Political Fix (4 December, 2014)

It’s Their Party and They’ll Cry if They Want To

On November 4, Democrats won every statewide office and the majority of California’s Senate and Assembly. So why aren’t they doing some congratulatory high fives?

Well, for a few reasons. For the first time in 20 years, Republicans defeated three Democratic incumbents in the California State Assembly, putting an end, for now, to the Democratic supermajority. Nationally, Democrats did even worse. They have so far lost at least 14 seats in the House of Representatives, and have lost control of the Senate for the first time since 2006.

So is the California GOP changing to appeal to our more progressive state?

There are almost as many Republican women as there are Democratic women in the Assembly. This is true even though Democrats account for just under two-thirds of the members. (For those who are math challenged, that means that percentage-wise there are fewer Democratic women than Republican women in the state assembly.) A GOP victory in the liberal Bay Area produced the biggest surprise of the election. Catherine Baker, an attorney from Pleasanton, won a state assembly seat in the East Bay, becoming the most prominent Republican official for hundreds of miles. Republicans have been without any state or federally elected officials in the Bay Area since 2006.

Wagging fingers replaced high fives as the Democratic post mortem continues. Low voter turnout accounted for several narrow Republican victories. According to the SF Chronicle, “the pundits who predicted a lousy turnout for California’s Nov. 4 election got it wrong. It was way worse than that. With almost every vote counted across the state, it appears about 42% of the state’s 17.8 million registered voters cast ballots. That shatters the previous low of 50.5% set in 2002.”

Much of the blame for Democrats’ low turnout is being put on Gov. Brown’s shoulders. They blame Gov. Brown for not bothering to spend more time and money on the campaign trail revving up the base. They are also kicking themselves for not spending more money to knock off Neel Kashkari. Tim Donnally so galvanized Hispanic voters because of his anti-immigration lifestyle and policies, that just having his name on the ballot could have easily doubled the number of Hispanic voters.

Gov. Brown was going to win no matter whose name was on the ballot, and he didn’t care about winning a Democratic supermajority. His team said that they chose not to take the low road and campaign for Mr. Donnally. Or maybe they just weren’t organized enough and didn’t care enough to do so.

Top Two

In 2010, Proposition 14 was passed to usher in more a moderate legislature and end the gridlock in Sacramento and Washington.

Did it work?

Both Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza came in a commanding first in their races in the June primary. Whereas everyone knew that Ms. Swearengin had no chance on the state level of winning for Controller, shock waves rippled through the area when Mr. Mendoza lost his election to an unknown for state assembly.

During debates and on the campaign trail, Mr. Mendoza took very partisan positions. He made it clear that because Republicans did not have a majority in Sacramento he would make it a priority to get Republicans elected. On the other hand, Assemblyman-elect Devon Mathis’ motto was “People before Politics.” He prioritized the message that he would work across the aisle to get things done.

Obviously the Democrats chose the more moderate of the two Republicans. Mr. Mendoza didn’t receive much more than the 40% he received in the primary. Mr. Mathis ended up getting all those who voted for him in the primary plus many of the Democrats who had no one else for whom to vote.

Throughout California there were 25 similar races where the top two hailed from the same political party. I don’t know how those races turned out, but the open primary system worked as it was designed in Assembly District 26.

Propositions–2016

Yes, we already know what will be on the 2016 ballot. Those propositions that did not qualify for the 2014 primary or general election can still lurk in the shadows, waiting to be resurrected. So be ready for the “six states” initiative sometime in the future.

For now, here are the most likely to appear during the next presidential election.

One proposition that has already garnered a lot of attention and controversy is being spearheaded by the Family First Foundation. The foundation wants to legislate how often a married couple has sex per week – with each other that is.

Just kidding. The propositions can make the mind wander so pay attention.

An initiative on plastic bags is almost certain. Thrilling right? Well, there are some very angry people, including my mom, at Gov. Brown for signing a bill banning plastic bags in pharmacies, grocery and convenience stores. The plastic bag industry is pretty mad also. A South Carolina plastic bag company plans on spending millions of dollars convincing Californians that they need to continue filling our oceans with trash and killing our wildlife. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Davis, San Jose and Long Beach have all banned plastic bags–so many Californians have already gotten used to the idea. Someone should tell the plastic bag industry to make the mental adjustment as well.

If the plastic bag industry can get enough signatures before the December 29 deadline, it would get nearly a two-year hold on the ban. Even if they lose, it’s still a good investment for big profits to be had.

A Proposition to legalize pot in California came within a cat’s whisker of getting on the November 4 ballot. The proposition was registered with the California Secretary of State but fell just short of signatures. Last year, during its last month of eligibility, a strategic decision was made to put the proposition on the 2016 presidential election ballot.

If the proposition passes, the measure will allow Californians to possess, purchase and use less than an ounce of marijuana.

Individuals could also grow up to six plants for personal use. The proposition will establish a 25% tax on marijuana sales to be distributed in support of education, drug and alcohol treatment, local government, law enforcement and environmental restoration for damage already done by illegal pot growing.

Ironically, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, but will be the last west coast state to legalize pot for general consumption. Oregon, Washington and Alaska have all legalized it, along with Colorado and Washington, D.C. By the way, Alaska is the first Red state to legalize pot, and this happened during a non-presidential election that draws more conservative and older voters. Watch out Kansas!

Now for taxes. According to Dan Walters of the Fresno Bee, “It’s virtually certain that California voters will be asked in 2016 to extend – perhaps permanently – the temporary increases in sales and income taxes that they approved in 2012.”

Proposition 30 was sold to voters as a temporary tax to fund education and is set to expire in 2018. Newly re-elected Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson has many Democrats lined up with him to push for the tax extension to be put on the 2016 ballot, possibly making them permanent.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office just came out saying that with the steadily improving economy the taxes won’t be missed once they expire. Even if the Democrats had a supermajority and forced a tax extension through both houses, Gov. Brown would have vetoed it. When Gov. Brown campaigned for Proposition 30 he made it clear that it was a temporary measure and he is sticking to it.

Election Fun Facts

Now that the election is certified, and all ballots counted, it’s time for Election Fun Facts!

Nationally, the House GOP has its largest class since the Hoover administration after knocking off many more House Democrats than expected. Not in California, though! Congressional Republicans had a chance to win nine Democratic-held House seats and blew every one of them, three being right here in the Central Valley. Many want to blame House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who could have used the drought as political leverage, you know–the Democrats-love-fish-more-than-people-and-that-is-why-your-well-is-dry issue. While the nation turned Red, Democrats actually ended up increasing their California House delegation by one seat.

Governor Jerry Brown put up quite a fight to beat Meg Whitman four years ago and for his efforts he received 5.4 million votes. This election he won by a landslide but received less votes, 4.4 million. How did he receive less votes winning by a landslide and why should we care? Low voter turnout is how that happened. We should care because the number of signatures needed to qualify an initiative for the ballot is based on the total number of votes cast for governor. To place a statute on the ballot, signatures equal to 5% of the votes for governor are needed.

Congratulations are in order for Porterville’s Felipe Martinez, who finally won his first election after three losses. In 2010, he lost the Porterville City Council race as an incumbent, coming in fifth. He lost the city council race again in 2012, and then lost the June primary for Supervisor District 5. But on November 4, he won a seat on the District 5 Porterville School Board by 12 votes.

Zombies aren’t just on the television hit show “The Walking Dead.” They are roaming the halls of Congress. Defeated or retiring lawmakers are the newest zombies and have former Senator and Tea Party darling Jim DeMint worried. He considers these politically undead legislators loose cannons. The Fresno Bee described his feelings as “instead of being beholden to voters, they could go rogue and actually vote their conscience.” Gasp!

Remember that boring tidbit I wrote about in my last Political Fix that “legislative” propositions are put on the ballot by the legislature, and “initiatives” are put on the ballot by people like you and me? Well, the pass rate for legislative measures is 71%, much higher than the pass rate for initiatives put on the ballot by the public, which is only 38%. Hmmmm.

In the last 50 years, the most likely person to win the presidency is a governor or vice president; that is, not a legislator–but rather someone with management experience. So the real contenders for president in 2016 will be Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker or Bobby Jindal. The one exception in the last 50 years? Senator Barack Obama.

And Finally…

Most Californians support Obama’s latest executive order to keep families together. So it must grate on our Golden State’s nerves to hear intelligent people call it amnesty. What is the rest of the country thinking?

Now, I’ve met someone this year who I’m convinced did not experience live birth but was actually hatched–and unless you are one of those people, what is the problem with letting parents of American-born children stay in the country? Not only do they pay taxes, but they clean hotel rooms they could never afford to stay in themselves. Not only do states’ economies grow faster with large immigrant populations than those without a large, cheap, reliable workforce–they work their asses off for our benefit.

President Reagan’s amnesty bill of 1986 gave illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. President Obama’s executive order doesn’t give them a path to citizenship or anything else. They do not get to skip to the front of the line. They don’t get a green card. They do not get a temporary work visa. They don’t get health benefits. They don’t get welfare. They don’t get food stamps. They don’t get to vote. They get nothing but maybe a peaceful night’s sleep for the next two years. Even the anti-immigrant hatchlings can see that maybe after a good night’s sleep they can work even harder for the same pitiful salary.

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