Political Fix (5 June, 2014)

People’s Sexiest Men Alive

It’s old news who the Tea Party hates more than a Democrat–the same person who a Democrat loathes, a moderate Republican. Actually, Democrats don’t hate them: They fear them. Enter stage right, Neel Kashkari.

If Mr. Kashkari decides to run again in 2018, no one will be more of a threat to liberal Democrat Gavin Newsom.

Yes, Mr. Kashkari is currently losing to an RV-roving wing nut. But this is the type of guy who can win, even when losing. Just a brief reading of Mr. Kashkari’s biography (engineer for the James Webb Telescope, investment banker at Goldman Sachs, U.S. Treasury official, on People’s 2008 list of sexiest men alive) leaves one asking– is there anything this guy can’t do?

Mr. Kashkari will lose to Tim Donnelly this week, but the backlash against the fringe that pushed Mr. Donnelly through the primary will be fierce. He will so thoroughly embarrass the Republican Party during his campaign for governor that many Californians, including Democrats, will look back wistfully on Mr. Kashkari thinking, “Gee what a great guy, why doesn’t he run for Governor?”

One can only imagine the collective cringe during Gov. Brown and Assemblyman Donnelly’s first, and hopefully last, debate as Mr. Donnelly describes his Arizona-style immigration policies or implies the inferiority of a transgender child. Gov. Brown may pull off the biggest landslide victory in California’s history, and the rolls of registered Republicans will dwindle even further.

Many have already put this election behind them and are preparing for 2018. One of four Republican challengers running against Attorney General Kamala Harris complained that, “she is looking right past us.” This is true. Both Ms. Harris and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom have little to no competition in their races for re-election, and are assumed to be preparing for when they are termed out of office in four years. According to the Los Angeles Times, Ms. Harris and Mr. Newsom have raised a combined $5.6 million in campaign money. In contrast, all seven Republican candidates for Lt. Governor and Attorney General, combined, have raised $31,000. All the money Ms. Harris and Mr. Newsom don’t spend this campaign can be used in 2018.

I predict that Ms. Harris and Mr. Newsom will have a private, contentious meeting to figure out who between them will run for Governor in four years. The baton will most likely be passed to the current Lt. Governor, but the entire political landscape of California will change if Senator Feinstein, who is currently 80-years old, decides not to run.
What will happen if Mr. Kashkari and Mr. Newsom–the two sexiest and best-qualified candidates in California–run for Governor in 2018? As the geologist all warn, get ready for the big one.

Will Your Write-In Vote Count?

How many of us in elections past, unable to decide who to vote for, wrote in Mickey Mouse? It seems to me that every four years the political pundits snicker at how many votes Mr. Potato Head got for President. But not in California. According to the Tulare County Registrar of Voters, they pull all ballots with write-in votes, but unless it’s a certified candidate, your write-in does not get tabulated. Sorry, Mickey.

Alaska must have a different system because, according to Wikipedia, in the 1997 election for Mayor of Talkeetna, Stubbs the Cat won more votes than the two human candidates. He has been re-elected every mayoral election since, and as of July 18, 2012, celebrated 15 years in office.

Back here in the lower 48, the California Secretary of State just released their official list of write-ins. According to Scot Lay of Around the Capital, “ The top-two (primary) provides an opportunity for write-ins to get on the general election ballot without paying filing fees, which are $952.91 for Assembly and Senate this cycle. To be a certified write-in simply requires 40 valid signatures. As expected, nearly all of the districts in which only one candidate filed “normally” had a write-in qualify. On June 3, so long as one vote is cast for the write-in, they earn a place on the November ballot. In 2012, the first cycle we used top-two, a candidate earned a spot on the November ballot with only three votes.

Even before the “top-two” primary initiative passed in 2010, California required write-ins to be certified. The certified list is posted at every polling place and write-ins are manually counted, even if the name is slightly misspelled. Of course, by Election Day, three-fourths of the ballots have already been turned in, so it seems kind of silly.

Gail K. Lightfoot announced mid-May that she took out nomination papers to be a write-in candidate in the 23rd Congressional District. The incumbent, Kevin McCarthy, is running unopposed in the primary, opening the door for a write-in campaign and a spot on the November ballot. Ms. Lightfoot will have some competition, though, because three other people qualified for the official list of write-ins for the 23rd district.

The eastern edge of Tulare County is in the 23rd district, including Porterville and the small towns of Lindcove, Lemon Cove, Three Rivers, Springville and Strathmore. Of the three congressional districts in Tulare County, the 23rd is the only one affected by write-in competition. So Rep. McCarthy’s seat is considered safe–that is, unless Stubbs the Cat is on the certified list.

Not a Test Run

Tulare County is in three State Senate Districts. Senate District 8 is represented by Tom Berryhill, who is running against a relative unknown. Covering the foothills region, Lemon Cove and Three Rivers are the only two communities in his district. Senate District 16 takes up the largest portion of Tulare County and is represented by Jean Fuller, who is running unopposed. Then there is the 14th District that covers all of Kings County and surrounds Visalia and Tulare, taking in the little rural communities of Allensworth, Earlimart and Lindsay, among others. This is one of the hottest races right now.

Some would say that the primary last Tuesday was just a test run for Sen. Andy Vidak and Fresno School Board Trustee Luis Chavez. Maybe it was for Sen. Vidak, but that would be pretty far from the truth for Mr. Chavez. No one expected Mr. Chavez to come in first, but anything wider than a 4% gap will send the big-time Democratic money running. At press time it is 69% Sen. Vidak to 37% for Mr. Chavez.

But how did Senate District 14 get to this point? Before a Republican won eighteen months ago, three consecutive Democrats had held this seat: Michael Rubio, Dean Florez and Jim Costa. When Mr. Rubio stepped down mid-term, Republicans were successful in flipping the district, and the Democrats are still mad. Barack Obama won 58.3% of the vote to Mitt Romney’s 39.8% in 2012. Democrats out-register Republicans by 17% in this district. Losing this district has been an embarrassment to the Democratic Party, and Mr. Chavez is hoping for a little vindication.

Fresno GOP Knows Best

According to John Ellis of the Fresno Bee, “Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari has the backing of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former California Gov. Pete Wilson and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But he doesn’t have the backing of the Fresno County Republican Party.”
What does the Fresno GOP know that Merced and Madera County and the other adults in the room don’t know? Not much. They also endorsed Phil Wyman for Attorney General. Mr. Wyman advocates the death penalty for state lawmakers who are convicted of crimes that might aid terrorists–as is the case against State Senator Leland Yee.

According to the Associated Press, Mr. Wyman is quoted as saying, “The most egregious abusers of their public office, if convicted, should be able to choose their method of death – public hanging, firing squad or lethal injection – as a deterrent to others.” Mr. Wyman continued, “Firing squad — at least that’s a bit more macho than getting some other cocktail.” When asked for comment, a Republican spokesperson said, “How can you even respond to something that ludicrous?”

Laura Gadke, former chair of the Tulare County Republican Party, said that their bylaws prevent them from making an endorsement when there are two Republicans running for the same office. That’s why they haven’t made any endorsements for Assembly District 26, Sheriff, or the District Attorney’s races. “But we all love Rudy and want to see him win,” she couldn’t help adding.

Not Setting It Straight

The contentious Fresno County District Attorney race between incumbent Elizabeth Egan and challenger Lisa Smittcamp has reached $1 million in funds raised and spent. The race for Tulare County District Attorney has cost half that amount, but we certainly are getting our money’s worth. And if the campaign lasted just a few weeks more, the rancor might have reached their competitiveness.

The campaign started with Ralph Kaelble accusing the current DA, Tim Ward, of engaging in “Louisiana-style politics.” The campaign ended with a curious push by the Visalia Times-Delta (VTD) to encourage everyone to vote for Mr. Kaelble. Their endorsement was a day late and a dollar short, with half of Tulare County having already voted by mail. The VTD then implied in their endorsement editorial that the rank-and-file in the DA’s office endorsed Mr. Kaelble, when they themselves had printed a letter by the rank-and-file endorsing Mr. Ward. My favorite though, is the VTD’s assertion that Mr. Ward exploited the arrest of a hitman for his own re-election, when the VTD exploited the story even more by making it one of their lead articles. In the online version of their story, Mr. Ward’s name is only mentioned once with his assistant, Anthony Fultz, getting most of the ink.

The Saturday before the election the VTD had this to say about their editorial page, “We will go to the polls to elect a new District Attorney, Sheriff, Assembly representative and others and the letters have been pouring in. We are dedicating space here and on the following page to publish all the letters we have received and have been able to verify before Tuesday’s election.”

Really? Then why, if there are so many local races on which to opine, was nearly every single letter critical of Mr. Ward and pro Mr. Kaelble–one of which bordered on being slanderous? There was only one letter that did not involve the DA’s race, written by Dave Whaley and disputing the VTD’s endorsement policy–which, according to Mr. Whaley, there seems to be none. The editorial board did not invite each candidate to present their case for election, yet still made endorsements despite this.

One must ponder, what criteria did the VTD use when deciding who to endorse?

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