Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Congressional freshmen wary of DC press corps

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TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is a seasoned veteran when it comes to dealing with the Washington DC press corps. But newly-elected members of California's Congressional delegation are learning how best to handle Capitol Hill reporters.

California’s Congressional freshmen are quickly learning the ropes at the Capitol. The new kids are treading softly with one DC beast: the press corps.

Republican Congressman-elect Doug LaMalfa of Redding says he’s already heard the stories about reporters on Capitol Hill. He hears they "follow you around and play 'gotcha' with their little cameras and taking something that you’re doing and spinning that out of perspective."

Newly-elected LA Democrat Tony Cardenas saw the DC press corps in action the day House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced the new freshmen. When Pelosi opened up the press conference to reporters for questions, "all they wanted to ask it seemed was about General Petraeus and that issue." Cardenas says he thought reporters would ask about "what’s next for the country, the economy, policy etc." The fact that they didn't, he says "honestly, was a bit disappointing."

LaMalfa and Cardenas are state legislature veterans who've dealt with the press corps in Sacramento.  Cardenas has also fenced with reporters who covered him at L.A. City Hall.  Their one saving grace: the DC press corps largely ignores freshmen after they’re sworn in … unless they do something stupid.

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Los Angeles City Council schedules special election for May

Los Angeles City Hall

Alice Walton/KPCC

A special election for the Los Angeles City Council's next Sixth District rep will be held on May 21, 2013 at a cost of $400,000.

A special election to fill an upcoming vacancy on the Los Angeles City Council is set for May 21, 2013.

The L.A. City Council voted 12-0 to hold an election that day to fill the vacancy that will be left when Councilman Tony Cardenas is sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 3. A runoff election is scheduled for July 23. 

It will cost $400,000 to hold the special election. It could have cost more than a $1 million if the primary were not held the same day as the city’s municipal election runoff.

The city council could have voted to appoint a new council member to serve the remainder of Cardenas’ term, through June 30, 2015. However, the L.A. City Council has not chosen that option since the 1960s when John Ferraro was appointed to the council. With this election, it means there will be seven new members of the Los Angeles City Council next year.

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Turkey, transition and tradition: Tony Cardenas moving from local to national political scene

Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas

Sharon McNary/KPCC

L.A. City Councilman Tony Cardenas is moving to Congress, meaning he'll represent about a half-million more constituents.

California voters are sending fourteen new members of Congress to Washington in early January. Tony Cardenas is one of them. Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles City Councilman  took a few minutes during his annual turkey giveaway for needy families to reflect on the coming change.

He'll represent his current 200,000 San Fernando Valley constituents, plus another half-million in the 29th Congressional District to which he was elected Nov. 6.

It's Cardenas' tenth consecutive year on the food distribution assembly line, handing out the frozen birds to families who were nominated to receive Thanksgiving gifts by local schools and non-profit groups. After about 20 minutes of transferring turkeys into bags and receiving the thanks of the last of the families, Cardenas' hands are chilled.

The turkey hand-out has become something of a tradition. Now Cardenas is hoping he doesn't draw the short straw in another tradition — the lottery for new members' office space on Capitol Hill.

"One office, they say, is notorious because people walk through your office to go to the bathroom, which I think is just not nice," Cardenas said.

As he concentrates on moving from local to federal government, Cardenas says he needs to let go of issues such as filling potholes and fixing street lights.

"Now, as a congressman, I have to discipline myself to understand that that's not my responsibility directly," he said. "However, I will be trying my best to make sure that various departments get grants to my community."

Cardenas sees it as returning tax funds to the community, and he's already getting requests. He told the crowd he will focus on policy issues such as creating a path to permanent residency and citizenship for immigrants.

Cardenas is taking one of his City Hall staffers with him to Washington; the rest of his D.C. staff will be people who have experience navigating the federal labyrinth.

"It's a very confusing place, literally," he said. "The tunnels are like mazes and it's hard to find the offices and find your way around. It's going to take a bit of time for me to acclimate."

Constituents such as Antonia Lamas, while thankful for the bag of food, are also focused on the bigger picture, and on what Cardenas can do for them in Washington."The most important thing," she said, "is that he get immigration laws implemented and enforced so that we all benefit."


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Photos: California's bumper crop of freshman lawmakers learn the ropes on Capitol Hill

Freshman Congress

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Democrats (from left) Scott Peters of San Diego, Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach, Jared Huffman of Humboldt and Gloria Negrete-McLeod of Chino compare notes during orientation week at the Capitol.

Dr. Ami Bera, a Democratic physician from Sacramento, said the Capitol is a "maze" that reminded him of a hospital.

David Valadao, a Republican from the Central Valley, said learning his way around the Capitol was a little "disorienting."

Doug LaMalfa, a Republican farmer from Redding, is aiming for the Agriculture Committee.

Democrat Julia Brownley of Ventura County said endless meetings in countless places made for sore feet.

Teacher Mark Takano, a Democrat from Riverside, is hoping for seat on the House Education Committee.

Democrat Tony Cardenas is moving from L.A. City Hall to the halls of Congress.

Dr. Raul Ruiz is a newly-elected Democrat from the Coachella Valley.


It’s freshman orientation time, Capitol Hill style. Newly-elected members of Congress spent last week in Washington, where there was a lot to learn and not much time to learn it.

It was a busy week for the new House members from California. 

Republican Doug LaMalfa from Redding said going to the House floor was "pretty cool." Ventura Democrat Julia Brownley said there were a lot of meetings in a lot of different locations, which resulted in sore feet, "But it's all been great and very exciting." 

L.A. Democrat Tony Cardenas said they received ethics training early in the week, but he had more questions after the session than he did before he walked in the door.

Mark Takano, a Democrat from Riverside, had his priorities in order: he found out where he could get his dry cleaning done in the Longworth House Office Building for about a fourth of the price they charge at the hotel where the newbies were put up.

David Valadao, a Republican representing Hanford in the Central Valley, said the hardest part has been remembering names and faces. He noted when he was a lawmaker in Sacramento, it was easier: just 80 members. And as the minority party, his Republican caucus "just had 27 at the time."

California is sending a bumper crop of 14 freshmen to Capitol Hill. They were feted at a dinner in the grand Statuary Hall of the Capitol by Speaker John Boehner, had their I.D. pictures taken, and staked out their preference for committees.

Cardenas wants Energy and Commerce, since he's an engineer. Takano, a teacher, is leaning toward Education and the Workforce. LaMalfa pointed out that he's a farmer in his "real life," so the Agriculture Committee would be "a natural." But LaMalfa said he already knows this much: "Freshmen don't walk in here and start dictating where they go."

Nevertheless, Democrats Alan Lowenthal from Long Beach and Jared Huffman from Humboldt are both requesting Transportation and Infrastructure. Their party is the minority in the House, which means fewer seats on plum committees like those they're seeking. 

But Cardenas isn’t discouraged: "The way it works around here, they say if you don’t get what you ask for, and they give you a different committee, apparently you still get to reserve a right to be on it when a slot opens up in the future."

Brownley also wants one of those rare Transportation seats. She spent an afternoon making her case to the top Democrat on that committee, Nick Rahall of West Virginia.

It’s not just the protocol new freshmen have to learn. There’s also the physical lay of the land.  Just ask Valadao and Sacramento Democrat Dr. Ami Bera. Valadao said he got "a little disoriented" in the Capitol. Bera said it's a "maze" of a building and compared it to a hospital.

Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino also got a little confused when she stepped into a bathroom: "I walked in and [thought], Why are there urinals here?" She double-checked the door, saw the men's room sign and walked right back out.

But these 14 new members have worries off the Hill as well.  Their top concern is housing, whether they'll need a roommate, or a car. Dr. Raul Ruiz of the Coachella Valley said he's thinking about the East Coast winter weather, which he experienced during his college days at Harvard: "I’m starting to think of which clothing that I have that are remnants from my time in Boston that will keep me warm here in D.C."

Scott Peters, a Democrat from San Diego, broached another matter that crosses party lines: "One of the longer commutes in Congress." Peters wondered how he'll make a bi-coastal lifestyle work. LaMalfa said the challenge is whether to "move your family back to this place and then just go home for district business and then try to get back and be here? Or is there enough days that they’re home, you should just stay here and hustle back and forth on the weekends?"

The freshmen will have time to think about logistics while they’re home for Thanksgiving. They’ll be back at work at their temporary cubicles in the basement of the Rayburn Building at the end of the month, picking lottery numbers for office space and learning more about the way things work in D.C. 

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LA City Council special election slated for May at $400K cost

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via cd6.lacity.org

L.A. City Councilman Tony Cardenas has been elected to Congress. The special election to fill his seat will cost the city about $400,000.

A special election to fill the vacancy that will be left by Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas’ move to Congress will cost the city about $400,000, according to a report from the city clerk.

The Sixth District seat will open too late to make it onto the March 2013 ballot. The City Clerk's office said there needs to be reasonable notice for prospective candidates to meet residency requirements and organize their campaigns.

The estimate assumes the primary for Cardenas' seat will be held on May 21, 2013, which is the runoff date for the mayor’s race, as well as city attorney, controller and eight city council seats. If the CD 6 primary isn't held on that day, the estimate will increase to well over $1 million. 

The report states: “The $400,000 cost is based upon the number of precincts in CD 6 and presumes an estimated 15 to 20 candidates filing papers to run, normal at-poll voting methodology, and the necessity of administering both the primary and runoff elections."

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