Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

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


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

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


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


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


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


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'


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


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


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

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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 13, 2014
Bowen and Pew foundation at odds on California's non-voters

Thumbnail image for bowen1.jpg

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen made it clear this week that she has some problems with a major non-profit effort to improve elections and increase the number of people registered to vote.

Bowen and David J. Becker, the director of election initiatives for the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Charitable Trusts, shared a panel during a Senate hearing this week on science and innovations to improve voter participation.

The two disagreed soon after sitting down. Becker, citing U.S. Census data and other research, said 8.2 million Californians are eligible but do not register to vote, a number greater than the populations of all but 13 states.

Bowen interjected, saying the eligible-but-unregistered number is actually 6.4 million. Her office's latest registration report shows almost 24.1 million people eligible to vote and almost 17.7 million voters. Becker said the official registration number does not reflect hundreds of thousands of people who have died or moved.

The disagreements continued. Bowen questioned a Pew-organized effort called the Election Registration Information Center, or ERIC. Several nearby states, including Colorado and Utah, participate in the project and share voter-registration data. Its goal is to identify voters who have moved between states, and ensure they are re-registered quickly.

But Bowen said her concerns about the data-sharing project — such as ERIC automatically removing voters from the rolls — have been ignored. "Unfortunately, rather than embrace the concerns and the critics, ERIC simply chose to exclude their critics from the discussion," Bowen said Tuesday. "What happened after I wrote that letter is I was never invited back again to another ERIC meeting."

Not so, say Pew and ERIC officials, who added that they long ago ruled out automatically removing voters flagged by ERIC without first contacting them. Pew, Becker said later, has invited Bowen's office to six Pew-sponsored meetings since January 2011 to discuss ways to improve elections, including ERIC. Pew received no response to most of the invitations, including for a meeting later this month in San Francisco, he said.

"Not having California being part of a really important data exchange...hurts the other states and I think it hurts California, too," Judd Choate, Colorado's director of elections and ERIC's chairman, testified.

This week's hearing was led by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, one of six candidates running to succeed Bowen. At a forum last week, Padilla talked of the importance of registering eligible people to vote but was noncommittal Tuesday about joining Colorado and the other states in ERIC.

PHOTO: Secretary of State Debra Brown at a Capitol hearing in March 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

March 12, 2014
Donnelly calls campaign manager's departure 'mutual' decision

donnellygunstore.jpgRepublican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly said Wednesday he was "already looking for somebody else" before Jennifer Kerns, his campaign manager, announced she was quitting the campaign.

"I knew it was going to happen," he said. "It was just, the timing caught me by surprise."

When Kerns announced earlier in the day that she was quitting the campaign, Donnelly said, "That's news to me."

In an interview Wednesday night, the Twin Peaks assemblyman said, "I was already looking for somebody else. It just wasn't a good fit there, for either of us."

He called her departure a "mutual" decision, saying, "I don't know that my brand of grassroots suited her expectations of what a gubernatorial campaign would be like."

Donnelly said, "We don't ever stop. We don't sleep ... Everybody's working their fingers to the bone."

When he promoted her to campaign manager earlier this year, Donnelly released an online video celebrating her promotion and giving her high praise.

"They say beside every good leader is a great woman," Donnelly tells the camera after opening clips of Kerns running and Donnelly drinking coffee with his wife, Rowena. "I've got two."

He said Wednesday, "You go out and make a video like we did, and it makes it tougher to make the change you need to make."

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

March 12, 2014
Tim Donnelly's campaign manager quits campaign

donnellypodium.jpgJennifer Kerns, Tim Donnelly's campaign manager, quit Donnelly's gubernatorial campaign Wednesday.

The announcement comes just days before the California Republican Party's convention in Burlingame and is a setback to the Twin Peaks assemblyman's bid. Donnelly, reached Wednesday afternoon, said he was unaware of the departure.

"That's news to me," he said.

Kerns said in a prepared statement that she is "proud to have taken a candidate from the launch of a campaign as an unknown, underdog candidate to frontrunner status in the polls, as well as having cleared the field of our closest GOP competitor."

She said a filmmaker who produced campaign video ads for Donnelly has also left "making this now two top strategic advisers who have left."

Donnelly had made Kerns a significant part of his campaign, In January he posted an online video celebrating her promotion to campaign manager.

"They say beside every good leader is a great woman," Donnelly tells the camera after opening clips of Kerns running and Donnelly drinking coffee with his wife, Rowena. "I've got two."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday to include the statement from Kerns.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks in Baldwin Park Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Associated Press/Nick Ut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 12, 2014
Neel Kashkari says Jerry Brown 'born into a life of privilege'

kashkarikfbk.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari, rebuffing opponents' depiction of him as a wealthy financier, said Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown is the gubernatorial candidate of privilege and wealth, again challenging the Democratic governor to release tax returns.

"Jerry Brown owns a million dollars of Jack in the Box stock," Kashkari told the conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on his show Tuesday. "I eat at Jack in the Box. That's the difference between me and Jerry Brown."

Kashkari's remarks came less than a week after he filed a required financial disclosure with the state. He reported receiving salary of more than $100,000 from Newport Beach-based Pacific Management Investment Co. last year in the form of a lump sum payment of stock. Kashkari left the job in January 2013.

In addition to interests in real estate and retail concerns, Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, have reported owning more than $1 million in stock in Jack in the Box.

Kashkari said of Brown, the son of a former governor, "Nobody was born into a life of privilege like Jerry Brown."

Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. Treasury Department official, said he will release his tax returns for any year Brown will release them.

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Brown, said in an email that "a wealthy banker who's spent his entire life on Wall Street is not credible lecturing about poverty to the governor who slept on a futon and assisted Mother Teresa."

But Brown's campaign dismissed - at least for now - Kashkari's invitation to release tax returns that would provide more detailed financial information about the candidates. Newman said "we'll spend more time responding to the incessant tweets, videos, and challenges of whomever emerges from the Republican primary."

Neither Brown nor Republican opponent Meg Whitman agreed to release tax returns in the 2010 election.

Whitman, a billionaire, also took criticism for her self-financing of her campaign, but she was also damaged by revelations that her former maid was an undocumented immigrant. The woman, Nicky Diaz Santillan, was represented by Gloria Allred, the famous Los Angeles lawyer.

On the air on Tuesday, Hewitt asked Kashkari, "Is there a Gloria Allred press conference in your future, on anything?"

Kashkari said he had undergone a background check before being confirmed to his Treasury post and that there is nothing scandalous in his past.

"No housekeepers, nothing?" Hewitt asked.

"I've got a guy who cleans my house," Kashkari said. "He gave me a copy of his U.S. passport before I hired him."

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

March 11, 2014
No debate, but Kashkari, Donnelly get speaking spots at GOP convention

kashkaripressclubscrum.jpgNeel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly may not be debating at the California Republican Party's annual convention this weekend, but they will be offered speaking spots, Jim Brulte, the party chairman, said Tuesday.

Neither candidate was previously listed as a speaker. They are expected to address delegates Sunday, the final day of the convention.

Brulte said he heard from candidates "this morning, for the very first time, three days before the start of the convention" that they would like to address delegates. He said he told them, "Makes sense to me."

The announcement comes a day after Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman and tea party favorite, challenged Kashkari to a debate at the gathering of party activists in Burlingame. Both Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, and party leaders dismissed the invitation.

Mark Standriff, a spokesman for the party, said, "The CRP doesn't involve itself in discussions between primary candidates in a contested race."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari, a Republican candidate for governor, speaks to reporters after addressing the Sacramento Press Club on March 6, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 11, 2014
Warning of 'liberal takeover' McClintock raising cash against GOP opponent


Three days after learning he would face an intraparty challenger, Republican Rep. Tom McClintock has come out swinging against what he's calling an attempted "total liberal takeover."

"It's obvious -- the liberals want to entice enough Republicans to break off and join Democrats to elect a liberal Republican in a district that won't elect a liberal Democrat," McClintock wrote in an email to his large network of donors.

The fundraising appeal follows Republican Art Moore's entry into the 4th district contest. Under the state's new primary rules, the top-two votegetters, regardless of political party, advance to the general election in November.

Jeffrey Gerlach, who is not affiliated with a political party, is also running.

McClintock's campaign noted that at least three prospective Democratic candidates pulled papers to run, but ultimately stayed out of the race.

Most of the voters live in Placer and El Dorado counties, but the district stretches south to Fresno County and is heavily Republican. With no Democrats on the ballot, the district's 117,765 registered Democrats may be inclined to choose the more moderate Republican candidate.

In his fundraising email, McClintock asserts that a well-funded liberal coalition, in coordination with Democrats, is testing a new strategy to silence conservatives in California. That contention, at this point, is more of a suspicion than anything else.

None of the Democrats have admitted to any coordination. Kris Johnson abandoned her campaign saying a recent injury would require a long rehabilitation period. Donald Colbourn suspended his campaign after a brief flirtation. El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago, who expressed interest in the race, did not return a call seeking comment about her decision not to run.

Moore, a military officer who lives in Roseville, touts himself as a conservative Republican who believes in individual liberty and limited government.

"Art hopes to elevate the dialogue of this race above petty fear mongering," said Rob Stutzman, Moore's campaign strategist. "He thinks voters aspire to better campaigns than that. And I assure you, this decorated infantryman is no liberal."

Meantime, McClintock is telling supporters it will require a full-blown and expensive campaign right through to November.

"There's good news," he wrote. The people in the 4th district know me and know where I stand, and I believe we will keep this seat as a conservative one."

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

March 10, 2014
Tim Donnelly challenges Neel Kashkari to debate

donnellygunstore.jpgRepublican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly challenged rival Neel Kashkari on Monday to an "old-fashioned debate" at this weekend's gathering of the California Republican Party, an invitation immediately dismissed by Kashkari and party leadership.

The challenge, issued in a letter on Donnelly's website, came just days before the CRP opens its Burlingame convention.

"While we are both attempting to sway convention goers to ride along with our respective campaigns, it is imperative our fellow Republicans learn as much about our plans, our backgrounds, and our campaigns as possible," Donnelly wrote. "Even though we both have an 'R' behind our names, you and I have different life experiences, ideas for California, and campaign focuses."

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, said "a good old-fashioned debate at the upcoming California Republican Party convention is the perfect place to make that happen."

Donnelly, who is far more conservative than Kashkari, is embraced by tea party activists but faces resistance within the party's professional ranks. Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, would have little reason to engage Donnelly at a meeting of party activists.

"It's our understanding from the CRP that there will not be a debate at this weekend's convention," Jessica Ng, a Kashkari campaign spokeswoman, said in an email. "That being said, Neel looks forward to continuing to share with voters his vision for California, and there will surely be many opportunities for voters to hear from him and all the gubernatorial candidates in the coming months, including in a debate setting."

Mark Standriff, a spokesman for the party, said, "The CRP doesn't involve itself in discussions between primary candidates in a contested race."

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

March 9, 2014
Betty Yee criticizes, John A. Pérez cheers state party in controller race

perezconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - Betty Yee, the state Board of Equalization member competing against Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez in the Democratic race for state controller, issued a vague but stinging indictment of the state party Sunday, suggesting its leadership has become too heavy-handed and is disconnected from grassroots activists.

Her remarks, on the final day of the California Democratic Party's annual convention here, highlighted the intensity of a fight for the party's endorsement in the race, one of the most competitive statewide contests.

In delegate voting following two days of lobbying, neither Yee nor Pérez received sufficient support to win the endorsement. The speaker, with nearly 48 percent of the vote, finished ahead of Yee by just more than 3 percentage points.

In his convention speech, Pérez, a former labor organizer, recounted legislative achievements and electoral pick-ups made by Democrats in the Legislature during his tenure.

"We're expanding the map everywhere," he said. "In California, red to blue is not a slogan. It's a reality."

Without offering specific examples, Yee accused some members of the party of bullying activists "so power may remain in the hands of a few political leaders." She said "grassroots activists often are relegated to ridicule."

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez addresses the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 9, 2014
California Democrats add marijuana legalization, fracking moratorium to platform

conventionoverview.jpgLOS ANGELES - The California Democratic Party added planks to its platform Sunday calling for the legalization of marijuana and a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

The platform's adoption, on a unanimous or near-unanimous voice vote, reflected the influence of the party's more liberal wing at its annual convention. Both positions are at odds with Gov. Jerry Brown. The Democratic governor has expressed reservations about legalizing marijuana and faced protests when he spoke here Saturday over his permissiveness of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of oil extraction.

The platform calls for the party to "support the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol."

On hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the party calls for "an immediate moratorium on fracking, acidizing, and other forms of oil/gas well stimulation" until more restrictive regulations are enacted.

The platform change comes a week after Brown made headlines with remarks critical of marijuana legalization.

"Well, we have medical marijuana, which gets very close to what they have in Colorado and Washington," Brown said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I'd really like those two states to show us how it's going to work."

Brown feared advertising and the legitimization of marijuana use could lead to a lack of alertness by the citizenry.

"The world's pretty dangerous, very competitive," Brown said. "I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together."

In a speech to delegates on Saturday, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a supporter of legalization, said "it's time to legalize, it's time to tax, it's time to regulate marijuana."

He said, "This is a serious debate for serious people ... This is not a debate about stoners."

PHOTO: The California Democratic Party convenes during its annual convention in Los Angeles on March 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 8, 2014
Democrats make no endorsement in heated statewide primaries

yeeconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - Following two days of intense campaigning by candidates in the two most competitive statewide primary contests, delegates at the California Democratic Party convention reached no consensus Saturday on either race, issuing no endorsement for controller or secretary of state.

The campaigns had been at the center of delegate activity in Los Angeles, with a dispute about whether delegates should make any endorsement and, if so, who. The party chairman, John Burton, had recommended that candidates not seek an endorsement. His advice was ignored.

After balloting concluded Saturday, the party announced no endorsement had been reached.

"At the end of the day, we stand united as a party, dedicated to making our elections more inclusive and our democracy stronger," state Sen. Leland Yee, one of three Democrats running for secretary of state, said on Twitter.

He is competing in the race against former California Common Cause official Derek Cressman and state Sen. Alex Padilla.

The race for controller features Betty Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.

PHOTO: State Sen. Leland Yee works the crowd at the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 7, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was updated to expand on John Burton's position.

March 8, 2014
For Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the crowd's already at the bar

newsomconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - Oh, the indignity of a minor speaking spot - and the self awareness of its holder.

Only a smattering of Democratic activists remained when Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the final speaker of the afternoon, took to the podium to address the state party's annual convention Saturday.

"Thank you very much," he said. "It's good to see all four of you."

The crowd applauded, thin though it was after a day of convention activities.

"I'm getting to finally live out a lifelong dream of achieving a profound and highly sought after honor of being the last speaker of the day," Newsom said. "The question I've been asking myself in the back is what did I do to deserve this spot? So I think I've come up with a few explanations. No. 1, Gov. Brown chose the speaking order."

Newsom and Brown have a distant relationship, and there were some howls in the convention hall. Newsom said, "I could have said (first lady) Anne Gust, or Sutter," the governor's dog.

Newsom offered two other possible explanations for his spot in the speaking order, then left the subject with one more.

"No. 4, and this may actually be the real reason," he said. "The party makes a lot of money if people leave early and head to the bar, which clearly I think folks have."

PHOTO: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 8, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 8, 2014
Tom Steyer calls for public votes on California fracking

steyerconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - Hours after Gov. Jerry Brown drew protests from environmental activists over his permissiveness on hydraulic fracturing, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer called Saturday for legislation requiring a two-thirds vote of the electorate in any county before the controversial form of oil extraction can go forward in that area.

The remarks reflect the expansion of Steyer's effort to lobby the state Legislature on oil. He previously announced an effort to push for a tax on oil extraction in California, although such efforts failed to gain support in past years.

"In California, it takes a two-thirds vote by the Legislature to impose taxes, and in local communities it requires a two-thirds vote to impose taxes," Steyer told delegates at the California Democratic Party's annual convention. "The business community has argued for years that this two-thirds vote is important to make sure they are not taken advantage of. Well, that exact same logic should apply when it comes to fracking."

Steyer has refrained from criticizing Brown on his environmental policies, despite their differences. Asked after his speech if his remarks were a challenge to the Democratic governor, Steyer said, "No, we didn't write this speech in the two hours in between then and now."

PHOTO: Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer speaks to reporters at the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 8, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 8, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown protested by environmentalists, calls for 'crusade' on climate

JERRYBROWN.jpgLOS ANGELES - Gov. Jerry Brown called on California Democrats on Saturday to join him on a "crusade" against climate change, even as a rift between Brown and environmental activists over hydraulic fracturing gained heightened attention.

Environmentalists frustrated with Brown's permissiveness of the controversial form of oil extraction held signs and chanted just feet from the podium where Brown addressed delegates, prompting him to engage them directly.

"All you guys who like to make noise, just listen a moment," Brown said.

He said "Californians, and most of you included, are driving over 330 billion miles a year," urging environmentalists to focus on a range of issues, not only hydraulic fracturing. He said the "challenge here is gigantic" and that California is "leading the way."

Brown has been heckled at public events by environmental activists since he signed legislation last year establishing a permitting system for fracking, but never before have the activists managed to engage him during such a a major speech.

"You can be sure that everything that needs to be done to fight climate change that we can accomplish, we'll do it," Brown said. "And I ask all of you, every one of you in this room, to join in a crusade to protect our climate, to find other ways of mobility, and to make sure this California dream is alive and well both now and for generations to come."
At the end of his address, he said, "Thanks a lot, and keep protesting, but add a bunch of more stuff."

Brown's speech comes after months of fundraising and his long-anticipated announcement a week ago that he will seek re-election.

The frustration of environmental activists over hydraulic fracturing can be awkward for Brown, who was celebrated by environmentalists when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983. It is unlikely to hurt him in the election, however. Brown has raised more than $18 million and faces two lesser-known and underfunded Republicans, Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari.

Still, the protest appeared to annoy California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton. He told delegates when Brown finished speaking, "Just in the future, don't come up with signs."

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown looks at protesters opposing fracking after his speech at the California Democrats State Convention on Saturday, March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/ Jae C. Hong

March 8, 2014
Tom Hayden finds an 'unusually sober oasis' at Democratic convention

haydenconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES — While the California Democratic Party's most fervent members opened the party's annual convention Friday with an "evening of Cumbia and cocktails" and a "funkfest" billed as "the convention's hottest hospitality dance party," the disillusioned assembled over coffee and desserts at a café on Flower Street.

The host was the Progressive Democrats of America, the featured speaker Tom Hayden.

"I wouldn't say this is like an AA meeting, but this is an unusually sober oasis in the middle of a Democratic convention," the former California lawmaker and legendary activist said. "People actually speaking and thinking. I don't know how long this can last."

Hayden's audience consisted of about 150 activists, most of them liberal Democrats frustrated with a party they complain has become too moderate on issues including the environment and healthcare.

"Let me start by really sharing what I'm depressed about, so that you can start drinking afterwards," Hayden told them. "What I'm really concerned about in the long run is the lack of real understanding of the crisis that our youngsters are facing. First of all, the evidence is that they will live shorter lives than their parents. Secondly, they will have more medical afflictions and health problems than their parents. Third, they will be the first generation that anyone can remember to experience downward economic mobility - downward. And when they listen to us, and they listen to scientists, the message that comes across is that the world as we know it is going to be fundamentally altered if not destroyed by climate change. So the world will end while you're getting sicker and living shorter."

It was not all so sour. Hayden, who was involved in protests outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, urged the activists to continue working to push the Democratic Party to the left, and he said progressive traditions of social justice can be kept alive.

"I have confidence that this generation will rise to the occasion in ways that I can't predict," he said. "But it is going to be a bad time."

PHOTO: Tom Hayden, the former California lawmaker and legendary activist, speaks at an event in Los Angeles on March 7, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 7, 2014
VIDEO: John Burton says supermajority not a priority

burton.jpgLOS ANGELES - Two years after the California Democratic Party gained supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature for the first time in more than 100 years, California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said Friday that maintaining the position is not a priority, in part because Democratic lawmakers have been unwilling to use the power to raise taxes.

"They haven't done anything with it, because the only thing it allows them to do is raise taxes, and I don't see them raising taxes," Burton told reporters as the party opened its annual convention here this weekend.

Burton said the "main goal is really to try to pick up two or three more congressional seats." In the state Legislature, he said, a "supermajority is not as important as it used to be" since voters in 2010 lowered the threshold for budget passage to a simple majority.

The California Republican Party believes it has a chance to undo the Democrats' two-third majority this year, and it has made pick-ups in the Legislature a priority. If Burton was seeking to lower expectations in his remarks to reporters, he told delegates on a patio at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites that the party will work to keep two-thirds majorities in the Senate and Assembly "just to prove we can keep them and two years ago wasn't a fluke."

The Legislature's Democratic leadership comes into the convention with fresh controversies over two senators, Rod Wright and Ron Calderon, who are on paid leave of absence while dealing with legal problems. Wright, of Baldwin Hills, was convicted of eight felonies related to lying about where he lived, while Calderon, of Montebello, has been indicted on corruption charges.

Burton said Republicans hammering Democrats on the subject "have to jump on something, because they've got nothing" else. While acknowledging the seriousness of the charges against Calderon, Burton suggested Wright's crime was less than heinous.
"As a Catholic," he said, "I think that would be more a venial sin than a mortal sin."

PHOTO: California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton addresses delegates at the party's annual convention in Los Angeles on March 7, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 7, 2014
Primary fights between Democrats take center stage at state convention

padillaconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - As the California Democratic Party opened its annual convention here Friday, candidates in the two most competitive statewide primary contests - controller and secretary of state - set up satellite offices and flooded the convention hotel with volunteers.

But as they circled each other at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, it was not the candidates' own credentials that filled the air, but a question about whether the party should endorse any Democrat in these races at all.

"Party unity is the way to go," Stephanie Ng, a volunteer for state Sen. Leland Yee, told passers-by she stopped in the hall. "So, no endorsement."

Yee is one of three Democrats running for secretary of state. The others are former California Common Cause official Derek Cressman and state Sen. Alex Padilla, whose name was emblazoned on room keys at the hotel.

Padilla is pushing for an endorsement.

"We're Democrats," he said, "and this is a Democratic process."

yeeconvention.jpgJohn Burton, the party's chairman, asked the candidates for secretary of state and controller not to seek the party's endorsement, but Padilla and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who is running for controller, pushed ahead.

The other Democrat running for controller, Betty Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization, said she can "see it both ways." She expects some activists in Los Angeles this weekend will be "very uncomfortable" with the competition between members of the same party.

On the other hand, she said, endorsing candidates is a "primary responsibility of delegates."

PHOTO: State Sens. Alex Padilla (top) and Leland Yee (bottom) work the crowd at the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 7, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 7, 2014
Neel Kashkari got stock payment, World Series ticket

kashkaripressclubscrum.jpgNeel Kashkari reported receiving salary of more than $100,000 from Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co. last year, while holding no reportable investments, according to a financial disclosure filed Friday.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate's salary payment, the exact amount of which is not required to be disclosed, came in the form of a lump sum payment of stock Kashkari earned while at the firm, his campaign said. Kashkari left the job in January 2013.

Kashkari reported that in October, friends Lew and Kelly Jacobs gave him a baseball ticket worth $1,500 and a football ticket worth $100, and they paid $3,146 for a flight and hotel to attend the games. Kashkari's campaign said the baseball ticket was for a World Series game, and the football ticket to see the Cleveland Browns.

Kashkari's disclosure noted the gifts and travel payments were received before Kashkari became a candidate for governor "and are therefore reportable, but not subject to limits."

In June 2013, Accel-KKR, a Menlo Park-based private equity firm, paid $2,775 in flight, hotel and meals for Kashkari, who traveled to Denver to give a speech.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official and Goldman Sachs executive, has put his net worth at less than $5 million, not enough to self-finance his campaign.

March 7, 2014
Republican Art Moore to take on veteran Rep. Tom McClintock


Republican Art Moore has taken out papers to challenge GOP Rep. Tom McClintock, casting himself as a pragmatic supporter of limited government with deep roots in the foothill-based 4th Congressional District.

"It's very clear that federal government is not working for this district," Moore, a businessman and military officer from Auburn said in a video posted on his campaign website. "The leadership that is going to get us through this is not going to be provided by career politicians. It's going to be provided by people like me, who have a totally different perspective of public service."

Moore, a 35-year-old graduate of Placer High School and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, brings to the campaign a combined 14 years of active duty and National Guard service. He spent 30 months deployed overseas and currently is a major in the Army National Guard.

Moore also has worked as an executive in the building products industry and as a management consultant serving government clients in the intelligence community.

McClintock, a lion of conservative causes for decades, secured the congressional seat in a tough race six years ago and since has had little trouble retaining it. Despite his long record and high profile, he holds just over $350,000 in his campaign account.

His role in the protracted fight over the partial federal government shutdown received criticism and helped draw a Democratic opponent out of the woodwork. But Kris Johnson, a Granite Bay businesswoman, dropped out of the race for personal reasons.

TV newsman Walt Gray also flirted with a run, but ultimately decided against it.

The 4th district takes in portions of Roseville and extends from Lake Tahoe past Yosemite National Park. A native of Thousand Oaks, McClintock represented Ventura-area districts in the state Legislature and mounted unsuccessful runs for controller, lieutenant governor and governor.

4th Congressional District

"One of the dynamics of this campaign is a career politician versus somebody that has a business career and a military officer career who wants to just go and make Washington work," said Moore, who moved to Roseville from the Washington D.C area in December.

March 6, 2014
Kashkari: Brown's legacy is 'destruction of the middle class'

kashkaripressclub.jpgLeveling his most partisan attack yet in California's gubernatorial campaign, Republican Neel Kashkari on Thursday accused Democrats around the nation of "actively fighting against poor, black and brown kids" while, in California, he said Gov. Jerry Brown has destroyed the middle class.

In a speech to the Sacramento Press Club, the former U.S. Treasury Department official faulted Brown for unemployment, public education problems and the state's nation-high poverty rate.

"Jerry Brown's legacy is the destruction of the middle class of California," Kashkari said.

Kashkari and Tim Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, are the main Republicans competing in an uphill effort to unseat Brown, a third-term Democrat.

Kashkari, who has made education a focus of his campaign, said there are examples in which the "Democratic establishment" is "actively fighting against poor, black and brown kids," criticizing the U.S. Justice Department's involvement in a voucher program in Louisiana and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's policies on charters schools in his city.

Kashkari has not provided detailed policy proposals of his own, but he said he will release education and jobs plans "soon." He said he has not released them yet because "most voters aren't paying attention to the election yet, and we want to roll these out when people are paying attention."

March 5, 2014
Ted Gaines sues California insurance exchange over nixed plans


State Sen. Ted Gaines has filed a lawsuit against the state health insurance exchange, claiming agency officials exceeded their power when they instructed participating health insurance companies to terminate existing policies for hundreds of thousands of Californians.

Covered California later declined a presidential offer letting insurance companies extend the canceled policies to roughly 1 million Californians.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks to prevent the exchange from requiring cancellation of policies that do not comply with the provisions of the federal law. That, presumably, would allow insurance companies to continue offering the plan.

"A lot of people have policies that have not changed, and they've had them in place for decades, and now they are out," said Gaines, R-Rocklin, a candidate for state insurance commissioner. "They were forced out of the plan into something that was more expensive and in many cases with higher deductibles. There are some real abuses."

Gaines' lawsuit also alleges the exchange is wasting taxpayer dollars on public relations.

Anne Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the exchange, declined to address Gaines' claims.

"Covered California hasn't received service in this matter," she said. "When it does, our legal team will review the complaint."

The exchange last fall refused to give insurance companies more time to end individual policies that don't conform to the federal heath care overhaul. The cancellations applied to individual plans purchased after passage of the health law.

The decision came shortly after President Barack Obama in November allowed states to extend millions of canceled insurance policies for one year amid uproar over his statements that customers who like their plans could keep them.

Among the most vocal critics of the exchange at the time was state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a Democrat. Jones also used the threat of legal and other action to persuade two insurance industry giants to delay terminating scores of plans across the state.

Still, Gaines, the president of Gaines Insurance in Roseville, argues Jones did not do enough to prevent the plans from being canceled.

His lawsuit also requests an order from the court to halt exchange spending on things like infomercials and public relations. Specifically, it identifies as unrelated to the exchange's mission allocating $1.3 million for a six-hour infomercial featuring health and fitness guru Richard Simmons, more than $10 million on a contract with the public relations firm Weber Shandwick and "untold funds" on a contract with Ogilvy Public Relations.

PHOTO: Senator Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

March 5, 2014
Northern California Assembly race takes shape with conservative endorsements

ha_dan_logue.JPGRepublican James Gallagher has scored two key endorsements that could put him ahead in the open race for California's 3rd Assembly District.

The sprawling district north of Sacramento is solidly Republican, and with incumbent Dan Logue, R-Marysville, running for Congress, the race appears to be between Gallagher, a Sutter County supervisor from a longstanding farming family, and Ryan Schohr, another Republican with roots in the region's agricultural community.

The conservative California Republican Assembly backed Gallagher at its convention this past weekend, citing his "core conservative principles."

He also received an endorsement last week from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. The powerful anti-tax group seldom gets involved in intraparty primary races.

"I am excited to receive the endorsement of such a respected taxpayer organization," Gallagher said in a statement. "I'm humbled that they have recognized my work on the Board of Supervisors and my commitment to protect taxpayers from government waste and abuse."

Schohr, a farmer who serves on the Butte County Water Commission, said he is "not a politician or a bureaucrat," so he has not been seeking out those statewide endorsements.

"I've got the support of hundreds of families and farmers and business owners in the district," he said. "I've got a record of fighting taxes and wasteful spending and harmful regulations... I'm happy to work with anybody who has those same conservative ideals."

Gallagher and Schohr also face Democrat Jim Reed in the June primary.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, works on the Assembly floor on February 8, 2010.

March 4, 2014
Laguna Hills mayor joins race for governor, hits raceway

blount.pngLaguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount, who has joined the field of Republican candidates running for governor, posted an introductory video from a Kern County raceway Tuesday, heralding the location - and his campaign - as an example of ingenuity.

Blount, a software developer who won election to the Laguna Hills City Council in 2012, laments California's regulatory climate in the video, in which he wears an untucked shirt and appears at a Kern County raceway beneath the headline "Andrew Blount On-Track."

"This used to be a field, and somebody decided that they wanted to be able to race cars, and so they built it, and they created it, and they made an audience, and they used their own two hands to do it," Blount says. "As you look around you, there's fields that have been created, there's trucks that have been created, there's trailers that have been created. People have ingenuity right here in California."

Without offering any specifics, Blount says "what's happening in our state today is that we're saying, 'No, what you create with your own two hands isn't good enough, it has to meet this regulation and that regulation.'"

He tells the camera "we have to create an environment where it's OK to build things here in California, it's OK to do things in California."

Blount joins two Republicans, Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown.

Blount has developed a political application for mobile devices that he has said will help him reach voters at a low cost.

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

March 4, 2014
Jerry Brown's pot remarks prompt animated sarcasm


California Gov. Jerry Brown's reservations about following Washington and Colorado into marijuana legalization are being playfully ridiculed in a ripped-from-the-headlines video by Taiwanese animators.

The tongue-in-cheek clip recounts an interview last weekend on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which the Democratic governor argued that a dangerous and competitive global landscape requires a more alert citizenry "than some of the potheads might be able to put together."

A pair of bong-toting couch potatoes point to images of Brown on television and recoil in laughter. "I know, right, what a fuddy duddy," the female narrator says in an English translation of the Chinese-language cartoon.

The report, which depicts the 75-year-old governor shuffling onto the television set with the help of a walker, pokes him for being out of touch with his state's seemingly lax regulations on medicinal marijuana.

"Come on, Moonbeam, does the governor totally not realize that Californians who want to smoke are already doing so?" the narrator continues. "Maybe we should just legalize, commercialize and export. That might level the playing field."

Brown's appearance on the venerable Sunday interview program came after he filed paperwork to seek an unprecedented fourth term. He stands as a clear favorite against a pair of Republicans: former U.S. treasurer official Neel Kashkari and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks.

Brown's campaign appeared to take the animated report in stride.

"More entertaining than Neel spouting empty platitudes in the big chair, but still not nearly as fun as Donnelly's videos," campaign spokesman Dan Newman said.

Brown is not the first California politician to get the snarky animation treatment. Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger all have been lampooned in recent years.

PHOTO: Screen grab from Brown report via

March 4, 2014
Candidates for California secretary of state make pitches


Six contenders for California's top elections post made their cases Monday night at a forum in Los Angeles, voicing many of the same positions while trading a handful of jabs.

Democrats Derek Cressman, Alex Padilla and Leland Yee, Republican Pete Peterson, independent Dan Schnur, and Green Party member David Curtis have declared their candidacies to succeed Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who cannot run again because of term limits.

There was little mention of Bowen during the 1-1/2 hour forum. But there was a lot of talk about what is wrong with the state's election and voting processes: the creaky Cal-Access campaign-finance system, years of delays in improving the state's voter-registration database, millions of eligible residents who are not registered to vote, and overall civic disengagement.

Yee, D-San Francisco, and Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who hold large fundraising leads in the contest, largely played it safe during the forum. They also were the main targets of criticism. Schnur demanded that they vote to expel Democratic state Sens. Rod Wright and Ron Calderon, Peterson contended that they had done nothing to limit fundraising during legislative sessions, and Cressman brought up Padilla's $79,000 fine for violating campaign-finance rules during a Los Angeles City Council race more than a decade ago.

Here are brief summaries of the candidates' main points Monday:

Cressman: Cressman called for same-day voter registration and completing improvements to California's voter-registration system. Also, he pledged to reduce the role of "big money" in politics. "The engine of our democracy is sputtering," he said.

Peterson: Peterson said his background in technology and marketing make him the best person for the job. He strongly supports touch-screen voting. "Ink-a-vote is not cutting it," he said.

Schnur: Schnur called for a fundraising ban during the legislative session to "break the link between political giving and government action." More civics classes and volunteering, and not just technological improvements, would increase voter participation, he said.

Yee: Yee said he would work to increase the state's voter registration rates. He also supports pre-registering teenagers before they turn 18. He said his support for reimbursing local governments' costs for complying with public-records requests shows he would improve the Cal-Access system.

Curtis: Curtis blamed a patchwork of different county voting systems for technological problems confronting state elections. "California has some people who can solve these problems," he said. The state needs to invest in modern voting machines, he said.

Padilla: Padilla said his degree in engineering and ability to work across party lines in the Legislature would make him an effective secretary of state. He also pledged to increase registration rates. And like Cressman, he supports same-day voter registration.

The main sponsors of Monday's forum were the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, and the California Endowment's Center for Healthy Communities.

PHOTO: Candidates for California secretary of state during Monday's candidate forum at The California Endowment in Los Angeles. Photo from LA36.

February 28, 2014
Rupert Murdoch among latest donors to Neel Kashkari

kashkarikfbk.jpgMedia mogul Rupert Murdoch is among the latest donors to Republican Neel Kashkari's gubernatorial campaign, according to financial disclosures reported Friday.

The News Corp. chairman met with Kashkari earlier this week and contributed a relatively modest $5,000 to his campaign. The donation was one of three Kashkari reported Friday, totaling $57,200. The sum raised Kashkari's total reported fundraising to more than $1 million.

Kashkari and his Republican rival, Tim Donnelly, lag far behind Gov. Jerry Brown in fundraising, a crucial component of statewide elections in California. The Democratic governor, who filed paperwork for re-election earlier Friday, has raised more than $18 million for the effort.

Of the Republicans, Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, has posted the more robust numbers, raising more than twice as much as Donnelly early in the campaign.

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, has reported raising about $464,000.

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

February 28, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown files for re-election: 'I like this kind of work'

brownfiling.jpgOAKLAND - Forty years after he first ran for governor, Jerry Brown, now 75 and with a lifetime of politics behind him, strode into a dimly lit elections office Friday and filed paperwork one more time.

"I just completed the papers to run for re-election," the third-term Democrat told reporters down the hall. "I do so with humility and a realization that there's a great responsibility in the work that lies ahead."

The filing follows months of fundraising and his widely expected announcement the previous day that he would seek re-election to an unprecedented fourth term. Brown is the clear frontrunner in a race against two Republicans in this Democratic-leaning state.
Brown did not mention either of his challengers by name, and he suggested he may not ever - at least not until after the primary election in June.

"No, not yet," Brown said when asked if he had an opinion about the Republicans, Neel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly. "I don't want to comment until, certainly until filing is closed, certainly not until after the primary, and even then we can talk about it."

Brown said wants to keep working on the state budget and on the implementation of education funding and prison policy changes he has overseen during his third term.
"Frankly, I like the work," he said. "I understand what it is."

Brown was joined in Oakland by first lady Anne Gust Brown and his political consultants Ace Smith and Dan Newman, whose company, SCN Strategies, ran Brown's ballot initiative campaign to raise taxes in 2012.

Brown and Earl Warren are the only California governors ever elected to three terms, and Brown, governor before from 1975 to 1983, would be the only one elected to four. Term limits preclude him from running for a fifth term, and he has said he does not plan to run again for president.

But Brown could not say that this would be his final run for office.

"I'm not going to say it's the last race, because there's always some races around," Brown said.

The former secretary of state, attorney general and mayor of Oakland said he gathered signatures for his re-election paperwork at Oakland's city hall, for example, and that it seemed an "exciting place to be."

Unless he loses and runs again, however, this will be Brown's last campaign for governor, a fact he appeared to take with some regret.

"I had the experience of ... walking through the governor's office and realizing the years go by so fast, and pretty soon it's time to leave," Brown said. "I like this kind of work, and I hate to leave."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown files paperwork for re-election in Oakland on Feb. 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 28, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown expanding plan for high-speed rail

Brownelectionsoffice.jpgOAKLAND - Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday defended his plan to use carbon-reduction funds for years ahead to prop up California's high-speed rail project, saying uncertainty about the project's long-term financing is "one of the greatest questions of the critics" and that fees paid by carbon producers are an appropriate source of funds.

"I think that cap-and-trade is very appropriate because high-speed rail reduces greenhouse gases," the Democratic governor told reporters in an elections office in Oakland, where he came to file for re-election.

Brown in January proposed using $250 million in cap-and-trade revenue - the money polluters pay to offset carbon emissions -- to help finance the $68 billion rail project, and in a budget trailer bill he proposed dedicating one-third of all greenhouse gas reduction fund revenue to the project in future years. In addition, he proposed that $400 million loaned from the cap-and-trade program to the general fund last year be used for high-speed rail when that money eventually is repaid.

The cap-and-trade proposal is one of the most controversial elements of Brown's budget plan this year. Environmentalists have said money should be used for other projects, while the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has raised legal questions about the funding shift.

Cap-and-trade revenue is intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a review of Brown's proposal, the LAO said the first phase of the rail project will not be operational until after 2020, and "the construction of the project would actually generate GHG emissions of 30,000 metric tons over the next several years."

Though acknowledging the California High-Speed Rail Authority's plan to offset emissions by planting thousands of trees in the Central Valley, the LAO said the administration's "emission estimates for construction do not include emissions associated with the production of construction materials, which suggests that the amount of emissions requiring mitigation could be much higher than currently planned."

The rail project, a priority of Brown's administration, has been beset by a fall-off in public approval and uncertainty about long-term financing. In addition, legal challenges have left state bond funding in doubt.

Brown said Friday that his "main focus" is on litigation and that he is "hopeful we'll get that resolved quickly."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters after filing for re-election in Oakland on Feb. 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 28, 2014
Tim Draper puts $750K behind effort to split California six ways


The Silicon Valley investor proposing to carve California into six states has parked a chunk of his money behind the nascent effort.

Tim Draper, a Republican venture capitalist, donated $750,000 to his own cause, state records show.

The idea of secession is nothing new given the size, population and diversity of California. There have been dozens of proposals to split the state in various fashions - from east to west, north to south, and any number of other ways.

Draper's Six Californias include a northern state of Jefferson, North California, Central California, Silicon Valley, West California and South California.

At a news conference Monday, Draper insisted his proposal was no stunt, but said he has not decided whether to shoot for the November ballot or aim to qualify the initiative for 2016. He previously spent $20 million on an unsuccessful school voucher measure in 2000.

In his latest initiative, Draper argues political representation of the state's diverse population and economies has rendered it "nearly ungovernable."

What's more, vast parts are poorly served by a representative government "dominated by a large number of elected representatives from a small part of our state, both geographically and economically," he wrote in the summary.

Draper must collect 807,615 signatures by July 18. If approved by voters, the proposal would then need an OK from Congress.

PHOTO: Image from, a website for the effort proposing to split California into six states.

February 28, 2014
Mark Wyland bows out of California Board of Equalization race


Sen. Mark Wyland has withdrawn from the race for state Board of Equalization, clearing a path for Assemblywoman Diane Harkey and ending a vicious intraparty contest between the Republican lawmakers.

Wyland, R-Solana Beach, said his goals could be better realized through another venue, a point he realized after recalling a conversation with his late mother.

"It became clear to me that the personal resources that I had set aside to run for this office would be better spent on the education foundation I had formed many years ago," Wyland said in a written statement Friday. "At this point in my life, it is more important to me to help students rather than to achieve another political office."

The state board that administers sales and property taxes and hears tax appeals has been a prized office for GOP candidates given the political landscape of the Orange-to-San Diego County district. It is being vacated by Republican Michelle Steel because of term limits.

The high-stakes nature of the race between Wyland and Harkey was clear last year when the Dana Point assemblywoman filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against the veteran senator for comments he made about a lawsuit against Harkey and her husband, Dan, alleging he defrauded investors. Harkey dropped the lawsuit in November.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

February 24, 2014
Repeal of California transgender student rights bill fails


Efforts to overturn a law shielding transgender students stalled Monday, with advocates of the repeal failing to gather enough signatures to qualify for the statewide ballot.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced the referendum of Assembly Bill 1266 finished about 17,000 signatures short of the 504,760 valid names needed to go before voters.

Proponents of the repeal submitted nearly 620,000 signatures and still have the opportunity to review the rejected names and challenge any they believe were properly excluded.

The bill has become a flashpoint in the debate over supervising school facilities and the latest turn in the state's culture wars. It permits transgender public school students to join athletic teams and access facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities instead of their sex.

Transgender individuals identify with a gender different from their sex at birth. The measure's author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, said one good thing to come from the "misguided" referendum attempt was supporters were given another forum to educate people.

"It's important that we begin to understand what transgender students are going through. I wish it was just a matter of ignorance. The forces putting this referendum together included the people that make money off promoting hate and professional fear mongers, who took advantage of what other people didn't understand," said Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

"Although it's clear that California is moving in the direction of equality and respect, this does not mean the struggle is over ... The people who belittle the rights of transgender students should know their efforts encourage the bullies. It is their intolerance that allows the violence to continue, and that violence affects every child, not just transgender students. They should be ashamed."

Some school districts have already moved to accommodate their pupils. In December, Sacramento Unified School District approved a policy to extend new rights and protections to transgender students.

Meanwhile, repeal supporters said the fight isn't over.

"Only after the secretary of state announces her count do we get a chance to look at the signatures that were thrown out and begin to challenge those results," proponent Gina Gleason said.

They contend that their collection of 619,381 signatures demonstrated the degree of opposition to a measure that opens sensitive areas to the "opposite sex."

The coalition called Privacy for All Students maintained the law makes other students uncomfortable and infringes on the will of public school parents. Karen England said in the months since the governor signed the bill they have watched the issue grow from another odd California proposal to a national push to sexually integrate bathrooms and locker rooms.

"AB 1266 has highlighted the contrasting approaches of those who believe that public policy should be shaped by an individual's self described sexual identity and those that believe that public policy should reflect sexual reality," England said. "While we have compassion for those who are uncomfortable in traditional, sex separate bathrooms, we also have compassion for those who see their privacy and safety jeopardized when boys and girls are forced to share bathrooms, locker rooms and showers."

The campaign, led by Frank Schubert, who earlier helped run Yes on Proposition 8, has been marked by bursts of drama.

Last month, it moved to the full signature count after county election officials determined it did not have enough valid signatures to succeed by random sample.

That came after Bowen declined to count more than 5,000 signatures from Tulare and Mono counties that came in two days after the Nov. 10 deadline. A judge in Sacramento ruled the late submission was appropriate because Nov. 10 fell on a Sunday and Nov. 11 was Veteran's Day.

Fewer than 50 referenda have qualified for the ballot in the last 100 years.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, was the author of Assembly Bill 1266. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 21, 2014
Prosecutor: Tim Donnelly won't face legal action for gun use

donnellygunstore.jpgTim Donnelly will not face legal action in San Bernardino County for his heavily publicized use of firearms at campaign events in recent weeks, the local prosecutor saying Friday that terms of Donnelly's probation do not prohibit such activities.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office said last week that it was "looking into" the Republican gubernatorial candidate's firing and handling of guns at a gun store and gun range, after the Twin Peaks assemblyman 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.

One of the conditions of his probation is that he not "personally use, own or possess any firearm that is not registered to him."

In a written statement Friday, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos said the terms of Donnelly's probation were "never intended to apply to shooting at a gun range" and that "no further action will be taken."

"This matter is closed, and no further comment will be made," Ramos said. "I will not allow our office to be used for political purposes."

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

February 20, 2014
Norma Torres wades into 35th Congressional District race


Let the musical chairs begin again — Inland Empire style.

When San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt decided not to seek another term, Democratic Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino slid into the race, setting up a clash with Republican Assemblyman Curt Hagman of Chino Hills.

The maneuvering has provided yet another opening for Sen. Norma Torres of Pomona, who just last year won a special election to fill the seat left vacant by Negrete McLeod's elevation. In a statement, Torres talked about moving up the ranks of local politics, from serving on the city council to becoming mayor and then being elected to the Assembly.

"In Congress I will continue my fight for better jobs, to protect families from the fallout from the housing crisis, to improve local transportation infrastructure, protect Medicare and Social Security and to help Ontario Airport regain its footing as a hub of regional economic activity," Torres said.

Her election to the 35th district would set off a mad dash for the redrawn 20th Senate District, which mostly overlaps the expiring 32nd Senate District that Torres represents. Possible contenders are Democratic Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown of San Bernardino and Democratic Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez of Pomona, who won a special election to succeed Torres. Ontario Mayor Paul Leon, who ran as an independent when he lost to Rodriguez last summer — after falling to Torres as a Republican — may also give it another go. Another possibility is former Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto.

PHOTO: Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona

February 20, 2014
Gun owner Kashkari says he's not running on Second Amendment agenda

kashkarisacstate.jpgNeel Kashkari said Wednesday that he owns four guns and supports gun rights but is "not running on an agenda of the Second Amendment," highlighting a contrast with Tim Donnelly, the other main Republican running for governor.

"If you're a single issue voter, and you just want someone to give you a full capacity assault rifle magazine, God bless you, you can go vote for somebody else," Kashkari told a group of college Republicans at California State University, Sacramento. "I'm not your guy."

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, is the Legislature's most outspoken gun rights advocate. He pleaded no contest in 2012 to two misdemeanor gun charges related to the discovery of a loaded firearm in his carry-on bag at a Southern California airport, and he has used publicity around the incident to promote himself to conservative audiences.

Kashkari, the more moderate Republican challenging Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, said the most common questions he gets on Facebook are about the Second Amendment.

"I do know philosophically that I deeply believe in protecting my own gun rights, and that means protecting your gun rights," Kashkari said. "But I also believe that, you know, we need to be reasonable about things."

Kashkari spoke broadly against "layering more gun rules on me, on responsible gun owners," saying additional restrictions will not prevent gun violence or make people safer. But the former U.S. Treasury Department official said he does not oppose waiting periods or background checks, which he said "didn't inconvenience me in the slightest" when he has purchased guns.

Kashkari also said, "I'm not fearful of the Army coming and marching on my home, so I don't have guns to try to defend myself against the Army. I have guns for my own sport, for my own personal protection, etcetera."

Kashkari said after the event that he owns two 9mm Glock 17 pistols, one Weatherby rifle and one shotgun, a Remington 870 Express.

When a student suggested the purpose of the Second Amendment is to ensure citizens can overthrow a tyrannical government, if necessary, Kashkari said, "I understand that, and I hear you on that, but if the Army decides to come in with an M1 tank, good luck."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks to college Republicans at California State University, Sacramento, on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 19, 2014
Neel Kashkari scolded by producer: 'We don't cuss on the air'

kashkarikfbk.jpgNeel Kashkari finished the first segment of an interview on KFBK radio in Sacramento on Wednesday when a producer bounded into the studio, having just hit the "dump" button to keep a comment Kashkari made off the air.

"We don't cuss on the air," the producer, Julie Kingsley, told the Republican candidate for governor.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, was asked about his time running the federal bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program when he described himself as "the guy you send in when, pardon me, the s--- is hitting the fan."

The host, former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness, asked Kinglsey, "Did you catch that?"

She did, and Kashkari apologized repeatedly.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he told Kingsley. "I'm sorry about that."

Kinglsey said she hesitated briefly before dumping the comment. She said "I wouldn't expect it from a gubernatorial candidate," and she told Kashkari, "You should know better than that."

The incumbent governor, Jerry Brown, has used the same language on rare occasions, and there was chuckling in the studio at the break.

The interview continued. Afterward, Kashkari held his arms apart and assessed his performance.

"Second segment," he said. "No swearing."

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

February 18, 2014
Jerry Brown to skip meeting of governors in Washington

Brown_signing_bills.JPGGov. Jerry Brown will skip the annual meeting of the nation's governors in Washington this weekend, with an ongoing drought in California and his own re-election campaign on the horizon.

Brown last missed the winter meeting of the National Governors Association in 2011, the first year of his third term. In each of the past two years the Democratic governor used the occasion to lobby the Obama administration on policy matters while courting the East Coast media.

"The governor's focused on the work that needs to be done here in California," spokesman Evan Westrup said Tuesday.

The nation's governors are scheduled to meet with Obama and Cabinet secretaries and to discuss education, transportation and disaster response, among other subjects.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election this year, but he has raised millions of dollars for the effort and is widely expected to run.

He has had face time with the president recently, the two having appeared together in the Central Valley last week to address the drought.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills in Sacramento on March 24, 2011 as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco look on. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 18, 2014
Ron Nehring to challenge Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor


Former California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring Tuesday announced plans to run for lieutenant governor, framing his campaign as a challenge to the status quo and encouraging his beleaguered party to become standard-bearers of bold, serious reforms aimed at tackling the state's problems.

"Around the world, California is recognized for the innovation, creativity, and hard work of its people," Nehring said in a statement announcing his run. "But today we have a government that is failing in too many ways: sky-high unemployment, more poverty than any state in the nation, failing schools and a toxic environment for job creation. We can do better."

Republicans hold no statewide offices and have struggled to field candidates for races in June ahead of the March 7 deadline. California Republicans trail Democrats in registered voters by nearly 15 percentage points, 28.73 percent to 43.58 percent, respectively.

Voters selecting no-party preference, the fastest-growing group statewide, grew to nearly 21 percent, according to figures released Tuesday. Still, Nehring, a veteran operative who served as the state GOP chairman to from 2007 to 2011, has been among the most vocal to lament the dearth of challengers from his party.

He joins the race just days after Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom broke with many in his party in advocating for shifting high-speed rail money to more needy programs. Sean Clegg, a campaign spokesman for Newsom, was largely dismissive of Nehring's effort.

"It's hard to imagine someone basing a campaign for statewide office on leading a major political party to near extinction," Clegg said.

Nehing, a political protege of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, has been deeply involved in politics since his days as a student at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His six-year stint as chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County saw the organization grow in influence.

After leaving to lead the state party, however, Nehring had a brush with controversy when an ex-officio county central committee member referenced anonymous allegations that Nehring abused a former partner. He strongly rejected the allegations and dismissed the episode as "witch-hunt politics."

In recent years, Nehring has taught governance, public policy and communications throughout the world and helped guide the unsuccessful campaigns of former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado for governor and Elizabeth Emken for U.S. Senate.

Nehring said the lieutenant governor's office has too often served as "a taxpayer-funded gubernatorial exploratory committee."

"I have a different vision: to make the office a positive platform to develop and advocate for bold reform of state government to modernize it and make the state more economically competitive: comprehensive tax reform, pension reform, regulatory reform, education reform, reining in frivolous lawsuits, and more," he said.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 12:45 p.m. to include Clegg's comment.

PHOTO: Ron Nehring, chairman of the California Republican Party speaks at a rules committee meeting on Friday, March 18, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 14, 2014
San Bernardino DA 'looking into' Tim Donnelly's handling of guns

donnellygunstore.jpgOne of the conditions of Tim Donnelly's probation after a loaded firearm was discovered in his carry-on bag at an airport in 2012 is that the Twin Peaks assemblyman - and now-candidate for governor -- could not "personally use, own or possess any firearm that is not registered to him."

So it raised some eyebrows when Donnelly, campaigning in recent days, held well-publicized events at a gun store and a gun range, holding firearms and shooting them.

Christopher Lee, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, said in an email Friday that the office is "looking into this matter" but had no more information.

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

Barry Krisberg, former president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and a lecturer at University of California, Berkeley, said "it's not clear to me" that Donnelly's handling of a gun at a store or a range constitutes possession. If it does, he said, it is "in the most marginal sense" of the law.

"It's hard to say," he said. "My initial reaction is whatever this misdemeanor probation is, the notion that he went to a gun range and used the gun at a gun range is not what those original regs were designed to control."

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

February 14, 2014
Neel Kashkari at ease among financial tickers on morning TV

Financial Stability Neel Kashkari.JPGNeel Kashkari got to know the financial media during his time at the U.S. Treasury Department, so when he went on CNBC's Squawk Box on Friday, it was just like old times.

"Great to see you, Becky," the Republican candidate for governor told co-anchor Becky Quick. "It's been a long time."

Kashkari and Quick talked for a few minutes about his political ambitions, and then the caption on screen switched from "Kashkari's Run for Governor," to "Kashkari's Economic Outlook."

"Let's talk about the country on a broader scale," Quick said. "Where do you think we stand right now? Because we have seen some pretty lousy economic numbers."

Kashkari, wearing a white shirt and red tie and with financial updates running beneath him, said he hasn't been "paying a lot of attention closely to the day-to-day stock market." But the former Goldman Sachs executive suggested he still could keep up with Quick.

"It does feel to be much more of a stock pickers market," he said, "than any kind of broad-scale rally over the next six to 12 months."

From CNBC, Kashkari jumped to Fox News, for a segment on Fox & Friends. While at Treasury, Kashkari managed the bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and Tucker Carlson asked if he had any regrets.

The program became a political liability for many Republicans who supported it, but Kashkari said it was a necessary intervention in an economic crisis.

"So you don't regret what you did at all?" Carlson asked.

"No," Kashkari said. "Absolutely."

February 12, 2014
Neel Kashkari blames Jerry Brown for drought

kashkarisits.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari blamed Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday for California's ongoing drought, saying a "lack of leadership in Sacramento" has left the state unprepared for dry years.

Kashkari, speaking on KMJ 580 radio from the World Ag Expo in Tulare, called for greater investment in dams.

"We need to build more storage," the gubernatorial candidate said on "The Ray Appleton Show."

Tim Donnelly, the other main Republican bidding to unseat Brown, has also called for more dam construction, though neither candidate has offered specific plans.

Kashkari's interview came just hours after Brown visited the agricultural expo. The visit was heavily colored by the drought, with members of Congress skirmishing over California water legislation and President Barack Obama preparing to visit Fresno on Friday.

The Democratic governor has yet to state a position on an $11.1 billion water bond scheduled for the November ballot, and offered no indication Wednesday about next steps on the drought.

"You've got to have rain," he told reporters, according to a recording provided by Valley Public Radio. "Aside from the rain, you've got to use the water efficiently, you've got to have storage and we have to balance all the interests, because we have no other choice."

Brown said he is trying "to find the middle path that will get the most done that is feasible under the Constitution and under the politics we have."

"Look, if anybody can get it done, I can get it done," he said, "and I'm working night and day to achieve it."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO: Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga

February 11, 2014
VIDEO: Tim Donnelly in 'heaven' at Stockton gun store

donnellygunstore.jpgSTOCKTON - Tim Donnelly found his paradise at a gun store Tuesday.

"I feel like I've died and gone to heaven," the Republican candidate for governor said as he walked in.

At the counter, among the firearms and mounted animal heads at Outdoor Sportsman in Stockton, the Twin Peaks assemblyman handled a 12-gauge shotgun and admired an antique rifle.

"Oh, my God," he said.

Donnelly lingered at the counter, and he shook his head when he saw a customer filling out paperwork required to buy a gun in California.

"That's what you ought to be filming," the Legislature's most outspoken gun rights advocate told his videographer. "Look at all the paperwork you've got to do to exercise your Second Amendment rights."

It wasn't until Donnelly introduced himself to the store owner, Eric Johnston, that the candidate's own history with guns came up. Donnelly pleaded no contest in 2012 to two misdemeanor gun charges related to the discovery of a loaded firearm in his carry-on bag at Ontario International Airport.

Donnelly, who has said he forgot the gun was in his bag, told Johnston that all the press surrounding that incident may be beneficial.

"If you're a single-issue voter on the gun issue," Donnelly said, "you have now had my message communicated to you very effectively."

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

February 11, 2014
Tim Donnelly criticizes party politics, proposes high-speed rail money for water

donnellylockeford.jpgLODI - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly said Wednesday that the state should ask voters to use money earmarked for California's troubled high-speed rail project to instead build dams and other water infrastructure.

"That is something that I think would be wise, and I think there's broad support for that," he told reporters after an appearance in Lodi.

Donnelly said the state should also explore water desalinization.

Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, the other main Republican bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, have both criticized high-speed rail. Donnelly also went after Brown's $25 billion water project, calling it "flat-out insane."

Donnelly said the water project, in which Brown proposes building two tunnels to divert water around the Delta to the south, would result in a "massive disturbance of the ecosystem."

Before arriving in Lodi, Donnelly spoke to about 20 supporters in the parking lot of Young's Payless Supermarket on a foggy stretch of highway east of the city, in Lockeford.

The tea party favorite criticized the Democratic and Republican parties, saying "the parties haven't served us well."

He said his grandparents were Democrats. Though the party has been "hijacked by Marxist progressives," he said, partisanship only prevents Republicans from getting Democratic votes he said are "up for grabs."

Donnelly, nearing the end of a 10-day push through parts of central and northern California, did not mention Kashkari, but a supporter brought up Brown.

"What do you think your chances are against him?" she asked.

Said Donnelly: "No, you should be asking, 'What are his chances against me?'"

PHOTO: Republican Tim Donnelly speaks with supporters at a rally in Lockeford on Feb. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 11, 2014
Kevin Sloat fallout hits California Secretary of State race


The political fallout from the record-breaking fine of lobbyist Kevin Sloat has begun, with a candidate for Secretary of State calling on an opponent to return money he has raised from clients of the embattled lobbyist.

Sloat reached a settlement with the Fair Political Practices Commission to pay a $133,500 fine for contributing liquor, cigar and other items toward lavish political fundraisers in his home. The hospitality amounted to non-monetary campaign contributions beyond what the law allows lobbyists to give.

Sen. Alex Padilla, who is running for Secretary of State, was one of 37 politicians who received warning letters from the FPPC for holding political fundraisers at Sloat's home that included non-monetary contributions from Sloat that they were unaware of. The fine against Sloat and the list of politicians who benefited from his hospitality were made public by the FPPC on Monday in a document that says Sloat hosted a fundraiser for Padilla and then-Sen. Michael Rubio in June 2011.

One of Padilla's opponents, fellow Democrat Derek Cressman, seized on Monday's news by sending a letter to Padilla asking him to give back the money related to Sloat.

"I am writing to ask that you return any campaign contributions you have received from events at Mr. Sloat's home or from any of the clients of Sloat Higgens Jensen & Associates," Cressman's letter to Padilla says.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4th Congressional District

PHOTO: Kris Johnson for Congress

February 10, 2014
Dan Wolk nabs Democratic endorsement for Assembly seat

wolk.jpgCalifornia Democrats running for state and congressional offices moved closer to securing coveted state party endorsements at meetings of grassroots officials this weekend.

In the Sacramento area, Democratic Assembly candidate Dan Wolk exceeded the threshold to receive a pro-forma endorsement vote at the state party convention next month. Wolk, a Davis city councilman and the son of Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, is running to succeed Democrat Mariko Yamada, D-Davis.

Wolk received the recommendation over a trio of Democrats.

"As a lifelong Democrat, I have always been dedicated to our party's ideals of justice, equality and opportunity," he said in an email. "These are the values that I work for every day - and the values I will take with me to Sacramento. The endorsement also means a lot for our campaign in terms of local support, grassroots activism and resources."

Others running in the 4th Assembly District are Napa Supervisor Bill Dodd, Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza and Napa Planning Commissioner Matt Pope. All are Democrats.

While there was no immediate recommendation in the 7th Assembly District, Sacramento City Councilman Kevin McCarty remains a contender for the endorsement at the state convention. Also in the race are Democratic Sacramento Councilman Steve Cohn and West Sacramento Councilman Mark Johannessen, the son of former GOP Sen. Maurice Johannessen.

In the 6th Senate District being vacated by Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg, neither Assemblyman Roger Dickinson nor Assemblyman Richard Pan, as predicted, were able to gather enough party unity to manage a primary endorsement recommendation. The fight moves to the convention.

In other notable actions from across California:

State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, was recommended for the party's endorsement in the closely-watched contest to fill the seat of retiring Rep. Henry Waxman of Beverly Hills. A representatives for former Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel, said the delegate vote was motivated by a network at the state Capitol.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will get the party's endorsement. DeSaulnier is running to fill the seat of retiring Democratic Rep. George Miller of Martinez.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett , D-Hayward, mustered enough support to block an endorsement recommendation for freshman Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell. Swalwell, formerly of the Dublin City Council, did get enough votes to possibly gain the party's backing at the state convention. (Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, who is challenging for Corbett's Senate seat, easily picked up the votes for an endorsement.)

Despite repeatedly being outraised, Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, seems to have nabbed the party's support over intraparty challenger Ro Khanna. Khanna, a former Obama administration official, is looking to extend the 17th district race to November under the state's new top-two primary system.

PHOTO: Davis City Councilman Dan Wolk. Wolk for Assembly

February 10, 2014
VIDEO: GOP candidates talk regulation, education and the utility of a gun

kashkariforum.jpgNeel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly crossed paths Sunday.

Drama? None.

In brief presentations at a meeting of the California Federation of Republican Women, the GOP candidates for governor offered familiar remarks — Kashkari on jobs and education, Donnelly on jobs and government regulation — and each wrapped without mentioning the other.

Yet there are other, lesser-known Republicans who have also filed statements of intention to run, and one of them was given a spot in the speaking order right between the party's main acts.

Glenn Champ, who describes himself on his website as "a new breed of Christian soldier moving forward in the army of the Lord," told a story about two brothers, both of whom are tea party farmers who get audited by the IRS.

The one with a firearm did best.

"He says, 'Well, I asked that agent if I could record the conversation,'" Champ, of Tollhouse, told the audience in Rancho Cordova. "The agent said, 'Yes.' So I pulled out my 1911 recording device, cocked the hammer, and the agent said, 'I've made a big mistake. Please forgive the IRS,' and he left.

"Now that's the kind of candidate we need, somebody that's going to stand up to government and tell them, 'Hey, you're out of line.'"

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari speaks at a meeting of the California Federation of Republican Women in Rancho Cordova on Feb. 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 9, 2014
Jerry Brown website glitch touts Republicans as supporters

jerrybrownkashkari.jpgGov. Jerry Brown's public-approval ratings may be the highest of his third term, but unless his supporters include any number of prominent Republicans — including those bidding to unseat him — he appears to have found room to overstate his appeal.

On the home page of the Democratic governor's campaign website,, is a gallery of Twitter profile pictures with the caption, "This site works thanks to folks like these that want to Keep California Working.

"Join Us!"

Until Sunday morning, clicking on a picture took visitors to a page on Brown's site featuring the person's Twitter profile. Listed supporters included the two main Republicans running against Brown: Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, and Tim Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman.

California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte and Republican Senate leader Bob Huff had pages created for them on Brown's website, too.

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for the governor, said in an email early Sunday that it was "clearly a glitch," in which Twitter followers were automatically listed as supporters.

The pages were taken down by late morning.

At a meeting of the California Federation of Republican Women in Rancho Cordova on Sunday, Donnelly said the error "shows too much arrogance," while Kashkari brushed it off.

"Glitches happen," he said.

PHOTO: A screen shot of Gov. Jerry Brown's campaign website mistakenly suggesting Republican Neel Kashkari is a supporter.

February 6, 2014
Ted Lieu hires big-name California consultants for congressional run


A pair of political heavyweights has joined state Sen. Ted Lieu's congressional bid.

Gale Kaufman and Bill Carrick were tapped to help guide the Torrance Democrat's campaign for the seat of retiring Rep. Henry Waxman.

Lieu is running in what could become a crowded field for the open 33rd Congressional District. Former Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel, coming off a tough loss in the city's mayoral campaign, has already been endorsed by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Among Lieu's early supporters are Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Alan Lowenthal and Los Angeles City Council members Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz.

Kaufman, who specializes in statewide ballot measure campaigns, has worked on races for dozens of state and federal candidates, including presidential hopeful Bill Bradley. Carrick, a longtime consultant for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Lois Capps, recently helped run the campaign of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and is working on former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver's supervisorial run.

Joining Lieu and Greuel in the race are independents Marianne Williamson, an author, and Brent Roske, a producer. Republican-turned-independent Bill Bloomfield is said to be weighing a run.

PHOTO: Sen.Ted Lieu, D-Torrance during session at the Capitol in March. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 5, 2014
Neel Kashkari raises more than $900,000 in two weeks for California governor's race

kashkarisits.jpgNeel Kashkari raised more than $900,000 in the first two weeks of his gubernatorial campaign, the first significant fundraising burst from any Republican bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown.

The sum is only a fraction of the roughly $17 million Brown had on hand as of Dec. 31. But it is more than twice what Tim Donnelly, the other Republican in the race, raised all of last year.

Kashkari's campaign announced Wednesday that the former U.S. Treasury Department official had raised $976,000 since announcing his candidacy last month. Kashkari has filed campaign statements showing contributions of just under $915,000. The campaign said the balance consists of checks less than $5,000 that are not yet required to be reported.

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and his wife, Wendy, each contributed $27,200, as did billionaire Robert Day, chairman of Trust Company of the West, and each of Kashkari's parents, Chaman and Sheila. Slightly more than two-thirds of the total amount raised came from California donors. Many of the contributors are members of the financial industry, including employees of Goldman Sachs, where Kashkari previously worked.

Kashkari raised fundraising expectations by saying before he announced his candidacy that he had met with hundreds of potential donors, and his campaign promoted his earnings in a news release just before filing contribution reports with the state.

In an online video, Kashkari said the contributions reflect an "outpouring of support."

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, raised less than $375,000 in 2013 and ended the year with only $54,299 in cash on hand. Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado dropped out of the race last month after raising just $517,772 last year.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run.

The Bee's Jim Miller contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli

February 5, 2014
VIDEO: Tim Donnelly seeking campaign donations, prayer

donnellyroseville.jpgAs he re-commissioned a borrowed RV and touched off a 10-day push through central and northern California on Tuesday, Tim Donnelly suggested at his first stop, in Roseville, what he needs badly at this point in the campaign.

"If you can write an additional check," the Republican candidate for governor said, "please search out your heart and do everything you can."

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman and tea party favorite, reported Friday that he raised only about $374,000 last year and was left by the end of December with just $54,299 on hand. Jerry Brown, the third-term governor Donnelly is bidding to unseat, held about $17 million.

In three speeches Tuesday - at a fundraiser, a rally and a meeting of Republicans at an Old Spaghetti Factory - Donnelly acknowledged many of his supporters will not write the kind of high-dollar checks that fill Brown's filings.

But the Legislature's most outspoken anti-illegal immigration and gun-rights advocate told several dozen supporters at a glass and window business, "You might know somebody who can write me a larger check than you can - a thousand dollars, or five or ten. Introduce me to them. Hey, I will make the phone calls."

It is unclear how Donnelly's fundraising will stand up against the other Republican in the race, who only entered the contest last month. Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, reported the first contribution of his campaign - a $5,000 check from Woodside money manager Paul Edwards - just moments before Donnelly began speaking in Roseville. The contribution reflects Kashkari's efforts for less than a full day after he announced his candidacy, and it does not account for contributions that were not immediately received.

Donnelly told Republicans in Roseville that big government is the "greatest threat to your future." He criticized Brown's handling of the ongoing drought and promised broadly to ease California's regulatory climate if elected.

Donnelly said supporters who can't donate more can do other things: volunteer, help campaign videos go viral, "like" him on Facebook.

"Most important," he said at the Old Spaghetti Factory, "I'm going to ask you to pray."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 12:30 p.m. Thursday to correct the description of issues on which Donnelly is outspoken. He is the Legislature's most outspoken anti-illegal immigration and gun-rights advocate.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks at a campaign rally at The Glass Guru in Roseville on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 5, 2014
Sandra Fluke to run for California Legislature


Sandra Fluke, the women's rights activist weighing a congressional bid, said Wednesday she will instead mount a campaign for the California Legislature.

Fluke's surprise candidacy for the state's 26th Senate district comes amid persistent calls for more women to challenge for the Legislature. In a statement, the Democrat said she was moved by the outpouring of local and national support since announcing she was considering running for public office.

"My entire career has been devoted to the public interest, whether representing victims of human trafficking or advocating for working families," Fluke said Wednesday. "I am committed to continuing that fight in Sacramento, working to protect our environment, ensure our access to health care, and create the jobs that are desperately needed. While I strongly considered offering my candidacy for Congress, I feel there is better way for me to advance the causes that are important to our community."

The 26th Senate District, stretching along the coast of Los Angeles County -- from the Westside to south of Torrance -- came open when Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu decided to forgo a final term in favor of getting in the race to succeed veteran Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman.

26th Senate District

Other potential candidates for the state Senate seat include Democrats Vito Imbasciani, an Army National Guard State Surgeon, former Assemblywoman Betsy Butler and Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi.

Fluke this week sought to remain eligible for the California Democratic Party endorsement had she run for Congress. It's unclear whether she qualified for the party's backing in the state Senate race, though her announcement includes endorsements from Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.

Fluke is no stranger to the campaign trail having appeared with everyone from President Barack Obama to a handful of California Democrats running for targeted congressional seats.

As a Georgetown University law student, Fluke became a household name after her congressional testimony advocating for birth control coverage inspired a viral rant by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. He later apologized for deriding her as a "slut" and "prostitute."

Last month, Fluke was flanked by several state lawmakers as she spoke to a women's policy summit in Sacramento.

PHOTO: Activist Sandra Fluke campaigns for Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, then a candidate for Congress. The news conference on women's health issues was held in October 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

February 4, 2014
Abel Maldonado to Charles Munger Jr.: 'WE need you!'

maldonadowalking.jpgFormer Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who abandoned his campaign for governor last month, is apparently less than satisfied with Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, the two Republicans still standing.

"Chairman Charles T. Munger Jr., PLEASE run for Governor! WE need you!" Maldonado said Tuesday on Twitter.

Munger, the wealthy Republican benefactor and chairman of the Santa Clara County Republican Central Committee, has given no indication he is considering a run. But Maldonado is hopeful.

"I hope he considers it," Maldonado said. "He needs to step up."

Munger has poured tens of millions of dollars into candidates and ballot measure in recent years, while working to moderate the California Republican Party's platform. He helped the California Republican Party retire debt last year and supported ballot initiatives to give California's political map-making authority to an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

"If you think about it, over the last eight years, no one's done more for reform and good government," Maldonado said. "He's a good man, he's got a great heart and he's got a great resume. And I think he'd be someone who would be doing it for the right reasons, and I hope he considers it."

Maldonado demurred when asked for his opinion about Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, and Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official.

He said only, "I think Charles would be a great candidate."

Last year, Munger donated $27,200 to Maldonado's campaign, one of the relatively small number of major contributions Maldonado could muster. He withdrew his candidacy after struggling to raise money and enduring a series of campaign missteps.

The Santa Maria farmer said Tuesday he is content to be at his ranch.

"You know," he said, "there's no partisanship when I look at a herd of 25 cattle."

PHOTO: Republican Abel Maldonado walks to a news conference in Sacramento on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 4, 2014
Sandra Fluke keeps congressional hopes alive with state filing

SandraFluke.JPGDemocrat Sandra Fluke is keeping her options open for a congressional run.

The women's rights advocate has filed the necessary paperwork with the state party to receive its endorsement for the 33rd district coming vacant with the retirement of Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of Beverly Hills.

Fluke's filing was made public online by the California Democratic Party this week. Pre-endorsement conferences are set to begin on Saturday.

Abigail Gardner, a spokeswoman for Fluke, said Tuesday the purpose of the filing was to meet internal party deadlines to be considered for an endorsement if she were to run for the seat.

"That was a procedural thing she needed to do to keep her options open, but it is certainly not indicative that a final decision has been made," Gardner told The Bee.

Fluke is a former law student at Georgetown University whose congressional testimony advocating for birth control coverage drew the scorn of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. He apologized for his harsh phrasing. Fluke has campaigned for Democrats and appeared at various women's rights events, including a policy summit last month in Sacramento.

Former Los Angeles City Controller and mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel and state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, announced their candidacies following Waxman's announcement and were joined by Barbara Mulvaney, a former attorney for the United International Tribunal for Rwanda.

The list of possible entries, led by Los Angles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, is long and could change the dynamic of the field.

PHOTO: Activist Sandra Fluke campaigns for Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, then a candidate for Congress. The news conference on women's health issues was held in October 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling

February 1, 2014
Rep. Ami Bera widens fundraising lead over trio of GOP rivals


Rep. Ami Bera continued his fundraising advantage in the final quarter of 2013, raising $340,672 and lifting his cash on hand to $1.15 million.

Bera, D-Elk Grove, spent about $88,000 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, according to reports released late Friday. His cash total heading into the June primary far exceeds the combined amount of Republican challengers Igor Birman, Elizabeth Emken and Doug Ose.

Bera, known for his fundraising abilities in two punishing contests against former Republican Rep. Dan Lungren, reached his total despite adhering to a self-imposed campaign cash-collection ban during the recent partial government shutdown. Bera said the figures demonstrate "Sacramento County families want a problem-solver who puts people before politics representing them in Congress."

Ose raised about $130,000 and has $277,166 to spend. The former three-term congressman has brought in about $620,000 since entering the race last fall, but he retired a $250,000 debt left over from his primary loss to GOP Rep. Tom McClintock in 2008.

Birman, on break from his job as chief of staff to McClintock, took in about $85,000 and has $124,000 in the bank. Emken, an autism advocate who challenged U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the last cycle, amassed $46,605 and has $305,827 left to spend. Much of her campaign money came via a loan from the candidate.

The 7th Congressional District race is again expected to be among the state's most hotly contested seats. Below is a quick look at the latest fundraising totals of the major candidates in other top California House races:

3rd district
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. Raised: $115,000; COH (cash on hand) $216,000
Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville. Raised: $205,000; COH $251,000 (includes $100,000 candidate loan).

10th district
Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock. Raised: $228,000; COH: $1.3 million
Democrat Michael Eggman, bee farmer. Raised: $188,000; COH: $287,000

17th district
Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose. Raised: $250,500; COH: $623,000
Democrat Ro Khanna, former Obama administration official. Raised $425,000; COH $2 million

21st district
Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford. Raised: $233,000; COH: $677,000
Democrat Amanda Renteria, substitute teacher and former congressional aide. Raised: $338,000; COH: $257,000

26th district
Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village. Raised: $270,000; COH: $885,000
Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo. Raised: $133,000; COH: $131,000

31st district
Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga. Raised: $149,000; COH: $910,000
Democrat Pete Aguilar, mayor of Redlands. Raised: $147,000; COH: $524,000
Democrat Eloise Gomez Reyes, lawyer. Raised: $302,000: COH: $479,000
Democrat Joe Baca, former congressman. Raised: $20,000; COH: $21,000

36th district
Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert. Raised: $414,000; COH: $1.2 million
Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert. Raised: $230,000; COH: $302,000

41st district
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside. Raised: $118,000; COH: $433,000
Republican Steve Adams, Riverside councilman. Raised: $26,000; COH: $39,000

52nd district
Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego. Raised: $337,000; COH: $1.15 million
Republican Carl DeMaio, former San Diego councilman. Raised: $370,000; COH: $986,000

PHOTO: Ami Bera. Lezlie Sterling/Sacramento Bee file photo, 2012

January 31, 2014
Tim Donnelly holds about $54,000 to take on Jerry Brown

donnellypodium.jpgTim Donnelly raised less than $300,000 for his gubernatorial campaign in the second half of last year, leaving him with only $54,299 in cash on hand by the end of December, he reported Friday.

The Twin Peaks assemblyman is one of two Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown this year. The Democratic governor reported earlier Friday that he had increased his war chest to about $17 million by the end of December.

Donnelly raised $291,063 and spent $286,069 from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2013. His contributions for the full year totaled $374,213. The Legislature's most outspoken gun rights and anti-illegal immigration advocate struggled to raise major contributions, relying on scores of individual donations of several hundred dollars or less.

Brown, a Democrat, has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run. The other Republican running, former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, did not start fundraising until earlier this month, when he announced his candidacy. His first financial filing is not expected until later in February.

Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who dropped out of the race in January, raised $203,550 in the second half of the year and spent $181,274. He had an ending cash balance of $22,727 on Dec. 31.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks in Baldwin Park Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Associated Press/Nick Ut

January 31, 2014
Neel Kashkari forgoes tax-cutting theme, embraces another

kashkarisits.jpgWhen Neel Kashkari told conservative talk radio listeners in Los Angeles this week that he would not immediately move to lower taxes on the wealthiest Californians, he suggested his campaign for governor will diverge from a tax-cutting theme Republicans have pressed hard in recent years.

The position is strategic, not ideological. Voters in this Democratic state overwhelmingly approved a tax increase in 2012, and Kashkari — outflanked by a more conservative candidate, Tim Donnelly, on the right — will likely need support from independent voters to advance from the June primary election to a runoff against Gov. Jerry Brown in the fall.

On the "John and Ken" show Thursday, Kashkari assured his hosts that he believes "our taxes are too high" and wants to "get everyone to the table" to discuss them. But he said, "I don't think, politically, that's where we start."

Instead, Kashkari is embracing another, equally reliable conservative stand-by. One week into his campaign, Kashkari — like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Meg Whitman before him — is going after budgetary waste.

"To me, I think it's critical that we start getting our money's worth for the taxes that we're collecting," Kashkari said. "We spend more than $40 billion a year on K-12, and only about half of that money is actually getting into the classroom. Half of it is being spent on administration and overhead and other things."

That should sound familiar. In the Republican gubernatorial primary four years ago, Steve Poizner promised to fix a public education system "that wastes a lot of money," while Whitman planned to devote more funds to classroom teaching and less to "bureaucracy." Whitman proposed eliminating "waste, fraud and abuse" statewide, as did Schwarzenegger, the last Republican to occupy the governor's office. Experts said the amount of fat in the budget was overstated, and seven years after he took office, Schwarzenegger left Sacramento with a deficit.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, has not put a number on the overall budget savings he believes he could find. But education is a focus of his campaign, and on that subject Kashkari went to his radio interview prepared. The basis for Kashkari's claim that classrooms are being shortchanged is a 2011 study that found direct spending in California classrooms declined from 59 percent to less than 58 percent of total expenditures from 2003 to 2009, even as total education spending increased.

The report, by Pepperdine University, is questionable for what it counted as "direct classroom expenditures." It included teacher salaries and estimated benefits, textbooks and materials and supplies, but not the cost of library or cafeteria workers, busing and building maintenance.

The report, produced with funding from the conservative Small Business Action Committee, stirred controversy when it was released several years ago. Now the study - or some version of it - is likely to feature prominently in Kashkari's campaign. If he can persuade voters that education money could be redirected from the bureaucracy to classrooms, he could propose any number of programs without needing to identify additional funding.

Kashkari has not released any detailed policy proposals, but on Thursday he expressed interest in vocational training and a longer school year, and he praised ideas advocated by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Since leaving office, the former governor has been promoting his "Florida formula" for public education that includes assigning letter grades to schools while emphasizing vouchers, online instruction and reading tests that third graders must pass before being promoted.

Experts have debated the influence of these polices on student achievement in Florida, but Kashkari is inspired.

"They brought more choice to parents, they brought more power into parents, they provided more accountability," Kashkari said. "This is not rocket science."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli

January 31, 2014
Jerry Brown reports $17 million on hand for re-election

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgGov. Jerry Brown raised $7.1 million for his re-election campaign in the second half of last year, he reported Friday, increasing his total war chest to about $17 million by the end of December.

The Democratic governor has not yet said if he will seek re-election but is widely expected to run. He received major funding from labor unions and business interests, including oil and telecommunications companies.

Brown leads a small field of Republicans by a wide margin in early fundraising and polls.


Brown reported spending only about $208,000 in campaign operations last year, with most of that amount coming in the last six months of the year. In addition to various office and fundraising expenses, Brown reported "bonus" payments of $25,000 each to Angie Tate, a Democratic fundraiser, and Edward Ruthrauff, who worked on Brown's 2010 campaign before coming into the administration to be Brown's director of constituent affairs.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, has until the end of the day to file his year-end financial statement. Neel Kahskari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, did not start fundraising until earlier this month, when he announced his candidacy.

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

January 30, 2014
Jerry Brown missed voting in a couple elections, too

brownoaklandport.jpgGov. Jerry Brown's political spokesmen took to Twitter to trash Neel Kashkari when the Republican's inconsistent voting record gained broader attention in recent days, and they jumped again when the shortcomings of another candidate, Tim Donnelly, came to light.

"The governor's been a regular voter his entire life," spokesman Dan Newman said, "and the Republicans haven't."

Both Kashkari and Donnelly failed to vote in many elections after turning 18, according to voter records, though they have voted in most presidential and gubernatorial contests in California.

Brown's voting record over the past two decades is far superior. But not perfect.

The Democratic governor has voted in 28 of 30 elections since the mid 1990s, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

One election Brown missed, in 1997, involved a tax for emergency medical services.

The other was more historic. Brown was mayor of Oakland when Audie Bock upset Elihu Harris, a former mayor, to win an Assembly seat in 1999. Bock became the first Green Party candidate in the nation to hold a state office. According to Alameda County officials, Brown didn't cast a vote.

Newman said Brown's recollection is that he did vote in that election.

Regardless, Newman said, in comparing the candidates' records "you've confirmed the stark contrast."

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

January 29, 2014
Conservative Ron Unz pushing to increase California minimum wage

UNZ.JPGAfter a decade away from politics, Republican Ron Unz is plotting his return to the campaign trail.

Unz, the multimillionaire former gubernatorial candidate, credits as the inspiration for his comeback an unlikely figure: former U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

Then a Democratic state senator, Solis was the public face of a 1996 ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $5.75 an hour. Despite closely following a federal increase, the California measure passed with 61 percent of the vote.

"The numbers were so strong there really wasn't any opposition," Unz recalled in an interview.

Now, he's working to qualify a ballot measure of his own to lift the minimum wage to $10 per hour in March 2015 and $12 per hour a year later. The minimum wage is set to increase from $8 an hour to $9 an hour on July 1, and to $10 by 2016, under a bill signed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Unz characterized his more rapid timeline as a win for taxpayers.

"What we are seeing is the classic case of businesses privatizing the benefits of their low-wage workforces and socializing the costs," he said.

His push comes amid renewed focus by both major political parties on income inequality ahead of the midterm elections for Congress. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama through an executive order said he would raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour -- "because if you cook for our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty," he said in his State of the Union Address.

Obama said he would continue to urge Congress to extend the hike to all workers, arguing that the federal minimum wage is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan made the first of several annual addresses as president.

January 28, 2014
Neel Kashkari hits California Gov. Jerry Brown on 'crazy train'

kashkarisits.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari, criticizing Gov. Jerry Brown for his support of California's high-speed rail project, released a web ad Tuesday panning it as "a symbol of Sacramento having the wrong priorities."

The online-only ad, the first issue ad of Kashkari's campaign, comes a week after the former U.S. Treasury Department official announced his candidacy for governor.
In the video, Kashkari, wearing blue jeans and seated in a leather chair, calls the project the "crazy train."

"To me, it is not only a waste of money, it is a great example, it is a symbol of Sacramento having the wrong priorities," Kashkari says in the video. "If I were elected governor, we're going to cancel the bullet train and we're going to focus on the state's real priorities, which are jobs and education."

Yet the project's proposed financing includes a mix of sources including state bond funds, federal aid and private investment. Kashkari has yet to issue detailed policy proposals for education or jobs creation, his stated priorities, and he has not said how he would craft a state spending plan.

The $68 billion rail project is an issue Republicans believe they can exploit in attacking Brown. The Democratic governor is heavily favored in his likely re-election bid this year, but public support for the troubled project, a priority of Brown's administration, has fallen off since voters approved it in 2008.

The project, which is planned to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, is beset by legal challenges. The Brown administration on Friday asked the California Supreme Court to intervene in two lower court rulings that jeopardize its funding.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

January 22, 2014
Republicans criticize Jerry Brown for leaving poverty rate out of State of the State

kashkarisits.jpgTwo Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown this year criticized the Democratic governor Wednesday for failing to mention California's nation-high poverty rate in his State of the State address.

"Governor Brown may claim a California comeback, but the truth is that he has forgotten the millions of California families who are struggling," Neel Kashkari, who announced his candidacy Tuesday, said in a prepared statement.

The former U.S. Treasury Department official said it is "outrageous" that Brown did not address poverty.

The only other Republican actively campaigning against Brown, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, was similarly critical.

He said in a prepared statement that the Democratic governor "has repeatedly failed to address how he intends to get the state back to work and return prosperity to California."

Brown, who has raised millions of dollars for a likely re-election bid this year, made passing reference to "struggling families" near the end of his annual address, but he largely avoided the issue.

Republicans have criticized Brown on the economy since the U.S. Census Bureau reported last fall that 23.8 percent of Californians live in poverty under a calculation that includes the cost of liming.

Brown told National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" last year that the poverty rate is "the flip side of California's incredible attractiveness and prosperity," as many immigrants to the state are unskilled.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli

January 22, 2014
Jerry Brown lauds California's 'comeback,' urges caution in State of the State speech

Brownframe1.jpgGov. Jerry Brown said today that California is continuing its "comeback," with a budget surplus and an improving economy, but he urged the Legislature to restrain spending.

"This year, Californians have a lot to be proud of," Brown told a joint session of the Legislature in his State of the State address. "For a decade, budget instability was the order of the day. ... But three years later, here we are, with state spending and revenues solidly balanced, and more to come."

However, Brown said the state budget is based on fluctuating revenue, and long-term liabilities are high. As he did in his State of the State speech a year ago, Brown offered the cautionary, biblical account of Joseph and the Pharaoh's dream of seven cows.

"Boom and bust is our lot and we must follow the ancient advice, recounted in the Book of Genesis, that Joseph gave to the Pharaoh," Brown said. "Put away your surplus during the years of great plenty so you will be ready for the lean years which are sure to follow."

The 17-minute speech was the final State of the State address of Brown's third term. The 75-year-old Democrat is widely expected to seek re-election, and the speech served to preview his campaign.

Brown has made construction of a $68 billion high-speed rail system a priority of his administration, despite fierce opposition from Republicans. Brown is also seeking to push forward his $25 billion plan to build two tunnels to divert water around the Delta to the south.

A drought emergency Brown announced last week has only heightened controversy around that plan.

Brown said that "among all our uncertainties, weather is one of the most basic. We can't control it. We can only live with it, and now we have to live with a very serious drought of uncertain duration."

He said, "We need everyone in every part of the state to conserve water," and he called for "further progress" on his tunnels plan.

January 21, 2014
Neel Kashkari announces he will run for California governor

kashkarisits.jpgNeel Kashkari, the former U.S. Treasury Department official who has been preparing to run for governor for a year, formally entered the contest Tuesday, pledging to improve public education and the jobs climate in California.

"That's my platform: Jobs and education," Kashkari said at a business luncheon at Sacramento State. "Jobs and education. That's it."

In declaring his candidacy, Kashkari, 40, joins Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, as the only Republicans actively campaigning to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown. Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado abandoned his campaign last week.

"Millions of Californians are struggling," Kashkari said. "The status quo is unacceptable."

Kashkari's entrance into the race was widely expected. He left his job at Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co. a year ago, hired political advisers and spent recent months meeting with potential donors and giving newspaper interviews.

His viability as a candidate remains an open question, as he will only now begin to raise money and test his moderate social views with GOP donors and the party's base. Kashkari has never run for elected office and has said he cannot self-finance the effort.

Unseating Brown in this heavily Democratic state would be a tough task for a Republican, analysts believe, and raising money against him has proven to be exceedingly difficult. Donnelly has reported raising just more than $200,000, while Brown has raised more than $17 million.

Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs executive, ran the $700 billion bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program during former President George W. Bush's administration. He has said he will make poverty and education the focus of his campaign.

Announcing his candidacy at a luncheon at Sacramento State, Kashkari said the state's public education system is failing its students and leaving millions of residents in poverty.

"We have to grow the economy and create jobs," he said, "and give kids a good education at the same time."

Kashkari joins a long list of Republicans complaining about California's high poverty rate. Last fall, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a poverty rate in California of 23.8 percent, using an alternative calculation that includes cost of living, and the large number of Californians who are unemployed or marginally employed and looking for work.

Kashkari also criticized California's $68 billion high-speed rail project, garnering applause when he called the controversial project a "crazy train."

Democrats have painted Kashkari as a wealthy product of the private sector who had little interest in California politics before deciding to run for governor.

Kashkari, of Orange County, spent much of last year traveling the state, promoting his appearances at food banks and community centers on Twitter.

Kashkari's appearance Tuesday was his first speech since leaving his job at Pacific Investment Management Co. He had fueled speculation he would make his announcement there when, in an interview last week, he billed the appearance as a "major speech."

Kashkari supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights and voted for Barack Obama in 2008. He has opposed tax increases and supported efforts to limit the political influence of labor unions.

Brown, a third-term Democrat, has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but in addition to his fundraising he has hinted he will, and he is widely expected to run.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli

January 16, 2014
Pass a bond measure for water, California lawmakers urge at rally


Lawmakers representing drought-stricken districts joined with hundreds of their constituents at the state Capitol on Thursday to press for a new water bond measure and the declaration of a drought emergency.

"I see farmers, I see farmworkers; I see people from urban communities and from rural communities, all here today to send one message: that we need water," said Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno.

A procession of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, most representing the Central Valley, took the podium to issue similar pleas. Many called for money to ensure clean drinking water and for more storage capacity, saying it would offset dry years by allowing the state to capture more during years of plentiful rain.

"Additional storage is the key," said Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte. "This year's drought simply underscores how critical the situation has become."

A sea of blue signs reading "sin agua=no ay futuro" (no water, no future) or some variation backdropped the speakers, highlighting the California Latino Water Coalition's role in organizing the rally.

"2014 is going to be one of California's worst water supply years in recent history," said Mario Santoyo, director of the coalition. He called the shortfall an issue not just for reduced food production, "but more importantly for those that are here, the issue is that when there is no water, there's no jobs."

January 16, 2014
Abel Maldonado confirms he is dropping out of governor's race

maldonadowalking.jpgRepublican Abel Maldonado confirmed Thursday he is dropping out of the race for governor, abandoning a campaign that struggled from the start.

"Today I'm withdrawing my candidacy for governor of California," Maldonado said at a news conference in Santa Maria, his home town. "Now is my time to step away."

Though no Republican is likely to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown in this heavily Democratic state, Maldonado was once thought the likeliest Republican to advance to the runoff against him in November. Many Republicans believed fielding Maldonado, a moderate Latino, could improve the diminished party's standing with Latino voters.

But Maldonado's support for temporary tax increases while in the Legislature alienated many conservatives, and his efforts to raise money fell flat.

Maldonado's campaign announced late Wednesday that he would make a "major announcement" at the news conference, but his advisers declined to comment ahead of the event. The Bee this morning reported he was quitting the race.

In exiting, Maldonado will record his third straight campaign failure. He lost his campaign for a seat in Congress in 2012 and, two years before that, his bid to keep his appointed post as lieutenant governor.

Maldonado's exit leaves Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a more conservative candidate, as the only Republican actively campaigning against Brown.

Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is expected to declare his candidacy soon.

As part of his campaign, Maldonado announced last year that he would file a ballot initiative to repeal California's historic prison realignment, the 2011 law in which the state shifted responsibility for certain low-level offenders to counties.

No initiative has been filed, and Maldonado sidestepped a question about the initiative's future at his news conference Thursday.

"It just needs support, and I hope we can get that in the future," he said.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 11:48 a.m. to include Maldonado's remarks and reporting by Matt Fountain of The Tribune of San Luis Obispo.

Matt Fountain of The Tribune of San Luis Obispo contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Republican Abel Maldonado walks to a news conference in Sacramento on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 16, 2014
Abel Maldonado said to be dropping out of CA governor's race

maldonadopresser.jpgAbel Maldonado, whose campaign for governor sputtered for months and failed to gain the support of Republican donors, has told other Republicans he will drop out of the race today, sources said.

The former lieutenant governor is expected to make the announcement at an 11 a.m. news conference in Santa Maria, his home town.

The announcement will end weeks of speculation about Maldonado's political future. After heavily promoting the re-launch of his campaign last fall, Maldonado has largely faded from public view. It has been nearly two months since he last reported receiving a major contribution.

Maldonado's exit leaves Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a more conservative candidate, as the only Republican actively campaigning against Gov. Jerry Brown.

Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is expected to declare his candidacy soon.

No Republican is expected to unseat Brown in this heavily Democratic state, but Maldonado, a moderate, was once considered the likeliest Republican to advance to the November runoff against him.

But Maldonado's campaign was damaged by missteps from the start. Maldonado came under criticism in May when he announced a ballot initiative to repeal California's prison realignment program but highlighted a menacing photograph of an offender who was not released under the program.

Then, after finishing the first half of last year in debt, Maldonado and his original team of advisers split. Maldonado assembled a new group of advisers, including Ron Nehring, the former California Republican Party chairman, and he presented the team at the state party's convention last fall.

Neither Maldonado nor his advisers responded to repeated requests for comment. The candidate said on Twitter late Wednesday, "Jerry Brown is a good Governor; I'd be a better one."

PHOTO: Abel Maldonado speaks to reporters in Sacramento on May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 15, 2014
Democrat Kris Johnson files to challenge Tom McClintock


Looks like Rep. Tom McClintock will get a challenge from the left.

Democrat Kris Johnson plans to run in the Republican-dominated 4th Congressional District.

The Granite Bay resident filed the necessary paperwork to run just days after news anchor Walt Gray ended speculation that he would mount an independent campaign against McClintock, a rock-ribbed Republican.

Johnson, who has yet to formally announce her candidacy, said in a message posted to her website that she was frustrated and angry about the poor performance of elected officials to stem the economic crisis in the Foothills.

The local economy has been stalled for too long, she said.

"The future does not look bright for our children and grandchildren," she said. "There are not enough jobs in our district to keep our children here. Housing is unaffordable for those earning low wages or starting salaries."

She also took aim at Republicans for their role in the partial government shutdown and for voting dozens of times to repeal all or parts of the federal health care law.

"The singular focus on cutting spending is starving our country of the very jobs that can change our economy for the better," she said. "Cutting expenses in a household is a very slow approach to money problems. The solution is to get more income. Income pays down debt in a household. Jobs will pay down debt in our country."

4th Congressional District

The redrawn 4th district is among the most conservative in the state. It is 45 percent Republican, 30 percent Democratic and 21 percent independent.

The district also is arguably the nation's most picturesque, taking in portions of Roseville; it extends from Lake Tahoe past Yosemite National Park.

McClintock lives outside of its boundaries in Elk Grove. After winning a close congressional race in 2008, the former state lawmaker and perennial candidate for statewide office has cruised to re-election.

Born in Wisconsin, Johnson was 13 years old when her parents became ill and she was moved to a children's home as a ward of the state of Indiana. She held jobs with Amoco Oil, 3M Company before moving to Northern California 25 years ago with her husband, John, to work at Intel Corporation.

PHOTO: Kris Johnson for Congress

January 14, 2014
Neel Kashkari meets with legislative Republicans, looks ahead to 'major speech'

Financial Stability Neel Kashkari.JPGNeel Kashkari, apparently close to announcing his campaign for governor, met Tuesday with the Republican caucuses of both houses of the state Legislature.

"It was important for me, before I make a final decision, that they had heard directly from me about the issues that I'm focused on, and that I could hear from them," the former U.S. Treasury Department official said. "The feedback was great."

Kashkari, who ran the Troubled Asset Relief Program during President George W. Bush's administration, is expected to join former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, in a small field of Republicans challenging Gov. Jerry Brown.

Kashkari is scheduled next Tuesday to give his first speech since leaving his job at Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co. a year ago. He is listed as the keynote speaker at a business luncheon at Sacramento State.

Kashkari said it will be a "major speech," adding, "You should come to that."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari, then interim assistant Treasury secretary for financial stability, speaks during an event for the Institute of International Bankers on Oct. 13, 2008, in Washington. AP file photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

January 10, 2014
VIDEO: Dan Schnur formally announces for Secretary of State

ha_schnur7656.JPGDan Schnur kicked off his campaign to become the state's chief elections officer Friday in Sacramento.

PHOTO: Dan Schnur, shown in September 2010 when he was chair of the FPPC. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 10, 2014
Doug Haaland to take on Assemblyman Ken Cooley in 8th district

Haaland.jpgCiting the need to restore fiscal responsibility to the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Republican Doug Haaland said Friday he plans to challenge Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, in the 8th Assembly District.

Haaland said his priorities include focusing on job creation in the district and helping tamp down the Legislature's urge to spend an influx of revenue. The 61-year-old recently retired after spending nearly three decades working as an aide at the Capitol.

"After 27 years of working in the building, I know legislators get excited when they see the word 'surplus,'" Haaland said in an interview.

The Democratic supermajorities in both houses have not been productive, he added.

The 8th Assembly district stretches from Citrus Heights to south of Wilton, taking in Rancho Cordova, Rancho Murieta and Rosemont.

While it favors Democrats in voter registration, 41 percent to 36.5 percent, fewer than 15,000 votes separated Cooley from Republican Peter Tateishi with President Barack Obama running at the top of the ticket in 2012.

Haaland contemplated jumping into that race but ultimately decided against it. He held a number of jobs in state government including serving as the chief of staff to Assemblyman Phil Wyman and Assemblywoman Shirley Horton. He later spent several years as the director of member services for the Assembly Republican Caucus.

A resident of Arden Park, Haaland spent nearly a dozen years as president of the Rosemont Community Association.

Cooley also spent years as a legislative aide and has become well known for his guided tours of the Capitol.

"There is no doubt that it's going to be a bit of a mountain," Haaland said. "I will give Ken all the credit in the world for being good at the retail (politics) part of things."

PHOTO: Doug Haaland. Courtesy Haaland for Assembly.

January 9, 2014
Jerry Brown rejects oil tax push

budget_conference.jpgGov. Jerry Brown on Thursday rejected calls for a tax on companies that extract oil in California, after billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer said last month that he would ramp up a campaign for such a tax in the state Legislature.

"I don't think this is the year for new taxes," the Democratic governor told reporters at the state Capitol.

Brown, who is preparing for a likely re-election bid this year, spent much of 2012 campaigning for his ballot initiative to raise taxes, Proposition 30, and its passage is a major reason he is enjoying a budget surplus this year.

"I went up and down the state campaigning for Proposition 30," Brown told reporters after unveiling his annual budget plan. "I said it was temporary. It is going to be temporary. And I just think we want to do everything we can to live within our means before going back again and trying to get more taxes."

Previous efforts to enact an oil severance tax have failed in the Legislature. Steyer, a former hedge fund manager and major Democratic donor, has said prospects may be improving in the heavily Democratic Senate and Assembly.

Steyer has declined to say whether he will seek an initiative to qualify for the ballot if efforts at the Capitol fail.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks about his budget proposal at a news conference at the Capitol on January 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Alexei Koseff

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO: Walt Gray. KXTV-TV News10

January 7, 2014
Newsman Walt Gray being courted to take on Rep. Tom McClintock


Is veteran Sacramento news anchor Walt Gray considering a challenge to Republican Rep. Tom McClintock in the 4th Congressional District?

Gray, who is not affiliated with a political party, called the possibility of a run "premature."

But the television personality and motorcycle enthusiast said he believes the Northern California district represented by McClintock is full of citizens concerned that their voices are not being heard. "I've been contacted by some of them about my interest in running for Congress," Gray confirmed in response to an inquiry from The Bee.

In the carefully worded email Tuesday, Gray said while he's never held elective office, "I think that's a positive. People want fresh ideas."

Gray spent 24 years as an anchor and reporter at KCRA-TV and made a brief stint in radio hosting the morning show on 96.9 The Eagle before returning to the television airwaves at KXTV-TV, where he works as an anchor-reporter. He also is known for his Walt Gray Ride, an annual motorcycle trek benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

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

McClintock, a conservative stalwart, represented Ventura-area districts in the state Legislature and periodically mounted unsuccessful runs for statewide office, including for controller, lieutenant governor and governor. He won a close congressional race in 2008 and since then has cruised to re-election. His Elk Grove home remains outside of the Foothill-based 4th district.

4th Congressional District

Gray, whose Land Park home is also outside the 4th district, said he's nonetheless spent "countless hours ... years really" reporting on news events and riding his motorcycle from town to town there. "It's one of my favorite places in the world to spend time in," he said.

Gray added that his father, Walt Gray, Sr., served two terms as a state senator in Rhode Island.

"Politics is hard job," Gray said. "You have to be all in."

PHOTO: Anchor Walt Gray rides down J Street during Saturday's car cruise through the streets of Midtown in Sacramento on July 30, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

January 6, 2014
Ray Haynes considers challenging Rep. Raul Ruiz in 36th district

Republican Ray Haynes is weighing a run for Congress in the Southern California desert.

In an email to supporters, the former state lawmaker said he may seek the 36th Congressional District seat held by freshman Rep. Raul Ruiz.

Haynes' entry would complicate what was expected to be a two-way race between Ruiz and GOP Assemblyman Brian Nestande, who has carved out a reputation as a moderate voice in the caucus. Ruiz emerged as a top target of Republicans after soundly defeating former Rep. Mary Bono Mack in 2012.

Republicans enjoy a nearly 1.5-percentage point voter registration advantage in the district that stretches from Hemet east to the California-Arizona border.

"The time to win the 36th Congressional district is this year, and so, if I am to re-engage in politics, this would be the time to do so," he wrote. "That is why I am looking at this seat now."

In his message, posted in its entirety here, Haynes said he believes the district wants a conservative Republican as its representative. He asks his network of supporters whether they would back him in a potential run.

"Over the last couple of years I have found myself becoming more and more frustrated by what is going on in Washington," Haynes wrote. "Quite frankly, I could live the rest of my life, never be in Congress, and believe that I have done well by my neighbors during my time in politics. However, there are times when I believe I can be value added to the country, my state, my county, and my neighbors by giving voice to their concerns and their needs in the political arena."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, a member of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, questions Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, not shown, about Leno's same sex marriage bill on Tuesday, April 26, 2005. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

January 6, 2014
Tim Donnelly cuts video about great women: 'I've got two'

donnellypodium.jpgIn an apparent appeal to women voters - and also, perhaps, cigar smokers, trail runners and World War II enthusiasts - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly posted an online video Monday celebrating the promotion of his spokeswoman, Jennifer Kerns, to campaign manager.

"They say beside every good leader is a great woman," Donnelly tells the camera after opening clips of Kerns running and Donnelly drinking coffee with his wife, Rowena. "I've got two."

Kerns, who is also shown target shooting and smoking a cigar, criticizes Gov. Jerry Brown's prison realignment, in which the state transferred responsibility for certain inmates to county control, and makes an unusual point about Pearl Harbor and women.

"The war on women?" she says. "Really? You want to go there? World War II started because of Pearl Harbor. The war on women was started by consultants."

The comparison was not entirely explained, but it would seem Donnelly is a fan.

He tells viewers "I believe in women," and of Kerns, in particular, he says, "That woman doesn't know how to lose."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks in Baldwin Park Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Associated Press/Nick Ut

January 6, 2014
Labor helps Jerry Brown raise $1.7 million in final week of 2013

micsjerrybrown.jpgGov. Jerry Brown spent the final days of December posting one of his most profitable fundraising periods to date, collecting $1.7 million for his re-election campaign in the last week of the year, according to a campaign report filed over the weekend.

Donations from labor unions accounted for nearly half of the total, and the Democratic State Central Committee of California continued with its largess. The committee, which as a political party is not subject to contribution limits, donated $300,000 to Brown, increasing its total contribution for the year to $2.7 million.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run. The Democratic governor has now raised nearly $17 million for the campaign, while his Republican challengers have failed to raise even a fraction of that amount.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association and California Association of Professional Scientists were among donors contributing $54,400, the maximum allowed. Other unions contributing to Brown include groups representing plumbers, sheet metal and electrical workers.

In addition to labor, Brown collected $54,400 each from Chevron and BNSF Railway, and $27,200 from CBS Corp.

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg contributed $27,200, maxing out to Brown after another contribution of the same amount earlier in the year.

Also contributing the maximum allowed to the third-term governor were Peter Guber, the film producer, and Joe Lacob, co-managing member and chief executive officer of the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

Two Republican candidates, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, have struggled to raise several hundred thousand dollars between them, while a prospective candidate, former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, has not yet started raising money.

Brown is considered exceedingly difficult to beat in this heavily Democratic state. Reflecting how hard it has been to raise money against him was an appeal Donnelly sent to supporters late last year. He said his campaign had surpassed its goal of raising more than $20,000 in the final eight days of 2013 and was becoming more ambitious.

The campaign's adjusted goal for its year-end fundraising sprint was less than Brown has collected in a single check from many of his donors: $25,000.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press after speaking at a rally for crime victims in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 3, 2014
Laguna Hills mayor may join field of Republicans challenging Jerry Brown

blount.pngLaguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount may join the field of Republican candidates bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown this year.

Blount, a software developer known in Orange County for his massive Christmas light displays, said Friday he will make a final decision on the campaign by early February.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run. The third-term Democrat has raised more than $14 million, far outpacing his Republican challengers both in fundraising and early polls.

Blount, who has developed real estate and stock-trading software, said he is working on a political application for mobile devices that will allow him to "run an election effectively for a really low cost."

He said the application, Skado, will scour volunteers' contacts for social media, demographic and other information, allowing the campaign to dispatch highly targeted campaign messages to voters, for example about state parks to someone interested in hiking.

Blount, 40, won election to the Laguna Hills City Council in 2012 and became mayor, a position voted on by council members, last month. He also puts on an annual Christmas light display and a holiday tour at his home. ABC featured the display on its program, "The Great Christmas Light Fight" last month.

If he runs, Blount said he will focus on jobs and education. He describes himself as a libertarian on social issues, supporting gay marriage rights, abortion rights and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Blount's positions are similar in some ways to those of Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official who is also from Orange County and considering running for governor. Blount said he met with Kashkari at Blount's house last year.

Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, two Republicans who have declared their candidacies, have struggled to raise money, while Kashkari has said his assets total less than $5 million — not enough to self-fund a campaign.

Asked about his net worth, Blount said, "Less than Neel's."

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

December 22, 2013
Casino pays out for Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown has raised more than $500,000 more for his re-election campaign, including $37,500 from a casino he visited earlier this month.

The donation, from Hawaiian Gardens Casino, was received last week and reported Saturday. Brown traveled to Los Angeles County to speak at a groundbreaking ceremony at the casino on Dec. 2. The casino previously donated $12,500 to Brown's re-election campaign and $25,000 to his ballot initiative last year to raise taxes, Proposition 30.

The administration has said the casino expansion will create hundreds of local jobs, and Brown said at the event, "I come here today because I want to recognize a family and a business that is contributing to the local community."

The Democratic governor has not yet said if he will seek re-election next year, but he has now raised more than $15 million and is widely expected to run.

Other donations listed in Brown's most recent filing include $27,200 each from Anthem Blue Cross, a California Hospital Association political action committee and Jay Gellert, president and chief executive officer of Health Net Inc.

Donors contributing the maximum allowed, $54,400, include Chester Pipkin, president and chief executive officer of Belkin International Inc., a plumbers and steamfitters local and a political action committee of The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurer.

Two Republican candidates, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, have reported raising less than $500,000 combined, while a prospective candidate, former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, has not yet started raising money.

Brown leads all three men by wide margins in early polls.

PHOTO: Students cheer on Gov. Jerry Brown who holds up a campaign sign and encourages students to support Proposition 30 at Sacramento City College on October 18, 2012.The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

December 21, 2013
Former FPPC chair Dan Schnur plans run for statewide office


Dan Schnur is on the cusp of taking on two seemingly contradictory campaigns: One promotes new restrictions on political fundraising. The other involves running for office, complete with his own political fundraising apparatus.

Schnur, a former Republican adviser who now teaches politics at the University of Southern California, said he's in the "final stages" of preparing a run for California Secretary of State in 2014. Other likely candidates include Democratic state Sens. Leland Yee and Alex Padilla; Democrat Derek Cressman, a government watchdog; and Republican Pete Peterson, who heads an academic public policy institute.

Schnur left the Republican party in 2011, after a stint chairing California's Fair Political Practices Commission. He said he would run for secretary of state as a nonpartisan, and has assembled a campaign staff that includes prominent Democratic and Republican consultants and fundraisers.

At the same time, Schnur said he will continue a publicity campaign he launched earlier this year to argue for new limits on political fundraising. Legislators and statewide office holders shouldn't be able to raise money for their re-election campaigns during the legislative session, Schnur says, because there is too much potential for donors to exert inappropriate influence on their votes. He wants to ban fundraising while the Legislature is in session.

Schnur said his two approaches -- speaking out against political fundraising while engaging in the fundraising efforts necessary to run a statewide campaign -- are not at all contradictory.

"We look at this candidacy as the most effective way of moving that fundraising ban forward," Schnur said. "A candidate campaign allows for broader conversation about how to fix a broken system than a single ballot initiative might."

December 11, 2013
Jerry Brown still mum on campaign, mulls State of the State in new office

brownoaklandoffice2.jpgOAKLAND — Gov. Jerry Brown has not yet said if he will run for re-election next year, but he told supporters in a recent note to update their records to reflect a change of address: In addition to raising more than $14 million, "Brown for Governor" has a new office.

When Brown, first lady Anne Gust Brown and their dog, Sutter, arrived at The Packard Lofts building here Wednesday, the governor — who is widely expected to run — described his fourth floor space as a personal office, less "stuffy" than what he has at the Capitol or a state building in Oakland.

The office projects a mix of political and state work: On a circular wood table Brown used during his first campaign for governor, in 1974, sits a list of messages left for Brown and a copy of his administration's proposal to Boeing this week to try to persuade the aerospace giant to locate a production facility in California.

Brown declined to detail the proposal. Of the table, he said that in 1974, "Right around this table, I plotted."

The fourth-floor office, which Gust Brown estimated at about 1,000 square feet, is full of memorabilia from Brown's political campaigns and from his first two terms in office, from 1975 to 1983. On the refrigerator are stickers from his 2010 campaign for governor, and a bin of buttons from the campaign is in a bookcase by the door.

Asked if the 2010 paraphernalia isn't dated, he said, "We're not running yet."

Brown has more immediate concerns, including his annual budget proposal and State of the State address in January.

In preparation for the latter Brown said he is reading Josiah Royce, a philosopher who was born in Grass Valley in the 1800s and who Brown said "had something called the philosophy of loyalty."

Brown said he hasn't decided if Royce or his ideas about loyalty will make it into the address, but he said, "I'm thinking about whether that can apply to California ... You've got to have a sense that it's more important than your own particular interest."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown at his new office in Oakland, while first lady Anne Gust Brown works in the background on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

December 9, 2013
Gray Davis, Robert Downey Jr. write checks to Jerry Brown

brownoaklandport.jpgFormer Gov. Gray Davis and actor Robert Downey Jr. are among the latest donors to Gov. Jerry Brown's re-election campaign, which reported raising another $556,600 in a filing over the weekend.

Nevada-based Station Casinos, which is backing a controversial casino project in Madera County, contributed $54,400, the maximum allowed. Opposition to a gambling compact Brown approved with the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians this year has sparked a referendum campaign, with a vote on the project set for November 2014.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election but is widely expected to run. The third-term Democrat has raised more than $14 million for the effort and leads a field of Republican opponents by a huge margin both in fundraising and early polls.

Other donors contributing the maximum to Brown in his most recent filing include Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. and Southern California developers Majestic Realty Co. and Jeffrey Worthe.

Davis, Brown's chief of staff when he was governor before, donated $5,000, as did Downey Jr.

Brown received $10,000 from Illinois billionaire J. Christopher Reyes and $10,000 each from two other members of Reyes Holdings LLC, a major beer and food distribution company. NBC Universal contributed $27,200, while Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc. and The Anschutz Corp. contributed $25,000 each.

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

December 4, 2013
Neel Kashkari puts personal wealth at less than $5 million

Financial Stability Neel Kashkari.JPGNeel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official who is laying the groundwork for a campaign for governor next year, said Wednesday that his personal assets total less than $5 million and that he cannot self-fund a campaign.

Kashkari, who is expected to join former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, in the field of Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, said he has met with nearly 700 potential donors throughout the country. He said Brown is "going to have more resources than all the Republican candidates combined" but suggested some donors may be willing to contribute to improve the party's standing in a Democratic state.

"A lot of donors think that Jerry Brown is, if not impossible to beat, very hard to beat, but a lot of donors say we need to make the Republican Party the party of economic opportunity," Kashkari said in an interview.

Kashkari played a central role in implementing the $700 billion bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program during President George W. Bush's administration. He said that if he runs he will do so to "shine a spotlight on the millions of people who are being left behind," focusing on poverty and education.

"I want the Republican Party to be the party that's really fighting for the poor, the party that's really fighting to give minority groups a fair chance," he said. "But again, the solution is not more welfare, the solution is not social programs, the solution is real economic opportunity, empowering people."

November 26, 2013
Magic Johnson, Larry Flynt among latest donors to Jerry Brown

jerrybrownprisons.jpgIf Eli Broad disappointed Gov. Jerry Brown at all when his name appeared to be included in a sloppily redacted list of donors working at cross-purposes with the governor in California's initiative wars last year, he may have begun to make it up to him last week.

The developer and philanthropist donated $54,400, the maximum allowed, to Brown's re-election campaign. The donation was among more than $1 million in contributions Brown reported receiving Thursday, when he attended a fundraiser hosted by movie industry executives in Los Angeles.

Other donors who gave the maximum to Brown included Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the former basketball standout, Flynt Management Group LLC, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt's company, and Norman Pattiz, who founded the radio network Westwood One.

Actors Kirk Douglas and Thomas Jacob "Jack" Black each donated $5,000, according to campaign finance filings.

Brown also reported receiving $54,400 from businessman Milan Panic. Brown once sat on the board of directors of drug manufacturer ICN Biomedicals - now MP Biomedicals - which Panic founded.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election next year, but he is widely expected to run. The third-term Democrat has raised about $14 million for the effort.

Broad, who has donated previously to Brown's campaigns, appeared to be among a list of donors involved in an effort last year to support Proposition 32 - a ballot initiative designed to weaken the political clout of labor unions - and oppose Proposition 30, Brown's successful initiative to raise taxes.

A list of donors showed $500,000 coming from a man named Eli, whose last name was redacted but whose address was listed as being on the 12th floor of a building on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, a location matching the location of Broad's foundation office.

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

November 21, 2013
GOP's gubernatorial hopefuls off to Arizona, Central America

maldonadopresser.jpgWhile Gov. Jerry Brown enjoys a projected state budget surplus and raises money for his re-election effort in Los Angeles on Thursday, his Republican challengers are looking for stimulation farther afield.

Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado will fly on Friday to Honduras, where he will participate as an international observer in that country's presidential election. He will then travel to Guatemala for meetings with elected officials before returning to California on Wednesday, adviser Ron Nehring said.

The candidate is interested in "human trafficking, the drug trade and associated violence, confronting corruption and promoting economic growth and trade," his campaign said in a release.

Meanwhile, Tim Donnelly announced Thursday he is in Scottsdale, Ariz., for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association. The Twin Peaks assemblyman said he is meeting with governors, but he declined to say which ones.

Donnelly said "every state that has a Republican governor seems to be doing really well."

Among other factors, Donnelly cited unemployment rates, job creation efforts and tax policies in Republican-led states.

Such comparisons are fraught with difficulties. Of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates, for example, six are governed by Republicans. But they also govern all but three of the 10 states where the unemployment rate is highest.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose state is in the latter group, was elected chairman of the Republican Governors Association on Thursday. Donnelly, a tea party favorite, said despite disagreeing with the more moderate Christie on any number of policy issues, "I think he does have some insights that I can learn from."

Asked what those might be, Donnelly said, "How he won in a state that's completely dominated by the other party."

PHOTO: Abel Maldonado speaks to reporters in Sacramento on May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

November 21, 2013
National Republican outfit backs all three Ami Bera challengers


The National Republican Congressional Committee doesn't want to pick sides — not yet at least.

In three identically worded emails, the organization announced that Elizabeth Emken, Doug Ose and Igor Berman had been selected for the candidate-boosting "On the Radar" program. Each of them, according to the emails, is "certain" to be "a strong contender this election cycle."

But all three candidates are vying to unseat freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, in California's 7th Congressional District. Emken, Berman and Ose may share a party affiliation, but for the purposes of the 2014 election they remain rivals.

The program is intended to provide advice and guidance to promising candidates without elevating one Republican over the others, NRCC spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said. Candidates must provide regular updates on whether they are meeting benchmarks in areas like finances and media planning.

"We don't endorse a candidate in the primary, but if we have someone that is meeting these thresholds we are helpful to them," Marre said.

Bera's district represents a competitive target for both parties, with all three of the Republican contenders already stocking their war chests. Bera's district is one of a few California seats getting attention from the national parties.

PHOTO: Democratic congressional candidate Ami Bera with campaign supporters at the Elks Lodge in Carmichael on Nov. 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

November 14, 2013
Campaign posts video of Tim Donnelly performing Heimlich on choking woman

donnellypodium.jpgTim Donnelly dislodged a piece of bread from a choking woman's throat last week.

It was fortunate for her that he did — "He saved my life," the woman said — and for Donnelly, perhaps, that his campaign videographer was standing by.

The Republican candidate for governor posted video of the incident on YouTube on Thursday. The headline: "Assemblyman Donnelly to the rescue!"

Donnelly, of Twin Peaks, is shown in the video performing the Heimlich maneuver on Adrienna Schabert, a supporter, at a meeting of Republican women in Ontario.

Schabert, 50, of West Sacramento, said Thursday that Donnelly was posing for photographs at a nearby table when she choked on a piece of her dinner roll.

"I couldn't get it out," she said. "I couldn't do anything, so I stood up ... He turned around and just went and did it."

In the video, Schabert sits down and thanks Donnelly, and he says, "Thank God."

Donnelly, who is wearing a cowboy hat, says, "I'm sorry if I did it too hard," and he goes on to empathize with the woman.

"My wife is always telling me to cut it into really tiny pieces," he says, "and I never listen."

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, posted a link to the video on Twitter, giving Donnelly "sincere props ... for knowing and using Heimlich maneuver to help choking woman."

Donnelly is not the first politician to gain attention for using the maneuver. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee performed the Heimlich on a man at a Republican Party gathering in 2008.

And then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made headlines in 2004 for helping a distressed swimmer while vacationing in Maui.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks in Baldwin Park Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. AP Photo/Nick Ut

November 11, 2013
Poll shows support for Jerry Brown's re-election below one-third

brownoaklandport.jpgDespite giving Gov. Jerry Brown a public approval rating of 55 percent, less than one-third of California voters say they are inclined to re-elect the Democratic governor next year, according to a new USC/Los Angeles Times poll.

Thirty-two percent of registered voters say they probably or definitely will vote for Brown, while 37 percent of voters say they probably or definitely vote for someone else, according to the poll.

The poll, released Monday, did not compare Brown to any potential Republican candidate in this heavily Democratic state. If it had, poll director Dan Schnur said in a release, "We probably would have seen significantly different results."

The poll comes a year before next year's gubernatorial general election. Brown has not yet said if he will run for a fourth term next year, but he is widely expected to.

The poll's findings differ from a measure conducted by the Field Poll in July. In that poll Brown showed a lower public approval rating, 51 percent, while a plurality of the electorate - 43 percent to 38 percent - was inclined to re-elect him.

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

November 7, 2013
Assembly preparing 'cease and desist' letter for Tim Donnelly campaign video

Donnelly1.pngTim Donnelly garnered some attention this week for a campaign video in which he objected to being called white - he is a "fleshy, pinkish tone" - and advocated making California "the sexiest place to do business."

But it was another Donnelly video caught the attention of certain critics and, eventually, Assembly administrator Jon Waldie.

"Patriot, Not Politician," posted by Donnelly's gubernatorial campaign on YouTube in April, features extensive clips of the Twin Peaks assemblyman speaking on the floor of the lower house.

State law prohibits the use of any "television signal generated by the Assembly ... for any political or commercial purpose," and Waldie said he plans to issue the Donnelly campaign a cease and desist letter Friday.

"The floor shots are definitely ours," he said.

Donnelly spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns said the campaign is reviewing the law but that its interpretation is that footage of Assembly proceedings are in the public record and may be used by the campaign.

"It's our understanding that once that video is aired publicly that it's part of the public domain," she said, adding that she was looking at the state Capitol at the moment and that "the taxpayers pay for that building."

Donnelly formally announced his candidacy for governor this week, joining former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado as the two Republicans so far in the race to unseat Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. At a campaign stop in Sacramento on Thursday, Donnelly called Brown a "Marxist-progressive" and said the race will be an "epic showdown between socialism and freedom right here in California," as he explains here:

PHOTO: Screen grab from Cal Channel March 29, 2012 telecast of Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaking on the Assembly floor.