Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Update on an Action Item

Yesterday I posted a plea for people to sign up for the Say No to Pombo DFA-Link.  But I have since realized that there is a problem with my plea.  I conflated two separate actions: 1) registering with DFA-Link and 2) joining the Say No to Pombo group that is part of DFA-Link.  My confusion stemmed from two things.  First, because I signed up with DFA-Link months ago, I did not understand exactly how the sign-up process with DFA-Link would work.  Specifically, I did not realize that my invitation would not automatically invite people to the Say No to Pombo group.  Second, the target audience for my plea was both a) those who had not registered with DFA-Link, and b) those who had already registered, but who had not yet joined the Say No to Pombo group.  

As I mentioned yesterday, the top three recruiters this week for DFA-Link, meaning the three people who get the most people to newly register with DFA-Link, will get a call from Jim Dean, the Chair of DFA.  If I get a call from Jim Dean, I will spend the time talking about the importance of the race to unseat Pombo and discussing how DFA can most effectively involve itself in the race.  Because the metric for the recruitment drive is new registrations with DFA-Link, I will get credit for anyone who signs up with DFA-Link if they come from certain URLs, such as this one.

But the deeper issue is that I think the Say No to Pombo group on DFA-Link will provide a good organizational tool to fight against Pombo.  It’s great that people have signed up with DFA-Link because that helps me with a very short-term goal (getting Jim Dean on the phone).  But I hope that everyone will also join the Say No to Pombo group.  

So go here to register with DFA-Link and then, once you have registered, go here to join the Say No to Pombo group.      

Monday, January 30, 2006

Tools to Fight Pombo

UPDATE: I guess the sign-up process is different than I thought. To be clear, sign up for DFA-Link here and then make sure you join the Say No to Pombo group here.

Do you want to fight RICHARD POMBO and kick him out of office in 2006?

Then join the Say No to Pombo DFA-Link.

DFA-Link is a superb online tool that combines the event planning capability of Meetup.com with the social-networking aspect of sites like Friendster, Facebook, and MySpace. The upshot is that it makes it much easier for people to organize online in order to take action offline. It’s simple and free, and I can’t explain how excited I am about it.

But I do have a special reason for posting this today. Democracy for America is running a recruitment drive for DFA-Link and has pledged that the top three recruiters this week will get a call from Jim Dean, the Chair of DFA.

If you are not a member of DFA-Link and you sign up to join the Say No to Pombo DFA-Link, there is a good chance that I will be one of those top recruiters. And if Jim Dean calls me, I will spend the conversation discussing how important it is for DFA to target this race. DFA is already bringing their one grassroots training event in California this year to Stockton (more info here), in the heart of Pombo Country. But let's not rest on our laurels. By joining the Say No to Pombo DFA-Link today, you are demonstrating the energy at the grassroots to kick Pombo out of office and take back our Congress.

Join the Say No to Pombo DFA-Link.

If you are already a DFA-Link member, by joining the Say No to Pombo DFA-Link you are sending a message that taking on Pombo is one of your priorities. Imagine the message we will send to DFA and other groups if we become one of the fastest-growing groups in the country.

Whatever the case, once you join it will be much, much easier to let you know about important, exciting, and interesting anti-Pombo activities coming up. You can even get a feel for who in your local area is interested in working to oust Pombo and collaborate with them. Again, it is free, it is simple, and it’s very, very useful.

The contest ends Sunday, so sign up today.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Social Networks and the Events of Last Sunday (1/22)

This is going to be the second is a three part series about various campaign events in the last week or so. You can find the first part here. This piece is going to focus on the events of last Sunday, which included two events, one I was surprised involved CA-11 at all as well as one meeting of some MoveOn volunteers (and others) who gathered to figure out how to help Jerry McNerney.

Although both events primarily involve Jerry McNerney, I hope it will become clear that some of the dynamics involved could benefit any of the candidates running against Richard Pombo. Specifically, although both events happened in Berkeley, I think both demonstrate a number of different ways for people in the East Bay to help out in this race without being perceived as outsiders trying to impose Berkeley sensibilities onto a place like Lodi. Although there will clearly be some resentment, especially on the part of the pro-Pombo Republicans who’d love nothing more than to make the race a referendum on Central Valley values versus (a parody of) Berkeley values, I think the truth is more complicated than the outsider/insider dynamic people seem to have in mind. And I think a lot of the hand-wringing about the involvement of people from outside the district is misplaced, or at least exaggerated. So, though I will try to faithfully recount my experience at both of these events, I will also place an emphasis on the pre-existing networks I see between a place like Berkeley and CA-11. It is my belief, and indeed my contention here, that these pre-existing networks will provide a framework upon which the efforts of people in the East Bay to fight Pombo will be seen as broadly acceptable. And as such, the efforts represent much more of an asset than a liability.

Last Sunday, the first meeting I attended was an appreciation party for the Special Election volunteers in Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville. As you might expect, I had no clue that anyone would be thinking specifically about McNerney or CA-11. The party drew a crowd of three to four dozen people. There was about an hour of socializing, which was followed by a number of short speeches given by various organizers and local politicians.

During the mixer I somehow began talking about the Pombo race. (I’m not trying to be coy, a lot of people know about my blog and my interest in the race, I just forget the exact circumstances that prompted the topic). Anyhow, a woman who overhead me discussing the race introduced herself to me and told me that she had just retired from teaching and wanted to get involved in the anti-Pombo fight. One of the first things she said to me was that she knew at least five teachers she worked with who lived in Tracy whom she thought would be interested in helping oust Pombo.

First of all, I think this woman demonstrates the kind of political gravity that the CA-11 race is developing. I had been talking about the state of the race to unseat Pombo, not enumerating his many failings. So it is not as if I was saying anything that was particularly inflammatory or anything that would have served to talk her into fighting Pombo. Rather, almost as soon as she realized there were Democrats taking on Pombo she wanted to help them. She told me that she recently retired and now had time to get involved. And that, plus the fact that people were already fighting Pombo, was enough to make her want to work on the race in some shape or form. Even if she does not follow through one jot on what she told me, her reaction is becoming increasingly common. There is just a ton of latent enthusiasm and energy to take on Pombo. And it’s very quickly actualizing itself.

But it’s important to note that her enthusiasm did not resolve itself into some sort of missionary zeal to covert the people in the district. Rather, she knew people in the district and her first thought was figuring out how to get them involved too. That is, she first thought about how to activate her pre-existing social and professional network. Her friends and colleagues who live in Tracy are, as teachers, opinion leaders. Furthermore, if the Special Election taught us anything, it is that the voices of teachers (not to mention nurses, firefighters, police officers, and other public employees) carry a tremendous amount of moral weight even in the red parts of the state.

This woman might not be able to activate all of her friends, but even activating one teacher in Tracy nine and a half months before the election could have a large effect come November. That is, it’s very likely that that one teacher in Tracy knows a lot more than five people in the district who’d want to fight Pombo, and they in term will each know others. There is obviously some limit to how many people can be activated in this way. But a lot of people in the district don’t even know who their Congressman is, let alone the mischief he’s been up to. A short phone call from a friend is one of the best ways to get these people interested and active. And you don’t lose anything by having someone in Berkeley call her friends up about the race.

The other interesting thing that happened at the volunteer party occurred after most of the politicians and organizers had given their speeches. We were all standing in a circle during a break in the speeches and someone just spoke up and made an announcement about Jerry McNerney while handing out brochures for his campaign. It turns out that a woman who is friends with Karen Weinstein, a Co-Chair of the precinct captain operation in the Berkeley area, lives out in Brentwood (which is in the eastern part of Contra Costa County). I believe this woman helped out in the Berkeley area during the Special Election, and in any event she is now a McNerney precinct-captain in Brentwood. Now I don’t know if she heard about McNerney through Karen, who is a McNerney supporter, or not, so let’s leave that aside.

So why is this important? Well first of all, when the announcement was made a lot of people, including some of the pillars of the Berkeley Democratic Party grassroots, chimed in with their support for McNerney. This probably made an impression on the politicians and the organizers that were in attendance, including the Executive Director of SEIU Local 535 and the President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

But more importantly, Karen Weinstein said that she was actually hosting a house party for Jerry McNerney in early March. Karen was able to raise a couple thousand dollars for a Special Election house party she threw, and she probably can do the same for McNerney. And unlike the Special Election house party, which was aimed at recruiting volunteers and raising enough money to run our precinct program, Karen most certainly can use her next house party to recruit other people to throw more house parties for McNerney. Frankly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see $20,000 raised for McNerney in the East Bay before the primary. Considering McNerney might only raise $200,000 to $250,000, $20,000 could give him quite a boost.

The other important aspect here is that a house party program enjoys considerable economies of scale. Karen already knows how to throw a mean house party, and she can help her friend in Brentwood do the same. Nobody is going to say a word of criticism if Karen drives from Berkeley to Brentwood to help out with a party there. It would be fatuous to consider this carpetbagging. It’s one friend helping another. And whatever the particulars about the house parties, Karen’s expertise in running a precinct organization is only a phone call away. And whatever one’s political stripes, it borders on the absurd to suggest that one friend should not help another simply because they live in different districts. Again, there are pre-existing social networks that will mediate the activism from the East Bay to the district.

After the volunteer party, six of us went directly to the MoveOn volunteer meeting. There were at least twenty people who attended the meeting, although a fair number of them were already involved in the McNerney Campaign. Still there were at least a dozen people at the meeting, excluding myself, who were not involved in the McNerney Campaign and who were there looking to get involved. They were a mixture of MoveOn volunteers and members of the Oakland East Bay for Democracy Meetup (which is culturally, but not officially, connected to East Bay for Democracy). I was especially pleased to see that a fellow blogger, Green Boy from Needlenose, attended. We need to ramp up the amount of attention the netroots is paying to the race, and he’s in a much better position than I to get people paying attention. In any event, you can read his report about the meeting here.

As far as the meeting itself, I would say it was a little odd. McNerney was very open about what his campaign is up to and seemed to act as if the meeting were just another campaign meeting, not a real campaign event. I mean, although most of the people in attendance had decided to volunteer for McNerney, this was their first chance to meet him in person and he did not do very much to sell himself to them. I thought more could have been done to inspire the audience, but on the other hand it was interesting to see McNerney completely with his guard down. In a weird sort of way, there was a blind date aspect in that people had heard a lot of good things about him but were still trying to suss him out. But he did receive a number of rounds of applause during the question and answer session, and the people in attendance seemed to display their approval. So I guess it went well.

There is going to be a follow-up meeting in early February, and the group will decide at that meeting exactly what they want to do. But the McNerney Campaign raised a number of different possibilities, and I think it’s worth seeing how these possibilities might be viewed by residents of the district.

First, it seemed pretty clear to me that the organizers of the meeting and the McNerney Campaign were both keen on pairing the MoveOn volunteers with McNerney supporters in the district for canvassing operations. I suspect that until the primary, the canvassing operation will overwhelmingly involve talking to other Democrats. If I’m right, there is less danger of alienating voters since the audience will be primarily a sympathetic one. And by pairing East Bay volunteers with local supporters, the McNerney campaign will have a built-in mechanism to orient the East Bay volunteers about the mores of the area. Instead of parachuting in some out of town activists without any connection to the area, this type of operation almost of necessity creates networks between a place like Berkeley and areas of the district. Working on a campaign together does, after all, breed camaraderie. And by starting such an operation in February instead of in September (or May for that matter), the McNerney Campaign will almost certainly be able to bring this group very much into the fold. At the very least, I have seen a number of such operations work productively before, including the Wellstone Club’s Social Security Task Force which was very well-received even in San Joaquin County.

Second, listening to the McNerney Campaign people, it became fairly clear that there are a lot of administrative and organizational tasks that need to be done. Things like phone trees, filing, data entry, and such are completely invisible to anyone outside of the campaign. But they are very vital to the efficacy of a grassroots campaign. Frankly, nobody is going to care if it’s a Berkeley resident calling to invite a McNerney supporter to a campaign event in Tracy. In fact, I could well see McNerney supporters being uplifted by the help they’re getting from campaign volunteers, almost regardless of the origin of the volunteers.

Lastly, I walked home with Garth, who was one of the organizers of the meeting and who is a friend of mine (and my old boss). He was the one that told me about the meeting in the first place and the walk home was a chance for us to catch up, mostly about non-political things. But he did mention to me that he’d be willing to help train canvassers for McNerney and that he wanted to throw a house party for the campaign. I should note that Garth ran a campaign office for the Fund for Public Interest Research and has trained hundreds and hundreds of canvassers, including me. He is also a great canvasser and fundraiser in his own right. So he has a level of expertise that is available to the McNerney Campaign in general and to the MoveOn volunteer group he’s helping to organize. And, as for his parties, I could see him (and his fiancée, who is arguably more experienced in these things than my friend) raising $1,000 for McNerney from a group of twenty-somethings. This is a demographic group that is very underrepresented in Democratic Party politics in the Bay Area. But I see a lot of different, hitherto now independent clusters, of young people congealing around their desire to take on Pombo.

Although there are few pre-existing social networks between the young people of the East Bay and the young people of the district (at least that I know of), I suspect that it will be much easier to get the young people of the district to get involved if they see people their own age are already working to oust Pombo. Since there is a huge social component to political activism, it’s important to ensure that people my age see that there are people involved who they might want to hang out with (which mean, not only people as old as their parents and grandparents). I have already seen how the emergence of groups like the League of Pissed Off Voters in San Francisco has helped the politically active young people in Berkeley self-organize. I think there is certainly a possibility that the involvement of the East Bay Young Democrats and people like Garth (who has a ton of politically-minded friends in Berkeley) will push this process further East, and quite possibly all the way to Tracy and Stockton. For my part, I firmly believe that the social networks of the under-30 crowd are waiting to be tapped. I suppose time will tell if I’m right.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Report on the Events of Last Saturday (1/21)

A lot has happened in the last week on the Democratic side of things.  As I’ve mentioned before, I attended four events last weekend that involved Jerry McNerney in one way or another.  I have also heard a couple of snippets about other events the candidates were at, and I’ll discuss them as well.  I have only succeeded in writing up what I experienced last Saturday, and I have to leave for the evening.  Sometime tomorrow, you can expect another, hopefully briefer, account of what happened last Sunday.  And I will also, hopefully within the next day or two, provide some reports back from events I have not attended.    

Last Saturday I attended Jerry McNerney’s campaign kickoff in Tracy. It was a fairly large event, attracting at least a hundred people and probably one hundred twenty by my reckoning, although Nick Juliano pegged the number at seventy-five.  Regardless, it was a sizeable gathering of consisting predominantly of McNerney supporters from San Joaquin County.  

At the event, I got a chance to meet a lot of the players in the SJC Democratic Party grassroots, including: Dick Archbold, the President of the Democrats of Greater Stockton (the DoGS); Stella Lopez, the President of the Latina Democratic Club; Sandra Carter, the Chair of the San Joaquin-Calaveras Central Labor Council and President of the Democratic Women’s Club; and two members of the San Joaquin County Democratic Central Committee from Lodi who are involved with the Greater Lodi Area Democrats (GLAD).

I have been told that the DoGS and the Latina Democratic Club were the two most active grassroots clubs in San Joaquin County.  Both Stella Lopez and Dick Archbold said that McNerney enjoyed overwhelming support among the membership of their respective clubs.  That said, I found out that the Latina Democratic Club is not going to make an endorsement until after a multi-club candidates forum that will be held in March and that the DoGS are barred from endorsing a candidate in a contested primary full stop.  The upshot of this is that some of the big grassroots leaders in the county, such as Lopez and Archbold, will personally support McNerney even as the organizations they lead will have to officially remain neutral.  Still, the personal support of such well-respected and active members of the grassroots community is bound to benefit McNerney tremendously, especially since so many members of their respective clubs already support McNerney.  

Another interesting thing I noticed at the event on Saturday was how people spoke about McNerney.  Two people introduced McNerney before he made his speech to the crowd, and both described him as “an honest man” and otherwise lauded his character.  Both were clearly speaking in a very impromptu manner, so their remarks came across as very genuine.  And I was struck the other night when a member of the Wellstone Club who had just met McNerney on Thursday also described him to me as “an honest man.”  I think there is a lot of cynicism about politicians these days.  Certainly, I have my share of cynical thoughts when I meet your average politico.  But whatever his faults, McNerney clearly comes across as a good guy.  

Sandra Carter in her introduction said something like, “I always say that Richard Pombo is the type of guy you’d want to have as your neighbor and Jerry McNerney is the kind of guy you’d want to have as your neighbor AND as your Congressman.”  And I think people readily understand what she’s getting at.  Jerry McNerney clearly does not have the charisma of a lot of politicians, but he does have something that I’m not sure how to label.  McNerney does not have any pizzazz, and he’s certainly not slick at all.  But he seems honest, dependable, and competent.  And in the face of all of the sleaze about Pombo oozing its way onto the newspapers, I think a lot of people would welcome a change to someone who seems responsible and respectable.  

That said, I wish McNerney would find a way to be more on-message when it comes to speaking.  He has improved his public speaking a lot since I first heard him, but he still has a long way to go.  He clearly knows what he wants to say in broad strokes, but he uses all sorts of different words and different arguments to talk about the same thing.  Seeing him in Tracy and elsewhere all in a short span of time I realized that McNerney never really answers the same question or addresses the same issue in the same way twice.  It’s not that he provides conflicting and contrary answers.  In fact, his answers are all relatively consistent.  But I would like to see stock language added to his responses to reinforce the themes of his campaign and to highlight particular aspects of his vision.  It’s still fairly early in his campaign, and I do give him credit for discussing a wide range of issues substantively on his website and in person.  But McNerney needs to find a way of focusing what he says so that people begin to understand which issues he’s prioritizing and how they all fit together thematically.  

Now I know I’ve gone somewhat far afield, but let me just end by saying that I think that the Tracy event was fairly successful for McNerney.  People seemed like they were having fun and McNerney’s speech was certainly well-received by the hugely supportive audience.   I even heard that a staffer for a local politician said that the kickoff was the best campaign party she (the staffer) had ever seen in Tracy.  I think such a comment says a lot about the previous state of Democratic politics in Tracy and about how McNerney is energizing and revitalizing the grassroots.  It’s certainly worth pondering.

After the kickoff, I actually got a ride to an event in Oakland from Vicki (my friend and McNerney’s scheduler) who was driving McNerney to the same event I had planned on attending.  I was somewhat surprised that McNerney had any interest in attending because the event, a meeting of the Social Responsibility Network, was billed as a meeting of community organizers and activists in Alameda County and I suppose I did not make the connection between CA-11 and the Social Responsibility Network. In retrospect, it was probably very appropriate for McNerney to attend the meeting because a) the district includes a part of Alameda County and b) there were a lot of people there who’d care about the district regardless of where they lived.  Also, I did see McNerney talking with Sharon Cornu, the Executive Secretary and Treasurer (i.e. the head) of the Alameda County Central Labor Council, which in and of itself made the trip worthwhile for McNerney in my opinion.  

I won’t linger on a description of the event since it was more important as a networking opportunity than anything else.  However, I do want to mention two things.  

First, I met the president of the Hayward Demos Democratic Club, and he mentioned that there was a lot of interest in his club about working in CA-11.  Although most of the members live outside of the district, there are some overlapping political connections on a local level.  Not only is their the connection between all of the areas in Alameda County by virtue of their inclusion in the county, there is also a specific connection made by the California’s 18th Assembly District, which includes essentially the Hayward Demos’ area on one hand and the Alameda County portion of CA-11 on the other.  For example, the Chair of the AD18 Democratic Central Committee is an At-Large officer of Hayward Demos.  I think that the pre-existing political connections plus the actual physical proximity of these areas establishes a groundwork upon which we can expect some effective political activism in CA-11 coming from the Hayward Demos.  McNerney narrowly lost Alameda County to Pombo in 2004.  Whoever the Democratic nominee is, I think we can expect a much improved performance in this part of the district.            

Second, I wanted to note that saw no less than ten people I recognized from various Wellstone and East Bay for Democracy events (including the new President of the East Bay Young Dems).  Like me, they attended because they were interested in the meeting itself. And like me they had no idea that McNerney was going to show up.  But I mention their presence because the more I become involved with local politics, the more impressed I am by the disproportionate presence of members from these clubs.  As of this Thursday, both the Wellstone Club and East Bay for Democracy have officially endorsed McNerney.  And each club can call upon a large cadre of active members to do the humble but vital tasks involved in political organizing and activism.  Of course, not every member of the club is going to work on the anti-Pombo campaign.  But even those who don’t still have a wealth of expertise and a depth of political connections that can be tapped to some degree or another in the fight against Pombo.

Tomorrow I will write up what happened at an appreciation party for local Special Election volunteers and what happened at the MoveOn volunteers meeting.  I’m not going to be around this evening, so feel free to leave a comment in the comment section as long as you do not expect a prompt response.                                            

Link Roundup

Today, I am going to put up an omnibus summary of the recent campaign events, which will include my promised description of what happened last weekend. While I’m writing it, however, I thought I’d post some interesting links that you might want to check out.

  • Fun with audio, take one: Last Sunday’s Contra Costa Times featured a number of pieces on Richard Pombo. I mentioned, and listed, the pieces here. However, part of the multimedia component on the website includes mp3s of Pombo’s interview with one of the reporters. Here are direct hyperlinks to the files. (Hat tip: the newest addition to the anti-Pombo blogosphere, the CA-11 blog).

    Listen to Pombo talk about:
    You can download a rawer version of a part of the interview, here (it’s not publicized on the website).

  • Fun with audio, take two: Pete McCloskey scored an interview on Eco Talk on Air America Radio. The Eco Talk website describes it thusly:

    Former Republican representative Pete McCloskey is coming out of retirement to challenge "Pombo the Plunderer" in California's June primary. Could it be that Richard Pombo, a 6-term Central Valley congressman is attempting to roll back every environmental law that McCloskey championed back in the 70's and 80's, including the Endangered Species Act? McCloskey also talks about why this race is a battle for the "soul of the Republican Party" (Pombo has also been the recipient of $40,000 in donations from one Jack Abramoff).

    You can download the seven minute interview, here.

  • The Fish Sniffer “the #1 newspaper in the West dedicated exclusively to fishermen” gave Richard Pombo the Cold Dead Fish Award. I am excerpting the parts of the article explaining the award and why they gave it to Pombo, but the entire piece is worth a read to see the issues anglers are concerned about in California. Not only is the article good on issues, it also has great rhetoric, as you will see from the following (emphasis in the original):

    We bestowed our First Annual “Leaping' Steelhead” awards in the last edition of the Fish Sniffer to those individuals and groups who went out of their way last year to restore our fisheries. Now we will change our focus to the “Bad Guys” who did everything they could to destroy fish populations and serve the greed of corporate polluters, agribusiness and the "wise use" movement in 2005.


    But [Congressman David] Nunes, [Governor Arnold] Schwarzenegger and these federal agencies, although they did a lot to destroy our fisheries, had tough competition in these awards from Representative Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Representative Jim Gibbons (R-NV) These two corporate-owned politicians sponsored an atrocious provision in a House-Senate reconciliation bill that would have sold off millions of acres of our public lands to mining and other companies.

    A campaign by 750 sportsmen’s and conservation groups defeated the legislation on December 14. For their attempt to sell off the public trust lands, Pombo and Gibbons get the “Enviro-Thug Team” of the year award.

    Now we go to an award that only Pombo wins – and won’t share with Gibbons or anybody else. Since being elected as Congressman, this scion of a wealthy developer family, who poses as a “Western rancher” wearing a cowboy hat, has dedicated his tenure to the destruction of the Endangered Species Act, in spite of its successes in restoring endangered species.

    This law has served as the last resort to protect salmon, steelhead and other fish on the brink of extinction. Yet Pombo, in a typical display of extremist rhetoric, has blasted supporters of fish and wildlife restoration as the "eco-federal conspiracy of crypto-communist environmental regulations makers.”

    The evil darling of the “‘wise use” movement and “property rights” extremists, Pombo and his buddies in Congress passed HR 3824, the deceptively titled “Threatened and Endangered Species Act,” through the House this fall. The vote was close, passing by only one vote, so it is hoped the legislation will be thwarted in the Senate.

    For his dedication to the destruction of the fisheries of California and the nation, Pombo receives the 20th annual “Cold, Dead Fish” award. Hopefully, Pombo will be defeated and sent packing in the upcoming Congressional election!

    Note: Retired Congressman Pete McClosky [sic] has announced his intention to run against Pombo saying "Pombo has lost sight of the true principals of the Republican party."

  • I’m putting this article in our Zombie Policies file (you know, the damn things just keep on rising from the dead):

    Washington -- Republican leaders, after losing a bitter fight over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge late last year, plan to bring the contentious issue before Congress again this year.


    House Republicans also are plotting their own strategy to open the refuge, but it will be fought by party moderates -- especially those in swing districts that could be crucial to the GOP's effort to retain its narrow majority in the November midterm elections.

    "It certainly will be tough in an election year," said Jennifer Zuccarelli, a spokeswoman for Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, chairman of the House Resources Committee. "But this is a big energy year when you consider our growing foreign imports, our shaky foreign relations, not to mention rising energy costs. By keeping (the refuge) locked up, we are not doing anything to help our energy supply situation."

    Republican leaders and the White House are also renewing their efforts to increase energy production off the nation's coasts, which failed last year.

    Pombo is considering new hearings on a bill that would end the 23-year-old moratorium on offshore drilling, allowing drilling for natural gas -- but not oil -- on about 85 percent of the nation's coastline that is now off-limits. Pombo is also pushing a plan to give states the ability to opt out of the moratorium to drill for either oil or gas.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Filson v. SJ Supervisors


Steve Filson vs. San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors http://www.sjgov.org/board/

Steve Gutierrez, District 1

Gutierrez, 40, is one of the youngest county supervisors in California and is not a stranger to county government. He served as Legislative Assistant to First District Supervisor William N. Sousa from 1991 until Sousa's retirement in 1996. Gutierrez spent six years (1985-91) with the County Private Industry Council as coordinator of the Summer Youth Employment and Training Program Theater Project. This $250,000 per year activity received a Presidential Award of Excellence during his tenure. Gutierrez also served as monitor of state and federal employment and training programs for the County Employment and Economic Development Department.
His duties as First District Legislative Assistant included organizing residents at Gianone and Kennedy Parks and establishing Neighborhood Watch programs in the Country Club, Northeast and South Stockton areas. His responsibilities have included assisting the Targeted Opportunities To Prevent Pollution in San Joaquin County (TOPPS), Kennedy Swimming Pool Booster Club, City of Stockton Truancy Task Force, Stockton Beautiful and City of Stockton Graffiti Abatement Task Force.
He currently serves as a member of the San Joaquin County Children and Families Commission. He has served as president of Hispanics for Political Action and the Coalition of Mexican American Organizations. He is the co-founder of Comerciantes Unidos (Stockton's first Spanish-speaking business group).

Steve Filson, Dem Candidate for Congress

He knows how to empty a swamp cooler.


Dario Marenco, District 2

Marenco has worked throughout the community in a variety of activities geared to improving the quality of life in Stockton. A few years ago he was listed among the most powerful residents in the city in a newspaper poll for his civic contributions and concerns.
He was co-founder of the CYO youth basketball program, member and chair of the urban housing committee, active in the “Su Salud” health fair, worked to bring more jobs to Downtown Stockton and served as chair of the Stockton Charter Revision Committee and Mosquito Abatement District Board. He is currently Chairman of the Criminal Justice Oversight Group.
In addition, he helped drive drug dealers out of a downtown park near his dental practice and worked in the same area to help the elderly block a plan for expensive underground utilities. He supported acquiring additional water from New Melones Reservoir, worked to correct problems with the Stockton Regional Sewer Plant, and has served as a volunteer campaign manager in city, county and federal elections.

Steve Filson, Dem Candidate for Congress

He has a cousin that lives in Stockton.


Victor Mow, District 3

Supervisor Mow has a long history of public service and came to the Board as a past Stockton City Council member where he was elected twice and served a term as Vice Mayor. During Supervisor Mow’s time as a Council member, the City of Stockton experienced a renaissance of downtown and waterfront development, the institution of Community Policing, curfew center, expanded after school programs, graffiti abatement and strong economic growth. In addition, the City of Stockton was awarded the distinction as an All America City.
Supervisor Mow’s service to San Joaquin County has been recognized in many areas: · Recipient of San Joaquin County Employee of the Year for 1993· Awarded the Service to Mankind Award by the Sertoma Club· Inducted into the Edison High Hall of Fame in 1994· Recipient of the Leadership Stockton’s Outstanding Achievement for Community Involvement.· Received the Alumnus of the Year Award from his alma mater, California State University, Stanislaus, in 2004.

Steve Filson, Dem Candidate for Congress

He spent 4 years in Fresno in the 1970s.


Jack Sieglock, District 4

Supervisor Sieglock represents the Board of Supervisors on the Council of Governments, Economic Development Association, Community Economic Development Action Committee, and the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo). In addition, he serves on the American River Authority, San Joaquin Area Flood Control Agency, East San Joaquin Water Users Association, the Advisory Water Commission, Hospital Joint Conference Committee, Medical Executive Committee, and the Ad Hoc Green Belt Policy Committee. New assignments this year include the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, Aviation Advisory Board, Central Valley Rail Commission, Caltrans Rail Task Force Steering Committee, San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, and the County-wide Library Operations Task Force.
Supervisor Sieglock has been actively involved in community and county affairs throughout his professional career. He has worked to meet the needs of seniors, create jobs, provide our youth with activities, seek solutions to the gang problems, and has dealt extensively with water and agricultural issues.
In 1990 and 1994, Jack Sieglock was elected to the Lodi City Council. He served as Mayor in 1994 and 1998. He was the City's representative to the San Joaquin Partnership and to the Joint City of Lodi/Lodi District Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee, of which he was a charter member.Prior to elective office, Supervisor Sieglock was employed for ten years in Congressman Norm Shumway's District Office in Stockton. His assignments included a variety of issues affecting the residents of San Joaquin County and nine other counties throughout Northern California.Supervisor Sieglock served on the All-American Waterfest Board, Air Expo and as a trustee for United Way. Additionally, he is serving on the Board of Directors for the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, of which he is a past president, as a member of the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce, the San Joaquin Zoological Society, and as a JBL basketball coach.In 1984, Supervisor Sieglock participated in a Group Study Exchange Program for Rotary International and was sent to the Philippines. In 1985, he was selected an Outstanding Young Man of America by Rotary International.
Following ten years of public service in the congressional district office, Jack became the Professional Services Director for Option Care, Inc., based in Ceres, CA. Option Care specializes in home infusion therapy and nutritional services.

Steve Filson, Dem Candidate for Congress

He has been to San Joaquin and knows where it is on the map.


Leroy Ornellas, District 5

A third generation farmer and dairyman, Ornellas has served as a member of the San Joaquin County Agricultural Advisory Board, appointed to the Board by former County Supervisor Bob Cabral. He was selected by his peers to serve as Chair of the Agricultural Advisory Board for the past 5 years.Recognizing his many contributions to the community and to agriculture, Leroy was honored by the City of Tracy and the Tracy Chamber of Commerce as “Agriculturist of the Year” in 1995.He is active on several boards and commissions in the Tracy area, including the Board of Directors, for the Sutter/Tracy Community Hospital and the Tracy Chamber of Commerce. He was recently nominated to serve as Vice-President of the Tracy Rotary Club.Leroy was a founding member of the San Joaquin County Citizens Land Alliance – an organization that advocates for the rights of private property owners.He has been active in land use issues as a member of the first “Tracy Tomorrow” task force. He has provided testimony to various legislative bodies engaged in the development of land use plans, such as the San Joaquin County 2010 General Plan and the City of Tracy General Plan.

Steve Filson, Dem Candidate for Congress

He is "fighting for fairness".

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Introducing Mr. Alexander Spanos


I just finished reading Alexander Spanos autobiography, "Sharing the Wealth". I want to say he is a remarkable and interesting man, who unfortunately has directed his vast wealth to conservative causes, including Pombo. I think it is important for anyone watching this race to know about his influence. I also would recommend reading the book to see how the Stockton power-network goes way back and how the Central Valley relies on these long-standing personal relationships and the trust involved with them. This does not mean voters will always vote Republican there, but understanding Spanos is understanding the basis of conservatives' strength in San Joaquin. He embodies what I think is the prevailing attitude of the Central Valley businessmen and farmers, and for that matter, many red-staters - self-made men, hard-working, loyal, church-going, family-oriented, generous to their community, who don't need a bunch of Volvo/Prius-driving, latte-sipping Berkeley liberals or government bureaucrats telling them what to do and how to live their lives.

The only way these people will vote for a Democrat is if he is one of them, such as Mike Machado. who is a rancher and descendant from Portuguese immigrants (like Pombo) to the Valley, or Barbara Matthews, a hometown, kind of conservative motherly type.

Now, how strong this "backbone" of the Valley is, is hard to say. There are more and more people moving there, diluting the influence of the long-time Valley residents. Also, the Valley is changing as the surburban influence spreads and it becomes more worldly. There are fewer and fewer ranchers/farmers and more and more surburbanites. At some point, the balance will tip towards the middle, dropping Pombo's far right ideology off the scale and finding a more moderate representative. They will probably vote Republican still, but it will be for a moderate Republican. It is possible they would vote for a centrist Democrat over a far right Republican at some point soon also.

Will that be this election cycle? Who knows? The tipping point is getting close though, and if the Dems can run a strong enough candidate, the race will be much closer than it has for Pombo the last 6 times out. Eventually, he will either moderate or be ousted, in my opinion. Hopefully, he will be ousted this time around, as his dogmatic pursuit of a far right agenda has predominated his time in office, leaving the Valley to suffer with bad air, poor schools, crime, transportion problems, levees in ill repair, etc.

Short synopsis on Spanos:

Spanos, who has lived his whole life in Stockton, is the founder of Spanos Construction, as well as several other related companies, and majority owner of the San Diego Chargers. Born in 1923, he is the son of a Greek immigrant. Spanos grew up in Stockton and helped in his father's bakery and restaurants. "Helped" is putting it mildly, since he recounts getting up at 4 am and working four hours every day before heading off to school. So he grew up with a strong work ethic. He went in the Air Force during WWII. After that, having never finished college, he went back to work for his father, a strict disciplinarian. He quit one day when his father did not give him a raise. Being married with one kid and another on the way, he started delivering baloney sandwiches to farm workers. From this, he found the farmers needed more workers, so he went to Mexico to find some. While there, he met another Stockton man who told him he had 350 workers, but that they needed food and housing. So Spanos high-tailed it back to Stockton and set up a temporary camp for them. He started making a good profit on this "bracero" program (feeding and housing Mexican farm workers) and eventually expanded to 1500 workers per season, bringing in some serious cash. The business was doing quite well, but his accountant told him he needed to find some tax shelters. So he got into real estate. Long story on that, but he eventually become the largest builder of apartments in the US and became very wealthy. He eventually bought a 56% share of the Chargers for $30.8 million (in cash, by the way) in 1983 and that share is now estimated to be worth over $500 million. All kinds of stories like that. Bottom line, he is very wealthy.

Along the way, mostly through golf it seems, he got to know many important people. He turned a Republican early in his career and became friends with the Bushes, Ronald Reagan, Pete Wilson, and other prominent Republicans. He is one of those people who can call the president and the president will take his call, it seems, (at least if he is not busy clearing brush or reading My Pet Goat). Spanos and his family members have donated millions to Republican causes.

He is a very generous man, giving to colleges and disaster relief, but in politics, it is Republicans and Republicans only. His business is family-owned and operated, and all four of his children are officers in the business (and also very wealthy). They also give large amounts to Republican/conservative causes.

Here is something you may want to do: go to the FEC site http://www.fec.gov/finance/disclosure/norindsea.shtml and type in Spanos for the last name. You will see what I mean. Here are the names to look for:

Alex or Alexander Spanos
Faye Spanos, his wife
Dean and Susan Spanos (his son and wife)
Michael and Helen Spanos (his son and wife)
Ron and Dea Spanos Berberian (his daughter and husband) -- you will have to type "Berberian" in the last name to get these
Alexis and Barry Ruhl (his daughter and husband) -- you will have to type "Ruhl" in the last name to get these

There are also a host of other Spanos based in Stockton and San Diego (because of the Chargers). Altogether, the amounts given from the Spanos fortune to Republican committees, PACS,and candidates are staggering.

Also, Spanos gave $5 million to "Progress for America", a group that promotes the White House agenda, see: http://www.democrats.com/node/2661. There are other groups like this that he and his family have helped fund, such as the Recall Davis campaign.

By the way, Dea Spanos Berberian is on the Board of Regents of the University of Pacific in Stockton, which has been a major recipient of the Spanos largesse.

Large money and personal contacts mean a pervasive Spanos influence in San Joaquin politics. Indeed, the Spanos influence extends across California (esp.
in San Diego) and nationally. Important to have this in the back of the mind while watching the 11th District race.

Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund (heart) Pete McCloskey

Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund issued a press release congratulating Pete McCloskey on his decision to take on Richard Pombo in the Republican primary.  I figure it’s worth posting so that everyone can see the way Defends Action Fund is approaching the race.  (Note, this press release does not represent an official endorsement of McCloskey’s candidacy by Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund).  


SACRAMENTO, CA – Rodger Schlickeisen, the president of Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, today applauded Pete McCloskey’s announcement that he will challenge Richard Pombo in the Republican primary race to represent California’s 11th Congressional District.

“Pete McCloskey is a real Republican. He is a man of great integrity who will put the well-being and interests of the people of the Central Valley and East Bay first,” said Schlickeisen.

“McCloskey represents the Republican Party in the great tradition of Teddy Roosevelt, who fought special interests, busted corrupt corporate trusts and began our nation’s commitment to conservation.

“Richard Pombo is quite a different kind of politician – representing the extremist and corrupt Tom DeLay wing of the Republican Party. Since being picked by DeLay to head the House Resources Committee, Pombo has blatantly demonstrated that he is in the pocket of large developers and corporate special interests. He has absurdly proposed selling off our national parks, drilling for oil off the coast of California and selling federal lands to developers and mining corporations.

“Nowhere is the contrast more stark than on the issue of the Endangered Species Act – a landmark conservation law that Pete McCloskey helped to enact and now Richard Pombo is working tirelessly to dismantle on behalf of his special interest cronies.

“Under Pete McCloskey our nation made a commitment to protect and preserve creatures like the American bald eagle, grizzly bear, gray wolf, manatee and the California condor for our children and future generations. In Richard Pombo we have seen a legislator intent on doing the bidding of corporate developers and abusing the legislative process to railroad through the House a bill that imperils thousands of endangered animals and their vital habitat.

“No statement about Pete McCloskey’s challenge to Richard Pombo can go without a contrast between their ethical behavior in office. Pete McCloskey served his country both in the Marines and in Congress with the utmost integrity and honor. Sadly, Mr. Pombo’s ethical conduct has been so questionable that the watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, named him one of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress. That was before the revelations that Pombo took contributions from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients; before news reports that Pombo interfered with a federal investigation on behalf of a Texas contributor; and before reports that Pombo’s top committee staff member likely violated House ethics rules by failing to report outside income.

Schlickeisen concluded by saying, “We applaud Pete McCloskey for joining the race and giving Republican voters of the 11th Congressional District a clear choice in California’s June 6 primary.”

For more information on Rep. Richard Pombo’s record, go to the Pombo website maintained by the Defenders Action Fund, www.PomboInTheirPocket.org.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Steve Filson's Campaign Events

I check Steve Filson’s website periodically, perhaps three or four times a week. I know that a number of us have been critical at his complete absence of meaningful information about his campaign activities, and so I go back to make sure the criticisms are still fair. Well I’m happy to report that Steve Filson has finally put up an events listing on his website. Of course, there is no way to know the location of the event, how to RSVP, or anything of the sort. Perhaps we’ll see something in short order. At any rate, here is the entire content of his “calendar” page:

Candidates Forum--South County Democratic Club on January 21st 10-12

House party in Stockton at Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Cordova's home January 22 4-6pm

Blackhawk Luncheon hosted by Theresa Chung-Solo February 9th at 12 noon

Lamorinda Democratic Club candidates forum February 17th at 7:00pm

House party hosted by Kent Katigian February 24th location to be announced.

We are finalizing several host parties and a few large events with guest speakers. Please check the calendar frequently for their announcement.

Since I check his site frequently, I can tell you that none of this info was up as of noon Friday. But at least we know that Filson had a house party in Stockton, even if it’s transparently on his website to demonstrate that (take heed VPO) Filson has been doing something (half of the equation) rather than providing an opportunity for people to attend his campaign activities (the other half of the equation). But at least he’s doing something and letting us know that he’s doing something. It might seem obvious, but it’s an improvement. Now all we need is a) a way for people who want to join his events to figure out how to do so, and b) after-action reports back from folks who’ve attended the Filson events. That would really be the bee’s knees.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Pete McCloskey's Candidacy

Reposted with permission from Down With Tyranny

As promised, I attended Pete McCloskey’s announcement speech in Lodi. I was impressed with the event itself, and with McCloskey himself. He has a personal charisma and a pugnacious spirit that will surely make the Republican primary an interesting race to watch. Furthermore, there is so much readily apparent narrative drama (which McCloskey plays to) that there is a virtual certainty that the media will eat up McCloskey’s candidacy with a spoon. But as enthusiastic as I am about McCloskey running (I am aware that there is no downside to his candidacy from an anti-Pombo perspective), I have to say that I don’t feel like I have joined the McCloskey bandwagon. At the very least, I have to say that I left Lodi unconvinced that McCloskey has a better shot to unseat Pombo in the primary than the Democrats have in the general. Maybe this is foolish of me, and I am certainly open to changing my opinion as his campaign develops. But it is where I’m at right now.

Before I begin to explain what happened in greater depth, let me make a confession. I’m sorry to report that I got to the event a bit late due to unexpected traffic delays (I was in the car for an hour and twenty minutes driving from Walnut Creek), although I still was able to hear the tail end of the press conference. Afterwards, I hung around for awhile to get a feel for what was said, and during that time I was able to speak with McCloskey himself for a bit. So it wasn’t a complete loss. But it was frustrating.

When I arrived at the press conference, the first thing I noticed was that there were cameramen from at least four television news stations in the room. There were also quite a number of other reporters. All in all, I’d say that half of the people in the room were reporters or their cameramen, which did not surprise me that much. I think it’s likely that this race will continue to capture significant media attention. This is especially true if McCloskey continues to give them the good quotes (e.g. “Congressmen are like diapers; they need to be changed, and for the same reason.”); if he plays up the straight-talking, maverick Republican angle (it meshes well with his status as a decorated combat vet); and if he is able to criticize Pombo in a way that will come across as principled critiques of a person (and a party) gone astray, as opposed to political cheap-shots. It also doesn’t hurt that McCloskey has a flair for the dramatic.

You see, the second thing I saw upon entering the room in which the press conference was held was a bowl of oranges. McCloskey, for those who don’t already know, has an orange (and IIRC olive) farm about twenty miles away from Lodi. In any event, the oranges were from McCloskey’s farm, a farm that he was very reluctant to leave. (UPDATE 1/24: YOU CAN SEE WHY I MEAN BY WATCHING A VIDEO HERE).

The point was very clear, and very clearly emphasized. McCloskey has been a lot of things, an environmental lawyer, a United States Marine, and a Congressman. But right now, he’s a farmer, and therefore he identifies with, and understands, the farmers of Lodi and San Joaquin County. His oranges, at the very least, lend him a bit of authenticity given the fact that he’s moving into the district to run against Pombo.

Furthermore, McCloskey metaphorically beat his swords into plowshares and was quite literally enjoying the fruits of his retirement before this race against Pombo. And so in a way, the oranges served to ennoble McCloskey. He’s saddling up one last time to take on the upstart black knight who has begun to wage war on Sir McCloskey’s hard-earned victories. He’s not sure if he’ll win or lose, but he’s setting out to fight the good fight. Or so the story goes.

Substantively, McCloskey seemed to want to focus largely on the issue of ethics, corruption, a balanced budget, and the environment. On his website he writes:

I run, in part, because I believe the key question of the Republican Party today is whether we go back to historic Republican principles of integrity, fiscal responsibility, limited government and environmental balance, or do we go the way of the DeLay Republicans, (1) with no ethics enforcement, (2) an understandable public perception that Republicans give undue preference to big-money contributors, (3) a huge and ever-growing bureaucracy, and (4) a constant erosion of the environmental protections for community health, and park and wilderness lands that have been established over 30 years.

He is also unabashedly for the Murtha position on Iraq, although he seems not to be making too much of an issue about Iraq in this campaign.

When I was speaking to him I tried to raise the issue of naval surface fire support for the Marine Corps (something I thought he might have a special interest in given his service in the Marines), but he quickly returned the conversation to the above topics. At first I got the feeling that he had decided what he wanted to talk about and that he wanted to stay on message, but after about a minute I wasn’t so sure because he proceeded to tell a story that was definitely off message (not to mention off color). It reminded me of something a friend of mine had written to me the other day, something that I think is worth considering. She said:

As far as McCloskey goes, I'll be curious to see how this all plays out. I have a recollection of McCloskey from his time in office as someone who was never very popular in any circle. That same blunt, outspoken quality that is so endearing and suggestive of integrity can very easily start to feel like a kind of crackpot cantankerousness. Think back to what he said at the Defenders meeting, when he called Pombo a crook and himself an old bastard. Now, that stuff was pretty amusing because we were predisposed to those kinds of lines. And we all knew we'd never hear Jerry [McNerney] or Filson talk that way. But at the same time we realized that NOT talking that way was the more prudent, responsible and Congressional approach. And that's part of the conundrum. McCloskey seems to be lacking certain internal check mechanisms.

I have to say that I have some sympathy for this concern. I can certainly tell you that for all of McCloskey’s personal charisma, he ended the conversation with me not by saying “Bye” or thanking me for coming or excusing himself at all. Instead, he simply turned around and walked away. It was very odd, and I’m not sure I’ve ever had a response like that from anyone, let alone a politician.

I could also see that lack of what my friend called “internal check mechanisms” spilling out in other ways. How else, do you explain this (from the Contra Costa Times):

In the past two decades, he [McCloskey] has become a critic of pro-Israeli U.S. policies and visited the late Palestinian leader, Yassar Arafat.

He adamantly denies that he is anti-Semitic. But he fueled the allegations in 2000 after he spoke to the Institute for Historical Review, whose members either deny or contest the details of the Holocaust. A speech transcript shows that McCloskey said, "I don't know whether you are right or wrong about the Holocaust ... "

The group cites McCloskey as one of its supporters on its Web site and fund-raising letters.

On Wednesday, McCloskey called the group a "bunch of nuts" and said the transcript was inaccurate. He recalled "being booed" when he talked about the Holocaust.

"Of course the Holocaust existed," he said. "But I will go and speak to any group."
Meanwhile, his campaign chairman, Lewis Butler, said he would demand the organization stop using McCloskey's name.

Now I spoke to a longtime friend of McCloskey’s who denied that he’d ever seen any evidence of anti-Semitism in him, and for my part I find it difficult to believe that McCloskey is actually a Holocaust denier, if for no other reason than he seems very moderate and, let’s face it, denying the Holocaust is a very extremist position.

But even if he completely repudiates the views of the IHR, it was still a mistake for McCloskey to associate himself with them in any way. Like DavidNYC of Swing State Project, I find McCloskey’s excuse that he will speak to anyone a bit lame. And it is these types of concern writ large that first caused my enthusiasm for McCloskey to wane a bit.

Still, I think the biggest reason why I am not totally gung-ho about McCloskey is the simple fact that I did not meet a single Republican from the district at the press conference. I know that there are some Republicans that will support McCloskey, including Mark Connolly from Tracy. But most of the people at the press conference were either part of McCloskey’s campaign, friends of McCloskey from out of the district, or reporters. I met a friend of a McCloskey campaigner (both of whom were from outside the district), an ex-Presbyterian minister from Davis (who was not a Republican), two McNerney supporters from Lodi who are both on the San Joaquin County Democratic Central Committee, and a man whose granddaughter dated someone in McCloskey’s family (and in any event the gentleman was in California on a vacation and drove to Lodi from Marin County to see McCloskey’s speech). I admit, there very well might have been a number of Republicans in attendance from the district. But I was disappointed that his announcement did not engender more interest from local Republicans.

I know that this is all fairly intellectualized, but there is something I realized when I was coming home on BART. I kind of had a gut check. When I was talking to McCloskey he told me that the best way a Democrat could show their support for him would be to register as a Republican and help him win the primary, just as a bunch of Stanford students had done in order to help him win his first Congressional campaign against Shirley Temple Black. The bottom line is that I wouldn’t do that, and I wouldn’t ask or encourage anyone else to do that. If I thought it would make a difference, I would feel differently.

I know I have heard a number of people say it will be easier to take Pombo out in the primary with McCloskey than in the general with Steve Filson, Jerry McNerney, or Steve Thomas. I kind of want to believe them. But I’m just not feeling it. And I wonder if some of the convention wisdom about McCloskey winning the primary might not result from a certain kind of confusion between two scenarios.

It seems like a lot of people feel that McCloskey is a better candidate than any of the Democrats in the race, and take that to mean that that McCloskey has a better shot at beating Pombo in the primary than the Democrats have a shot at beating Pombo in the general election. But even if it is granted that McCloskey is a better candidate, it only implies that McCloskey would be more able to win a general election against Pombo than the other Democrats, not that he has a better shot of winning the Republican primary than the Democrats have a shot at winning the general. Of course, the latter scenario might still be true. Anyhow, it’s something to consider.

Good feeling at the grassroots

If you follow PomboWatch, you will note that all of the anti-pombo material and issue discussion has generated only a very few posts. In the last several days, since Wes started to post about Pete McCloskey's campaign vs. Pombo, comments have started to come a little faster. The one who are old enough to remember McCloskey from his previous service are invariably willing to come forward and help. There is a reservoir of good feeling about Pete that should not be underestimated.

At the same time, especially since Matt's most recent post, you get the feeling that Jerry McNerney is starting to generate the same good will in the grassroots. That should not be underestimated, Ms. Tauscher.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Just a Note

My last post mentioned the two events I was going to attend this weekend that I expected Jerry McNerney to attend. Little did I know that McNerney would be at a third event and that a number of his supporters would be at a fourth. I think that it’s likely that Pete McCloskey’s announcement tomorrow is going to shift a lot of media attention to the Republican primary. But looking back on the events of this weekend I truly believe that the last couple of days mark a significant turning point for Jerry McNerney’s campaign. And I don’t want that to be obscured by McCloskey’s announcement. There is more focus, more direction, and more energy in McNerney’s campaign than I have seen before. But more telling is a shift I have seen in the Democratic party grassroots itself. Put simply, McNerney is consolidating his support among the grassroots.

I really want to discuss this in more depth, but I’m absolutely exhausted (so much for youthful vigor) and am going to bed. Tomorrow morning I’ll be attending Pete McCloskey’s announcement of his candidacy, and I’ll probably report back on that first, so the report on the McNerney events will have to wait. But I will return to them soon because I think they are important enough to merit more attention.

In the meantime, the Contra Costa Times had a number of articles on Richard Pombo in their Sunday edition. There is a lot of good stuff, although I did find more than a little to take issue with. But in any event, it’s all worth a read. The first article I listed is an opinion column by Lisa Vorderbrueggen. I wish she had said some this at the Lamorinda Club meeting, but better late than never. The rest of the articles, as far as I can tell, were printed in the news section. Read them and let us know what you think in the comments section.

There is also a Reader Forum in which the reporters will respond to reader inquiries. They will post replied on Monday and Tuesday. You can send them your questions and read the responses here.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Campaign Events (Jan 21-23)

This is going to be a busy weekend for me and there is going to be a ton of things happening. For those of you who live in and near the district, there are a lot of opportunities to see the candidates in the next couple of days. The following list is pretty heavy on McNerney events, but it includes every relevant campaign event I know about, including a candidates forum for all the Democratic challengers and Pete McCloskey’s announcement of his own candidacy on Monday. If anyone knows about any other events, particularly ones that include Steve Filson, please post them in the comment section or let me know via e-mail. Also, the details of all events besides the last one can be found here.

Saturday January 21, 2006

Tomorrow Jerry McNerney is having a big campaign kick-off in Tracy. I’ll probably attend it and will report back on how it went and what happened while I was there. I’m especially interested in seeing how many people show up and from where. Hopefully I’ll meet some people who can provide their perspective on the San Joaquin County aspect of the race.

But before the Tracy event, McNerney and Steve Thomas (and possibly Filson) are going to attend the South County Democratic Club candidates forum in Morgan Hill (Santa Clara County). If anyone attends, please send me a note telling me what you thought of the candidates and their performances at the event. I would like to attend myself but I cannot make it to both events and have decided that checking out San Joaquin County needs to take priority. Still, this will be as far as I can tell Steve Thomas’ first campaign appearance. So I do hope that I can get a report on how he does and what he says.

After the Tracy Event, McNerney is heading to San Francisco to attend the San Francisco for Democracy meeting. McNerney was just endorsed by East Bay for Democracy (and was earlier endorsed by the Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley), and I assume that San Francisco for Democracy will be similarly welcoming to him. If any of my San Francisco readers are interested in the race, I encourage you to attend the meeting. Not only will you get a chance to suss out Jerry McNerney and make up your own mind about him, you will also get a chance to meet and interact with the SF for Democracy folks. I know that SF4D does a lot of good work in the city, and I imagine that some of the SF4D members will do some work on this race, even if it is only through the blogosphere.

Sunday January 22, 2005

On Sunday, the only event I know about that bears on this race is a meeting in Berkeley for volunteers for Jerry McNerney. A group of MoveOn volunteers on their own initiative (that is, without coordination with either MoveOn or the McNerney Campaign) planned a meeting to figure out how to help McNerney. At some point after the meeting was planned, McNerney’s campaign found out about it and so now it looks like McNerney himself will show up at the meeting. There might be five people at the meeting and there might be fifty. I’m not sure exactly what it will be like. But it will be a good chance for people in the Berkeley and Oakland area to see McNerney in person without heading all the way to the district.

It will also be interesting to see how the McNerney Campaign will be able to make use of volunteers from Berkeley, and whether the volunteers will feel like they can constructively add something to his campaign. I know a lot of people (myself included) who headed to swing states for the 2004 election. I know that some felt they made a huge impact and some felt like they made almost no appreciable difference. There is a certain logistical challenge in organizing the volunteers from Berkeley, getting them to the district, and deploying them constructively within the district. It will be interesting to see how the McNerney Campaign deals with this challenge, and whether his volunteers come back to Berkeley inspired or worn-down. If it’s the former, there is tremendous growth potential for something like this, especially if the logistical apparatus proves sufficiently scalable. There are a lot of Democrats in the Bay Area who are looking for ways of helping the Democrats in the redder parts of the state. So in some way McNerney is not only providing a test case for his own district, he is doing so for a lot of races in the future.

Monday January 23, 2005

Lastly, it looks like Pete McCloskey will announce his own candidacy for the Republican primary on Monday in Lodi. I look forward to him entering the race, although certain developments have tempered my enthusiasm for him somewhat. I’ll come back to this later, perhaps when I report back on what happened at his Monday announcement. But, regardless, I foresee McCloskey taking Pombo to task on a number of issues that Democrats would like to talk about, but which would be easily written off by Pombo as partisan attacks. Issues like environmental conservation are not inherently partisan issues, and I think a lot of Republicans will be more open to hearing about these issues from a fellow Republican than from a Democrat. And though Pombo has already telegraphed his intention to paint McCloskey as a Republican in name only (RINO), I’m hoping that McCloskey will be supported by a number of honest-to-goodness, relatively mainstream Republicans who are fed up with Pombo. At the very least, McCloskey’s campaign will provide a bell-weather for how Republicans feel about Pombo, and will give us a better sense for how uphill the battle to oust Pombo will be.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Reading the Tea Leaves About Steve Filson's Fundraising

I assume everyone reading this knows how important fundraising is both to the actual and the perceived viability of political candidates.  In the Democratic primary of this race, fundraising has been much-discussed because Steve Filson has made one the central arguments of his campaign his ability to out-fundraise Jerry McNerney.  However, the use of this type of argument by Filson creates a certain expectation that he will continue to be a prolific fundraiser.  So I was incredibly interested in seeing the following quote from a small newspaper in the district*, which opens up the possibility that Filson’s fourth quarter numbers will be much weaker than everyone has assumed.  

The penultimate paragraph of the article reads (emphasis mine):    

“Filson’s web site said that he had about $100,000 cash on hand at the end of the September campaign reporting period. He said that there has not been much change in the fourth quarter of 2005. He has aggressive plans for fund-raising in the next quarter. He has hired a staff of professional consultants in various important positions in his campaign.”

It’s hard to analyze this conclusively (hence the title) but this could be huge.  If Filson has not appreciably increased his cash on hand he’s in trouble.  It either means that Steve Filson raised a lot of money but spent too much of it or it means that Steve Filson did not raise much money.  Neither prospect puts Filson in a very positive light.  

But the deeper issue is that he got away with touting his fundraising skills based on a single data point, which was his third quarter numbers.  He started off by raising over $100,000 in very short order, so nobody has much doubted that he is a capable fundraiser. If his fourth quarter numbers are the pits, the trend line will be pointing south, and his momentum, such as it is, will be very much in question.  Conversely, McNerney clearly stepped up his fundraising in the fourth quarter and has announced that he has raised over $100,000 this election cycle.  This means McNerney went from raising just over $32,000 in the third quarter to around $50,000 in the fourth.  Clearly, if Filson did not raise a lot of money in the fourth quarter, McNerney’s increased fundraising combined with his new endorsements would give him a tremendous amount of momentum.  It may be that Filson even raised more money than McNerney, but if he underperforms compared to everyone’s expectations, this will hurt him.      

This raises the possibility that we’ll see something of tortoise and the hare fundraising race.  The metaphor is not perfect because we need to remember that due to Jerry McNerney’s grassroots presence, he does not need to spend the same amount of money as Filson to get his message out.  So even if he raises less money than Filson, it still might be sufficient for him to win the primary. And that’s especially true if Filson does not raise enough money to get on television, something McNerney is almost certainly not going to be able to do.  But the question is whether Filson (the hare) has been napping, or whether he has been zipping along.  If he’s been napping, it might inhibit his ability to fundraise at the rate that he needs to win.

All of this said, I want to take a moment to concede that there is precious little meat in the quote I’m looking at in this entry.  It could be that Filson meant to say that the pace of his fundraising hadn’t changed, which is actually more in line with my initial expectations.  However, if that’s the case, either the reporter or Filson choose his words very poorly.  In any event, the FEC reports will come out at the end of the month, so we will put this question to bed soon thereafter.  I am putting this up on Say No to Pombo because it is the only hint I have seen, one way or another, about Filson’s fundraising in the fourth quarter.  If you have any conclusive evidence that the implication I explored in this post is wrong, please pass it along to me and I will update the blog accordingly.      

*The quote comes from an article published January 5 in the Independent “Circulation: 48,365 Serving Livermore, Pleasanton and Sunol.”  There is actually quite a bit in the article about Pete McCloskey that is interesting and you can read it here (PDF/HTML).  

This Day in 1989 in CD-11

Seventeen years ago today
…on a warm, sunny morning at 11:42 a.m. on January 17, 1989, Patrick Purdy walked into the crowded schoolyard of Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California armed with his AK-47 semiautomatic rifle, and opened fire on the nearly 400 children who were playing outside for recess. Two minutes and over 100 rounds of ammunition later, five children lay murdered and twenty-nine other children and one teacher lay wounded.

In the wake of the Stockton Massacre, as it came to be known, public outcry over the proliferation of semiautomatic weapons in American society reached a crescendo. In that same year and as a direct result of the horrific events at Cleveland Elementary School, California became the first state to ban certain types of assault weapons. Subsequently, a handful of other states followed suit. But an all-encompassing federal assault weapons ban remained elusive. In 1992, Dianne Feinstein was elected to the Senate, and she immediately went to work to fulfill one of her campaign promises, championing a federal law that would stop sales of not only the most notorious of the semiautomatic weapons, such as AK-47s and Uzis, but their many imitators.

Americans may have correctly discerned that banning all guns is not an appropriate (or constitutional) solution. But every so often, an event or series of events – mob violence, assassination – jars the national consciousness and incites public demand for reasonable and measured gun control.

Stockton was just such an event. Its tolerance of rising crime already stretched to the limit and its anger and frustration with Congressional inability to make significant headway at a peak, the public simply could not understand why they had to tolerate these guns in their neighborhoods. Surely there was a line to be drawn somewhere, and while reasonable people could differ as to the proper place, most agreed that, wherever the line was, these guns had crossed it.

Finally, on September 13, 1994, five and a half years after the Stockton Massacre, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was signed into law by Bill Clinton as part of a far larger crime bill. Less than two months later, the Democratic Party was swept from power in the House. Although over 70% of Americans supported a ban of semiautomatic weapons, the NRA claimed that the vote was retribution for Democratic support of both the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban.

As the result of a compromise reached to ensure its passage, the ban enacted in 1994 had a ten-year sunset clause written into it. In 2004, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired. When he ran for president in 2000, George W. Bush had promised the American public that he would sign an extension of the bill if it came to his desk. He never got the chance. The extension was killed in Congress.

Of course, it will come as no surprise to readers of Say No To Pombo that Congressman Richard Pombo voted against the Federal Assault Weapons Ban every time he was given the opportunity to do so.

Now, believe me, I understand that the issue of gun control is a difficult one, especially in the Central Valley; guns and hunting are an integral part of the lives of many, if not most, of its residents, cutting across a wide range of political beliefs. Democratic challengers to Richard Pombo need to understand that reality. But many of us additionally believe that we must distinguish between normal guns or rifles and assault weapons that are “designed for one purpose –- to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. No hunter or sportsman needs these features.”

So exactly where do the three Democratic candidates stand on this issue? Well, I’ve heard Jerry McNerney speak, and he says that he owns guns and supports gun ownership. I have heard through the grapevine that he supports a Federal Assault Weapons Ban, but as far as I am aware, he has not directly addressed the issue. I have heard Steve Filson speak, and he has said that he is a “proponent of gun safety,” without specifying what that might mean; his website offers no comment on gun safety. I have never heard Steve Thomas speak, and his website doesn’t delve into any aspect of gun control issues.

Obviously, I hope that all three of these candidates, if they intend to mount a serious challenge to Richard Pombo, will develop a clear, well-reasoned, and nuanced approach to the myriad issues surrounding gun ownership. I also hope that on this day, seventeen years after the terror on the Cleveland Elementary School playground, our Democratic candidates will honor the memory of the children who died and those who were injured by pledging to support a re-enactment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.