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Jon Fleischman

Random Thoughts On The California Political Scene

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– My family has just recently returned from an extended post-election vacation to the Island of Oahu, in Hawaii.  While we were there, we took a trip to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.  So many Americans lost their lives that fateful Sunday morning, December 7, 1941.  When a survivor of the Arizona passes away, their family may choose to have them “buried” at the Memorial, to rejoin the crew.  If so, they are cremated and navy divers drop the urn with the ashes into the ship.  The soldier’s name is then added to the memorial wall.

–  Congratulations to the many readers of the FlashReport who were elected, or re-elected to part-time local office.  We encourage all of you to remember that part-time office should not come with taxpayer funded health-care and pensions, but many local governments offer them.  You can and should turn them down.

There are a number of factors that have left Republicans in the super-minority in the State Assembly.  But for a big one, look no further than the deep pockets of wealthy heir Charles Munger, Jr.  Back in June, Munger spent over a half-million dollars trying to take out incumbent GOP Assemblyman Allan Mansoor in Orange County – presumably because Mansoor didn’t pass some sort of litmus test applied by Munger.  The Orange County Republican community collectively spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and blew Munger’s chosen candidate out of the water.  Fast forward to the November election, where incumbent Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby narrowly was defeated in his re-election bid.  Unfortunately, due to Munger’s June play, resources that would have been available to come to Norby’s aide had already been spent.  Democrats now have a super-majority by one vote.

–  Since the election I have seen a number of columns from folks giving their assessment on what the GOP needs to do to fare better in future elections.  Many such pieces call on the GOP to throw overboard party opposition to gay marriage, abortion, and/or illegal immigration.  I would actually welcome a column for this site on any of these, authored by someone who, prior to the election, was very clearly and publicly against gay marriage, pro-life, or against amnesty for illegal aliens.  It seems like these arguments have largely been coming from people who already do not agree with the party on these public policy issues…

–  After the election it seems like a host of state legislators went off on junkets all around the world, from Maui in Hawaii to Brazil in South America.  These “educational” trips help add to public cynicism of the legislature.  For the most part, special interests with matters before the legislature drop money into non-profit corporations that, in turn, “sponsor” the trips (and send their lobbyists and executives).  I reserve special “eye rolling” for those legislators who proudly proclaim, “But I am paying for the trip myself!” – but then pay for the trip with campaign funds, largely made up of contributions from those same special interests.  If there is a legislator who went on one of these trips, and actually paid their total costs out of pocket, let me know and we’ll hold you up as the rare exception.

– Within hours of the November election Assembly Republicans gathered (with seniors absent, and incoming freshmen in their place) and re-elected Connie Conway as their leader.  I have no reason not to believe that in early December when they caucus, Senate Republicans will re-elect Bob Huff.  This is somewhat eyebrow raising because in years past, as sure as the sun rises in the East, a GOP leader who loses seats in the election would step down from leadership, offering someone else the chance to run.   I like both of these folks just fine, and have no dog in the hunt.  But it’s notable just the same.  Once upon a time, the winning or losing elections was the entire metric on which leaders were assessed.  Both caucuses will need to focus on the best path towards picking up seats in 2014 — and they will have plenty of time to do so.  It’s also worth noting that at the national level it appears that the RNC is going to re-elect Chairman Reince Preibus.  California GOP Chairman Tom Del Becarro announced weeks before the election that he would not be seeking a second term.

– When each legislative chamber convenes to elect their leader next week, one important action that Republicans can take is actually putting forward Huff and Conway as candidates for Senate President Pro-Tem and Assembly Speaker, respectively.  This will allow all GOP legislators the ability to proudly vote for their party’s standard-bearer, and also send an important message that despite being diminished in numbers, Republicans are not out for the count, and will stand tall.  A reminder that in Congress each session each party puts forward their own candidate for Speaker, even though the winner of that contest is preordained.  But each caucus retains its pride.  Did you know that one GOP legislator had their vote for a Democrat Speaker used against them in a campaign?

–  Respected political analyst and columnist Michael Barone in his most recent column points out that while we will have split control of our federal government between Republicans and Democrats, in a great many states, one party rule will be the order of the day.  Specifically he notes that, “Starting next month, Americans in 25 states will have Republican governors and Republicans in control of both houses of the state legislatures.  They aren’t small states, either.  They include about 53 percent of the nation’s population.  At the same time, Americans in 15 states will have Democratic governors and Democrats in control of both houses of the state legislatures.  They include about 37 percent of the nation’s population.  This leaves only 10 percent in states in which neither party is in control…”

Barone says of the Golden State, “In California, voters just gave Democrats two-thirds majorities in both houses and a tax increase, as well.  We’ll see if their policies help California reduce its dismally high unemployment and resolve its enormous pension underfunding…”