Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

September 20, 2012
Poll: Should the national political conventions get tax dollars?

Rep. Dan Lungren wasn't in Tampa as other members of the GOP gathered for the Republican National Convention last month.

Now, the Gold River Republican is part of a bipartisan push to ensure taxpayer cash skips out on the quadrennial political conventions, too.

Lungren voted aye this week on federal legislation to prohibit the use of public funds for the national nominating conventions, which are currently partially subsidized by taxpayers who elect to send some of their own tax dollars to a public campaign financing fund.

The Associated Press quoted Lungren as calling the events ""weeklong televised movie sets and almost entirely symbolic."

"American taxpayers should not be subsidizing political party conventions," he said.

August 30, 2012
CA woman shares story of Mitt Romney, sick daughter at RNC

TAMPA, Fla. - A California woman gave a tearful account of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's support for her family and their sick infant daughter as a speaker at tonight's Republican National Convention.

Pamela Finlayson, who met Romney through the local Mormon congregation when she lived in Massachusetts more than 25 years ago, was one of several speakers tapped to share personal stories about their relationships with Romney ahead of his acceptance speech.

Finlayson told the packed hall at the Tampa Bay Times Forum of Romney visiting the hospital where her daughter, who was born premature and with serious complication, was born.

August 30, 2012
Berkeley students volunteer at the Republican National Convention

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ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - A handful of University of California, Berkeley, students (left) are assisting the California delegation to the Republican National Convention here this week, and if it is hard to be a Republican in "The People's Republic of Berkeley," the students aren't letting on.

"The student population is more moderate than what you might expect," said Shawn Lewis, an incoming senior and one of the volunteers.

Students are concerned about the economy, he said, and he believes that is an area in which the GOP can succeed. Lewis said the Republican student club at Berkeley is the largest in the state.

Still, the students are aware of their surroundings: Last school year, to raise money for wounded veterans, club members set up a dunk tank and took turns getting dunked.

The target?

A picture of President George W. Bush.

August 30, 2012
Obama and Romney cookies don't deliver dough for Californian

hanson.JPGTAMPA, Fla. -- Buttons featuring vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan have been a hot sell on the streets outside the security perimeter of the Republican National Convention.

Business hasn't been as good for Hanson Yuen.

Yuen, 25, drove from Mountain View to Tampa last week to sell boxes of chocolate sandwich cookies rebranded as "Obameos" and "Romneos." The cookies, which Yuen priced at $10 today, feature caricatures of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

By midday Thursday, he had only sold 10 boxes.

"It's not like really, really great yet," said Yuen, who has been sleeping in his car all week.

It cost Yuen about $5,000 to commission the art, print the packaging and purchase the cookies for the 500 boxes he brought to Tampa.

While he hopes to break even, the former IT analyst said he'll be content if the week brings more eyeballs to his new start-up, a website aimed at "creating a sharing economy for food" by allowing strangers to turn their homes into impromptu restaurants.

He said whether he goes on to Charlotte for next week's Democratic National Convention "depends on performance" in the second half of the final day of the GOP convention. He hoped adding the Obameos to the mix would up his numbers. He lost three potential customers as a result of not having those on hand earlier in the week.

"I thought it was all about the Romneos, but I was wrong," he said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Hanson Yuen, 25, talks to a potential customer blocks from the pedestrian entrance to the Republican National Convention site Thursday. The Sacramento Bee/Torey Van Oot

August 30, 2012
One California delegate is also a proud parent at RNC

Ng.JPGTAMPA, Fla. -- Betty Ng isn't just a proud delegate at the Republican National Convention this week, she's a proud parent.

Her son, Darrel Ng, recently joined Mitt Romney's presidential effort as an aide to vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's campaign. Ng's wife Jessica is also working for the Romney campaign.

"I just am very grateful that my children share the values we have," Betty Ng said, citing strong work ethic and fairness.

Being at the convention is also special for Ng and her husband Joseph, an alternate delegate. Both Montebello Republicans immigrated to America from Hong Kong as young adults. They said they were excited to be part of the political process in the country that provided them with many opportunities.

The younger Ng couple, also in Tampa this week, recently moved to Boston from Sacramento, where both worked on statewide campaigns and legislative offices over the years. They met through their jobs in the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger administration.

PHOTO CREDIT: Betty and Joseph Ng at the Tradewinds Island Grand resort, the hotel housing California's delegation to the Republican National Convention. The Sacramento Bee/Torey Van Oot,

August 29, 2012
Condoleezza Rice: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan 'know what to do'

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TAMPA, Fla. - Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tonight portrayed the Obama administration as dangerously wavering in its foreign policy, seeking to bolster Mitt Romney's foreign policy credentials on the second night of the Republican National Convention.

Rice said "the promise of the Arab Spring is engulfed in uncertainty," with allies and enemies alike asking, "Where does America stand?"

August 29, 2012
CalPERS in session -- at Republican National Convention

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ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. -- The California Public Employees' Retirement System is in session -- at the Republican National Convention.

Richard Costigan, a delegate to the convention and a member of the CalPERS board, sat in the lobby with a piece of paper propped up on a lemonade can to notice the meeting for the public.

"We do play by the rules," he said.

Costigan expected the meeting -- which began at 1 p.m. Pacific Time to consider the late-session proposal to reform the state's public pensions system -- to last a couple of hours, delaying his trip to the convention hall.

"I'm going to miss the bus," he said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Costigan monitors the California Public Employees' Retirement System board meeting from the Republican National Convention in Florida on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. Photo by David Siders, Sacramento Bee

August 29, 2012
California GOP delayed for hours on stalled buses

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - California delegates to the Republican National Convention returned to their beachfront hotel as late as 3 a.m. this morning, delayed for hours following proceedings Tuesday night.

The delegates, already irritated by a bus system that delivered them to the convention hall late on Tuesday afternoon, were still complaining about the return trip as they staggered from their rooms to a lobby coffee bar this morning.

"Clearly there were some logistical challenges that require immediate attention," delegation spokesman Mitch Zak said.

Some delegates said they waited outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum for more than an hour for a bus after the convention let out at 11 p.m., then sat still in traffic.

"When we started moving, everyone cheered" said Caleb Kruger, a 12-year-old youth delegate who got in relatively early, at 1 a.m.

In light traffic, the drive from Tampa to St. Pete Beach, where the delegation is staying, takes less than an hour.

Delegation officials said they are working with national convention officials, who are in charge of transportation to and from the convention hall, to improve the trip tonight.

August 28, 2012
Texas and California close at GOP convention, find seats OK

TAMPA, Fla. - For some perspective about the quality of California's seating assignment at the Republican National Convention - stage right, back a ways - consider the Texans, who are sitting right by them.

The 155-member delegation, second in size only to California, got used to sitting up front during the George W. Bush years, delegates said.

The current arrangement is "OK," said Rick Miller, a delegate from Sugar Land.

"Probably we could have done a little bit better."

In the California seats, Kellie Randle was seated with her husband, Mitt Romney adviser Jeff Randle, directly behind a former governor and a former, failed candidate for the office.

"I'm a seat away from Pete Wilson and Meg Whitman," Kellie Randle said. "It's great."

Delegates were preparing tonight to hear from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, on the first full night of the convention.

August 28, 2012
Bus delays cause late arrival for California delegates at RNC

TAMPA, Fla. - Transportation troubles caused most of California's 172-member delegation to miss the opening of the Republican National Convention today.

The four buses assigned to carry delegates, alternates and guests from their hotel in St. Pete Beach to the Tampa Bay Times Forum ran more than an hour late Tuesday afternoon, with all but 30 delegates boarding their shuttles for the 25-mile trip as the convention got underway at 2 p.m.

Spokesman Mitch Zak said issues with security checks and traffic closures contributed to the delay.

"The logistics at this convention are something else," delegate Don Genhart of Palm Desert said as he waited in line for a bus outside the TradeWinds Island Grand resort.

The first hour was mostly filled with welcome remarks from Republican National Committee and local officials. Delegates milled around on the floor as a live band played between the brief speeches.

The last buses carrying delegates arrived at the convention site at about 3:05 p.m. - minutes after California 9th Congressional District candidate Ricky Gill appeared on stage to give a roughly 2-minute speech.

The main attractions of the day -- speeches by Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- won't start for hours.

August 28, 2012
VIDEO: California Republicans, a liberal Canadian and a karaoke bar

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - The rain cleared Monday night, and a handful of Republicans made their way to a karaoke bar at the beachfront resort where the California delegation is staying for the Republican National Convention.

There sipping wine was a left-leaning vacationer from New Brunswick, Canada, who objected to both the politics of the Republicans and their music.

"We believe in all these kind of things Republicans don't believe in," said the Canadian, Marlene Whitehead, including public health care, gay marriage, and "gun control - Oh, my God."

Her more immediate concern was the delegate singing "My Way." A karaoke bar, Whitehead said, is no place for sad songs.

If the Republicans could not accommodate Whitehead's politics, they were more than happy to pick up the beat. A round of beers came from the bar, and Frank Sinatra's catalog was left behind.

On stage, Kevin Krick and Sashi McEntee, current chairman and past chairwoman, respectively, of the Marin County Republican Central Committee, took up "The Time Warp," made famous by "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

"That was happier!" Whitehead said. "And you know what? I don't know who this girl is, but she can sing."

August 27, 2012
VIDEO: Ex 'Bachelor' on rough and tumbles of politics and love

Tampa, Fla. -- Years after surviving the rough and tumble of reality TV, former "The Bachelor" star Andrew Firestone is trying out a new role in politics as California delegate to the Republican National Convention.

"I think probably the difference between politics and 'The Bachelor' is the fact that the candidates I think in 'The Bachelor' are a lot better looking," said Firestone, who was the third bachelor to appear on the ABC dating series. "But probably just as stressful as well."

Firestone, the son of former Assemblyman Brooks Firestone, is a first-time delegate. The Santa Barbara Republican said he hopes to see expected Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney give an acceptance speech Thursday night that fires up the GOP base and gives all voters more details about how he'll use his vision and business acumen to turn the country around.

"I don't think anybody denies that this country is going in the wrong direction and we want a plan," he said. "We want a direct idea of how it's going to be put into place to get us going in the right direction."


August 27, 2012
VIDEO: To avoid 'plants,' says Meg Whitman, avoid questions in final weeks of campaign

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - Meg Whitman, who never quite managed to connect with the California electorate in her 2010 gubernatorial run, shared this morning what she suggested is a truism of a good campaign: Hold town hall meetings, but starting two weeks before the election, stop taking questions.

Whitman, the chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard, was introducing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to California's delegation to the Republican National Convention. Whitman considers the conservative star a "close friend," and she recalled for the audience "one quick, personal story.

"Towards the end of my campaign - it was the last two weeks of the campaign, and Chris Christie volunteered to come out and campaign with me," Whitman said. "We were in Los Angeles at a roundtable, a big town hall meeting, several thousand people there. And when you're at that point in the campaign, you actually do not take questions from the audience because typically there are 'plants' from the opposition in the audience, and it can get very nasty. So you actually, two weeks before the election, you stop taking questions."

At the end of the event, Whitman said, a man in the audience started screaming, criticizing her for not taking questions.

The exchange that followed made headlines in New Jersey and California, when Christie walked over to the man, pointed his finger at him and scolded, "It's people who raise their voices and yell and scream like you that are dividing this country. We're here to bring this country together."

Whitman's description of the encounter cheered the crowd:

August 27, 2012
CA reputation at RNC: 'scary,' 'hyper environmental,' great wine'

Tropicana.JPGST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - Sunday's Republican National Convention welcome party brought California Republicans together with delegations from all corners of the country.

So what do those other Republicans think about the home state of the convention's largest delegation?

"You don't want my honest opinion," Ann Sullivan, a delegate from North Carolina said as she swayed to music blasting through the speakers at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field.

"They're very liberal and you just don't know what they're going to do," said Christine Pilozzi, a delegate from New York. "That's scary."

"Are there any?" J. Michael Collins of Maryland asked of California Republicans.

Other impressions included "surfers," "ganja" and "hyper environmental."

"If you want to do something odd and weird, go to California," Pilozzi said, offering that, on the plus side, the state produces "great wine."

Despite the California's solidly blue reputation, delegates from other states were quick to throw their support behind the Republicans hailing from California.

"I'm proud of the Republicans coming out of California," Sullivan said. "They have my sympathy."

Her advice for members of the Golden State GOP?

"Stand up for (your) beliefs and give them some moxie," she said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Republican National Committee delegates fill Tropicana Field for a welcome party Sunday evening. Torey Van Oot/The Sacramento Bee.

August 27, 2012
Most CA GOP legislators remain in Sacramento as RNC kicks off

As the Republican National Convention kicks off in Tampa, most GOP legislators can be found on the floor of their respective legislative chambers here in Sacramento instead of the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where former Gov. Mitt Romney will accept the Republican presidential nomination later this week.

Just two Republican legislators are confirmed attendees of this week's convention in Tampa. Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach, is serving as a delegate representing the 50th Congressional District. Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, is heading to Tampa with her husband, Board of Equalization member George Runner, another Romney delegate, but a spokeswoman said she is ready to fly back to California if needed.

Senate GOP leader Bob Huff, whose wife is a delegate, spent the weekend with the California delegation at in St Pete Beach, but was scheduled to return home in time for Monday's floor session.

A spokeswoman for Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway said she was unaware of any Assembly Republicans planning to attend the convention.

The low attendance rate among state legislators is likely due to the legislative calendar. Both houses are set to work through hundreds of bills ahead of the end-of-session deadline on Friday.

August 26, 2012
VIDEO: At the Republican National Convention, 'Obama sucks'

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - As the welcome party for the Republican National Convention got going this evening at Tropicana Field, Steve Lucas, a delegate from Orinda, stood in right field wearing an "Obama sucks" button, which seemed to sum up the feeling of many partygoers here.

Lucas, a partner at the powerhouse Sacramento law firm Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinellow, Gross & Leoni LLP, was unusually precise in his explanation.

"Why Obama sucks?" he said. "He sucks on the economy, because he hasn't created a new job in 3 ½ years. He sucks on foreign policy because he leads from behind, and he's an amateur."

Lucas was standing just shy of the warning track, and a party official standing nearby remarked about how on point he was.

The conversation then turned to the small town where Lucas lives, and it became clear he is not in all areas a partisan. He said he is a supporter of the city's mayor, Steve Glazer, who happens to be Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's top political adviser. He even favors local tax measures.

Lucas didn't have a button for it, but he said of Glazer, "He's a great mayor."

August 26, 2012
California Republicans plan to drown out any Ron Paul uprising

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - California's delegation to the Republican National Convention was planning today to counteract any uprising by Ron Paul supporters on the convention floor, with officials preparing "delegate whips" to lead the effort.

The state delegation, marginalized in most matters because of California's heavily Democratic electorate, could be significant in drowning out any chants supporting Paul: The 172-member delegation is the nation's largest, and unlike some split delegations is fully committed to Romney.

In a private meeting at the delegation's beachfront hotel, Jeff Randle, the senior Romney adviser who is in charge of the California delegation, told 16 delegate whips to be prepared for a potential Paul uprising, including leading pro-Romney chants. Randle and the whips were expected to meet again Monday to finalize plans.

Paul stopped campaigning in the Republican primary months ago, but the Texas congressman's supporters are an exceptionally vocal group, and he maintains a small number of delegates. The Romney campaign plans to air a film about Paul during the convention, but it is unclear if that will be enough to quiet Paul's supporters.

California delegates were loading buses this afternoon for a welcome party at Tropicana Field. The event follows a private VIP reception in a penthouse at the delegation hotel.

August 26, 2012
At hotel service, California's Mormon delegates consider Romney's personal side

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - In a week in which Mitt Romney is expected to highlight his personal side - including, perhaps, his Mormon faith - Harold Stuart, an organist and alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention, accompanied California members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a service this morning at their beachfront hotel.

Of the state's more than 700 delegates, alternates and guests selected by the campaign to attend the Republican National Convention, more than 100 are Mormon, organizers said.

About 60 of them filled a small ballroom at the TradeWinds Island Grand. Mark Clayson, of Gardena, told the congregants it is a week to "serve well and strengthen this nation, and be able to let our light shine."

He said he is hopeful for a convention that presents Romney in a more personal light than the campaign has managed in recent months.

"To get a sense of who he is," Clayson said, "I think we need to see a little bit of that."

The service ended, Stuart finished on the keyboard and a delegate came over to tell him he sounded good.

"I do better if I've got two keyboards and a pedal board," he said, "But that's OK."

The right balance for Romney, Stuart said, will be to discuss the values that inform his decisions while not overemphasizing his particular religion.

After all, Stuart said, "He's going to be the president of every person in this country."

August 26, 2012
Barbie, GOP gear and local eats fill CA delegate SWAG bag

IMG_2185.jpgST. PETE BEACH, Fla. -- No convention would be complete without some SWAG.

California delegates attending the Republican National Convention this week will take home a goodie bag filled with GOP gear, gift cards and some Golden State-grown staples like rice and walnuts. .

The black-and-red tote bags are stuffed with freebies like a 2012 "President" Barbie, a copy of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents" and a $120 credit for a line of luxury swim suits. Soda, candy and ibuprofen were thrown in for good measure. Attendees also get a second bag provided to all delegates to the Republican National Convention.

All told, the California bag's contents, provided by a long list of delegation sponsors that includes Folsom Lake Ford and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, are worth up to $700. Alternates and guests get a scaled-back version of the bag.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Torey Van Oot/The Sacramento Bee.

August 25, 2012
Storm shakes up RNC, but doesn't dampen CA delegates' spirits

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - A tropical storm heading in the direction of the Florida coast is shaking up the schedule for the roughly 750 California Republicans set to gather in Tampa as delegates, alternates and guests at the Republican National Convention.

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Convention officials decided today to postpone much of Monday's schedule in light of Tropical Storm Isaac, which is expected to strengthen into a hurricane in the coming days.

The forecast for severe weather is also causing some logistical challenges for the California delegation, which is staying at the oceanside TradeWinds Resort in St. Pete Beach.

"Our parties and what's happening at the convention (are) going to change probably daily as we try to adapt to whatever the hurricane or the storm is going to bring to us," Don Willet, the chief operating officer for the delegation, told delegates Saturday night.



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Capitol Alert Staff


Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

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

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

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

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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