The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

July 20, 2010
Ami Bera runs as an outsider but raises money like a pro

Like any incumbent politician, Rep. Dan Lungren has many advantages. The ability to raise money from insiders, and use his office to send letters and emails to voters back home are three that come to mind.

But challengers have certain advantages, too, as Lungren's Democratic challenger Ami Bera sought to make clear in a visit to The Bee's editorial board today. Bera is hoping that voters' disgust with incumbents will apply to Lungren, a Republican from Gold River who has been in and out of office since 1978.

"Voters are looking for something different," said Bera, who is making his first run for elective office. Here is one of our past pieces on the Bera-Lungren campaign.

Bera, a physician who is a former dean of admissions at UC Davis' medical school, took a swipe at Lungren for recently voting with other Republicans against a new extension of unemployment benefits, while having voted to grant congressional pay raises in past years.

Lungren voted against the extension of unemployment benefits after concluding it would worsen the federal deficit. That stand may make some sense inside the Republican congressional caucus back in Washington. But that position has real-life implications in California where unemployment sits at 12.3 percent -- as the Republican U.S. Senate candidate perhaps now understands.

Challengers often find fodder in votes cast for pay raises and other perquisites of office. Pay hikes generally come as part of legislation covering many topics. Bera's campaign counts six instances dating back to the 1980s when Lungren cast votes that led to pay hikes.  Most recently, however, Lungren voted to suspend a pay raise set to take place this year.

Congressional members are paid $174,000 annually.

Bera said that if he is elected, he would turn down pay raises so long as there is a federal budget deficit.

Unlike many first-time candidates, Bera is raising money like a pro, outpacing Lungren in the race for the 3rd Congressional District. In the latest campaign disclosure reports filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission, Bera disclosed he had $1.1 million in the bank, while Lungren had $660,000.

Much of Bera's money initially came from other Indian-Americans. While he still collects that money, Bera is getting significant backing from the Democratic establishment, which believes he has a legitimate shot at knocking off Lungren. 

The AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers each gave him $10,000 in the most recent quarter. Bera received $5,000 from political action committees representing family physicians and radiologists, and from the pro-abortion rights organization, NARAL.

Lungren is tapping many of the usual donors who give to incumbents: $6,000 from political action committees representing Comcast and Chevron, and $1,000 from the world's larst cigarette maker, Altria.

Sacramento-area developer Angelo G. Tsakopoulos gave Lungren $4,800. Sacramento lobbyists also chipped in, too. Robert W. Naylor gave him $1,050 and Bev Hansen gave him $1,000.

July 4, 2010
Who says Arizona, Nevada and Texas never gave us anything?

Arizona, Nevada and Texas, states with notoriously lax gun laws, are major exporters of guns used in crimes in California, according to the California Department of Justice.

Due to its size, California is the largest source of guns used for illicit purposes in this and other states. But on a per capita level, California falls far below the national average.

For deeper analysis on this point, please take a look at this 2008 report produced by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group that counts Kevin Johnson as a member and was co-founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

And to read more about the issue, please go here, here and here in today's Forum.

Among the other states, Arizona and Nevada followed by Texas are the biggest sources of guns used in crimes in California.

In 2009, authorities traced 16,229 guns used in crimes in California. Most were domestic--11,787 came from California.

But Arizona accounted 840 illicit guns, or almost 19% of the illicit guns that didn't come from California, followed by 525 from Nevada, or 11.7 percent, and 332 from Texas, or 7.4 percent.

The source for this information can be found here. The pattern was the same in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

July 4, 2010
Carly Fiorina and Barbara Boxer duel over gunners' rights

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Carly Fiorina repeatedly has voiced strong support for gun owners' rights.

She did so once more after the U.S. Supreme Court extended Second Amendment rights to states and cities last week. Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer again advocated "common-sense gun laws."

Following the high court's ruling in McDonald vs. Chicago, Fiorina's campaign issued the following statement:

"Carly is pleased that the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the Second Amendment applies equally to the federal government and the states. The right to bear arms is a fundamental right granted by the Constitution and responsible citizens should be able to posses a firearm. She is confident that safeguards in place will prevent dangerous citizens from inflicting harm on themselves or others."

Boxer had a different take:

"After the Supreme Court ruling, my focus is on ensuring that California's common-sense gun laws that protect our families and law enforcement officers are allowed to remain on the books. These California laws include the state ban on assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets, the prohibition on carrying guns in a school zone, and the law that allows law-abiding citizens who feel they need a concealed firearm for protection to get a permit from their local police or sheriff."

While neither statement says much, Boxer and Fiorina diverge rather dramatically on the gun issue.

The issue, once white hot, has cooled in recent years, at least in California. That could change as November nears and pro-gun groups challenge California state laws and city ordinances that restrict gun ownership.

To read more about the issue, please go herehere and here in today's Forum.

As this article notes, Fiorina opposes a federal assault weapons ban, unlike Boxer. 

Very much unklike Boxer, Fiorina won the National Rifle Association's blessing during the primary, as California Republican Party vice-chairman Jon Fleischman noted in this blog posting.

In a line that we may see once or twice or a hundred times between now and Election Day, Fiorina said during a televised debate heading into the GOP primary that mere inclusion on the "no-fly list" ought not to be grounds to bar an individual from owning a gun.

The FrumForum, written by conservative commendator David Frum, duly noted that head-scratching performance in this posting.

July 1, 2010
Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman react - sort of - to big gun ruling

Politicians tend to duck when questions turn to the volatile issue of guns, and they're diving for cover again in 2010.

We asked the candidates what they thought as we prepared a package of articles for this Sunday's Forum focusing on this week's landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, McDonald vs. Chicago, expanding gun owners' rights.

Not much, apparently.

Attorney General Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor, declined through a spokesman to comment on the ruling.

But in a little noticed action last year, Brown filed a friend of the court brief urging that the justices take up the case. Unlike many states, Brown's said in the brief, California has no state constitutional equivalent of the U.S. constitutional right to bear arms.

"Unless the protections of the Second Amendment extend to citizens living in the states as well as to those living in federal enclaves, California citizens could be deprived of the constitutional right to possess handguns in their homes," he wrote.

Brown urged that the court "should extend to the states" the concept that government "cannot deny citizens the right to possess handguns in their homes, but also provide guidance on the scope of the state's ability to reasonable regulate firearms."

Brown's decision against commenting on the decision was in keeping with his past, at least according to those who remember dealing with him when he was governor the first time.

"Jerry Brown was exceptionally cautious about the gun issue," said veteran Republican consultant Bill Saracino, who formerly oversaw the conservative Gun Owners of California. "He was never vocal on the gun issue."

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman didn't exactly react to the high court decision, either.

Sarah Pompei, a spokeswoman for the candidate, said Whitman "has been entirely consistent in her support of the Second Amendment, and in her belief that there should be no new restrictions on the books."

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, offered a little more insight, saying the decision makes it "critical that California state and local government, law enforcement and the courts work diligently to preserve our gun laws in order to keep our communities safe."

"Getting illegal guns off our streets and protecting California's assault weapons ban have been among my highest priorities as District Attorney and will remain top priorities when I am Attorney General," Harris said in a statement.

Harris' Republican foe, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, said through a spokesman that the decision was a "logical extension" of a ruling issued two years ago.

The decision, Cooley's statement said, "will hopefully reconcile the confusion created by thousands of districts passing their own customized laws controlling the lawful possession of firearms by law-abiding citizens."

Of course, the campaign is young. We at The Bee will catch up to them and make an effort to pin them down on this important issue.

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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