The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Monday, February 02, 2004


The Merc really outdid itself yesterday. There's bias, and then there's long sappy love letters sealed with lots of hugs and kisses. The latter category would describe this article on term limited politicians:


Piecing together political future
TERM LIMITS OPEN UP RACES, SET OFF FRENZY OF ACTIVITY
By Mike Zapler
Mercury News

The South Bay is about to feel the brunt of a 1990 term limits law, as lawmakers with nearly 75 years of combined legislative experience are forced out of office this year. Replacing them, after a breakneck campaign season, will be an assortment of up-and-comers with modest to no background in state government.


"Feel the brunt?" What about those of us who like to see decades-long officeholders retire? This is like saying that my cat "feels the brunt" of medicine killing off his fleas.


From Redwood City to Santa Cruz, the region will lose three respected state senators: John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose, who has served nearly four decades in the Legislature; Byron Sher, D-San Jose, a 25-year Sacramento veteran; and Bruce McPherson, a Republican who has represented Santa Cruz in the Legislature for more than a decade.


So that's how you spell "Democrat." R - E - S - P - E - C - T - E - D.

Here's how "respected" Vasconcellos behaved when Schwarzenegger was elected governor: he ''called Republican Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger "a boob," said voters "made a mistake," and announced that when the Legislature reconvenes in January, "I'm not sure I'll go back." '' That's how well-respected people behave in the face of adversity: By picking up their marbles and going home.


Meanwhile, two Silicon Valley Assembly members, Democrats Joe Simitian and Manny Diaz, are seeking promotions to the Senate. Assemblyman John Dutra, D-Fremont, is being forced out of office by term limits.

It's a legislative shuffle frenzied enough to make the most seasoned politico's head spin.


One, two, three, four, five, six politicians are retiring or changing office. This is a frenzy? This makes your head spin? (Of course, Zapler has such a crush on politicians that it probably makes his head spin when four assemblymen get out of a limo.)

Don't take Zapler to a ballet performance or a basketball game. The poor guy would probably have an epileptic seizure.


But in this heavily Democratic area, the spinning will stop abruptly on March 2, because most races will be all but decided in the primary election.


If your head is spinning, and it stops abruptly, wouldn't that also make your head spin?


The likeliest result: many new faces in Sacramento, a few recycled ones, and a serious loss of legislative clout for the region.


It's enough to make Baby Jesus cry!


Vasconcellos served 30 years in the Assembly, securing millions of dollars for Santa Clara County during a stint as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. He spent the past eight years in the Senate.


"Securing millions of dollars?" How about the taxes Vasconcellos voted for? The mandates on businesses? How much did that cost Santa Clara County residents? Billions?

Edwin Newman wrote books such as Strictly Speaking on the abuse of English. One cliche that he noted was "powerful Ways and Means Committee." I'm glad to see that the cliche also applies at the state level.


In 15 years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate, Sher established himself as one of the Legislature's top authorities on environmental issues.


Well that means a whole fuck of a lot, given that legislatures are prone to conferring environmental expertise on, say, Meryl Streep.
(Remember Alar?)


``Anyone who says they're going to come in and be able to accomplish what Sher and Vasconcellos have been able to accomplish,'' said campaign strategist Jason Kinney, ``is fooling themselves and their constituents.''


I trembled when I beheld the awesome moral authority of Jason Kinney. Speak truth to power Jason! Don't let The Man get you down!


Topping the lineup are two key Senate races covering the heart of Silicon Valley. Political observers say the top contenders for Sher's District 11 -- Simitian and former Assemblyman Ted Lempert -- offer local government and Legislative experience. Simitian has represented Assembly District 21 since 2000; Lempert occupied that seat from 1988 to 1992, and again from 1996 to 2000. Both are former county supervisors, Simitian in Santa Clara County and Lempert in San Mateo County.


Why drag "political observers" into it? It's a fact that Lempert and Simitian have served in the assembly and county board of supervisors.


And both are well-educated, boasting multiple college and post-graduate degrees, including law degrees, from top-notch universities.


Slurp slurp! It's fellatio time!


``They're both brilliant guys who achieved a fair amount in their time in the Assembly,'' said San Jose State political-science Professor Terry Christensen.


Is this pay-per-view? Do I get to watch for free for five minutes?


Lempert sponsored several pieces of environmental legislation during his two stints in the Assembly, while Simitian is touting to voters his work to spare school funding from drastic cuts under former Gov. Gray Davis.


Lempert is a California Democrat. How the hell could he not sponsor environmental legislation? If a California Democrat isn't sponsoring some sort of environmental legislation, he's probably in a coma.

And what is left to accomplish in this area? California has been recycled, reused, composted, protected, and warned about toxic chemicals to within an inch of its life.


The reviews of the candidates in District 13 -- stretching from Mountain View to San Jose's East Side and down to Gilroy -- are more mixed. Assemblyman Manny Diaz, D-San Jose, and former Assemblywoman Elaine Alquist are generally regarded as solid Democratic votes. But some observers say it will be some time before they gain the stature and influence of Vasconcellos.


From which I infer that one attains status and influence through years of solid Democratic votes? There Is No Liberal Media Bias -- hereinafter abbreviated as TINLMB, as I don't want the Merc to be responsible for me contracting carpal tunnel syndrome.


Still, Christensen described Diaz as an ``activist legislator'' and said that both Diaz and Alquist have ties to key voting blocs in the Legislature -- the Latino Caucus in Diaz's case, and the Women's Caucus for Alquist -- that could boost their influence. Both also have Sacramento experience: Diaz, a former San Jose council member, was elected to Assembly District 23 in 2000; Alquist represented Assembly District 22 from 1996 to 2002.


So you have to be an activist to be well-respected? TINLMB!

And what's with all the convolutions about caucuses? Wouldn't a legislator attain respect through leadership, not through membership in a club? I'll translate the caucus verbiage to plain English: "Manny Diaz is a Latino and Elaine Alquist is a woman. This will cut the amount of time they need to be well-respected by 50%."


In a third Senate race, Assemblyman Abel Maldonado, R-San Luis Obispo, an ally of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's, is the heavy favorite to replace McPherson.


And that's the last we'll hear about Maldonado, who is striken with the scarlet letter R next to his name. You can't spell "well-respected" with an R. Well, you can actually. But there's no R in TINLMB!


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