Sacramento Report

December 2016/ January 2017
Volume 61 Number 5

California was a shining light in 2016 elections

The 2016 election is over at last and it was a solid loss for Democrats on the federal level, with Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton and the Republicans retaining control of both the US Senate and House of Representatives. We can expect a full-fledged attack on organized labor and the appointment of a conservative to the current US Supreme Court vacancy, creating a 5-4 conservative majority. Tough times are clearly ahead and the famous statement of early twentieth century labor organizer Joe HIll, “Don’t mourn, organize,” was never truer than it is today.

Once again, California was a shining light in a sea of trouble. Kamala Harris, as expected, was elected to the US Senate seat vacated by Barbara Boxer. The congressional delegation will retain its current lopsided Democratic split. There were two interesting upsets in congressional seats where Democrats faced Democrats in a run-off. Congress Member Mike Honda was defeated by Ro Khanna in Bay Area Congressional District 17 and Isadore Hall is losing to Nanette Barragan in Congressional District 44 in Los Angeles.

In the State Assembly, it appears that the Democrats will pick up three seats, with Sabrina Cervantes defeating David Linder in Assembly District 60, Sharon Quirk-Silva reclaiming the seat she lost in 2014 by defeating Young Kim in Assembly District 65, and Al Murasuchi reclaiming his seat in Assembly District 66 by defeating David Hadley. This will give the Democrats a 2/3 supermajority of 55 seats in the 80-member State Assembly. In six of eight “Dem-on-Dem” contests, “business Democrats” won the seat, which could cause us some heartburn. These are Cecilia Aguilar Curry in AD 4, Tim Grayson in AD 14, Marc Berman in AD 24, Raul Bocanegra in AD 39, Anna Caballero in AD 30, and Laura Friedman in AD 43. In an upset, Teamster-endorsed progressive Eloise Reyes defeated sitting Assembly Member Cheryl Brown, a favorite of big business. Similarly, in an open Bay Area seat, Teamster-endorsed Ash Kalra defeated a more conservative Democrat, Madison Nguyen. Fortunately, the “Business Democrats” don’t vote as a bloc all that often and we have been relatively successful in getting them to vote right on labor bills, but it is often a struggle.

The state senate Democratic majority of 26-14 remains unchanged. There will be a number of new faces in the State Senate. These include former Assembly Members Anthony Portantino, Steve Bradford, and San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener. Weiner defeated another Supervisor, Jane Kim, to take the seat held by retiring Senator Mark Leno. A strong progressive, State Senate staffer Henry Stern, won the seat vacated by State Senator Fran Pavley.

There were a huge number of propositions on the ballot that tackled everything from legalizing marijuana (passed) and making pornography actors wear condoms (failed) to eliminating the death penalty (failed) or making it easier to impose (passing but too close to call).

For us, the big ones were Proposition 53, which would have required 2/3 voter approval for government bonds to be issued and Proposition 55, which will extend increased income taxes to keep the budget balanced. We opposed Prop 53 and it failed and supported Proposition 55, which passed. The passage of Proposition 64, which will legalize recreational marijuana, opens a new industry for organizing. We have already begun to organize in the Medical Marijuana industry, but now California has joined the states like Colorado and Washington, where it is fully legal.