Sunday, May 20, 2007

Clear Difference Between Oropeza & Richardson on Gay Rights

(NOTE: I originally used quotes around the words Clear Daylight in the diary title. To avoid confusion, I've edited it, as I believe the facts presented show there's clear differences between the two candidates - after all, only three years ago Richardson is saying she's against gay marriage, while two years ago Oropeza was the co-author on a bill to authorize gay marriage.).

The 37th district is extremely blue and it's clear whichever of the Democratic favorites wins (Jenny Oropeza or Laura Richardson), she is going to vote the way progressives would want her to vote most of the time. On most issues, they'd vote similarly.

On gay rights, though, there appears to be a clear difference between them:
Kuehl also noted that when Richardson was on the Long Beach City Council, she voted against a resolution to oppose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

At the time, in 2004, Richardson said she opposed gay marriage.

Oropeza, by contrast, was a co-author of the 2005 bill to allow gay marriage in California. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In a race in which Richardson and Oropeza can be expected to agree far more often than they differ, the gay rights issue appears to create some daylight between them.
If this difference between them is being characterized fairly, I'd say that's reason enough to get off the fence and support Oropeza if gay rights are important to you.

UPDATE: L.B. Press-Telegram reports Oropeza gets endorsement of Democratic Party.
State Sen. Jenny Oropeza won the Democratic Party's endorsement for the 37th Congressional District on Saturday, demonstrating her strength among grassroots activists.

The party's backing is an important stamp of approval in a district dominated by Democratic voters, and could bolster Oropeza's crew of door-knockers and phone bank volunteers.

Oropeza took 119 of the 168 ballots cast by party delegates, or 71 percent, easily reaching the 60 percent threshold needed to win the party's backing.

Assemblywoman Laura Richardson, Oropeza's top rival, trailed with 45 votes in polling of party delegates at a union hall in Gardena.
Not sure if this is the state or national party giving endorsement.

In any case, most of the delegates are from out of the district, as the Richardson campaign points out, so it is not a good representation of the views of district activists or voters. The significance is in the resources which will go to Oropeza as a result - both officially from the party as well as from Democrats for whom this endorsement carries weight.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Order of the Ballot for CA-37 Special Election

I noticed on the LA County Registrar-Recorder's helpful Calendar of Events (warning: PDF) for the 37th Special Election that the Randomized Alphabet Drawing by the Secretary of State had happened last Tuesday.

The results are here. (PDF)

Based on the drawing, the ballot order for the Democrats appears to be (major candidates bolded):

Mervin Evans
Ed Wilson
Laura Richards
Bill Francisco Grisolia
Jenny Oropeza
Lee Davis
Felicia Ford
Peter Mathews
Valerie McDonald
George Parmer
Jeffrey Price
I doubt it'll make any difference, since the people voting in this special election are already committed voters, not "just pick the first name I recognize" voters, but there it is anyways.

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Earl Ofari Hutchison Gets It Right

The black political power structure has been very involved in trying to determine the chosen black candidate. Earl Ofari Hutchison says what's been happening since Millender-McDonald passed away is disgusting:
The tragic and untimely death of California Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald ignited a raw outburst of political jockeying by local politicians to fill her seat that hasn’t been seen in years.

It was a near textbook case of unchecked ambitions, egos, opportunism, and pure naked publicity seeking run rampant.

The spectacle was appalling, disgraceful and totally disrespectful to the beloved congresswoman’s family members and legions friends who barely had time to mourn her passing before being stampeded by the pack of hungry wanna-be office seekers and climbers.
He follows by making a very perceptive observation that gets lost in all the jockeying:
The idea though in picking a viable black candidate is to insure that another black fills the seat held by Millender-McDonald.

The rationale is that blacks are so under-represented politically that the loss of that seat to a non-black would further dilute black political power, and also that a black officeholder best understands the needs and problems of black constituents. The real, but unstated, reason is the great fear that a Latino will get the seat and will tilt toward Latino interests.

But Millender-McDonalds’ district is a multi-ethnic district, and non-black elected officials have represented Los Angeles, state and congressional districts with a significant number of black constituents for decades; and in many cases quite effectively. If black elected officials are in any peril of losing offices, they must do some deep soul searching as to why that is.
The whole article is worth reading.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

CA-37 - Do Gay/Lesbian Issues Differentiate Candidates?

On support for the LGBT community, it would appear that there are differences between Laura Richardson and Jenny Oropeza, and it's starting to get noticed:
As far as MadProfessah can discern, Richardson is not a co-sponsor of any of the California LGBT community's major legislative priorities in the State Legislature: Mark Leno's AB 43 (Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act) or Kuehl's SB 777 (Student Civil Rights Act) or John Laird's AB 14 (Civil Rights Act of 2007). A lack of such sponsorship does not mean that she's homophobic, but since most of the Democratic caucus is signed on to all or at least one of these pieces of legislation it is significant that Richardson's name is nowhere to be seen, especially considering she represents a district which is putting on the third largest gay and lesbian pride celebration in the country this weekend.
The diary just quoted was frontpaged enthusiastically at this major LGBT blog by the blogowner herself (as you can see by the introductory note in parentheses), and she called for Richardson to 'clear the air' on where she stands on pending LGBT legislation.

If it turns out that the LGBT community and straight allies supporting equal rights for LGBT folks sense some real differences between the candidates, they could play a big role. Speaking to that point, the lesbian blogowner Pam referenced above is of color herself.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Field Set; Schipske Pulls Out

Per the LA Times, 19 candidates are in.

The ones that have the shot at it are Valerie McDonald, Laura Richardson, and Jenny Oropeza.

Right as the filing period closed, Gerrie Schipske announced she's not filing so she can focus on representing her LB district. The LB Press-Telegram thinks quotes one local campaign advisor speculating that she was pressured out by the black caucus to help clear the field for Richardson.

I don't know if that's spin or not, but I wouldn't presume that to be the case without more sources. Are people who would have voted for Schipske move to Richardson instead of Oropeza? After all, there is a little history between Richardson and Schipske:
Kuehl's letter underscores the continuing bad blood between the gay community and Richardson over campaign mailers that went out in a Democratic primary battle more than 10 years ago. Richardson's critics say her campaign crossed the line with anti-gay statements when she unsuccessfully ran for the Assembly in 1996.

In the race, Richardson lost in a Democratic primary to Gerrie Shipske, who is openly gay. And bad feelings from Richardson's campaign in that race continue to reverberate.

Kuehl, who is a lesbian, sent a letter out Monday denouncing Richardson and urging recipients to support Oropeza. Kuehl said "Oropeza has long been a friend to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community," and that Richardson's earlier campaign mailers "were filled with homophobic hate speech so shocking that many of her biggest supporters withdrew their endorsements of her candidacy."

The mailer, sent by Richardson during her 1996 Assembly run against Gerrie Schipske, accused her opponent of being "committed to the radical gay agenda" and "strongly backed by ultra-liberal Santa Monica Assemblymember Sheila Kuehl, the Assembly's only openly gay member."

The mailer was so aggressive that it cost Richardson support, said Parke Skelton, a consultant to both Kuehl and Oropeza. "A number of [Richardson's] major supporters saw that and withdrew their endorsements," he said.
It's of note that the Schipske withdrawal from the race came after the filing period ended, so nobody else could jump in. Also, Sheila Kuehl's letter attacking Richardson for her anti-gay campaigning in a race against Schipske was on the same day Schipske dropped out. It'll be interesting to see if Schipske takes a hands off approach to the race or makes an endorsement.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

More Local Coverage on CA-37

The LA Times covers the race today, although only to talk about the maneuvering to decide on the black candidate for the race. Hopefully as the field gets determined they'll focus on the positions of the candidates.

The LB Press-Telegram reports more on Schipske and on the entrance of Ed Wilson into the race. They give a couple graphs on his bio:
Wilson became the first African-American to be elected to Signal Hill's City Council, and he later became the city's first black mayor.

"People want someone they can get excited about," said Wilson, who served as Signal Hill's mayor twice, once in the late 1990s and again two years ago.

Wilson moved to Signal Hill from Long Beach in 1993. He lived in Long Beach from 1985 to 1992.

He earned his CPA while working as an auditor for the accounting firm KPMG. He earned his degree in accounting from USC in 1984.

"People want change in government," he said, adding, "I would point to Signal Hill as an example. We're seen as one of the most fiscally sound cities in the state of California because we look at long-term planning issues."
I'm thinking the public effort to "narrow the field" to produce the one black candidate is backfiring - it's not just that you now have three bigger-name black candidates in the race; you also have a topic the press is going to glom onto at the expense of coverage of the black candidates' actual campaigns.

The "black community fights amongst itself to determine candidate" topic is really juicy and easy to cover and there's a danger that this fight will get all the ink (or air time). Today's LA Times piece is likely going to be just the first of many examples of this. We can't forget that the election is going to be in less than a month and a half, and absentee voters will be getting their ballots ahead of that. There's really no time to waste on getting the message out, and I'm sure McDonald, Richardson and Wilson would rather not be competing with this juicy angle available to reporters so that they can get coverage that will actually help their campaigns.

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On the candidate front, the Press-Telegram breaks the news that LB councilwoman Suja Lowenthal is not going to run and that Richardson and Oropeza are the only Democrats to have officially filed.

Time's running short to file (I believe everything's got to be in on Monday), but I presume all these folks (Schipske, McDonald, Wilson) have everything lined up to file by the deadline.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Telephone Poll on Richardson v. McDonald

Jockeying to determine the black candidate would appear to have just got more complicated. The organization called the African American Voter Registration and Education Project, chaired by Mark Ridley-Thomas, did a telephone survey which they released that shows likely voters favor Valerie McDonald to Laura Richardson. Sounds like Ridley-Thomas is throwing his weight around for McDonald, and I'm guessing there's a fair share of spin on these results and probably on the survey itself meant to make McDonald look best. (For example, McDonald's advantage over Richardson, 17% to 13%, is probably within the margin of error, so you can't read into that too much).

No matter though, McDonald clearly has some powerful folks lining up behind her to counter all the endorsements Richardson already has (Black Caucus for the CA legislature, Dymally, Isadore Hall, Willie Brown). I suspect that each camp has enough claim to be the best candidate that it'll be difficult for this to get sorted out quickly.

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Gerrie Schipske Throws Hat In Via the Web

Her papers aren't in, but she's got a real campaign website up (the first one among the major candidates, as far as I'm aware) and, impressively, already has a live ActBlue webpage that she links to from her campaign site.

Her campaign is based on her being a Long Beach person who'll do right by Long Beach in Congress (what are the other 44% of the district that don't live in Long Beach supposed to make of that priority, I wonder?), and that she's the anti-Big Money candidate.

I've looked over the campaign finance disclosures (1,2,3 ) of her past campaigns against Steve Horn in the prior, Republican leaning version of the 38th district in 2000 and her campaign in 2002 against Rohrbacher in the 46th district. Labor contributions vastly outnumbered corporate.

On the race against incumbent Republican Horn in 2000, Schipske actually outraised him. She got donations from a lot of sitting Democratic House Reps in that race, including from Juanita Millender-McDonald. She was only the second open lesbian to run for Congress, and she got very close to defeating Horn (one percentage point away).

This is what The Nation had to say in 2000 about her challenge in the leadup to the general election.
GERRIE SCHIPSKE, California, District 38

Gerrie Schipske wasn't supposed to be the Democratic nominee against moderate Republican incumbent Steve Horn for a Long Beach-area House seat. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee insiders had groomed a young, not particularly political teacher--whose chief qualification appeared to be the fact that she had been featured on national television programs as an innovative educator--for the race to reclaim the historically Democratic seat. But Schipske, a nurse practioner, lawyer and healthcare policy consultant to the Service Employees International Union, won a primary upset with backing from labor and the district's large gay and lesbian community. Allies including Congressman Barney Frank have worked with labor and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund to keep Schipske, who is openly lesbian, even with Horn in fundraising. She is in an uphill fight, but, says Frank, "She's serious, she's progressive, she's got a chance to be elected, and if she wins she will immediately be a leader in Congress on healthcare issues"
Bonus points for her on overcoming DCCC boneheadedness on the way to almost knocking off Horn. The DCCC did actually support her after the primary according to the disclosure reports, but it sounds like by that time she didn't really need them.

It's just a shame that the raison d'etre for her candidacy divides up the Democrats in the district -- in this case, it's by city instead of by race. And just to let you know what I mean, just look at why Schipske says she's a candidate on the front page of her website , and then look at "37th District Facts". Not so great on Dem unity on that point, that's for sure...

It's just sad to see the tribalism card get played. I (perhaps naively) want to believe it shouldn't be necessary.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

CA-37: A Little More News

Rachel Kapochunas from CQPolitics.com has been all over this race, and has another article out today with a few bits.

Of note:

* Some context for the endorsement of Diane Watson - she's described as "a longtime colleague and ally" of Millender-McDonald.

* McDonald is behind in the black-establishment endorsement game.

McDonald plans on making an announcement in Carson to make her candidacy official on Saturday.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Valerie McDonald In Race - with Endorsement

I guess Valerie McDonald isn't going to let Merv Dymally's pronouncement that she is a less viable candidate than Laura Richardson get in her way.

Today, she announced her candidacy to replace her mother as representative in the 37th District.

And while Dymally was talking about her non-viability, she had a pretty good endorsement already in hand: Diane Watson - U.S. House Democrat from the nearby 33rd District, one of only 3 black US. Representatives from California.

McDonald quote from her announcement in the KNBC article emphasizes the positive. And Diane Watson's endorsement of her appears to be pure emphasis on the positive for McDonald:
"The wonderful people of this district deserve nothing but the best and I feel that I can offer them that by representing them in Washington," McDonald said.

Watson, D-Los Angeles, called McDonald "the epitome of her late mother," who died April 22 of cancer at age 68. She was in her seventh term.

"I can think of no other person who is better qualified to go to Congress and `hit the ground running,' than Valerie McDonald," Watson said. "Valerie is honest, dependable, astute and caring. She is more familiar with the congressional legislative process which is quite different than other legislative bodies. Valerie is passionate about bringing people together from diverse backgrounds to accomplish goals that will better their lives and provide a safe environment."

By contrast, practically the first thing that Richardson did when announcing her candidacy was to release an analysis that black voters can determine the winner in this election.

It bears watching to see if Richardson continues on with the focus on black representation in Congress and if McDonald goes in the opposite direction of rejecting a race-based rationale for her candidacy and emphasizing strengths that having nothing to do with race (familiarity with legislative process, passion, honest, dependable).

Does any of this tell us how a candidate will vote? No. As a result, I'm not making any judgments about candidates as far as their positions until I can get this information.

However, the way somebody campaigns does have the ability to harm or help the Democratic Party. A campaign that focuses on racial identity at the expense of Democratic Party identity (what we stand for and advocate) could definitely harm the Party. I hope Richardson is not going to go down that road.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Oropeza and Richardson are In

Well, it's big news, but now it's official that both Jenny Oropeza and Laura Richardson are in the race to replace Juanita Millender-McDonald in the 37th Congressional District.

Where do they stand on Iraq, on consumer and labor vs. business issues, social issues, etc? It'll be interesting to find out, but there's not much time. The election is only 45 days away!

I sure hope the inevitable attention paid to the changing demographics of the district [Will it remain a "black" seat? Will the near majority Latino population in the district put a Latino (or, in this case, Latina) in D.C?] doesn't take away from coverage of the candidates so we can figure out how they would vote. Right now, the racial/ethnic discussion hasn't been going on very long, but I'll be bothered if this stuff keeps getting rehashed. Example:
Oropeza is expected to announce her intentions today in Compton. Richardson also pushed back against the notion that blacks are losing ground in the 37th Congressional District. Black residents make up 22.7 percent of the district's population, down from 33.6 percent a decade ago, while Latinos make up 47.6 percent.

Richardson released a statistical analysis Tuesday claiming that black voters make up 37 percent of the likely electorate, while Latinos are just 15 percent. She said the numbers show that black voters are not losing sway.

"I think when you look at the stats, that's not the case," she said. "There's a reason why Congresswoman McDonald has continued in that seat."

A couple other things -

Oropeza's district overlaps only in Carson, with much if not most of the population of the 37th living elsewhere (Long Beach, Compton). Can Oropeza leverage her position as State Senator in Carson to do well there?

Lastly, there's a Wiki entry for this special election. It's definitely a good start (I've chipped in myself) and I think it could be a real resource for laying out candidates' positions and other things about this race. Join in.

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