Political Fix (2/6/2014)

Who is that Crazy Hot Chick?

Who’s the newest star of California’s Cougar Town? Our very own Assemblywoman Connie Conway. Not only is she running for state senate in 2018, she is engaged to a man eight years her junior. The question isn’t whether she will win the election–it’s if Tulare City Council Member Craig Vejvoda can keep up with her.

Why “crazy hot chick” you say? Because she is bold, blond, snagged herself a younger man, and actually wants to be the minority whip in a legislature that is dominated by Democrats. A Democratic super majority normally means that Republicans would be irrelevant, but with Ms. Conway’s deft political abilities they are not.

Republicans may drop to a paltry 23 members of the assembly in this year’s election, but Ms. Conway can’t wave her magic wand and deliver Republican seats in a state like California. So how is it that she can keep Republicans relevant? According to the Fresno Bee, “As she did last year, Conway plans to buddy up to Gov. Jerry Brown as much as possible, looking for any common ground she can,” which is a brilliant move. She has taken a disadvantaged position and managed to give the Republicans a voice.

Who is Gov. Brown going to have the most trouble with in passing his budget? His own party. The Democrats are pushing to restore all cuts to social programs made during the recession without securing the revenue. That means Gov. Brown will need to listen to the Republicans and might even need their votes if Democrats revolt against his budget. Who will Governor Brown be calling on to deliver these votes? Ms. Conway.

This chick’s got it going on!


The Irony of District Elections

An ironic twist has come to light concerning Visalia’s switching to by-district elections. Vincent Salinas, the Hispanic candidate who was a sure thing to win a city council seat in 2015 in an at-large election, has now become a huge long-shot. What would have been a fairly easy victory for him to win Councilman Bob Link’s seat in 2015, had Mr. Link decided not to run, has turned into a head-to-head against Mayor Steve Nelsen. If the districts are laid out like everyone expects, Mr. Salinas and Mr. Nelsen will be in the same district. It’s not that Mr. Salinas shouldn’t run against the mayor, but unless the current city council somehow pushes Visalia into the Pacific Ocean, incumbents will be reelected. Mr. Salinas also made the point that not all districts are going to be up for election at the same time, but will be staggered. That means a seat from his district, which may be majority Hispanic, may not come up for election until 2018.

Thus, going to by-district elections might have the potential of keeping Hispanics out of Visalia’s city council for decades.

Are you ready for ironic twist number two? Visalia is changing to by-district elections, even though neither the council nor its citizens want it, because a group of Hispanic men will sue if they don’t.


Republicans Reconfirm Their Commitment to Women

Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, had the following comments during a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Washington:

“I think it’s time Republicans no longer accept listening to the Democrats talk about a ‘war on women.’ The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender.

If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it, let’s take that discussion all across America.”

The only discussion my husband wants to have is, where were all these women when he was in college?


The South Will Rise Again

In last issue’s Political Fix, I highlighted how all major statewide offices are held by Northerners, such as Gov. Jerry Brown, Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Attorney General Kamala Harris. Now it looks like the leaders of both California legislative chambers will come from Southern California.

The Speaker of the Assembly and President Pro Tem of the Senate could arguably be more powerful than all of the statewide officers. Assemblywoman Toni Akins of San Diego was chosen to take over as Assembly Speaker later this year. Kevin De Leon from Los Angeles is lined up to be President Pro Tem of the Senate but has not yet been confirmed. It will be the first time in almost 20 years that both house leaders are from the same part of the state. In 1995 The Assembly and Senate leaders were from Northern California; Bill Lockyer was Pro Tem, and Willie Brown was Speaker.


The Perfect Candidate for Governor – Really

A fresh face in the Republican Party has stepped up to run for Governor of California. He is a fiscal conservative who describes himself as a social liberal who supports gay marriage and abortion rights. He has declared the status quo as unacceptable as far as the performance of California’s school system and the state’s poverty rates.

So what is the problem with our new dream candidate? The problem is, who the heck is Neel Kashkari? Mr. Kashkari worked for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP, that helped prop up the major banks when the country teetered on the edge of financial collapse. And that’s the extent of Mr. Kashkari’s political experience. According to the Associated Press, “He has long felt a calling to public service.”

Gee, that should get him elected. Electing a Republican who has never held political office sure worked out brilliantly the last time.

The Fresno Bee Editorial Board brings up a good point when saying that “Serious Republican candidates have not emerged to challenge Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom or Attorney General Kamala Harris.” It’s unfortunate that Mr. Kashkari doesn’t strive to run for an office further down the ballot.

The silver lining is that even if he doesn’t win, maybe he can become a household name and get his positions known for the next election. He also may be the type of dynamic candidate to drive conservative turnout for other Republican candidates sorely outnumbered in California’s legislature. Republicans need to start working now if they are to have a viable candidate for the 2018 governor’s election, and this may just be the beginning of a long political career for Mr. Kashkari.


Abel who?

The “do no harm” gubernatorial candidate, Abel Maldonado, failed to drum up any enthusiasm for his campaign and pulled out of the race a few weeks ago. That leaves Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari as the Republican candidates challenging Gov. Jerry Brown.

Mr. Donnelly and Mr. Kashkari, in turn, have just been outed as not taking their civic duty to vote very seriously. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Assemblyman Tim Donnelly has cast a ballot in about half of the elections held since 1995, while former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari has voted in roughly 60% of elections since he turned 18. Spotty voting records have dogged previous unsuccessful gubernatorial candidates, including 2010 Republican nominee Meg Whitman.”

When Jean Fuller was asked at the Tulare County Library’s “Getting to Know…..” series who she was endorsing for governor, she said, “I’m hoping for Santa Claus to enter the race.”


Democrats to use Minimum Wage as a Wedge Issue

Needing to use any means possible to get Democrats to the polls during the 2014 non-presidential election, the party has decided to use minimum wage as a wedge issue. The Democratic strategy is to campaign to raise the federal minimum wage and put minimum wage initiatives on state ballots where there are hotly contested congressional districts. Currently, raising the minimum wage is polling at 71% in favor.

Republicans in general believe that raising the minimum wage would dampen the economic recovery and raise unemployment. But a handful of Republicans do support the policy. A possible gubernatorial hopeful, Silicon Valley multi-millionaire and registered Republican, Ron Unz, is working on putting an initiative on the California November ballot that would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour. This is on top of the bill Gov. Jerry Brown just signed increasing California’s minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016.

Democrats believe that raising the minimum wage will lift family incomes of those living on the bottom and will reduce the poverty rate by two percent. But Mr. Unz’ explanation of why he supports raising the minimum wage should really win the most votes. Walmart, and discount retailers like it, pay their employees such a meager salary that many of them qualify for food stamps and a bevy of other federal welfare programs. Everyone remembers the pictures of the donation bins asking for handouts at Walmart for their employees so they could have a Merry Christmas like everyone else.

Mr. Unz believes that making big corporations pay their fair share could save the state tens of millions of dollars in welfare payments. According to the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Unz explained, “The reason the current system operates is that there are massive government subsidies going to these low-wage employees,” he said. “Government essentially subsidizes low-wage businesses. They’re getting money from the taxpayer instead of standing on their own two feet. Eliminating unfair government subsidies is a very free-market position to take,” he said.

What better way to spend our tax dollars than subsidizing the billionaire owners of Walmart?

While Unz has everything to lose politically by fighting to get this initiative on the ballot, the Democrats have everything to win. Unz will alienate members of his own party who are opposed to raising the minimum wage, but the Democrats might win some too-close-to-call senate and congress seats.

Those holding down jobs that only pay the minimum wage have been living in poverty for a long time. But would the Democrats be making it a part of the 2014 election if it didn’t poll well? My guess is no. With or without the polls, would Mr. Unz still try to get his minimum wage initiative on the November ballot? My guess is yes.


Number of Women steadily Dropping in California Legislature

The number of women in the California Legislature has been steadily dropping during this decade. According to the Associated Press, “the number of women in the 120-member Legislature has fallen from a peak of 37 in 2006 to 32 this year.” Women could lose an additional three to five seats this cycle.

Even with the dropping numbers of women in the legislature, Tulare County happens to be represented by Sen. Jean Fuller and Assembly Woman Connie Conway, two of the more able representatives our county has ever seen.

Assembly Woman Conway serves on several organizations that recruit and train women candidates, “I always say the Legislature should be a microcosm of California.” But it’s far below the 50.2 percent of the state’s population who are women. Ms. Conway is one of eight women leaving the Legislature this year because of term limits or retirement. A ninth may leave if she is elected to congress.

Currently, 20 of the 80 Assembly members are women, seven being Republican and thirteen being Democrats. Twelve of the 39 members in the Senate are women.


And Lastly, for the Ridiculous

State Senator Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, introduced SB 929 which would allow those convicted of non-violent felonies to ask a judge to reduce the offenses to misdemeanors under certain circumstances. The problem? A jury just convicted Sen. Wright of eight felony charges of perjury and voter fraud, i.e. non-violent felonies. Sen. Wright is the first member of the Legislature to be convicted of a felony since the 199o’s and he faces eight years in prison. It was decided that his bill would not advance through committee. “Wrong senator, Wrong time,” said a spokesperson for Sen ProTem Derrell Steinberg.

State Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, is under investigation for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for legislative action. His next bill is to introduce legislation to reduce oversight on special interest campaign contributions. (not really)

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