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THE NOONER for April 27, 2012

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ALL-ABOARD

At 3:45, I'll be hopping back on my train to return north. Yesterday, we looked at the Assembly districts on the route and below the jump, today we'll look at the senate and congressional races. You're getting a particularly long Nooner today, with lots of Bakersfield Marriott coffee sponsored by amazing subscribers and advertisers. Also, I have dropped images from the headlines to speed up load time...let me know if you like that or not.

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Oddly, the first several senate districts I will pass through--SD16, SD14, SD12, and SD08--are all even-numbered districts and thus won't be up until 2014. But, then, my San Joaquin train will pass through the mother of all senate races--SD05. The seat spans the northern San Joaquin Valley and picks up Modesto, Stockton, Manteca, Lodi, Galt and Tracy.

This is truly a swing seat, and the November outcome will largely depend on national coattails in a district Barack Obama won by 8.6% and Jerry Brown won by 1.6% in 2010.

On the Democratic side, three-term Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani is running and will almost certainly earn a top-two finish and a spot on the ballot in November. She came out as gay last November and, if successful in November, would be the first openly gay legislator elected from a district that doesn't touch water.

On the Republican side, Assemblymember Bill Berryhill faces off against San Joaquin County supervisor Leroy Ornellas. This is dairy farmer against wine grape grower, which represents entire different worlds, apparently. Bill and his brother Senator Tom Berryhill are known as moderate, Central Valley Republicans in the Ken Maddy tradition. Ornellas is running to the right and promising "no more bull" on prominent rural road signs throughout the district.

Both had over $250,000 on hand as of March 17, and money continues to flow in. Berryhill is able to use his current office to collect more from the Sacramento largesse, although Ornellas is finding plenty of checks. Berryhill is winning the endorsement war, with the support of plenty of his legislative colleagues and the important San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation. 

In the end, the Berryhill brand is strong in the Central Valley and, despite his Sacramento reputation of being a mod, there's little for Ornellas to hand around his neck. June 5 will likely come too quickly for Ornellas to overcome Berryhill's advantage, and he's likely to face off against Galgiani in November.

In Stockton, I switch from the choo-choo to a bus, which will get me back to Davis. I will pass through Darrell Steinberg's SD06, which could be an interesting race between Assemblymembers Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan in 2014. Leaving West Sacramento and entering the Causeway, I will be in SD03, a safe Democratic seat that encompasses Davis, Woodland, Solano County, Napa, and Sonoma. It's such a safe Democratic seat that Lois Wolk drew no challengers and will earn a second term on the red carpet.

Starting over as we look at congressionals, I will start in the boring CD23, where GOP Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy doesn't need to spend much time to gain a fourth term. He'll be instead focusing on trying to keep the House out of Nancy Pelosi's hands. 

Heading north, this is where it gets interesting. If Democrats take back the House, it will be through races in California's heartland.

I will cross into CD21, one of those battleground districts the GOP is counting on to hold the majority. The district stretches west along the I-5 corridor, and captures lots of small Central Valley towns (biggest city is Hanford), and lots of farm workers.

Assemblymember David Valadao will be on the ballot in November against one of two Democrats--Fresno Councilmember Blong Xiong or Hispanic Chamber exec John Hernandez. Neither Democrat resides in the district, and critics scratched their heads when Xiong chose the ballot label "Fresno City Councilmember," since Fresno is not in the district. 

At 49.3% Latino CVAP, this is almost a majority Latino district. Hernandez doesn't appear to be raising money, and a betting person would put Xiong and Valadao in November. Whether Valadao's Portuguese heritage helps him win over Latinos is anyone's guess.

If successful, Xiong would make history as the first Hmong-American to be elected to Congress, and if he makes it to the general, expect that to be a national story. (One other Southeast Asian, Republican Joseph Cao, was elected to one term in the William Jefferson seat in Louisiana.) Like Indo-American candidates Ricky Gill and Ami Bera, Xiong is building a national network of Hmong-Americans for early support. While Valadao has a significant fundraising edge and had a much earlier start as Xiong waited to see if Michael Rubio or Dean Flores were in the race, money will be no object when it comes to this battleground district in November.

If you could tell me who wins this seat in November, I'd be willing to bet that Nancy Pelosi will hold the Speaker's gavel. Until then, it'll be a fun one to watch.

Heading north, the tracks pass through CD16, which may be the only district that has three incumbent members of Congress living in it--Jim Costa, Dennis Cardoza and Jeff Denham. The district runs along Highway 99 from Fresno to Madera and Merced, and the stretches west to grab Los Banos. Cardoza retired, Denham is running to the north in CD10, and Jim Costa should easily win a fifth term in Congress.

Denham's reelection won't be as easy in a district that Barack Obama won by a couple of points in 2008. Former astronaut Jose Hernandez (D) is the leading challenger, and was joined at the last minute by Chad Condit, who is running as a "no party preference." Hernandez probably needs a 2008-style Democratic wave to win the seat that Meg Whitman won by 5 points, but his personal story puts him on the national radar and will require the NRCC to spend money in a district they shouldn't have to.

North of Manteca, we enter CD09, which is another battleground. Three-term congressman Jerry McNerney would have been happier if the redistrict gods would have skipped Galt and Lodi and added in a little bit more from the Tri-Valley. Challenging McNerney are Republicans Ricky Gill and John McDonald. Gill has built an impressive national fundraising base largely among the Indo-American community and has nearly $1 million on hand. McDonald is running hard and nasty against Gill, although likely doesn't have the financial base to overcome Gill's advantage. Further, the NRCC loves candidates like Gill, as he is bringing in money that the party won't have to spend to try to win a key seat in November. Like CD21, this is a race that will most likely be decided along with the presidential, based on the mood of the voters in November.

And, then we're in CD07. It's the rematch between Dan Lungren and Ami Bera, although the lines aren't as kind to Lungren as they were in 2010, as the new district drops Amador and Calaveras counties in favor of a tighter hug around the city of Sacramento. This race will involve plenty of money, and, like CD09 and CD21, will most likely result more from any national trend than from the characteristics of the two candidates.

In Sacramento, Doris Matsui will return to Congress from CD06 in a seat that she and her late husband have held since the election that brought us Proposition 13.

Finally, around 9:30 tonight, the Amtrak bus will return me to Davis, which will have a new member of Congress come 2013. Mike Thompson had one the best draws from the redistricting commish, and now has a consolidated wine country district, much better than the West Sac to Del Norte district he currently represents.

Meanwhile, John Garamendi is being shifted north to the new CD03. The district stretches from the Delta and through Yolo County west of the Causeway, and up to Yuba City. This is a Democratic leaning district, won by both Obama (13%) and Brown (7.7%). However, the GOP got a strong candidate in Colusa County supervisor Kim Vann, which is enough to put this on a Tier 2 target list. This district is a flip of Jeff Denham's CD10. They are both safe for the incumbent, unless we have a tide election like 1994, 2006 or 2010.

I don't currently expect a sweeping election either way, as I'm sticking with my projection of Democrats picking up net 15 seats nationally, but it could happen.

WRONG WAY: Today's update from the Controller's Office was a negative number, meaning more refunds were paid out than tax receipts received. With only two reporting days left in the month, it's almost certain that monthly personal income tax revenues will be below the January forecast by at least $2 billion.

NO NUKES: How do you stop nuclear power? Apparently, with salp, a small jellyfish-like creature.

Congratulations to Evan McLaughlin, Political and Legislative Director for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, who had the first answer to yesterday's trivia question. The Tri-Valley is composed of the Amador, Livermore and San Ramon Valleys.

Whew...that was a long one. Have a great weekend!

 

TOP HEADLINES ON AROUNDTHECAPITOL.COM AS OF 12:00PM
Dems, Unions Pushing New Local Government Bankruptcy Bill
Dan Walters @
blogs.sacbee.com
Although a new law to govern bankruptcy filings by local governments is just four months old, Democratic legislators and labor unions are lining up behind a major revision that local officials say would tilt the playing field.

No More Dodging Algebra Dilemma
John Fensterwald @
toped.svefoundation.org
For nearly two years, California’s unwieldy eighth grade math standards have lain untouched like an unexploded IED, a roadside bomb of the math wars. But with middle and high school math teachers clamoring for guidance and new assessments two-plus years away, the Legislature and State Board must soon answer the question, What about Algebra I in eighth grade?

CSU Fullerton Spends $300,000 To Remodel President's House
Erica Perez @
californiawatch.org
In addition to a controversial 10 percent pay raise, incoming CSU Fullerton President Mildred Garcia will receive another benefit when she arrives on campus: a $300,000 remodel on the eight-bedroom historical house where she will live.

California's Fiscal Mess Put In Focus By Recent Events
Dan Walters @
sacbee.com
California's fiscal mess – which is more political than financial – was brought into razor-sharp focus Wednesday by three events.

House approves student loan bill, paid for with healthcare funds
Lisa Mascaro @
latimes.com
WASHINGTON — Setting the stage for another showdown with the Obama administration, Republicans in the House on Friday narrowly passed legislation to prevent a rate hike on student loans — to be paid for with funds from the nation's new healthcare law.

Capitol Weekly: Weak Tax Collections Spur New Budget Fears
capitolweekly.net


Aclu, Others Help Marine Who Criticized Obama Fight Dismissal
Shelby Grad @
latimesblogs.latimes.com
A Marine sergeant who criticized President Obama on Facebook is fighting to keep his position after he was told Wednesday that he is being dismissed from the service with an other-than-honorable discharge. Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and...

California's 'Three Strikes' Overhaul Measure Turns In Signatures
Torey Van Oot @
blogs.sacbee.com
A proposal to revise California's "Three Strikes" sentencing law appears headed for the November ballot.

The Caucus: Senate Candidates in Massachusetts Release Their Tax Returns
nytimes.com
Senator Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts and his likely challenger, Elizabeth Warren, are much wealthier than most voters.

TV stations to post political ad info online under new FCC rule
Torey Van Oot @
blogs.sacbee.com
Television stations in California's major media markets, including Sacramento, will have to post information about political ads airing on their channels online before the November election because of a new policy adopted by the Federal Communications Commission today.

Gov. Jerry Brown preaches tax message to church leaders
sacbee.com
to pass his ballot initiative to raise taxes.

Three Strikes Law initiative likely to qualify for Nov. ballot
Tracey Kaplan @
mercurynews.com
The petitions to scale back California's tough sentencing law were signed by more than 830,000 voters -- far more than the 504,760 needed

Utility Watchdog Seeks Funds To Enforce Safety Regulations
californiawatch.org
Serious safety violations at power plants go uncorrected because regulators have never used their formal enforcement powers, the California Public Utilities Commission stated in a budget request being considered by legislators.

Senate OKs renewing Violence Against Women Act
Laurie Kellman @
mercurynews.com
WASHINGTON -- The Senate overcame election-year gender politics Thursday to pass a bill renewing the government's main domestic violence program.

Calif. religious leaders endorse Brown's tax plan
JULIET WILLIAMS, Associated Press @
utsandiego.com
Gov. Jerry Brown is getting support from about 200 religious leaders who have endorsed his proposed November tax initiative.

Assembly OKs Bill Allowing Clean-air Autos In Car-pool Lanes
Jerry Hirsch @
latimes.com
A bill that would prevent local transit agencies from tossing solo drivers in zero- and low-emission vehicles out of some car-pool lanes cleared the California Assembly on Thursday.

Assembly scuttles bill to make budget disclosure permanent
sacbee.com
Four months after the Assembly honored a judge's order to release member-by-member budgets, the house has decided not to make a permanent commitment.

Report: Rebates from health care law will top $1B
mercurynews.com
WASHINGTON -- More than 3 million health insurance policyholders and thousands of employers will share $1.

Amid Scrutiny, Water District Will Freeze Water Rates
Shelby Grad @
latimesblogs.latimes.com
A water district serving nearly four million residents in L.A. County announced Thursday that it intends to freeze rates for the first time since 2003.