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.
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.
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.