There’s more going on in the June 3 election than first meets the eye
The June 3 statewide election is an anomaly. For the first time in a presidential election year, the spring primary election does not include the presidential candidates. That’s because Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in cahoots with the Democratic leaders in the state Legislature, contrived to create a third election in 2008, a special presidential primary on Feb. 5.
As a result, Tuesday’s election lacks some of the pizzazz it might have had otherwise, and voters may be feeling election fatigue. But there are a few lively races in the North State and a couple of controversial statewide measures to be decided.
CN&R editors have been studying the candidates and the issues, and offer this rundown of the significant races, as well as endorsements.
Wally Herger has become a fixture in Congress, rarely breaking a sweat to win re-election. Take 2006: Despite his unwavering support for invading and occupying Iraq, he secured his 11th term by a 2-to-1 margin over AJ Sekhon, a Yuba City physician and Army Reserves colonel.
Sekhon is running again, though he’s been virtually invisible during the final push to the primary. He missed the League of Women Voters’ debate in Chico—ostensibly due to his military duty, possibly due to the search warrant served by the FBI at his office and home this month. In an e-mail to the Redding Record-Searchlight, Sekhon wrote: “The FBI visit was for Sekhon Medical Group Inc. and has nothing to do with A.J. Sekhon. It seems like dirty politics….”
In the meantime, from the northern portion of the North State district, Jeff Morris and John Jacobson have emerged as strong contenders. They’ve mounted a collegial campaign, so it only was in terms of Democrats’ excitement that Jacobson referred to the pair as “like Barack and Hillary.” The comparison is apt: electricity vs. experience.
Morris ( www.jeffmorrisforcongress.com) has served four years on the Trinity County Board of Supervisors. He owns two businesses in Weaverville and has a background in marketing, which he says gives him the ability to “sell an idea” such as health-care and education reform, water and forestry policies, and, of course, withdrawal from Iraq.
“The national election is about political power,” he says. Northern California doesn’t have a lot of pull, “so if we don’t have the votes, we’d better have the answers and impress those who have the votes.”
Jacobson (http://johnjacobsonforcongress.com/) is a political newcomer who looks better in person than on paper, unless you know that America Sings! is a huge nonprofit he runs out of the ranch estate he owns thanks composer royalties and the success of his events-production business. He lives in Weed because he likes it. He and Morris see eye-to-eye on most issues.
What distinguishes Jacobson is his stage presence. He looks and sounds like a politician, with the charisma to make an impression on the national scene.
Beating an 11-term incumbent takes “somebody bigger than life and a little out there … to whom attention must be paid"—an accurate assessment of his performer self. He promises to bring home monies for projects such as rural broadband Internet and connecting wind and water power into the state grid—declaring that “one guy’s pork is someone’s righteous funding.”
✓ Endorsement: Jeff Morris. While Jacobson would give the district a conspicuous representative, we think Morris has enough style and more than enough substance to give Herger a real run and—gasp—even unseat him.
This sprawling district stretches from Sacramento into the Sierra Nevada and includes Oroville. The only real race here is in the Republican primary, to replace the scandal-tainted John Doolittle, who was impelled, after nine terms in office, to resign following revelations of a criminal investigation of his close association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
There are four candidates, but only two of them have a chance of winning. One of them is Doug Ose (http://dougose.com), a wealthy land developer and former three-term congressman who represented the neighboring 3rd District from 1998 to 2004. The other is Tom McClintock (www.tommcclintock.com), a 22-year state legislator from Thousand Oaks who is being termed out as a state senator.
Though Ose himself wasn’t a resident of the district until recently, he is making much of McClintock’s Southern California roots, running television ads suggesting his rival is a carpetbagger whose only interest is in keeping himself in office. (State law does not require members of Congress to live in their districts.) McClintock’s campaign has targeted Ose as a “liberal” who doesn’t share his conservative district’s core values.
Personal attacks aside, both men are conservative Republicans who want to make permanent the Bush tax cuts, support the war in Iraq, promise to secure the nation’s borders and want to beef up the military.
McClintock is the dean of anti-tax, anti-spending zealots in the state Legislature. He has a reputation for refusing to compromise, and has voted to OK a state budget only five times in 22 years in office. He’s proud of the fact that he’s stayed true to his principles, even when it’s left him standing alone.
Ose, in contrast, is a pragmatic operator who is willing to make deals if they will benefit his district. It’s a stretch to call him a liberal, but “moderate conservative” might fit.
The winner of the Republican primary will face the presumptive Democratic candidate, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Brown, in November. Brown nearly defeated Doolittle in 2006.
✓ Endorsement: Doug Ose. Fourth District Republicans would be better represented by someone who understands that compromise is the cornerstone of politics and might actually accomplish something for his district.
The 2nd assembly District stretches from Yolo and Sutter counties in the south up the middle of the Sacramento Valley all the way to Siskiyou County, including southwestern Butte County, where incumbent Doug LaMalfa lives.
LaMalfa is being termed out, as is his neighboring Republican assemblyman, the 3rd District’s Rick Keene (see below). Both men have eyes on state Sen. Sam Aanestad’s District 4 seat, which will be up for grabs in 2010, and both are looking to place allies in their Assembly seats.
LaMalfa initially anointed fellow rice farmer Jason Larrabee as his successor, but Larrabee, who was tainted because he’d worked for Rep. John Doolittle, decided not to run. LaMalfa then turned to a longtime friend, former state Sen. Jim Nielsen.
Nielsen (www.nielsenforassembly.com) was a powerhouse during his tenure in the Senate, from 1978 to ‘90, rising to become minority leader. He was known for his gentlemanly manner and political adroitness. But reapportionment changed the makeup of the district, and he lost his last bid for re-election. He subsequently served for many years on the Board of Prison Terms.
Nielsen faces three political newbies in the Republican primary—Esparto farmer and retired Marine Corps Reserves Lt. Col. Charlie Schaupp; John Martinez, a freelance journalist and consultant from Etna; and Peter Stiglich, a retired Air Force colonel from Cottonwood. By every measure, Nielsen is the most experienced and qualified candidate, and the Republican establishment has rallied around him.
The problem, as his opponents don’t hesitate to point out, is that Nielsen has a history of fudging with the law. They point out that he lives in a million-dollar house in Woodland, outside the district, and bought a doublewide mobile home in Gerber just so he could claim district residency. And it’s not the first time—he did much the same thing in the mid-1980s, when redistricting placed his house outside his district and he bought a condo in Rohnert Park, inside the district, so he could claim residence there, though he apparently never occupied it.
That’s not all. As former CN&R Editor George Thurlow revealed in an exhaustive October 1990 investigative piece, virtually from the day he was first elected Nielsen “became entangled in one ethical conflict after another.” These included being on the payroll of a Woodland pesticide and fertilizer company while influencing legislation dealing with pesticide use; funneling campaign funds to his second wife; lobbying for and voting for a $500,000 state grant, much of which went to a cogeneration plant in which he had a financial interest; and using his state office employees to do campaign work for him.
There’s not much difference on the issues among Nielsen and his opponents, with the exception of Martinez. All three are rock-ribbed conservative Republicans who favor limited government and taxes, cutting off all illegal immigration, building more dams and reservoirs, and the right to bear arms. They oppose gay marriage and abortion, and favor parental choice in education.
Stiglich (www.petestiglich.com) is a much-decorated career Air Force officer with a specialty in weapon-system acquisitions. He also served as a UN military observer overseeing a peace accord in Cambodia and worked for NATO in Bosnia, Croatia and Hungary.
Schaupp (www.schauppforassembly.com) is a fourth-generation farmer whose family owns the 3,000-acre Schaupp Farms near Esparto. He has a degree in agriculture from Chico State University and is a veteran of the war in Iraq.
Martinez (www.gomartinez08.com) is an anomaly, a Republican whose plank has more to do with marijuana growers, Mexican drug cartels and environmentalists’ efforts to destroy the American republic than anything else. According to his Web site, which is interesting to say the least, he is running to return the Republican Party to the grassroots.
✓ Endorsement: Charlie Schaupp. Jim Nielsen has received the endorsement of nearly every newspaper in the region, including the Sacramento Bee, but we don’t trust him. Nor do we think he really cares about the district. Pete Stiglich is a solid candidate, but Schaupp’s experience in farming gives him an edge in this largely agricultural district.
Not only does Doug LaMalfa want his man Jim Nielsen to replace him in the Assembly, he wants his woman Sue Horne to replace Rick Keene. Keene, in turn, is backing Dan Logue in this lively race to represent the 3rd District, which includes most of Butte County, including Chico.
Ideologically, Horne (www.horneforassembly.com), a Nevada County supervisor from Lake of the Pines, and Logue (www.danlogue.com), a Yuba County supervisor from Marysville, are so close as to be indistinguishable. Both want to make state government “live within its means,” oppose tax hikes, support crackdowns on illegal immigrants, question whether global warming is really occurring, and think environmental laws are hurting the state economically.
They differ considerably in style and tone, however. Logue stubbornly announces his steadfastness, saying he would rather have gridlock in state government than vote for a budget he doesn’t like, while Horne touts her willingness and ability to work with people.
The contest has taken a nasty turn since Horne sent out a mailer accusing Logue of steamrolling a farm family during an eminent-domain process to construct new levees. It’s almost impossible for an outsider to determine what actually happened, and the flap has degenerated into the kind of mud-slinging Republicans usually reserve for Democrats.
The winner will face Magalia Democrat Mickey Harrington, a labor union official, in the general election.
✓ Endorsement: Sue Horne. We don’t agree with most of Horne’s positions, but we think she’s smart and more open to working with people with whom she disagrees than Logue has shown.[page]
Butte County Board of Supervisors
During his first term as the Oroville-area’s supervisor, Bill Connelly hasn’t been afraid to buck the local establishment. So it comes as no surprise that city officials have backed one of their own to challenge him.
Gordon Andoe is a semi-retired appraiser of real estate who served as Oroville’s mayor for seven years. He also chaired the Butte County Association of Governments, comprising municipal and county leaders, and sees in “the current situation … a lack of cooperation between the city, the county and other agencies.”
Andoe says the county is misguided in its attempt to get more money for the Oroville Dam relicense out of the Department of Water Resources. The city negotiated a deal for $60 million over 50 years, plus $20 million for improvements to the lake itself. The county has spent more than $1 million in its quest for mitigation monies, and Andoe feels its leverage will expire when the new license gets granted, probably next year.
“You have to look at both sides of the issue,” Andoe said. “Just to tally up minuses and say that’s what we want doesn’t cut it…. FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] is not going to issue the license on emotional feeling.”
Andoe bristles about the weight Connelly places on county priorities: “What’s good for District 1 should be good for the county.” He says Connolly jeopardized a grant for Oroville’s veterans’ memorial by seeking a cut for the county and “is trying to defer $2 million for the Georgia Pacific crossing to other projects.”
Connelly is unapologetic about working for the good of the county, because “that’s the football team I’m playing for now.” He brushes aside the political subplot as well as the claims he doesn’t work to Oroville’s benefit—he’s keen to continue participating in the county’s general-plan update “so our district doesn’t get dumped on” and is pushing for transportation improvements.
A contractor who’s “self-read and educated,” Connelly himself can be hard to read. Case and point is the gravel mine proposed for the M&T Ranch—he surprised even his colleagues when he cast the deciding vote against it.
✓ Endorsement: Bill Connelly. We know this may not make us new friends in Oroville, but we like the incumbent. He’s impressed us with his depth of knowledge on important subjects—particularly water and water policy—and the fact that he considers a sphere of influence that goes beyond the city’s.
Soon after casting a dissenting vote on the M&T Ranch gravel mine opposed by Durham constituents, Curt Josiassen announced he wouldn’t seek reelection to the Board of Supervisors. That left a wide-open race that campaigning has tightened up.
As covered in Newslines this issue, events involving all three candidates—John Byrne, Mark Jensen and Steve Lambert—have been lively. That’s primarily because Jensen is a singular individual—a terse contrarian who loves the phrase “Game over!” and pronouncements such as “democracy is its own worst enemy.”
Byrne (www.byrneforsuper-visor.com) is a real-estate investor who recently relocated from north Chico to Durham, into District 4. He is chairman of the Butte County Republican Party, whose endorsement appears on Lambert’s Web site (www.lambertforsupervisor.com).
Lambert served on the Paradise Town Council from 1998 to 2002, the last two years as mayor. He’s now a rancher in Oroville and serves on the Butte County Citizens Advisory Committee for updating the general plan. His endorsements include the Butte County Farm Bureau, of which he’s a former director, and the man he seems likely to succeed.
✓ Endorsement: Steve Lambert. He’s lived in the district for more than a few months, understands the needs of agricultural communities and has political experience. Plus, if Byrne can’t even get the party group he chairs to endorse him …
Kim Yamaguchi has won two terms on the Board of Supervisors by convincing margins. That’s not too surprising, considering he’s a conservative in a conservative district. This time he’s facing two distinct challengers: the rare progressive to win an election in Paradise, and a political novice who’s lived the past 35 years on the Upper Ridge.
Yamaguchi (http://kimyamaguchi.com/) got a rough introduction to Butte County politics when he led an effort to redraw the Chico districts of Jane Dolan and the late Mary Anne Houx. The Board of Superviors approved the redistricting, 3-2, but a referendum campaign was successful, and it was overturned. Suitably chastened, Yamaguchi has since taken a more conciliatory approach.
He’s also taken credit for developments in his district, namely securing funding for the Upper Ridge Escape Route (Highway 171) and Lookout Point. Indeed, Yamaguchi says the allocation of funds countywide has become more balanced in the Ridge’s favor since his election in 2000. He supports the county’s hard lines on the Oroville Dam relicensing and the Mechoopda Indian Tribe’s casino project, and he so opposes new taxes that he voted against letting voters even decide on an assessment to support public libraries.
Paradise Town Councilwoman Robin Huffman (www.robinhuffman.com) is his most serious threat. She got elected in 2002 on the strength of her Save Our Gateway advocacy, and her views make her an ideological soulmate of Chico progressives.
She’s not running in Chico, though, and she lacks the support of her four council peers. Not only did they endorse Yamaguchi, they also delivered a serious smackdown by bypassing her for mayor this year, choosing Alan White instead.
Undaunted, Huffman has uncorked criticism of their endorsee. She pounced in a candidate forum when Yamaguchi said Paradise “will always be a bedroom community” and needs a shopping center for economic development. She called the first statement “the opposite of sustainable” and said retail isn’t as good as luring tourists and small companies.
Late to the party was Dwight “D.H.” Grumbles, a flooring contractor from Nimshew, who didn’t declare his candidacy much ahead of the filing deadline. He’s passionate about water issues and the Upper Ridge, agreeing with Huffman that Magalia and the smaller communities merit better law enforcement, funding and representation.
✓ Endorsement: Robin Huffman. We know she can be hard to like—her biting remarks have alienated members of the Town Council and county committees. We’re hopeful that she’ll bite her tongue and play well with others. What we know she’ll do is stay true to her core values: responsible growth, cohesive planning, sustainability and protecting the Ridge as a whole.
Props 98 and 99
Both of these measures are ostensibly about reforming eminent domain, the constitutional power that enables local governments to take private property for public use, with fair recompense to the property owners. They’re responses to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision (in Kelo v. New London) that upheld the right of the city of New London, Conn., to claim the plaintiff’s home in order to use the land for a privately financed redevelopment project that would supposedly improve the city and generate increased taxes.
Private-property advocates have been trying ever since to get state governments to pass laws forbidding such uses of eminent domain, with considerable success. However, a 2006 measure in California, Proposition 90, failed, largely because voters understood that it contained an unreasonable “sleeper provision” that would have required local governments to pay landowners for any loss of value due to rezoning decisions.
Proposition 98 is similar in that it would outlaw any governmental appropriation of private property for use in a privately financed redevelopment project. Opponents accuse it, too, of having a “hidden agenda.” They note that it also would phase out rent-control laws and give landlords more power, something that has nothing to do with eminent domain. And they point out, correctly, that 85 percent of the funding for the measure comes from landlord- and mobile-home-park groups.
Some of those opponents, notably the League of California Cities, qualified Proposition 99 for the ballot as an alternative eminent-domain measure. It would prohibit government appropriation of single-family homes for use in a redevelopment project, but not apartments or business buildings. It contains no other provisions.
✓ Endorsement: No on both. Eminent domain is rarely used in California, and the system now in place works well. It doesn’t need to be changed.