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Last week, when the state’s Latino Caucus starting slipping this polling memo to reporters – showing that a Latino candidate “would motivate voters to go to the polls in 2016” – one name seemed conspicuously absent. San Diego Assemblyman Rocky Chavez is Latino, and expressed his interest in running loudly and early.
The caucus didn’t forget about Chavez, of course. They just don’t want him to win. The caucus made it pretty clear last year that they’re only interested in supporting Latinos with a D after their names when they told Chavez last year he couldn’t join the group.
Attorney General Kamala Harris eventually OK’d the exclusion after San Diego state Sen. Joel Anderson asked whether it was legal for the group not to let certain people in. That might be part of the reason Chavez made some not-so-subtle jabs at Harris when I talked with him this week (Harris is also running for the Senate seat).
Sara Libby: I know that you’ve had an interesting relationship with (the Latino Caucus). Can you give me an update on what the status is there – you weren’t allowed to join the caucus, correct?
Rocky Chavez: From their perspective, the Latino Caucus is a Democratic caucus. So, being a Republican, I wouldn’t be included. So that’s how it’s ended right there. I understand that. As far as Latino members in the Assembly, I deal with them all the time. I don’t think it’s a personal issue, it’s just a Democrat verses Republican one.
SL: The L.A. Times this weekend said that some Republicans have already written off the Senate race because there weren’t any big-ticket names like Darrell Issa. What’s your reaction to that?
RC: I think it’s too early to write off the state. There’s a lot of things going on around the world right now. I’ll give you an example. On Friday, one of the frontrunners for the Senate race was talking about foie gras and about moving that forward. At the same time, we were dealing with how we were going to support Jordan against ISIS. There was a big issue going on with how we were going to support Iran, or deal with Iran if they go nuclear. Then we were also looking at the issue of the Ukraine against Russia, should we be giving them offensive weapons. And we have a leading candidate for the Senate talking about the raising of geese. So I think there’s a disconnect there on what’s really important.
SL: Have you set any deadline on a final decision?
RC: My brain is saying probably after the California Republican Party meeting at the end of the month. I just got back from D.C. I was received very well by a number of groups, and now it’s on me to see whether we can put something together. And if it’s not working, then we won’t go forward.
SL: Can you tell me any more about your trip to D.C.?
RC: You know, I was joking around with my wife and said, “Well if we go back there and get a lukewarm response, then that makes it very clear for us, I’ll be staying in the Assembly.”
But it didn’t happen that way at all. It was very positive, everybody was talking about making California a national race for the Senate. One person in a particularly important role said they had pretty much counted California out, but now they’re thinking maybe California’s in play. So now it’s on me to put a structure together to go forward.
SL: A big portion of the bills you passed last session had to do with veteran’s issues. Do you have a big-picture agenda for this session?
RC: The issues you need to know about up here in Sacramento – anything we like to deal with, let’s say health care, education, water bonds – are things that the Democrats control. So often our ideas are taken over by the Democrats. That’s just the reality. The interesting thing about veterans is that because of my role previously as the acting secretary of the California Department of Veteran Affairs and being a Marine colonel, I’m able to make those issues relevant. But issues I’d really like to get into are education, water, jobs and infrastructure, that’s what I care about.
That’s why this Senate race is so important, it’s really on the Republicans. We need to get our message out to California about why we’re relevant.
• The U-T’s Steve Greenhut examined the infighting between Democrats and Latinos over the Senate race earlier this week.
No One Plant Should Have All That Power
State Sen. Ben Hueso plans to take a second shot at a bill that would require investor-owned utility companies – like SDG&E – to buy a certain amount of power from new California geothermal products.
He doesn’t say so specifically, but the idea is “to spur a union-backed geothermal project in the Salton Sea, a man-made lake in Riverside and Imperial counties,” reports John Hrabe.
But SDG&E says geothermal power is much more expensive than other renewable sources, and San Diego ratepayers already pay more than almost everyone else.
A Mild Case of Road Rage
Earlier this month, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins unveiled a bill that would generate $1.8 billion a year to repair the state’s crumbling highways. It would mean taxing drivers a flat $52 yearly fee, something that would require a two-thirds vote.
Two columnists weighed in this week. George Skelton says the state needs money fast – faster than the flat fee would get us. “That means a mileage fee. Get ready for it. And we shouldn’t need to wait several years. Sacramento should be pressing the pedal to the metal.”
And over at the Bee, Bruce Maiman says California isn’t transparent enough in general with its spending on roads, and it should fix that first.
Buried in their critique is an important truth: For all their nitpicking, they both seem to think Atkins’ bill – though imperfect – is pretty good. I guess this is what passes for a compliment around Sacramento.
• Speaking of Atkins, CityBeat editor Dave Rolland dropped the bomb this week that he’s leaving to work for the Assembly speaker.
Quick News Hits
• The 2014 turnout bar was set pretty low – but California voters still managed to sail under it with some truly pathetic numbers. (KQED)
• The local Republican Party announced this week that it will back state Sen. Joel Anderson in his bid for a seat on the county board of supervisors. That means turning their backs on the woman who currently sits in that seat, six-term Supervisor Dianne Jacob. (U-T)
• Gavin Newsom is in … the 2018 governor’s race, that is. (That’s 45 months early for those keeping track.)
Keep Sacramento Weird
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez vs. Deuce Bigalo, Male Gigalo might not be the fight we asked for, but it is probably the fight we deserve. (10News has a good rundown.)