Women for Obama tour a roaring success

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Caroline started off, Oprah broke it down, Michelle kept it real, and Maria Shriver surprised everybody and spoke from the heart. The Kennedyesque themes of hope and opportunity are reaching people all over the nation and Obama is rapidly closing the gap. Nayayers like Juan Williams believe that Hillary still has a huge advantage, others see that this race is far from over and will not be decided on Super Tuesday.

Senator Obama himself spoke to a crowd of over 20,000 in Delaware while Bill Clinton was banished to the chitlin circuit of Los Angeles black churches to hawk his snake oil for Hillary. CNN described his foray as a “mea culpa tour.” I think its too little and too late for most blackfolk. Clinton is reduced to having Negro surrogates vouch for him and introduce him to African American audiences now. Before he sought to racially polarize people, that would have been unnecessary. He could have gone anywhere to talk to blackfolks and been received warmly. Now, folks have to remember that they are in the House of the Lord and remain polite. Sad.

The one thing that mystifies me is the stasis field a lot of African Americans seem to be stuck in torn between Hillary and Obama. I never thought it would be a tough choice for somebody like Snoop Dog. The Clintons would like nothing better than to diss somebody like him for a 21st century Sistah Souljah moment. I thought the brotha could see that.

The Clintons are so desperate for Negro support now that they will go anywhere and do anything for it. Hopefully folk won’t fall for the okeydoke.

As for the polls, they’re all headed in one direction-toward Obama. The only question is whether there is enough time between now and Tuesday to overcome Hillary completely.

Obama-Clinton CNN Showdown Tonight

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Obama and Clinton

Tonight’s debate is sure to mimic with its intensity and fervor the series of civil wars called the Wars of the Roses fought in the fifteenth century over the British Throne between the Houses of York and Lancaster.   The throne of Imperialist power, the Presidency of the United States, is tonight’s ultimate prize.    

The War of the Roses, named for a scene in Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part 1, where the Houses chose sides by picking a rose, was a bitter, protracted, and scorching war. Tonight’s debate promises to be the same.   The battle lines have been rigidly drawn between the Houses of Obama and Clinton.   The Congressional Black Caucus, according to The Hill, a Washington Newspaper, is evenly divided between the House of Clinton and the House of Obama with 17 members each.  Tempers are flaring and lines have been drawn in the sand.  

The last such nomination battle between President Carter and Teddy Kennedy was equally divisive and created the same fissures in the unanimity of the Congressional Black Caucus.   Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Congressman Mel Watt, both former Chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus, have lost their champion, former Senator John Edwards.   The competition to land their endorsements is fierce and all eyes are on them to observe which side they ultimately choose, if they choose at all.      

Tonight’s debate is sure to be a Shakespearean kabuki dance with each side loaded and ready for bear.  Shakespeare’s classic dialog says it best and I can easily envision tonight’s combatant’s reciting the lines:“Then Come, O’ God’s name; I fear no woman.”   “And while I live, I’ll ne’er fly from a man.”

Cynthia McKinney registers to vote in California as Green, moves toward Presidential bid

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Hat Tip: By Jeffry Scott, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney seems to have ended any notions of running again for state office in Georgia and has registered to vote in California where she is still considering a run for president on the Green Party ticket.

In recent weeks McKinney — who last month posted a letter on her Web site declaring that she had no interest in the Green Party nomination — has appeared at fund-raisers in California, where a group named Run! Cynthia! Run! is trying to draft her as the party’s candidate in California.

McKinney’s name already is on the ballot in California, along with six other Green Party candidates, including Ralph Nader. She and the others were nominated by a Green Party convention in September in California.

The fact that McKinney’s name remains on the ballot has given supporters hope, said John Morton, a California Green Party delegate.

“She’s got us all guessing, but she hasn’t removed her name, and that’s a good sign. I talked to her last week, and she said she’s very interested but not ready to make an announcement.”

Two weekends ago McKinney attended a rally with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who is running for the San Francisco seat held by Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy’s Pelosi. Sheehan told the crowd that McKinney is running for president.

McKinney, who served five often-provocative terms as a U.S. congresswoman representing voters in DeKalb County and roughly the southeastern section of metro Atlanta, has been registered to vote in Marin County since May 4, 2007, according to records at the Marin County Registrar of Voters. Marin is a county north of San Francisco.

According to the Georgia secretary of state’s office, she is still registered to vote in Georgia, but has not voted since December 2006. Secretary of state director of media Matt Carrothers said state law does not require she notify the state that she is now a registered voter in California.

“But since she is registered to vote there, she cannot vote in Georgia,” Carrothers said.

Vicki Leidner, chairwoman of the Feminst Issues Group of the San Francisco Green Party, hosted a fund-raiser for McKinney two weekends ago when, she said, “we raised a good chunk of money, especially for someone who hasn’t declared she is running.”

Leidner said McKinney has sought to keep a low profile in moving to the San Francisco area, where she has been accepted as a doctoral student at the University of California at Berkeley. “After you been through the things she’s been through, you learn to be a little quiet about things,” Leidner said.

Brent McMillan, political director for the national Green Party, said the party also is seeking to get her name on the ballot in Illinois. “California and Illinois are the first- and second-largest Green Party states.”

McKinney is not yet registered as a presidential candidate in Illinois, and, by law, cannot register before Oct. 29. To register she must first submit a petition with between 3,000 and 5,000 signatures to be eligible.

California delegate Morton said McKinney has a place in Marin County but he believes she still divides her time between San Francisco and Atlanta.

“We expect her to move out here by the first of the year,” he said. “She still has matters to deal with back in Atlanta.” Morton said he believes McKinney, who the Green Party courted to run in 2004, is the perfect Green candidate.

“She’s very outspoken, and even when she was a Democrat she didn’t follow the dictates of the party,” he said. “She has a Green mind, believes in social justice, is against the war.”

McKinney could not be reached for comment.

Cynthia McKinney leaves democratic party, tests waters for Green Presidential bid

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Cynthia McKinney, a former Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia, was in California this weekend to test the waters for a potential bid for the Green Party’s 2008 Presidential Nomination.  Last month, she left the Democratic Party in the wake of its failure to end the War in Iraq and the many and sundry defeats it has sustained since taking back power on Capitol Hill this past January.

McKinney, defeated for re-election last fall by a handkerchief head uncle tom, has been courted steadily since then to take up the Green banner and continue her progressive fight against the imperialistic Bush war machine.   An announcement is expected shortly about her future intentions.

Ron Dellums sells out

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Hat Tip: Scott Lindlaw, Associated Press 

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won the endorsement Monday of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, a widely admired black leader who had anguished over whether to back Sen. Barack Obama, her leading Democratic presidential rival.

The endorsement came as Clinton and Dellums toured a vocational classroom at Laney College in Oakland, where Clinton announced that Dellums will head her campaign’s Urban Policy Committee.

The Clinton campaign spent months assiduously courting Dellums, a former U.S. Marine who served 27 years in Congress and once headed the powerful House Armed Services Committee. Dellums told associates he was excited by the energy of Obama’s campaign, but he withheld his endorsement longer than many other black leaders.

But Clinton’s willingness to embrace his recommendations on how to improve urban America, and her credentials on foreign and military affairs, won Dellums over.

“Oakland alone lacks the resources to enact this great vision of Oakland as a model city,” Dellums told hundreds of students. “We needed strong leadership at the federal level, we needed partners at the federal level, we needed a federal urban agenda.”

Clinton “has stepped forward to fashion a coherent, cogent, value-oriented, principled agenda for this country that she calls ‘leave no city behind.’ Isn’t that incredible?” Dellums said.

Clinton promised: “Ron, I want you to know, that come January 2009, you will have a partner in the White House.” She pledged as president to put more police officers on the streets, battle crime and enact sweeping health care reform.

Dellums and Clinton also have long-standing political ties. Dellums took over chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee when former President Bill Clinton chose Les Aspin to be his Defense secretary. As president, Bill Clinton visited California often and helped deliver government aid for such projects as expansion of the Port of Oakland.

Today, several veterans of Bill Clinton’s White House work for Dellums in the mayor’s office, including chief of staff David Chai.

Mrs. Clinton and Dellums met privately on the sidelines of the U.S. Conference of Mayors gathering in Los Angeles in June, and discussed how to address crime and violence in inner cities, aides to Dellums said.

They also talked about Dellums’ work leading a group that last year examined the impact of U.S. policies on men of black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian descent.

The Dellums Commission, as it became known, found that flawed government policies and negative stereotyping of minority men have limited their economic opportunities.

The study found the news and entertainment media overrepresent minorities as criminals and whites as victims and law enforcers. And federal laws such as the No Child Left Behind Act have hurt minorities by driving good teachers from high-poverty schools to better-funded ones where whites are more highly represented, the report contended.

Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, drew upon Dellums’ findings as she crafted her own urban policy plan, her campaign said.

As chairman of the Urban Policy Committee, Dellums will advise Clinton “on issues critical to America’s cities,” the campaign said, including crime, high dropout rates, scarce well-paid jobs and lack of health care.

Clinton, Obama and the other candidates in the Democratic presidential field have long dueled for support and dollars among blacks, one of the party’s key voter blocs. Independent polls in California and nationwide suggest the black vote is divided, largely between Clinton and Obama.

I have admired this brotha for years and this really chaps my hide.  Watching his speeches on C-SPAN was one of the highlights of my teenage years because they were always memorable.

Obama snags Oprah and Hillary courts Magic

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Hat Tip: by Michael R. Blood, Associated Press

Hillary Rodham Clinton pursued votes Friday in the city’s historical black heartland with basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson at her side. Less than a week ago, her rival Barack Obama banked $3 million at a fundraiser at Oprah Winfrey’s seaside estate.

For the two leading Democratic presidential contenders, the dueling events just six days apart highlighted the stiff competition for support and dollars within one of the party’s key voter groups — blacks.

Johnson, the former Los Angeles Lakers star whose sprawling business interests range from movie theaters to health clubs, was also holding a fundraiser for Clinton at his Beverly Hills home Friday night. It was expected to be considerably smaller than the lavish event staged by Winfrey for Obama, an Illinois senator, on Sept. 8.

Johnson’s fundraiser was co-hosted by music industry heavyweights Quincy Jones, Berry Gordy and Clarence Avant, and scheduled guests included Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Guests at the Obama event included Sidney Poitier, Forest Whitaker and Chris Rock.

The divided loyalties among blacks show “the community just isn’t going to go lockstep behind any candidate, even a black one,” said University of California, Los Angeles, political scientist Franklin D. Gilliam Jr.

When it comes to competing celebrity endorsements, “I don’t know if anybody stands equal with Oprah,” Gilliam said. But Clinton, a New York senator, is not conceding the black vote to Obama and “she can compete for it in a legitimate way.”

On Thursday, the California Legislature’s black caucus endorsed Obama — but one of its eight members is backing Clinton. And independent polls in California suggest the black vote is divided, largely between Clinton and Obama.

Obama, whose late father was Kenyan, gives blacks a chance to put one of their own in the White House for the first time. But Clinton benefits from the strong relationship her husband, former President Bill Clinton, maintained with blacks for years.

“People in the black community love Bill Clinton; she’s seen as comfortable in the community,” Gilliam said. And “there’s concern about Obama being electable, period, because he’s black.”

The rivalry between Obama and Clinton also showcases the clout of black political influence and money.

Obama has predicted that black voter turnout could swell by at least 30 percent if he wins the presidential nomination, giving Democrats victory in Southern states that have been voting Republican for decades.

Asked last month why she would be a better candidate for blacks when Obama was in the race, she cited her years of public service and advocacy, and described herself as the more experienced candidate.

“My attitude is, I don’t deserve anyone’s vote. I have to earn everyone’s vote,” Clinton said.

At an event earlier Friday at a school in a heavily minority neighborhood near the Watts section, Clinton shared a stage with Johnson, Villaraigosa and other local leaders. She told a largely minority crowd including many students and supporters that she would bring a new style of leadership to Washington to take on issues like health care, education and ending the Iraq war.

“When I’m president, there will not be any invisible Americans,” she said.

Several people in the audience said they were comfortable with Clinton, in large part because of her long record in the public eye and efforts in her husband’s administration.

John Bruce, 45, a Democrat from Los Angeles who works in security, said the black community is looking for leaders and Obama “seems to be heading in the right direction.” Bruce, who is black, said race was not an issue in picking a candidate.

He said he remains undecided on 2008 but added, “I’m an all-Clinton Democrat.”

Black community activist “Sweet Alice” Harris, who is backing Clinton, said she worked closely with her during her days in the Clinton White House.

What about Obama?

“I don’t know him, but I know her,” Harris said.

Earlier in the day, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, held a private fundraiser for Clinton at a Mexican restaurant in Lynwood, a Los Angeles suburb.

Oprah Obama Fundraiser update

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Hat Tip: Lynn Sweet Blog, Chicago Sun Times 

MONTECITO, CALIF. — Oprah Winfrey opened the high iron gates of her highly guarded estate here Saturday to raise more than $3 million for White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), his biggest single-day haul ever, in a fund-raising spectacle rarely seen in U.S. politics.

“I haven’t been actively engaged before because there hasn’t been anything to be actively engaged in. But I am engaged now to make Barack Obama the next president of the United States,” a source said Winfrey told the crowd just before the concert, starring Stevie Wonder.

Introducing Obama, Winfrey said that “nobody can stand in the way of destiny.”

“It’s unbelievable,” said Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias as the Great Gatsby party scene unfolded before him on Winfrey’s meadow under a gorgeous sky.

Real celebrities mingled with Obama’s best donors and bundlers rewarded for their fund-raising efforts with a star-studded afternoon. Among those present at the event featuring the two most famous Chicagoans in the world: actors Lou Gossett Jr.; Cicely Tyson; Forest Whitaker; Ellen Pompeo; Sidney Poitier; Linda Evans; Tyler Perry; Chris Rock; Hill Harper (who attended Harvard Law with Obama); music producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds; Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, football quarterback Rodney Peete; Winfrey beau Stedman Graham; radio personality Tom Joyner; sports legends Ernie Banks, Bill Russell and Dave Winfield; tennis great Jimmy Connors, and model Cindy Crawford and husband Rande Gerber.

There was a contingent from Obama’s Chicago-based kitchen cabinet, including Habitat honcho Valerie Jarrett and John Rogers, the Illinois finance co-chair.

The most important VIPs got to drive right up to the mansion, with most of the estimated 1,500 attendees who either gave or raised $2,300 shuttled by bus to Winfrey’s from the Earl Warren Showgrounds eight miles away in Santa Barbara.

At 3 p.m., there was Oprah/Obama gridlock on the Highway 101 Las Positas off-ramp leading to the staging area. Two women wearing leis waiting in the traffic jam said they flew in from Hawaii for the event. Judge Greg Mathis, who presides over the “Judge Mathis” show taped in Chicago, was in line, idling in his convertible Mercedes SL500.

Security was tight. The event was closed to the press. At the showgrounds, people dressed out of the pages of Vogue and GQ, despite the admonition to wear “garden attire,” were delivered in limos and sharp cars. Everyone had to give up cameras as they went through security. A reporter trying to interview people on the showgrounds was threatened with arrest.

Inside the fund-raiser, there were separate levels of access, depending on how much money people were raising for Obama, with the most prolific bundlers staying for a dinner.

Food stations offered mini-burgers, corn-on-the-cob on sticks, guacamole and chips; lemonade and vodka; red or white wine, and a full bar.

The Obama campaign’s regional professional fund-raisers brought their best contributors, with the high-rollers bunking at the spectacular Fess Parker resort in Santa Barbara.

Making the entire experience pleasurable for Obama’s best donors; Oprah, Obama and wife Michelle were posing for individual pictures, according to a person at the party.

As the evening wore down a stream of tired-looking but exceedingly well-dressed people, some carrying green souvenir blankets, poured past the wooden doors of Winfrey’s yard, leaving the home she calls “the Promised Land” to board buses to take them back to reality.

Laura Richardson’s brush with racism shaped future

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Hat Tip: Rachel Kapouchunas, CQ Politics

Personal acquaintance with racism has prompted many members of minority groups to enter the political arena. But few say they had that path set for them as young as Laura.

Richardson, the Democratic state lawmaker from California who on Tuesday won a special election runoff to become the newest member — and the 40th African-American — in the current U.S. House.

Richardson related to CQPolitics.com prior to the runoff in California’s 37th District that she is a child of a mixed-race marriage, with a African-American father and a Caucasian mother who divorced. Richardson said she watched her mother struggle with racism as she raised her and her sister in California during the turbulent 1960s, and recalled as a young child asking her mother why strangers threw eggs at their car and cursed at them while they shopped at stores.

“My mother tried to explain all those things to me, but eventually she just said to me, ‘You should be a person who makes better laws,’” said Richardson, who now is 45 years old. “And that’s what got me since the age of about six of wanting to be a public servant.” She added that her mother exposed her to politics and the news.

Richardson’s career trajectory is symbolic of the political progress made by African-Americans over recent decades. She won the special election to succeed the late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, also a black Democrat, who was Richardson’s former boss and whose mentorship helped Richardson launch her own political career in local office and the California Assembly. Millender-McDonald’s death of cancer on April 22 created the vacancy that Richardson will fill after Congress returns to work from its summer recess.

In fact, the special election primary that ensured Richardson’s ultimate victory in the overwhelmingly Democratic 37th put a different spin on racial politics in the “minority-majority” district, which is located in Los Angeles County and is centered on the city of Long Beach.

Black activists who wanted to maintain African-American representation in the district mainly rallied around Richardson. Hispanics, who now make up a larger share of the district’s population but whose voting participation has lagged, found a candidate to champion in Democratic state Sen. Jenny Oropeza.

Running in a single-ballot June 26 primary that included a total of 17 candidates — 11 of them Democrats — Richardson prevailed by 37 percent to 31 percent over Oropeza. Though Richardson fell short of the majority vote needed for an outright victory, the seven-week runoff campaign was a formality: She won Tuesday’s contest with two-thirds of the total vote and a margin of well more than 2-to-1 over the Republican nominee, police sergeant and Iraq war veteran John M. Kanaley.

Though race and ethnicity were inescapable factors, particularly in the primary, Richardson told CQPolitics.com she was “disappointed” that most of the news coverage was focused on these matters rather than the candidates’ views on policy issues.

“I don’t run only from the basis of being African-American,” Richardson said. “That’s who I am, but when I’m running, I’m running to represent the people in my area, whoever they might be.”

Richardson believes her educational background — including a master’s degree in business — and her years working in the private sector combined with her political experience to boost her to a win. Before her six-year stint as a Long Beach City councilwoman, Richardson worked for Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, and prior to that, as a field deputy for Millender-McDonald.

Richardson states that public officials should advocate for issues that may not be popular and speak out for those who lack a strong voice in the political process. She will be representing a district that includes some of the state’s most underprivileged communities as well as a large portion of middle-class Long Beach. Minorities make up almost 85 percent of the population in the district: More than two-fifths of the total population is Hispanic and about one quarter of the district’s residents are African-American.

Richardson said she was eager to continue some of the late congresswoman’s legacies, such as her practice of holding “senior briefings” for residents in the district, which offered issue lessons on topics such as elder abuse and identity theft.

Richardson also intends to work with the late congresswoman’s daughter, Valerie McDonald, on remedying disparities in the health care system. McDonald was one of Richardson’s competitors in the special election primary.

Richardson would like to improve the region’s education and transportation systems and also reduce the number of unemployed residents in her district. She said the jobless rate in the 37th hovers close to 14 percent. Richardson also hopes encourage Congress to re-examine trade agreements which she believe do not help domestic unemployment rates.

The war in Iraq and its financial impact on the country are among Richardson’s major concerns.

“I just find it’s ironic that we can find money to fight a war but we can’t find money to help our own people in our communities,” Richardson said. She added that redeploying troops and placing the National Guard back in the states “can’t happen soon enough.”

Richardson likely will take liberal stances on many issues that will make her a reliable vote for the Democratic Party leadership. She already has been strongly critical of President Bush, to whom she has penned letters slamming his education, health care and Iraq policies — which she posted on her campaign Web site.

She hopes to win an assignment to the coveted Ways and Means Committee, but noted she would be pleased to serve on the Transportation or Homeland Security committees.

Richardson is cognizant of the fact she will enter Congress mid-session but said the outpouring of support she’s already received from members has helped her to feel comfortable entering her new position.

In addition, she portrays herself as having a strong work ethic that will help establish her early as an active participant in the lawmaking process.

“What I believe people know about me and respect about me is that I work extremely hard,” Richardson said. “I’m not going to Washington to go to another chicken dinner. That’s not what we’re here to do. We’re here to work.”

Laura Richardson coronation today

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The run-off election to replace the late Juanita Millender McDonald will take place this evening and California State Representative Laura Richardson can take her place as the newest member of the Congressional Black Caucus.   There has been little news to report in the last several days and I’ve been trying to put some finishing touches on a few opinion pieces. 

This past Sunday’s debate was interesting in that it didn’t really make any news.  Obama did quite well and Hillary held her own as usual and tried to stay above the fray.   The state of the Iowa race is still in flux but it now appears that from two of the latest polls that Mrs. Clinton has opened up a lead in both Iowa and South Carolina.   Her South Carolina lead is statistically insignificant over Obama.   If Iowa doesn’t go Hillary’s way, South Carolina will become a significant battle ground.

Tell me what’s on your minds.   Consider this an open thread. 

Debra Bowen strikes a blow for Democracy

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Debra Bowen

HAT TIP:  California Progress Report

Debra Bowen, California’s Secretary of State, has decertified all of California’s electronic voting machines. “Democracy, by definition, is about free and fair elections,” said Secretary Bowen. “As the state’s chief election officer, I take my responsibilities very seriously. In many ways, I think voters and counties are the victims of a federal certification process that hasn’t done an adequate job of ensuring that the systems made available to them are secure, accurate, reliable and accessible. Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act, which pushed many counties into buying electronic systems that – as we’ve seen for some time and we saw again in the independent UC review – were not properly reviewed or tested to ensure that they protected the integrity of the vote. That’s what my decisions are about – protecting the integrity of the vote.”

WOW.  IF I DIDN’T KNOW BETTER, I’DTHINK THAT’S WHAT INTEGRITY SOUNDS LIKE.  REFRESHING.   I, Skeptical Brotha, hereby and officially praise California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a Democrat who has the courage of her convictions.  Perhaps girlfriend can go to Washington, D.C. and show Democrats how it’s done.  With the stroke of a pen, she has righted the ship of state and restored the confidence of the people of California in the electoral process.  Hopefully other Secretaries of State will follow her courageous lead.

New California PAC launched to promote Obama

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The website for Vote Hope 2008 has the look and feel of Barack Obama's official page, but the group is a political action committee trying to garner votes for Obama in California.

WASHINGTON — The website has the look and feel of Barack Obama’s official page, and the headline says it all: “Bank it for Barack.” The site asks for contributions of up to $5,000 per person to help the Illinois Democrat win the crucial state of California.

The effort employs a tactic that could transform the way campaign-related money is collected and spent in presidential campaigns .

The group sponsoring the Web page is not Obama’s campaign, but an independent political action committee called Vote Hope 2008, which says that its goal is to help Obama become president and that it will spend $2 million to get out the vote for him.

Federal law prohibits political action committees, or PACs, from spending more than $5,000 in support of a candidate.

But Vote Hope’s founders argue that this restriction does not apply to their group because they do not plan to coordinate their spending with Obama’s campaign. Thus, there’s no limit to what they can spend promoting him, they said. What’s more, the group said contributors who have given the maximum $2,300 individual do nation to Obama’s campaign can give $5,000 to Vote Hope 2008, the maximum individual donation to a PAC.

Vote Hope then would spend these donations promoting Obama, giving donors a way to nearly triple their maximum contribution to Obama’s cause. The implications are potentially dramatic, according to campaign finance specialists, especially if other PACs follow Vote Hope’s example for Obama or other candidates.

“I haven’t seen another one like this,” said Kent Cooper, a former Federal Election Commission official and co founder of PoliticalMoneyLine, a nonpartisan group that tracks money and politics. If the group is able to raise money successfully, it could be copied by others and that in turn “would create a wide new avenue for campaign-related cash.”

The pro-Obama PAC was set up by a group of liberal activists, including Steve Phillips, a former president of the San Francisco Board of Education and son-in-law of Herb and Marion Sandler, who are high-profile backers of Democrats.

Bill Burton, Obama campaign spokesman, when asked about the effort, distanced the campaign from Vote Hope 2008, saying: “We appreciate the tremendous grass roots. But if people want to help out our campaign, we prefer they would do it directly through our campaign.”

The creators of Vote Hope consider themselves pioneers, working to find a way to elect Obama in a state that they say will be crucial for Obama but that has not received as much attention as early-voting states such as New Hampshire, which has a tentative primary date of Jan. 22.

California has moved its primary to Feb. 5, but the state is so expensive for campaigns that many candidates are putting off major expenditures there. That is where Vote Hope sees its opening: It wants to tap donors who have already given the maximum to Obama’s campaign in order to raise more money to help the senator win in California.

“The combination of unbridled grass-roots volunteer energy and an unprecedented number of maxed-out donors this early in the calendar makes something like Vote Hope possible in states that are expensive to organize and have a large donor base,” said Vote Hope spokeswoman Jenifer Fernandez Ancona.

She said the group will help elect Obama by working to “identify infrequent voters in communities of color and young people in California” and getting them to vote. Vote Hope said campaign finance laws allow a PAC to solicit individual donations of up to $5,000 and then to spend unlimited funds on Obama as long as certain conditions are met.

The rules say that donors to PACs cannot “give with the knowledge that a substantial portion will be contributed to, or expended on behalf of, that candidate.” The same rule says, however, that such donations are permissible if donors don’t retain control over how the money is spent.

Vote Hope maintains that because its donors can’t specify how their money will be spent, these contributions to the PAC are legal. “Everything Vote Hope is doing is above board and permissible under the law,” said Vote Hope’s lawyer, Joseph M. Birkenstock, who served from 1998 to 2003 as chief counsel for the Democratic National Committee.

The Globe interviewed a number of specialists in campaign finance who said they could think of no other example of a major PAC being set up specifically to work for the election of a candidate during a presidential primary, aside from PACs set up to draft candidates or established by the politicians for themselves.

“It is a novel idea that hasn’t been utilized in this fashion before that I’m aware of at the presidential level,” said Keith Davis of Huckaby Davis Lisker, a firm that works with Republican campaigns on compliance with federal election law.

“If it works, then, obviously, there will be a lot of people who try to do the same thing . . . in both parties,” he said. “The same structure could be used for House and Senate campaigns.”

Davis and other specialists said a key question is whether enough people who have contributed the maximum $2,300 to Obama’s campaign will also want to contribute $5,000 to Vote Hope for the organization to meet its $2 million goal. Ancona said the group has raised $108,000, and “there are more than enough donors in California who are inspired by Vote Hope’s strategy to get us” to $2 million.

Separately, Vote Hope has set up what is known as a 527 organization, which can collect unlimited funds from individuals but is not allowed to support a candidate directly. Both Vote Hope groups have the same name, which has led to some confusion, including reports that a few wealthy individuals are contributing large amounts to a Vote Hope 527 formed to elect Obama.

In fact, the organizers said, only the PAC will work explicitly for an Obama victory by getting Californians to register and vote by mail starting Jan. 9 , and have 500,000 Obama votes “in the bank” by the primary on Feb. 5.

Vote Hope is distinct from PACs set up by many candidates. For example, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney established his federal Commonwealth PAC and state affiliates prior to announcing his candidacy. He used those PACs to travel and support other candidates. Funds from such PACs cannot be transferred to Romney’s campaign.

According to the Romney campaign, there does not appear to be an independent PAC working on behalf of Romney in the way that Vote Hope is helping Obama. But campaign specialists said that could change quickly if Vote Hope’s tactic proves viable. 

Activist Cindy Sheehan to Challenge Speaker Pelosi

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HAT TIP: Associated Press, Washington Post

CRAWFORD, Tex., July 8 — Antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan said Sunday that she plans to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) unless Pelosi introduces articles of impeachment against President Bush in the next two weeks.

Sheehan’s deadline, July 23, is the same day she and her supporters are to arrive in Washington after a 13-day caravan and walking tour departing from the group’s war protest site near Bush’s Crawford ranch.

Sheehan said she lives in a suburb of Sacramento but declined to disclose the city, citing safety reasons. She added that she would run against Pelosi in 2008 as an independent and “would give her a run for her money.”

“Democrats and Americans feel betrayed by the Democratic leadership,” Sheehan said. “We hired them to bring an end to the war.”

Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said the congresswoman has said repeatedly that her focus is on ending the war in Iraq.

“She believes that the best way to support our troops in Iraq is to bring them home safely and soon,” Daly said in an e-mail.

Sheehan first came to Crawford in August 2005 during a Bush vacation, demanding to talk to the president about the Iraq war, in which her son Casey was killed in 2004. She became the face of the antiwar movement during her 26-day roadside vigil, which was joined by thousands.

California 37 Special Election: Richardson elected, CBC keeps seat

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Hat Tip CQ Politics

State Rep. Laura Richardson and state Sen. Jenny Oropeza, both Democrats, jumped out way ahead of the rest of the 17-candidate field in early results from Tuesday’s special election in California’s 37th Congressional District.

Richardson and Oropeza had been regarded as the front-running candidates throughout the special election campaign to succeed the late Democratic Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, who died of cancer April 22.

The early count — posted by Los Angeles County election authorities shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST) — included only ballots cast by absentee voters and those participating under California’s early voting rules.

But barring dramatically different results from votes cast at the polls Tuesday, the winner of the battle between Richardson and Oropeza will claim the Democratic nomination — and almost certain victory in the likely Aug. 21 runoff for the seat.

Tuesday’s primary had all 11 Democrats, four Republicans and two alternative-party candidates running on a single ballot, and that crowd of candidates made it unlikely that no single one would garner the majority vote needed to win outright and avoid a runoff.

But the runoff would be a contest between each party’s top vote-getter — and the 37th District, dominated by the city of Long Beach, is a Democratic Party stronghold in which Hispanics and African-Americans make up most of the population.

The advantage that the Democratic nominee will have was signaled by the early returns. Richardson led with 33 percent to 30 percent for Oropeza and 11 percent for the late congresswoman’s daughter, Valerie McDonald. The leading Republican candidate in the early voting, police sergeant and Iraq war veteran John M. Kanaley, had 10 percent of the vote.

The contest between Richardson, who is black, and Oropeza, who is Hispanic, had strong ethnic overtones. Hispanics make up more than 40 percent of the district’s population, but they make up a smaller share of the voting electorate. Blacks make up a quarter of the population, and many black activists have cited Millender-McDonald, an African-American, in calling for continued black representation in the district.

LAURA RICHARDSON       DEM                                11,027    37.76
   JENNY OROPEZA          DEM                                 9,144    31.31
   VALERIE MC DONALD      DEM                                 2,743     9.39
   JOHN M KANALEY         REP                                 2,230     7.64
   PETER MATHEWS          DEM                                 1,031     3.53
   TERI RAMIREZ           REP                                   560     1.92
   DANIEL A BREZENOFF     GR                                    352     1.21
   JEFFREY LEAVITT        REP                                   345     1.18
   L J “LJ” GUILLORY      REP                                   334     1.14
   ED WILSON              DEM                                   334     1.14
   HERB PETERS            LIB                                   315     1.08
   GEORGE A PARMER JR     DEM                                   220     0.75
   LEE DAVIS              DEM                                   181     0.62
   JEFFREY S PRICE        DEM                                   128     0.44
   BILL F GRISOLIA        DEM                                   125     0.43
   FELICIA FORD           DEM                                   109     0.37
   MERVIN EVANS           DEM                                    26     0.09
                                                                            
TOTAL PRECINCTS        334            PRECINCTS REPORTING       334   100.00 

                                                                            
  

Election Day

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Today is Election Day, Children.   The ladies of California’s  37th Congressional District-Laura Richardson, Jenny Oropeza, and Valerie McDonald face off against each other to see who will win the Democratic Primary and subsequently, this seat.   Laura Richardson’s labor allies are involved in serious and well-funded member to member election contact on her behalf and the Indian Tribes are funding Oropeza’s voter contact program.   Tonight we’ll see who’s been most effective.  

Another wrinkle has been added in this race by the sharp elbow Richardson gave Oropeza for taking off and missing votes during her liver cancer treatment.   Most folk think that was a low blow and yet another foot inserted into the mouth of the leading African American candidate in this race.  

I will be pulling a late night tonight to blog as this race develops.  

Election Update

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Latina State Senator Jenny Oropeza and African American Assemblywoman Laura Richardson and Valerie McDonald, daughter of the late Juanita Millender McDonald square off Tuesday in the special election to replace the Congresswoman. If anyone receives 50% of the vote, she wins the seat outright, otherwise, the top vote getter in each parties primary vies for the seat in July. The latest fundraising numbers show a tight money chase between Oropeza and Richardson with Valerie McDonald bringing up the rear. In the endorsement game, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not weighed in as expected but the California Democratic Party has, endorsing Oropeza. Moreover, the bulk of organized labor has endorsed Richardson.

Serious competition in the form of Long Beach Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske was averted when she abruptly pulled out of the race after her constituents implored her to stay on the Council. That leaves the white vote largely up for grabs and it leans heavily toward Oropeza. Latino voters are united in support of Oropeza while African American voters, who vote in larger numbers than Latinos, are split between McDonald and Richardson, with the lion’s share going to Richardson because of her broader political support despite substantial Congressional Black Caucus support for McDonald’s candidacy.

The California Legislative Black Caucus is united behind Richardson and the political leadership of heavily African American enclaves in the district: Compton and Carson are almost all united for Richardson. Other African American candidates in this race are just vanity candidates and unlikely to garner significant support. If the Congressional Black Caucus retains this seat, it will be in spite of their divided efforts, not because it did anything to support the winner.

In other news, Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings has drawn a challenger in the form of Belle Glades, Florida City Commissioner Ray Torres Sanchez. Sanchez, a funeral director, will challenge Hastings in the Democratic primary where he presumably will be crushed.

Two Maryland races are heating up significantly. The race for Maryland’s 4th Congressional district between Corporate Shill Al Wynn and Donna Edwards is moving along swimingly with both sides trading pointed barbs and rhetoric. Al Wynn is now an unabashed war critic after having voted against war funding for the first time this month. His about face is striking given the cozy corporate collusion and whoring he had no problem with before he was almost defeated by Donna last September.

Lastly, the first television ad was run in the race for Baltimore Mayor as Incumbent Mayor Sheila Dixon announced the kick-off of her campaign for Mayor and her push to take Baltimore to the next level. With a campaign account upwards of $ 1 million and the most professional city administration in history, she is the odds on favorite in this contest for a full four year term as Mayor. Accomplished and detail oriented, Mrs. Dixon has made her presence felt in Baltimore and is coming to grips with its intractable budgetary and crime problems.

 

 

Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa assimilated by Hillary

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HillaryClintonLogo.jpg

 

By BETH FOUHY, Associated Press Writer
12:14 PM PDT, May 29, 2007

NEW YORK — Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton has won the endorsement of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a rising star in national Democratic politics and one of the nation’s top Hispanic elected officials.

Villaraigosa was set to announce his endorsement Wednesday, joining Clinton at a campaign rally at the University of California-Los Angeles, two Democrats familiar with the planned endorsement told The Associated Press.

They spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the official announcement.

Clinton campaign officials have actively sought Villaraigosa’s backing, even enlisting former President Clinton recently to woo Villaraigosa over dinner at a tony New York steak house.

A popular figure in the nation’s second-largest city, analysts expect Villaraigosa to have a promising future in national politics or in statewide office in California. He is widely popular among Hispanic voters, who make up an increasingly large percentage of Democratic voters in California and many other states. In 2004, 21 percent of California voters were Hispanic, according to exit polls there.

Villaraigosa’s endorsement of Clinton is not unexpected; he lavished praise on the New York senator at a campaign event in Los Angeles in March, calling her campaign “fighting for a brighter and cleaner future for all our children.” And last month, his top political consultant, Ace Smith, joined the Clinton campaign as its California director.