<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Political News, Bay Area Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:56:49 -0700 Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:56:49 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[California's Death Penalty Declared Unconstitutional]]> Sun, 20 Jul 2014 11:14:04 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KNTV_000000007566976_1200x675_309411907660.jpg Last week, a federal judge declared California’s death penalty unconstitutional because of the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee against “cruel and unusual punishment.” NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston explains the unconstitutional ruling.]]> <![CDATA[GOP Leader Rand Paul Visits Silicon Valley]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 17:30:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/rand-paul.jpg

Senator Rand Paul is in Silicon Valley, and the Republican lawmaker and Tea Party hero has reportedly met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, according to reports.

What does the GOP leader want? "Cash and geeks," according to TIME.com.

Paul is hoping to fundraise among libertarian techies, whose political leanings are toward independence from government interference, meaning the red-blooded lawmaker has a shot in deep-blue California, observers say.

He wants more of the $2.7 million Thiel donated to Ron Paul's 2012 presidential run, the website reported, and along with the cash, he's hoping for some tech talent to work on his own campaign.

In other words, the free-market tech efforts like Uber and Airbnb share intellectual common ground with Paul, TIME.com reports, so he may find friends here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Examining Recount for State Controller]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 19:03:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KNTV_000000007505995_1200x675_304781379579.jpg NBC Bay Area's political analyst Larry Gerston examines a first of its kind recount for a statewide office.]]> <![CDATA[Reality Check: What Led to Immigration Crisis?]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 03:56:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/immigration6.jpg

President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security will ask Congress for $2 billion to help immediately stem a child migrant tidal wave that’s threatening to spiral out of control.

But are they looking to pay for a problem the administration helped to create?

Some of Obama’s critics in Congress, such as Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) allege that a policy such as the President’s 2012 executive order, “DACA,” that deferred deportation for some children who live in the U.S. without documentation, has created a vicious cycle.

"We are essentially incentivizing the flow of this population by not returning the unaccompanied juveniles to their countries of origins quickly,” Cole said recently from the House floor.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, host David Gregory prodded Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to explain what role, if any, DACA has played in the swelling number of unaccompanied minors held up at the border.

“Well, that’s the point we keep stressing,” Johnson responded. “The deferred action program is for kids who came to this country seven years ago, it’s not for anyone who comes to this country today, tomorrow or yesterday.”

But despite the fact DACA offers no protections to children migrating unlawfully to the U.S. today, the numbers indicate child migrants are still flocking at skyrocketing rates.

Already this year, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reports apprehending 52,000 unaccompanied migrant children, a figure that could swell to as many as 90,000 by the fall.

By contrast, in 2011, the year before President Obama’s executive order went into effect, Border Patrol reported a little more than 15,000 such detentions.

Should the 90,000 figure hold (or even come close), the administration would be looking at a roughly a 600 percent increase of unaccompanied migrant children in just three years.

Is there another explanation for the catastrophic rise, other than the president’s policy?

Elizabeth Kennedy, a doctoral student at San Diego State University and Fulbright scholar who has been living in Central America since October interviewing migrant children, says absolutely: An increase in violence.

“At the same time the violence has gone up, the willingness of the state to protect its citizens has gone down,” Kennedy said. “So, what you have is people who are more or less for themselves, and if you find yourself in a position where you are targeted by crime you do not have anyone to turn to.”

Kennedy currently resides in El Salvador, one of three countries, along with Honduras and Guatemala, that have witnessed a massive uptick in unaccompanied children trying to cross the border.

She says kidnapping, rape, extortion and disappearances are all on the rise, with climbing murder rates also contributing to mass migration.

“For the month of May, 401 people were murdered in El Salvador,” Kennedy observed. “And 379 in June. That’s an average of 12-and-a-half murders per day. You know, there’s nowhere else in the world besides a handful of countries, like Syria, South Sudan and Honduras that have higher homicide rates.”

The reality is that the U.S. shares these concerns.

The White House has issued travel warnings for both El Salvador and Honduras.

In its caution to U.S. citizens traveling to El Salvador, the government notes, “crime and violence levels in El Salvador remain critically high.”

Violence in the region has clearly played a role.

The hard data, however, shows us that the jump in migrant child apprehensions has coincided neatly with the advent of DACA, with the biggest growth coming shortly after 2012.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service recently issued a report on the very subject.

Photo Credit: NBCSanDiego]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Is Silicon Valley's Only Hope For Immigration Reform]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 20:36:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/edt-AP7989457347_0.jpg

Congress is of no use to Silicon Valley.

It's all up to Obama now.

Tech needs immigration reform fast in order to welcome high-skilled workers to the country with visas, and the president is the only hope for change with reform "flam[ing] out in Congress," according to the Hill.

The president has pledged to go it alone on immigration reform of the kind that would help Bay Area tech firms lure the top engineering talent from all over the world.

Tech lobbyists told the news source that Silicon Valley firms have spent "millions" on trying to woo Congress members to touch the immigration issue with no results.

Feasibly, the president could change rules around green cards and make it easier for a new immigrant's family to come along with him or her, the Hill reported.

He could also move H-1B visas through the queue more quickly, one lobbyist guessed.

Republicans took aim at tech's efforts, including the Mark Zuckerberg-funded FWD.us. The Facebook founder's lobby group has spent millions on ads aimed at swaying GOP members of Congress.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dispensaries to Provide Free Marijuana to Low-Income Members]]> Fri, 04 Jul 2014 09:55:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/06-11-2014-medical-marijuana-generic.jpg

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Berkeley will likely soon be required to provide free pot to low-income members and homeless people, according to an ordinance approved by the city council on Tuesday.

The city is also looking to approve a fourth dispensary, raising the current limit of three locations.

The proposed ordinance, first reported by the East Bay Express, requires that Berkeley dispensaries give away two percent of the amount of cannabis they sell each year low-income people. And the pot can't be poor quality either. The proposed city ordinance reads (PDF) that the "medical cannabis provided under this section shall be the same quality on average" as marijuana "dispensed to other members."

“It’s sort of a cruel thing that when you are really ill and you do have a serious illness... it can be hard to work, it can be hard to maintain a job and when that happens, your finances suffer and then you can’t buy the medicine you need,” said Sean Luce with the Berkeley Patients Group.

In order to be eligible, a person must qualify for exemption from local taxes and fees, an income level that's set every year by the city council. That equates to $32,000 a year for one person and $46,000 a year for a family of four.

The ordinance is awaiting final approval, but could become law in August.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[New California Laws Take Effect]]> Tue, 01 Jul 2014 09:56:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/1086698841.jpg

A host of new laws took effect Tuesday. Here is a look at some of them.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[California High Speed Rail Criticized by Key Democrat]]> Sun, 29 Jun 2014 19:18:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KNTV_000000007313917_1200x675_292633667798.jpg For years, the proposed high speed rail project has been attacked by Republicans. But now, Gov. Brown’s $68 billion project to link Northern and Central California is catching flak from a key Democrat. NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston talks about the latest wrinkle in the controversial program.]]> <![CDATA[Hillary Clinton's Book Tour Stops in San Francisco]]> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 11:42:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/199*120/0625-HillaryClinton.jpg

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the Bay Area as part of a national tour promoting her book, "Hard Choices."

Clinton, who is considering running for president in 2016, on Wednesday spoke to hundreds of supporters who packed the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco. She discussed the importance of continuing to work on creating a better future.

"Middle income declining, poverty increasing as growth goes to those at the top," Clinton said. "We need to work together again for the common good."

But Clinton also discussed why she is not committed to a run for president. The former First Lady is expecting a grandchild.

"Ready to experience being a grandmother," she said. "I want to look at new life without looking over my shoulder wondering what calls I need to make."

Clinton is scheduled to appear at a book signing at The Book Passage in San Francisco at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Tickets, available on the bookstore's website, cost $40 and include the chance to meet Clinton and receive a signed copy of her book.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Venture Capitalist Proposing to Divide California Into 6 States]]> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 08:11:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/193*120/0623-SixCalifornias.jpg

Venture capitalist Tim Draper and his supporters this weekend will attempt to collect more than 800,000 valid signatures for his ballot proposal to divide California into six states.

With California home to 38 million people and the nation's most populated state, Draper said the state has become ungovernable and can no longer meet the needs of its citizens.

Draper has invested $2 million into his efforts to get California split into six states:

  • Northern, rural California would become the State of Jefferson
  • Area from Wine Country and Sacramento to Lake Tahoe would become North California
  • The State of Silicon Valley would run from San Francisco to Santa Clara County
  • Much of the state's Central Valley would become Central California
  • The Los Angeles County basin would be called West California
  • The area from San Diego to the desert in the east would become South California

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA["I Stepped Right in It:" Perry on Gay-Alcoholism Comparison]]> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 12:27:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP407916466711.jpg

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he “stepped right in it” - but didn't actually apologize or take back his past comments - when he compared homosexuality to alcoholism last week during a visit to liberal-leaning, gay-friendly, San Francisco.

“I got asked about issues, and instead of saying 'you know what, we need to be a really respectful and tolerant country to everybody, and get back to talking about, whether you're gay or straight, you need to be having a job, and those are the focuses that I want to be involved with,’ he said during an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday in Washington, D.C. “I readily admit I stepped right in it.”

He stepped right in it on June 11, when in a question-and-answer session at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco, he was asked about  the Texas Republican Party's adoption this month of supporting access to "reparative therapy" for gays and lesbians - a disproven process intended to change sexual orientation.

Perry's answer: "I don't know. I'm not a psychologist. I'm not a doctor."

Commonwealth Club interviewer Greg Dalton then asked him whether he believed homosexuality is a disorder.

"Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that," Perry answered.  "I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way."

The comment made national headlines and prompted condemnation from gay rights groups and high-powered politicians including California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who married the first same-sex couples in San Francisco when he was mayor in 2004. Newsom, who also went to rehab in 2007 for alcholism, tweeted that Perry "must apologize for (his) ignorant and hateful remarks."

Perry, who is considering his second run for the White House run in 2016, never actually said "I'm sorry" for the remarks, and he never took back his analogy while speaking at the Christian Science Monitor event.

To see excerpts of his Commonwealth Club and Christian Science Monitor speeches.

The Associated Press and NBC News contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[5 Things to Know About New House GOP Leader McCarthy]]> Thu, 19 Jun 2014 16:30:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/450883992.jpg

House Republicans selected a new majority leader Thursday, tapping  Rep. Kevin McCarthy to the conference's No. 2 post.

The California native replaces outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was handed a surprising defeat by a little-known GOP challenger in Virgnia's primary election

The promotion puts the 49-year-old McCarthywho has quickly risen through the leadership ranks during his four terms in Congress, next in line to potentially succeed House Speaker John Boehner.

Here are five things you may not know about the new majority leader:

He got his (lucky) start in sandwiches.

A young McCarthy used a $5,000 lottery prize to start his own business, opening a sandwich shop called Kevin O's Deli at age 19. The shop he has descibed as "Subway before there was Subway," offered "fresh Dutch Krunch white rolls every day," and sandwiches "hot upon request," according to The Orange County Register. McCarthy says he used the profits from later selling that deli to finance his college education. The experience of building a business before hitting 21, he says, helped shape his views on limited government regulations and taxes.

He sees (some of) himself in “House of Cards.”

When Netflix’s popular political drama debuted in 2013, a few things felt a little too familiar to McCarthy, who, like the show’s fictional lead, Rep. Francis Underwood, served as majority whip. That framed whip hanging in Underwood’s office? A spitting image of the one McCarthy received as a gift from Cantor. The scene where Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, tells members “Vote your district, vote your conscience, don't surprise me"? Sounds strikingly like what McCarthy says he tells his own conference. The real-life whip believes those nods came out of a meet-and-greet he had with Spacey before the show started filming. He says the similarities between him and Underwood, a Democrat known for his duplicitous and Machiavellian ways, stop at those superficial references, though. "This one is made professionally about Washington, but it's not Washington," he said of the show during an appearance in Sacramento. "Don't believe what you see in there, but it's intriguing."

He co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the California state Capitol, that is. McCarthy, first elected to represent his home district in Kern County in the state Legislature in 2002, rose to leader of the Assembly’s Republican caucus during his first term. That put him at the bargaining table with then-Gov. Schwarzenegger, who entered office via a 2003 recall election, on state budget negotiations and other major issues facing the Golden State. McCarthy left California's Capitol for the halls of Congress after the 2006 election, when he won the House seat vacated by his own political mentor and former boss, former Republican Rep. Bill Thomas.

He’s an all-star Instagrammer.

McCarthy’s filter-laden Instagram account has attracted more than 12,000 followers to date. While cameos from the likes of Beyonce, Ringo Star and cute dogs don’t hurt, the GOP congressman also uses the social platform to post behind-the-scenes photos from his political and personal life (including frequent “Throwback Thursday” pictures). His social media savvy led BuzzFeed to name him the “best Republican congressman on Instagram” in 2013.


He splits with some GOP conservatives on immigration.

McCarthy hails from one of the nation's bluest states. But the California native hasn’t strayed much from the GOP line in his own time in office, voting with his party 96 percent of the time, according to one Washington Post analysis.  Still, he's split with the more conservative factions of his caucus on at least one key issue seen as a potential factor in Cantor’s primary defeat: immigration reform. Unlike his tea party-aligned colleagues, McCarthy has expressed support for creating a path to legal status for the country’s undocumented immigrants. His campaign for majority leader drew criticism from some conservative commentators, who blasted his backing of immigration reform, Sandy relief funding and a budget compromise. Despite some differences in ideology and style, McCarthy, a skilled networker and social butterfly, has made many friends in Washington, thanks in part to his success in raising cash and building a program to train and support up-and-coming candidates.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[California's Teacher Tenure Debate]]> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 20:40:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/classroom5.jpg NBC Bay Area political analyst Larry Gerston examines the recent decision that makes California's teacher tenure law unconstitutional.]]> <![CDATA[Larry Gerston on 2014-2015 California State Budget]]> Sun, 15 Jun 2014 21:44:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KNTV_000000007164501_1200x675_281953347720.jpg On Sunday, the state legislature will pass the 2014-2015 state budget. And for the second year in a row, the $108 billion document will be passed in an air of calm and collective satisfaction. NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston highlights the document.]]> <![CDATA[In SF, Chris Christie Distances Himself from Rick Perry]]> Sat, 14 Jun 2014 03:56:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/06-04-2014-chris-christie.jpg

In the second visit to the Bay Area by a nationally prominent Republican this week, Chris Christie was in San Francisco Friday morning and used the opportunity to distance himself from Rick Perry, the Texas governor who made controversial comments in San Francisco earlier this week comparing homosexuality to alcoholism.

On a tour of San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, the New Jersey governor addressed the comments made by Perry to a crowd of Commonwealth Club of California audience members on Wednesday night.

“I’ll just say that I disagree with him, and I don’t believe that’s an apt analogy, and not one that should be made because I think it’s wrong,” Christie said firmly. “But every governor and public official has to speak for themselves on these issues. I just spoke for myself.”

Perry said Wednesday that sexual orientation could be genetic but, like alcoholism, is something that can be treated.

Christie's first stop Friday was at Hoogasian Flower Shop in the SoMa neighborhood, where he made an appearance alongside California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, touring the warehouse and hosting a meet-and-greet with supporters.

Both men appeared eager to show that Perry’s views, including the Texas Republican’s support of so called “reparative therapy,” are not shared by everyone in the GOP.

“That you’re going to convert someone from one to the other, I just don’t agree,” Kashkari said. “I can look to him on issues of economics, and we can disagree on these personal issues.”

Christie signed a state law barring so-called reparative therapy aimed at turning gay minors straight last year.

Menlo College professor Melissa Michelson said it’s no surprise Christie is trying to differentiate himself from the extreme right ring of his party on the issue of gay rights.

“The need to moderate yourself on these issues is exactly what you need to win a national vote,” Michelson said. “If you’re going to compete on the national level you can’t be far out there, and the nation is becoming more progressive on LGBT rights.”

Christie has not said whether he’s running for president in 2016, but he told Jimmy Fallon Thursday night that in, a hypothetical race against Hillary Clinton, he would win.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official under the George W. Bush administration, has an uphill battle ahead of him after winning a distant second to incumbent Jerry Brown in the open primary. Kashkari got 19 percent of the vote compared to Brown’s 54 percent. He believes the New Jersey governor is the perfect example of how a Republican can win a blue state.

“He’s been very effective at working across party lines in New Jersey,” said Kashkari. “I’m looking forward to hearing his advice and how to bring some of his ideas to California.”

Governor Christie agreed.

“No one thought I was going to win in 2009: a blue state, 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans. We hadn’t had a Republican elected statewide in a dozen years, a lot of things you see that are very similar to what’s happening in California right now.”

One of the flower shop’s owners, Harold Hoogasian, said staff members from Kashkari and Christie’s offices called him on Wednesday to ask if he’d be interested in hosting a visit. When asked why, Hoogasian told NBC Bay Area that they were looking for a family-owned, small business because Kashkari would be speaking about how he’d help support small business owners.

Christie said Kashkari's vote for President Barack Obama in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, should not preclude Republicans from backing him. He says anyone who wants to vote for a candidate who agrees with them 100 percent of the time should "go home and look in the mirror.''

After the visit, Governor Christie attended a $10,000 a plate luncheon to raise money for the Republican Governors Association, of which he is chairman.

He then went down to Menlo Park to meet with Facebook brass and participate in a live Q&A session at the company's headquarters, answering questions posted by Facebook users on his page.

Christie's stop is part of a cross-country revival tour in which he is trying to shore up his reputation after a bridge-closing political scandal at home put a dent in his national aspirations. In recent weeks he has visited Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New Mexico, Iowa and New Hampshire.

He appeared Thursday night on ``The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon'' and is spending the weekend at a summit in Utah hosted by 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Christie's visit comes as Republicans in Congress are jockeying to fill a leadership void after the surprise primary loss this week of Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a little known tea party candidate.

Christie said he was ``sad to have seen him lose'' but does not see any broader message about GOP prospects in Cantor's loss.

``No. I think it's a sign for what happened in the 7th congressional district in Virginia,'' he said.

But the shake-up has jeopardized the chances for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress this year, and the issue could present a challenge for Republican candidates in November. But the New Jersey governor mocked a reporter who asked where he stands on it Friday.

``I'm sure you'd love me to do that, and in fact, what I want to do in a flower warehouse, I want to give you a very complex answer behind a set of microphones on a contentious issue that's driving a debate all across the country,'' he said sarcastically. ``No thank you.''


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Chuang]]>
<![CDATA[Tex. Gov. Rick Perry Compares Being Gay to Alcoholism]]> Fri, 13 Jun 2014 07:52:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/rick-perry-AP273062193022.jpg

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was invited to Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco to speak about biofuel, solar and wind energy, as well as take a trip down memory lane on being a Republican candidate during the 2012 presidential campaign.

So it was an unwelcome surprise to many in the liberal-leaning city when Perry ended up comparing homosexuality to alcoholism - in a story that took a life of its own on social media across the country hours after he spoke.

For example, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who married the first same-sex couples in San Francisco when he was mayor in 2004, tweeted that Perry "must apologize for (his) ignorant and hateful remarks," noting also that it is Gay Pride month. Newsom went to rehab for alcoholism in 2007.

The "remarks" in question came while Perry was taking questions after his speech on Wednesday evening.

Perry was asked about the Texas Republican Party's adoption this month of supporting access to "reparative therapy" for gays and lesbians - a disproven process intended to change sexual orientation.

Perry's answer: "I don't know. I'm not a psychologist. I'm not a doctor."

Commonwealth Club interviewer Greg Dalton then asked him whether he believed homosexuality is a disorder.

"Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that," Perry said.  "I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way."

Audio Podcast of Rick Perry at Commonwealth Club

Perry's office sent out a standard email on Thursday, not specifically adressing his views on being gay and having a drinking problem.

"The governor supports traditional marriage and believes that marriage is between one man and one woman," Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed wrote. "He has been clear on his position that each state has the right to define marriage to reflect the views of its citizens."

Perry's views include his 2005 support for the Texas Marriage Amendment, defining marriage as the "union of one man and one woman." And when the Boy Scouts admitted openly gay Boy Scouts in May 2013, Perry stated: "I am greatly disappointed" with the decision.

Though the crowd at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel on Nob Hill was full of Perry supporters, Perry's responsel drew a "murmur of disbelief," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The Business Journal said members of the audience actually hissed.

By contrast, Perry didn't mention the controversy on his Twitter feed. He felt the event prompted "great discussion."

But critics quickly began chiming in.

Robbie Sherwood, a former political reporter for the Arizona Republic and the executive director of ProgressiveNow in Arizona tweeted: "Dumbassery is a choice, Rick, homosexuality is not." In a phone interview, Sherwood added: "Please keep going, tell us more what you think, because that will just accelerate Texas turning blue."

The national group, Human Rights Campaign, also took grave offense to Perry's remarks. On its website, spokesman Fred Sainz said: "Although he may not have the 'genetic coding' to think before he speaks, Rick Perry, M.D. should have a real conversation with actual doctors before voicing his expertise on these issues. Every major mental health and medical organization in the country has condemned practices aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation.”

In an interview on Thursday morning, George Dobbins, vice president for programming at the Commonwealth Club, said that Perry would "of course" be invited back to speak.

But Dobbins wouldn't state whether the Texas governor had the most controversial statements in the history of the club.

"Controversy," Dobbins said, "is in the eye of the beholder."

Watch the raw video here:

NBC Bay Area's Mark Matthews and Stephanie Chuang contributed to this report.


Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Examining House GOP Leader Eric Cantor's Loss in Primary]]> Tue, 10 Jun 2014 22:00:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP706676101164.jpg House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost his GOP primary to a tea party challenger, in a stunning upset that has cost the number two House Republican his seat in Congress. NBC Bay Area's political analyst Larry Gerston reports.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[President Barack Obama Set to Return to Bay Area]]> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 03:56:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP459521210169.jpg

President Barack Obama is coming back to the Bay Area.

The president is scheduled to anchor a pricey Silicon Valley luncheon at the Los Altos Hills home of Judy and George Marcus, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and other key Bay Area Democratic elected officials will be on hand to rub elbows with anyone lucky enough to spend $10,000 to $32,400 on lunch.

Obama last touched down in the Bay Area in May for a fundraiser in Los Altos at the home of 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NBC's Chuck Todd: Why Cantor Lost]]> Tue, 10 Jun 2014 19:35:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000006784560_1200x675_278401091860.jpg NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd explains what led to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning loss in the 7th District.]]> <![CDATA[Examining Political Endorsements]]> Mon, 09 Jun 2014 18:58:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KNTV_000000007101350_1200x675_277536835833.jpg NBC Bay Area political analyst Larry Gerston discusses how the political game has changed and examines whether endorsements are still important.]]> <![CDATA[What to Take Away From 2014 Primary Election]]> Mon, 09 Jun 2014 00:21:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KNTV_000000007083678_1200x675_276825667962.jpg What lessons might one learn beyond Tuesday’s California primary election results? NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston explains some takeaways from the primary election.]]> <![CDATA[San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed Endorses Sam Liccardo]]> Mon, 09 Jun 2014 17:33:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sam-dave-split.jpg

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has announced his endorsement for the city's next mayor.

Reed endorsed City Councilman Sam Liccardo at a press conference Monday.

"Sam is honest, he's got integrity, and will do right by the residents and tax payers of San Jose," Reed said.

The mayor's endorsement comes less than a week after Liccardo won a spot in the mayoral run-off. Liccardo will face Dave Cortese, a Santa Clara County supervisor, in the election this November.

"Mayor Reed's work here is not yet complete," Liccardo said. "We need to continue to work to ensure future generations of San Jose residents will benefit from a city that is both sustainable and prosperous."

But some question whether Reed's voter-approved pension reform has helped or hurt the city.

In 2012, Reed requested voters approve Measure B, which requires city workers, police and firefighters to begin paying more for their pension funds. Liccardo was among the strong backers of the pension reform measure.

Many consider the upcoming election will come down to the controversial Measure B.

"I'm urging the people to stay on the path to using fiscal reforms to restore the services to continue to improve the city," Reed said Monday.

Cortese is concerned the city's reforms have gone too far, causing an exodus of police officers in a city battling rising crime rates.

"I've been critical, not of his notion about pension reform -- we're all for reform," Cortese said. "But I've criticized his approach to some extent."

The San Jose Police Officer's Association is endorsing Cortese for San Jose's next mayor.

"It's been a mess, and if the public wants more of the same -- four years, eight more years of this -- then they vote Liccardo," said Jim Unland, San Jose Police Officer's Association president.

Cortese said he is looking forward to future public debates with Liccardo as the election nears.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Speculation Builds on Michelle Obama Senate Run]]> Fri, 06 Jun 2014 14:32:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/205*120/flotus1.JPG

It wasn't that long ago that such a slogan would seem absurd, but political wags are beginning to wonder whether Michelle Obama is mulling a run for Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk's seat in 2016.

A Thursday column in Reuters suggests that Obama would be the only candidate with a large enough profile to unseat the Republican.

Dramatic D-Day Photos: U.S. Troops Land in Normandy

The column also points to Obama's recent willingness to debate the merits of her school lunch program with Republicans, a trip to China, fundraising and her stance on the kidnapped Nigerian school girls as other signs that her tone is turning more political.

• WATCH: Judge Goes Off on "Pottymouth" Defendant: "You've Got Chutzpah!"

It's not the first time Obama has been mentioned as a potential senatorial candidate, but that speculation has always focused beyond 2016. And the First Lady herself has never publicly indicated any interest in seeking political office.

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But just like a senator named Barack Obama who decided to run for president in 2008 when many thought he should wait his turn, politics are often about timing.

She would quickly become the most recognizable face in the Senate. Her fame and fundraising ability would command deference in a body that normally operates on seniority. Whether the recent elevation of her profile suggests a plan to run is unclear, but she will be well positioned should she jump in. -- Reuters

There's also that 2012 Public Polling Policy survey showing the first lady picking up 51 percent of the vote against Kirk's 40 percent if they were to run.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)]]>
<![CDATA[California Primary Turnout: Worst Ever]]> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 09:33:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/06-04-2014-low-turnout.jpg

Prior to yesterday primary election, many predicted that Californians wouldn’t be breaking through doorways filled with excitement to vote. More to the point, many political experts, county registrars and policy analysts said a new record would be set – a record low in terms of voter turnout.

So, was voter turnout low and was a new records set?

Both questions can be answered by this one simple statement: The 2014 California Primary Election will go down as the worst ever in terms of voter turnout.

NBC Bay Area talked with the Secretary of State’s office who said that preliminary numbers showed a little over 18 percent of registered voters actually participated in Tuesday's primary.

This chart shows what turnout looked like in statewide primaries since 1990.

Compared to previous statewide primaries in California, the next lowest voter participation rate was 28% in 2008 election.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Ro Khanna Faces Misleading, Bizarre Attack]]> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 10:48:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0325-RoKhanna.jpg

In a congressional race to represent Silicon Valley -- one that's being watched around the country --Democrats Mike Honda and Ro Khanna advanced through California's top-two primary system Tuesday night, and are now set to face each other in the November general elections.

Immediately after it became official that Honda and Khanna both won in the primary election, a liberal-leaning national group praised Honda over "Republican-lite Ro Khanna."

Is there any evidence to substantiate or merit calling Khanna a "Republican-lite" candidate or any shade of Republican for that matter?

Absolutely not.

Honda and Khanna are both candidates who have consistently espoused democratic beliefs and promised voters to pursue platforms that are emblematic of what being a Democrat has come mean. This includes supporting LGBT rights, fighting climate change, advocating that growing the economy requires investing in infrastructure and technology, supporting immigration reform and the list goes on and on.

Moreover, the only time Honda was willing to debate Khanna prior to Tuesday's election - at a forum hosted by the League of Conservation Voters in early May - the two candidates agreed on virtually every issue, with both opting a number of times to not even answer questions after the other spoke, and instead say something akin to, "Yeah, put me down for what he just said."

To hit Khanna with "Republican-lite" label is misleading, to say the least, and somewhat bizarre if you spend even a cursory amount of time looking into this race.

The attack came from Democracy for America (DFA) - the political action committee founded by former presidential hopeful Howard Dean. The only rationale DFA provides for calling Khanna a Republican is the support he's received "of fringe-right millionaires and billionaires."

And, there's no question that Khanna has raised a tremendous amount of campaign money from wealthy people, especially those involved in the high-tech industry. However at the same time, there's been no evidence to suggest that he's been racking in money from individuals on the "fringe-right" - i.e. people who fall into Tea Party category. And, DFA coincidentally provided nothing in its original statement to support that assertion. (See statement below.)

NBC Bay Area on Wednesday reached out to DFA for some clarification. The organization’s communications director, T. Neil Sroka, pointed to two top Republican contributors – Marc Leder and Peter Thiel – who have given a combined total of $10,400 to Khanna’s campaign. 

Reports to the Federal Election Commission do show that Leder and Thiel have long track-records of supporting Republican candidates.

Context is important here though – Khanna has raised more than $2.5 million dollars from individual donors, according to his fundraising reports to the FEC.  Leder and Thiel’s contributions make up less than .4 percent of Khanna’s total. 

Full DFA Statement:

"Tonight, Silicon Valley voters decisively chose Mike Honda, the true, grassroots progressive in the race, over the billionaire-backed, Republican-lite Ro Khanna.  With the registered Republicans now out of the race, Democracy for America members look forward to continuing to make clear that Mike Honda is the only progressive Democrat in this race -- a job we expect to be made considerably easier as Republican-lite Ro Khanna inevitably begins making the same right-wing pitch to voters that he used to 'win' the support of fringe-right millionaires and billionaires."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Sheriff Laurie Smith Elected to 5th Term]]> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 08:50:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/LAURIE+SMITH+AT+PODIUM.JPG

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith was re-elected Tuesday night as the county's top cop with a handy defeat of her opponent.

In a contentious race, Smith garnered almost 60 percent of voter support on her way to a fifth term as sheriff, beating retired Sheriff's Capt. Kevin Jensen, the favorite of deputy sheriff's and corrections deputies unions who had a bit more than 40 percent following an often bitter campaign.

No runoff election will be held as the race is nonpartisan.

Smith, 61, has said the top challenges for her next term will be managing the state-required transfer of low-level prison inmates to serve their time in the county jail, suppressing gang activity and preventing youths from joining gangs.

"We have a lot of challenges right now," she said. "Prison realignment, crime rats. We also have a lot of healing to do within the organization."

After his defeat at the polls early Wednesday morning, Jensen, 50, said that he was proud to have been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of deputy sheriffs and other law enforcement officers in the county.

Jensen said that Smith does not work well with others and he expects there to be lingering problems during her next term.

"I think I’ll keep giving back, I love to help the department," Jensen said. "There are good people in the department that are hurting right now.  And  there are good people in the public who don’t deserve to be  treated like they have been.”

Neither got the endorsement of the San Jose Mercury News.

NBC Bay Area's Jean Elle and Jeff Burbank from Bay City News contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Rep. Mike Honda, Ro Khanna Advance to General Election]]> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 05:29:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/KNTV_Mike_Honda_2_060109_00_mezzn_448x336.jpg

Seven-term Democratic Rep. Mike Honda faces a challenge from upstart Ro Khanna, a fellow Democrat who advanced Tuesday night to the general election.

But Honda has the clear advantage.

With all precincts counted, Honda took 50 percent of the vote, and Khanna, who worked for the Obama administration, took nearly 26 percent.

The battle between the two turned espcially ugly this season.  Khanna (pictured below) was accused by a Republican of diluting the vote by recruiting opponents to enter the race and defeat Honda. But a judge ended up ruling it wasn't Khanna's fault.
Honda and Republican Rep. Tom McClintock, who represents Sierra foothill communities in the northern and central parts of the state, could face strong challenges from within their own party in the general election.

<![CDATA[Examining California's "Top Two" System for Primary Elections]]> Tue, 03 Jun 2014 23:43:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/voting-dfw-generic-01.jpg NBC Bay Area Political Analyst Larry Gerston looks into the state's "top- two" system for its statewide primary elections.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Free Medical Marijuana Given Away to San Jose Voters]]> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 10:29:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/06-03-2014-medical-marijuana-voted-sticker.jpg

MTV rocked the vote. Now some Silicon Valley medical marijuana dispensaries are trying to “roll” the vote.

A controversial campaign to encourage voting by giving free medical marijuana to San Jose voters is getting nationwide attention.

San Jose voters who brought their “I Voted” sticker – along with their medical marijuana ID card -- to about a dozen participating dispensaries received free or discounted weed on Tuesday, primary Election Day.

Amsterdam's Garden, a San Jose medicinal marijuana dispensary, was busier than most polling places on Tuesday. It’s not a voting precinct, but if you already voted and were a member, you got a reward: a free, pre-rolled marijuana cigarette.

Juan Lopez got his, a little extra product to say “thanks for voting.”

"It's definitely a good idea to get people to vote,” Lopez said, sticking the joint behind his ear. “Offers like this don't happen all the time.”

No doubt Lopez is correct. But, if the so-called “weed for votes” plan works, expect to see it on future election days.

California Medical Marijuana Association Vice President Xak Puckett said says the incentive idea was part brainstorm, part social media campaign.

"The great thing about San Jose is, we’re pioneers for medical marijuana,” Puckett said, “and marijuana in general.”

The San Jose City Council is considering a proposed ordinance to closely oversee medicinal marijuana collectives and cultivation in a city with 78 collectives operating illegally.

The unlawful pot businesses continue to exist since the repeal of a law governing them in 2012. The city did not have enough funds for enforcement to close them down, Mayor Chuck Reed's spokeswoman Michelle McGurk said.

The Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition posted a list of their recommendations for candidates in San Jose who they believe "will take a reasonable approach to regulating cannabis clubs," founder of the All American Cannabis Club and SVCC member Dave Hodges said in a statement.

A list of clubs participating in the "Weed for Votes" program was posted on SVCannabis.org

When asked for comment, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office said this kind of thing is not illegal, at least not for a local election.

Amsterdam's Garden management says they'll likely incentivize voters during future elections as well.


Bay City News contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Scott Budman]]>
<![CDATA[Feds Monitoring Local Elections]]> Tue, 03 Jun 2014 07:45:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KNTV_000000007029868_1200x675_272773699814.jpg The feds are monitoring polling places in Napa and Alameda counties. Christie Smith reports.]]> <![CDATA[Deputies Vote "No-Confidence" in Incumbent Sheriff]]> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 22:50:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/06-02-2014-smith-jensen.jpg

One of the key races in Tuesday’s primary election is the race for sheriff in Santa Clara County, where four-term incumbent Laurie Smith is trying to ward off one of her former captains, Kevin Jensen.

Monday, Sheriff Smith’s campaign took a hit when the deputies' union announced that a majority of the sheriff’s deputies had issued a vote of no confidence against her.

The Deputy Sheriff's Association of Santa Clara County says its members have already cast their vote: a vote of no confidence against Smith. The union is endorsing Smith’s opponent, Jensen.

The timing of the no-confidence vote is no accident. Many are calling it a strategic move by the deputies. Union President Don Morrissey explained the maneuver as “a way of showing a lack of satisfaction with the performance of the current sheriff.”

Sheriff Smith deferred comment on the vote of no confidence to political consultant Richard Robinson, who told NBC Bay Area the deputy sheriff’s association’s vote is a “voting process that could make Vladimir Putin proud. We don’t take it seriously.”

Smith said she is ready to report to work as sheriff for the next four years. She declined NBC Bay Area’s request for an interview on Monday, but in a text message, Robinson said the union’s campaign has been “disgusting” and “dishonest,” saying the deputy union’s leadership has enhanced their “Keystone Cop image.”

But, regardless of the timing, the union says its vote shows almost 89 percent of the sheriff’s deputies don’t like the job Sheriff Laurie Smith is doing.

“How is this department going to operate,” Morrissey said, “and how is it going to look knowing that the membership question the ability of the current sheriff?”

The decision on who will be the next sheriff could be made by just a few voters. That’s because experts estimate this election will attract the lowest voter turnout in 20 years.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Record-Low Election Day Turnout Expected]]> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 17:20:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/low+voter+turnout+mini.jpg

What if they held an election and only 35 percent of registered voters showed up?

It would be 1994. And, political experts believe, 2014.

In Santa Clara County, the lowest voter turnout in 20 years is expected in Tuesday's primary election, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Why so low? There just isn't anything at stake.

The race for San Jose's mayor will be narrowed from five candidates to two. But that's only in the city. Elsewhere, there's Jerry Brown cruising to re-election, some propositions, and... well, that's it.

So as a result, "Silicon Valley is yawning," the newspaper reported.

During early voting this year, about 110 people showed up per day over a two-day period in five cities, the newspaper reported. Tuesday, most polling places expect about eight voters per hour, the newspaper reported.

About 18 percent of mail-in ballots have been returned, the newspaper reported -- and 70 percent of the county votes by mail.

There's always November.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[Election Blog: But What About the Day After?]]> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 10:03:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/192*120/Empty+Polling+Place+Election+Day+Voting+Booth+Election+Generic.JPG

While tomorrow’s election may be a non-event for many voters, Bay Area Democrats will have a lot to think about in terms of whether they can come together for the fall campaign and the coming years.

At least three races have become Democratic party blood baths.

In San Francisco, Supervisor David Campos and fellow Supervisor David Chiu are slugging it out in the 17th Assembly District primary race. Campos has criticized city subsidies for high-tech, while Chiu favors them. Major acrimony reigns on this issue. With San Francisco Republicans on the endangered species list, it’s clear the two will go at it again in the November general election.

In the East Bay, Democrats Steve Glazer and Tony Sbranti are on opposite sides about the recent BART strike, with Glazer saying the BART board caved in and Sbranti supporting the deal. Each has had about $2 million spent on their 16th Assembly District race that pits moderate/business Democrats versus liberal/union Democrats. Meanwhile, it’s increasingly possible that their scrap will open the way for Republican Catherine Baker to move in to one of the top two general election spots.

Closer to the South Bay, 17th District Congressman Mike Honda is attempting to hold his seat against the push of Ro Khanna, who has outspent Honda more than two-to-one. Honda represents the traditional liberal wing of the Democratic party, while Khanna is focusing on the value of underutilized high-tech. The battle has been fierce, opening the possibility for Vanila Singh, one of two Republican candidates to sneak into general campaign in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans.

All three of these races are Ugly with a capital U. And, in at least two cases, internal warfare between fellow Democrats could let a Republican sneak in. Moreover, it makes you wonder whether the Democrats, dominant in the Bay Area for so long, may be crumbling from within. We’ll know more about that after the June 3rd dust settles.

But I’m just sayin’….


Dr. Larry Gerston is a political science professor at San Jose State University. He also serves as a political analyst for NBC Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @lgerston.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com]]>