Many states hold elections on June 5, and the eyes of the nation are on Wisconsin. The fate of the recall effort against Governor Scott Walker has national implications, though not because, as some believe, a Walker victory spells trouble for President Obama in November. The recall’s outcome has special meaning for labor activists, who have led the “uprising” against Walker only to see the President its national union leadership has strongly backed avoid the fight
. California’s election also has significance for what it says about the future direction of the Democratic Party. A series of primaries across the state pit corporate and real estate backed Democrats against progressives, as special interest groups that once gave primarily to Republicans recognize that backing “moderate” Democrats is a better investment. Here are my predictions for June 5, and what these results mean.
President Obama and the national Democratic Party have misjudged the Walker recall. Fearing that going all out to defeat Walker would make Obama more vulnerable in the fall if the recall failed, the President and national Party failed to use their clout to swing the election.
In contrast, Republicans recognized the recall election as a way to send a powerful national message against collective bargaining and labor unions, and have invested tens of millions of dollars accordingly. While Republicans time and again prove their loyalty to corporate interests and wealthy donors, Obama and national Democrats never hesitate to run when a progressive constituency they claim to care about is in a fight.
If the recall wins, all is well among Democrats. But if, as many believe, it fails, expect tremendous anger to build among labor activists in Wisconsin and nationally.
This anger will be targeted not just at Obama and the national Party. It will also be targeted at the national labor leaders who continue to uncritically back both despite getting next to nothing in return.
This latest betrayal of labor supporters by Obama and the national Party comes only months before the Democratic National Convention is held in one of the most non-union hotel cities in the United States. Yet union members will be out in force, cheering for a President and national Party that ignores union interests in Wisconsin -- and most everywhere else.
The June 5 elections further reflect the ongoing fight for the “soul” of the California Democratic Party. As California comes as close as ever before to being a one-party state, traditional funders of the Republican Party have switched their contributions to “moderate” Democrats.
Unfortunately for progressives, Assembly Speaker John Perez has become the bag man for these special interests. Bankers and real estate interests now run the state Assembly, whose Democratic legislators avoid criticism from many progressive groups because they are not Republicans.
Anti-union zealot and self-proclaimed school “reformer” Michelle Rhee has raised $2 million for her "Parents and Teachers for Putting StudentsFirst" political action committee that seeks to elect Democrats who will oppose teachers unions. Rhee’s committee recently spent
over $400,000 on television buys, polling and other services to support Democrat Brian Johnson, a charter school executive running in the open 46th Assembly District.
Because Rhee is making late expenditures, the Democratic candidates receiving of the $1.6 balance of her campaign war chest is not fully known as this is written. I was told that she made a large donation to Ian Calderon, the 26-year old son of the Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon and the nephew of Senator Ron Calderon, who is in a tight primary race in Assembly District 57.
When you have the state’s Democratic leadership backing conservative Betsy Butler over progressive activist Torie Osborn in Santa Monica, one of the state’s most progressive districts, we have a very serious problem. And while Osborn will ultimately win this race in November (both will make the runoff), this should not disguise how corporate interests are making an all out effort to control California’s once progressive Democratic Party (Party Chair John Burton is as progressive as ever, but he does not control campaign donations in primary races as Perez does).
Lynn Woolsey’s Congressional Seat
Based on the most recent polling I have seen, Jared Huffman will finish first on June 5 and will face a runoff with either Norman Solomon or Susan Adams. Although Huffman has a progressive Assembly voting record, the grassroots progressives in the district are split between Solomon and Adams. I’m picking Solomon to make the runoff due to his higher name recognition and the fact that some will see his success as having national implications.
Props 28 and 29
Conservative interests are pouring in money to defeat Prop 28, whose chief impact would be to allow Assembly members to stay in office 12 years rather than the current six. But it may be too late, and I think this reform in the term limits law will finally prevail.
After expressing concern about the impact of No on 29 ads
, I heard from supporters convinced the measure would prevail. My theory about initiatives is that many voters decide after reading the ballot question. Since Prop 29’s first line describes the $1 tax on cigarettes, it may remind voters what the measure is really about. I’ll go with Prop 29 winning.
San Francisco Measures
Prop A loses, Phil Ting wins, and Prop B is only a policy statement who’s goal of better maintaining Coit Tower has already been achieved. This leaves the race for the Democratic County Central Committee as the only undecided contest.
The DCCC was historically comprised of activists with close connections to elected officials (some of who are ex-officio voting members). This shifted in 2008 when politicians themselves ran for the DCCC. Current or former members of the Board of Supervisors have a great advantage in name recognition in a still low-profile contest, and all of those running for the DCCC who fit this category -- Chiu, Avalos, Cohen, Mar, Wiener, Campos, Dufty -- are likely to win. As is Hydra Mendoza, known to voters through her elections to the School Board.
Recent elections have proved that San Francisco voters are not as swayed by the DCCC endorsements as they were in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and Ed Lee did not get any endorsed slot in the 2011 mayor’s race. But some down ballot races and initiatives benefit from a Democratic Party endorsement, so these contests can make a difference.
It’s good to know that after Supervisors spend several hours with each other at Board and committee meetings, that they are still eager to spend time together at the DCCC.