Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Archive for September 16th, 2010

Newsom: Fees Don’t Fail Me Now

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It’s not a death-bed conversion, because he stands a good chance of winning his race. That said, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s insistence upon vetoing a proposed citywide alcohol fee to pay for the cost of treating alcoholics is notable.

Newsom (l) spares wine and beer & spirits lovers

First, it shows the fine line that Newsom walks in his quest to replace Republican incumbent Abel Maldonado as California’s lieutenant governor.

The mayor’s record — indeed, his city itself — is subject to scrutiny. Hence, Newsom’s select visibility in city politics the past several months.

Second, it spares Newsom from the potentially negative fallout of an “only in Ess Eff” story.

If approved, San Francisco would be the first city in the country to go down this road (an increase of roughly 3 cents on a glass or beer; 4-5 cents for a glass or wine or hard liquor — translated another way: 35 cents for every gallon of beer; $1 for a gallon of wine; $3.20 for a gallon of hard liquor.

It’s hardly a bragging point, and only serves to point out San Francisco’s other oddities that don’t play well in other parts of California: the sanctuary city ordinance, the plastic-bag ban, the $500 fines for failing to compost food scraps, to name but three.

(Here’s a particularly grim assessment of “Babylon by the Bay”, courtesy of SF Weekly . . .) 

Third, it shows the difference between campaigning and governing as far as California Democrats and fiscal policy intersect in this particular election cycle.

No serious contender will walk the Phil Angelides gangplank. The closest we’ve come to any talk of new taxes is Jerry Brown’s too-cute-by-half promise that he won’t do it . . . not without voter approval.

Now along comes Newsom, promising to kill the alcohol fee. It’s a convenient campaign pose. Problem is, it’s not the Democratic impulse east along the I-80, over in Sacramento.

Faced with a $19.1 billion budget, Assembly Democrats two weeks ago floated the following scheme:  higher income taxes and a lower sales tax (i.e., class warfare), a new levy on oil production, an increase in vehicle-registration fees and a suspension of corporate tax breaks.

Back in May, and trying to come up with the math to justify $9 billion in new bonds, Assembly Democrats talked about paying for their plan with money collected from fees that beverage distributors pay to the Golden State. Which was similar to another spending scheme back in 2009 that included a user fee on gasoline. 

One wonder what Newsom would do if, as acting governor, an increase in the VLF landed on his desk (you’ll “recall” that it didn’t do much for Gray Davis’ fortunes). Does this mean that the Democratic lite guv hopeful is reflexively opposed to higher service fees as a budget gimmick, as his SF alcohol stand would indicate or, once sent to Sacramento, would he go with the flow?


Written by Bill Whalen

September 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

10, 9, 8, 7 . . . 51?

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No big secret to know that, without a GOP win in California, the U.S. Senate likely stays Democratic


Now that the dust has settled in Delaware and the shocker in that state’s Republican senatorial primary, here’s what we know that we didn’t 48 hours ago: 

1) The Democrats’ most effective rebuttal to the Tea Party might be . . . Karl Rove

2) Or it might be Sarah Palin, whose involvement in Delaware — the fruits of her labor producing a general-election candidate with a tougher row to hoe — was characterized by Charles Krauthammer as “disruptive and capricious”. 

3) At some point after Nov. 2, the GOP and the Tea Party will decide if indeed they dance a political tango in 2012 — and, if so, who leads

4) The Republican dream of a 51-seat majority next January seems less likely, though not improbable

5) California, with its toss-up Boxer-Fiorina race, just got a lot more important. 

Here’s why . . . 

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Delaware is no longer a no-brainer pickup for the GOP (think Joe Biden’s son is kicking himself for taking a pass on going for the old man’s old seat?). If so, what 10 other states offer a decent chance of a Republican pickups in the Senate? 

1) North Dakota. Republican Gov. John Hoeven seems all but certain the replace the retiring Byron Dorgan, thus becoming the freshman senator most likely to obsess over Fruit of the Loom underwear.  

2) Arkansas. Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln looks like a goner, given that she’s down by 17 points in some polls, and has a hard time cracking the 35% barrier. The spells buh-bye. 

3) Pennsylvania. With Arlen Specter out of the way, Republican Pat Toomey seems to have the inside track

4) Wisconsin. Bucky Badger swung both ways in the 1980 and 1986 Senate landslide elections; Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold just called for six debates — usually, the sign of a worried candidate. 

5) Illinois. Voters find it hard to decide: the Democrat they call a mob banker, or the Republican who embellished his military record?  

6) Colorado. Republican Ken Buck, a Tea Party upset special back in August, has a 4-point lead

7) Nevada. Despite the whirlwind of controversy surrounding Republican Sharron Angle and dire prophecies of her impending doom, Nevadans simply aren’t wild about Harry (Reid). 

8 ) Washington State. Democratic incumbent Patty Murray apparently has recovered to the point where she has a 9-point lead — a surge that has local Republicans puzzled

9) West Virginia. A race everyone forget about, until Democratic icon Robert Byrd passed away. Paging Kathleen Harris: Mountaineer Republicans are alleging ballot hijinks

The Fabulous Moolah


And that leaves us with that mystical 10th state. Is it Connecticut, where pro-wrestling maven Republican Linda McMahon is the Fabulous Moolah of this year’s campaign cycle, with her cash-laden suplex

Or, do we change our minds about Delaware? 

And, what are the odds of the nine aforementioned states all cutting the Republicans’ way? 

The likely scenario: without a Republican victory in California, there’s no 51st GOP seat. 

Which makes the Golden State, for the first time in a very long time, terribly relevant as far as the Senate’s composition is concerned.

Written by Bill Whalen

September 16, 2010 at 7:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized