Political Fix (2 October, 2014)

Dysfunction Junction

Former Woodlake City Administrator Bill Lewis has a bone to pick with State Assembly candidate and Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza. At the September 16 Candidate’s Forum, Mr. Mendoza claimed that, while mayor of Woodlake, he converted a $1 million dollar deficit to a budget surplus and completely replaced the city’s dysfunctional staff.

“As former city administrator, I assume he is talking about me,” said Mr. Lewis.

For one, only the city council has the authority to replace three positions: the city clerk, city attorney and the city administrator. The rest of the staff is hired or fired by the latter. Mr. Lewis explained that it is true that in the last few years those three office holders were replaced, but they left voluntarily. The city attorney left for a better job in South Lake Tahoe. The city clerk left in very good standing, and the city administrator–Mr. Lewis–left in good standing after 16 years on the job.
“If the city administration was so dysfunctional then why did Rudy vote to give me, the city administrator, a four-year contract?”

It is generally accepted that Woodlake Police Chief John Zapalac was pushed out of office, but the mayor alone doesn’t have the authority to do that. Nor would everyone agree that Chief Zapalac was dysfunctional.

In addition to Mr. Mendoza’s comments about the budget, he said, at a candidates’ forum in April, that Woodlake was bankrupt, or near bankruptcy, before he was mayor.

Mr. Lewis explained that the general fund had run a deficit because of the recession. But he pointed out that there is a huge difference between a deficit in the general fund and a town on the verge of bankruptcy. Mr. Lewis was not sure what the deficit was but knows it wasn’t $1 million, or even close. It was somewhere around $650,000. “Rudy shows a lack of government finance knowledge in general and lack of bankruptcy knowledge in particular by making such an irresponsible statement,” said Mr. Lewis.

“You expect politicians to take liberties with the truth but that’s a little bit overboard.”

What is the former city administrator doing now? Mr. Lewis is now enjoying his retirement working part-time at the Lemon Cove Market and reading Political Fix.

Mr. Mendoza is running for State Assembly District 26 against Iraq War veteran Devon Mathis. Both are Republicans.

Democrats Endorse Cabello, Longoria or Musgrove

The Tulare County Democratic Party has endorsed three candidates, two for city council and one for school board: Art Cabello for Tulare City Council, Armando Longoria for Dinuba City Council and Priscilla Musgrove for Tulare City Elementary School Board.

“Mr. Cabello is the most qualified, experienced and knowledgeable candidate for the position hands down,” said Ruben Macareno, TCDP chair. “He is a lifelong resident of District 2, he has a long list of community service, has the most experience with governmental affairs and he is knowledgeable of the inner workings of the council and the City of Tulare.”

TCDP has also endorsed Longoria, a long-time resident of Dinuba. He is a current police commissioner and narrowly lost in a few elective efforts before. The other candidate the party endorsed is Priscilla Musgrove, for Tulare City Schools.

As for Woodlake’s City Council race, all bets are off with nine people running for three seats. Rudy Mendoza, Woodlake mayor said, “It’s good to see an interest in serving on the Woodlake City Council. The city has seen some tremendous growth and the candidates I have talked to are proud and wish to be a part of Woodlake’s renaissance. I am not endorsing anyone in this race.” Neither is the TCDP. According to Mr. Macareno, “I like the incumbents, of which only two are running, but I don’t know any of the others very well. Should be an interesting race.”

TCDP endorsed Virginia Gurrola for Tulare County Supervisor District 5 in the primary. “She stands up for all communities that seek a voice in government. She is experienced, having severed three terms on the city council and community leader whom has demonstrated a solid commitment to the Porterville area. She is a retiree from Porterville College where she served students for over 37 years,” said Mr. Macareno.

The local party’s executive committee has identified Mr. Cabello, Mr. Longoria and supervisorial candidate Ms. Gurrola as Flip-to-Blue candidates where the party will offer available resources to supplement those local campaigns. The local pilot program, created by Mr. Macareno, supports specific Democratic candidates running for office where campaigns are viable against non-Democratic elected officials.

None of the Above

The California Secretary of State just released the party registration numbers. It seems a quarter of Californians don’t want to be a Republican or Democrat. They registered instead as Independents or “no party preference (NPP).” Sounds like Californians are getting sick of the status quo. I wonder: should “none of the above” be a ballot option?

Statewide, registered Republicans are at an all time low at 28.3%. The Democrats are at 43.4%. Both parties lost voters to NPP, with the Republicans losing the most. Tulare and Kings Counties continually buck the trend with about a ten-point advantage going to the Republicans. Fresno County, on the other hand, tipped to a Democrat majority in 2010 and it is growing larger every year. Right now it is at 40% to 36.6%.

Registration numbers set the scene for what is happening right now in the election. Ashley Swearengin, running for state controller, and Blong Xiong, running for district 1 Fresno County supervisor, traded endorsements last week. “I support Xiong because he is the right man for the job,” said Ms. Swearengin. Mr. Xiong said that there is mutual respect between the two and they both survived the Great Recession.

Wow, what inspirational endorsements. That should bring the voters out in droves.

These two Wile E. Coyotes have been polar opposites since entering the world of elected office, and now they want us to join in their politically motivated love fest? But there is no love lost between these two, so let’s just cut to the chase. Democrat Mr. Xiong lives in a conservative district and needs the Republican vote. Republican Ms. Swearengin lives in a liberal state and needs the Democrat vote. Thus the endorsements.

Instead of Ms. Swearengin cuddling up to a fellow moderate Republican, gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, she’s hopped into bed with a liberal Democrat strictly for political purposes. And this explains the raison d’etre of political columns and pundits.

Of all the statewide offices, only two Republicans have an outside chance of winning. They are Pete Peterson, running for secretary of state, and Ms. Swearengin. Both have been castigated for not endorsing Mr. Kashkari. In fact, Ms. Swearengin has refused to say if she will even vote for Mr. Kashkari and will not endorse the Republican slate of candidates. She has only endorsed Mr. Peterson. The Fresno Bee editorial states, “The brands of Swearengin and Peterson, according to the most recent Field Poll, are resonating better with voters than the GOP brand as a whole. Knowing that they must appeal to moderate Democrats and moderate independents to win, Swearengin and Peterson made the smart choice to signal their interest in attracting bipartisan support.”

Ms. Swearengin and Mr. Peterson claim, along with other moderate Republicans, that they are trying to put a new face on the Republican Party. They endorse candidates across the aisle because they are leading “the new post-partisan coalition growing in California politics.” At a recent GOP convention, Ms. Swearengin said, “We are going to need as big a coalition as possible for any chance of victory. In my view we ought to embrace any and all who are willing to accept the challenge of restoring the long-term financial health of the state.”

Any party whose registration numbers have gotten as low as the Republicans’ need something clever, so “post-partisan” is as good as the next catch phrase. It’s actually more like post-partum politics, where the pain of birthing a new California has only just begun. Trying to forge a post-partisan/partum political environment between the Republicans and Democrats in an era of capitol paralysis will be a painful growing process, so if they are truly serious, they better “buckle-up because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

The Fresno Bee titled their editorial, “Swearengin shows her courage, independence.” But one only has to look at the state’s registration numbers to realize that her endorsement of Mr. Xiong and Mr. Peterson is pure politics. Does Ms. Swearengin represent those who feel disenfranchised by their party? Is she the one to lead the post-partisan era in California? Or, when it comes to the ballot box November 4, will voters just mark, “none of the above?”

Mid-term Elections Are No Friend to the Democrats

Republicans and Democrats are in a fight over control of the Senate, but no such fight exists for the Republican-controlled House. Despite the government shutdown, gridlock and dismal opinion poll ratings, the Republicans will retain the House.

To take control of the Senate, the Republicans need to pick up six seats. Unlike the smaller gerrymandered congressional districts that are impossible to flip, some Senate races are actually competitive. Right now, Republicans are favored to win the Democratic-held seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia–so all political wonks are monitoring those elections daily. But in a strange twist of political fate, the Republicans might lose redder-than-red Kansas.

The Republican incumbent there is not well liked by his own party, and the Democratic candidate dropped out of the race at the last minute. That left a popular Independent who caucuses with the Democrats polling way ahead of the Republican. If the Republicans do lose Kansas they would need to pick up a seat somewhere else. That somewhere could easily be Iowa or Colorado.

In football terms, it’s what we call having a deep offense.

The New York Times and Nate Silver, famous political prognosticator, are predicting the Republicans have a 60% chance of taking over the Senate. On the other hand, Sam Wang of The Princeton Election Consortium gives a 70% chance to the Democrats to retain the Senate. There are four weeks left before the election.

As usual, California does not reflect national politics and the Democrats easily control the Assembly and the Senate. Their challenge in November is to regain the two-house supermajority that they lost after three senators got kicked out for corruption. “A two-thirds Democratic supermajority would help Brown pursue his agenda, because no Republican support would be needed for any of his proposals. But Brown, who is expected to win his own race handily and has not mounted a time-consuming campaign of his own, has not committed to any appearances,” according to the L.A. Times.

This may be because Gov. Brown has done just fine without a Democratic supermajority. He is well able to work with Republicans, and did so in getting a water bond and rainy day fund on the ballot while signing other major legislation. In the Assembly, Democrats currently hold 55 seats, one more than the minimum two-thirds margin. In the Senate, Democrats need to pick up two seats to regain the two-thirds majority they lost with the suspension of three senators facing criminal charges.

And Lastly…

According to Reuters, “50.2% of American adults over the age of 16 – roughly 124.6 million people – were single in August, according to a new Bureau of Labor Statistics report cited by Bloomberg. This marks the first time that single Americans make up the majority of the adult population since the government began tracking the data 38 years ago.”

2 thoughts on “Political Fix (2 October, 2014)

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  1. I believe Devin would be my best choice for the assembly because when I talked to Rudy I could never get a truthful answer to my questions.

    • I have to disagree with Mr. Epstien, WHY?????? Candidate for the 26th State Assembly (Devon Mathis) being from Porterville has yet to address Porterville Chief of Police Chuck McMillian’s placement on Administrative Leave(the allegations aren’t pretty, I mean if the people only knew??). If Mr. Mathis cared about the people he is wanting to represent, he should have addressed the issue by now, since it is alleged that the abuse of power affects the whole community. But he is not alone, because following his disconcern, is Incumbant 5th District Supervisor Mike Ennis, who shows a lack of respect to his constitutes by not returning phone calls (turn in the taxpayers phone “Mikey”, use or lose it). Mikey also ignored details as to the Tulare County Grand Jury investigation of 2012, regarding the corruption within the Porterville City Government which included the Police Department, and not to let her off the hook, how about it Mrs. Gurolla can you represent the district better than “use it, or lose it Mikey”????. Mrs. Gurolla show the voters what you’re all about and do the right thing this time, don’t be a follower, be a strong Latina and demonstrate your effectiveness. Please remember that I brought it to your attention, that if you wanted voter support, to do the right thing, when it came to the appointment of Council Reyes, and that was to have appointed the third highest vote getter, Matt Green. Coming from the Latino community the candidates have to demonstrate their strength in attacking and solving issues, rather than showing “love” to one another. Rudy Mendoza will have my family, relatives, and friend’s vote on November 4th. For all the others you have 22 days to demonstrate to the Voters why you DESEREVE their VOTE, starting with addressing the Chief’s abuse of power, who knew, when did they know it, and why did they condone it.

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