After a day of headache-induced number-crunching I hoped I'd have better news to report today, but it appears Speaker Perez and Sacramento Democrats are still prioritizing the reelection of safe incumbents over achieving a two-thirds super majority in the California Assembly
Democrats currently enjoy a majority in both the Assembly and the State Senate, but would have to pick up at least two more seats in each chamber to achieve the super-majority needed to pass revenue increases over the objections of an obstructionist Republican minority.
Yet campaign finance reports reveal that Speaker Perez, Sacramento Democratic lawmakers and state and county Democratic campaign committees have spent nearly half a million dollars more defending two safe democratic seats this election cycle than they have in defending a Los Angeles coastal district against a possible Tea Party takeover.
After the June primary however, Sacramento finally began investing in Muratsuchi's campaign, donating $967K to help defeat opponent Craig Huey. Clearly, a huge improvement, but will it be enough? The most recent campaign finance reports show Muratsuchi and Huey are almost dead even in the amount of cash they have on hand.
Eric Bauman, Vice-Chair of the California Democratic Party, says the AD66 race is the party's "number one" priority. And if you compare these three races in isolation, that statement is correct.
The bigger problem, however, is Perez and Sacramento Democrats aren't making a two-thirds majority their "number one" priority at all. Not when they're spending $500K more on two absolutely safe Democratic seats than they are to defend a competitive swing-district seat that could fall under Republican control.
Sacramento responds via Twitter. Steve Maviglio is a Democratic political consultant for John Perez, former Deputy Chief of Staff to Speakers Karen Bass and Fabian Nunez, and former press secretary to Gov. Gray Davis.
@venice4change U should really ask the Dem candidates in hot Assembly races if the speaker is "doing enuf". Your blog is dead wrong.
With 100% of precincts reporting, the race for the 50th Assembly District ended with an upset, with community organizer Torie Osborn ending up in third place, and the Democratic Mayor of Santa Monica, Richard Bloom and Democratic Assemblywoman Betsy Butler surviving the June primary - only to face each other again in November.
Butler squeaked into first place by only 102 votes.
Her boss, Assembly Speaker John Perez, spent over a million dollars to get Butler those votes. But while he was busy waging a war against Torie Osborn in AD50, he lost the war for AD66, and ultimately the 2/3rds majority Democrats desperately needed to break Republican obstruction in Sacramento.
Let me explain.
The Democratic candidate in AD66, Al Muratsuchi, came in first against his Republican opponents and will face off against millionaire Republican Craig Huey in the fall. But while good news for Democrats in the short-run, the numbers look dismal for Muratsuchi in November.
With 100% of precincts reporting,Muratsuchi garnered 22,000 votes while his Republican opponents Huey and Nathan Mintz combined received nearly 33,000 votes. Mintz will certainly endorse Huey, so expect Republican voters to fall in line for the general election.
What that means in real-world terms is that while Sacramento squandered it's resources in AD50, there was nothing left over to help South Bay activists register voters or build any infrastructure to get out the vote. It's a deficit that, even if corrected now, will haunt the district through the fall.
What remains to be seen is if Perez will bother to correct that deficit at all. In fact, it's far more likely he will continue this destructive pattern into the general election.
Victory in November isn't assured for Butler. By all accounts, she proved to be a terrible campaigner in the AD50 race, relying almost entirely on Sacramento's largess to get her through the June primary. It's anyone's guess as to how she will do against Bloom, who has the advantage of real - not manufactured - incumbency in the district.
As Sacramento contemplates even more draconian cuts to education, healthcare, social services and environmental protection, the legacy of these two races will be a stunning indictment of Assembly Speaker John Perez's lack of leadership.
Last week, I wrote about the negative attack mailer sent by Torie Osborn against incumbent Assemblywoman Betsy Butler on education and the state budget: http://santamonica.patch.com/b...
The mailer which aims to confuse voters, has sparked a response from education leaders and unions. Wait, a union supporting someone who caves to Republicans? Yes, that's because Torie Osborn's mailer is not telling the whole story. The state budget that Betsy voted for was the same one that every single Democrat voted including the only two Assembly members who support Torie (Julia Brownley* & Cathleen Galgiani). However, Torie only aims fire at Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, why? Because it is convenient for Torie to do and because it is election time! I agree, the Budget is a mess but it is not fair to attack and blame Betsy for it. She has only been there for a little over a year and California's budget woes go back a long, long time.
Kathryn Lybarger, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, which represents University of California workers, hits back in a written statement given to LA Weekly:
"The mischaracterization of Assemblywoman Butler's support of education was taken right out of Karl Rove's Republican playbook. This swift boat attack is false, misleading and says nothing about the fact that Republicans were responsible for the cuts in this budget and refused to let voters decide on additional revenues. Assemblywoman Butler has been the legislature's top educations ally."
Mitra Moassessi, president of the Santa Monica College Faculty Association who has endorsed Betsy Butler, told the LA Weekly:
"Assemblywoman Butler stood up to Republicans and voted to protect our community colleges from devastating cuts that would have denied access to thousands of students to community college. Her continued progressive stance on education funding is why Assemblywoman Butler is endorsed by the Santa Monica Community College Faculty."
Allan Clark, president of California School Employees Association, adds,
"This attack on Assemblywoman Butler's budget vote could not be farther from the truth. The Democratic budget was passed only after Republican leaders refused to put up one vote for a compromise budget, because the cuts weren't big enough."
The bigger question here (and not asked in Torie's mailer) is this: Would Torie vote with Democrats (just like Betsy Butler) for Governor Brown's budget or would she have joined the Republicans in opposing it? According to Torie Osborn's own press release given to the LA Weekly, she would have:
"If I'd been in the Assembly, I'd have stood up against these cuts and voted no."
Democratic voters in the 50th Assembly District: The only Assemblymembers that voted "no" for the Democratic budget presented by Governor Brown were Assembly Republicans. Is Torie Osborn really telling this District that she would have joined Republican Assemblymembers and opposed the budget presented by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown? A fair question.
Meanwhile, education leaders continue to line up in support of Butler's re-election campaign in the 50th Assembly District. California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, announced his endorsement of Assemblymember Betsy Butler a few months ago:
"We need leadership and commitment to education and Assemblymember Butler has demonstrated her ability to address the tough challenges our public schools face. Like me, Betsy wants to ensure that every child has a safe environment in which to learn and that our teachers and school professionals have the resources they need to effectively prepare our children for success in the 21st century."
In addition to Tom Torlakson's endorsement, Los Angeles Unified School Board Member Marguerite LaMotte has also endorsed Asm. Betsy Butler's re-election campaign. And just recently, the Los Angeles Community College Trustees endorsed Asm. Betsy Butler in her re-election campaign for Assembly. You have a choice on June 5th, to re-elect a progressive champion to the Assembly or someone who will do and say anything to win an Assembly seat. I hope you vote for Betsy Butler.
*Assemblywoman Julia Brownley has dual endorsed Betsy Butler and Torie Osborn
To review, thanks to redistricting and a new "open primary" system, Democrats have a realistic shot in 2012 at picking up the two seats in the Assembly needed to achieve a 2/3rds Democratic super-majority and overcome obstruction from Republicans. Without that super-majority, things will continue to deteriorate in Sacramento, with Democrats forced to make draconian cuts to education and the social safety net instead of finding ways to raise revenue to balance the California budget.
"California voter approval of the Democratic-controlled legislature slinks along between 9 and 20 percent in recent Los Angeles Times and Field polls," writes former state Senator Tom Hayden in the Nation magazine. "Despite Democratic majorities in both houses and control of all statewide offices, the Democratic Party seems chronically unable to deliver the minimum that voters want from their government: results. College tuitions keep rising, and college doors keep closing. School funding keeps declining. Wetlands and redwoods keep disappearing. Billions spent on mass transit do not reduce congestion and air pollution. To a disillusioned majority, all the Sacramento fights appear to be about slowing the rate of California's decline"
Yet Democratic leadership and PACs donated over a million dollars to two "incumbent" Assembly members running in super-safe Democratic districts while virtually ignoring other seats in swing districts (source ca.sos.gov)
Mike Allen in AD10 (+35 democratic voter registration) and Betsy Butler in AD50(+33 democratic) together received 5x more money than Al Muratsuchi - a non-incumbent Democrat running in AD66 (+3 democratic) against two better-known and well-funded Republicans.
He has received no money from the California State Democratic Party, while Allen and Butler combined have received over a $100K.
Eric Bauman, Vice Chair of the California Democratic Party, believes it's a non-issue.
"Let's not get caught up in misunderstanding or distorting the challenge. Muratsuchi's race is a November race, not a June race - rest assured he'll be fully resourced in the general election."
Rick Jacobs, founder of the California Courage Campaign, disagreed, raising concerns that throwing resources at safe Democratic seats would damage the CDP's credibility with grassroots activists.
"So then comes the question as to why, given priorities statewide, the leadership raises and spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in AD 50. How does that inspire people to work hard and raise money for 2/3?"
Susie Shannon who serves on the Executive Board of the CDP Progressive Caucus was similarly incredulous. "How do they expect to raise money from the grassroots in the future if they are just going to whittle it away on safe Democatic seats? Any way you slice it, the (money) spent on the Butler primary could have been saved for the Marutsuchi general election to defeat the Republican candidate, or any number of more productive endeavors. I would rather see this money going to overtime pay for the overworked CDP staffers."
The question now is what happens after June 5th if "incumbent" Assembly democrats Butler and Allen end up running against "non-incumbent" Democrats in November instead of Republicans.
Will Democratic candidates facing Republicans in other districts be, as Bauman promises, "fully resourced"? Or will Butler and Allen continue to take the lion's share of Sacramento's and the CDP's pie?
"I would venture many thousands will be spent to support the candidates endorsed by the CDP, and that includes Butler and Allen," said Bauman.
"The CDP and (Speaker John Perez's) priorities should be to make sure we have 2/3 majority so we could actually accomplish some important things like generating revenue, " said Agi Kessler, a delegate to the California Democratic Party and chair of the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley.
Concerned that party leadership would waste money on Democrat-on-Democrat races throughout the state, Kessler and other democratic party activists circulated a petition at the CDP convention asking Assembly Speaker Perez to prioritize winning a legislative super-majority when allocating limited resources. They submitted nearly 300 signatures from fellow delegates.
"As of today we've received no response from the Speaker or anyone in his office", said Kessler.
Assemblymember Betsy Butler today announced the endorsement of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project LA County Action Fund. As women and families continue to face cuts on health care and family planning funding, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project LA County Action Fund is the organization leading efforts to ensure all women have access to affordable and quality reproductive choice.
"Assemblymember Butler is an extraordinary advocate for women and families throughout California. We know that with her leadership, women will always have a fighter who can deliver on her promises," said Sue Dunlap, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project LA County Action Fund. "We have worked closely with Assemblymember Butler in her first term in the Assembly, as well as for decades prior to her service in elected office. We are honored to endorse her for re-election and look forward to continuing our partnership and effort to ensure women and families have access to affordable health care.
"Over the last two and a half decades, Assemblymember Butler has fought to protect reproductive rights and ensure equality for women on a number of issues, including pay equity, accessibility to healthcare, education and home, child and elder care. Betsy is a past President of the LA Westside Chapter of the National Women's Political Caucus and is endorsed by NWPC California, as well as the Women's Political Committee.
"As long as I am in elected office, I will guarantee that funding for women's health and family planning will always be protected," said Assemblymember Betsy Butler. "Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project LA County Action Fund impacts millions of women and families across California and I am honored to stand as their partner to ensure everyone has the care they need and deserve."
Assemblymember Butler has focused on fighting for consumers, advocating for working families and protecting the environment. In the State Assembly, she serves on the Assembly Budget Committee, the Budget Sub Committee on Resources and Transportation, the Committees on Business and Professions; Education; Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media; and Rules.
Tenant advocacy and affordable housing proponents in the 50th Assembly District say Betsy Butler's endorsement by a powerful anti-rent control group sows "doubt and mistrust" for her candidacy, and raises serious concerns about her commitment to protecting tenant rights.
"In her first term in the state Legislature, Assemblymember Butler has demonstrated a genuine understanding of the challenges facing the owners and managers of rental housing in California and has always taken a balanced approach to dealing with legislation affecting the industry," said the association's Executive Director, James Clarke.
In the mid 70s, when Howard Jarvis was our Executive Director and vaunted Tax Reform Campaigner, we passed Proposition 13. In the mid 90s, our Sacramento Lobbyist, Steve Carlson helped draft and pass the Costa-Hawkins Law that protects our members (allowing rent increases upon vacancies) and saving the businesses of countless owners in Santa Monica and West Hollywood and apartment owners across the state from the worst most unreasonable unfair rent control laws.
"This endorsement and your apparent enthusiasm for it will certainly sow doubt and mistrust for your candidacy among the renter voters of Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles." SMRR co-chairs Patricia Hoffman and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein wrote to Butler in reaction to the candidate's press release.
"AAGLA endorsements are based on the candidates they believe would be more supportive of landlord issues and will vote on bills of concern to them," said Larry Gross, executive director of CES. "They clearly believe that Betsy is a better candidate for landlords than (her opponents). This is a very important factor that tenants should keep in mind when they cast their ballots on election day in the 50th district Assembly race."
So here's my question for Betsy Butler. At what point did you decide you were running against me, Marta Evry, a part-time blogger, and not the three other candidates whose names will appear on the June 5th primary ballot for the 50th Assembly District race?
Does the author link to candidate Torie Osborn's website? Or to the LA Weekly article about the 8,000 plastic baby bottles you dumped on district voters, an article which quotes candidate Richard Bloom as saying your team "is 'milking' her BPA legislation for all its worth."?
No, instead she links to an articleI wrote about the environmental concerns raised by district voters regarding those 8,000 foreign-made plastic baby bottles.
Also, imagine my surprise when I heard my name mentioned in the KCAL-TV follow up to the same baby bottle story. Why? Because the "reporter" for the story never bothered to contact me. But he was more than happy to take your word for it that a part-time blogger was somehow able to bully (there's that word again) a sitting Assembly member with a war chest of half a million dollars.
Betsy Butler's first campaign mailer of the 50th Assembly District election is the talk of the town. But not in a way the candidate hoped or intended.
That's because Betsy Butler's "mailers" weren't mailed at all. Instead, they were wrapped around thousands of Mexican-made plastic baby bottles and hand-delivered by paid canvassers.
Reports of Betsy Butler's baby bottle mailers started yesterday, when reports started flooding in of bottles mysteriously showing up on the doorsteps of voters all over Santa Monica.
Presumably, Butler chose to introduce herself to the 50th Assembly district via plastic baby bottles as a clever way to tout her involvement in a California law banning BPA from plastic baby bottles and sippy cups.
But whatever Butler's intentions, voters in the district were universally taken aback by the gimmicky mailers.
"When I came home, my first thought was it some sort of product placement," said Rick Moore, who lives in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Santa Monica. He didn't realize it was a campaign mailer until he took a closer look. "It's just an odd thing to receive as a 59 year-old man. I mean, does she think this is the next stop for me?"
Abby Arnold, a voter in Santa Monica's Ocean Park neighborhood was equally flummoxed. "I don't have a baby. What am I going to do with a baby bottle except throw it away?"
One voter in the Wilmont neighborhood voiced similar concerns, writing in an email, "Clearly, the Butler campaign addressed a bottle for every unit in my (11-unit) building. This struck me as extremely wasteful, and since I don't have kids and live in a small apartment, I'm now confronted with the task of figuring out what to do with it."
James Haygood of Sunset Park believes that Butler's mailer sends the wrong message to voters, "Little things do matter. Leaving a bunch of plastic junk around the neighborhood definitely tweaks the sensibilities of people here that know that dealing with environmental issues means a lot of people doing a lot of little things."
Another voter who lives north of Wilshire Blvd. voiced surprise that a candidate reportedly endorsed by the California League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club would dump so much plastic into the district, plastic which would more than likely end up in the trash.
"This is just bizarre. It's wrong. (CLCV and the Sierra Club) ought to look at how much landfill she's taking up."
Indeed, recycling statistics complied by Cal Recycle seem to validate this concern. The recycling rates for polypropylene plastics (the type of plastic the baby bottle mailers are made out of) is abysmally low, hovering around 5%.
"That's not a very green message," Rick Moore reiterated.
Democratic candidates normally go to great lengths to make sure any campaign materials, including mailers and lawn signs, are locally manufactured by union shops. The issue could prove particularly problematic for Butler, who's received tens of thousands of dollars in union PAC money.
"We always look for the union label on any printed materials a candidate hands out," said Arnold. "It lets me know that keeping good manufacturing jobs in California is a priority for them."
Evenflo, the company which manufactures the bottles Butler chose to use, could in an of itself also prove problematic for the candidate.
The company agreed in 2009 to stop using BPA in plastic baby bottles sold domestically (two years before Butler's BPA legislation was signed into law), yet quietly continued to ship plastic bottles made with BPA to other countries. The company has also been repeatedly (and successfully) sued for marketing defective products. In 2007, a jury awarded $10.4 million to the parents of a four month old boy who died of head injuries sustained in a car crash while riding in a defective Evenflo car seat. In 2008, the company had to recall a million child restraint seats when it turned out their seats could break off and fly around inside the car during collisions as slow as 38 mph.
The irony of Butler wrapping campaign literature touting her union and consumer protection endorsements around thousands of Mexican-made plastic bottles from a company with a track record of marketing products harmful to children was not lost on Arnold, the voter in Ocean Park.
"This is a highly informed, politically aware district. You can't fool us."
If Betsy Butler was hoping the baby bottle mailers would make an impression on voters, it can safely be said she's achieved her goal. It certainly made an impression on the Wilmont voter whose apartment building was targeted by the campaign.
"I was undecided on who to vote for in the election until I received Butler's baby bottle." she wrote, "Then I scratched her off my list."
During campaign season, it's expected for politicians to set up their headquarters in the district. Not only does it make the campaign and the candidate accessible to his or her own constituents but also gives back to the district's business community.
So, while Butler may not have done anything illegal by setting up shop outside the district, she certainly hasn't done herself any favors.
The open house, which takes place this Saturday, also happens to fall on the first day of Passover, this even though AD50 is the center of Los Angeles' Jewish community.
Democratic activists hoping for big gains in the California legislature this year were dealt a serious blow after campaign finance reports released last Thursday raised troubling questions about Assembly Speaker John Perez's strategic priorities and the California Democratic Party's ability to achieve a two-thirds majority in the State Senate and Assembly.
Democrats would have to pick up at least two more seats in each chamber to achieve the super-majority needed to pass revenue increases over the objections of a Republican minority.
Yet campaign finance reports reveal that Speaker Perez, Sacramento Democratic lawmakers and PACs donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to safe Democratic Assembly districts while virtually ignoring new "swing" districts or defending others against possible Republican pickups.
Records also show that most of these donations were given to Allen and Butler during a three-week period last December, and that many Democratic Assemblymembers who donated did not give money to any other Assembly campaigns. The timing suggests a coordinated and conscious effort from leadership to funnel money to these candidates at the expense of other candidates running in more competitive districts.
But as Butler and Allen enjoy the largess of their colleagues in Sacramento while running in districts so safe a Democratic corpse could win, two other candidates running in swing districts which could potentially lead to Democratic super-majorities enjoy no such protection.
Even Democratic State Senator Ted Lieu, whose district overlaps much of AD66, gave $1,000 to Butler, but nothing so far to Muratsuchi.
Additionally, while PACs - including the Professional Engineers in California Government, the State Building & Construction Trades Council and the California State Council of Laborers - gave over $300,000 to Butler and Allen, many of them presumably at Perez's direction, Muratsuchi received only $11,900 in PAC money, including $1,000 from the California League of Conservation Voters - $6,800less than they gave to Betsy Butler.
Grassroots activists in Assembly District 50 received a hard lesson in "Incumbent-Protection 101" this weekend. Despite losing every Democratic Club endorsement in the district, candidate (and current 53rd AD Assembly member) Betsy Butler managed to get 57% of the vote at yesterday's California Democratic Party "pre-endorsement" caucus, beating her opponent, Torie Osborn, who had won the support of every local club who voted to endorse, often by overwhelming margins.
Every year, CDP delegates meet a few weeks before their yearly state convention to "pre-endorse" (aka recommend) Democratic candidates they believe are worthy of their party's institutional support.
Candidates who received between 50% and 70% of the votes at their local weekend meeting are now eligible for, but not guaranteed of, the state Democratic party's seal of approval at the February convention. And if no one received at least 50% of the votes, Dems won't offer any endorsement in that legislative or congressional primary.
(And don't even ask me the rules for how Democrats in these local party meetings gained eligibility to vote. Instructions from IKEA make more sense.)
Again, these meetings and subsequent endorsements are notable because of the brave new world of party primaries, ushered in by 2010's Proposition 14 top-two system. It's a world unsettled, too, by new district maps that have left more open seats than at any time in recent history.
As such, a number of Democratic candidates are scrambling for an advantage. And the gold standard is thought (by many) to be the official "Democratic Party candidate" come June.
Theoretically at least, the delegates voting in these caucuses are supposed to be from the home district of the candidate they're voting to endorse. And actually, the delegates themselves are. However, the politicians who "own" these delegates don't have to be.
Only about a third of CDP delegates are elected by popular vote. The other two-thirds are appointed by politicians or elected by Central Committees. And in contested races like the one for the 50th Assembly District, delegates can be traded amongst politicians like playing cards.
That's exactly what happened yesterday in the AD50 pre-endorsement caucus.
Of the 64 votes Butler received, 5 of those came from delegates she herself appointed. Forty-two delegates were assigned by Assembly Speaker John Perez, who pulled them from assembly members in districts as far away as San Francisco and Riverside.
Torie Osborn, on the other hand, not being an elected official, could not assign herself delegates. The numerous Democratic club endorsements she secured weren't particularly helpful either, since party rules severely limited the number of delegates they're allotted. Some endorsing clubs weren't eligible to send delegates at all.
Dorothy Reik, President of the Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains - one of the clubs endorsing Osborn - attended the pre-endorsement caucus.
"John Heaner, the chair of the 13th District who was running the meeting, tried to claim that other electeds had a stong interest in our district and had sent the delegates on their own." said Reik,"That is ridiculous. Those delegates were not even in the room for the most part. What should have been an example of local democracy in action turned into a farce."
Butler failed to get the 70% needed for unanimous consent at the CDP convention, so she'll have to wait until February for another endorsement vote at the convention to seal the deal. It's entirely possible grassroots activists won't let this go without a fight, and could organize to block Butler's endorsement.
But such moves are rare, success rarer still. The grassroots are woefully underrepresented at the State Convention, the delegation an almost perfect microcosm of Sacramento itself - insular, inclined to protect the status quo and resistant to overcoming institutional inertia.
But in the age of "occupy", grassroots activists seem less willing than ever to put up with the status quo. As one young Osborn supporter put it, "Folks in Sacramento should take note that AD50 supports Torie Osborn without a doubt,and will fight to make her voice heard"
Fasten your seat belts, kids, this could be a bumpy ride.