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Political Fix by Gloria Penner

San Diego's Politicians Take The Yellow Brick Road to Sacramento

It's March already. It seems like just yesterday that the 2008 election season ended, with the next California primary more than a year away on June 8, 2010 . This feels like breathing time between c38aigns. Yet here we go again. Already potential candidates for the state Legislature have made their move for 2010. They've filed their "Statements of Intention" with the California Secretary of State. This they must do before beginning to fundraise for their c38aigns.

From the looks of the list , there's no shortage of people who want to work in Sacramento.  These include incumbent Assembly members and state senators who are not yet termed out and want to stay in office as long as possible. Some wannabes who now hold local office want to move up.  Then there are those who have termed out or soon will and are looking for other opportunities.

For ex38le, San Diego's State Senator Chris Kehoe will be termed out of office in 2012.  But she only spent four years (two terms) as the District 76 state Assembly member from 2000 to 2004 before running for state Senate and winning. So she could legally run for another 76 th Assembly term and still stay within the limits (three two-year terms). According to a recent phone conversation I had with her district representative, she hasn't ruled out that scenario.


But there's a big implied "however." It seems that when Kehoe was the San Diego City Council District 3 member, her chief of staff was Toni Atkins who went on to be elected to that District 3 seat when Kehoe moved up to the Assembly in 2000.  Now Atkins is termed out after serving for two three-year terms on the City Council and wants to run for Kehoe's old Assembly District 76 in 2010. That seat is being vacated by termed out Assembly member Lori Saldana who has listed her intent to run for the Board of Equalization. Board members have the possibility of two four-year terms and earn about $43,000 more a year than legislators. Back to the Atkins/Kehoe situation. If Atkins wins the 2010 election and runs for re-election in 2012, will this change Kehoe's mind about opposing her former chief of staff that year or is the lure of Sacramento too strong to resist?

In the South Bay, Assembly member Mary Salas filed her intention for both the 79 th Assembly District and the 40 th Senate district. San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso wants the seat that Mary Salas might vacate in the Assembly. But Salas could have some stiff Republican competition from former Chula Vista Mayor Shirley Horton who is termed-out from her Assembly seat and has filed her intention for the 40 th Senate District. And the termed-out Republican Assembly member who represented the 75 th District (Poway, Escondido, San Diego), George Plescia has filed his statement of intention to run for Lt. Governor (same salary as Board of Equalization).

There are more, of course. But why is there all this eagerness to be elected and re-elected to state government, considering the massive criticism of our legislators, especially recently over the state budget fiasco? And have term limits benefitted the public with fresh ideas, new faces, and short-term citizen legislators who serve the public interest and then return to private life as they were supposed to do?

Well, we are getting recycled legislators. And they do have enormous financial and psychic benefits which are hard to relinquish. There's the pay at $116,208 a year, the free car, free gasoline, a $400 monthly car allowance, and $138 per diem just for checking in or scheduling short Friday morning sessions before a three-day weekend. They work eight months a year and get paid for 12. They get to take "junkets," have solicitous staffs, and impressive titles.  It's heady stuff. For many politicians, Sacramento has become the Land of Oz, alluring for the novice, and addictive for the experienced. Term limits alone won't improve Sacramento.

Jesse Thomas from hillcrest
March 18, 2009 at 05:34 PM
Gloria's story about Universal Healthcare is a real disappointment as usual. her piece on supporting this program had no critic for this, as if there is no controversy!


March 19, 2009 at 03:51 PM
SACRAMENTO WILL NOT CHANGE ITSELF: You’re absolutely right it is musicale chairs. California’s economy is huge. It is larger then many prosperous countries. This translates into a lot of money that runs through Sacramento. We need to take that power of money out of the equation. First get rid off all of these punitive taxes on the producers. Give incentives to get business to move here instead of chasing them off. That will broaden the tax base as employment increases. You are also right that term limits doesn’t work. We would do better with a balance of power. For forty years the left has controlled the purse strings in the state through the assembly and has run the state with the help of their friends in the unions. They have been punishing business with taxes and regulations and rewarding failure by creating a socialist welfare state that is one of the largest in the United States possible one of biggest in the world. We cannot keep rewarding failure without getting more of the same. That’s why we are where we are at now. The answer: Eliminate the general fund concept and make each individual state agency be run on its own merits and bookkeeping. The general fund is nothing more then the co-mingling of money (which by the way is illegal for us to do). All new special interest projects to be voted up or down on its their own basis and merits not hidden away in a more popular bill. These changes would put California back on the map instead of it turning into a 3rd word state with its hand out. This would take the power from the unions, the lobbies and politicians with alteriative motives. Let's run the state like a real business for a change and require them to follow the same rules they force on us to. Let’s take emotion and political correctness out of every decision and start looking at the facts.

Gloria Penner from KPBS
March 19, 2009 at 05:38 PM
Dave - I just thought of something else after hearing San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso declare his candidacy for State Assembly. He has two years to go in his council term. Yet, he he has begun his campaign for the California Legislature. I wonder how much time he will have left for his council job after fund raising for the campaign, giving speeches, going to coffees, walking the streets, and accomplishing all the tasks necessary to win that higher office. Will the city of San Diego and his District 8 constituents get their money's worth? Gloria