Monday, May 23, 2011

Gone Fishin'

Venice For Change is going to take a break to relax and recharge. But don't worry, we'll be back with the snarky political and election coverage you've come to dread and expect in no time!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Janice Hahn Won The Battle In 2011. Could She Lose The War In 2012?

What you're about to read won't be an exercise in sour grapes. (I got that out of my system days ago. To my friends on Facebook who talked me off the ledge, a sincere thank you :)

The candidate I supported, Debra Bowen, lost fair and square to a better-funded candidate with far more institutional support and a well thought-out strategic path to victory.

Janice Hahn is unequivocally our best choice now to represent us in CA-36.

Her competitor, Tea Party Republican Craig Huey, is a nasty piece of work. Fortunately for us, Janice Hahn and our union allies have the resources to make sure he won't get elected in 2011.

However, 2012, after CA-36 is redistricted, might be a different story altogether. That's why I'm writing this final piece on the election.

To better understand what might happen in 2012, I first need to tell you how we got here, and how Janice Hahn's strategic choices, coupled with Marcy Winograd's ego, may have created a perfect storm in which to bring a previously unknown Tea Party candidate to national prominence.

Splitting the Vote

Back in February, when Bowen announced she'd compete with Hahn to replace Jane Harman as our congress member, Hahn's number one priority was to get Marcy Winograd in the race. Not only did Winograd have significant name recognition after running two unsuccessful campaigns against Jane Harman, her base of support drew from the same pool of voters Bowen would need to win - progressives who lived north of LAX.

So Hahn's campaign used a story that appeared in the Jewish Journal, "Harman's departure: what does it mean for Jews?" to manufactured a narrative of concern for the district's Jewish community about Jane Harman's potential replacement in congress. I say manufactured, because the article itself expressed no such concerns, concluding,

Harman's departure may mean one less Jewish player in the game, but the impact of that loss on Jewish influence will likely be negligible. While the landscape for Jewish politics in the next two years includes fewer safe districts for Jewish elected officials, the community can be assured of holding sway on numerous fronts as its high level of civic involvement continues to stand out in the city and region.

But that hardly mattered to Hahn, who just needed an excuse to create a wedge between Winograd and Bowen.

Using the article as a launching pad, Hahn's campaign demanded that Debra Bowen sign on to a pro-Israel "pledge" genetically designed to ram a red-hot poker through Winograd's eye. The pledge called out Winograd by name, sited some of her harshest rhetoric against Israel, and concluded with this quote from Henry Waxman,

"In Marcy Winograd's foreign policy, Israel would cease to exist. In Marcy Winograd's vision, Jews would be at the mercy of those who do not respect democracy or human rights."
At that moment Bowen had a choice to make; ignore Hahn, (and risk creating an issue with the district's Jewish community) create her own statement of support for Israel minus the Winograd-bait, or sign on to Hahn's pledge.

Bowen chose to sign on to Hahn's pledge. And walked right into the buzzsaw that is Marcy Winograd's ego.

Two days later, Winograd, who had previously told key supporters she wouldn't run, told those same supporters she was furious that Hahn and Bowen had tried to "silence dissent in the 36th district", and asked them to withhold endorsements from Bowen. Four days after that, Winograd announced she would run, specifically citing the Hahn/Bowen pledge as the reason.

Let Loose The Dogs Of War

Hahn's strategy worked better than she could have hoped. Despite no institutional support, anemic fundraising, and polls showing she'd be lucky to get even 6% of the vote, Winograd nevertheless ran the most aggressive campaign she could given the circumstances. Even better, Winograd and her supporters barely mentioned Hahn, but attacked Debra Bowen, Winograd's closest competitor, relentlessly.

One "passionate" and prolific Winograd surrogate wrote scathing posts on progressive listserves and blogs questioning Bowen's progressive credentials, others accused her of being a closet Republican and (bizarrely) a Jane Harman clone. A paid Winograd campaign staffer, Peter Thottam, wrote a widely distributed and unsourced hit piece on Bowen, accusing her of trading votes in exchange for Enron campaign contributions while she served in the State Senate.

In effect, Winograd's campaign became the opposition research farm-team for Hahn, who used their attacks in her own campaign, even using Thottam's hit piece verbatim in one of her attack mailers against Bowen.

Republicans? What Republicans?

While Hahn, Bowen, and Winograd duked it out on the Democratic side, a previously unknown evangelical millionaire named Craig Huey from Rollings Hills Estates was quietly consolidating the Republican vote.

Huey, who made his fortune in direct marketing, poured half a million dollars of his own money into the campaign, giving him more resources than any other candidate in the race.

The money allowed him to blanket the district with more than just lawn signs - with it he bought cable TV and radio time, and ran a targeted mailing campaign which rivaled Janice Hahn's.

Backed by prominent Republicans Dana Rohrabacher, Tom McClintock, and former Assemblyman Chuck Devore, in the final few weeks leading up to election day Huey simply overwhelmed the anemic and underfunded campaigns of his closest Republican competitors, Mike Gin, the gay, moderate, pro-choice mayor of Redondo Beach, and Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb.

Yet right up until election day, the media largely ignored Huey - even as they fell all over themselves to cover stunt candidate Dan Adler, who's entire campaign consisted of a series of bizarre YouTube videos staring himself and campaign manager/actor Sean Astin (Adler got a grand total of 355 votes)

But not everyone was ignoring Craig Huey. In fact, Janice Hahn and her campaign were paying very close intention.

The Best Opponent Money Can Buy

A couple of weeks before election day, Hahn's campaign reportedly ran a tracking poll which showed Huey surging in the polls and consolidating Republican support.

However, Bowen's aggressive, state-of-the-art field campaign (1,100 volunteers, 350,000 phone calls, 15,000 doors canvassed) still kept Bowen solidly in second place and Huey out of the runoff.

So Hahn, who believed Huey would be a far easier candidate to beat in the runoff than Bowen, chose her moment.

Five days before election day, Hahn invested heavily in a multi-pronged direct mail attack. A series of negative campaign pieces targeting Bowen arrived in voter's mailboxes - one mailer appeared to support Winograd's campaign, another hit Bowen for old campaign contributions, and yet another used attacks from the Winograd campaign staffer who accused Bowen of selling her votes to Enron.

In part, that mailer read, "Some people went to jail for this. Debra Bowen wants to go to Washington."

The tone and deceptive nature of the mailers stunned Bowen and Hahn supporters alike. Bill Brand, a Redondo Beach City Councilman who endorsed Hahn in the race, told supporters in a GOTV email he "wasn't happy with the last minute negative pieces." With a runoff still to come, many activists in the district were dismayed Hahn had gone so negative so early against the well-liked Secretary of State.

But Hahn's strategy worked. Bowen's support lagged in the final few days, even as Huey's surged. In the end, Huey beat Bowen by 750 votes in an election where only 18% of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.

Hahn was clearly happy with the result, telling the Daily Breeze,

"I would rather run against him than Debra Bowen. I think the choice for voters is more clear."

Winograd, who had received 41% of the vote when she ran against Jane Harman in 2010, barely received 9% of the vote this time around.

Ironically, it was more than enough to ensure that Janice Hahn, who claimed to be Jane Harman's hand-picked successor would be the district's next representative in Congress.

Be Careful For What You Wish For

Without a doubt, Janice Hahn will be our next Congresswoman in CA-36.

But that victory has, and will, come at a price.

Nearly a week after defeating Bowen in a bitterly contested race, Hahn has shown little interest in mending fences with her activist supporters. Bowen herself declined to endorse Hahn, citing a long-standing policy as Secretary of State. So I don't see this rift healing any time soon. To be frank, it really doesn't have to, the specter of a Tea Party Republican taking the seat is motivation enough for most people. And as I said at the beginning of this piece, Hahn has more than enough resources and institutional support to beat back a challenge from Craig Huey regardless (although unions will have to commit resources to defend this seat in a way they wouldn't have had to if pro-union Debra Bowen had been in the runoff).

But Hahn's margin of victory probably won't be a landslide. In 2010, Assemblywoman Betsy Butler - whose district covers most of CA-36 - had an uncomfortably close call with Tea Party candidate Nathan Mintz. In a district that has 18% more registered Democrats than Republicans, Mintz took 43% of the vote.

In that race, over a 100,000 voters cast a ballot. The May 17th special election had only about half that turnout, and the runoff in July will likely be even worse. So barring any unforeseen scandals involving farm animals, Craig Huey has a good chance of building on Mintz's success. Not enough to win certainly, but enough to get everyone's attention.

But the real problem isn't this year and this election. It's next year, when CA-36 becomes significantly different, and potentially much more conservative, after redistricting.

From what I've heard and read, CA-36 is probably going to lose everything north of LAX, and potentially gain back Palos Verdes. Palos Verdes, connected to an Orange County district by a block-wide strip in Long Beach and a narrow strip of San Pedro, is profoundly gerrymandered. Those Republicans have to go somewhere.

If this happens, it would significantly cut into Democrat's voter registration advantage, and create a district that more closely resembles the one in which Janice Hahn previously ran for congress in 1998.

Hahn lost that race, to Republican Steve Kuykendall, 47% to 49%.

Janice Hahn got the opponent she wanted. But by helping to advance Huey into the runoff, Hahn has elevated him from an unknown evangelical advertising consultant to a national figure in the Tea Party movement. The media isn't ignoring Craig Huey anymore. He has two months to build up his name recognition and base of support. And when he loses in July, he can turn right around and start stumping for the June 2012 primary race in a district likely to be far more receptive to his message.

Janice Hahn will be our next representative in Congress. She has indeed won that battle.

But in doing so, she may have put herself in a position to lose the war.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's Official, Craig Huey To Face Janice Hahn in the CA-36 Run Off

The LA County Recorder just issued official results for the CA-36 race. After counting 10,327 late and  provisional ballots, Tea Party candidate Craig Huey advanced his lead over Debra Bowen to over 700 votes.

Craig Huey will advance to the July 12th run off election against Janice Hahn.

UPDATE: Statement from Debra Bowen.

“I’m very humbled by each and every vote that was cast for me in this election, and by the grassroots support I received.

“I’m truly inspired by the 1,100 volunteers and 80 interns – some of whom never worked on a political campaign before and worked tirelessly to make hundreds of thousands of phone calls and knock on thousands of doors. The democratic process is stronger because of their involvement, and I'm certain they will continue to make a difference.

“Since Tuesday’s election, my staff, legal advisors and election experts participated in the ballot review process to ensure a full and fair vote count was conducted. It is clear now that I will not be in the runoff and I congratulate Janice Hahn and Craig Huey.

"I also want to commend the excellent job by Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters Dean Logan and the entire team at the Registrar's office in handling the final count so quickly, and for conducting this election so professionally, as is their standard.

“Voters in Congressional District 36 have a very important decision to make on July 12, and I encourage citizens to have their voices heard by voting in the runoff.

“As Secretary of State, I have always implemented a strict policy of not endorsing candidates to avoid even a perception of conflict, and I will continue that policy."

A small editorial comment about Bowen's statement: I know some will be tempted to characterize Debra's last sentence as a slight against Janice.

They shouldn't.

Debra has refused to endorse any candidate during her time as SOS. She is simply continuing that policy, even though it would be have been politically expedient to do otherwise.

Good for her.

The vote totals were as follows:

   JANICE HAHN            DEM                        15,607    24.62 
   CRAIG HUEY             REP                        14,096    22.24 
   DEBRA BOWEN            DEM                        13,346    21.05 
   MARCY WINOGRAD         DEM                        5,894     9.30 
   MIKE GIN               REP                        4,981     7.86 
   MIKE WEBB              REP                        3,890     6.14 
   PATRICK BOBKO          REP                        2,291     3.61 
   STEVE COLLETT          LIB                        891     1.41 
   STEPHEN EISELE         REP                        782     1.23 
   DANIEL H ADLER         DEM                        355     0.56 
   MARIA E MONTANO        PF                         324     0.51 
   LORAINE GOODWIN        DEM                        319     0.50 
   GEORGE NEWBERRY        REP                        231     0.36 
   MATTHEW ROOZEE         NP                         156     0.25 
   KATHERINE PILOT        NP                         125     0.20 
   MICHAEL T CHAMNESS     NP                         106     0.17 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CA-36 Election Results: It Ain't Over Yet

UPDATE 6:14pm 5/18

The LA County Registrar Recorder has revised their outstanding ballot totals to 10,443 -  8,900 late absentee votes, 1,182 provisional ballots, and 361 "damaged" ballots. They will begin reporting updated tallies as of 1pm tomorrow.


Chances are you heard some unexpected news when you woke up this morning, that Tea Party Republican candidate Craig Huey edged Secretary of State Debra Bowen by 207 votes, forcing a July 12th runoff with LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

The vote totals were as follows:

Janice Hahn: 24.66% - 13,137 votes
Craig Huey: 21.87% - 11,648 votes
Debra Bowen: 21.48% - 11,442 votes
Marcy Winograd: 9.51% - 5,066 votes

However, the race is far from over.

9,811 late absentee and provisional ballots are still left yet to count. Because Debra trended well in the early absentee returns, and because absentee ballots and provisional votes are usually overwhelmingly Democratic, I'm very hopeful Debra will follow in the footsteps of Kamala Harris, and Debra, not Craig Huey, will end up being the one to advance to a runoff with Hahn.

But Debra needs your help, and she needs it now.

The LA County Registrars office is counting those ballots even as we speak and have said they believe they will complete the count by Friday.

Debra needs election observers today and for the rest of the week to monitor the count. It's my understanding that Huey is already sending his own people down there, so we need all hands on deck.

Please contact Lenny Young, Debra Bowen's field director to help:
phone: 310.212.6792

The campaign has also set up a special defense fund to help pay for the cost of inevitable Tea Party legal challenges. Dig deep folks, donate at this link.

I'll have a lot more in-depth analysis on why this happened later, but for now, I just want to focus on the vote totals. The LA Registrars Office promises an update later today, which I'll make available once they've posted it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

CA-36 Election News of the Weird

One day before E-day here in CA-36 and things are getting little weird.

Democrat Dan Adler, who garnered national attention for his celebrity campaign manager Sean Astin, and "I get shit done" YouTube viral videos, was "endorsed" by Glenn Beck and seemed really, really proud of the fact.

A write-in candidate who thinks "my dog ate my homework" is a winning campaign strategy also believes a single TV debate will propel him to victory.

And my favorite, meet the prolific blogger and passionate surrogate for Marcy Winograd who's not at all shy about sharing his enthusiasm for his candidate, and porn, on Twitter.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Meet Your Friends And Neighbors Who Are Voting For Debra Bowen On Tuesday

When Jane Harman resigned from Congress earlier this year, voters were quickly presented with a daunting choice, as candidates from all over the political spectrum entered the race to replace her. 

But for many of us, the choice was clear - we needed someone with conviction, who was principled and not beholden to special interests.  We needed Debra Bowen.

And over the last couple of months, I've seen something remarkable, something I haven't seen since the Obama campaign. Hundreds of volunteers taking time out of their busy lives to phone bank and canvass week after week for Debra. These aren't paid contractors or City Hall insiders making a political calculus, these are our friends and neighbors taking an ownership stake in Debra's campaign and an ownership stake in their community's future.

In a week when you needed a Purell bodysuit just to open your mailbox, this kind of real, authentic grassroots support is an inspiration.

So instead of telling you yet again why I support Debra Bowen, I thought I'd turn the floor over to you.

Meet your friends and neighbors who will be supporting Debra on Tuesday.


Debra Bowen has the intelligence, the passion and the integrity to not only be a strong advocate for our district in Washington, but to be a national leader for the Democratic Party. I know she will work tirelessly to defend the environment and bring green jobs to our district, because she always has. We are home to several of the largest US Aerospace/Defense contractors (Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon). Debra knows that resolving our problems will require sound, balance approaches based in facts and data so that everyone in our community participates in an economic recovery. That's why, on May 17th, I'll be voting for Debra Bowen for Congress.

- Tony Salvaggio (aeorospace engineer) Manhattan Beach, CA

I have known Debra personally since the mid 1980s. She has proven herself to be forthright, honest and a damned hard worker for us, her constituents, when she represented us as Assembly member and then in the State Senate. She will do the same in the US Congress. There are many stories that could be told to support my statement. I want to keep this story short. Sufficient to say that I gave more money than I could afford to her campaign and I would follow her lead to the moon.

- Challis McPherson (retired), Venice, CA

Debra Bowen was the first Democrat I ever voted for after switching parties in 1992. She has always been a strong advocate for LGBT rights, before it was the popular thing, and as a gay man that is very important to me. But the main reason I support her is because she is one of the very few politicians that truly have the political courage to take a position on an issue and have the conviction to vote accordingly. I know she will not be influenced by polls and special interests that throw money around and expect favors! The best example of this courage is how she handled the voting machine crisis in CA when she first became SOS. Even though the state had already spent $45 million on voting machines, she had the courage to stand up and say these Diebold voting machines are vunerable to fraud and decertfied them. For this she has earned my respect and vote!

- Varo Asorian (small business owner), Torrance, CA

As Secretary of State she has proved herself to be a sensible, no nonsense progressive who had clear and achievable goals, stuck to them and got them done. I have been continually impressed with Debra's commitment to improve government transparency and access. After 14 years in the California legislature, she has the legislative experience and knowledge to navigate congressional politics successfully. She will work on behalf of our district with thoughtfulness and compassion, but also with a keen understanding of how to move legislation forward to achieve success.

- Kim Drobny (community organizer), Mar Vista, CA

As an educator, I have been a teacher, principal, district administrator, and director of a statewide early literacy project. I am also a parent of a student who attended public schools from K-16. Debra Bowen has led efforts to create smaller class size in K-12 schools and also supported our community college and state university systems. I am so grateful that Debra Bowen understands the importance of public education for our future, supports parent involvement, and most importantly, understands the importance for teachers and principals to be trained to provide the best education.

- Dianne Wallace (educator), Manhattan Beach, CA

From her very first campaign, that being for the State Assembly in 1992, Debra had environmental credentials before anyone else was even bothering. Besides living an earth-friendly lifestyle herself, she had already been offering her legal services pro-bono to "Heal the Bay." For the 19-years she has held elected office, I have always known that I could trust her to sponsor and support cutting-edge environmental legislation and to be there for her constituents when a solar project or other earth-friendly measure called for her support.

- Dency Nelson (Sierra Club member), Hermosa Beach, CA

As a transportation advocate, it's very clear to me that Debra Bowen is the person for the job. You need someone who recognizes that war spending is an problem, and represents tremendous diversion of our nation's resources away from constructive uses that we're in dire need of - like building real sustainable and function transportation. You need someone with an eye for policy details, who can delve into the nitty gritty and come back with victory. And you need someone who can work against their short term political interests to gain long term victories that better all of us. Bowen is all of those, and outrageously experienced to boot.

- Alex Thompson (president, Bikeside LA) Del Rey, CA

I am voting for Debra Bowen for Congress because she is very smart, a proven thinker and problem solver, self proclaimed "policy wonk and techie" whom I trust most to serve our district as a US Representative during very difficult times. I have worked with Bowen and our neighbors to prevent a massive Century City sized development in Venice and to keep the local emergency hospital open. As Secretary of State, she prevented possible wide-spead voter fraud in CA by banning insecure voting machines. I was honored to be present when she was presented with the "Profiles in Courage" Award at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston by Senator Ted and Caroline Kennedy and I will be even proudere to have her represent me in Congress.

- Linda Lucks (neighborhood council president), Venice, CA

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In the CA-36 Primary, Janice Hahn Observes The Law Of The " Jungle"


Abe Maldonado and Arnold Schwarzenegger must be laughing their butts off right about now.

This will be ancient history for almost all but the wonkiest of policy wonks reading this, but back in 2009 - in exchange for a vote to break the CA state budget impasse - the Democratically controlled legislature in Sacramento buckled under the demands of Republican Legislator Abe Maldonado and then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to put Prop 14, a so-called "open primary" initiative, on the ballot.

Sold to voters as a way to take partisanship out of elections, Prop 14 passed last summer.  The new law would create a "jungle primary", where all candidates regardless of party affiliation would have to run in the same race. If no single candidate received %50+1 of the vote,  the two-top vote-getters - again regardless of party affiliation - would advance to a runoff election.

Although there's been tons of speculation on how this would work in the real world, it wasn't until Jane Harman resigned last February and triggered a special election to replace her, that anyone would have a chance to see the process unfold.

So the CA-36 race is a lab rat of sorts.

Two front-runners in the race quickly emerged, Secretary of State Debra Bowen and LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, with 14 lesser-known or underfunded candidates vying for attention. The sheer number of candidates alone virtually ensured a runoff.

So anyone who wasn't Bowen or Hahn would have to get creative if they were going to have a shot.

One candidate, Tea Party Republican Craig Huey self-funded his campaign to the tune of $500,000 and plastered the district with campaign signs. Democratic candidate Dan Adler created web ads so weird the national media fell all over themselves to cover them.

Another Democratic candidate, Marcy Winograd, who had run two unsuccessful campaigns against Jane Harman, took a different tact. Her campaign attacked Debra Bowen, whom many supporters and campaign analysts saw as Winograd's closest competition.

On April 2nd, Peter Thottam - a former Assembly candidate - wrote a post on in support of Marcy Winograd. In it, he more or less accused Bowen of trading votes in exchange for Enron campaign contributions while she served in the State Senate.

Two days later, according to FEC reports, the Winograd campaign paid Peter Thottam a salary of $600.

Fast forward to yesterday, when attack mailers against Debra Bowen started showing up on voter's doorsteps courtesy of the Janice Hahn campaign.

One of those mailers (click on this link to see it) took the same line of attack Peter Thottam did, that Bowen traded votes in exchange for Enron campaign contributions, saying in the tag line, "Some people went to jail for this. Debra Bowen wants to go to Washington". 

But Janice Hahn's accusations weren't just similar to Thottam's they actually were Thottam's - the mailer prominently featured Thottam's Calitics post, even featuring his name.

Now, I don't for a second believe either Thottam or Winograd were in collusion with Hahn to attack Bowen. But they did open up a line of attack that was bound to used by Hahn, who sees Winograd as a helpful tool in her election campaign, not a threat. 

What I'm describing is endemic to all primaries -  accusations are made, loyalties are divided, feelings are hurt. But here's the thing, with a "jungle primary",  the fun never stops.

In Democratic-leaning districts, runoffs are almost guaranteed to be between Democrats. Loyalties remain divided and nobody heals. Party unity is eroded year after year,  and special interests will thrive as candidates need more and more money to get their message across in crowded fields.

As morally reprehensible and misleading as Hahn's attacks are, from a strategic perspective they make perfect sense.

Janice Hahn is only obeying the law of the "jungle"

Friday, May 13, 2011

Janice Hahn First Democrat To Go Negative In The CA-36 Campaign

Repeating a pattern of going negative hard and fast in close elections, Janice Hahn went on the attack yesterday with a 4-page negative campaign mailer against her leading opponent, Secretary of State Debra Bowen. ( Two more hit pieces landed in voters mailboxes today.)

The mailer starts out with the word WARNING bolded in yellow against a black background, then goes on to say, "Beware of Debra Bowen's Negative Campaign! Unable to find anything positive to say and desperate to win at all costs, Debra Bowen has been falsely attacking Janice Hahn and Marcy Winograd!"

The mailer then goes on "remind" voters that Bowen was "a lifelong Republican until she changed registration before she ran for office", and lists a number contributions Bowen received in 1998 and 2000 from energy and health insurance companies. Hahn also goes out of her way to portray Winograd favorably in a contrast and compare section in the midsection of the piece.

Those are the basics. Now let's deconstruct this a bit.

First of all, this mailer isn't an independent expenditure from an outside group, it comes directly from the Hahn campaign, which means Janice Hahn not only knows about the mailer, she had to approve the content.

Secondly, it's highly misleading in some respects, and plainly false in others. Here's why.

It's just flat out weird that Hahn would claim Bowen was running a negative campaign against her and Winograd. Of the five campaign mailers I've received from Bowen's campaign so far, two featured Bowen's "Profile in Courage" award for her work as Secretary of State, one featured her endorsement by the Sierra Club, and two highlighted her 14 years of experience representing most of CA-36 in the CA state legislature.  None even mentioned Hahn or Winograd. In debates and forums where all three candidates have appeared, Bowen rarely mentions either candidate by name.

There are only two times I can think of when Bowen ever came close to going negative (on Hahn, not Winograd). The first time was at the CA-36 endorsement meeting in April, when Bowen pointed out Hahn had endorsed Republican candidates - this after Hahn dinged Bowen for not being "a life long Democrat" (a charge Hahn repeats in her attack mailer). The second time was last Sunday during a Daily Kos interview, when Bowen was asked to compare and contrast her campaign contributions with that of her opponents. Bowen's campaign manager and press person have made similar statements highlighting Hahn's contributions from LA City Hall lobbyists, contributions the LA Weekly pointed out would actually be illegal if Hahn were running for LA City Council and not Congress.

But when it comes to Winograd, the only Democrat in this campaign to go negative on the candidate was Janice Hahn, who slammed Winograd in a letter urging Bowen to sign on to a pledge supporting Israel. In the letter, Hahn quoted Henry Waxman who said "In Marcy Winograd's vision, Jews would be at the mercy of those who do not respect democracy or human rights."

So what's really going on here?

From the very beginning, it was clear to Hahn (and anyone else paying attention to the demographics of this race), that it was in Hahn's best interest to rope Winograd into running. A Winograd candidacy would be more likely to pull support away from Bowen than it would Hahn, who is generally perceived to be Jane Harman's hand-picked choice to succeed her.

So Hahn issued a pro-Israel pledge, cornered Bowen into signing on to it, Winograd took the bait, and the rest is history. Since then, Winograd's most active supporters on the internet have consistently targeted Bowen in the primary, but not Hahn, since they see Bowen as Winograd's main competition. So by falsely claiming Bowen is running a negative campaign against Winograd, Hahn is doing what she can to fan those flames even more.

Hahn's mailer also tries very hard to imply that Bowen's congressional race is significantly funded by contributions from energy and health insurance companies. But if you look really, really hard you can see a disclaimer in teeny, tiny letters at the bottom of the mailer, revealing the contributions came from races 13 and 11 years ago.

Disclaimer or no, the information as presented is profoundly misleading - not a single person I talked to who had seen the mailer understood the contributions in question were from another race until I pointed out the fact.

A press release signed by Sheila Khuel,Fran Pavely, Assembly member Betsy Butler and a number of environmental leaders in the district slammed Hahn for the deceptive mailer,

We recall that you introduced Measure O establishing an oil extraction tax; after that, you received $24,000 from oil and gas companies, including Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, Conoco Phillips, Tesoro and Warren E & P. Was that the reason you ultimately changed your mind and voted against placing the measure on the ballot? Perhaps because, as the Los Angeles Times has reported, about half of your money comes from "lobbyists, developers, and others doing business with the city", the person that “we can’t trust” to do the right thing, isn't Debra Bowen, but Janice Hahn?

We urge you to stop your deception immediately as a matter of principle.

As the press release points out, Hahn's tactic is likely an attempt to neutralize the recent spate of stories that have appeared here, in the LA Weekly, and the LA Times, listing over $300,000 in contributions and independent expenditures Hahn has received this year, in this race from LA City Hall lobbyists and developers, the nuclear industry, oil companies, medical malpractice insurance PACs, and rent control opponents.

But will it work?

It didn't work for Hahn last year when she went negative during the Lt. Governor primary race against Gavin Newsom. Largely because Newsom - who beat Hahn 55% to 33% - had been in the public eye long enough that voters had mostly made up their minds about his persona. When Hahn tried to paint a picture of Newsom that went against what voters already had in their heads, it just didn't stick.

I think that's likely to be the case with Bowen.

Let's start with Hahn's assertion that that Bowen was "a lifelong Republican until she changed registration before she ran for office". Well, that's not likely to stick because, A) It's horrible grammar, B) Bowen became a Democrat is 1984, 8 years before she would run for public office and, B) because Bowen has an 19-year record of elected public service as a pro-choice, pro-civil liberties, anti-oil drilling environmentalist Democrat behind her.

As an assembly member, then later as a state senator, Bowen was famous for keeping lobbyists at arm's length. When Bowen was still a freshman in the state assembly,the LA Times took notice,

Bowen also is trying to keep some distance from lobbyists. On her office door is a sign that says she accepts no gifts--and she has been known to send staff members running down the hall to return gifts as simple as a single flower. She sees lobbyists as an information resource, but is wary of them. "The scariest thing for freshmen," she said, "is figuring out whom you can rely on, whose analysis you can trust, because you can't do everything yourself."

When Enron ripped California off for billions, Bowen didn't hesitate to go after them as chair of the Senate Energy Committee, pressing for criminal charges against Enron executives who refused to cooperate with the committee's investigations.

And, most famously, as Secretary of State, Bowen defied both Deibold and the entire California political establishment when she decertified $45 million worth of flawed voting machines.

In other words, the picture most voters have in their heads of Bowen isn't the one Hahn is trying to paint for them.
Conversely, Hahn also has a track record in the public eye. And it's one that's easy to associate with the dysfunction of LA City Hall and it's insular, lobbyist culture.

In fact - whether it was withdrawing her support for Measure O, an oil extraction tax one of her campaign contributors, Warren Resources (and other big oil companies based in her district) opposed, agreeing to act as an impartial mediator for yacht-builder Gambol Industries in their dispute with the Port of LA without first disclosing she had received $12,000 in campaign contributions from the company, or helping to nullify a $600 million LAX food concession contract, to the benefit of a client of lobbyist Ek & Ek, a firm which has donated tens of thousands to Hahn's campaigns in the past, and most recently $13,000 to her congressional campaign - Janice Hahn is the candidate with a demonstrable record of acting in the interests of her campaign contributors.

But so what? Asked the LA Weekly in a recent story about Ek & Ek and their relationship with Hahn,

Hahn....has previously said that such relationships don't influence her decision making.

"If I don't know by now that the public depends on me to review all of the information before me and make the best decision for the city of Los Angeles, then I shouldn't be in this job," she told the L.A. Times last fall.

She might as well have been quoting Jesse Unruh, the late Assembly speaker, who famously said, "If you can't take their money, drink their booze, eat their food, screw their women and vote against them, you don't belong here."

Of course, the key element is "voting against them." Hahn hasn't done much of that lately.
That paints a pretty clear picture. Wether or not it paints the same picture of Janice Hahn that voters in CA-36 may already have in their heads remains to be seen.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Venice, Craig Huey's Just Not That Into You

Some dangerous Venetians listen to Craig Huey at a Venice debate

The race to replace Jane Harman in CA-36 is a crowded one, with 16 candidates vying to make it to the top two for a runoff on July 12th. But most of the media's focus has been on the top two Democratic contenders, Debra Bowen and Janice Hahn, and the top Republican contender, the mayor of Redondo Beach, Mike Gin.

Over the last couple of weeks, though, another candidate has been getting a lot of attention, Tea Party candidate Craig Huey

Even though he's been polling in the low single-digits, Mr. Huey, an evangelical marketing director living outside the district in Rolling Hills Estates, is getting a lot of attention for lending his campaign and eye-popping 500K.

Craig Huey, clearly in fear for his life.

We'd seen his campaign signs littering Venice for over a month, but it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that Venetians got to see Huey up close and personal at a campaign debate co-hosted by the Venice and Mar Vista neighborhood councils.

Although it was certainly weird for the largely Democratic Whole Foods crowd to sit through spiels by the Republican candidates, Mr. Huey in particular wasn't shy about expressing his opinions, even using the classic Amway "power move" public speaking trick of taking the mike off the podium and speaking directly to the audience, the other candidates behind him.

Most listened with bewildered amusement, with an occasional raspberry thrown in at the mention of "Obamacare" or "socialized medicine".

Evidently, Mr. Huey saw things a bit differently.

Conservative candidate Craig Huey (R) was booed during his remarks at a recent candidates' forum in Venice. All contenders competing for Harman's seat addressed the crowd, which consisted primarily of liberals, progressives, and Hollywood-types. Huey says he was hissed and interrupted every time he spoke or tried to answer a question. And when asked about his stance on Israel, the crowd was outraged.

"The issue of Israel came up, and I talked about [how] there should be no compromise in our defense of Israel, no compromise in keeping the integrity of Jerusalem, not dividing it, [and] that it's the only true democracy in the Middle East," the conservative accounts. "I went on about Israel, [and] people thought that the audience would get violent."

The business owner and longtime political activist explains that roughly 50 percent of the Venice forum crowd support a liberal candidate who is anti-Israel. Consequently, Huey, his wife, and colleagues were fearful for his physical safety.

"At the very end, what basically happened was my wife and I went out towards the back, and the campaign managers of some of the other candidates came up to us and said, 'You better have security take you outside because it's just not safe for you to go out to your car by yourself," he explains.

 Craig Huey address a hostile Venice mob.

Monday, May 9, 2011

With Only A Week To Go Before the CA-36 Special Election, It's Janice Hahn - 13, Trees - 0

The last week of a campaign, as our mailbox fills to overflowing with glossy brochures extolling the virtues of competing candidates, we often find ourselves donning black, rending our garments, and contemplating the death of a million innocent trees.

The campaign to replace Jane Harman in CA-36 is no different.

Spread out on my coffee table right now are a couple of mailers from Debra Bowen, one from Marcy Winograd that a volunteer stuffed under our welcome mat, one from Mike Gin, and even one from Tea Party candidate Craig Huey.  However, none of these candidates holds a candle to Janice Hahn and her supporters, who sent out a thirteenth full-color mailer today.

According to the FEC, Hahn leads all candidates but Craig Huey in cash-on-hand (money left in the bank after expenses), and that's enabled her to fund this juggernaut-in-wood-pulp with over $300,000 in donations and independent expenditures from business interests and lobbyists connected with LA City Hall, real estate developers, the nuclear industry, health insurance PACs, and even rent control opponents.

Combing though the latest FEC reports, I found a number of interesting nuggets, but one recent donation worth noting in particular was from Tim Larkin, CEO of Warren Resources. Why this donation? Because Warren Resources, a New York City-based oil company with considerable ties to the Wilmington and Harbor area oil fields, was a vocal critic of Measure O, the oil extraction tax Hahn opposed putting on the ballot after initially supporting it.  In the end, Hahn was the only LA City council member to vote against bringing the measure to voters, saying at the time, “I’ve reconsidered this and I have heard from various business groups who do feel like this might be the wrong climate to put this on the ballot."

In addition,  The Cooperative of American Physicians IE Committee, a PAC which represents medical malpractice insurers, has upped it's investment in Janice Hahn to over $75,000. A year ago, this same PAC  partnered with oil, tobacco and other special interests to go after 53D Assemblymember Betsy Butler in the June 2010 primary.   

Butler has endorsed Debra Bowen in this congressional race.

According to FEC reports, Janice Hahn is the only candidate so far to benefit from independent expenditures.

It's likely to get worse before it gets better. I've heard rumors CAPC is planning to send out a negative hit-piece against Bowen this week, just as they did Butler, and that Hahn will be taking a page out of the Meg Whitman campaign, sending out yet another 20-30 page full-color brochure to voters for the general election.

But hey, there's good news too. Turns out all those mailers are recyclable.

 I just got off the phone with a helpful person at my local chapter of the Sierra Club (you know they've endorsed Debra Bowen for congress, right?), who told me to stick the mailers in the mixed paper bin and I'd be good to go!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

Nine years after George Bush said, "I am truly not concerned about" Osama bin Laden, the victims of 9/11 and their families finally get justice on President Barack Hussein Obama's watch.

The President's full remarks:

Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who's responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child's embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda -- an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we've made great strides in that effort. We've disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda's leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There's no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must -- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam. I've made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I've repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we've done. But it's important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who's been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda's terror: Justice has been done

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who've worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today's achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it's the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.