Bass beats out Portantino for speakership

The Sacramento Bee
is reporting that Karen Bass of Los Angeles has put together enough
votes to win the Assembly speakership, beating out a crowded field that
included top candidates Anthony Portantino of Pasadena and Kevin De
Leon of L.A.

The deal was apparently reached last night, with exiting speaker
Fabian Nunez helping Bass, his top lieutenant, secure the votes.
Assembly Democrats will caucus in closed session this morning before
officially voting for Bass as speaker in once the regular session
starts at 9:30 a.m. She will be the first African American woman to
lead the chamber.

Portantino gave it a good run, raising lots of money and generating
a fair amount of buzz, with the Sac Bee’s Dan Walters saying as late as
last week that he was the top candidate for the spot. But he apparently
could not beat the strong, L.A.-centric coalition put together by Bass
and Nunez, or come up with a Willie Brown-style, bi-partisan coup
despite his deftness at coordinating with Republicans (he was the only
Democratic member of La Canada Flintridge’s City Council and did just
fine there).

What San Gabriel Valley residents have to consider is whether this
will actually hurt the area’s already poor prospects at securing state
funds. According to Brown’s book, “Basic Brown,” the Assembly has
always been a harsh place, with the losers always suffering for their
perceived impertinence by the winners. Brown was crammed into the
smallest office in the Assembly after voting against then-anointed
Speaker Jesse Unruh and was marginalized after losing a speaker fight
to Leo McCarthy before he himself meted out justice to Charles Calderon
and the Gang of Five, stripping them of their committee chairmanships
when they tried to force him out of the speaker’s seat.

Just as Portantino might have steered more money to the Valley as
speaker, will he have a harder time providing for his constituents for
having challenged Bass? It doesn’t seem that this was a particularly
nasty fight, with most Dems falling in line behind Bass and Portantino
praising the L.A. assemblywoman in an L.A. Times article, saying she
will do a “great job.”

Hopefully things have changed from the rough and tumble Capitol days of the 70s and 80s and any backlash is minimal.

Black superdelegates defect to Obama

Hillary Clinton’s slide in the race for superdelegates continues, with the defection of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta earlier today.

Lewis, who has campaign for months on behalf of Clinton, said in a statement that he changed sides in order to “express the will of the people” after Obama won the Feb. 5 Georgia primary with 90 percent of the black vote, a scenario that was also repeated in Lewis’ own Atlanta district.

Lewis’ switch-a-roo also comes on the heels of the decision by another black Georgia congressman, David Scott, to jump from Clinton’s bandwagon to Obama’s.

The nature of superdelegates’ commitment to candidates is fickle and historically follows the front-runner. With Obama’s 11 straight primary wins, that pattern seems to be repeating itself, with Clinton’s lead in the superdelegate count now at 241 to 183, according to the independent blog Democratic Convention Watch. In January, before Obama’s momentum-shifting Super Tuesday performance, Clinton’s superdelegate lead was 160 to 60. That means Obama has eaten into Clinton’s superdelegate lead by 16 percentage points.

Obama’s total delegate count is 1,371 to Clinton’s 1,274, according to Democratic Convention Watch. 2,025 delegates are needed to secure the Democratic nomination.

Takes on the debate

Former Star-News Star reporters Todd Ruiz and Gary Scott have some
sound takes on last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack
Obama. Ruiz nicely sums up
the likely frustration most Democrats must feel at watching their two
top candidates, so closely matched in ideology and skill level, go at
each other like rabid dogs.

Scott, now a producer for Warren Olney’s radio show, dissects the debate
in a play-by-play style, cutting through the candidates’ veiled and
indirect responses and helping to make sense of what exactly they were
saying to each other.

Hillary looking desperate

The accusations of plagiarism (with permission), combined with the alleged circulating by her staffers of a photo of Obama in Somali garb (even though her camp is denying they had anything to do with it), show that Hillary Clinton is really starting to feel the heat.

And she should. The latest polls show Obama leading in Texas for the first time, and eating into Clinton’s lead in Ohio. That combined with her loss of superdelegates (and Obama’s additions) make for an ominous prelude to the big three primaries in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Walters: Portantino top speaker candidate

Ive been told hes a long shot. That he is not Latino. That hes
not from L.A. That there are closer associates to Nunez that have a
much better shot at the speakership.

But that hasnt stopped Pasadena Democrat Anthony Portantino from
positioning himself at the forefront of the race to succeed Fabian
Nunez as leader of the California Assembly, according to the SacBees Dan Walters.

When we last wrote about this,
we noted that Portantino was a prolific fund-raiser with ties to labor
unions and in his first term in office, all apparent prerequisites for
a successful speaker candidate. But at the time it seemed that while
the former La Canada Flintridge mayor had a better chance at the post
than his other colleagues in the San Gabriel Valley Caucus, he was
likely a long shot compared to LA-centric, Nunez proteges such as Karen
Bass or Kevin De Leon.

Since then Portantino has raised even more money ($535,000 in 2007)
and according to Walters, could soon up his union clout by securing
support from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Obama Hawaii victory- a local girl’s perspective

My girlfriend, born and raised in Maui, weighs in on Obama’s Hawaii victory

So Obama took Hawaii
in a landslide.  That Clinton
love can never trump local boy love. Hawaii
will always vote for their own, were just very loyal in that way.  We also
think we are so different from others, that the only one who can really
represent us is one of our own. This is Hawaii
making a run for the white house, even though he is now a Chicagoan.

Incidentally, she still is a Hawaii citizen, somehow still holding on to an HI driver’s license and refusing to covert to California citizenship. 

CNN projects McCain winner in Wisconsin

A Wisconsin win (according to CNN) further cements John McCain as heir apparent to George W. Bush’s seat at the head of the Republican party.

On the other end, Obama will likely take most of Hawaii’s 20 delegates, since he was born and educated on Oahu. A friend of mine who sells commercial real estate on the islands, says the social strata there is mostly based on where folks went to high school, and Obama’s pedigree traces back to Punahoe, Hawaii’s most exclusive prep school, which gives him more cache on the islands than even a former first lady and current senator.

Wisconsin will likely go to Obama as well, though by what margin is unclear at this point. AP is reporting that about a quarter of votes cast in the Wisconsin primary were by independents, who have generally gravitated toward the Illinois junior senator. And Latinos — Clinton’s strongest voting block — make up only 4.7 percent of Wisconsin’s population, according to the U.S. Census.

Why is voting in America so difficult? Installment # 97: Washington state

Utter bafflement about the electoral process swept over me once more today as I noticed on CNN that there is a presidential primary scheduled for Washington state on Tuesday. Wait a minute, I thought, wasn’t there already a caucus there two weeks ago?

Yes, I was remembering correctly…. but apparently with the goal of sowing more electoral confusion, the state Democratic party also holds a primary. I read an article in the New York Times on the subject, and it was missing one of the key Six W questions: WHY? Frankly, I am not sure the author of the article had any idea what the answer to the question was.

So I went straight to the source, the Washington secretary of state, and my question was first on the list of Election FAQs:

Q: Why does Washington have a Presidential Primary?

In 1988, more than 200,000 Washington voters signed an Initiative to the Legislature proposing that a Presidential Primary be held. The Legislature adopted the initiative in 1989. The law states:

Thepresidential nominating caucus system in Washington State is unnecessarily
of voter participation in that it discriminates against the elderly, the infirm,
women, the disabled, evening workers, and others
who are unable to attend caucuses and
therefore unable to fully participate in this most important quadrennial event that occurs in
our democratic system of government.

So the state adopted a primary because the caucus is undemocratic and discriminates against many residents of the state. So I guess question #2 should be: Why on earth does the state still have a caucus?

No answer on that one available.

Meanwhile, the primary appears to be largely pointless: according to the secretary of state, the Democratic party gets to choose whether to seat delegates based on the results of the caucus or the primary or a combination of both, and according to the New York Times, they’ve already decided:

Weve chosen our delegates, said Kelly Steele, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party.

Chosen them in a manner a majority of voters in 1988 believed was “unnecessarily restrictive” and “discriminatory.” But, hey, this is 2008….. after the Florida debacle maybe the caucus doesn’t look so bad.

The Encyclopedia Baracktannica

Colleague Alison Hewitt pointed us to this hilarious widget from Slate which pokes fun at the exaggerated enthusiasm the Illinois junior senator has generated in the press, otherwise known as “Obamania.” The encyclopedia is a collection of Barack-inspired neologisms invented by Slate’s writers such as a “baracktogenarian” (any Obama supporter over age 21) or “barackronism” (An Obama statement that is not in its correct historical or chronological time).

Maybe Calderon’s Ross connection isn’t a liability

… After all, it didn’t hurt Darrell Steinberg’s run for the state Senate presidency.

The L.A. Times is reporting that within hours of Steinberg’s unofficial selection as Senate President Pro Tempore in a closed session meeting of Senate Democrats, controversial lobbyist Richie Ross began sending out e-mails ostensibly bragging about his long term relationship with his “friend and client,” Steinberg. He also goes on to urge his lobbying contacts to “keep that relationship in mind” if they need any help in the future.

In past posts, we have mentioned how Chuck Calderon’s relationship with Ross may be a handicap in the Industry legislator’s quest to succeed Fabian Nunez as Assembly Speaker. Ross has been much maligned in the past as one of the only political consultants in Sacramento to also work as a registered lobbyist, with government watchdogs making the seemingly obvious argument that people who get paid by special interests to promote their agendas should not at the same time get paid by politicians to counsel them and run their campaigns.

Because of the controversy surrounding Ross — whose activities have prompted lobbying reform efforts in Sacramento — GOP strategist Allan Hoffenblum told the Tribune in an earlier story that the next speaker of the Assembly “should not have been a client of Richie Ross.” And both Calderon and Ross’ ties to Indian gaming have been criticized in the past.

Ross is registered to lobby for two Indian gaming tribes, though neither of them is the Morongo tribe, which would have been allowed to expand its casino under the Calderon-sponsored Assembly Bill 266. The bill died on the governor’s desk, but the tribe got its expansion wish granted anyways with the passage of Prop. 95 earlier this month.

Apparently, Steinberg’s ties to Ross did not affect his chances for Senate president. Perhaps the lobbyist/consultant should not be considered that much of a liability for Calderon either. Maybe he should even be looked at as an asset. 

After all, it’s impossible to say that Ross’s deep Sacramento connections (going back to his days as chief of staff for the indomitable Speaker Willie Brown) didn’t actually help Steinberg win the Senate presidency.