Sunday Column: Corbett’s Early Eye On Congress Is A Signal To Dem Donors

Ellen Corbett

SUNDAY COLUMN State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett is certainly not being shy about her desire to unseat Rep. Eric Swalwell in two years time. On Friday evening, she told a small group of loyal Democrats at the Hayward Demos club she is, indeed, running for Congress in 2014. This isn’t exactly news. Corbett said the same thing two weeks before the November election in Dublin and has been whispering around the fact to local Democratic operatives and donors since she purchased a home in Hayward–conveniently within the boundaries of the 15th Congressional District (she doesn’t want Swalwell using that bullshit “not a part of this community” meme on her like he used effectively on Pete Stark).

However, it should be noted how brazenly aggressive Corbett is acting now as opposed to last year when her and Ro Khanna pussyfooted around challenging Stark, who, in hindsight, was clearly ripe for the picking. Corbett appears determined not to have her expressed desire for a seat in Congress slip through her fingers a second time. Despite how some people may perceive, Corbett’s announcement, clearly made just a single day after Swalwell was sworn-in Thursday morning, as a slap in the face to him and his supporters, there are very good reasons for her to act swiftly—literally, millions of them–$2,500 at a time.

Eric Swalwell

The most interesting part of the next two years for Swalwell is to see how he navigates this crazy-quilt coalition of support he used effectively to beat the self-weakened Stark last November. Does he mimic every vote from the uber-progressive Rep. Barbara Lee and placate loyal Democrats, and, if he does, how does he answer to those Tri Valley moderates who led him to victory and Tea Party loyalists who threw caution to the wind to vote for a despised Democrat? Throw in the public’s inherent dislike for Congress and Swalwell, the incumbent, has a unenviable and toturous landscape to travel before 2014 and that’s without mentioning all the hours he will need to entice donors to write out large campaign contributions and the ridiculous schedule he is now wedded to that involves flying from D.C. to Dublin every weekend. That’s 10 hours in the sky every weekend.

In the meantime, Corbett’s very early decision to run is a clear signal to those same Democratic donors to think twice about bankrolling the incumbent and instead, steering dollars to her campaign. The underlining message will be: Corbett is the real Democrats and Swalwell is not. The pitch may also include luring back those Democrats who, despite an affinity for the Stark of old, had soured on the 80-year version enough to vote for anyone, but him. Those are the people Corbett and Khanna did not account for in 2012 and Swalwell coveted. And when the campaign for 2014 begins in earnest, what will Corbett talk about? Well, the clue may involved a few notable pieces of legislations offered by Corbett over the past two years that failed to gain passage, but may now with a Democratic supermajority in Sacramento.

THE WEEK THAT WAS As we flipped the calendar to 2013, the corridors of local government were still sleepy. In Congress and Sacramento, new members and the framework of each bodies leadership came into focus this week. Rep. Eric Swalwell and 84 other freshman congressman were sworn-in by Speaker John Boehner who urged bipartisanship during the 113th Congress. Yeah, right.

Working across the aisle last week meant brinksmanship as both sides agreed to avert the “fiscal cliff” as it dealt with taxes, but deferred on funding for social programs and the debt ceiling to March. Rep. Barbara Lee voted for the deal, but called it “far from perfect.”

East Bay Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner, Rob Bonta and Bill Quirk were assigned to five legislative committees, while Fremont’s Bob Wieckowski received four, including the influential chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

QUOTABLE “I appreciate you asking that and about fourteen months ago no one thought I would ever run for Congress. In fact, my own parents thought I was crazy and tried to talk me out of it.”

Eric Swalwell responds to a cheeky question from a host on Politico TV last Thursday about whether he will one day run for president.

TWEET SPEAK “As economic inequality widens in #CA and beyond, we must look at raising the #minimumwage from $8 to $10 an hour indexed for inflation.” Former 18th Assembly candidate Abel Guillen (@Abel_Guillen )tweeting Jan. 3.

>>”Together a Century, City and Oil Giant Hit a Rough Patch” New York Times (Jan. 2) looks at Richmond’s often-contentious relationship with Chevron.

>>”Pete Stark, Health Policy Warrior, Leaves Long Legacy” NPR (Jan. 2) profiles Stark’s huge and largely forgotten footprint for how Americans access health care.

>>”Cracking Oakland’s Code” East Bay Express (Jan. 2) shows how a group of inventive hackers are reformulating Oakland’s existing data to help solve the city’s vexing problems.

SH!T TALK! When you have a five-member city council any change in its composition brings change to the dynamic of the small group. But, when you replace a majority of the membership all at once, its downright dramatic.

In Alameda, it’s the second time in two years the City Council has replenished itself with a new majority of members. However, the former council, which included newly-minted Assemblymember Rob Bonta, was opinionated and willing to publicly tussle with each other. It made for good drama. They were rock stars, but the new group of Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, Stewart Chen and Tony Daysog, is like expecting a Led Zeppelin concert and receiving a performance by the Alameda High School jazz band.

Alas, good government is not about glitz and glamour and Alameda appears in good hands. Daysog is a former councilmember and mayoral candidate with a strong emphasis on extreme transparency and public outreach and Ashcraft clearly showed during the campaign season her grasp of the issues facing Alameda. We don’t know much yet about Chen other than he looks like the Filipino version of Erik Estrada.