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Political Malpractice By Don Perata

by: David Dayen

Wed May 07, 2008 at 22:48:03 PM PDT


Don Perata has no ability to end the recall, mind you, but in his mind he's done it.

First off, let's say that I'm happy to have been on the right side of Prop. 93, the outcome of which will send Don Perata into the sunset.  What a laughable bit of incompetence this is.

Let's start with the fact that he doesn't get to say what's on the ballot and what's not.  The authoritarian style of "what I say goes" is the only thing that would've doomed this otherwise perfectly justifiable recall of a legislator who forgot his district and went along with an obstructionist GOP that is harming the state to a severe degree.  A real Senate leader would have broadened the race into a referendum on state Republicans and would have done very well.  You either do something like this full-speed or you never start it in the first place.  This half-step just furthers the narrative of Democratic weakness.

Combined with the stab in the back on SD-15, where Perata demanded that nobody contest Abel Maldonado in another winnable seat, the Senate Pro Tem has assured that there is no way we reach a 2/3 majority in 2008.  It's still possible by 2010, but this is a wave election, a realignment year and we're waving the white flag in two prime Senate races.  That's just stupid politics.  I appreciate the need to speed along the budget; the state is broke.  But this recall is over by June 3, and it's not like everything's going to be wrapped up by then.  And the stupidest part is that Perata RECOGNIZES that the threat of the recall was helping provide leverage for the Republicans.

In a statement, Perata credited the recall for recent legislation that passed out of the Senate:

"The vote we couldn't get last year to close the tax loophole for yacht owners -- we got that vote," he said. "The vote we couldn't get to help homeowners facing foreclosure - we got that vote. You put everyone here on notice -- and I don't think people are going to forget that anytime soon."

No, you now let everyone off the hook because you've proven you can be bullied by a Republican hissy fit and tut-tuts from the conventional wisdom crowd in the media.  No Republican will EVER take a Democratic threat seriously in the near future, crippling the leadership of Darrell Steinberg.  And all the leverage on getting legislation passed in the Senate just ended.

Great friggin' job, Don.  If you want to just go ahead and quit now and let any stray cat from Berkeley finish out your term, that'd be just fine with me.

...the thought has crossed my mind that Perata is just taking his name and aura off the recall because it'd be easier to pass without him, but if any organization associated with him donated a dime there'd be an even bigger hissy fit cry of "hypocrite," so his dropping the recall really signals a drop of any financial infusion, and I'm not seeing how Simon Salinas or the Dump Denham group will raise the necessary funds (especially considering that Denham is not restricted by any fundraising limits in a recall).

David Dayen :: Political Malpractice By Don Perata
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I have always had the sense (0.00 / 0)
and said so this morning actually that Perata was doing this half-assed.  He never seemed to be fully committed.

This is somewhat of a surprise to me given that people I have talked to both in the know politically and those working on this race this week never gave the hint that something like this would transpire.

He certainly got everyone fired up and IEs going.  Now he is leaving them high and dry.


The way this went down is odd, too (0.00 / 0)
The SacBee articles made it sound like Perata met with Cogdill today and suddenly decided he didn't want to back the recall any more. Almost as if it was something he'd just decided on his own a few hours earlier because Cogdill had sweet-talked him.

He personally may not have seemed fully committed, I always had the same impression too, but the actual on the ground campaign was real and full-bore. The district has been blanketed with ads - last night as I drove to Salinas it was hard to not hear them as I scanned radio stations - so to the voter who doesn't know much at all about Sacramento politics this looked as real as it gets.

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


[ Parent ]
Apparently (0.00 / 0)
people were headed to phone banks when they got the word.  There was no advance notice whatsoever, and for all I know they kept phonebanking.  Randy Bayne had that tidbit.

[ Parent ]
Not apparently... (8.00 / 1)
...they were already getting ready to start calling. They were told to pack it in and go home, that the recall was off.

Later, I heard that one of the principle organizers of the recall was going to continue and that recall supporters would just have to work harder now.

Bottom line; Perata can't end it. All he can do is stop his funding, which is obviously substantial and damages the campaign, but the campaign will go on. Ballots are in the mail. It's a little late to change course now.

I can attest that Perata was never fully in it. Campaign sources have told me that they never expected to get enough signatures and just wanted to shake up Denham and the Reeps. The didn't have a candidate lined up because they didn't think they needed one. That almost ended the campaign then and there. At the last minute, literally, they were able to convince Simon Salinas to run.

This was headed for success for the Democrats, but perhaps it's just as well. I'm still not convinced this is the best use of the recall. Still, it would be nice to have another Democrat in the Senate.


[ Parent ]
It's Ridiculous (0.00 / 0)
He's ending the campaign for the recall and for what?

He didn't get anything out of it.  He unilaterally gave up because a few Republicans cried that it wasn't fair like this is a kindergarten playground game.  But politics isn't a game for little kids--it's serious business that impacts the lives of millions of people.

My Blog, The Watchtower


It's completely absurd. (8.00 / 1)
Like Dave this makes me glad I voted against Prop 93 - Perata needs to go, and I'm not sure I want to wait until August 21 for Steinberg's ascension given that budget negotiations are about to begin in earnest.

What Perata has done is sent a signal to Democrats across the state that he'll turn on them without any warning, and that there are no two way loyalties. Not exactly the right signal to send ahead of the most difficult budget negotiations this state has ever faced.

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


[ Parent ]
well, at least the cognitive dissonance is resolved (8.00 / 1)
for a moment there, i thought the majority leader had decided to play some hardball for a change.

back to familiar territory.


The question now is... (8.00 / 2)
...whether Simón Salinas will be able to continue, if he wanted to, and whether the loss of Perata's funding can be made up elsewhere.

Your analysis of how this undercuts Democrats in the Legislature is spot-on. Perata has signaled he can be turned easily, and that he will not withstand Republican attacks. The GOP has been signaling for months their intention to resist any new revenues, and Perata now has undermined his ability to credibly resist that - Republicans can just wait a little longer with a reasonable expectation that he'll eventually give in.

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


this does not bode well for the summer budget negotiations (8.00 / 1)
now that i think about it.

[ Parent ]
No guts no glory! (8.00 / 1)
I think the Republicans wanted to fight this fight. If they beat back the recall then they could go up can down the state saying bring it on, our voters don't want new taxes.

Perata blinked, he couldn't stand there and take the chance of losing. So he rolled over.  


i was in Stanislaus last night... (5.00 / 1)
With a dozen local political leaders and activists.

To say the frustration and anger was palpable would be an understatement.

What struck me more than anything was how folks found out the recall had been "called off"... While phone banking for the recall, voters they were talking to said "haven't you heard the news..."

And we wonder why so many activist Democrats feel dissed...

I suspect we have not heard the last of this...

Eric C. Bauman


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