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If you don't trust government, what's the alternative?
By Timm Herdt on August 15, 2012 12:24 PM Share:
Gov. Jerry Brown, never one to shy from a philosophical argument, publicly engaged in one this morning with Associated Press reporter Juliet Williams. It came as Brown was fielding questions following an event at a Sacramento high school promoting Proposition 30, the tax initiative on the November ballot that Brown is sponsoring. Williams wanted to know whether the revelation that the state Parks Department had $54 million in hidden funds at a time when state parks were scheduled to be shuttered might feed voters' distrust in government and make them more likely to vote against the initiative. Brown was obviously eager for the question. He asked Williams (rhetorically, it seemed) what was the alternative if Californians decided against taxes because they didn't trust government to handle everything without error. "If government can't be trusted, what do we do?" Brown asked. "Do we close the schools, shut down the Highway Patrol, open the prisons?" The real choice, he said, is either government or anarchy. He acknowledged that he, the Legislature, and those who work in government have foibles and human imperfections. "If someone has some virtuous group of saints who can come in here, hallelujah," he said. He asked whether, perhaps, "all the money should go into some fund operated by angels. You're representing an idea that we should somehow escape from representative government." about Timm Herdt
The Ventura County Star's Sacramento Bureau Chief Timm Herdt on state issues and politics from Sacramento to Ventura County. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
95 percent accurate
Over the last 23 presidential elections, Ventura County voters have backed the winner 22 times, or over 95 percent of the time. It is one of only a handful of counties in the nation that has been such a predictable bellwether.
Strickland on Ryan budget: 'I would have voted no'
By Timm Herdt on August 14, 2012 9:15 AM Share:
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After my blog post yesterday (below or here), Sen. Tony Strickland called to fully discuss his position on the House Republican budget plan drafted by GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. As I noted in that post, in a pre-primary, April 5 interview, Strickland told me that he gave "a lot credit" to Ryan for attempting to address the longterm solvency of Medicare. He said at the time that he did not believe Medicare rules should be changed for those approaching retirement, but that changes need to be made for "people my age" -- folks in their 20s, 30s and 40s (Strickland is 42). We did not discuss a specific age where a potential cutoff for any future changes would be. And that, Strickland told me this morning, is where he has a serious disagreement with the Ryan plan. It envisions making an insurance-voucher system (rather than automatic enrollment in the government-run plan) optional for those under 55. Strickland says no changes should be considered for anyone 50 or older. "Those folks paid into the system for years and planned their future," he said. "You cannot take the rug out from underneath them. I personally oppose any effort to take anything from people 50 and older." Asked if that meant whether, had he been a member of the House of Representatives when it twice approved the Ryan budget, he would have voted against the plan, Strickland answered directly: "I would have voted no." That would have put him in a distinct minority among House Republicans. In the April 15, 2011, vote on the plan, only 4 of 241 GOP members voted no (two others did not vote). The plan includes many other elements, of course, including lowering taxes on the wealthy, cutting Medicaid spending by about a third and dramatically rolling back federal spending on nearly every program except for the military, Social Security and Medicare. "I haven't gone through the whole Ryan plan," Strickland said when I asked if he had objections to any of its provisions other than the Medicare changes kicking in at age 55. The Medicare provision is key politically, and Strickland noted that Democrats revealed their campaign playbook in the primary when they zeroed in on the Ryan budget's Medicare provisions in attacks on independent Linda Parks. "They're going to hit on the Medicare issue," he said. "They hit Linda Parks, for goodness sakes. It doesn't have to be true. I believe that was not an honest debate. It wasn't fair, and it wasn't truthful." The AARP is attempting to arrange a "tele-town hall" discussion with Strickland and Democrat Juilia Brownley next month. It is one of only two districts in California in which it hopes to auto-dial all its members and give them an opportunity to listen in as their candidates for the House discuss issues of importance to seniors. If the AARP is succesful in pulling that off, expect Medicare to be Topic A in the discussion.
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The effect of Paul Ryan selection on congressional races
By Timm Herdt on August 13, 2012 1:38 PM Share:
Much has been said, written and speculated about on what the political effects on the presidential race will be of Mitt Romney's selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to be the Republican vice presidential nominee. Because of Ryan's leadership role in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, however, it is likely that his high-profile role on the national ticket will have a substantial effect on congressional races this fall as well. As a story in Politico this morning put it, "The reality is that Ryan is now every Republicans' running mate whether they like it or not." Ryan, of course, is the author of the much-debated "Ryan budget" that House Republicans have twice approved -- a budget plan that most controversially proposes to offer healthcare vouchers to seniors who choose them to pay private insurance premiums rather than use Medicare insurance (the original version made the voucher provision mandatory). Democrats have made no secret of their intent to use the Ryan budget as a campaign issue, especially against incumbent House Republicans who are on the record voting for it. Polling shows the Medicare provision is highly unpopular among voters. The importance Democrats attach to the issue was well demonstrated in Ventura County's 26th Congressional District primary campaign, when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sought to tie the Ryan budget around Supervisor Linda Parks, a former Republican who was running as an independent. Although Parks had been publicly critical of the Medicare provisions, the DCCC mailers alleged that Parks would join other Republicans in Congress "to end Medicare as we know it." In fact, Parks had written on Facebook in response to a query about the Ryan budget that she was concerned it "would leave vulnerable senior citizens without health care." But she stopped short of assailing it with the kind of partisan zeal that Democrats have attached to it, and called discussion of the Ryan budget "a moot point" because it was "a one-sided proposal" that was "dead in the water." With Parks having been eliminated in the primary, Democrats will now turn their attacks on the Ryan budget and seek to use them against GOP candidate Tony Strickland. Unlike incumbent Republican House members, Strickland does not have a record of voting for the Ryan budget, but in an interview with me this spring he expressed strong support for what the Ryan plan seeks to accomplish. "I give a lot of credit to Paul Ryan for coming up with ways to reform Medicare," Strickland told me. "There's no question that actuarially it's not sound. If we do nothing right now. Medicare and Social Security will be 100 percent of the budget." Democrat Julia Brownley lost little time in seeking to tie Ryan and his budget plans to Strickland. Within hours of the announcement of the Ryan pick Saturday morning, the campaign issued this statement from Brownley: "The Ryan budget puts millionaires and billionaires ahead of seniors, women and the middle class by turning Medicare into a voucher system, raising the age of eligibility to 67, and making devastating cuts for women's health and education. This would be a disastrous plan for Ventura County and the nation, and it's clear that Tony Strickland would be another rubber-stamp vote in Congress for the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan agenda." The end result may be that voters in Ventura County this fall will get a chance to hear a full debate about the future of Medicare -- both the question of whether cutting costs and/or raising revenues is a national imperative and whether the cuts proposed by Ryan and House Republicans go too far. That will mean that the 26th CD campaign will be nationalized to a level that it probably wouldn't have been had Romney chosen some other VP nominee.
Gorell takes on Pavley ... indirectly
By Timm Herdt on August 10, 2012 4:09 PM Share:
Perhaps had Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo not been on military deployment in Afghanistan this winter, he might have been persuaded to run for state Senate against Sen. Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills in a district in which Republican Party leaders had to scramble to find a candidate. But instead, of course, Gorell is running for re-election to the Assembly. But that doesn't mean he isn't playing a role in the 27th Senate District race. In addition to giving a modest $1.150 directly to the campaign of L.A. County prosecutor Todd Zink, who is running against Pavley, Gorell this spring contributed $20,000 to the San Luis Obispo County Republican Party. And what is the San Luis Obispo County GOP doing with its money? On Wednesday, it dropped a cool $70,000 into Zink's campaign.Last we checked, San Luis Obispo is a very long way from eastern Ventura County, where Zink and Pavley will be squaring off.
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Tit for tat on candidate tax problems in 24th CD
By Timm Herdt on August 3, 2012 2:52 PM
Mitt Romney is not the only political candidate in America who may get a little uncomfortable when the issue of his personal income taxes is raised. There are at least two others -- both running for Congress in the 24th Congressional District, which includes a coastal sliver of Ventura County as well as the counties of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. For months, the campaign of Democratic incumbent Lois Capps has been hammering Republican Abel Maldonado on the issue of his taxes -- specifically, more than $4 million in underpayments alleged by the IRS based on disputed deductions claimed over a period years by Maldonado and his family's farming company. But this week the tables were turned when it was revealed Capps had to file amended tax returns to reflect the fact that she had failed to report rental income from a staff member who rented living quarters at Capps' home in Santa Barbara. She was cumulatively paid about $41,000 in rent from 2001 to 2005 and did not report the income until this year. Both campaigns were furuously trying to spin the issue yesterday and today, with Capps pressing her call that Maldonado release his income tax returns for every year he has held public office, as she has done. Today, she posted on her campaign website 465 pages of tax court documents detailing the IRS complaints against Maldonado and his family's company. Later in the day, the Capps campaign recirculated an email to reporters that had been originally sent from the Maldonado camp to call their attention stories about the Capps tax issue. However, the Capps email included the full stories, noting that Maldonado's campaign had deleted all the references to Maldonado's tax issues from the stories it had circulated. In the end, all this would appear to be a net plus for Maldonado because it should help him defuse an issue that had been a clear liability. All most voters will take from this is that both candidates have tax issues with the IRS, and are not likely to make a distinction between $42,000 in income dating back a decade for which taxes and penalities have been paid and $4 million in alleged underpayments that are still being contested.
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Congressional synergy on the south-central coast
By Timm Herdt on August 2, 2012 5:59 PM Share:
To cite a low-brow source, Wikipedia defines "synergy" as "two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable." For Democrats and Republicans alike, there may be an opportunity to produce desirable, synergistic results this fall by leveraging the presence of two very competitive congressional districts that are side-by-side in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. On paper, both districts appear to be very competitive and there have been two private polls released over the last few weeks that suggest that voters are in fact closely divided. As I posted here last week, Democrat Julia Brownley's campaign released an internal poll that shows her leading slightly, within the margin of error, in Ventura County's 26th Congressional District. Yesterday, the campaign of Republican Abel Maldonado recirculated a July 23 memo from the GOP polling firm Public Opinion Strategies that shows him trailing by 2 points, but also within the margin of error, in his race against Democrat Lois Capps in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties' 24th Congressional District. First, let it be said that it's hard to assess the credibility of these internal polls. After Maldonado first released his poll last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released its own private poll to The Hill newspaper. It showed Capps leading 51 percent to 40 percent. Similarly, I hear rumblings from Republican sources that GOP-sponsored polling shows Republican Tony Strickland leading Brownley by more than the margin of error in the 26th. Still, there is the strong possibility that there will be two very competitive congressional races in neighboring districts this fall -- or, at the very least, there will be the perception of two very close races. That being the case, it would seem natural that the national parties will be looking for ways to maximize their bang for the buck. Could we see, for instance, Bill Clinton or Michelle Obama making a California visit that would include, say, a stop in Oxnard in the morning and an evening fundraiser in Santa Barbara? Might we see Ann Romney or whoever her husband picks to be his running mate, doing a public event in Goleta followed by a fundraiser in Westlake Village? It's hardly out of the question. And what about the Super PACs? There will be opportunities to maximize their efforts with media buys in neighboring, and to some degree, overlapping media markets. There is, in short, an opportunity to have two campaign-related events functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable. In other words, an opportunity for political synergy on the Ventura-Santa Barbara County coast.
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Latino politics: Moving beyond Cesar Chavez
By Timm Herdt on August 2, 2012 6:04 AM Share:
In my column in The Star this week I wrote about a nationwide effort to increase Latino voter turnout this fall, and the role of Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of SEIU International, in that effort. Like many of his generation of Latino political and union activists, Medina's first involvement in that arena came at the side of Cesar Chavez. Medina was raised in Delano, the starting point of the 1965 grape strike that thrust Chavez and the plight of farm workers into national prominence. He worked with Chavez and the United Farmworkers Union in Delano, in Oxnard, and in farming communities across California. Given Medina's background, I was curious about an SEIU press release about the Latino voter outreach effort that mentioned the need for organizers to move beyond invoking Chavez' legacy in mobilizing Latino voters. I asked Medina what was meant by that. "César was an important historical figure," he told me. "But there's a huge new generation of Latinos in this country who've never heard of him. We need to talk to them about the challenges of today. We need to tell them that this election coming up is about you, it's about your families, it's about your future. "While many younger Latinos respect and honor Cesar's legacy, it's not going to motivate them to go out to the polls." It's also true that while Latino immigrants still dominate the workforce in U.S. agricultural fields, an increasing percentage of them live in urban areas and work in other industries, such as food service, hotels, construction and landscaping. The symbol of the farmworker, hard-working and dignified, remains a powerful image, but Medina is likely correct in assessing that it is time for organizers to broaden their political messages to Latino immigrant voters. Still, the power of Chavez and the UFW continues to be a political organizing tool. This spring in Ventura County's 26th Congressional District, perhaps the most effective outreach to Spanish-speaking voters by Democratic candidate Julia Brownley was an automated telephone call on her behalf from Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the UFW with Chavez.
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