Ken Calvert’s Telephone Town Hall

So apparently Ken Calvert held a telephone town hall last week accompanied by a number of robocalls telling people that he had done so. According to his robo-call voicemail message, the major topics were the economy, Iraq/Afghanistan, illegal immigration, and local transportation.

Looking at the summary at the link above, I find it hard to believe that these were the real questions asked – the tenses of the opening paragraphs are all confused, suggesting this was drawn up before the call. More importantly, though, it is highly unlikely that there was not a single question about the state budget crisis, the bank bailouts, or the stimulus plan. Indeed, three of the eight questions appear to have been related in some way to immigration. This is certainly one of Calvert’s favorite topics, but I doubt that is true of 30,000 random constituents. Have I mentioned that this robocall was on Cinco de Mayo? Congressman, you are a classy classy man.

In case you are wondering, the Congressman’s call indicated that he is “fighting for” tax relief, job creation, and the development of new energy sources, while he opposes amnesty and wasteful government spending.

Finally, I don’t remember getting a single robocall from Calvert during the campaign last year. So, I’m going to take his efforts now as a sign that Bill Hedrick has him worried – a good sign.

Addendum: I’d be interested in knowing what was actually discussed during the town hall, if anyone knows.

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Published in: on May 10, 2009 at 1:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Calvert on the Stimulus

The DCCC has named Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-44) to the House Republicans Hypocrisy Hall of Fame for taking credit for stimulus spending to occur in Riverside.

Representative Ken Calvert (CA-44) – “All of us in the Inland Empire will do what we can to direct as much money as we can.” [The Press Enterprise; 2/13/09]

We can, of course, compare this to other statements by him, also quoted in the Press Enterprise.

On February 3rd, in response to the DCCC launching ads attacking him for voting against the initial House version of the bill:

“It’s a boondoggle,” Calvert said. “The more people that know I voted against that bill, the better.”

I couldn’t agree more. And on February 12th, when his e-verify amendment was striped out of the bill in the conference committee:

“The one candle in the darkness of this disastrous bill was the reauthorization and requirements to use E-Verify,” Calvert said. “Now all we are left is a bill that places illegal immigrant interests above those of hard working American families and leaves the bill at the foot of future generations.”

All of this is rather surprising, as Calvert is a big fan of infrastructure spending, especially when it is going to benefit his personal financial interest.

As an aside, Bill Hedrick sent out a fundraising email for his 2010 campaign at the beginning of the month, touting the DCCC’s involvement in the district this time around. I’m pleased to see both Hedrick and the DCCC looking forward.

Efforts also appear to be underway by third parties – my parents received a phone call last week from Working Families First urging them to call Calvert and ask him to vote for the stimulus package. The more attention paid to Calvert, the better.

Published in: on February 18, 2009 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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California and the Stimulus

There are a couple of interesting stories on the stimulus package and California today. Starting with this one (h/t Calitics):

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), chaired by Congressman Chris Van Hollen, today announced the DCCC is launching a Putting Families First ad and grassroots campaign in 28 targeted Republican districts.  The ads focus on the Republicans out of step priorities by putting bank bail outs and building schools in Iraq before the needs of the Americans in the struggling economy.

Targeted California Congressmen include:

Representative Dan Lungren                         CA-03
Representative Elton Gallegy                         CA-24
Representative Ken Calvert                            CA-44
Representative Brian Bilbray                         CA-50

I’m especially happy to see Calvert targeted. I campaigned for Bill Hedrick in the past election and was pleasantly surprised to see how well he performed. I don’t expect that the ads will target the Orange County part of the district. I do think, however, that Hedrick will have to work to tighten the gap in Orange County if he wants to be able to win.

Update: This is exactly the kind of action the California Democratic Party should have taken this summer with regards to Republican obstructionism on the budget. It is still what they should be doing now – but this summer it could have yielded dividends in the election. The state party should take note.

Moving on, I don’t often have good things to say about Senator Feinstein, but I’ll give her credit for this (from CQ):

The first amendment scheduled for debate is a proposal from Patty Murray , D‑Wash., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would boost the bill’s highway funding from $27 billion to $40 billion and its transit funding from $8.4 billion to $13.4 billion.

This is a needed amendment. The stimulus package is already weighted too strongly toward tax cuts and too small overall. Infrastructure and transit spending will help put shovels in the ground, and transit spending in particular will help advance us toward a cleaner economy. Personally, I think this stimulus package should be used much more heavily to advance the serious investment we need in clean energy.

Which is part of what makes this so disappointing:

Friends of the Earth tells Streetsblog San Francisco that Senator Barbara Boxer’s staff has confirmed that Boxer and Senator Inhofe will present an amendment to the federal Stimulus Plan for $50 billion in additional funding for highways, bringing the total to $80 billion, exactly the figure Inhofe demanded last week in a letter to the Committee for Environment and Public Works.

I’m all in favor of more infrastructure spending, and this post doesn’t indicate what the spending will be used for. There are certainly any number of highway and bridge repairs that are desperately necessary. However, I dislike seeing spending going to car-based transit and not a corresponding amount going to mass transit. Unlike others, I’m not as bothered by the cooperation with Inhofe, no matter how odious I think he is.

Finally, LA Mayor Villarigosa is going to lobby Congress for more mass transit spending for LA.

Villaraigosa wants to ensure Los Angeles remains high on the list for funding for major transportation, green-energy projects and big-ticket items such as the “Subway to Sea” as well as the mayor’s ambitious solar initiative. He also wants federal money to go directly to cities.

This may be a day late and a dollar short. The time to do this would seem to have been a week or two ago when the core of the bill was still being written. That said, I certainly believe more money needs to be spend as aid to state and local governments. Such spending may not necessarily create new jobs, but it can certainly help prevent current jobs from being lost. And when jobs are lost, the quality of government services degrade, just as more people come to rely on those services. It is a dangerous cycle of events.

Finally, one of the major objections to more infrastructure spending, and mass transit spending in particular, is that it wasn’t sufficiently ‘shovel ready’. On that subject I point to this post by Paul Krugman last week, where he argues that stimulus spending should probably continue through 2011. I am all in favor of a broader spending package even if the jobs won’t get underway immediately, especially if the spending is on projects that advance other goals, such as combating climate change. Of course, perhaps that spending should be in a stimulus round two package that can be more carefully assembled in the next couple of months.

Additional Gerrymandering Thoughts

After my last post, I had some more thoughts on gerrymandering. The CA-44th is gerrymandered across counties. Most of the district lies in Riverside, with a slight (and new) Democratic registration advantage. That advantage is consumed by the Republican strength in the much smaller Orange County portion. The two are linked by a strip of the Cleveland National Forest.

One of the impacts of this gerrymander was that it was difficult to get Orange County press to cover the election. Ken Calvert is under investigation for a couple of significant ethical breaches, including the use of earmarks to fund development that increases the value of his property holdings. This was covered rather extensively in Riverside, but went largely unremarked in Orange County.

Likewise, the Hedrick campaign attempted to leverage his opposition to both the Foothill-South (CA-241) toll road extension and offshore drilling in Orange County. Neither got real coverage in the local media, this despite heavy coverage of the toll road extension debate itself.

There just isn’t enough of Orange County in the district to attract a lot of coverage from the Register and we’re well removed from Riverside’s papers. The LA Times doesn’t devote much coverage to Orange County as it is, and as best as I can remember and a search can tell me, the race was never mentioned at all, until it was over. As far as small local papers go, in San Clemente, at least, the two town papers didn’t discuss the race at all and one of them couldn’t be bothered to issue a correction when they misreported the Congressional election results by more than 15%.

I can only assume the issue was as significant for Judy Jones’s challenge in the 73rd Assembly District, split as it is between Orange County and Oceanside.

It is difficult enough for challengers to get media coverage. The problem is only compounded when the districts are gerrymandered across markets.

“Red” California

David Dayen at Calitics has an analysis of Obama’s results in several “red” congressional districts, including mine – CA-44. Obama carried the 44th by 2,500 votes with 49.5%, while the Republican incumbent, Calvert, defeated Bill Hedrick 52-48. This was a shockingly close race for the district, which has been trending Democratic in Riverside County – the first race I remember being actively contested, at least in the Orange County portion.

I only volunteered a little with the Hedrick campaign – spending more time first on Obama and then later on Prop 8. Based on my sketchy anecdotal evidence, however, the myth of unwinnable districts has more than simply institutional repercussions. Many Democrats I spoke with did not really expect that Hedrick could have a chance of winning, which seemed fair given historical evidence. Local press also under-reported the race. Even in the aftermath of the election, one of the local papers misreported the congressional election results, showing Calvert winning by over 20%. Until pressed they refused to print a correction because they viewed the results as irrelevant.

The more Californians are told that elections are predestined by gerrymandering, the less they’ll participate in them. The more the press and the parties act like elections are predestined, the more they actually will be.

Published in: on January 17, 2009 at 12:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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