,200), secretary of state candidate Dan Schnur ($243,931), who has no party preference, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari ($141,867.)

See a searchable list of all independent expenditures below.

An independent expenditure committee linked to business-friendly Democrats in the Legislature — Californians For Jobs And A Strong Economy — so far has spent $119,000 supporting a trio of Democrats in contested Sacramento-area races: Steve Cohn in the 7th Assembly District ($44,732), Jim Cooper in the 9th Assembly District ($68,932), and Richard Pan in the 6th Senate District ($5,910.)

In the 16th, unions have spent $865,000 to support Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a teacher, or oppose his main rival, fellow Democrat Steve Glazer, the Orinda vice mayor who advised Gov. Jerry Brown's 2010 campaign.. Real-estate interests and other groups have spent about $1 million spent to support Glazer or oppose Sbranti, according to state filings.

The charts show the contests with the most independent expenditure activity as of Tuesday evening and the main sources of the money (hover over the charts for more information). At the bottom, there's a searchable list of all independent expenditures in legislative and statewide races.

PHOTO: Secretary of State candidate Dan Schnur in September 2010, when he was chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

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

May 5, 2014
Neel Kashkari pumps $500,000 into campaign, releases TV ad

kashkarikfbk.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari, lagging behind GOP rival Tim Donnelly in the race for governor, released his first TV ad Monday and announced he has donated $500,000 to his own campaign.

The ad and the contribution come as Kashkari tries to make up ground on Donnelly in the final month of the campaign. Donnelly, a tea party favorite and assemblyman from Twin Peaks, leads Kashkari by a wide margin in early polls, but he lacks resources for traditional advertising.

Kashkari's fundraising, while more robust than Donnelly's, fell off after a fast start. His $500,000 contribution will increase the total amount he has reported raising to about $2.3 million. Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. Treasury Department official, has put his net worth at less than $5 million.

Kashkari's campaign said the ad released Monday will air statewide on cable and broadcast television, but it declined to disclose the size of the ad buy or say in what markets it will play.

The 30-second ad features Kashkari chopping wood and a toy train engine, a reference to his opposition to California's $68 billion high-speed rail project.

"As governor I'll cut taxes, move people from welfare to work and take an ax to wasteful spending," he says in the ad. "First up? Jerry Brown's crazy train."

Brown, a third-term Democrat, is widely expected to finish first in the June primary election. The race between Kashkari and Donnelly is for second place, to advance to a runoff against Brown in the fall.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 2, 2014
Jerry Brown defends state's business climate as Toyota packs up

brownoaklandport.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, addressing Toyota's plan to close its Torrance headquarters, said Friday it does not appear the state could have done anything to keep the car company in California.

The Democratic governor, speaking to reporters outside a Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce event in Los Angeles, cited a Los Angeles Times story in which Toyota attributed the planned move to Texas not to dissatisfaction with California's regulatory climate, but with a plan for corporate consolidation.

Asked if the state could have done anything to keep the company in Torrance, Brown said, "Based on what they say, it doesn't appear to be. But, in response to your question, I would just incorporate by reference what the Los Angeles Times has said in their very detailed editorial and in their front page story. I think it was reasonably accurate," according to a transcript provided by the governor's office.

Brown, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth term as governor, has been criticized by his Republican opponents, Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, for what they say are burdensome regulations for companies in California.

Brown defended California's business environment, citing venture capital and foreign investment in the state.

"There's a fellow named Schumpeter who talked about the creative destruction of capitalism," he said, referencing the economist Joseph Schumpeter. "And, I put the emphasis on creative, and, change is inevitable. We're getting 60 percent of the venture capital, we're the number one place for direct foreign investment in the United States. Do we have everything in all respects? No. But we have an abundance that constitutes a two trillion dollar economy."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an event in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2013. Associated Press/Marcio Jose Sanchez

May 1, 2014
Mailer describes Neel Kashkari as conservative outsider

kashkarimailer.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari, seeking to appeal to the GOP's conservative base five weeks before the June 3 primary election, has cast himself as a conservative and a "political outsider" in the first mail piece of his gubernatorial campaign.

The mailer, sent Wednesday, features photographs of Kashkari, a social moderate, with an ax near the mountain home he keeps in Truckee. On the log he is chopping is a toy train, a symbol of Kashkari's opposition to the state's $68 billion high-speed rail project.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official who managed the federal government's $700 billion bank bailout, is running far behind tea party favorite Tim Donnelly in early polls, but he has a fundraising advantage that will afford him a limited advertising run ahead of the election. Statewide elections in California are typically dominated by television ads, but mail may be significant in a race between Kashkari and Donnelly, two relatively underfunded Republicans.

Neither candidate is expected to unseat Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, but whoever finishes first in June will advance to a Nov. 4 runoff against the governor.

Kashkari supports a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants and same-sex marriage and abortion rights, and he has been criticized by conservative Republicans for his vote for Barack Obama in 2008. Kashkari has said he voted for Obama because he was receiving better financial advice than the Republican nominee, John McCain. He said he became disappointed in Obama and supported Mitt Romney in 2012.

Kashkari's mailer introduces the candidate as "Conservative Republican Neel Kashkari," and it says he will "end the waste and get spending under control" in government.

"He'll get able-bodied people off welfare, food stamps, and unemployment and into the workforce," the mailer says. "He'll work to create jobs and attract new companies to California to get families back to work."

The mailer was being sent statewide to high-propensity Republican voters. Kashkari's campaign declined to say how many households would receive the piece, or how much it cost.

Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, bristled in an email at Kashkari's description of himself as conservative.

"I didn't get the memo that the Webster's dictionary people changed the definition of 'conservative' to mean, voting for Obama, pro choice, and pro Wall Street bailouts?" he asked.

PHOTO: Image from mail piece distributed by Neel Kashkari's gubernatorial campaign on April 30, 2014.

May 1, 2014
Independent expenditures approaching $3 million in California races

Glazer.JPGUnions, real-estate agents, dentists and other special interests already have spent close to $3 million on independent efforts in legislative and statewide contests, with more than a month to go until the June 3 primary.

The 16th Assembly District in the San Francisco East Bay has had more than $1.3 million in independent expenditures, more than five times as much as any other contest.

An independent expenditure committee funded by the California Teachers Association and California Council of Service Employees has spent more than $326,000 backing Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti and $64,000 opposing Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer.

But the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee has spent more than $797,000 supporting Glazer, who also has received independent support from California charter schools ($108,716) and the Chamber of Commerce's JobsPAC ($48,042).

The race with the next-highest IE activity is Southern California's 26th Senate District. Santa Monica school board member Ben Allen, a Democrat, has received almost $199,000 in support from William E. Bloomfield, Jr., the chairman of Baron Real Estate. Doctor-backed committees have spent $65,000 to support Dr. Vito Imbasciani, a Democrat.

Here is a list of all expenditures, with the most recent at the top:

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 30, 2014
Jerry Brown won't answer multiple choice voter guide questions

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown's high public approval rating and relatively safe re-election prospects have allowed the Democratic governor to run the barest of races, with no pressure to pay for advertising, to put on public events, or to otherwise take on the grind of a traditional campaign.

But the dearth of competition is also affording Brown another luxury -- not pinning himself down on issues typically aired in an election year.

The third-term governor has refused to complete a survey of gubernatorial candidates filled out by every other candidate in the race except one. Brown's campaign told The Bee -- which created the survey for its voter guide -- that he would explain his position on various issues, but not fill out multiple choice questions.

So Brown will not mark a box saying whether high-speed rail, which he supports, is very important or only somewhat important to him. Nor will he say if the state needs to spend more money on reservoirs, dams and other water storage facilities, or if California's current level of taxation is more or less than it should be.

"Some subjects require more explanation (than) checking boxes," a spokesman, Dan Newman, said, calling the exercise "simplistic and reductive."

Thirteen other candidates for governor, including Brown's main Republican opponents, submitted the form. Besides Brown, only Akinyemi O. Agbede, a little-known Democrat, have failed to do so.

Republican Tim Donnelly, whose campaign filled in all but one question about social services, criticized Brown in a prepared statement for refusing to "answer questions on the issues for the people who elected him," while Republican Neel Kashkari's campaign said Kashkari has "demonstrated his commitment to transparency."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 29, 2014
Conservative radio hosts say Kashkari, Donnelly will debate

donnellyscrum.jpgIt appeared unlikely as little as a month ago that Republican rivals Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari would debate before the June primary election.

But conservative talk radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou said Tuesday that they will.

Kobylt and Chiampou, of KFI-AM's "John and Ken" show in Los Angeles, said they will host Kashkari and Donnelly at a gubernatorial debate in Anaheim on May 15. Kashkari confirmed he will attend, while Donnelly's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The debate comes after Donnelly, a tea party favorite, challenged Kashkari to an "old-fashioned debate" at a California Republican Party convention in March, but the invitation was dismissed by Kashkari and party leaders.

When Kashkari was asked on the air Tuesday if he was coming to KFI-AM's debate, he said he was "looking forward to it" and that "it'll be a lot of fun." The former U.S. Treasury Department official lags behind Donnelly, a tea party favorite, in public opinion polls.

The primary election is a top-two race, and the radio hosts said Gov. Jerry Brown, the Democratic incumbent, has been invited to attend. The incumbent Democrat is widely expected to finish far ahead of all Republicans in the race.

"Jerry Brown is invited," one of the hosts said. "He can come, and we'll bring ointments to rub on his head."

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

April 29, 2014
VIDEO: Republican candidates at odds on film tax credits

kashkarikfbk.jpgTo all the things Republican gubernatorial candidates Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari disagree about, add film tax credits, a major issue to Southern California's movie industry.

Asked Tuesday about proposals to give more tax credits to production companies, Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, said he prefers tax and economic policies that are not industry specific.

"I don't like the idea of Hollywood leaving California, but I know that other states are subsidizing movies now, up to 30 percent of the cost of a movie, which is silly economic policy," Kashkari told The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board.

Kashkari said he would focus on improving the state's overall economy and that, "If other states or other countries are going to do silly things, then let them do silly things."

Donnelly, an Assemblyman from Twin Peaks, is a proponent of film tax credits, saying he is concerned about industry jobs leaving California.

"This is really an iconic battle," Donnelly said. "This is a battle for what California stands for."

He joked about another, more personal reason he's like to keep movie production in the Golden State.

"Let's say there's some small, tiny chance that I don't win the governorship," he said. "As I've told my wife ... I'm either going to have a new job or I'm going to be looking for one, right? Those are my two choices. Well, given all the travel I've done to the 58 counties -- and I've taken just in the last couple of months 5,000 photos on my iPhone -- I could be one of those guys who helps you find a set for a movie, which I've always been fascinated by."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

VIDEO: Republican Tim Donnelly discuses film tax credits with The Bee's editorial board on April 29, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Amy Chance

April 29, 2014
Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount pulls out of governor's race

blount.pngLaguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount pulled out of the governor's race Tuesday, citing health issues, according to a post on his Facebook page.

Blount, a little-known software developer, was nevertheless running second among Republicans with 3 percent support, far behind tea party favorite Tim Donnelly but one percentage point ahead of the best-funded Republican in the race, Neel Kashkari, according to the most recent Field Poll.

Blount said on Facebook that he has been "battling some health issues that have taken an unfortunate toll on me."

"While the long term prognosis is good, I have to concentrate on them in order to be here for my family," Blount wrote. "Due to this, I've been unable to put together the campaign that California deserves and in the event that I was to win the primary, I would be unable to put forth the energy necessary to continue the race."

Blount said he will continue on as mayor of his Orange County city. The candidate reported raising no money for his gubernatorial bid, and he said on Facebook, "I have no donations to refund, as I accepted none."

PHOTO: From Andrew Blount's website for his 2012 campaign for city council in Laguna Hills. Photo by Michelle Blount

April 28, 2014
Tim Donnelly pushes for concealed carry bill

donnellyccw.jpgRepublican Tim Donnelly, who has made gun rights a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign, is pushing for legislation in the Assembly that would expand gun owners' access to concealed carry permits.

His bill, which he promoted at the Capitol on Monday, follows a federal court ruling in February that found the state's requirements for concealed weapons permits too restrictive.

Current state law requires applicants to show "good cause" and gives discretion over the permit process to local law enforcement officials. Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, said that process is "arbitrary and capricious," favoring gun owners who are well connected.

Donnelly said his legislation, which would require the state Department of Justice to issue a concealed handgun permit to gun owners who pass a background check, "would make the promise of our Second Amendment a reality for every Californian."

"A right's not a right if you can't exercise it," Donnelly told reporters at the Capitol.

Donnelly's legislation, Assembly Bill 1563, is unlikely to gain support in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, but it may further bolster his credentials with conservative activists.

Donnelly, the Legislature's most outspoken gun rights advocate, pleaded no contest in 2012 to two misdemeanor charges related to the discovery of a firearm in his carry-on bag at Ontario International Airport. Donnelly has said he forgot he had the gun.

Donnelly said Monday that he has had no personal experience with the concealed carry permit process in California, but that "maybe I would be one of the first people to apply for it under my new law."

Donnelly spoke to reporters ahead of a hearing by the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the legal status of the state's concealed carry restrictions remains uncertain.

While a three-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state's requirement that applicants for concealed-weapon permits show "good cause," Attorney General Kamala Harris has asked the full court to review the ruling.

Nick Wilcox, with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said Monday that Donnelly's bill would inappropriately remove discretion from law enforcement officials about whether to issue concealed-weapon permits. He described the bill as a "political thing for Donnelly" and said it "has no hope of getting out of committee."

PHOTO: Republican Tim Donnelly speaks to reporters at the Capitol on April 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

April 28, 2014
Mitt Romney, Pete Wilson endorse Neel Kashkari for governor

kashkaridam.jpgFormer California Gov. Pete Wilson and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, have endorsed Neel Kashkari in California's gubernatorial race, the Kashkari campaign announced Monday.

The endorsements come with Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, lagging in public opinion polls.

"Neel is the right candidate with the right message to challenge Gov. Brown, support Republican candidates up and down the ticket, and help us grow the Party in the long term," Wilson said in a prepared statement.

Gov. Jerry Brown, a popular Democrat, is widely expected to finish first in the June primary election, and Tim Donnelly, a tea party favorite, leads all Republicans in the race to finish second and advance to a runoff against Brown in the fall.

Kashkari, a moderate, hinted at a public appearance on Sunday that Romney's endorsement was coming. He also said former President George W. Bush "has been very helpful and made calls and opened doors."

While Kashkari has gained support from the Republican Party's political and consultant classes, he has struggled with the party's more conservative base. At a candidate forum in Anaheim on Sunday, the one question he was asked was if it was true he voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

Kashkari said he voted for Obama because he was getting better economic advice than the Republican nominee, John McCain.

"Yes, it is true," Kashkari said. "But I was definitely disappointed in President Obama and what he has done as president, and that's why I strongly supported Mitt Romney for president in 2012, and Mitt Romney is giving us a lot of help, too."

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at Oroville Dam on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

April 27, 2014
Tim Donnelly says lead in polls is proof of 'something in the air'

donnellyanaheim.jpgANAHEIM - Tim Donnelly said Sunday that his frontrunner status among Republicans running for governor is evidence "people want a fighter," and he blamed the media for what he said is negative coverage of controversies that have riddled his campaign.

"If you read the headlines in the papers today you'd think I'm some kind of terrible person, but when you read the actual stories you go, oh, he had a paperwork deadline. Oh, Ok, oh, that was already paid off ... I mean, come on," Donnelly told reporters at a California Federation of Republican Women candidate forum here.

Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, appeared to be referring to a Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into what it said were missing campaign finance statements for a political action committee Donnelly formed in 2012, as well as a tax lien the state filed last year against Donnelly's former business, Donnelly Plastic Equipment Inc.

Donnelly's campaign has said it re-sent documents related to the political action committee, and the $2,829 lien against Donnelly's former business was listed as being released last month.

Most recently, Tom Scott, a supporter of rival Neel Kashkari, filed a complaint with the FPPC accusing Donnelly of failing to report expenses related to the use of an RV for the campaign in February. Donnelly said an amended campaign finance statement "was already in the process and will be public soon."

No Republican is likely to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, a popular Democrat, in this heavily Democratic state. But Donnelly leads Kashkari and Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount in the race to finish second in June and advance to a November runoff against the governor.

Donnelly, a tea party favorite, said his status as a frontrunner is "scary" and "fantastic."

"It's humorous to me: I'm a guy that was running a business out of the back of my garage, you know, five years ago, and so here I am being attacked relentlessly in the newspapers and yet I'm the frontrunner," he said. "Obviously there's something in the air that people want a fighter. They want somebody who will go and pick the right fight and take a stand."

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, told a supporter Sunday that his campaign is "about to make the jump to light speed," with mailers and other voter outreach in the "final stretch between now and the primary."

PHOTO: Republican Tim Donnelly speaks with reporters outside a candidate forum in Anaheim on April 27, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

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 25, 2014
Leland Yee promises to fight corruption in ballot statement

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Arriving soon in the mailboxes of about 10.6 million California voter households: a pledge from suspended state Sen. Leland Yee to fight corruption.

Yee, indicted earlier this month on corruption and conspiracy charges, paid for a 251-word (at $25-a-word) statement touting his secretary of state candidacy in the voter information guides that began going out Thursday for the June 3 primary..

Yee withdrew from the race shortly after his March 26 arrest — after he had already qualified for the ballot. The San Francisco Democrat's name will be among voters' eight choices for the state's top elections post.

In his candidate statement, Yee plugs his legislation that legalized online voter registration and includes a link to a still-active Yee website, itsyourcalifornia.org, allowing people to register. He also notes that he possesses a "common sense law enforcement record."

"Under the Constitution, the Secretary of State's job is to empower Californians to govern California, to guarantee fair elections, expose special interests, and prevent corruption," Yee concludes. "I am the Democrat who will represent everyone. I hope to be your Secretary of State."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5 p.m. April 25 to include the number of voter information guides that will be mailed out by the secretary of state's office.

PHOTO: The home page of itsyourcalifornia.org, a website mentioned in suspended state Sen. Leland Yee's ballot statement for secretary of state.

April 23, 2014
VIDEO: California secretary of state candidates promise break from Bowen

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Would-be successors to Secretary of State Debra Bowen made their cases Wednesday that they would inject new energy into an office they said has become technologically inept and disengaged.

"A lot of people either see this job as a stepping stone or couch. And I think what we've been living through for the last eight years has been an administration that has seen this as a couch," Republican Pete Peterson said of Bowen, who took office in 2006, at Wednesday's debate hosted by the Sacramento Press Club.

State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, credited Bowen with preventing major ballot snafus akin to the Florida debacle in the 2000 election. "But can we, and should we, do much better? Absolutely," Padilla said after the panel. "You have to have the vision."

Peterson and Padilla were among four of the eight candidates for the top elections job at Wednesday's forum that also included Democrats Derek Cressman, a former official with California Common Cause; and independent Dan Schnur, an educator and former Republican strategist.

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 21, 2014
Antonio Villaraigosa endorses Torlakson rival in state supe race

Antonio_Villaraigosa.JPGIn an unusual move, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has broken with the California Democratic Party to endorse a rival over incumbent Tom Torlakson in the race for state superintendent of public instruction.

Villaraigosa, a former Assembly speaker with a possible eye on a future governor's race, announced his support for former charter schools executive Marshall Tuck last Thursday, calling him the "only candidate with the experience needed to bring major change to California schools."

"Marshall will bring real strategies, not politics, to Sacramento," Villaraigosa said in a statement.

The endorsement is not entirely unexpected: In 2006, Villaraigosa selected Tuck to lead a non-profit organization that assumed control of 17 failing public schools in Los Angeles Unified School District.

But the move puts Villaraigosa at odds with his party, which endorsed Torlakson at its convention in March. Torlakson has also received endorsements from prominent California Democrats including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, as well the state's two biggest teacher's unions.

And Villaraigosa also has a prior relationship with Torlakson: They served together in the Assembly from 1996 to 2000, where Torlakson joined Democrats to elect Villaraigosa as Speaker in 1998.

"Given that the former mayor had previously hired Mr. Tuck, his endorsement comes as no surprise," Torlakson spokesman Paul Hefner wrote in an e-mail. "It certainly is not likely to carry the weight with voters the support Superintendent Torlakson enjoys among teachers, school employees and dozens of county and local school superintendents."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:39 p.m. to add a comment from Torlakson's office.

PHOTO: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at a Sacramento Press Club lunch on August 15, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 21, 2014
GOP ties California Democrats to Keystone XL pipeline delays

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The Republican Party sent an email blast Monday blaming California Democrats for delaying a controversial pipeline that even supporters acknowledge would bring little economic benefit to the state.

The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee sent the letter in response to President Barack Obama's decision Friday to extend the review period for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil from western Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Obama is under pressure from environmentalists to nix the project, but many of his fellow Democrats are feeling the heat from Republicans eager to turn it into an election issue.

The GOP accused Democrats in competitive House races, including Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove, John Garamendi of Walnut Grove and Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, of standing with their "far-left liberal donors" rather than supporting the pipeline.

One of those donors is San Francisco billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who opposes the pipeline and has funded efforts to defeat any candidate who supports it - even Democrats.

Steyer hosted a fundraiser with Obama for Democrats earlier this month and has pledged $100 million to back candidates who favor renewable energy over fossil fuels.

NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said Steyer "is one of many extreme donors" filling the campaign coffers of Democrats.

But it's not clear that the issue will resonate in California. Keystone XL wouldn't come within half a continent of California, nor would it supply the state's petroleum needs.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association and one of the pipeline's strongest supporters, wrote in 2012 that it wouldn't deliver direct economic benefits to California and other western states.

California will get a significant amount of oil by rail in the coming years, however. The state energy commission projects that trains could supply as much as a quarter of the state's oil needs within two years.

Tyrone Gayle, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, called the NRCC letter "another desperate attempt by national Republicans to distract Californians."

PHOTO: Rep. John Garamendi discusses legislation he and Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa, left, are proposing to study the cost of building a reservoir in the Sites Valley. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli.

April 21, 2014
Health insurance rate regulation foes flex fundraising muscle

Court-thumb-280x419-87671.jpgGood Friday was a good day for opponents of a ballot initiative to regulate health insurance prices.

The coalition of doctors, hospitals and insurance companies last week reported collecting nearly $24 million from Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. Half of the money was listed as loans to the campaign.

The contributions follow more than $13 million in donations from WellPoint and Anthem Blue Cross last year. Opponents of the effort argue it will drive up the cost of care in California.

"The sponsors drafted a flawed, deceptive measure with language buried in the fine print that will line their pockets at the expense of consumers, who will face higher health care costs," said Robin Swanson, a spokeswoman for Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs. "Our coalition of doctors, hospitals, health plans and employers will have the necessary resources to inform voters across the state about these flaws and the real reason the special interests behind this measure spent millions to put in on the ballot."

Other opposing donors include Health Net and the California Association of Health Plans.

Advanced by Consumer Watchdog, the November ballot measure would allow the state's elected insurance commissioner to deny health premium increases they deem excessive. California regulators based on a previous statewide initiative already have the power to deny automobile, property and casualty insurance rate increases.

Jamie Court, the initiative proponent and president of Consumer Watchdog, said the group is betting voters will see through the money. A campaign statement coming due will show the group has about $150,000 on hand to spend from its three commitees, he said.

"I don't think any amount of money can deny they are unjustifiably raising rates," Court said. "The fact that they are spending so much will signal to Californians just how important and significant this inititive is."

PHOTO: Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. Photo by Kent A McInnis Jr.

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 18, 2014
FPPC investigating disclosure compliance by Tim Donnelly's PAC

donnellygunstore.jpgThe state agency overseeing campaign finance rules in California says Republican Tim Donnelly has failed for more than a year to file campaign finance statements for a political action committee he formed in 2012.

The Fair Political Practices Commission said Friday it has opened an investigation into the California Patriots PAC, a small fund whose stated purpose is to "support conservative candidates for public office throughout the state of California."

The investigation follows an inquiry letter the FPPC sent Donnelly, a gubernatorial candidate and Twin Peaks assemblyman, late last month. The letter, provided to The Bee in response to a California Public Records Act request, said the committee failed to file required campaign statements since October 2012.

At the time the FPPC wrote Donnelly, Donnelly's campaign said it had filed the statements and did not know why they did not appear on the Secretary of State's website, while the Secretary of State's office said it had not received the filings.

Donnelly's campaign said Friday that copies of the documents were re-sent Thursday. It provided copies of the filings to The Bee, which showed $18,470 in committee expenditures in 2012, including $8,783 for a mailer opposing West Covina Democrat Roger Hernandez's successful state Assembly campaign. The committee had $411 in cash on hand at the end of 2014.

In documents filed by recipients of the committee's money, the California Patriots PAC appears to have spent little since its formation, giving $3,947 to three unsuccessful Republican candidates for Assembly in 2012. The contributions reported by candidates include a non-monetary contribution of a banner worth $2,447 to Donna Lowe, who lost to Chris Holden, D-Pasadena. The committee gave $1,000 to Craig Huey's race in Los Angeles County, and $500 to JD Bennett's campaign in the Central Valley.

Gary Winuk, the FPPC's chief of enforcement, said a failure to file campaign statements runs counter to "the whole point of disclosure."

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly visits the Outdoor Sportsman store in Stockton on Feb. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

April 16, 2014
Tim Donnelly fires legislative chief of staff

donnellyscrum.jpgOne month after splitting with his campaign manager in his run for governor, Republican Tim Donnelly has fired Alex Vassar, his legislative chief of staff, sources said.

The reason was unclear. Donnelly, a state assemblyman from Twin Peaks, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Vassar, who went to work for Donnelly last year, declined to comment.

Donnelly, the Legislature's most outspoken gun rights and anti-illegal immigration advocate, leads all Republicans in recent polls in an uphill effort to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown.

Donnelly's former campaign manager, Jennifer Kerns, announced last month that she had quit his gubernatorial campaign, while Donnelly called her departure a "mutual" decision.

In an email Wednesday, Kerns said Vassar's firing "represents a continuation of poor judgment" by Donnelly.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

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.

April 9, 2014
Lagging in polls, Neel Kashkari says paid advertising will push him ahead

kashkarisanjose.jpgSAN JOSE - Lagging in the governor's race with only 2 percent support, according to a new Field Poll, Republican Neel Kashkari said Wednesday that he can make up ground on GOP rival Tim Donnelly with paid advertising closer to the June primary election.

"We have a very specific plan that we've had now for two months, that as we get closer to the date when absentee ballots drop, that's when we're going to start our mail programs and whatnot," Kashkari told reporters after speaking at a luncheon hosted by The Rotary Club of San Jose. "And so we feel like, you know, we're where we expected to be."

Kashkari said he plans to run television ads "in a targeted way," though he said those ads will not run statewide. Asked if he would advertise on network or cable TV, he said, "I'll reserve judgment on that."

Kashkari's remarks come the same day a Field Poll put him at third among Republicans running for governor, far behind Donnelly, who polled at 17 percent among likely voters, and 1 percentage point behind Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount.

The Republicans all remain far behind Gov. Jerry Brown, whose high public approval rating and massive fundraising advantage make him the favorite in the race.

Kashkari, who has largely been dismissive of Donnelly in public appearances, said Wednesday that the June primary will be a "hard fight."

"Winning as a Republican in California is going to be very hard, not impossible," he said. "There are too many examples around the country of very powerful incumbents losing. I have to get through a primary ... which itself is, you know, a hard fight to have."

Kashkari is by far the best-funded Republican in the race, reporting last month that he had more than $900,000 on hand. Donnelly held less than $11,000.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, said "the most important numbers" in the Field Poll are the percentage of people who don't know who the Republican candidates are. Fifty percent of likely voters still have no opinion of Donnelly and 64 percent have no opinion of Kashkari, according to the poll.

"To me, I think that it's still a wide open field, and it's going to come down to who has the resources to reach voters," he said, "and I believe that we're going to have a substantial resource advantage."

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari talks to reporters at an event in San Jose on April 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

April 8, 2014
Tim Donnelly wants to abolish CPS, start over from 'ground up'

donnellygunstore.jpgRepublican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly said Tuesday that he would abolish the state's Child Protective Services system and start over "from the ground up," saying social workers often remove children from their homes without sufficient reason.

"If I were in charge of the entire state, I can tell you right now I would abolish CPS," he said at a news conference at the Capitol, "because CPS has become the greatest threat to the very kids it was designed to protect."

Donnelly, a state assemblyman from Twin Peaks, called the news conference to promote legislation that would require social workers to conduct video or audio recordings of their interactions with children and parents when investigating child abuse. He said recordings would protect both families and social workers in disputes.

Assembly Bill 1828 is opposed by the California Welfare Directors Association, which said that "time is of the essence" in child abuse investigations and that "it is imperative that our CPS social workers be able to conduct interviews with children and their parents with unfettered access," according to a letter included in a legislative analysis.

Donnelly's remarks came on the same day the state auditor released a report criticizing the child welfare services agencies of Butte, Orange and San Francisco counties. In her report, state Auditor Elaine Howle said the agencies' social workers frequently failed to prepare standard safety and risk assessment s in a timely manner and that they often included inaccurate information. The audit also faulted the agencies for inconsistent follow-up on cases.

Donnelly said the CPS system meddles too often in cases where intervention isn't warranted, while devoting too little time to serious matters.

"They are literally becoming the dust bunny and dirty dish police," he said.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly visits the Outdoor Sportsman store in Stockton on Feb. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

April 1, 2014
Taxpayer-financed California campaigns bad idea, Schnur says

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Suggestions that California adopt public campaign financing in response to a spate of Capitol corruption scandals are "the last refuge" of politicians who want to keep a corrupt status quo, secretary of state candidate Dan Schnur said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in Sacramento, Schnur, a former Republican who has no party preference, said his proposed ban on political fundraising while the Legislature is in session is the best way to clean up a "Capitol culture of corruption."

"I don't care if you're the most meticulous record-keeper in the world. If you receive a really large campaign contribution six months before a key vote, it simply cannot have the same visceral emotional impact as if you receive that same check the night before a key vote or the morning of," said Schnur, who said he would be the state's "reformer in chief" if elected.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, floated the idea of public campaign financing during his floor speech Friday on a resolution to suspend Democratic senators Ron Calderon, Rod Wright and Leland Yee — one of Schnur's secretary of state rivals until shortly after his arrest on corruption and gun-running charges last week.

Schnur acknowledged that some people sincerely support public campaign financing. But Schnur said public financing of California campaigns would never happen. Voters, he added, would not want to divert money from police, libraries and other governmental services, he said.

"Public financing? That's the last refuge...of a legislator that just doesn't want to see any change happen at all," Schnur said.

Speaking to reporters later, Steinberg and state Sen. Kevin Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, accused Schnur of fundraising hypocrisy. Schnur's campaign has raised more than $313,000, with the average check exceeding $1,500.

"If you live in glass houses, you should be careful not to throw stones," de León said.

Other candidates for secretary of state are Democrats, state Sen. Alex Padilla, Derek Cressman, and Jeffrey H. Drobman; Republicans Pete Peterson and Roy Allmond; and David Curtis, a member of the Green Party.

Editor's note: This post was updated April 1 at 5:43 p.m. to include response from Steinberg and de León.

Secretary of state candidate Dan Schnur, who has no party preference, speaks to reporters in Sacramento on Tuesday. The Sacramento Bee/Jim Miller

March 31, 2014
Neel Kashkari likens Jerry Brown to Gargamel, says he has to be 'tallest Smurf'

kashkaridam.jpgNeel Kashkari has tried to manage fundraising expectations around his run for governor by suggesting that, in a primary contest between two underfunded Republicans, he only needs to be the "strongest weakling" to succeed.

On the East Coast meeting with potential donors and media outlets, Kashkari on Monday offered a more vivid variation on that theme.

"Well, step one is to get through the primary," the former U.S. Treasury Department official said when asked about campaign money on CNBC's Squawk Box. "And I like to joke that I need to be the tallest Smurf to get through the primary. And then the tallest Smurf gets to go take on Gargamel in the November general election. So getting through the primary, we probably need to raise a few million dollars more."

Kashkari's remarks come after filings last week showed his fundraising effort tapering off after a fast start. He has more than $900,000 in cash on hand, far more than Republican rival Tim Donnelly, who has less than $11,000, but a fraction of the nearly $20 million Brown holds.

The "Smurf" reference appeared to work for Squawk Box.

"Tallest Smurf" one of Kashkari's hosts repeated later in the interview. "No one can get mad at that, because they're not real, are they?"

Said Kashkari: "Well, there may be little blue people somewhere."

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at Oroville Dam on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

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
Poll: Tim Donnelly leads all Republicans in race for governor

donnellyscrum.jpgTim Donnelly leads the field of Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown early in this year's gubernatorial race, according to a new poll.

Donnelly, with 10 percent support among likely voters, outpolls his closest GOP competitors by 8 percentage points, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday.

Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official and the best-funded Republican in the race, was supported by 2 percent of likely voters, as was Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount.

All Republicans trail Brown by an enormous margin. The third-term Democrat is supported by 47 percent of likely voters, while 36 percent of likely voters remain undecided, according to the poll.

March 26, 2014
Tim Donnelly says past larceny case was college 'prank'

donnellyscrum.jpgRepublican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly, who has denied having any criminal record before carrying a gun into an airport in 2012, on Wednesday blamed a larceny case in Michigan in 1985 on a drunken "prank."

The candidate's case came at the end of Donnelly's freshman year at University of Michigan. He left the school, moved to California and enrolled at University of California, Irvine, that fall.

Asked previously whether he had any criminal convictions prior to the airport incident, Donnelly said, "No."

The Twin Peaks assemblyman told The Bee on Wednesday night that he was telling the truth.

"All I know is that I was never convicted, and that's it," Donnelly said. "I was treated as a minor, and it was explained to me then that it would not result in a conviction, it would result in you doing some community service, paying restitution, and if you did that successfully ... there would be no, there would be nothing. It would be as if it never happened, and that I could honestly say for the rest of my life that I've never been convicted."

Records searches in Michigan produced no evidence of criminal charges ever being filed against Donnelly. But The Ann Arbor News listed a Timothy Michael Donnelly as receiving a fine and three years of probation for "larceny in a building" in a brief item in June 1985.

Donnelly, asked by The Bee about the incident earlier Wednesday, instead called in to the conservative "John and Ken" show in Los Angeles to pre-empt the report. He complained the incident was an insignificant "prank" that happened years ago.

"They want to break a news story about a prank that I pulled in college," he said on the radio show. "I got busted 30 years ago."

Asked what he did, Donnelly said, "I got drunk with my buddy, and we left his Sony Walkman in the hallway, and somebody took it. So we started looking for somebody who might have it, and we wound up breaking into somebody else's room and stealing a stereo from them."

He said, "When we sobered up we called the cops and told them where it was and, you know, boy, they wanted to throw the book at us."

He said "the consequences were severe enough for me that I basically quit drinking not long after that."

Donnelly said he was treated as a minor and that the record was expunged.

Donnelly, one of two main Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, has said he left Michigan because he longed to escape Midwest winters and to see the beaches of Southern California.

Bee researcher Pete Basofin contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:20 p.m. to include information from Donnelly's radio interview and at 8:45 p.m. to include his comments to The Bee

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

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 25, 2014
Tim Donnelly holds less than $11,000 in race for governor

donnellyscrum.jpgRepublican Tim Donnelly continued to lag behind in fundraising in California's gubernatorial race in the first three months of the year, with less than $11,000 in cash on hand mid-way through March, according to a campaign finance statement filed Monday.

In addition, Donnelly's campaign posted $149,068 in outstanding debts.

Donnelly, a tea party favorite, reported contributions from Jan. 1 to March 17 of $182,206, mostly in relatively small donations. But he posted payments of more than $190,000 including more than $59,000 to campaign consultants and campaign workers.

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, is in far worse financial shape than his Republican rival, Neel Kashkari, who has banked $903,478.

The two Republicans are competing in a longshot bid to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, and they remain far behind him in fundraising. The Democratic incumbent reported Friday that he holds nearly $20 million in cash on hand.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 24, 2014
GOP Senate candidate suffers another ballot setback

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A fight by California Senate Republicans to qualify a GOP candidate for the ballot in the open 26th district appears to have stalled Monday, after elections officials again notified Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch that his paperwork was not accepted.

Mirisch submitted 49 signatures, 12 of which were originally deemed invalid by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. He needed to provide 40 valid signatures, spokeswoman Elizabeth Knox said Monday.

A single signature was later resuscitated, bringing the total valid to 38.

Mirisch's appearance on the ballot - alongside seven Democrats and one no-party preference candidate - would significantly alter the dynamics of the race covering coastal Los Angeles. At the least, a Republican likely would advance to the November runoff, and Democrats could be left without a candidate altogether in the fall.

Mirisch, aided by party attorney Chuck Bell, essentially argued that at least three households who signed for his campaign should have been allowed to have just one representative fill out their information such as a printed name and address.

The form requires that signers personally affix their own printed name, signature and registered address.

This is the second setback for Mirisch in as many weeks. Previously, he successfully sued state and county elections officials after they refused to accept his faxed candidacy papers. Mirisch was drafted by Senate Republican leadership on the eve of the deadline to run in the heavily Democratic district left open after Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, mounted a run to succeed retiring Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills.

Mirisch worked as an executive at Paramount Pictures and previously oversaw international distribution for IMAX. The field of Democratic candidates includes former Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, attorney Sandra Fluke, school board member Ben Allen, Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Howorth and state surgeon Vito Imbasciani.

PHOTO: John Mirisch (City of Beverly Hills)

March 24, 2014
Neel Kashkari's fundraising tapers after fast start

kashkariscrum.jpgAfter he raised nearly $1 million in the first two weeks of his gubernatorial campaign, Republican Neel Kashkari's fundraising appears to be leveling off.

In a financial statement Monday, Kashkari reported raising a total of $1.3 million from Jan. 1 to March 17, a figure that includes the strong numbers Kashkari posted soon after entering the race. His initial fundraising came after a year of courting potential donors.

Kashkari reported spending $430,347 on campaign operations and an ending cash balance of $903,478, a fraction of the nearly $20 million Gov. Jerry Brown has on hand.

Yet Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, remains far better-funded than his Republican rival, Tim Donnelly, more than doubling his fundraising effort so far. Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, has not yet filed a campaign statement due Monday but has previously reported raising about $500,000.

Kashkari's fundraising draws heavily from the financial industry, including former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who gave $27,200, and several employees of Goldman Sachs, where Kashkari previously worked. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch contributed $5,000.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 22, 2014
Jerry Brown grows campaign war chest to nearly $20 million

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has added to his dominant war chest in this year's gubernatorial race, reporting Friday that he has raised nearly $3 million since Jan. 1 and now has $19.7 million on hand.

The Democratic governor's donors include labor unions and a variety of business interests, including energy, tobacco and health care companies.

Seven different members of the Fisher family, which owns Gap Inc., donated $54,400 each to Brown, the maximum allowed. The donations come after members of the family appeared to be included on a sloppily redacted list of donors working against Brown in California's initiative wars in 2012.

Brown reported receiving $8,200 from a campaign account held open by former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, and $5,000 from eBay Inc., the former company of Brown's Republican opponent in 2010, Meg Whitman.

Brown is the heavy favorite to win re-election in this Democratic-leaning state, and he has been slow to spend money in the run-up to the campaign. In his latest disclosure, he reported that the Democratic State Central Committee of California had provided polling for his effort, and he paid political consultants about $65,000 since Jan. 1.

Brown's filing comes ahead of a Monday deadline for reports covering campaign donations and spending from Jan. 1 to March 17. Brown's main Republican opponents, Neel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly, have not yet filed those statements.

In previous filings, Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, has reported raising nearly $1.3 million. Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, has reported raising about $500,000.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual host breakfast in Sacramento on May 22, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

March 18, 2014
Jerry Brown's new push for high-speed rail: Get old people off the road

JERRYBROWN.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has a new argument for high-speed rail: Get senior citizens off the road.

"There's a lot of old people who shouldn't be driving," the Democratic governor joked at a dinner hosted by labor leaders in Sacramento on Monday night. "They should be sitting in a nice train car working on their iPad, having a martini."

Brown, who will turn 76 next month, has other means of transportation, as he is chauffeured by a California Highway Patrol officer. He has made high-speed rail a priority of his administration, despite legal setbacks, funding uncertainty and a fall-off in public support.

Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, the two main Republicans bidding to unseat Brown this year, have hammered him on the project.

But Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman and Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, are little known to the electorate, and the prospects of either beating Brown in this Democratic-leaning state are slim.

Brown suggested as much Monday.

"I won't talk about my opponents," he said, "because most of you don't know their names."

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown looks at protesters opposing fracking after his speech at the California Democratic Party's convention on March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/ Jae C. Hong

March 16, 2014
VIDEO: Boisterous GOP activists cheer Tim Donnelly

donnellycheered.jpgBURLINGAME - Boisterous party activists cheered Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly as he addressed the California Republican Party's biannual convention here Sunday, a demonstration of Donnelly's continued appeal to the party's conservative base.

"We can win in 2014," Donnelly said. "I need your help to retire Jerry Brown and replace him with Tim Donnelly for governor."

The crowd erupted in applause, with supporters yelling, "Tim! Tim! Tim!"

Donnelly's speech comes after a difficult week for his campaign. The Twin Peaks assemblyman remains severely underfunded, and his campaign manager, Jennifer Kerns, left in recent days.

But conservative activists play a vocal role at GOP conventions, and the weekend gathering appeared to give Donnelly a lift.

Neel Kashkari, a better-funded, more moderate candidate, spoke before Donnelly and garnered more reserved applause. Two lesser known candidates, Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount and Glenn Champ, who described himself as a "new breed of Christian soldier," also addressed the convention.

That the candidates would be allowed to speak at all was only determined last week. The party dismissed a proposal by Donnelly to debate Kashkari but offered speaking spots. They were invited to the podium moments after the gathering was officially adjourned, a measure that prevented any effort to endorse either candidate from the floor.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly is cheered at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 16, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders


California Republican Party convention coverage:

Kashkari is trying to build a bigger GOP tent

VIDEO: Donnelly told supporters the party needs to "reconnect with the church"

VIDEO: Both candidates addressed the Republican National Hispanic Assembly

Prominent actress helping Donnelly said she has concerns about campaign

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 16, 2014
VIDEO: Neel Kashkari, Tim Donnelly host convention parties

gopconvention.jpgBURLINGAME - Parties hosted by Neel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly spilled over into early Sunday at the California Republican Party's biannual convention, and as the booze flowed and music played, one more difference between the two candidates for governor emerged.

While Donnelly and his wife, Rowena, danced at the tea party favorite's "Liberty Extravaganza," Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, resisted.

"I love to dance," he said, "but my campaign team has forbidden me from dancing."

There were video cameras in the room, after all. Still, Kashkari said "the point of tonight is to have fun."

Down the hall, Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, was still pushing for volunteer sign-ups and donations.

"I know this is a party," he said. "But I want it to be a working party. And then we can dance, and then we can sing, and then we can celebrate a victory in 2014."

Christopher Cadelago of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Delegates file into the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame on March 16, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 15, 2014
Ashley Swearengin controller campaign managing 'excitement'

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BURLINGAME — Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin may be the best hope for California Republicans to reclaim a statewide office in November.

But the 41-year-old rising star of the party and candidate for state controller was taking things slowly here at the state GOP convention this weekend.

"We really want to draw attention to how important this office is for the things that we would like to see in California: Economic competitiveness and managing the state's resources," she said in an interview.

"It's just an often-overlooked position," she added. "As I've talked with people around the convention this weekend, and I start laying out all of the things that are included in the state controller's job description, everyone's eyes are getting big and they are starting to realize this is an important office."

Swearengin is running to succeed Democrat John Chiang, who is termed out and vying for state treasurer. Her primary opponents include Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, both Democrats.

Swearengin was re-elected as mayor in 2012. Tim Clark, her political consultant, told The Bee the campaign has received many unsolicited offers of help from donors and party activists.

"It's just been very exciting trying to manage this excitement," he said.

PHOTO: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin at the state GOP convention in Burlingame. Christopher Cadelago/The Sacramento Bee

March 15, 2014
Neel Kashkari says he'll help GOP build 'bigger tent'

kashkarireporters.jpgBURLINGAME — Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari dismissed questions Saturday about resistance to his candidacy from the party's most conservative activists, saying scheduling conflicts kept him from addressing a group of conservatives here.

"The Republican Party has a lot of folks inside the tent," he said. "I want to make it a bigger tent, so even more people are welcome. And I've really been pleased how I've been received by a very diverse group of Republican groups here at the convention and around the state."

Kashkari, a moderate Republican, is in a primary election race against Tim Donnelly, the tea party favorite. Kashkari was well received Saturday at meetings of young Republicans, Latinos and the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans.

Yet Kashkari is not universally popular at a convention where Republican activists sang "God Bless America" and marched through the hotel Saturday chanting "Taxed Enough Already."

"This is a place that Kashkari doesn't understand," said Mike Spence, president of the Conservative Republicans of California.

He objected to Kashkari's record running the federal bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and to his vote for Barack Obama in 2008.

Kashkari told reporters he has been doing "a lot of conservative talk radio in the last couple months" and has been "really pleasantly surprised how well they've embraced me."

He said, "You know what Republicans want? They want their kids to get a good education, and they want a good job. That's the same thing that independents want. That's the same thing that Democrats want. I think we can unite Republicans and unite Californians around these messages."

Donnelly faces his own challenges within the party ranks, with many moderate Republicans viewing the strident conservative as a liability to the party's efforts to attract new voters.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari speaks to reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 15, 2014
Pete Sessions backs California GOP's path to rebuilding

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BURLINGAME - Rep. Pete Sessions, the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, offered his support for the California Republican Party's strategy of focusing on key congressional and legislative seats rather than potentially spreading itself thin with competitive candidates in every statewide race.

"I would say to you that there are a lot of things about giving your team reason to believe that they can make a difference," Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, told reporters ahead of his dinner speech at the California Republican Party convention. "I believe, actually, by the (state) party winning seats ... that does make a difference.

"Putting a person in every single race is not an effective way to use your money or your resources," he added. "I think having great candidates with a good message, and going and organizing and talking about the huge success that Barack Obama and the Democrats are having to turn our country into a welfare state, makes a lot of sense to me."

California GOP Chairman Jim Brulte described his party's strategy Friday as putting the icing on -- not actually baking the cakes. The three-pronged approach calls for helping retain Republicans' House majority, working to eliminate the Democratic supermajorities in the Legislature and building a "farm team" of local GOP officials.

Republicans also are targeting a handful of House Democrats including Ami Bera of Elk Grove, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, Julia Brownley of Westlake Village and Scott Peters of San Diego.

Critics of the California GOP's approach suggest the lack of marquee statewide candidates could harm candidates in more competitive down-ticket races. But Sessions said Democrats' defense of the health care overhaul speaks to their insistence on following "shrill liberalism and dogma" and will lead to their downfall.

"That is not a way to make life better and the Republican Party will add to our numbers because of that," he said.

PHOTO: Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, speaks Saturday at the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame. Christopher Cadelago/The Sacramento Bee

March 15, 2014
VIDEO: Take Two: Neel Kashkari puts new slogan on Instagram

kashkariscrum.jpgBURLINGAME — Perhaps no candidate for statewide office is more active on social media than Neel Kashkari, whose tweets are voluminous and, more often than not, come off as unscripted.

But this is a gubernatorial campaign, and certain elements are staged. Kashkari is trying out a new, baseball-inspired slogan at the California Republican Party convention this weekend, and on Saturday he attempted to post a video to Instagram.

"I'm running for governor to bench Jerry Brown," Kashkari said, before completing brief remarks and asking the videographer, "Did it take?"

"I think it was on 'photo,'" the aide said.

There were a few groans, and Kashkari said, "One more time."

Take two was a success. Kashkari uploaded it on a cell phone, then turned to a group of reporters and said, "Somebody needs to send this to Gov. Brown."

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 15, 2014
VIDEO: Tim Donnelly wants candidates who 'stick to their guns'

donnellyscrum.jpgBURLINGAME - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly said Saturday that the California Republican Party needs to "reconnect with the church," rallying conservative activists in his primary contest with Neel Kashkari.

"Elections are not just about connecting with people," Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, told a meeting of conservatives at the California Republican Party's biannual convention. "I believe we need to reconnect with the church."

For Donnelly, no audience is more sympathetic. The Legislature's most outspoken gun rights and anti-illegal immigration advocate is a tea party favorite and has the endorsement of the conservative California Republican Assembly in the GOP's longshot bid to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown.

Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is preferred by many members of the party's donor and professional class for his more moderate social views.

Donnelly, facing ongoing controversy surrounding his own gun use, including pleading no contest to two misdemeanors after carrying a loaded gun into Ontario International Airport in 2012, remained unperturbed.

"If you know that there's a group that has not been voting because they're not inspired, and because we don't have candidates who are willing to at least stick to their guns," he told the conservative group, pausing. "Oh, did I just say that?"

The room erupted in laughter and applause.

"It's all right," Donnelly said. "You can clap."

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 15, 2014
Ron Nehring rips Gavin Newsom for supporting pot legalization

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BURLINGAME - Republican Ron Nehring, a candidate for for lieutenant governor, issued a forceful rebuke of marijuana legalization on Saturday, saying advocates of decriminalizing the drug are putting children in harm's way.

"Anyone who thinks that this is only going to be limited to adults needs to put the crack pipe down because that is simply not reality," Nehring said at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame.

Colorado and Washington thrust the issue onto the national stage when the states legalized marijuana.

At the convention, Nehring, the former state GOP chairman, stood beside a poster quoting Gov. Jerry Brown from a recent appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." In that interview, the Democratic governor questioned how California could be expected to prosper while people get stoned.

"I think Jerry Brown is exactly spot on," Nehring said. He called for a debate on pot with Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who favors legalizing the drug.

"If Gavin Newsom is not willing to debate me, then perhaps he would be willing to debate Gov. Brown," Nehring said. "And maybe they can have a debate on high-speed rail while they're at it."

Despite Nehring's concerns about the "social costs," of increased drug use, Californians appear to be turning a corner on marijuana. The Field Poll from December -- for the first time ever -- found clear majority support for legalization. Eight percent of voters supported allowing anyone to purchase cannabis and 47 percent said it should be available with the types of controls that govern alcohol sales.

PHOTO: Republican Ron Nehring speaks at the California Republican Party Convention in Burlingame. Christopher Cadelago/The Sacramento Bee

March 15, 2014
VIDEO: Tim Donnelly, Neel Kashkari make pitches to Latino Republicans

kashkariblount.jpgBURLINGAME - Neel Kashkari told Latino Republicans on Saturday that he is making Spanish-language media a priority in his campaign for governor, while his GOP rival, Tim Donnelly, said "we have to stop pandering" to different segments of the electorate.

The candidates' remarks, to the California Republican National Hispanic Assembly, came as Kashkari and Donnelly sprinted from caucus to caucus, lobbying delegates at the California Republican Party's biannual convention. The Hispanic group is significant to a party attempting to overcome years of failure appealing to Latino voters.

"The first TV interview that I did was on Univision, and it ran statewide," Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, said. "And they asked me, they said, 'Why are you coming to Univision first?' I said, 'Because I want your viewers to know they're not an afterthought, they're my first thought.'"

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman and tea party favorite, took the floor immediately after Kashkari.

"I think we have to stop pandering, thinking that there's a different message because of someone's skin color, because the colors of freedom are red, white and blue," he said. "What I believe people want is they want to live free, and they want to get the government out of their way, so that we can all enjoy the bounties of liberty."

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidates Neel Kashkari, left, and Andrew Blount at a dinner at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 14, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

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

By David Siders
dsiders@sacbee.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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