Bill Whalen

 

As chance would have it, I attended a mixer on Wednesday night to listen to Dan Schnur, a candidate for California Secretary of State.

Dan’s a former colleague – we both worked for Gov. Pete Wilson back in the 1990’s. Since then, he’s worked as a p.r. strategist, press secretary for John McCain’s first presidential campaign (the 2000 version – the one reporters romanticized), and he chaired California’s Fair Political Practices Commission – the state’s watchdog agency – during the final months of the Schwarzenegger Administration.

But his biggest selling point as a first-time candidate is his professorial career at USC and Cal-Berkeley – guiding fledgling political junkies into jobs in Sacramento, Washington and the campaign circuit. Combined with his FPPC tenure, it enables Schnur to deliver a good-government riff about the evils of political money, while trying to encourage young voters to engage in a process that tests their faith.

One other thing about Schnur’s candidacy: he’s running as an nonaffiliated candidate, wagering that he can draw enough support from both nonaligned voters – the fastest-growing segment of California’s electorate – and disaffected Democrats and Republicans to finish in the top-two in California’s June primary.

The latest Field Poll on the SoS race, released earlier this morning, was a cold splash of water for those who might have assumed the open primary would open the door to nonaffiliated candidates.

The results: Republican Pete Peterson, executive director of the Davenport Institute at the School of Public Policy, leads with 30% of likely voters, followed by Democratic State Sen. Alex Padilla at 17% (nearly half of which came after Field asked voters to choose a candidate other than disgraced State Sen. Leland Yee, who quit the race amidst a sensational scandal). As for Schnur, he sits at 4%, a point behind the Green Party candidate.

Click to read more.

Print Friendly
Carson Bruno

 

Early polls might generate buzz, but reporters, voters, and politicians should view these polls skeptically.  They are unlikely to predict the June primary results very well for three cascading reasons.

Few people are paying attention to the election at this point in the cycle.

In the last five Field and PPIC polls that have asked a head-to-head June primary question, on average 27% of the electorate is undecided (shifting very little between December and the spring).

In PPIC’s January survey, only 28% of likely voters (and just 28% and 21% of likely Republican and Independent voters, respectively) were following election news very or fairly closely.  A statically similar segment of Republicans and Independents were “not at all closely” following the election.  This suggests that roughly half of voters who expressed an opinion in the head-to-head match-ups are following the election “not too closely.” If voters are not really paying attention to the election, do not expect the polls to be an honest portrayal of future outcomes.

And maybe more importantly, based on the PPIC polls from December 2013, January 2014, and March 2014, a quarter of voters are unsatisfied with the choices of candidates.  Don’t expect these voters to pay much attention to the contest; if they don’t like the choices, why would they invest the time?

Click to read more.

Print Friendly
Carson Bruno

 

*Editor’s NoteCA6: The first two installments of this series example the possible demographics and economics of Tim Draper’s “Six California’s” initiative, currently in the qualifying stage for the November ballot.

This final installment looks at the politics of partitioned California – what would be the new states of Jefferson, North California, Silicon Valley, Central California, West California, and South California*

 

 

Click to read more.

Print Friendly
Carson Bruno

 

Earlier this month, the California Employment Development Department released good news; California’s unemployment rate decreased 0.2 points to 8.1% in January 2014.  Based on EDD data, the number of unemployed dropped 29,000, while the number employed increased by 50,000.

This is good news – unemployment dropping, employing rising, and a growing labor force. But, it isn’t necessarily great news. Great news would be California recovering faster than a) previous recessions and b) other states’ rate of recovery.Categories

Using state-level seasonally-adjusted employment, unemployment, and labor force Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the charts below show the three metrics relative to the economic cycle’s peak for the previous three recessions and recoveries – when the metrics return to pre-recession levels (i.e. cross 0%). For instance, at California’s December 2007 economic peak, employment totaled 17,014,221. As of January 2014, it was 17,068,468 – a difference of 0.3%.

As shown in the table to the right, the data are broken into 8 categories: California, Tier 1 to 6 states, and “Net In-Migration” states. These categories are assigned based on net domestic migration. For instance, Tier 1 states are those where the most Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) migrated (on a net basis) from California.

Click to read more.

Print Friendly
Bill Whalen

 

The big news out of Northern California today (aside from some long-overdue rain): State Sen. Leland Yee detained and arrested by the feds amidst a sweeping series of raids by FBI and gang task force agents.

Yee’s a Democrat from San Francisco, a longtime fixture in Sacramento, and a political pioneer: the first Chinese-America elected to the State Senate and, before that, the number-two Democrat in the State Assembly. At present, he’s a candidate for California’s Secretary of State – that candidacy now, obviously in deep trouble, if not finished.

Sadly, it’s the latest installment in a real-life version of House of Cards occurring under California’s State Capitol Dome.

Last week, Senate Democrats voted down a Republican resolution to expel state Sen. Roderick Wright – a Democrat convicted of eight felony counts of voter fraud and perjury.

And there’s State Sen. Ronald Calderon, a Democrat indicted on federal corruption charges for allegedly accepting almost $100,000 in bribes and other assorted mischief (free food, free golf).

Both senators are on a leave of absence – though they’re still receiving their taxpayer salaries.

Here are three quick takeaways from Yee’s transition from running for higher office to riding in the back of a squad car.

Absolute Power Corrupts. The last time Republicans controlled California’s State Senate? That would be 1956 – the same year Eisenhower was re-elected, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, Elvis cut his first gold album, and a full decade before some fellow named Reagan took on Jerry Brown’s father for governor of California. Nearly 60 years later, Democrats entered 2014 with a crushing 28-11 supermajority – with it, the ability to pass any piece of legislation it so desired (run-of-the-mill statutes, tax increases, constitutional amendment) without the need for GOP input and votes. That supermajority is no more, thanks to the three senators’ legal troubles (State Senate supermajorities are based on two-thirds of 40 seats; a minimum of 27 seats is needed). It’s reminiscent of what befell congressional Democrats in 1994, when the party seemed a little too arrogant and a lot too corrupt (remember the House banking scandal?) after four decades of majority control. The need to take advantage of supermajority led Senate Democrats down a bad political path earlier this month when they opened a hornet’s nest over affirmative action and college admissions. Yee’s apparent association with a gangster named “Shrimp Boy” suggests not only a politician who lost his bearings but perhaps adds to the perception of an institution unfamiliar with the concepts of honorable conduct and voter backlash.

A New “E” for GOP? California elections tend to revolve around a set of issue all beginning with the same first letter – economy, education, and environment. In 2014, will Republicans find a way to add a fourth “e” – “ethics” – to that list? For a party-out-of-power that’s struggling to find common ground with swing voters, the Democratic scandals could be a godsend – fraud, bribery, perjury and fraternizing with mobsters hardly being wedge issues. The simplest way for California Republicans to package this: by plagiarizing verbatim from 1994’s Contract With AmericaTo restore accountability to Congress the State Legislature. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.”A trickier matter: how legislative Republicans play the ethics reform package recently introduced by their Democratic counterparts.

Impact on the SoS Race. Before his run-in with the law, Yee was one of a handful of candidates – Republican, Democratic, independent – angling for a top-two finish in the June open primary for Secretary of State (among other responsibilities, the SoS is California’s chief election officer). Assuming that effort’s now cratered, who benefits from Yee’s fall? Obviously, some disenchanted Democrats will migrate to the frontrunner, State Sen. Alex Padilla. But keep an eye on Dan Schnur, a USC academic and nonpartisan. On the day before Lee’s legal troubles, the Schnur campaign issued this press release touting the candidate’s “anti-corruption agenda”. Before that, he called on Lee to vote to expel Roderick Wright from the State Senate. Historically, third-parties candidates in California are at a disadvantage: no grassroots infrastructure; the struggle to build a donor network. But the latest scandal adds gives Schnur’s candidacy a rationalization and potentially a tailwind – in a year when strange winds are blowing through California’s State Capitol.

 

Follow Bill Whalen on Twitter: @hooverwhalen

Print Friendly
Carson Bruno

CA6

The first installment of the “Sacramento Spotlight” series examining Tim Draper’s proposed “Six Californias” ballot initiative found that no single new state could decisively be named a winner based on demographics.

 

Next up: the economics of the new states.

At face value, each new state would be economically different. Northernmost Jefferson would be mostly an agricultural/resource state with forestry likely to become the dominant private industry.  North California, south of Jefferson and spanning from Nevada to the Pacific Ocean, would benefit from a little bit of everything: tech industry, agriculture, tourism, and healthcare.  Silicon Valley, of course, would be dominated by tech; Central California, situated between Silicon Valley and Nevada, would mostly be agriculture and resource extraction; West California’s Los Angeles hub would mean entertainment would be a massive force and South California’s Orange and San Diego counties would dominate the economy.

Click to read more.

Print Friendly
Carson Bruno

 

Last month, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen approved for circulation (i.e. gathering roughly 800,000 signatures) venture capitalist Tim Draper’s proposed ballot initiative to split the Golden State into six new states. The proposed proposition has immediately garnered not only state and local attention, but also that of the national media.

But who would be the winners of such an amicable divorce?CA6

Like many things California-centric, it’s not an easy question to answer, other than the obvious beneficiaries: flag-makers and Republicans looking to break up the Democrats’ 55 electoral-vote monopoly in the Golden State. However, by breaking down the new states based on their demographics, their economies, and their politics, we can examine winners on a granular basis.

Using county-level data pulled from Secretary of State’s office, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, Larry Sabato’s Center for Politics, Political Data, Inc., the California Department of Finance, and the California Employment Development Department, the following three “Sacramento Spotlights” will explore what the six news states – Jefferson, North California, Silicon Valley, Central California, West California, and South California – would look like.

First up: demographics.

Click to read more.

Print Friendly
Bill Whalen

 

On Feb. 27, 1968, soon after his visit to Vietnam to report on the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, Walter Cronkite took to the nation’s airwaves to share his personal views on the conflict. “To say that we are mired in stalemate,” America’s foremost anchorman said, “seems the only realistic if unsatisfactory conclusion.”

And with that, the Johnson Administration lost Cronkite – and not long after that, the court of public opinion.

Just as, with this column, the Obama Administration may have lost Maureen Dowd, the New York Times columnist.

Not that Ms. Dowd’s sometimes-acid pen is any match for Mr. Cronkite’s microphone, but she has picked up on a bad vibe: Democrats are in a state of panic as the midterm election approaches, and the Democratic president has done little to instill confidence in the party’s faithful. “With the health care sign-up period coming to an end this month,” Dowd writes, “Democrats in Congress are looking over at the White House and realizing that the president is not only incapable of saving them, but he looks like a big anchor tied around their necks.”

Ouch.

Not that his fellow partisans will go on the record trashing their party’s leader, but there is evidence of a rift wider than the two miles separating the Democratic White House and the Democratic-controlled United States Senate. As evidence: the nomination fight over Dr. Vivek Murthy, the President’s choice to serve as U.S. surgeon general. Republicans have steadfastly opposed, due in no small part to the National Rifle Association’s assertion that the good doctor is a bad anti-gun activist. The problem for Mr. Obama: as many as 10 Democrats seem ready to vote against the White House’s pick. When added to the earlier rejection of Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division – seven Democrats going against the President’s wishes on that occasion – it would seem that lame duck is on the menu in the “world’s most deliberative body”.

There are at least two other factors that may be contributing to why President is fighting two cold wars – Putin abroad, Senate Democrats at home.

Click to read more.

Print Friendly
Editor

CA_FocusCaliforniaHeader

In October 2013, the Hoover Institution’s “California Public Pension Solutions” conference, co-hosted by Hoover senior fellow Josh Rauh and SIEPR’s David Crane and Joe Nation, engaged Hoover Institution fellows, pension scholars from across the country, current and former California and out-of-state policy leaders, and other pension reform specialists to discuss, in-depth, solutions to California’s public pension challenges.

After a full day of rigorously discussing solutions and a public address by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, conference attendees were asked to complete a post-conference survey.  The survey consisted of ten statements; attendees marked whether they strongly agreed, agreed, were uncertain, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with each statement and then marked their confidence level (very confident, somewhat confident, uncertain, somewhat unconfident, very unconfident).  This survey is modeled after the IGM Forum conducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

The Post Conference Report presents the results of the survey providing a graphic for each statement showcasing the raw and weighted responses.  Accompanying each graphic is a short summary providing more detail on the topic addressed in each statement.

Statement 1

Some key findings include wide consensus that for reform to occur, the “California Rule” needs amended; wide disagreement that small reforms—like eliminating spiking and double-dipping—would solve pension challenges; and strong agreement that San Jose’s recent pension reform is the best example for other California cities/localities to follow.

To explore the report directly, click here.

The Defining Ideas article “Reform or Bust” by Hoover research fellow Carson Bruno also provides an analysis of the report.

 

Print Friendly