Political Fix (15 January, 2015)

Barbara Boxer Announces She Won’t Run For Senate In 2016
 
Senator Barbara Boxer announced last week that she would not be running for reelection in 2016. First winning in 1992, the 2016 race would have been for her fifth term. There is also speculation that, at 81, Senator Dianne Feinstein might decide not to run in 2018. Along with the termed-out Governor Jerry Brown, this might leave the three most important offices in California open.  That’s a power vacuum begging to be filled by a new generation of lawmakers.
Sen. Boxer wanted to announce early that she would not be running in order to give prospective candidates time to fundraise and put together an effective campaign.   It’s been said that often elections are won in the off-year while laying the groundwork.  
 
Democrats have a pretty deep bench when it comes to potential senate candidates. Maybe too deep. It has already been decided by the political pundits that Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris need to do a back room deal and divide the spoils. As both Mr. Newsome and Ms. Boxer will be termed out of their current office, it was believed that one will run for the governorship and the other for the senate. Ms. Harris settled it on January 13 by announcing that she will run for Sen. Boxer’s seat.
 
The last time two popular candidates divided the spoils between running for senator and governor was in 1958–and both ended up losing. They were Republican Gov. Goodwin Knight and Republican Senator William Knowland, two names only your elderly parents would remember. Sen. Knowland was exploring the idea of running for president, and thought that a better jumping-off point would be as Governor of California. He strong-armed Gov. Knight to “switch” places with him and run for senate. That way he and Knight would not have to face each other in the primary for governor.
 
Sen. Knowland went on to easily win the Republican nomination for Governor but end up losing to Attorney General Pat Brown–Jerry’s Brown’s dad.
 
My grandmother, Florence Doe, ran the 1958 senate campaign for Gov. Knight in Tulare County. The “switch” was not popular with voters, and Gov. Knight also lost his bid for senate to a Bakersfield native, Congressman Clair Engle. My grandmother received a gracious letter of gratitude for all of her hard work on his campaign, but even better, Gov. Pat Brown appointed my grandmother to the State Fair Board, even though she was a Republican.
 
Lt. Gov. Newsome and Atty. Gen. Harris won’t be concocting an elaborate switch, but voters may be just as put off at the idea of two popular candidates manipulating the system for their political convenience.  Whether the voters will be upset enough to elect a Republican might be a stretch, but they might rebel and actually elect someone from the Southland.
 
Whoever does end up running better start building up their war chest right now, as 2016’s has been predicted to be the most expensive race in California to date.
 
Setting It Straight
 
Every two years California holds elections for all of the assembly seats and half of the senate. This year’s new session started on January 5, and welcomed many new members. There were 37 new legislators, 38 new committee chairs and three new leaders atop their caucuses. One of those new leaders is our Tulare County Representative, Assemblyman Devon Mathis. I’m not saying this for my well-informed readers’ sake–but more for the Visalia Times-Delta’s. 
 
Assemblyman Mathis was elected on November 4, sworn into office on December 1, and has been sitting at his desk in the assembly since the first week of January. Until well into December the Visalia Times-Delta was still listing former Assemblywoman Connie Conway as being in office. They no longer list Ms. Conway, but have failed to once list Assemblyman Mathis as our elected official alongside all the other officials on their editorial page.  
 
So I think I’ll help them out. They can just copy and paste Assemblyman Mathis’ information into their newspaper. The Valley Voice has received about 10 press releases or communiqués from Assemblyman Mathis’ office. Each one clearly indicates his new Sacramento office and phone number in case a constituent needs to contact him. Now maybe the Visalia Times-Delta can put it in their paper also!
 
Office of Assemblyman Devon J. Mathis 
California’s 26th Assembly District 
State Capitol, Room 5126 
Sacramento CA, 94249-0026
(916) 319-2026 office, (916) 319-2126 fax
Local Visalia Office phone number – 636-3440
 
Here’s a statement from Assemblyman Mathis’ office referring to the Visalia Times-Delta: “I hope they update their paper soon. It’s important that people be able to have accurate information on how to contact their elected officials.”
 
A Fractured House
 
The Republican-run House of Representatives convened on January 6 with mighty plans to dismantle everything Obama, such as the new immigration and health care reforms. They almost have the number to do it, too. 
The Republican Party controls 247 of the 435 seats. That is the biggest Republican contingent in the House since 1931. Republicans also hold 54 of the 100 Senate seats. Democrats took a beating in the 2014 elections, but analysts say that the tables will turn for the 2016 election. Republicans will have to defend three-fourths of their Senate seats whereas very few Democrats will be up for reelection.
 
So how did the first day go? Not well for Speaker Boehner. In the first vote of the 114th Congress ,25 Republicans from the conservative wing of the party voted against electing Rep. Boehner as Speaker of the House for his third term in that position. 
 
Speaker Boehner could have lost many more Republican votes and still won the speakership, but 25 Republican votes against him was historic and clearly shows he does not have the confidence of the hard-liners.  As a result, he took revenge the next day on the Tea Party congressmen who voted against him, stripping several conservative Republicans who actually ran against him for Speaker of their committee appointments.
 
So what will the Republican-controlled Congress get accomplished this session? Not a heck of a lot with a fractured party.
 
Romney Announces He Wants To Be President
 
The third time’s the charm–at least it will be for Hillary Clinton when she’s challenged by former Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.  “I want to be president,” he told a room of Republican donors during a fundraiser in New York on January 9. 
 
No kidding, Mitt. I think the American public got the message the first two times you ran.
 
Mr. Romney, who ran for president in 2008 and 2012, made his announcement right on the heels of Jeb Bush’s announcing his interest in running. That must have gone down well at the unofficial Bush campaign headquarters. In mid December Mr. Bush said that he was actively exploring a 2016 presidential bid. His announcement put him at the top of the pack in political support and fundraising potential.  
 
Poll after poll of has listed Mr. Romney as the Republican favorite, and his vanity must have gotten the better of him. Until this point Mr. Romney has insisted that he will not run. Prospective Republican nominees have mostly been compared against each other, with Mr. Romney’s name thrown in at times for entertainment purposes. Now Mr. Romney’s announcement disrupts the entire field of hopefuls. An interesting primary just became moot as the Republicans always hand the baton over to the oldest white guy. Sorry Jeb. At 67, Mitt has got you by 6 years.
Mr. Romney has the charisma, looks and money to win the Republican nomination. But Mr. Bush is the only one with a prayer of beating Ms. Clinton. According to the conservatives, Mr. Bush is seen as a problem candidate because of his stance on immigration. Mr. Romney is the one sheltering up to $35 million in the Cayman Islands but, ironically, it’s Mr. Bush who is seen as the one with baggage for following his Christian beliefs. The mindset of people who once counted slaves as three-fifths of a human being is currently evinced by those complaining about President Obama’s stopping the deportation of parents whose children were born here. How can it matter if your family is torn apart, or you can’t see a doctor or drive a car because you are an illegal–i.e., only three-fifths human? 
 
I wish the people who are anti-immigrant/human being put their money where their hypocritical mouths are. If they don’t think illegals should be here then they should quit hiring them, quit eating the food they harvest, working in the offices they clean, staying in the hotel rooms they clean and enjoying the gardens they take care of. Giving people shelter who seek sanctuary from political or economic oppression is the Christian thing to do. It’s in the Bible, a book the right wing would do well to crack open once in a while.
 
Mr. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs Romney never did explain how many jobs have been created with that $35 million or so of his sitting in the Caymans. Something makes me think that Mr. Bush will release the last 10 years of his tax returns no questions asked. And Mr. Romney will squirm, hem and haw while trying to jimmy one tax return so it looks as though he almost pays as much, percentage wise, as his secretary. Mr. Romney is a living, breathing example of why tax cuts to the rich do not create jobs. He lost twice, kind of making a fool of himself explaining away his more liberal former self as the governor of Massachusetts while a more conservative version of himself tried to win the Republican nomination. And this is the person the Republican Party wants to showcase as their guy? Figures.
 
GOP Strives For Diversity
 
Republicans elected their first Black woman to congress, Mia Love from Utah. Ms. Love, the former mayor of Saratoga Springs, was elected last November. Democrats beat them out by 47, years but some might consider that’s changing fast for the Republican Party.  
 
Republicans are hoping for a diverse slate of presidential candidates that can attract a growing minority population. Former Hewlett Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, seems to be the only Republican woman who has expressed interest in running. She was quoted as saying that, “This is a diverse nation and we need to be a diverse party. That doesn’t mean we sacrifice our principles, but it means we need to look like and understand and empathize with the nation.” But a changing face does not change Republican attitudes and policies. Ms. Fiorina might want to actually back up her diversity quote with some real legislation that helps minorities, beginning with the criminal justice system and immigration policy. The party could throw in some “empathy” while they do it. Voter identification laws aren’t exactly endearing the party to minorities either, as “voter reform” has been targeted to keep minorities from voting
 
Even though the three top contenders for the Republican nomination are pasty White guys, the Republican Party does have some minorities in the wings and making noise. Eighty-five percent of Cuban Americans identify as White, so considering Ted Cruz, who is only half, and Marco Rubio, as Hispanic is a stretch, and a designation I’m sure they only use when it is politically advantageous. That leaves only Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose parents are from India, and third-tier candidate Dr. Ben Carson, who is African American, as the remaining potential presidential candidates of color.  As mentioned in an earlier issue, Dr. Carson is over the minimum Intelligence Quota to be even considered a serious candidate.  Incomprehensibly, conservative political pundits classify Jeb Bush as a minority because he is bilingual and his wife is Mexican. I guess that would make New York mayor Bill De Blasio a Black lesbian.
 
California’s Political Graveyard
 
In any other state, a congressional seat is often a stepping-stone to a higher office, but not in California. Some states, such as New Hampshire or Nebraska, have only two or three congressional members, and that makes running for senator or governor the next logical step in their political careers. But with a delegation of 53 members, becoming a congress member in California has become a politician’s graveyard. Barbara Boxer made the transition from Congresswoman to Senator, but in a squeaker of an election where she won at the last minute because it was discovered that her opponent had frequented a strip club. (That was 1992, and now that women go to strip clubs, too, it’s more socially acceptable.)
 
It’s hard to believe that someone as successful as Rep. Devin Nunes will never hold a higher office, but it’s true. The problem with being a congress member in California is that only a small slice of the state even knows of your existence. Mention Rep. Nunes’ name in San Luis Obispo, and no one will know who he is. On the other hand, North Dakota only has one congressional seat–so everyone in the state would know who their representative is. 
So the only way to more power is working your way up the ladder in the House, making Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Bakersfield) ascent quite impressive. It also makes Rep. Nunes’ appointment to the the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence very impressive. It’s a fortunate thing that Rep. Nunes is in the good graces of Rep. Boehner and had the necessary chops, because that’s about as far as a California congress member can go.

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