November Community and Government Relations Report

November Update

Contact Tim Farley, director of government and community relations

Federal Government

Barack Obama scored a convincing victory over John McCain for president of the United States while the Democratic Party won major victories in the Senate, House and state legislative chambers across the country.

With Obama's win, the Democrats have completed a 20-year period of growth in Contra Costa County. Obama's showing in the county cannot be overstated. For the first time in memory, the Democratic nominee swept every city in the county. Just 16 years ago, Contra Costa was considered a swing county, and Time magazine profiled Contra Costa and four other counties nationwide as bellwether areas to watch. In 1988, Michael Dukakis and George Bush both campaigned here, and Bill Clinton and Al Gore campaigned in the county in 1992. 1996 was the last time either party campaigned in Contra Costa County for the November general election, when Bob Dole campaigned in Walnut Creek.

GOP strongholds such as Danville, Clayton and even Moraga fell in the Obama tide. In the 2nd supervisorial district, which includes the Lamorinda area, Obama scored a breathtaking 35,000 more votes than McCain.

Election's Impact on Contra Costa County

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, now casts a huge shadow over national education policy. As one of the closest and most trusted confidants of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Miller now wields more power and influence in Washington than any Contra Costan in history. Additionally, Miller was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the president-elect, a fact that does not go unnoticed in the relationship-oriented town of Washington. With a sympathetic president, and the Speaker's ear, Miller will dominate the education field. Look for college affordability to be one of the cornerstones of Miller's education agenda in 2009.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, has the ear of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Photo from, rumors continue to circulate that Miller might be offered a cabinet post in the new administration. Both secretary of education and secretary of labor have been discussed as possibilities. While Miller denies he is interested, it is hard to decline an offer from the president of the United States.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D- Walnut Creek, while not as close with Speaker Pelosi as Miller, will be a national player on transportation and veterans issues. If the conversation over a stimulus and jobs bill picks up steam, look to Tauscher to assist in accelerating district transportation projects.

State Government

San Ramon School Board member Joan Buchanan completes the Democratic sweep of Bay Area legislative elected officials, replacing termed-out Republican Guy Houston '84, R-Pleasanton, in the state Assembly for District 15. In January, there will be no Bay Area Republican member of the House of Representatives, state Senate or state Assembly.

Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D- Concord, was elected to replace termed-out state Senator Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch. Torlakson swapped seats with DeSaulnier and was elected to his old Assembly seat for a final two-year term in the lower chamber. Torlakson has opened a campaign committee to seek the statewide office of superintendant of public instruction in 2010. Should Torlakson be successful, he would become the first statewide elected official from Contra Costa County.

East Bay Parks Director Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, was elected to the 14th Assembly District (which includes Moraga and Saint Mary's), replacing Loni Hancock, who was elected to the state Senate from Oakland. Skinner has indicated her eagerness to work closely with Saint Mary's leadership on education and Cal Grant issues. Hancock will replace Don Perata '67, D-Oakland, in the state Senate. With Houston and Perata termed out, it appears there will be no Gael elected to the state Assembly or Senate in Sacramento during the upcoming legislative session.

In addition to the state election, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has the called for a lame-duck session of the legislature to deal with the spiraling state budget deficit. Even though the state budget was passed just a few weeks ago, the deteriorating economy demands additional action.

The governor will look at two areas: expenditures and revenue. According to the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU), on the expenditure side of the budget the governor wants to reduce the Proposition 98 guarantee of funding to education by $2.5 billion in the current year, based on the lower revenues. He also proposed an unallocated reduction to CSU and UC of $132 million. No reductions to Cal Grant were in his proposal.

On the revenue side, the governor will ask for a temporary 1½% sales tax hike. The sales tax has been used as the steroid for quick fixes during a crisis. After the devastating Marysvile flood of the 1960s and the Loma Preita Earthquake in 1989, the state passed a temporary sales tax increase. Both times the legislature passed a temporary 12-month sales tax increase. After the 12-month period passed, the sales tax increased sunsetted.

Voting on state Proposition 8 (which eliminates the right of same sex couples to marry) went against the statewide trend and was defeated in both Contra Costa County and Moraga.

Local Government

Moraga Town Council member Mike Metcalf was succeful in his reelection bid. Metcalf will be joined by newcomer Karen Mendonca. Metcalf will be joined by newcomers Karen Mendonca and Howard Harpham.

Measures J and K, the competing land use issues were both defeated, sending the matter back to the City Council.

When the new council convenes in December, they confront two major personnel matters: the selection of a new town manager and a new chief of police.


John McCain's defeat means the "Silent Generation" (those born between 1928 and 1946, sandwiched between the G.I. Generation and the Boomers) did not produce a president. Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry were all members of the Silent Generation. John McCain, at 72, will likely be the last member of the Silent Generation to be nominated for president.

Also, McCain's defeat continues a 16-year streak of candidates with the superior military record being defeated by the presidential candidate with a lesser record. Ever since the Berlin Wall fell, military records don't appear to be as decisive as they were during the Cold War. In 1992 (Bush vs. Clinton), 1996 (Clinton vs. Dole), 2000 (Bush vs. Gore) and 2004 (Bush vs. Kerry), most would agree the defeated candidate had the superior military record.

While much has been said about Obama being the first African-American president, it should not go unnoticed that Joe Biden will become the country's first Catholic vice president.
Lastly, congratulations to political science professor Patrizia Longo, who correctly answered the most questions in my pre-election pool.

December preview: Legislative committee assignment

Tim Farley

Director of Community and Government Relations