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It's been a heavy week. We listened to Gavin speak. We've talked about homelessness, addiction, and mental health. We talked about whether Kamala is "black enough." We looked at special election campaign finance reports. Gibran and I launched the podcast. You can check out any issue you missed here.
As I have told you before, I rarely go to bed knowing what I'm going to write the next day. Today after the jump, I go long-form on the relevance of the endorsements by Dolores Huerta, Barbara Lee, and Gavin Newsom of Kamala Harris.
Before we get there, some fun. I got permission to republish this twenty-five years ago so I assume it's okay today.
As I wrote earlier this week, I finished reading "The Innovators" by Walter Isaacson this week. The book is about the people behind much of the technology we interact with daily, from the well-known to the unknown.
It brought me back to my early days with computers, cassette tapes before floppy disks, black and amber monitors, and telephone handset modems, where you put the phone into a cradle to transmit that famous modem screech. After moving from the VIC-20 and TRS-80, I loved the IBM-compatibles where I would regularly do upgrades from CGA->EGA->VGA and add an occasional stick of an extra megabyte of RAM or add a secondary 20 megabyte hard drive to label d:\. That was a big improvement. Think about that as you grasp your 256-gigabyte phone.
Many of you know I was a sick kid growing up and spent more time in hospitals and at home than in school for many of those years. That also meant that computers (and talk radio) were very important in my life.
Back to this week, I frequently get questions about how I ended up writing and looking at elections after climbing the lobbying ladder and running a state association for eight years. I enjoy meeting with aspirational young staffers and college students as they embark on their long, strange trips.
For me, how I got here is complicated, but let's just say that life has come full circle and I couldn't do it without a little help from my friends.
I shared this article on social media yesterday and folks got a kick out of it, so I'll share it with you today. It was in the Los Angeles Times in 1994--25 years ago this year. Here are two historical points from that year:
My, the world has changed and my, the world is much the same.
The asterisked, bolded text are today's addendums...
Paperless Publisher Builds Political Network : Cyberspace: The Orange Coast College student airs views via Internet with his electronic newsletter on college Democrats.
May 15, 1994 | ALICIA DI RADO | TIMES STAFF WRITER
PLACENTIA — Scott Lay had a choice: keep paying $300 telephone bills, or jump on the on-line computer bandwagon.
To a 21-year-old college Democrat on a tight budget with a need to network with other young politicians, it was an easy decision. Now when Lay finishes a few hours of work at a local hospital, he sits down at his PC to write his quasi-weekly, late-night political catharsis for the world to read.
*"few hours" of work were at Children's Hospital of Orange County and an eight-hour shift as EMT-turned-unit secretary in Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
Lay puts out an electronic newsletter through the Internet, a worldwide collection of several thousand computer networks. His paperless letter shoots into the computer mailboxes of about 100 people throughout the world--not counting the thousands of browsers who can skim his newsletter on any of several computer bulletin boards that can be reached with a modem.
*I just love the Internet as a "worldwide collection of several thousand computer networks." "Browsers" were Gopher and newsgroup leaders, as there really wasn't a web yet. The newsgroups were echoed on dial-up BBSs and some commercial services with Internet gateways, such as CompuServe.
He bills it "The Donkey's Mouth: The Newsletter of College Dems in Cyberspace." With chatter ranging from the latest doings of Gov. Pete Wilson to the dirt on Whitewater--not to mention a memorial of late grunge rocker Kurt Cobain--Lay's letter is free to anyone with an Internet connection.
As a last jab at his home, he always signs the newsletter "Alive and Kicking from Behind the Orange Curtain." All this from his computer headquarters, a.k.a. his Placentia home, less than three miles from the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda.
*Dad still lives there and now has a Democratic congressman.
*"Alive and kicking" wasn't really a joke because of my health background and the death of many friends, but as we all used to say "If you don't laugh, you'll cry."
"I get more motivated when I think I'm putting this out from Orange County," Lay said recently, sipping an iced mocha and wearing a pin pushing an upcoming state ballot initiative. "But then, I have to admit I got the idea from a college Republican newsletter based out of Berkeley, of all places."
Lay, an Orange Coast College student who goes by the computer name politico, uses the letter to ask other students to pressure legislators to approve laws improving collegiate education and increasing college funding. The newsletter is a political springboard for him as well: In April, Lay was elected to be statewide president of the California College Democrats.
*I really should have service-marked "politico," which was my moniker through several internet services through undergrad. Now we are stuck with "The Nooner."
It hasn't always been a life of political gamesmanship for Lay, who probably is one of the few young, local community college students to tote both a backpack and a leather briefcase.
*The writer didn't mention that I frequently wore hospital scrubs to school.
Just two years ago, when he was considering going into medicine, he and his OCC classmate Paul Mitchell were talking over a cup of coffee about how to get their fellow students to vote. Neither had ever been politically active.
*Paul who? Whatever happened to that guy? Somehow, Dustin Corcoran didn't make it into the article, likely because he was at Cerritos. He was a key player by this point. I do have pictures of Dustin, although he's wearing a political shirt about a governor and now has a much more dignified role.
"I wasn't even in student government in high school," said Lay, a graduate of Valencia High School in Placentia. "I was into drama."
*Well, by "graduate"... I'm not sure I conveyed the story accurately. I took the California High School Equivalency Test, the GED for kiddoes under 18. The school district pushed me out because providing special education services (through tutors at home/hospitals) was more expensive than the ADA. Since I was done with drama, I didn't mind. Well, done with theatre; I'm never done with "drama."
Lay and Mitchell put together a voter registration campaign at OCC. "We're well aware we were registering more Republicans than Democrats, but the important thing was that students were registering," Lay said.
Talking about voting and political awareness fired them up to start the Orange Coast College Democrats Club in 1992, he said.
"I don't think that either of us would be doing half of what we do without the support of each other," Mitchell said.
*This statement is beyond-belief true for those of you who have known us all these years.
Sharon Donoff, vice president of student services at OCC, said Lay has rallied students to organize and pay attention to statewide issues. "The Democratic club has been the most active political club we've had on campus since I've been here," said Donoff, who has worked for the college since 1971.
Lay got a taste of statewide politics with the nonpartisan California Student Assn. of Community Colleges, a group that recently elected Mitchell as its president. As the group's current legislative chairman, Lay often hops on commuter flights to lobby state legislators in Sacramento.
The political bug led him to work as a student organizer in the Clinton presidential campaign as well.
*Paul and I both still have signed copies of "Earth in the Balance" by Al Gore. "Scott/Paul - Thanks for all your help." Let me translate, we didn't screw up the day that Bill and Al did a rally with Whoopie Goldberg at the Pacific Amphitheatre. We did some sort of pre-game show at the OCC theatre, if I remember correctly.
"The night before the 1992 election, Paul and I were putting up signs on Fairview (Street) at 3:15 a.m." for the Clinton-Gore ticket and Senate candidates Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Lay said. "We put up signs on public property, which is perfectly legal, and we drove down the street. When we came back, the signs were gone. We couldn't figure it out.
"Then we saw a car slowly following behind us, and guys were tearing the signs down. Luckily, the Costa Mesa police caught wind of what was going on at about 4 o'clock," Lay said.
Officers stopped the youths trailing Lay's car, scolded them and let them go, Lay said. "I'm glad the police got involved because maybe fists would've gotten involved," he said with a laugh.
*No comment on who the future political figures were who were playing cat-and-mouse that night/morning.
Staying up late is typical for Lay, who said he gets about four or five hours of sleep a night. After a day of tutoring, studying and working as a clerk at Children's Hospital of Orange County, he sits down at the computer to exchange messages with computer users in the Midwest or East Coast.
"It's good to know what students in Minnesota are doing, for example," he said. "How are they dealing with issues?"
*I know they are standing in a blizzard listening to Amy Klobuchar. There was no such thing as streaming video in those days. How did those port-a-potties work out at 3 degrees? That's the "issue" Californians want to know now.
Before, he spent time on the telephone talking to people. Now, he subscribes to an Internet carrier to link his computer to others by telephone, at a much lower rate.
*"Link his computer to others by telephone." Yes, kiddoes, I've been playing this game for a while.
Thanks for walking with me down memory lane!
2020 and #CAKEDAY after the jump...
2020, CALI STYLE: For Capitol Weekly, Paul Mitchell calls California the "gorilla in the closet" of the 2020 presidential primary. Mitchell shares six tips:
As with any of Paul's analysis, this is a great read on your tablet over your Sunday coffee tomorrow.
THE GOLDEN STATE: For Politico, Christopher Cadelago writes that California's move of its primary from June too March gives a big leg up to Kamala Harris.
“Presidential candidates hoping to compete in California are in for an exceedingly expensive project: The state has 8.5 million registered Democrats spread over eight major media markets.
The state’s March 3 primary — with mail ballots going out in February — means candidates won’t be able to rely solely on momentum from Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to carry them."
Cadelago also dives more deeply into the Harris campaign. Great Saturday read.
KDH'S CO-CHAIRS: Yesterday, three co-chairs for Kamala Harris's campaign for President were announced--labor and civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and Governor Gavin Newsom. Newsom announced his support on Chris Hayes' show on MSNBC.
Newsom tweeted the appearance:
Some folks were asking me why Gavin didn't have a big announcement on a stage for Kamala. After all, she's been here for several fundraisers lately. From my perspective, it would have helped neither of them. Harris is capturing the most media attention of any announced candidate. An endorsement from the California governor doesn't help her in other states and likely doesn't lift her in the state.
Interestingly, Kamala Harris received 61.6% of the vote for US Senator in 2016 and Gavin Newsom received 61.9% for Governor in 2018. But those numbers are irrelevant. Aside from comparing a presidential in 2016 with 75.27% turnout to a 2018 gubernatorial with 64.54% turnout, remember that Harris ran against fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez in the general and many conservative voters sat out the vote.
The three California co-chairs accomplish several things. Newsom gives significant credibility to California's deep pocketed donors, some of whom may have been thinking "too early" about Kamala and are waiting for Biden. He also can help Kamala make headway with other governors who don't fall naturally into other camps. While new to the table, Gavin instantly is a star among the 22 other governors of states and three of territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands).
Among these, set aside Ralph Northam in Virginia. He'll likely stay in office but is in the political penalty box for a while. Montana governor Steve Bullock is termed out in 2020 and is seen as a possible candidate. Lots of others are in play or will be when their candidates take a pass or drop out. Newsom can rub elbows with them and vouch for Kamala, who is largely an unknown quantity outside of California.
Barbara Lee is obviously a big stamp of approval from the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and a push back of the criticism on Kamala's time as a prosecutor. Nobody question's Lee's passion on police violence and "unfair" prosecutorial actions. KDH needed that this week.
Dolores Huerta brings obviously a "thumbs up" from a key Latina labor leader. If Beto O'Rourke gets in the race (which seems likely), it could divide the Latinx vote between generations. Younger generations who haven't had family in the fields may know of Huerta from the history books but, unless they are active in politics, don't look to her for guidance as to the 2020 presidential election. Older Latinx voters I talk to who support Harris want to see a Latinx presidential candidate but believe O'Rourke would be running to soon. While there are similar questions about Harris, they cite her executive experience in the prosecutorial offices and the same amount of Senatorial experience as Barack Obama. O'Rourke had three terms in the House and, before that, six years on the El Paso City Council.
In 2008, some older black voters felt the same way about Obama. They experienced a heartbreak of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and felt that Obama could be the one but "not yet." Obviously, eight years later, they had pictures above the fireplace, like many once skeptical of John F. Kennedy did in the early Sixties.
Like with Obama, younger generations are more open to "new faces" who may have less experience, while older voters are more risk averse. This is nothing new. Look back at 1968 and the questions about Bobby Kennedy's youth. At this time, he had the same amount of time in the U.S. Senate as Harris and a resume of now-outlawed nepotism appointment as United States Attorney General. The only difference is that the race for 2020 is getting closer to the demographics of America than the Democratic field in 1968.
In 1968, there were no women. There was one African-American, DC minister Channing Phillips, although it was merely a symbolic campaign. It was really a generational campaign between Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota and Bobby Kennedy of New York, with a carry-over of the same anti-Catholicism opposition that plagued Bobby's brother, John F. Kennedy.
One could look at the 2008 primary as largely generational, pitting two Ivy League-trained-lawyer United States Senators--one 47 and one 61. Race and gender drew affinity to each candidate, but there was also a major generational element. I use "generational" and not age, because that is important. That was evident in the Bernie Sanders bid in 2016. He's older than Clinton, but generationally was seen by many voters to be associated with the younger.
Right now, it's a young field and the average age will be pulled down a bit more if 46-year-old O'Rourke jumps in the race. The oldest declared candidate is Elizabeth Warren, at 69. If Sanders jumps in, he is 77 and, if "Uncle Joe" Biden gets in he'll be 77 this November. At the end of the day, the field will wane to 2-3 serious candidates. There will likely be two different generations represented.
Obviously, Biden will be the older generation. While some may consider him 'Gaffe-y Duck," he's a risk averse choice, a known quantity. He's a big effin' deal, as he would say. I'm not sure where Sanders falls. There are far more "younger generation" serious candidates in the field or possibly in the field--in particular Cory Booker, Harris, and O'Rourke--that those "Berniecrats" may not be there this time around. Those "kids" are four years older and those college clubs have all turned over. Similarly, Warren's traction is unclear and which "generation" she'll be perceived to represent.
My goal here is not to start regularly writing about the presidential election. For the purposes of The Nooner, I'm only focused on the March 3, 2020 California primary and the prospects of candidates from California.
Booker and O'Rourke fall in to the younger generation. In looking at KDH's tapping of Dolores Huerta and Barbara Lee as California co-chairs, I see her getting a pedigree from senior leaders of the left. While Gavin is not well known on college campuses,* he can get College Democrats clubs behind him and they could play a key role in the congressional-district awarded delegates come March 3, 2020. Many of them were active in the seven "flips" from the GOP in 2018, are ready to defend those seats in November 2020, and need something to do in the spring term.
*The last California governor to be relevant on California college campuses was Reagan during the Free Speech Movement, and students at the time would say that it wasn't for good reasons.
I wouldn't be surprised if Gavin showed up at at College/Young Democrats session at the May 31-June 2 convention in San Francisco and as part of that appearance gives a pitch to get them on Kamala's bandwagon. That would actually be more impactful than from Kamala herself.
The liability for Kamala on the left is her time as prosecutor in the City and County of San Francisco and as state Attorney General. Harris stayed neutral on Proposition 47 (2014), which reduced some drug crimes to misdemeanors and loosened parole eligibility rules for non-violent offenders. While some believe that it has created massive increases in crime, it is neither found in the data nor by voters. Only 3% of adults (4% of likely voters) name "crimes, gangs, drugs" as the most important issue for the Governor and Legislature to tackle.
Bear with me...this is the tie in to California and the role Newsom might play.
On the 2020 ballot is a measure to largely overturn Proposition 47. Recently, the biggest benefactor of the campaign of that effort, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, asked for its $2 million that it gave on 12/28/18 back. Ostensibly, it is because the union has new leadership. In reality, the contract for the state's prison guards expires in June and negotiations are beginning for a successor contract. For the Prop. 47 repeal effort, the reality is that it is broke if that $2 million is returned. Recently there have been a series of large contributions from FSB Core Strategies and McNally Temple, two GOP consulting firms. When campaigns start taking big money from consulting firms, it means they are out of money and have to pay bills to keep the lights on.
Proposition 47 is a major part of Jerry Brown's legacy. Brown has $15 million in campaign funds that he is prepared to use to defend it. That said, Democrats don't want to see that on the November ballot. This week, Newsom pulled back on the two major infrastructure projects Brown championed--high-speed rail and the Delta "two tunnels."
While as Newsom noted in his budget presentation that 1% increase in prison guard compensation costs nearly $50 million, the state's general fund is flush for the time-being. That provides latitude in negotiations with CCPOA over the contract. That could lead to some tweaks to Proposition 47 by the Legislature that leads to the withdrawal of Prop. 47. Under the language of the initiative, the Legislature can change provisions in furtherance of the initiative with a two-thirds vote and signature of the governor. Reduction of criminal penalties of offenses included in the act require a majority vote.
Without CCPOA, the repeal effort is largely dead but would be costly for local law enforcement groups like the Los Angeles Police Protective League, representing LAPD. Those groups also don't want to get crosswise with the new governor. Even though he doesn't have a role in collective bargaining, he'll be acting on plenty of bills they have an interest in. Everybody at this point has an interest in seeing that ballot measure go away after some tradeoffs. Nobody more so perhaps than Kamala Harris.
On February 16, the endorsement of Gavin Newsom of Kamala Harris could be considered just a collegial, trivial step. However, it could have a huge impact on her presidential ambitions by having "her friend" get rid of the repeal effort allowing her to make inroads with skittish, largely younger, progressive voters who she needs to capture those congressional-level district delegates.
With changes resulting in a compromise and the withdrawal of the initiative, you could see Kamala standing with Gavin and law enforcement behind them at a bill signing this fall and that would be a picture far more important than that of an announcement of the Governor as her co-chair.
With the endorsement of two senior "in the trenches" leaders in Huerta and Lee that brings across the senior generation-minded primary voters and a governor who could broker a compromise on public safety that could bring the junior-generation minded voters on board, Kamala could be executing a winning California intergenerational strategy amid a crowded field in a now early-voting state.
SWALWELL 2020: During the week, Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Livermore) has said several times that he is "ready" to jump in to the presidential campaign with a focus on his home state of Iowa. (For community college folks, yes there is a "Sac City, Iowa.")
The challenge for Swalwell is that if he is framed as a favorite son in Iowa, there is no way to beat expectations. The same is true for Kamala in California. The difference is that when we wake up on February 4, we will know how many delegates were awarded in the Iowa caucuses. That same day, millions of California Democrats will have ballots in their mailboxes. In fact, it will be more mail-in ballots than there are people in Iowa. Perhaps even more than if you throw the cows in too. In 2016, Iowa had 44 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. California had 475 delegates.
Of course, Election Day in California is not until March 3 and ballots can't be counted until then. And, as Paul outlines in his great write-up for Capitol Weekly, calculating delegates in California's open primary (on the Democratic side) and thorough counting process, it will be another month before the final number of delegates awarded by congressional district and statewide will be known. During that time between March 3 and the beginning of April, there will be plenty of pronouncements about the perhaps the most important allocation from California. Most of them will be wrong.
It's going to be a fun ride in California--at least for those of us who geek out over this stuff.
Iowa is cute. So is that town in New Hampshire that votes at 12:01am. So is Puxatawny Phil. They are all irrelevant next winter.
Meanwhile, Representative Swalwell, good luck with your decision. Make one and stick to is so your constituents can decide whether or not to consider your successor.
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Kathy Gaither and Paul Towers!
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