Monkey wrench

Jun 11, 2012

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had hoped to get her old job back by picking up a half-dozen seats in California's newly redrawn congressional districts, but thus far it hasn't worked out that way. Pelosi needs a net gain nationwide of 25 seats to do the deed -- a prospect that looks increasingly remote.


From the Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead: "The minority leader was counting on California, home to an increasing number of Democratic Party voters and where new legislative district maps forced four veteran GOP lawmakers into retirement, to deliver half a dozen of the net gain of 25 seats she needs."


"After the results of last week's primary election in the state, Democrats now hope to pick up four or five seats, said Jennifer Crider, deputy executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee."


Republicans think the state will end up delivering next to nothing for Democrats. "I think it comes out to virtually a wash in California," said Brock McCleary, deputy political director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which oversees House races."


Whatever the perceived benefits of the top-two primary -- boosting moderacy, for starters -- a downside was the elimination of the minor-party candidates.


Capitol Weekly's Amy Wong tells the tale: "While the newly implemented system ultimately may do just that, one aspect of top-two is clear:  In the November general election, which will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters from the June primaries, California’s minor and independent political parties will be shut out of state races. That’s because no minor-party candidate was among the top voter getters in any of the Assembly, state Senate or congressional races across California. In addition, the law that created the top-two primary eliminated write-in candidates."


"Is this goodbye to the little guy?"


“This (top two) is made to give the impression that people are happy to have two choices in November but it’s really not,” said Mark Feinstein, spokesperson for the Green Party and former Mayor of Santa Monica. “By taking away write-in [candidates], we can’t even express that we don’t like these choices other than stay home.” Feinstein’s party has about 100,000 registered members in California, which has 17.1 million registered voters."


Speaking of top-two, the most bizarre election of June 5 was in the 31st Congressional District, which has a solid majority of Democratic registration. But the Democratic contender was narrowly eliminated and now two Republicans will face each other in November.


From the Press-Enterprise's Jim Miller: "There have been many explanations for Democrats' CD-31 fiasco and the fact that the party won't have a November candidate in what had been a prime pickup opportunity."


"High on the list, though, has to be turnout. Turnout was terrible in parts of the San Bernardino County district where Democratic registration is highest, based on a review of unofficial precinct results from last week. It also was bad in the more Latino parts of the district, where the party has focused on trying to sign up voters."


"Election officials had tallied 60,918 votes in the 31st as of Sunday, up from the nearly 53,000 in the unofficial precinct results provided to The Press-Enterprise last Wednesday. Democrat Pete Aguilar has 22.61 percent of the vote, 1,434 votes behind Republican Bob Dutton. Dutton, with 24.97 percent of the vote, and Republican Rep. Gary Miller, with 26.79 percent, were the top-two finishers."


The looming exits of top officials at CSU, UC Berkeley and the California Community Colleges is raising questions about whether the institutions can continue to attract top-drawer leadership at a time when they need it the most.


From Carla Rivera in the LAT: "The impending departures of Charles B. Reed and Jack Scott, chancellors of California State University and the California Community Colleges, as well as UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, have invited intense scrutiny and questions about whether the three institutions can entice visionary leaders willing to contend with a litany of issues:"


"Steep cuts in state support. Navigating California's byzantine political landscape and vast array of ethnic and cultural constituencies. Keeping campus gates open for the hundreds of thousands of college graduates who will be needed to fill the state's workforce."


"The stakes for California and the nation are high, said state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), who chairs the state Senate Committee on Education."


The Union-Tribune, a San Diego newspaper now called "The U-T" and owned by a local hotel magnate, is being used by its owners to promote  a pro-development agenda, and those who get in its way find themselves targeted by the paper. 


From David Carr in the New York Times: "Mr. Manchester is anti-big government, anti-tax and anti-gay marriage. And he’s in favor of a remade San Diego centered around a new downtown waterfront stadium and arena."


"Public agencies that have not gotten the hint have found themselves investigated in the news pages of The U-T. A sports columnist who was skeptical of the plans found himself out of a job, and the newspaper has published front-page editorials and wraparound sections to promote political allies who share its agenda. According to several employees at the paper, a feature called “Making a Difference” has included flattering profiles of many of Mr. Manchester’s associates."


"The oddest part? Mr. Manchester and the chief executive, John T. Lynch, who also owns part of the paper, are completely open about their motives."




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