Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Elizabeth Warren, is she or isn't she?

The question many are asking these days is will Elizabeth Warren run for President or not? A lot of people want her to. There are more than one organizations set up to get her to run, through petition drives, articles in the papers, websites, and more.

Recently she told NPR, I'm not running. When pressed, she said "Do you want me to put an exclamation point on it?"

But they were quick to point out she never said never.

Is her saying "Want me to put an exclamation point on it" like George Bush the First saying "Read my lips; no new taxes?" We remember how that turned out.

For now, all this speculation is leading to a chorus of "Run, Elizabeth, Run!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

This woman ran for Congress in Kentucky. She lost, but she has some good words of wisdom every candidate needs to hear. If you're planning to run for City Council or a special district this year, start now. If you're running for Assembly, Senate, Supervisor, and etc. in 2016, also Start Now! Referenced in my Republican friend's excellent campaign site:

For Elisabeth Jensen, running for Congress meant dialing for dollars 30 hours a week

jcheves@herald-leader.comDecember 6, 2014 
Here's what it's like to run for Congress: You sit in a small room for at least 30 hours a week and you stare out the window at a parking lot while calling hundreds of people to ask for money.
When there is a spare afternoon, you can knock on doors to meet voters or deliver a policy speech at a luncheon. But the small room with the phones always impatiently waits.
"If there is one message I would want to get across, it's that it's not glamorous," recounted Elisabeth Jensen, 50, a Democrat who this year unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, to represent Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District.
"I was surprised when I traveled to Washington and met with the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) and some members of Congress, and the only thing people asked me was, 'How much money can you raise? Where are you gonna get your money?'" Jensen said.
"There were no questions about my positions, no questions about my experience, no questions about why do you want to do this. The only thing was — it was like a script, word for word, everyone I talked to — 'How much money can you raise and how are you gonna do it?'"
Jensen plans to take Barr on again in 2016, despite being outspent $3-to-$1 this time and losing by 20 points. She sat down last week with the Herald-Leader at the office of the academic nonprofit that she co-founded in 2002, The Race For Education, to offer a candid look at life on the so-called "campaign trail."
More than anything, she said, the trail was a chair from which she dialed for dollars.
"Call time starts at 9:30 in the morning," she said. "One person dials and hands me the phone if they get somebody, along with a sheet that has the biography so I know who I'm talking to. I introduce myself, talk about the campaign and make the ask. If they say 'Yes,' then I hand the phone to someone else so they can take down the credit card information. And then the first person hands me another phone with the next call."

Although the DCCC never put much money behind Jensen's candidacy — it focused instead on protecting incumbent Democrats, then lost a dozen House seats overall — it insisted that she send in weekly spreadsheets so it could track how many numbers she dialed. When she put down the phones because her son was ill and briefly had to be hospitalized, "they said, 'Well, you lost eight hours of call time this week, when are you gonna make that time up?'" she recalled.
Money is crucial because it pays for the 30-second television commercials where so many Americans learn about political candidates. Nationally, $1.7 billion went into political TV advertising during this two-year election cycle, according to the Wesleyan Media Project in Middletown, Conn.
Even then, not everyone gets the message. In the weeks before the Nov. 4 election, despite Jensen and Barr having raised $3.4 million between them, she still met people who were unaware of either candidate's existence or the fact that they shortly would be called upon to elect their U.S. representative. Ultimately, 53 percent of the district's 512,845 registered voters didn't cast a ballot in the race.
There's not much you can tell voters in half a minute, Jensen said. A typical ad gave her enough time to speak fewer than 75 words, including the legally required disclaimer: "I'm Elisabeth Jensen, and I approve this message."
"It's disappointing," she said. "The average person doesn't read the newspaper. Very few people are going to sit through a debate. They pay attention to the commercials they see on TV. That's where they get their information. We had a strong case to fire Andy Barr based on what he has been doing for the banks, for the payday lenders, rather than for families. But you can't explain a CLO (collateralized loan obligation) to someone in 30 seconds."
Secluded with donors
Candidates tethered to a call sheet of potential donors spend too little time interacting with people who don't have money, Jensen said.
Only 0.21 percent of the American population — about 666,000 people out of 310 million — gave a political donation of $200 or more during this election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. Fewer than 25,000 Americans were the sort of big donors who gave $10,000 or more; it's likely they got a lot of calls.
Members of Congress can be just as cloistered with their financial backers. The political parties set up "call centers" near the Capitol where — between committee hearings and floor votes — lawmakers commonly are expected to spend four hours a day chatting up contributors. That doesn't count in-person fundraising events with lobbyists and industry groups that bring in tens of thousands of dollars over steak dinners or rounds of golf.
For example, the cost to attend Barr's 41st birthday party at a Washington bourbon bar in July — a fundraiser — was $500 per person. Another Kentucky congressman, Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, charged people $1,500 each in August to spend a weekend with him at The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. The hotel's poolside cabana was reserved for Whitfield's celebration.
Jensen said she was struck by how politicians can be out of touch with working-class Americans while touring rural Wolfe County with a local Democratic Party power broker.
"He said 'Come back in October and we'll walk all these streets and go up in the hollers and you can introduce yourself. And if people tell you they will vote for you, then they will vote for you. They will not lie to you standing at their door. But if you don't go up and ask them, then they won't vote,'" Jensen said.
"I had my campaign manager there, and he said, 'Well, wouldn't it be much more effective to just do a very targeted direct-mail piece?' And we looked at (the local official), and he said, 'With all due respect, sir, these people can't read.'
"You don't think about that, that there is a big segment of our population that cannot read. So how can we bring any kind of jobs in there? How could they fill out a job application? What are we doing about this? There is a huge disconnect between this population without marketable skills and the kind of jobs available in the 21st century. That needs to be addressed. But you don't see that discussed."
'An ethical issue'

Another flaw in the system, Jensen said: Politicians who constantly have their hand out for money are tempted to offer favors in return, even if it's just a sympathetic ear when a big contributor wants a tax break sponsored or a regulation repealed. There were some deep-pocketed people on her call sheet, Jensen said, whom she decided not to approach because the conversations would have been uncomfortable.
"I knew about what their interests are, and I knew they were different from my own perspective, so ... " Jensen said, her voice trailing off. "It's an ethical issue. We can't be taking that much money from people with a financial interest in what government does and realistically think that it's not going to affect the decision-making process."
Jensen said she likes the idea of public campaign financing, using tax dollars to lessen the influence of wealthy donors and let politicians spend more time among their constituents. Roughly two dozen state and local governments offer public financing for candidates, as does the federal government for presidential contenders.
However, congressional races are not part of that trend. Given Republican control of the incoming 114th Congress, they probably won't be anytime soon. Traditionally, the GOP opposes public campaign financing as "welfare for politicians." And recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have eliminated several campaign-finance restrictions, allowing a flood of private, and often anonymous, money into electoral politics.
Even Jensen, who was overwhelmed by Barr's fund-raising, acknowledges that she had the advantage of well-off relatives and friends, including many in the region's Thoroughbred horse industry, where she once worked. Realistically, most Kentuckians never could run for Congress, she said.
"I raised close to a million dollars this election cycle," Jensen said. "There's just a handful of Democrats in this state who could raise that kind of money.
"There was a time in this country when only white, land-owning men got to vote, and they controlled who got elected and what got done, what legislation got passed. It kind of feels like even after the civil-rights movement, making sure women can vote, making sure African-Americans can vote, we've come full circle and we're back to elections being decided and legislation being dictated by people who can spend a lot of money."
John Cheves: (859) 231-3266. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Happy New Year Now Start Campaigning!

Yes, it's almost New Year's, and the next campaign cycle is upon us, for those of you with 2015 campaigns. Lots of City Councils, school boards and special districts are up this year. Not to mention the various initiatives and local measures.

So if you're up this year, or just thinking about it, call for a free consultation with GreenDog Campaigns today. We craft smart, savvy campaigns. Our motto: You run. We run with you, to win!

Put a GreenDog in your Christmas stocking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tight races all around

Why were there so many close races this Election Day? I personally had two that were cliffhangers until just a few days ago when the last absentee ballots were counted. Another local race won by  less than half a percent. In Petaluma the Mayor was re-elected with 88 votes and I just heard of another race in a district with more than 400,000 voters, where the victor won by 17 votes! That's almost too small to be measured.

And in Oregon a recount has started for Measure 92, an initiative to label genetically engineered foods. Stay tuned. The fat lady hasn't sung yet!

The simple reason is that so few people actually voted. The ones who did really were committed, and in many cases equally so on each side. But there is probably more. So, more to come.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We have a Winner!

All the votes are (mostly) counted, although they won't become official until Dec. 2. GreenDog Campaigns did a good job on this off year. It was low key, but there was a tight and hard fought race in Los Gatos for Town Council. We are pleased to say our client Rob Rennie, pulled out a narrow victory. He was a first time candidate, with a great record, serving on the Parks Commission and as a past director of the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club. Also a stalwart in Rotary and other service and community orgainiztions.

We congratulate Rob Rennie on his win for Los Gatos Town Council!

Closer to home, we did some minor advising and calls for an upset candidate in the Marin Municipal Water District, Larry Bragman, currently serving on the Fairfax Town Council. Go Larry!

And also in Fairfax, we helped Measure J, a continuation of Measure F, public safety tax we did several years ago. With two calls by the very competent Police Chief, Measure J was a runaway winner.

Another big winner was Team Richmond, the people's choice in Richmond, across the Bay from us in Contra Costa County. Chevron spent huge with big consultant mailings, billboards and TV ads, but the people were not fooled by all the glitz and negative campaigning and the good guys won.  GreenDog presented a training to several of their candidates and volunteers at the beginning of the campaign. Richmond Rocks!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Close Votes - Sweating it out way past Election Day

In California, the Registrars of Voters don't have to report their final vote tallies until December 2. More and more voters are choosing to vote by mail, becoming permanent absentee voters, and more and more of these are not sent in early, but walked into the County Elections office or a polling place on Election Day.

This means, in some close races, we won't know the outcome for weeks. And it seems every County does it differently. In Santa Clara, for instance, where I had a candidate this year, the late absentee ballots were posted as they were counted each day, including on the weekends. My candidate appears to be winning as the vote totals are holding pretty steady day by day, but it is close.

They have, as of this writing, finished all late absentee ballots or vote-by-mail (those tuned in at the polls and so not counted with the others and not available on election night) and are working on provisional ballots. Those are the ones where there is some question about the voter's eligibility to vote, or whether they are voting in the right precinct. For those who vote in the wrong precinct, the Registrar must go through the ballot carefully, so that the votes cast for some races (like State or Countywide ones, for instance) are counted, and those that may have been erroneously cast for local races in a District in which the voter is not eligible to vote, discarded. See how complex this is?

In Marin, they expect to finish the counting of all late absentee ballots by Wednesday of this week, but not release the numbers until Friday. In a close race hanging in the balance, this can be agonizing. Two such races seem to be affected in Marin. There are two of these biting their nails as we speak.

In Sonoma, there don't seem to be any cliff-hangers, but it has been the practice there, not to release any of the counts until the last day.

Clearly some uniformity is needed. Just like I said about the way ballot statements are published in the voters pamphlets, which also vary county by County.

I wrote about that one in this Blog a while back, when the ballot statements came out. Let's see what happens with our new Secretary of State, Alex Padilla.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Breaking news - Some voters buck tide, vote in their own interests

This just in.  It seems that contrary to the Republican/corporate sweep across America, there were a few pockets of crusty holdouts who voted in their own best interests, not the interests of corporations, as so many of their fellow voters did last Tuesday.

Shocking as it is, some voters questioned the conventional and accepted wisdom of the Supreme Court , and said, "heck no corporations are not people, or if they are, I'm a more important person, and my interests come first."

They showed this contrariness by voting in favor of measures for raising the minimum wage in some surprising places like Arkansas for Pete's sake, home of Walmart, a very unhappy corporate person right now. They also passed measures against fracking, not just on the Left Coast, where measures passed in Mendocino and San Benito Counties, but in Ohio and Denton Texas.

But anyone feeling sorry for the corporations should take heart that they are not accepting this insult to their personhood lying down.  "Who are these peons, who probably committed voter fraud in the first place, to tell us we can't claim our God-given right to drill under their land and set their water on fire," asked an indigent spokesperson for the Texas Oil and Gas Association which is already cranking up a lawsuit  to overturn the fracking ban.   
In another unlikely and humiliating rebuff to the corporate authority, which really has their best interests at heart, voters in  Richmond California, home of  Chevron, who is itself a major employer (and polluter, thus also boosting the economy in terms of hospital admissions and sales of hazmat suits) rebuffed the hand picked City Council candidates Chevron spent millions of their hard earned money promoting with cheery billboards and TV ads.
"How could people be so blind as to vote for candidates belonging to something called the Richmond Progressive Alliance, bad branding if I've ever seen it," grumbled a corporate executive from his vacation home in Aruba, shortly after election results were posted online and blasted out by all the major news outlets in the country.

"Next time, we'll hire some guys to dress in baggy pants and hoodies to go out into the hood and talk sense into these people, except now we have to pay them $15 an hour, so we have to think long and hard on that one."

Maybe a lawsuit would be more effective.