The reason about $3 million may be spent on state legislative campaigns in Modesto -- Adam Gray, Kathleen Galgiani, Bill Berryhill -- is because the Democrats are two seats away from two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
The plutocrats providing the cash want to either prevent that by funding some Republicans or to control it by funding candidates of the majority party. If one looks just at Adam Gray's contyributions (see "Mobley-Gray by the numbers," Badlands Journal, Oct. 14, 2012) it can be seen that money is flowing in from all over the country to influence elections in the largest, nearly most imperilled state (bond rating 49th) in the nation.
Obviously, the redistricting proposition we all voted for didn't work. Curiously, Californians seem to take political culture into account in deciding where to live. There are places like Placer County, except for the inner precincts of Roseville, that are as toxic to liberals as Mendocino and Humboldt counies are to conservatives.
This normal predilection for choosing neighbors with values from the same side of the moon defeated the redistricting plan we hoped might do in the Legislature what we in fact do not do in our own lives -- live in "enemy camps." in other words, curiously, we seem to take our politics more seriously than most of us admit we do.
In any event, the political class and its funders are keeping mum about the real issue of this campaign: can the Democrats get a supermajority in one or both houses, allowing them to pass budgets raising taxes here, there, and wherever exemptions are not being bought right now.
Regarding Modesto, the battleground for the Galgiani-Berryhil and Gray-Mobley campaigns, we ought to ask Robin Adam how things are going. Robin is chief of staff for Galgiani and Gray's uncle. If it ain't the Berryhills coming at him from one side, he has to contend with the fallout from Gray's marriage several weeks ago to Kady Condit, daughter of former Rep. Gary Condit. Robin was with his boss, Dennis Cardoza, every step of the way in the post-Chandra Levi primary when Cardoza shouldered Condit aside and buried "Condit Country" where sun does not shine.
Some call the players in this election "a deck full of wildcards."
Badlands Journal editorial board
California Redistricting Maps Don’t Create Moderate Seats, They Create More Democratic Ones
The release of new preliminary maps from the California Citizens Redistricting Commission has caused a run on metaphors in the dwindling state media, which is desperate to crown the new system for reapportionment as a testament to bold, nonpartisan leadership – precisely the virtues and values they stand for, oddly enough. But while the new maps certainly end the practice of incumbency protection, they do not turn the state’s legislative districts into a bold new 50-50 toss-up where any party can win.
Analysts are falling all over themselves to count as many of the new districts as possible as “swing seats,” to somehow prove that the nonpartisan citizen-led process worked in its goal, or at least the goal the media placed on it. PPIC’s Eric McGhee created an absurdly broad standard for competitive districts and then found that the new maps create more of them:
McGhee defines a “competitive district” as one that falls between +5% Republican registration and +10% Democratic registration, a range designed to account for a) the greater propensity of GOPers to vote and b) the increased likelihood of D’s crossing over than R’s.
Using that measure, he concludes that the number of competitive districts, counting both house of the Legislature and Congress, increases from 16 to 34 under the draft plan; the total includes 7 additional Assembly districts (9 competitive to 16); 6 additional Senate districts (3 to 9) and 5 additional House districts (4 to 9).
First of all, even if this were true, it would total 16 out of 80 Assembly seats, 9 out of 40 Senate seats and 9 out of 53 House seats. But these numbers are ridiculous. That is cemented by the fact that the old number of competitive districts, based on the 2001-2010 maps, should have created much more turnover than what actually happened. In fact, no there was virtually no legislative turnover, certainly not what would be supported by those old numbers. I’m assuming the “swing” Senate seats include seats in the Central Valley held by the likes of Republicans Jeff Denham, Abel Maldonado and Sam Blakeslee, that have done nothing but frustrate Democrats repeatedly no matter the matchup. So judging based on this 15% spread of registration is just stupid.
If you actually get serious about what is really a competirivce district, you come up with something like the Sacramento Bee’s analysis. In a story with the preposterous headline “California Legislature may see more swing districts under draft political maps,” the actual analysis shows that swing districts will increase in the State Senate, for example, from one district… to two.
Database research by Bee staff writer Phillip Reese shows that the new maps would raise the number of swing districts in the Assembly from two to five, and in the Senate from one to two.
In the Assembly, 51 seats would be considered safe or leaning for Democrats and 24 safe or leaning for Republicans, with five swing districts. In the Senate, the numbers would be 27, 11 and two, respectively.
The reason for this is simple: Californians self-segregate. Unless you re-gerrymander with absurd district lines, it’s impossible to create a critical mass of swing districts. The liberals live in one place and the conservatives live in another. That’s just the way it is.
Next, to the extent that any districts were “swing” seats before, they grew into that position over time, because of increased Hispanic populations and demographic shifts throughout the ten year period. That was true of AD-78 and AD-80 in San Diego and Riverside County, it was true of AD-5 in the Sacramento area, it was arguably true of Loretta Sanchez’ seat in Orange County. So looking at these maps and thinking the registration numbers will remain static is similarly stupid. What’s most likely to happen is that continued Hispanic growth will push those few swing seats into Democratic hands, and push any lean-Dem seats away from Republicans as well.
The truth is that the incumbency protection maps of 2001 kept Republicans in the game in a way that these maps don’t. When allowed to reflect the true nature of the state, the maps give Democrats a path to a 2/3 majority in both houses of the legislature. The Congressional maps could lead to at least 4 pickups for Democrats, if not more. This is backed up by multiple analyses. And it merely reflects the demographic changes to the state and the total abandoning by Republicans of the Hispanic community after Prop 187. Republicans can try to regroup and turn to the left but their base is unlikely to let them.
This is why I don’t understand the Latino community’s complaint with the maps. There is substantial opportunity for Latinos to gain in strength in several seats over time. Furthermore, nothing does more for that community than a marginalization of the most xenophobic elements of the GOP, which is predetermined by these maps. But Latino groups are likely to sue under the Voting Rights Act to get more representation for their communities. If successful, Latinos will be tightly packed into districts, and as a whole, they will be less represented in Congress and the legislature. It’s a self-destructive tendency.
I’m not for incumbents picking their voters, but let’s not pretend the wise and just redistricting commission created this moderate Valhalla in the Golden State. They didn’t. They created a realistic map that will give an accurate representation of Democrats in the state.
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Los Angeles Times
Supermajority rule: good or bad?
Does it prevent a tryanny of the majority, or has it become a tool of obstructionists?
Nicholas Goldberg, deputy editor of The Times' editorial pages.
It is one of the many oddities of California law that in order to pass a state budget or raise taxes, the Legislature must win two-thirds approval in both houses. This unusual "supermajority" rule is a big part of the reason the Legislature has missed the legal deadline for a new state budget in 16 of the last 20 years, and why gridlock so often seems to rule the day in Sacramento.
It is another oddity of California law that sweeping constitutional change can be accomplished with nothing more than a simple majority vote at the ballot. Proposition 8, for example, the constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage in the state, passed with just 52% of the vote.
Does it make sense that passing a budget or a tax hike is so difficult while fundamental changes to the state's foundational document can be made so easily? Below, some questions and answers to help understand our unusual system of supermajority voting rules and when they do and don't apply.
Why do we need supermajorities? Doesn't majority rule?
Not always. Legislatures, parliaments and congresses around the world have long known that 50% plus one isn't the only way to make a democratic decision. Some decisions are so momentous that they ought to be made unanimously (jury convictions, for instance), while others are so minor they require just a plurality.
Supermajority rules are those that call for more than 50% support but less than unanimity. Often they require two-thirds of the voters (the fraction needed to override a veto by the president of the United States); other times it's three-fifths (the votes required to call an end to a filibuster in the U.S. Senate or to pass a substantial matter through the United Nations Security Council).
Who came up with this idea?
No one you know. Supermajorities go back at least to jury deliberations in classical Rome. A thousand years later, the medieval church adopted a two-thirds supermajority rule for ecclesiastical elections, including the election of a pope (a rule that is still in place despite Pope John Paul II's effort to change it in 1996).
The U.S. Constitution had to be adopted by nine, rather than six, of the 13 Colonies before it went into effect, and amending it is doubly difficult, requiring supermajorities at two stages: There must be a two-thirds vote of Congress to propose an amendment, and then three-fourths of state legislatures must ratify it.
What's the point of these rules?
Obviously, they make it substantially more difficult to reach a decision. That means some proposals fall by the wayside, but those that ultimately get passed do so with broader support. Most political theorists agree that consensus makes for stronger, more durable law.
So what's the downside?
For one thing, supermajorities make it harder to achieve good change as well as bad. If you support, say, the federal Equal Rights Amendment, which could never win more than 35 of the 38 states that were necessary for approval, then a supermajority requirement might be a bad thing.
In practice, supermajorities allow a minority to block the preference of the majority. James Madison, the architect of the U.S. Constitution, worried about the tyranny of the majority over the minority, but he recognized that the opposite was also disconcerting. He wrote in the Federalist Papers that supermajorities could cause "the fundamental principle of free government" to be reversed. "It would be no longer majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority," he wrote. "... An interested minority might take advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices to the general weal, or, in particular emergencies, to extort unreasonable indulgences."
How does all this relate to California?
Totally! Directly! Madison might as well have been writing about Sacramento today. The rule that requires two-thirds approval for raising taxes or passing the budget has certainly put power in the hands of a relatively small GOP minority in recent years, allowing them to delay the budget and to extort "indulgences" in return for the three measly votes in each house that the Democrats need to win over.
Last month, for instance, the Legislature found itself paralyzed once again, haggling endlessly but unable to win the necessary two-thirds. In the end, Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) traded his yes vote for a whole series of promises, including a ballot measure allowing open primaries. The two other Republican votes were bought at a cost of weakening state environmental regulations.
In theory, the two-thirds rule on the budget and taxes should encourage compromise and moderation. But in practice, because of partisanship, the rule has led to long stalemates at great cost to the state. Political scientists who study supermajorities have called this the "holdout" principle.
So supermajority rules are bad
Redistricting shuffles state legislative seats, boosting Democrats' hopes for a supermajority
DON THOMPSON Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The path to a two-thirds legislative majority in the state Senate — the ability for Democrats to change tax policy and override gubernatorial vetoes — runs partly through California's Central Valley.
Thanks to the voter-approved independent redistricting panel, Democrats are close to achieving the supermajority they need to act without the support of Republicans, who have slipped to just 30 percent of registered voters statewide.
One of the key races for them to achieve that is the 5th Senate District, a moderate district that runs down the tip of the San Joaquin Valley from Galt to Modesto and is about equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.
Two members of the state Assembly, Republican Bill Berryhill and Democrat Cathleen Galgiani, tout their ability to cooperate across party lines even as they differ on issues such as funding the $68 billion high-speed rail system favored by Gov. Jerry Brown and a year-old law that transfers responsibility for lower-level criminals from state prisons to county jails.
Galgiani supports both, while Berryhill is opposed.
Democrats are counting on a win by Galgiani to gain their supermajority, even as she downplays the significance.
"I'm probably the most independent Democrat running for the Senate," she said. "I'm one of those who works both sides of the aisle."
But Berryhill said the possibility that a Galgiani win could be the key to bringing Democrats closer to supermajority in Sacramento is an attention-grabber for the district's voters.
"That scares a lot of people," he said. "It's almost virtually giving a dictatorship to one party."
Even if the Democrats did reach the threshold in the Senate, their prospects for doing the same in the Assembly are distant, so they would still need to find some Republican support.
Yet the ability for the November election to bring the Democrats a two-thirds majority in at least one house of the Legislature is the dominant dynamic of this year's state legislative races. Democrats are two seats shy in the Assembly and Senate, but are seen as having a better shot of achieving that in the Senate.
If they succeed, it would be the first time that one party has had a supermajority in either house of the Legislature since California voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978, which raised the vote threshold to pass tax increases to two-thirds.
The last time either house had a supermajority was the 1977-78 session, when Democrats held a 57-23 advantage in the Assembly, said E. Dotson Wilson, the chamber's chief clerk.
A supermajority would allow Democrats to approve tax increases, pass emergency legislation, reject gubernatorial vetoes or change house rules while ignoring Republicans.
Democrats could alter the state's tax system in a way that currently can be blocked by minority Republicans, said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. He said that could include broadening the tax base while lowering tax rates and creating incentives for high-wage manufacturers to build in California.
That's the sort of scenario that concerns Republicans, but they expect it also will resonate with voters who are unwilling to cede control to a Democratic Legislature and governor.
"We've got our base lathered up by, yet again, tax increases on the ballot," said Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. "Republicans are seen as the adults in the room who can make the tough choices and keep things running smoothly."
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 would raise sales and income taxes to avoid deeper cuts to schools and other programs. Proposition 38, backed by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger and the state PTA, would devote an income tax increase directly to schools.
Whether the threat of higher taxes can stall the Democrats' march to a two-thirds majority is unclear in a state where Republicans have been losing support quickly. Democrats also are focusing on the 31st Senate District in Riverside County and
the 27th Senate District in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Democrats have a voter registration edge of 7 percentage points in the 27th District but are tied with Republicans in the 31st.
"When you get down to a 30 percent Republican registration statewide, it doesn't matter how you draw the lines," said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, which analyzes legislative and congressional campaigns. "The problem is that there are so few Republicans."
Thanks to the state's other major political reform, the new top-two primary system, candidates from the same party are running against each other in several general election races, a dynamic that has led to some of the most negative campaigning this year. Of the 100 state legislative races this year, 20 are same-party runoffs.
An illustration of how the new primary system has affected the general election can be found in Riverside County's 67th Assembly District, where two Republicans are engaged in a lively campaign.
Melissa Melendez's campaign website calls fellow Republican Phil Paule a "political 'lap dog'" and "tool for big government."
At a campaign rally last month, she urged supporters to "choose between leadership and lawlessness" while contrasting her "strong record" with what she described as Paule's criminal record — a decade-old drunken driving conviction.
"If we're going to elect someone to make laws for the state of California, that person should also be able to follow the laws of the state of California," the Lake Elsinore city councilwoman said in a telephone interview.
Dave Gilliard, Paule's political consultant, said the personal attacks are backfiring with voters.
Paule counters that Melendez is siding with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa over control of Ontario International Airport, a major issue in the economically struggling Inland Empire. Melendez said the dispute could lead to higher airport taxes and fees if elected officials aren't careful.
"We can talk about lap dogs, we can talk about 10-year-old arrests," said Paule, a district aide to U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa. "She hasn't explained why she voted against the interests of her own constituency."
In explaining the intraparty campaign attacks, Paule said, "It's the new rules and so you play by the rules."
In suburban Sacramento, Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, took the unusual step of asking donors to drop Republican attorney Andy Pugno and support the party's endorsed candidate, incumbent Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Roseville.
Pugno is best known as the attorney who represented supporters of the 2008 Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages. He has not been actively campaigning.
While Republicans sort through seven same-party Assembly squabbles, Democrats have 11 of their own in the Assembly and two in the Senate.
That is forcing Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, to devote time and money to defend incumbents Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, in the 10th Assembly District and Betsy Butler, D-Marina del Rey, in the 50th.
"Both of those are races that should have been over in June and would have been over in June under any other circumstance," Perez said, referring to the top-two primary system. "But we've got a protracted battle all the way to November."