Brownley campaign fund tops $1 million

Can’t cover politics without a calculator…

BROWNLEY BUILDS ACCOUNT — Campaign fundraising reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission today show that Rep. Julia Brownley raised $421,373 during the third quarter, building the balance in her re-election campaign account to more than $1 million — $1.23 million, to be more precise.

Brownley, a two-term Democrat from Westlake Village, is off to a significant head start over Republican challenger Rafael Dagnesses, who announced his campaign after the quarter ended on Sept. 30, and has not yet reported any contributions.

So far, the two are the only declared candidates in the 26th Congressional District, which includes all of Ventura County except for most of the city of Simi Valley and a coastal strip that runs from the Santa Barbara County line to midtown Ventura.

In the 25th District, which includes most of Simi Valley, freshman Republican Steve Knight of Palmdale reported spending more than he took in, thanks largely to a $35,000 contribution he made to the Republican National Congressional Committee.

Knight raised $77,179, paid out $102,356 and ended the quarter with an account balance of $359,808 — or about $25,000 less than he had when it began on July 1.

The two announced Democrats in the race, Lou Vince of Agua Dulce and Evan “Ivan” Thomas of Palmdale, also spent slightly more than they took in. Vince ended the quarter with $8,716 in the bank, and Thomas with an account balance of $6,578.

In the wide open 24th District, where the race is on to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Lois Capps, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal widened his financial advantage, taking in $404,397 and reporting a balance of $803,198.

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, the other major Democratic candidate, raised $144,317 and now has $231,741 cash on hand.

Santa Barbara businessman Justin Fareed fared the better of the two Republicans in the race, bringing in $210,157 and ending with an account balance of $231,741.

Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian of San Luis Obispo reported $133,093 in contributions and ended the quarter with $208,106 in the bank.



Strickland forms super PAC with focus on defense

Sticking with what he knows…

SUPER PAC WILL TARGET HOUSE RACES NEXT YEAR — Former state senator and two-time congressional candidate Tony Strickland of Moorpark will announce today the formation of a political advocacy group and super PAC to be called the Strong America PAC, for which he will serve as president and CEO.

Strickland, who is widely regarded as an effective political fundraiser, told me he hopes to model the group on the success of EMILY’s List, the powerhouse Democratic fundraising group. He hopes to build Strong America into a broad-based, membership organization of small donors who will complement large, unlimited contributions from mega-donors.

“We will support candidates who will fight for a strong national defense and also a strong economy,” he said. “There is no other organization that does what we will be doing. I think we’re going to make a good, strong impact.”

Retired Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is lending his name to the organization but will not participate in day-to-day operations, Strickland said.

In its initial year of operation, the group will focus on selected U.S. House races, but hopes to expand to also target U.S. Senate races in the future, he said.

Although no firm decision has been made, he said it is likely the group will involve itself in primary as well as general election campaigns. “A lot of these seats are decided in the primary,” he noted.

Strickland said he has discussed his plans with his former roommate in Sacramento during their days as state legislators together, presumptive Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.

Consistent with its IRS designation as 501c(4) organization, the group’s activities will also include educational components, such as sponsoring conferences on national security and defense, he said.

The Strong America PAC has established offices in Santa Clarita.

Strickland said his vision is to build a broad, membership-based organization that will target military veterans, among others, to join. In that regard, the organization hopes to mimic the political arm of the National Rifle Association.

After he left the California Assembly in 2004, Strickland attempted to create a similar type of political advocacy group focused on tax and economic issues — the California Club for Growth — but it was short-lived and politically ineffective.

Strickland noted that in each of the last two election cycles he was able to raise about $2 million for his unsuccessful House campaigns in the 26th and 25th congressional districts.

He acknowledged it would likely take several million dollars for a super PAC to be an effective player on a national scale, but declined to say how much he hopes to raise. “You don’t know until you do it,” he said.




Brown signs Jackson’s pay-equity bill

RICHMOND At a setting that honors the historic role of women in the American workforce, Gov. Jerry Brown today signed a bill that will give California the strongest gender pay-equity law in the nation.IMG_9281 (1)


“This bill is another step toward closing the persistent wage gap between men and women, Brown said at a signing ceremony at the Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, the author of SB 358, called the signing the culmination of decades of work to ensure women receive the same pay as men for performing comparable work.

“I see women my age who started this battle before we both had gray hair,” said Jackson, looking into an audience of invited guests who included seniors who worked at aircraft factories during World War II. “It is a momentous day for women, momentous for our economy momentous for California.”

When the law takes effect Jan. 1, the standard for judging potential pay inequity will change from work that is “equal” to work that is “substantially similar.” In addition employers will be prohibited from penalizing employees for sharing with co-workers information about the wages they are being paid.

Jackson introduced the bill in March, the day following actress Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech in which she created a national stir by declaring, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all.”

Her remark created momentum that helped carry the bill through the Legislature, picking up the critical backing of the California Chamber of Commerce along the way. It passed the Senate without dissent and received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Assembly.

Noting that in California, women workers on average make 84 cents for every dollar earned by men, Jackson said women’s work “remains stubbornly undervalued.”

This persists, she said, despite the fact that “women make up one-half of the American workforce and our incomes are more important than ever before.”

An estimated 1.7 million California households are headed by a working woman.

Jackson, who discussed the bill last weekend in Washington, D.C., at a conference of other state legislators from around the country, said she hopes other states will now follow California’s lead.

“My hope is that the other 49 states will use it as a template, she said.

Jackson, progressive lawmakers meet with Obama

LIBERALS SHARE IDEAS – In recent years, liberals at statehouses across America have been frustrated by the rise of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that has pushed a right-wing agenda in state legislatures, even to the point of drawing up boilerplate legislation that has cropped up in multiple state capitols.

Sen. Hanna-Beth Jackson, just back from a trip to Washington, D.C., for a conference sponsored by the State Innovation Exchange, believes progressives have come up with a counterpoint.

The focus, Jackson told me, was on “family friendly” issues such as paid sick time, early childhood education, and increasing the minimum wage. “Part of the discussion was on how we can articulate the issues that we feel people care about.”

On the eve of the conference, Jackson was among 40 state legislators from around the country, and the only one from California, to attend a meeting with President Barack Obama in the Executive Office Building.

Obama played into the wheelhouse of this group of 40 Democratic state lawmakers.

“I invited all of you here because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you’ve got to be nice to state legislators. You never know when one of them might end being president,” Obama said (the text of his remarks were distributed by the White House). “I am partial to state legislators – particularly, by the way, senators.”

Pleasantries aside, Obama said it appears the agenda to advance what he calls “middle-class economics” will be largely in the hands of state legislators for the next 15 months.

“The Republican-led Congress hasn’t raised America’s minimum wage, but17 states did it on their own” Obama said. “Congress hasn’t answered my call to provide our workers with paid sick days and paid family leave, but four states have now taken action, including Oregon this year.”

While Jackson was thrilled for the opportunity to meet Obama – in a brief exchange, she “thanked him for promoting issues that affect working families” – she said the highlight of the conference came on its final day on Saturday, when she had the dreaded after-lunch-on-the-closing-day time slot.

Many of the participants stuck around to hear Jackson tell how she successfully shepherded through the California Legislature this year a bill that will give the state the strongest protections in the country against gender-based pay discrimination. The bill passed with bipartisan support, and with the backing of the state’s Chamber of Commerce.

“They were fascinated by that,” she said. “They wanted to know how we did it.”

Private poll shows strong statewide support for Delta tunnels

Digging into public opinion on the Delta tunnels…

INTERNAL POLL SHOWS VOTERS GIVING THUMBS UP — A survey of 1,500 registered voters conducted this month for the advocacy group Californians for Water Security,  shows fairly strong support statewide for the Bay-Delta project — including the construction of two large tunnels to divert Sacramento River water beneath the Delta so that it can pumped to other regions.

In a memo shared with me today, the polling firm EMC Research reports that “a solid majority” of voters support the plan after being read a brief description, and that support increases after they have been read a fuller explanation and a summary of pro and con arguments.

“55 percent of voters support the California Water Fix,” it says. “Support for the Fix is high across political and ideological subgroups of voters and across most regions of the state.”

After voters were read “an explanatory statement” that frames the issue, support jumped to 79 percent,  the memo says. After hearing a back and forth of region-specific pro-and-con arguments,  support remains high, at 68 percent.

The poll confirms the findings of a number of public polls conducted over the last year, revealing that voters are very focused on the drought.

“In an open ended question about the most important problem facing California, 36 percent of voters volunteered the drought as the top issue facing the state, which is double the percentage of voters mentioning drought in early 2015,” the polling memo says. “In fact, California voters rated water issues as 4 of the top five concerns, ranking even above public schools, immigration, and taxes.”

Although it is a generally accepted view that authority to proceed with the project already exists and it would not have to go before voters, getting a fix on public sentiment will be important after the final, revised EIR is certified next year.

Opponents of the project, primarily in the Delta area, have been loud and relentless in their opposition, but it is hasn’t been clear how broadly that sentiment is shared around the state.

“It is not an accurate reflection of where voters are on this issue,” said Robin Swanson, spokesman for Californians for Water Security, a coalition of labor unions, agricultural groups and water agencies. “This confirms what we thought: a majority of California voters want to do something about the problem.”

The poll shows levels of support vary (after hearing explanatory statment and pro and con arguments) from region to region — ranging from 87 percent in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura Counties, to 76 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area. Only in the Sacramento region and north state is opinion closely divided, with 53 percent support.

Was this survey stacked? Following is the explanatory statement and the pro-and-con arguments presented to respondents from Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties. You be the judge.

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT: “The California Water Fix is the plan to fix the state’s main water distribution system in part by building two new underground tunnels to replace the infrastructure that currently delivers water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, to homes, farms and businesses throughout the state.”

CON: “This project will cost tens of billions of dollars and cost Southern California water customers hundreds of dollars per year, without guaranteeing that it will provide one additional drop of water. Southern California needs to decrease our dependence on outside water sources by investing in increasing local water supplies through desalination, more storage, storm water capture and other local water projects.”

PRO: “We all agree that Southern California needs to increase local water supplies, but that alone will not ensure water security for our region. We must act now to fix the aging water distribution system that delivers nearly one-third of our local water. If we fail to act, a key portion of our local water supply is at risk in an earthquake. Local water agencies estimate that this plan will only cost the average residential customer five dollars per month, and the cost of inaction to our region is much greater.”

Feisty Schneider determined to make a race of it

Well, there’s a reason they hold elections…

AN UNDERDOG DEMOCRAT WITH BITE – After Rep. Lois Capps announced in April that she would retire when her term ends next year, the stars appeared to start to align for Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal to be the Democrat in line to carry the party’s label on the 2016 ballot.

First, Capps’ daughter, Laura, decided that she would not run to succeed her mother. After that, the endorsements for Carbajal begin rolling in: Capps, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Assemblyman Das Williams, Attorney General Kamala Harris and several other leading Democrats. Then came the second-quarter fund-raising reports, which showed Carbajal as among the top non-incumbents among House candidates nationwide, having received $629,355 in contributions and ending the quarter with $567,660 in the bank.

Well behind was Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, a fellow Democrat. She reported raising $225,305 and ending the quarter with a balance of $200,471. In addition, she did not have the support of any of the major Santa Barbara area Democratic officeholders.

But Schneider has been on a roll of late. In early September she picked up the endorsement of Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, followed shortly thereafter by that of Jackson’s political mentor, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Although has not yet and may not ever pick up the coveted support of Emily’s List, the national fund-raising powerhouse for woman Democratic candidates, Jackson and Kuehl have a pretty fair network of Democratic woman supporters who will no doubt be influenced by their choice in the race.

In addition, Schneider seems to have an abundance of energy. Although only a tiny fraction of 24th District voters live in Ventura, Schneider enthusiastically worked the room last month at the annual CAUSE community-building event, moving around in tandem with a strong supporter and fellow woman Central Coast mayor, Ventura’s Cheryl Heitmann.

The third quarter fundraising reports will be released Oct. 15. It will be most interesting to see whether Schneider has converted some of her apparent momentum into campaign contributions, or whether Carbajal — by anyone’s reckoning, still the favorite — has widened his lead even more.

Whoever emerges between the two top Democrats, he or she will be no shoo-in come next fall. The district may be one of California’s most competitive in 2016, and there are two potentially strong Republicans running in the primary — moderate Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian of San Luis Obispo and conservative Santa Barbara businessman Justin Fareed.


Step one: Find a candidate

A manager’s most important job is filling out the lineup card…

GOOD RECRUITING BY SENATE GOP TEAM — On paper, the man recruited by the Senate Republican leadership to carry the GOP banner in the 27th Senate District next fall appears to be a pretty good prospect.

steve fazioBusinessman Steve Fazio has a solid biography — local businessman, founder of a local private school, close ties to a respected local university (Pepperdine) and a law-enforcement connection on his resume (former LAPD reserve officer). At 55, he’s young enough to have the energy for a tough campaign and old enough to be seasoned.

When I interviewed him last week for a story on the kickoff of his campaign, Fazio seemed confident, realistic and comfortable talking to the media — a combination of attributes that is often notably absent among first-time candidates for elected office.

It also will likely help his cause that Fazio, a nearly lifelong resident of the San Fernando Valley, is a Republican who hails from the Democratic core of the district. The L.A County portion of the district is home to about two-thirds of its voters, with 48.3 percentof them Democrats and just 26.8 percent Republicans. The only way a Republican can win is to hold down the score in L.A. County and then take full advantage of the GOP lead among the one-third of district voters who live in Ventura County, 41.3 percent of whom are Republicans and 31.2 percent Democrats.

Both the Democratic and Republican leadership did their best to try to find a first-rate woman candidate in the race to succeed Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, but struck out. Democrats could not persuade Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks to take the leap and run for the Senate seat rather than re-election, and Republicans did their best to charm Ventura County Community College District Trustee Dianne McKay (a close friend of Irwin’s, by the way) into running.

So, at least for the moment, it appears there will be an all-male field, with six Democratic men joining Fazio as candidates who have announced their intent to run.

Only one among them — Moorpark Councilman David Pollock, a Democrat — has held any elected office of note, and Pollock has held a couple, having previously served on the Moorpark School Board. Even in today’s anti-government political climate, voters tend to view it as a plus if a candidate has experience in local government.

It will help Fazio that he can point to his position on the Los Angeles City Fire Commission, even if it is an appointed body. On a campaign flier, it comes off as evidence of local government experience, and most voters won’t know whether it’s an elected position or not.

Most observers believe it will be an uphill battle for a Republican to win the seat, assuming presidential election turnout even marginally approaches what it was in 2012. But the party has taken the first step in finding a solid candidate, and in our conversation last week Fazio was unafraid to describe himself as a “moderate.” If the Republican leadership can succeed in keeping anyone else from running on the right — and trying to make “moderate” a bad word among GOP primary voters — it will help in the general election in that genuinely moderate district.

Field in east county Senate race begins to thin

Remember, no one can actually become a candidate until Feb. 16…

HOW MANY WILL MAKE IT TO THE STARTING LINE? – The Santa Clarita Valley Signal reported last week that Republican Gloria Mercado-Fortine, a William S. Hart Union High School District board member, has decided not to pursue her previously announced candidacy for the 27th Senate District.

Her decision raises the question of whether others will follow suit before the make-or-break period for filing declarations of candidacy begings in February and runs through March 11. Until then, no one can actually do anything that will get his or her name on the June primary ballot.

Mercado-Fortine’s departure is likely good news for Republican Steve Fazio, as it leaves him as the only declared GOP candidate. Especially because she was the only woman who had announced an intent to run, Fazio likely would have had to spend some money in the primary to compete for a spot on the general election ballot that now appears certain to be his.

The bigger question now is whether the huge field of Democrats — a half-dozen have filed statements of intent to run — will narrow before the filing deadline.

At the moment, it looks like nearly all of these gentlemen — and, as noted earlier, they are all men — are pretty serious. Led by Henry Stern, who had raised nearly a half-million dollars through June 30, no fewer than four potential candidates (also including Shawn Bayliss, David Pollock and Richard Mathews) have raised more than $100,000 and a fifth (Jim Dantona Jr.) had raised $70,000. Only George Christopher Thomas had not raised significant campaign funds.

Interestingly, the fact that for the moment there is only Republican in the race may increase the chance that all of them stick it out. Having multiple GOP candidates on the top-two primary ballot would raise at least the possibility that a fractured Democratic vote could result in two Republicans making it to the general election. It may now be more difficult for any one of them to be persuaded to drop out for the good of the party.

Who can denounce Trump loudest in San Pedro?

If it plays in Des Moines, will it play in San Pedro?…

A GOLDEN-HAIRED OPPORTUNITY — On the eve of the Reagan Library GOP presidential debate, Republican front-runner Donald Trump has scheduled an event in San Pedro this evening aboard the historic Battleship USS Iowa. This presents a great opportunity for two Democrats battling for an open congressional seat in the 44th District, a place densely populated with immigrant communities.

State Sen. Isadore Hall has scheduled an event at which he will promote a resolution he sponsored denouncing Trump, one that was approved by the Senate in the closing hour of its 2015 session on Friday night.

In the resolution, “the Senate condemns in the strongest terms possible the racist rhetoric against immigrant families made by Presidential candidate Donald Trump; and be it further resolved, that the Senate calls upon the State of California to divest from Donald Trump, The Trump Organization, and any affiliated entities.”

Trump’s immigration policy, which calls for the deportation of the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally, creates an uncomfortable situation for Republicans in California, with its large immigrant population and growing number of Latino voters. Notably, 13 of the state’s 14 GOP senators choose to abstain in the vote on a resolution condemning the leading candidate for their party’s presidential nomination.

Senate Republican leader Jean Fuller explained that she and her colleagues intended to focus only on good things.

Hall, who is African-American, faces a strong primary challenge from Hermosa Beach Mayor Nanette Barrigan, the daughter of immigrants from Mexico. She has planned her own rally to call attention to what she calls Trump’s “offensive immigration policies.”



Remembering a man of great honor

There’s a reason it’s called the Greatest Generation…

BEN KUROKI, AMERICAN – Almost every day when it is in session, the California Assembly adjourns in memory of some notable citizen who has recently died — civic leaders, combat warriors, fallen police officers, business leaders, champions of social justice, and other individuals who left a large mark of accomplishment in their lives.

On Wednesday, Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin adjourned the session in the memory of someone whose life’s achievements stand out even in such distinguished company: Ben Kuroki, the World War II Army Air Force gunner who received three Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Distinguished Service Medal for his wartime service.

What set Kuroki apart was his determination to serve. Because he was Japanese-American, he had to fight just for the chance to serve his country as an airman. He flew nearly three dozen missions in the European theater, then had to fight again to get permission to become the only Japanese-American who flew bombing missions over Japan.

He fought not just evil abroad, but the ugliness of discrimination at home.

Kuroki became a hero in the Armed Services and in the Japanese-American community at large. He was the subject of a 2007 PBS Documentary, “Most Honorable Son.” When he received the Distinguished Service Medal in 2005 — at the age of 88 — Kuroki remarked: “I had to fight like hell for the right to fight for my own country. And now I feel vindication.”

“Ben Kuroki,” Irwin told her Assembly colleagues, “was an American hero.”

Kuroki died last week in Camarillo. He had spent most of his post-War life in Ventura County after having been educated as a journalist at the University of Nebraska, in his home state. His career brought him to the Ventura County Star-Free Press, where he worked as an editor in the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s.

I feel privileged that our careers briefly overlapped. As I look back and reflect on the depth of his worldly experience, it strikes me that he must have been bemused by the youthful innocence, cockiness and naievity of me and my just-out-of-college contemporaries in the newsroom. But he treated everyone with respect, and taught us all through the example of his dogged work ethic and unflappable demeanor.

As with so many World War II veterans, he never spoke of his wartime experiences unless asked, and even then seemed only reluctantly obliged to respond to our occasional questions. For so many reasons, he was an inspiration to us all.