Monday, May 28, 2012

Just in Time For The June 5th Primary: Sacramento Dem Dysfunction In One Easy Graph

Back in February, I reported how Dem leadership in Sacramento apparently just wasn't all that into winning a 2/3rds majority this year.

Turns out 4 months later, not much has changed.

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

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.


  1. Nice post Marta. Can you come on my Monterey radio show which airs M-F 6-9am to discuss? Please email me. Hal Ginsberg. Thanks.

  2. Not all democrats are created equal, and it can make a significant difference which registered democrat is elected, especially in 'democrat safe' districts where more conservative candidates register as democrats to have a running chance.