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Flap’s California Morning Collection: August 3, 2011

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

For Central Coast Democrats, a prize and a problem

Democrats on California’s Central Coast were handed a rare prize last week when the Citizens Redistricting Commission created a Senate district with no incumbent and a 12-percentage point Democratic voter registration edge.

The race is already on to see who gets to claim the prize of becoming the party’s candidate, and it could be run on a track that is crowded, uncertain and potentially dangerous.

Three contestants have either reached or are approaching the starting line:

– Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, a former assemblywoman who lost a Senate race in 2008 by fewer than 900 votes in a district that was much less friendly to a Democrat. She says she’s “seriously considering” becoming a candidate. “I’m very much leaning in that direction.”

– Jason Hodge of Oxnard, a Ventura County firefighter and an elected commissioner of the Oxnard Harbor District. Hodge has been planning a run for the Legislature for months, has formed a campaign committee and begun raising money. He says he’s definitely running and has “a full expectation to raise $1 million for this primary.”

– Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara, a former assemblyman and onetime member of the California Coastal Commission. He says he hasn’t made up his mind, but muses that the Senate district “almost looks like someone drew it for me.” Nava says that by Labor Day, “Everybody should have a sense of what’s real and what’s possible.”

None says he or she would shy away from a primary race in which there are multiple Democratic candidates.

Tea Party picks up steam, demands further cuts

National Tea Party leaders in California were thrilled about one by-product of the political bloodbath over raising the federal debt ceiling: The fight showed that after two years of rabble-rousing from outside the Capitol, the Tea Party has real power to shape the debate in Washington.

Their challenge now that President Obama has signed the debt limit law: Can the Tea Party transform its government-shrinking mantra into long-term power, or will it be a one-hit wonder?

They’re not stopping to think about it. This month, Tea Partiers will storm town hall meetings of Republican and Democratic members of Congress and demand even more cuts. It’s the same strategy Tea Party groups used two years ago to protest – and ultimately water down – the health care reform law when they burst on the national scene.

“You’re going to see a lot of heat at those meetings,” said Mark Meckler, a Grass Valley (Nevada County) resident and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, a national organization that called House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to lift the ceiling “an embarrassment.”

Tea Partiers say the debt deal didn’t cut enough federal spending, was crafted behind closed doors, and assigned responsibility for further cuts to a small, joint committee of Congress.

That heat will be stoked further on Aug. 27 in Napa, when thousands of supporters and at least two GOP presidential candidates are expected to attend a rally to start a Tea Party Express bus trip across the country. It will end in Tampa, where the group will co-host a Republican presidential debate with CNN.

Two years ago, the idea of the Tea Party co-hosting a debate with the self-proclaimed “most trusted name in news” was unimaginable.

Dan Walters: Remapping of California districts still on a rocky road

So the state’s new redistricting commission, after countless hours of hearings, discussions and mind-numbing exercises in specific line-drawing, has produced its almost-final maps of 177 legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts.

What now?

Partisan and independent analysts have cranked up their computers, and their scenarios generally agree that the proposed districts, which need one more commission vote this month, would result in a Democratic gain of congressional seats and give Democrats a strong chance to claim two-thirds majorities in both legislative houses.

Whether those conclusions become reality, however, would depend on what happens in “swing” districts – those potentially winnable by either party – in the 2012 and 2014 election cycles. And their dynamics would be affected by the new and untested “top two” primary system.

It’s “would” rather than “will” because it’s uncertain whether the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s maps will actually go into effect, since they are subject to attack by those – Republicans, mostly – who believe they got the shaft.

Critics could challenge the maps by referendum – collecting signatures to put them on the 2012 ballot – and if a referendum qualifies, the state Supreme Court would adopt temporary maps for the 2012 elections.

It could simply decree that the commission’s maps be used for 2012 while voters decide their permanent fate.

That’s what the court, headed by Chief Justice Rose Bird, decided when a Republican referendum challenged the 1981 maps adopted by a Democratic Legislature and then-Gov. Jerry Brown – a ruling that fueled a drive to oust Bird in the 1986 election.

Or the Supreme Court could draw its own maps, as it did to break redistricting stalemates after the 1970 and 1990 censuses.

Attorney general, FPPC asked to investigate identity theft ads

The state attorney general and California’s campaign watchdog agency have been asked to investigate a new labor-backed group telling voters that signing initiative petitions increases risk of identity fraud.

Carl DeMaio, a San Diego councilman supporting an effort to qualify a local pension reform measure, filed a complaint over the weekend with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that Californians Against Identity Theft is running afoul of state disclosure laws and “knowingly using false information to alarm voters and stifle the constitutionally protected rights of individuals” in the radio spots and website it launched last week.

In a separate letter, DeMaio asked state Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate the ad and other activities he said are “undermining the initiative process” for San Diego voters.

As The Bee reported Friday, the organization behind the ads has received funding from the California Building and Construction Trades Council. The secretary-treasurer of the group, a retired attorney who formerly represented the union, declined to identify other contributors Friday. He said Californians Against Identity Theft, which has not filed a campaign committee, has been incorporated as a 501(c)4 nonprofit.

Californians Against Identity Theft’s 60-second radio ad, which is airing on stations in Sacramento and Southern California, urges listeners not to sign initiative petitions.Organizers say the effort is intended to educate the public about a need for more regulation of the initiative system, particularly the paid-signature gathering industry. But the ad came under fire Friday from good government and consumer advocates who said its claims were largely unsubstantiated and the timing sparked questions about whether the real goal of the campaign is to derail efforts to qualify measures circulating for local or statewide elections.

Attorneys for a statewide proposal to overturn a new online sales tax collection law have also taken aim at the effort, asking radio stations to stop airing the ad amid concerns that it is “filled with false and misleading statements.” The “Amazon Tax” referendum is one of several high-profile measures currently collecting petition signatures to qualify for the 2012 ballot.

Enjoy your morning!