the day after

Not so bad is what I think. I feel great. I’ve had a lot of nice phone calls. One of the Republican candidates emailed me with some really kind remarks. I’ve heard nothing from Joan Buchanan, no “race well run” stuff. Maybe I’m supposed to contact and congratulate her? Not sure what the protocol here is. My preference is we both go our own way. I think she faces a very close race, at best, in November. Abram Wilson, her opponent, seems low key and a safe choice. A very moderate guy, and there aren’t too many moderates on the Republican side, so he’ll be appealling. I’m sure the Republican Party will pour in the money and consultants to help him.

As for me, I’m going to continue with my blog and website. I want to thanks all of the 9,700 people who voted for me. Someone emailed and said “ten weeks ago, there were hardly nine people who knew you, yesterday 9,000 people voted for you”. I received nice emails from Tom Campbell, the Dean of the Haas at UC-Berkeley and from Leon Panetta in Monterey. Both of them very much liked the “Blueprint for California” idea which was published by the Contra Costa Times and was considered by the LA Times. Leon Panetta has forwarded the idea to “California Forward, a Sacramento think tank which has put it on their agenda.

I met a lot of great people these past weeks including: l. Olivenbaum, the single mothers in San Leandro, Mike Flanagan, Anne Johnston, Mike Machado, Judy Fuji, John Hall, Lisa Vorderbreuggen, Dan Borenstein, John Glennon, Scott Kamena, Judy LLoyd, Abram Wilson, and many others. To all of you, I extend my heartfelt thanks.  


a surprising find

for  kicks I did a google search to see what might pop up and found this. For sure it’s a small sample and not scientific. Nonetheless, I’m as surprised as anyone.  Scroll down a bit to find the AD-15 Democrat race.

note to a journalist

I thought this might be interesting: How a reader responds to an editorial suggestion that interested citizens take out papers and jump into a political race, and just what happens
(begin text)
In early February, only a few weeks before the close of the nominating period, I decided to get the necessary signatures to put my name on the ballot. That very weekend, the Times had run an editorial suggesting that interested citizens take out papers. 
At first, there were six Democrat candidates for the open Assembly seat, and it seemed anything could happen. 25% of the vote might be enough to win the Primary. My resume and experience matched up very well. If this were a normal hiring situation, I’d get the job. So, I threw my hat into the ring. Suddenly, in the course of a few days, all the other candidates but one dropped out. It was pretty obvious to me what had happened. The Democratic Party big shots in Sacramento had stepped in and told the locals to pick one candidate and to get everyone else out. They wanted no surprises and to rally all the resources to winning the November election against the Republicans. Joan Buchanan had been elected five times to the Danville-San Ramon School Committee, had raised some $200k, and was plugged into the Ellen Tauscher organization.
The Party made the decision to simply ignore me. The local Democratic organizations cancelled their candidate nights. At a Democratic event in Sacramento, Joan Buchanan was reluctant to shake my hand. A League of Women Voters roundtable was similarly frosty. When a couple of other organizations invited us to speak, she didn’t even show up. Of course, I didn’t know her or any of the rest of them, and I didn’t take it personally. Early on, I signalled I had no money and no organiszation and had no intention of making waves. There was no need for anyone to be concerned about me or campaign against me.
The District is huge, 415,000 people running from Walnut Creek to Sacramento. How does one reach so many people? I raised about $8k from friends and family. A local schoolteacher gave me $100, a retired college professor gave me $30, a friend of my daughter’s $100, my minister $100. Their thoughtfulness really touched my heart. The County elections people advised me that if I accepted campaign spending limits I could place a 250 word statement in all of the 100,000 or so sample ballots that would be mailed out. I took great care in drafting that statement and wrote the $5k check to cover the printing cost. I decided to do paid advertising in one location, Rossmoor. The 9,000 voters there participate at a 90% rate, even in primaries. 
My strategic thinking was this: No one knows me. My name recognition is zero percent. But no one knows Joan Buchanan either. She has run in a number of minimally contested School Board races to which most people pay little attention. I suspect her name recognition may be as low as 1%. Since Joan did not accept the finance limits, she’s not allowed to place her candidate statement with the sample ballot. I have 100,000 of these going out and I think people actually read this literature so they can understand referendum questions etc.  So, I had a few things going for me. I got a nice email from someone who had run before. She said “in the end, it all depends on the candidate”. Joan portrays herself as competent, but she is not a candidate of new ideas.  She adheres mainly to the “progressive” agenda of the Democratic party. My political philosophy is centrist and non-ideological and is, I think, more in line with that of most voters in this area. My campaign themes are the need for reforming taxes, public sector pensions, and the political structure of government. Maybe the newspapers would take notice and shine a bit of light my way.
As we approach the election, the Contra Costa TV is running a televised debate between the two of us. Comcast is running a five minute interview. The Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Times, the Stockton Record and the local weeklies have all been in touch. Hopefully, they might write favorable articles. I have met a number of nice people who have all been encouraging.
The election is June 3. People have already started to vote by absentee ballot. My estimate is that Joan’s advantage from her party endorsements and School Board activities may amount to 2,000 votes. About 20,000 people should vote, so she has about a 10% advantage out of the box. My advantage is my strong resume and the candidate statement in the sample ballot. I actually think I have a chance of winning this. Of course, that’s what every candidate thinks. (and everyone in prison thinks they’re innocent) In any event, it has been a fun and stimulating experience, and one I would recommend to anyone.
I may check back with you after June 3. I’m curious how this turns out.

Some response from the Press and two political leaders on “the Grand Bargain” proposal

The following appeared in the Contra Costa Times on May 10 (see link below). The opinion piece mentions six well known California politicians, active and retired,  for a proposed panel.  I have heard back from two of them who have read the proposal. Both offered  encouragement and suggestions. I would rather not mention their names without their permission. I also received a phone call from a former senior elected official of Contra Costa County who offered praise for the idea. 

“A Grand Bargain” – how to resolve the impasse in Sacramento

(part II of Blueprint for California)

 It is clear that the State legislature is polarized. There is virtually no center ground. The interests of the broad middle class of citizens and taxpayers are being poorly represented.

Sometimes such an impasse provides an opportunity. My proposal is that a bi-partisan panel examine our State’s problem and recommend a comprehensive solution. As members of the panel, there would be three Republicans, three Democrats and a prominent jurist from one of the State’s Law schools. I would suggest the following: Pete Wilson (R), Tom Campbell (R), Abel Moldonado (R), Leon Panetta (D), Jerry Brown (D), and Michael Machado (D). The seventh member would be a Law School Dean or a highly respected academic lawyer from either UCLA or UC Berkeley. Senators Moldonado and Machado are well regarded members of the current legislature and both are centrists, a rare breed. The jurist (Law School Dean) would Chair the group. The members would be endorsed and empowered by the Governor, but would report only to the people of California.

The “grand bargain” would address and propose changes for the following:

  • the 2/3 majority requirement for the State budget
  • legislative control over redistricting
  • dual roll taxation so that corporate owned properties be assessed at 1% of market value
  • establishment of defined contribution pension systems for all public employees (state, municipal, and county) and the phasing out of defined benefit plans
  • changing the term limit periods for legislators and constitutional Officers

The seven member panel would endorse a mutually agreed upon plan and present it to the voters of California. To the extent constitutionally legal, special interests would be kept out of the process and discouraged from political advertising or other forms of advocacy. In statewide referendum, the citizens of California would either approve or disapprove the proposal. The outcome would have the strength of a constitutional amendment.


A blueprint for California

 California is at the brink. It’s not just the $14 billion state deficit. It’s municipal and county governments similarly stressed, some near bankruptcy, but continuing to grant outsized pay and benefits increases. In some communities public sector safety employees are earning as much as $200k with overtime and then retiring with pensions of 90% of their last years earnings. The prison guards union, one of the largest contributors to the Democratic party, fights against reform of the massively expensive Department of Corrections. The Republicans in Sacramento refuse to look at even the most basic fixes to the States revenue crisis like closing the outrageous yacht tax loophole.  Political candidates are spending up to $1m in legislative races and are beholden to contributors funding their campaigns. To say it is dysfunctional only begins to describe such a system.

The political divide in Sacramento seems unbridgable. There’s virtually no center ground. Nearly all of the Republicans in the legislature have taken the Grover Norquist ‘no new tax’ pledge. The party’s right wing has driven any remaining centrists out of office. The major Republican contributors: developers and big property owners, often under the guise of the Chamber of Commerce, have funded the purge. As long as they  maintain the 2/3 vote budget approval requirement and keep a Republican in the Governorship, they can maintain their grip. Meanwhile, the Democratic side of the aisle while more diverse and somewhat more centrist in approach, has its own special interest contributors with agendas. The party is eyeing 2010 as the year it will establish a 2/3 legislative majority and an ability to override any veto. Moreover, the Democratic majority will control the redistricting of California. The goal is to pick up 5 Congressional seats and a permanent 2/3 majority in the legislature. The Republican veto will be history. Even Democrats have to ask if such an imbalance is healthy.

California’s golden period was 1958 – 1966. Pat Brown, a centrist Governor, along with a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the legislature worked out compromises during a generally harmonious period of government. The State constructed an extensive highway system and infrastructure. The BART was launched. The University system was the envy of the nation. California was a leader in its efforts to protect the environment and the states natural beauty. The legislature took its first steps towards establishment of the Coastal Commission. All of these undertakings required broad based consensus.

The ideological cleavage began In the late sixties, in California as in the rest of the nation. In reaction to high taxes, and a court ordered redistribution of property tax revenues, a tax revolt took root. In 1978, Proposition 13 passed overwhelmingly. In subsequent years, prosperity and rising revenues from the internet boom and the real estate bubble allowed a papering over of a deepening political split, but in 2008, in a period of declining revenues, California lacks any consensus as to how to proceed. The State faces a crisis. 

(to be continued)


The Rossmoor Democrats

I received an email from Clyde Rich who is President of the Rossmoor Democrats rescinding an invitation that he had previously extended for me to speak before the group. It was a short message which said “We’re supporting Joan Buchanan”. So that’s that. Maybe if he were supporting Hillary Clinton, they wouldn’t allow Barack Obama to speak. Clyde had already told me he supports Joan. He’s the only person from the organization that I’ve ever met. It seems he calls the shots. I really would have liked to have had a chance to speak to the whole group.

I met Clyde only once. It was for coffee at the cafe in Rossmoor a few weeks ago. He is a person of strong opinions. An 80-something ex-Marine, Clyde told me he fought with the Marines in Korea. He was part of the Inchon landing and was at the Chosin Reservoir when the US forces were surrounded by 300,000 Chinese troops. How they fought their way out is recounted in David Halberstam’s recent book, “The Coldest Winter”.  Clyde also told me about his daily table tennis games. I’ll bet he’s a fierce competitor. I like Clyde, but I wouldn’t want to be on his wrong side. I hope he’ll take these remarks with good humor. I noticed he had an Obama sticker on his car, just like me.

THe Rossmoor Democrats are the largest Democratic organization in California. They vote in high turnout and are important to any Democratic candidate and so I am dismayed that Clyde and his colleagues on the Board have shut me out without a hearing. I suspect my views are very close to theirs and I think I would be a strong candidate. Clyde seemed to care little about my views. It was all about electibility. He told me “the big boys” in Sacramento, specifically Fabian Nunez and Art Torres, were supporting Joan.

My theory is that Nunez and Torres directly intervened in January and told the local Democrat organizations to get behind one candidate who could win and to force the others out. That way there would be no primary fights and the one candidate could conserve their resources for the fall contest against the Republicans. There had been as many as seven candidates in this contest. In late January early February, all but one dropped out. I popped up at the last moment, a citizen candidate. Clyde had been supporting Steve Filson who, according to my theory, was eased out, possibly by Clyde himself. If Clyde had to force his own candidate to walk the plank, he certainly wasn’t going to give me the time of day.

I have been thinking of contacting Joan and asking her to intercede with Clyde. Joan and I have a pretty good rapport, or at least I think so. It’s not a very adversarial campaign. We agree on about 70% of the issues. When we have been together at these forums, it has gone well. We make our points. There has been some good humor, and a bit of banter between us and the crowd. I think it’s good to have such interaction and a bit of debate. It keeps us on our toes and focused; the audience enjoys it; and it will have the effect of making the eventual candidate stronger and more effective in the general election in the fall.  

Joan and I have appeared together three times so far. Next week, we are in a TV debate with the League of Women Voters. There’s another event scheduled in Livermore the following week. Both the Chronicle and the Contra Costa Times are interviewing us for possible endorsement. Debate is healthy and part of the process. I hope the Rossmoor Democrats get with it and invite me to appear with Joan on April 24. Maybe Joan will give Clyde a phone call and encourage him to loosen up a bit.