Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Californians in House leadership: one keeps his post, another hopes to move up

Congressman Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles is asking his colleagues to make him the fourth highest-ranking Democrat in the House.

Republican Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield was re-elected as House Majority Whip.


Now that Nancy Pelosi has said she wants to stay on as House Democratic leader, other party members are assessing their standing. On Wednesday, another Californian formally launched his campaign to move up the leadership ladder. 

L.A. Congressman Xavier Becerra is currently the fifth-ranking Democrat in the House. Now he’s sent a formal letter to colleagues, throwing his hat in the ring for the number four spot — Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Becerra says relationships are the key to advancement: "It’s developing the friendships that let you get to the  point where you can actually ask for a vote."

Becerra has several things going for him: Pelosi is one of his biggest fans. And a quarter of the freshman Democratic class comes from his home state. "The more Californians there are," says Becerra, "the greater opportunity I have to try to have them be with me, supportive of me."

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The trickle-down effect of California campaign funding

Republican Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack is in a tight re-election race, but that hasn't stopped her from making contributions to other candidates from her campaign fund and her political action committee.

US Representative from California Loretta Sanchez

Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez received a donation from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and then made a donation to another party candidate.


One steady source of income to Congressional campaigns in this election has been from current members. And they have lots of different ways to give.

Nancy Pelosi rose through the ranks to become the Democrats’ Congressional leader in part because of her fundraising prowess. In this election cycle, for example, she raised more than $2 million for her own campaign.

Sheila Krumholz, who heads the Center for Responsive Politics, says because Pelosi’s re-election is a lock, she can open up her purse strings: "She can then take that money to tithe to the party."

Pelosi can do this by contributing to the party's campaign arm for House members, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Krumholz says Pelosi will raise funds, "both from her campaign and from her leadership PAC. She will then support other colleagues, junior colleagues, struggling candidates for office."

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Political battle for the White House fought in pages of women's magazines

First Lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney have made magazines a platform for courting women voters.

Ann Romney sat down with the ladies of “The View” last week and tackled tough questions on abortion (her husband “has always been a pro-life person”), and why the Romney sons hadn’t served in the military (all were on Mormon missions, “We find different ways of serving”).

Last month, Michelle Obama stopped by the show with her husband. The topic of the Libya attack came up, but most of the questions were softball queries about their marriage.

The candidate’s wives have shown up in puffy articles in many magazines, including Good Housekeeping, Parade, and People.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find Michelle Obama in between the perfume and handbag ads in this month’s Elle.  But it doesn’t read like a puff piece.  It reads like a campaign mailer, complete with the “5 reasons to vote for Barack.”

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Bill Clinton traveling to Irvine to boost CA Democratic Congressional candidates

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton recently spoke at an event at Florida International University in Miami.

Bill Clinton is visiting Orange County Tuesday. The former President is lending some star power to a quintet of lesser known Democrats who'd like to become members of the US House of Representatives.

Democrats know that if they want a shot at taking back the House, they have to pick up more than two dozen seats around the country.  Redistricting has made California ground zero for turning red to blue.

To help out, Clinton will be the headliner at a UC Irvine rally called "California's Voice."

He'll be there to boost candidates in five of the toughest House races in California.  Three are running for open seats: Julia Brownley in Ventura,  Alan Lowenthal in Long Beach, and Mark Takano in Riverside. Two others are taking on GOP incumbents: Scott Peters in San Diego, and Raul Ruiz in Palm Springs.

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Michael Bloomberg's PAC could boost challenger in Ontario Congressional race

Mercer 20515

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, second from left, is behind Independence USA, a political action committee that will support candidates willing to crack down on illegal weapons.

Seems like everybody’s creating a political action committee this year — from Stephen Colbert to the brother of a Fullerton Congressional candidate.  Now, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is getting into the Super PAC act. And his support could help a Democratic challenger unseat a Democratic Congressional incumbent in the Inland Empire.

Bloomberg made the announcement on his website. He’ll spend at least $10 million supporting gay marriage ballot propositions, as well as moderate local and Congressional candidates on both sides of the aisle who work in a bipartisan manner.

The New York Times identified one of those candidates as California State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, who's running for Congress. She first heard the news after returning to her office from a funeral. She says there were "tons of e-mails" telling her about an article in the Times.  "And I said, 'About what?'”

Because of California’s “top two” election system, McLeod is running against another Democrat, incumbent Ontario Congressman Joe Baca. He was both shocked and surprised by the news and asked, “Why am I being attacked from the East Coast and Bloomberg?”

The issue is guns. Bloomberg says he’ll support candidates who will crack down on illegal weapons. When Baca first ran for Congress in 1999, the National Rifle Association named him one of its “Defenders of Freedom.” On this year's NRA report card, the group gives Baca a “B+” grade — described as “generally a pro-gun candidate.”

Baca says he believes in protecting the Second Amendment of the Constitution — the right to bear arms. He says it’s important to uphold that right, "But I also believe that we need to focus on firearms that fall into the wrong hands."

Most California Democrats in Congress rate an “F” from the NRA. Baca points out McLeod got a “D,” which the NRA gives to "anti-gun" candidates who usually support restrictive gun control legislation.

But McLeod's position on guns sounds similar to Baca’s. She says she also believes in the Second Amendment: "My husband is a former police officer so we, in fact, do have guns.  They’re put away in a safe. I don’t have a problem with legitimate people having guns as long as they’re registered and they know how to use them."

Baca — who won the primary by nine percentage points — has raised $900,000 for his campaign, with nearly $300,000 in cash to spend in the last few weeks before the election. McLeod has raised less than a third of that amount, with less than $100,000 in cash on hand.

An infusion from Bloomberg could make a difference to McLeod’s campaign, but she notes it would be an independent expenditure. "I have absolutely no control" of that kind of contribution, she says.  "I can’t even see it. I don’t know anything about it, they can’t coordinate with me."

McLeod says this isn’t the first time the promise of campaign PAC money has been rumored.  In the primary, there was talk of money for candidates challenging incumbents. It never materialized for her.

Attempts to get a response from Mayor Bloomberg and his Independence USA PAC were unsuccessful. 

 

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