Republican representatives ignore county candidate forums

The political season is starting much earlier in the Golden State than we’re used to because California wants to weigh in on the presidential primaries when it still matters.

California has traditionally held its primary in June in presidential election years, which usually meant the nominees for both parties had been decided by the time we voted. To make sure we get to weigh in before places like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada decide the issue, California will hold its primary in March this year.

That means it’s time for candidate forums, and the Nevada County League of Women Voters will hold five of them at the Rood Center on consecutive Thursdays beginning this week with the 1st state Assemby district race.

Just don’t expect to see our Republican state senator, state assemblywoman, and congressman at any of them.

Democrat Elizabeth Betancourt and independent Paul Dahnuka are expected to attend Thursday’s forum for the assembly race, but Republican incumbent Megan Dahle won’t attend because of a “scheduling conflict,” according to LWV officials.

Dahle has yet to make a public appearance in Nevada County since declaring her candidacy for her husband’s assembly seat and then winning it in a runoff last November. A LWV forum scheduled for last October had to be cancelled because of a PG&E blackout and was never rescheduled.

After Dahle defeated Betancourt 58% to 42% but lost Nevada County be eight points, she promised to spend more time here. “Nevada County is probably the one county we’ve not been able to spend a lot of time in, but we’re looking forward to changing that,” she said after winning last November. “I think that’s just one of the places that going to get to know me better.”

Maybe she’ll show up at the fall forum before the general election so that her constituents can actually see and hear her. Dahle may also make it down here for a Republican women’s luncheon or maybe even the Nevada County Republican Party’s annual dinner, assuming they can find some place in the county to hold it this year. Those don’t count as public appearances, if you’re keeping score.

Her husband, Brian, who managed to avoid the county when he was seeking the state Senate seat he now holds, has not committed to attend the Feb. 6 forum for his office so I’m guessing he won’t make it.

Meanwhile, Rep. Doug LaMalfa said he’s not attending any forums in the lst Congressional district in the run-up to the primary. That makes sense since he has no Republican challenger in the primary, but he didn’t attend any of the forums in Nevada County when he ran for reelection two years ago either.

LaMalfa may be reluctant to make public appearances in the county because he lost in Nevada and Butte counties two years ago, and received a less than cordial reception the last time he held a constituents meeting here.

None of these Republicans need to win Nevada County to retain their seats in their heavily Republican districts so it’s easy for them to blow us off, but that may change when redistricting takes place in time for the 2022 election. Current census projections show California is likely to lose one seat in the House, and it could very well be a Republican seat.

State Assembly and Senate districts will also be redrawn, and Nevada County may end up in more liberal districts than it occupies now. In the meantime, you better get on the Republican mailing list if you want to hear from your local representatives.

Posted in Assemblywoman Megan Dahle, Nevada County Republican Party, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, Senator Brian Dahle, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Conservatives will continue to dominate Board of Supervisors

Three of the five seats on the Nevada County Board of Supervisors are up for election next year, but only one will be contested and–regardless of the outcome of that race–conservatives will remain in change.

Supervisor Ed Scofield is unopposed in District 2, while newcomer Hardy Bullock has an unobstructed path to election in District 5. Supervisors Chair Richard Anderson, who described himself to me as a “so-called liberal,” chose not to seek a third term and has endorsed Bullock.

That leaves the first district seat of incumbent Heidi Hall, who will face two opponents in her quest for a second term: Deborah Wilder, former chair of the Nevada County Republican Central Committee, and contractor Michael Taylor.

Hall has well-known liberal credentials and was a target of local conservatives when she ran 4 years ago for the seat held by retiring Supervisor Nate Beason. The conservatives had to settle for Nevada City Councilmember Duane Stawser, who changed his voter registration from Democrat to Independent when he declared his candidacy.

They will have at least once genuine conservative to back this time around in Wilder, who has been long active Republican Party affairs. But she has also shown the ability in the past to function successfully in non-partisan positions, said to be a component of a supervisor’s job.

Wilder served two terms on the city council–and was mayor twice–of Foster City in solid blue San Mateo County. (Hillary Clinton got 76 percent of the county’s vote in 2016.) She was a less-than-enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump when he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination, but has presumably drank the Kool Aid since then and is on board the Trump clown car.

It is hard to discern what liberal influences Hall has brought to the Rood Center during her tenure. She recently completed a trip to Washington, D.C., where she met with the STAFF of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, and Rep. Doug LaMalfa to discuss issues of local concern. Since she was dealing with staff people, Hall could have saved the taxpayers some money by just driving to Auburn (LaMalfa’s closest field office), Sacramento (Harris) and San Francisco (Feinstein).

But Hall did try to get FEMA to dislodge the money for two grants applied for by the county three years ago. Since none of the money the county is seeking has been granted since October 2018, don’t expect any action soon.

If Wilder can unseat Hall, conservatives will have at least 4 of the 5 seats on the board. That’s a lot more clout than Donald Trump will have in the county next November.

Posted in Board of Supervisors race, Deborah Wilder, Heidi Hall, Nevada County Republican Party, Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nevada City's dysfunctional government is led by a toxic mayor

I sat in our living room Tuesday night with the Christmas tree glowing, a medley of Velveeta, Kraft American singles, and Premium Saltine crackers thrown on our Melmac Christmas dish, a glass of 2 Buck Chuck chardonnay in hand, a Thomas Kinkade print above the fireplace.

It was time for the Nevada City Council meeting on NCTV.

Actually, none of that happened–if there was a Kinkade print in our house, it would most likely be in the fireplace instead of over it. There are much better things to do on a cold winter’s night than watch 6 hours of dysfunctional city government so I could post a comment at 12:48 a.m. Wednesday saying nothing happened. Still, there were lessons to be learned by reading the coverage of the meeting.

The biggest item on the agenda–and the one that drew a full house–was the conduct of Mayor Reinette Senum. She faced the possibility of censure and/or removal of her honorary title for a variety of alleged sins.

The item was placed on the agenda by Councilmember Erin Minett, who accused Senum of presenting her own views as those of the city or council, bucking the council majority on the issue of 5G technology, and generally creating discord and discomfort at city hall.

After several hours of discussion and comments by members of the community (most of them in support of Senum), the council chose to do nothing. But the meeting did reveal several underlying issues that nobody has been willing to discuss publicly, and they tend to paint the mayor and her supporters as bullies.

“We’re frustrated, that’s why it came to this,” said Councilmember Duane Strawser. “Our staff keeps getting thrown under the bus both here at meetings as well as in the office…That’s not comfortable anymore and that’s not fair to anybody.”

Former mayor Evans Phelps said the city staff has been impacted by the “chaos” surrounding council meetings. “This isn’t rumor, the staff is upset, it adds stress to the staff,” she said. “Grass Valley doesn’t do this nonsense. There is such a contrast here.”

Speaking of Grass Valley, Strawser claimed that Senum’s conduct has led to a worsening of relations with PG&E, the county, and the neighboring town. “The city of Grass Valley won’t work with us anymore…because of comments about our mayor, saying as mayor, the new Dorsey project should not happen,” he said. “There’s reasons why we have individuals from the county and other cities that surround us that prefer not to work with Reinette on committees.”

Some of this is overdone. Plenty of people, including residents of Grass Valley, object to the Dorsey Maketplace project, and Senum is hardly alone when she calls for the breakup of PG&E. Given her less than collegial style, I can see why people may not want to work with her.

But it appears Senum has created tension and discomfort–a nice way of saying bullying–among city staff, and she should have been censured for that. The majority of the council didn’t have the guts to go even that far.

Senum apologized for “any angst” she may have caused, but other comments she made suggests she has no intention of backing down or changing her tactics. The town’s voters can decide next year if they want 4 more years of that.

Posted in Nevada City, Nevada City Council, Reinette Senum, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bloomberg–and his checkbook–may enter the Democratic race

Reports have been circulating that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, apparently concerned about the ability of any of the current Democratic challengers to unseat Donald Trump, may enter the race for the party’s nomination.

Bloomberg, who at various times has listed himself as a Republican, Democrat or independent, sees himself as an alternative to Joe Biden for moderates in the party who are seeking a candidate. He could become a serious player immediately by virtue of his vast wealth, something he’s been willing to spend to advance his political goals in the past.

Bloomberg served three terms as mayor of New York, where he got the reputation of being a fiscal conservative and social liberal. Among other things, he turned a budget deficit into a surplus, set up a new tech center, crusaded against guns and gun violence on the streets, and promoted public-private partnerships to tackle civic and education problems.

But he wasn’t all that popular politically, forced to spend large sums of money against lackluster opposition to win relatively modest victories in his three races. His lack of dominance at the polls can be traced in part to the fact he was a Republican running in a heavily Democratic city.

Bloomberg’s expansion of the stop-and-frisk program while he was mayor won’t go over well with the progressive element of the national Democratic Party, where some people are already painting him as just another rich white guy. If he gets the party’s nomination, it will only come after an expensive, divisive campaign.

One more thing: Despite the national platform the position gives the holder, no mayor of New York has ever been elected president.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Brian Dahle picks up a vote in the California Assembly

To the surprise of nobody, Megan Dahle won the special election to replace her husband, Brian Dahle, in California’s first Assembly district.

And has increasingly become the trend, Nevada County backed the Democrat over the Republican in this race.

The outcome was a forgone conclusion when Brian Dahle was elected to the state Senate and his wife immediately declared her candidacy for his Assembly seat. The heavily Republican district figured to keep the seat in the GOP column, and Brian Dahle’s name recognition, political organization, and fund raising apparatus were more than enough for his wife to beat back any Republican opponents.

She carried the district comfortably over Democratic challenger Elizabeth Betancourt, outpolling her 58 percent to 42 percent. The only county Dahle lost was Nevada County, which went 54 percent to 46 percent for Betancourt.

This continues a trend of recent years. While Brian Dahle carried the county in his run for state Senate, Rep. Doug LaMalfa lost Nevada County handily in 2016 and Rep. Tom McClintock was pounded in the Truckee area, the only part of the county in his district.

Brian Dahle, perhaps suspecting his wife’s weakness in the county, showed up here about a week before the election to commiserate with merchants who lost business during the PG&E blackouts, and urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to call a special session of the state Legislature to deal with the problem. He didn’t say what Newsom or the legislature should do–just that it meet.

Megan Dahle, whose public service experience consists of one term on a school board, backed her husband’s call for a special session and said she would support a special tax credit for businesses that lost revenue during the blackouts. She also promised to spend more time in Nevada County so people could get to know her better.

She said during the campaign she will probably vote the party line 90 percent of the time, which means she will be casting the same “no” votes in the Assembly her husband will be casting in the Senate. The electorate basically voted for more of the same.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

LaMalfa’s all in for (farmworker) immigration reform

California’s Republican House delegation has been slow to join President Donald Trump on the ramparts when it comes to shutting U.S. borders and sharply restricting immigration.

Their reluctance to join the effort stems from the fact that most of them represent the agriculture areas of the state, which employ an estimated 500,000 workers who are in the country illegally. If immigration hardliners ever succeed in throwing those people out of the country, California’s ag industry will literally die on the vine.

So a bipartisan group of representatives got together recently to negotiate a bill that will give legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal farmworkers in exchange for stronger employee verification in the agricultural sector.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, chair of the immigration subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, led negotiations on the deal with Republicans Rep. Doug LaMalfa and Don Newhouse of Washington state.

“The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation,” Lofgren said in a statement. “But farmworkers across the country are living and working with uncertainty and fear, contributing to the destabilization of farms across the nation. Our bill offers stability for American farmers.”

The bill offers a path to legal status–either five-year visas or citizenship–for longtime U.S. agriculture workers with clean records. It would also overhaul the farm visa system to make it easier for employers to file applications, would limit mandatory wage increases, and would provide year-round visas for industries like dairy farms that aren’t seasonal.

The bill also incorporates legislation by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, beefing up the system for verifying a worker’s immigration status in the U.S. and making it mandatory for the agricultural industry.

The House may take up the measure as early as the end of November, but nobody’s sure about its prospects in the Senate. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the White House has been briefed on the bill, but it is not known if the measure has Trump’s backing.

LaMalfa emphasized the bill’s narrow scope, noting that it applies only to the agriculture sector, and said he believes it would be a win for Trump. He said he hopes it can be kept “in its own protective little bubble,” away from the fight over broader immigration policy.

“Agriculture’s been in desperate need of a stable, solid labor pool for a long time,” LaMalfa said. “A formal system of documentation will be better for the workers, it’ll be better for the farmers, it will be better for the nation’s security.”

If the bill reaches the Senate, Senator Dianne Feinstein has said she will support it. But the bill will never come to a vote if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t get an indication from the White House that Trump will sign it.

You can bet immigration hardliners will oppose the measure, and Trump has made it clear in recently months that he is going to punish California. But LaMalfa has been one of Trump’s more reliable foot soldiers in the House. We’ll see if that does any good.

Posted in Economy, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, Republican Party, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

These are my people…or maybe not

I ran an item in my most recent column in The Union (reproduced below) in which I noted a study by the Brookings Institute that tried to explain the great political divide in this country.

Brookings developed a profile of every Congressional district in the country, and concluded that districts represented by Republicans showed less vigorous economic activity, economies dominated by agricultural, mining and other labor-intensive jobs, and a population that was poorer and less well educated than people found in districts represented by Democrats.

Local conservatives didn’t like what they read. Local blogger George Rebane, who likes to believe he occupies a lofty perch when it comes to political commentary, labled his rebuttal to the item “‘Democrats good, Republicans bad’–Propaganda Central.”

That’s a misrepresentation of what I wrote–I made no value judgements, I just noted Brookings’ take on the political divide. Rebane apparently doesn’t like being lumped in with poorly educated, working- and middle-class families that toil in 19th century industries.

Rebane’s Ruminations regular Scott Obermuller, who decamped from California to more remote Idaho, chimed in with a lengthy screed proclaiming districts represented  by Democrats harbor loafers, the homeless, and welfare bums, and that many smart, hard-working Republicans reside in these districts. Nothing I wrote below suggests otherwise.

Todd Juvinall, who has never let his own ignorance deter him from expressing a firm opinion, complained that Brookings is not to be trusted, and pleaded with Rebane to provide links to studies done by the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute to refute those evil liberals.

Read what I wrote and decide for yourself:

One of the reasons we have such a sharp political divide in this country is that Democrats and Republicans have less in common than they ever did. When that’s the case, they don’t see problems the same way, assuming each recognizes a problem exists. Some statistics compiled recently by the Brookings Institute illustrate just how sharp the divide is. For example:

–Democrats dominate the most productive parts of the economy. House districts represented by Democrats generate over 63% of the nation’s gross domestic product, with Republican districts making up the rest.

–Household income shows a similar divide. A decade ago, median household income was about the same in each party. Since then, it has jumped nearly 17% in Democratic districts while declining 3% in Republican strongholds.

–Political partisans aren’t likely to run into each other at work either. Democrats represent districts with the biggest clusters of professional jobs, including tech hubs around Silicon Valley and Boston. Nearly three-quarters of jobs in digital or professional industries are in Democratic districts.

By contrast, Republican districts hold a growing share of the nation’s agriculture, mining and low-skill manufacturing jobs, many of which do not require a college degree, have lower pay and are more exposed to overseas competition. (No wonder Trump is fighting a trade war.)

–The two parties represent different kinds of places in the U.S., another reason they’re not likely to intermingle. Once, the parties were geographically intertwined, but the Tea Party revolution in 2010 wiped out Democrats in rural and working class districts in the Southeast and Midwest while the 2018 mid-terms ousted Republicans from many suburbs.

–Finally, people with college degrees are more concentrated in Democratic districts than in Republican districts. Democrats represent all 17 Congressional districts with the highest concentration of college graduates.

Just call us the Divided States of America.

Posted in George Rebane, Media, Politics, Republican Party, Todd Juvinall, Uncategorized | 1 Comment