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I Guess They Don't Actually Want A 2/3 Majority

by: Robert Cruickshank

Tue Nov 24, 2009 at 13:32:54 PM PST

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, back in July:

The 2/3 requirement that we have in this state. I know it's a tired old saw. But when you really think about, that is the cause of so much of the dysfunction in the legislature. you have a minority party that obviously worked in tandem with the governor that cost the state 6-7 billion dollars tonight for no good reason. To somehow improve your negotiating position. It is without question the most irresponsible act that I have seen in my 15 years of public service...I hope that the significance will truly capture enough attention that the people will decide it is time to change the system that allows the minority to essentially rule the day. That's not just the Senate Republicans, it was the Governor too, who was apparently out to prove a point. And he proved a point.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, today:

State Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) released a statement expressing "grave doubts" about the choice. Maldonado needs the approval of the Democratic-dominated Legislature to take the post.

Steinberg cited the $2-million cost of the special election that would be required to fill Maldonado's Senate seat, suggesting the money could be better spent scaling back recent fee hikes at state colleges and universities.

The Senate leader, under pressure to keep the post open for Democrats running for lieutenant governor themselves in next year's election, also suggested he would like to see the job left vacant.

"It may be both fiscally and politically prudent to permit the people to make their own selection for this statewide office next year and avoid the expense of a costly special election," his statement said.

Once again, we see that the State Senate is unwilling to actually do what it takes to overcome the 2/3rds rule that has crippled our state. Instead of seizing a golden opportunity to win one of the two seats we need to get a 2/3rds majority, Steinberg prefers to help coddle a fellow Democratic Senator's unwillingness to face Maldonado in a general election.

Steinberg and other Senators are starting to put out the talking points to defend their weakness. But none of them hold water. The election to replace Maldonado here in SD-15 can be combined with the June primary, saving money. But even if it weren't combined, the $2 million or so is statistically negligible when compared to the billions of dollars in cuts Steinberg is apparently willing to accept by refusing to take the chance to win a 2/3rds majority next year (along with the race to replace Jeff Denham in SD-12, a district with a D+12 registration advantage).

Additionally, voters themselves are going to have the chance to pick the next Lt. Gov., and confirming Maldonado will not change that fact, as Steinberg implies. If Steinberg believes Maldonado is a formidable candidate in the GOP primary or in the general election, he is badly misreading the political landscape.

Another argument we're hearing is that Maldonado's seat isn't all that winnable:

Capitol Democrats said there was a more calculated political reason for not wanting to let Maldonado go. Democrats were humbled by this year's election results in New Jersey and Virginia, and fear that 2010 could be a bad Democratic year. In addition, a low turn-out special election may make it tougher for a Democrat to win the 15th Senate District seat currently held by Maldonado.

Democrats have a slight 41-35 percent registration advantage in the district. Nearly 20 percent of the district's voters are decline to state.  The district has been home to moderate Republicans like Bruce McPherson, and overwhelming voted for Schwarzenegger over Phil Angelides in 2006 - 61 percent - 34 percent. But in 2004, John Kerry narrowly carried the district over George W. Bush - 52 percent - 46 percent.

What the article doesn't note is that Obama carried the seat by 20 points last year. And if it is turnout they're concerned about, a candidate like John Laird will have no problem generating enthusiasm from progressives and Democrats across the state, who will gladly spend a late spring here on the Central Coast to put a good progressive in the State Senate.

More damning is the basic philosophy behind this "gee, winning the 15th is gonna be hard" nonsense. If Democrats are scared of winning a seat where they hold a 6 point registration advantage, a seat Obama won by 20 points, then they really have a serious problem providing the leadership this state needs.

Next year we'll hear Democratic legislators exhorting us to help them in other Assembly and Senate races, saying that we have to help them win 2/3rds. But by refusing to actually go for 2/3rds when given the chance, they're showing the California Democratic base that the Senate is fundamentally unserious about restoring majority rule.

The only conclusion one can draw from this is that Senate Democrats don't actually care about the 2/3rds rule. That they prefer the status quo to having to actually take the opportunities they are given and take a winnable seat, or to set up a hated rival (Maldonado) to spectacularly fail when he can't get elected Lt. Gov. next year.

UPDATE: The Courage Campaign, where I work as Public Policy Director, released this statement today on the Maldonado appointment:

"The best thing we can do right now is to remove Sen. Abel Maldonado from a position of importance where he can do great damage, the California State Senate, and place him in an irrelevant post, the Lt. Governor's office," said Rick Jacobs, Chair of the 700,000-member Courage Campaign. "For once, we agree with the Governor - Abel Maldonado should be demoted to Lt. Governor."
Robert Cruickshank :: I Guess They Don't Actually Want A 2/3 Majority
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Risk aversion. (0.00 / 0)
If the leaders of the party are so risk averse that the fear that the SD-15 is lost (so what, no net loss) and there's a warm body in California's bucket of spit office, then I don't think they have any business being in charge any more.

They are saying that their own personal careerist goals are more important than taking steps towards fixing our state, which is in huge, serious trouble.

The election wasting money is the stupidest thing I've heard. Democracy is now too expensive?? I thought we cut a lot of things in this state, but I guess elections are too expensive, so we'll just leave the incumbents there for life. I'm not sure what we'll do when they die. Can they leave their titles by devise or inheritance?

Fuck these people.

I am absolutely with you... (0.00 / 0)
This is getting ridiculous. And don't give me the "it's politics" crap. It's good politics to try to get a governing majority, so this can only be seen as self-serving. If they throw this away I am seriously going to re-consider my political affiliation. I want people to govern, damn it!

[ Parent ]
Let;s make a list of the rationales (0.00 / 0)
I hear risk aversion. How about:

1. It's the economy, stupid.  No one wants to talk spending when the majority of the citizens (voter) in California are operating at the subsistence level of Maslow's hierarchy, worried about their job, their home, their life savings.

2. Howard Jarvis Phobia.  If Social Security is the 3rd rail of national politics, Prop 13 and all of the other tax dodges is the equivalent in CA.  I have not heard a single incumbent in CA run for office on the basis of a total tax reform.

3. But I'm on the Corporate Dole. Even as I sort through the money politics of water, I find the influence to be far too strong, flowing from Billionaires like Stewart Resnick who would pollute CA water policy directly to Darrell Steinberg whose legislation gave Resnick almost all that he wanted.  Face it, even CA's weak campaign finance laws may soon become outlawed if Hillary, the Movie is identified as protected free speech rather than a campaign activity. I'll admit that one of the major reasons Greens lose is that Greens will not take corporate donations. So, be glad that Corporate Donations gave you Steinberg.


Changing CA, one open mind at a time.  

I'm just speechless (3.00 / 1)
If the Majority Leader is not spending every waking hour trying to figure out how to achieve a 2/3 majority, than it's time for a new Majority Leader.

A new majority leader? (0.00 / 0)
The only one I would trust is Wolk and she would never be allowed to come near that job.  

Changing CA, one open mind at a time.  

[ Parent ]
man, wolk would be phenomenal (0.00 / 0)
an extremely congenial person who stands for something.

[ Parent ]
LOLOL Try Again (0.00 / 0)
Check out who she supports for local office in her district.

[ Parent ]
local politics =/= state politics (0.00 / 0)
i have disagreed with her in several local races here in yolo county, but in sacramento she has done very, very well. it's a matter of context.

[ Parent ]
Ummmm no (4.50 / 2)
There's no "local context" for endorsing teabaggers.

[ Parent ]
Yep (4.00 / 1)
I go back to something Janice Hahn said to me in our interview: that Californians aren't disposed to elect state legislators to higher offices.

Hahn is already polling quite well. Florez is going to have his hands full just surviving the primary. So for him to give people another reason to dislike Senate Democrats and feel angry at them for refusing to lead is really quite self-defeating.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
what is the point (0.00 / 0)
why should I even bother voting for legislative officers any more if this is the kind of bland bullcrap they're gonna pull. They don't need my money and that whole "it'd be worse with the GOP in charge" thing doesn't fly. this IS as bad and they are as much accomplices in the destruction of the state as Arnie and his rabid attack dogs are.


Let's move beyond the myopia (0.00 / 0)
Okay, I certainly think getting the 2/3 majority in either House is important, but let me throw a dash of cold water on you. Sooner or later our friends in the GOP are going to figure out that nominating fringe candidate after fringe candidate for statewide office is the reason Democrats have had a stable lock on constitutional and federal office in California since 1998 (obviously with a few exceptions).

Maldo is young, handsome, charismatic, wealthy, telegenic and a Latino. Oh, and he sounds and acts like a moderate. He is exactly the kind of candidate they will need to be competitive in statewide races. And he's exactly the kind of candidate it will take for them to reemerge as the majority party in California, as he represents a fundamental departure from the angry conservative white male base of the California Republican Party.

Giving him statewide exposure as Lt. Governor would be, in short, a disaster. He could prove a very tough challenger to Feinstein in 2012, or succeed Brown in 2014. Are any of you considering this? Has this factored in at all? Don't be so fixated on the present crisis that you inadvertantly trade a tactical advantage they have (the minoritarian rule in California) for the strategic advantage we have (the ability of Democratic candidates to actually make it statewide).

Nothing in politics is static. Had Arnold not been so shortsighted in 2006 and actually gotten behind Abel, Maldo may very well be the state controller right now (esp. Since Arnold did so well with Latino voters--who constitute more than a small portion of Californians and certianly constitute the critical portion of Democratic strength in the seat). Arnold seems to have recongized his mistake; and sooner or later, the California Republican Party will no longer be controlled by its fascist base.

Let's not become so fixated on a small win today that we trade away our biggest advantage tomorrow.  

Even if this were true (0.00 / 0)
Do you really believe the Lt. Gov. office is more important than 2/3rds in the legislature?

Your theory only works if we ignore the fact that California is in full-scale meltdown, that winning 2/3rds in the legislature is the top priority of CA Dems, and that we should let fear of Abel freaking Maldonado hold us back from taking the grail. Your theory only works if you think the massive crisis engulfing California won't be used by Republicans to destroy existing centers of Democratic power.

To be clear, I do not see Maldonado as the formidable threat you do. He will struggle to win the GOP primary. If he does, he will be battered and bloodied and much poorer. Either Florez or Hahn should have no trouble finishing him off. If they can't, they don't deserve the office anyway.

This whole thinking is just sad and absurd. It suggests that we should all be afraid, be very afraid, of Abel Maldonado, that Democrats can never beat him, that we can't actually keep Latino voters on our side by making a strong case to them, that we can't win the big offices by making a strong case to the voters.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more your comment proves the rot at the core of the Sacramento Democratic caucus. If you're too scared to fight, then get out of the way and let we who are willing to fight do so.

I can't believe you're scared of Abel Maldonado. Wow.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
Your theory only makes sense if ... (0.00 / 0)
Maldonado survives a Republican primary challenge.  The GOP may eventually get smart, but for now they are still a bunch of right-wing Neanderthals who would rather be right than be in elected office.

Maldonado is not the only Republican State Senator with ambitions for that job.  Competing egos in the GOP may mean that he won't even get votes from the other side of the aisle.

[ Parent ]
Very funny (0.00 / 0)
When you said that Maldonado was "young, handsome, charismatic, wealthy, telegenic and a Latino" I was fairly sure this was a joke.  You confirmed it when you said that "He could prove a very tough challenger to Feinstein in 2012".

[ Parent ]
Myopia (0.00 / 0)
John -

I see where you are coming from, but you are putting identity politics far too high here.  What you are saying is that Latino voters will completely abandon Dems because one Republican has a last name that looks like theirs. As if there aren't a whole crowd of elected Latino Democratic leaders or something.

I think it is also kind of insulting to voters that we are so scared of Latino voters not seeing through the Abel-facade to the core Republican nativist/anti-immigrant ideology. Beyond that, Democrats have consistently worked with communities of color to not only organize but to actually bring change. There are two records here, one of ignoring the problems, and one of working to solve them. I think that voters will remember that when they go into the ballot box.

Beyond that, the GOP primary voters hate this guy.  A ballot designation isn't going to change that.

Finally, two words: Bruce McPherson. He was supposed to be Democrats' worst nightmare too, nominally "moderate" and all. He lost to Bowen while spending a lot of money to do it.

Nothing risked, nothing gained.  We're never going to change anything, if we don't break through our own fear.

I think?

[ Parent ]
I like McPherson (0.00 / 0)
he was my representative for a long time when I lived in Santa Cruz, and while I voted against him the first time he ran, I often voted for him for re-election. He's one of my favorite Republicans.

And yet I voted against him on one issue: electronic voting machines. Debra Bowen seemed to take seriously the issue of the threat the machines pose to the integrity of the voting process, and McPherson didn't.

[ Parent ]
John-- (0.00 / 0)
if Abel Maldonado were some sort of political rockstar, then I might agree with you.  But I don't think he is that.  First, the guy would have to win a GOP primary, which is no easy task.  And then he'd have to win statewide in a solidly Democratic state, likely against another woman or a Latino.  And that's just for Lieutenant Governor, much less for Senate or Governor.

The only reason the current crop of the GOP tolerates Whitman and Fiorina is because they have gazillions of dollars to throw at the race, and already the base is restless and up in arms.  I can't believe people seriously think that a Latino moderate has a shot in a Republican primary anywhere given the current complexion of the GOP.  And he doesn't need to be LTGov to run to replace Feinstein in 2012.

[ Parent ]
Maldonado lacks the talent (0.00 / 0)
Have any of you listened to Maldonado talk?  He lacks a grasp of basic issues.  He never beat a challenging opponent.  He isn't a great public speaker or campaigner, nor is he a savvy policymaker.  Under any real media attention, he will crumble.  The attitude of the Republican party or the California electorate as a whole is irrelevant- he just doesn't have what it takes.

Greg is right that some day the GOP may come around and nominate moderates.  They might even do it this cycle with Tom Campbell (you can argue about his moderation, but he certainly is intelligent and knowledgeable).  But they won't do it with Abel as their standard bearer.

[ Parent ]
they. don't. want. a. functioning. majority. (5.00 / 1)
the current setup gets them nice offices, corporate donations, and a ready excuse for never having to choose between contributors and voters. they can blame every failed attempt on republicans. they don;t want out of the tortuous comfy chair that is the 2/3 supermajority requirement.

Democrats would be stupid. (0.00 / 0)
That was the opinion of one talking head on ABC7News tonight.  The political analyst,Tony Quinn, seemed to side with Robert. I quote: "The Democrats would just be absolute idiots not to take this opportunity."

So, given that challenge, I would guess that they will prove Quinn right.  

Changing CA, one open mind at a time.  

Let Maldanado be LG - Hahn will win seat in 2010 (5.00 / 1)
As was mentioned, the GOP will eat their own in a primary.  Let Abel be LG for a little while. Janice Hahn is a great campaigner and is someone Dems of all stripes can get behind.

I agree with others that we must push our leadership to lead.  And we should push them to increase our majority by going after the Senate seat.

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