Political Fix (19 June, 2014)

Primary Predictions

In the May 15th issue of the Valley Voice, I published my predictions for the June 3rd primary. I made predictions for the first and second place winners for six races, and first place winners for District Attorney and Sheriff. Out of my fourteen predictions I got twelve correct. Of the two predictions I got wrong, one was not well thought out and the other a real head-scratcher.

The most interesting primary race was State Assembly District 26. It seemed like a safe bet to predict that a Republican would come in first and a Democrat second. Everyone but Devon Mathis was surprised when that didn’t happen. As he said to me on election night, “That was kind of my plan.” Rudy Mendoza came in first and Mr. Mathis finished second, beating out the closest Democrat by a wide margin.

I predicted that Ruben Macareno, leader of the Tulare County Democratic Party, would easily take second place. He came in a disappointing fourth. Mr. Macareno considers his election loss as a serious wake-up call for all local Democrats. Last week, he pointed out that Tulare County has no Democrat sitting on the Board of Supervisors, State Assembly, State Senate or United States Congress. He also pointed out that the Democrats’ performance in June’s primary was a ridiculous failure. Only three Democrats made it to the November general election: Sam Aguilera-Marrero, Amanda Renteria and Luis Chavez, all of whom are longshots to win.

Political pundits did say that the extremely low turnout was heavily tilted toward Republicans. “You’re dealing with apples and oranges,” said Allan Hoffenblum, editor of California Target Book, an elections almanac. “People who turned out yesterday (the primary) are different than those who will turn out in November.”

The other race I got wrong was the Tulare County Supervisor’s 5th District. I’m at a loss now as to why I predicted that two Republicans would take first and second place in the supervisor’s race and didn’t think it possible for the 26th State Assembly District. Kudos to Greg Shelton, who nailed it. He predicted that Supervisor Mike Ennis would come in first and that Virginia Gurrola would claim second by about ten percentage points over himself. She ended up beating Mr. Shelton by seven percentage points and then forced the incumbent into a runoff, which I did predict correctly. Mr. Shelton ran because he felt that he was the only one who could beat Mr. Ennis if he had made it to the general election. Mr. Shelton gave up his chance to defend his seat on the Porterville City Council so he could run for supervisor.

They All Fall Down

“That Boudreaux and Ward were able to take full advantage of the orchestrated incumbent positions handed to them by their predecessors says more about the political maneuvering than it does about their aptitude for office.” So says Melinda Morales of the Visalia Times-Delta.


Ms. Morales would have a point if Sheriff Boudreaux hadn’t won by a whopping 46 points. Voters can smell a fake, and if Boudreaux didn’t have the chops to back up his “orchestrated incumbent position,” he would have lost by as much as he won. The same holds true for Tim Ward, who won by 11 points. Political maneuvering can make an impact on a tight race, but you can’t baloney your way to a landslide, especially against competent, experienced challengers.

It was an especially surprising and disappointing election night for challenger Ralph Kaelble. To add salt to Mr. Kaelble’s wound, with the exception of Tulare County, incumbents for the DA’s office fell one by one in other valley races. The challenger for Fresno County District Attorney, Lisa Sondergaard Smittcamp, beat incumbent Elizabeth Egan, who had been in office since 2002. In Kings County, incumbent Greg Strickland lost badly to challenger Keith Fagundes. Mr. Fagundes, like Mr. Kaelble, was also a county prosecutor with 11 years’ experience.

So why did Mr. Kaelble lose? After analyzing the election there was one clear difference between what happened in Kings and Fresno Counties versus what happened in Tulare County. According to the Fresno Bee, there was discord in the DA’s office, enough so that Ms. Smittcamp was able to get the endorsement from the rank-and-file inside Ms. Egan’s office. The same was true in Kings, except worse. Also according to the Fresno Bee, Mr. Fagundes attributed his victory to the turmoil going on in the current DA’s office. “This is a huge message that we need a serious change. I intend to bring it.”
Conversely, Mr. Kaelble did obtain many rank-and-file endorsements, but not the rank-and-file in the DA’s office who supported Mr. Ward.

As for running 2018? Mr. Kaelble hasn’t ruled out a rematch.

Election Fun Facts

Gov. Jerry Brown could have been dead and still would have finished first in the primary.

Leland Yee got more than 330,000 votes–even though he was involved in schemes to traffic firearms, murder-for-hire, and money laundering. He came in third out of eight candidates.

A Republican hasn’t won a statewide office since 2006, when Steve Poizner won for insurance commissioner and Arnold Schwarzenegger was re-elected.

There are 18 million registered voters in California. That’s larger than the entire population of all except four states, making name recognition especially difficult in a statewide election. Good luck, Ashley.

In conservative Tulare County, where most Democrats stayed home to watch America’s Got Talent on election night, liberals Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris won the popular vote. Good luck, Neel.

Amanda Renteria spent $400,000 to get 25.8% of the vote in the Congressional District 21 election against Rep. David Valadao’s 64.7%. Sam Aguilera-Marrero spent 95 cents to get 25% of the vote against Rep. Devin Nunes.

California, as a whole, experienced record low voter turnout, while Tulare County’s voter turnout was ten percentage points higher than the June 2012 primary.

Twenty-two countries around the world have compulsory voting, and ten of them enforce it, one of the strictest being Australia. Enforced voting means that elected officials actually represent the majority, rather than the 20% or less who were motivated to vote and voted for the winner.

Local Boy Makes Good

Within 48 hours of Rep. Eric Cantor’s stunning primary loss, Rep. Kevin McCarthy was rounding up votes in the Republican caucus to take over the job of House Majority Leader. Not a lot of political light shines between the two allied Republicans as Mr. Cantor threw his support behind Mr. McCarthy to take over his position. A secret ballot will be taken to elect the next House Majority Leader on June 19th. It is widely accepted that Mr. McCarthy will win.

Mr. Cantor is the first House Majority Leader to lose his seat by being defeated in a party primary election since the post was created in 1899.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, son of a Bakersfield firefighter, will be the first Central Valley representative to hold the number two position in the House. He represents District 23, which is most of Kern County and the eastern edge of Tulare County, including the towns of Lindcove, Lemon Cove, Three Rivers, Springville, Strathmore and Porterville.

A graduate of California State University, Bakersfield, Mr. McCarthy started his political career when elected to the state assembly in 2002. He was elected to the House in 2006 and became the House Whip in 2011, after helping the Republicans regain control of the House. Only one other Valley lawmaker, Tony Coelho of Los Banos, has ever held the number three position in the House.

Mr. McCarthy has risen through the ranks more through his political tactics than legislation. He is well-liked in the House and considered a builder of personal networks. His office in the Capitol is known as the place to hang out for fellow legislators and for late-night pizza get-togethers. But it always comes down to money. He represents a safely Republican district, so has been able to funnel his campaign cash to other Republican candidates. This has become a common means for politicians to get plum appointments and status in the House. An effective fundraiser, since 2008 Mr. McCarthy has distributed more than $2.3 million to fellow Republicans through his political action committee.

But the more conservative wing of the party wants voting for the House Majority Leader put off, suggesting it is rigged. The Tea Party, which sees Mr. McCarthy as “too establishment,” have put forward one of their own, Rep. Raul Labrador from the progressive state of Idaho. The Tea Party members of Congress know that Mr. Labrador can’t win, nor does it seem they really want him to. They are more comfortable in their role of agitating rather than actually leading.

Rep. Devin Nunes, who never fails to add colorful commentary when it comes to the Tea Party, said, “They just come out here to you guys and complain and they blog and they Facebook, but when it’s time to actually raise money and go recruit candidates and win elections so that you can stop Obama, which is what they say they want to do, they don’t have the capability of doing it.”

According to Central Valley Tea Party member Michael Der Manouel, “Every elected Republican member of Congress needs to sit up and take notice. You’re not invincible. Just ask Eric Cantor.” Maybe he was addressing that comment to Mr. Nunes.

Separation Anxiety

Residents of the northern county of Tehama voted in the June 3rd primary to secede from California and form a new state they plan on calling Jefferson. The vote to secede passed by 55.7%. The feeling of being over-regulated and under-represented fuels the fire of the secessionist movement in this county of only 63,000.

“I’m going to definitely talk to the people of Jefferson and tell them to stick around,” joked Gov. Jerry Brown outside his residence in Sacramento on election night.

More counties in the region are expected to vote on related measures in the coming weeks. All told, the residents of 16 counties have established plans to help pave the way for the creation of Jefferson, which would contain around 467,000 residents and be roughly the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

The push to succeed from California had is best chance in 1941, when the state of Jefferson was to be comprised of southern Oregon and northern California. According to the Jefferson State Project website, the abundant supply of minerals and timber in this region was largely inaccessible due to the lack of sufficient roads and bridges into the rugged mountain border country. The local citizens grew weary of unfulfilled promises from Salem and Sacramento to help fund highway projects in the region while building campgrounds in the cities where there were more votes.

This resulted in the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voting to allocate $100 to research the possibility of seceding and joining the other Northern counties to form a new 49th state. Yreka was designated the temporary state capital where the “State of Jefferson Citizen’s Committee” was formed.

Jefferson made the papers nearly every day, competing with headlines of Germany’s ravaging Europe. On December 4, Judge John L. Childs of Crescent City in Del Norte County was elected governor. A staunch supporter of succeeding, the State of Jefferson was looking more like a reality.

News of the imminent succession was to air nationally the week of December 8, but on December 7th, Pearl Harbor was bombed and the State of Jefferson rebellion of 1941 came to an end. The people of the region went to work for the war effort and good roads were eventually built into the backcountry to access strategic minerals and timber. These same roads have helped countless numbers of rural families make a living from the land that continues to produce abundant, quality natural resources.

The Jefferson “state of mind” has disappeared in Oregon but remains in the hearts and minds of people in Northern California, or at least Tehama County.

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