Weekend Open Thread: As We Found Out in 2012, the State ‘Supermajority’ Doesn’t Much Matter

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(Not to be confused with an ACTUAL supermajority.)

(Not to be confused with an ACTUAL supermajority.)

The one argument against voting for Josh Newman for which I could have a little respect, even though I didn’t agree with it, was that it would give Democrats the supermajority in the State Senate.  This would give the Democratic Party the theoretical — repeat, theoretical — power to  raise taxes, override vetoes, and a few other things.

Right, sure — because the Democratic Party is so notoriously monolithic, right?

The only tax increases that I know have being talked about in recent years are the “split roll” property tax proposal (which would restore the original intention of Prop 13 to protect families from tax hikes, not to allow carefully structured corporations to displace money they should be paying in property taxes on leased-out properties onto the backs of consumers) and an oil excise tax — you know, like the one that they have in communist Texas — that would give our state some benefit for the oil being pumped out of what is after all our shores rather than Exxon’s or Chevron’s own property.

The likelihood of getting all 54 (counting Newman, if he wins) Democratic State Senators lined up to support a tax increase that could not win the support of even one Republican is remote.  It’s not so much because even one Republican is likely to vote for a tax increase — there’s a monolithic party for you! — as because it would be trivially easy, as it always is, for special interests to buy off or scare off a Democrat or two.  The landlords or the oil companies would just have to let candidates know that they were willing to intervene strongly in the next election based on their votes on the issue — and a good (well, bad) number of Democrats would cave.

Even if the State Senate contained 40 Democrats and no Republicans, it would be hard to get some obviously Democratic proposals, popular with the voters, passed because of the fear of glossy mailers in which Dishonest Dave Gilliard dug up something that the candidate did back in third grade — or earlier.  (Why he doesn’t accuse candidates of having shameless pooped in public — during their first year of life — is beyond me.  It seems to be right up his alley.)

But the main reason why Republicans don’t actually have to worry much about a Democratic Supermajority is that it won’t be that likely that we’ll maintain one after the next two years, even if we get one in the first place.

Why?  Personal ambition!  People die in the midst of a term (as my friend Jenny Oropeza did), or they decide to leave midway through for a better job opportunity (maybe one that has a pension), or so on — and that leads to a cycle of special elections.  Was Isidore Hall who had two during one year, and first an Assemblymember and then a State Senator vacated their offices?  These elections don’t happen quickly — there’s a whole process to go through, and it takes a lot of time.  If any Democratic State Senate seats open up during 2017 or 2016 — perhaps because a Congressional seat opens up and the incumbent State Senator then runs for it? — then the Democratic majority falls below 27.  (As I recall, the requirement is still 27 even if the number of occupied Senate seats falls below 40; I do recall that supermajorities were lost in both the State Senate and Assembly over the course of the 2013-2014 legislative session.  That seems like a bad policy, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not true.)

The reasons I’m supporting Josh Newman have almost everything to do with him personally being a splendid and admirable guy and almost nothing to do with the supermajority he’d bring.  That supermajority majority is not about power, because in plain terms it doesn’t actually bring the party power — we have way too many Lou Correa and Tom Daly-types in our caucus for it to do so.  What it’s about is glory — bragging rights — the sort of thing that can help or hurt a Party Chair or his or her acolytes.  And I don’t much care about that — that tail wags the dog too much of the time as it is.  Those people from the state parties that who cramming into Neal Kelley’s Registrar of Voters’ office issuing commands to the lowly actual candidates’ own volunteers are fighting a significant battle over one important seat — which is great– but they’re also there because that one seat is also supposedly decisive.  It’s not decisive!  But, if it were, I’d certainly rather have Josh Newman there, working towards a solution using his own brain and ideals, rather than Ling-Ling Chang in that position regurgitating any nonsense she’s fed by her handlers.

But hey, Republicans, go ahead and fire Jim Brulte if you want to!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, his counterprogramming against Sukhee Kang for this Senate race by directing Chang to give up her pretty safe Assembly seat for the good of the party was a master stroke.  You only need to see what the Republicans were able to make out of virtually nothing in attacking Josh Newman to see how completely they would obliterate Kang with — largely unfair or not — a blitzkrieg of attacks over the corruption of the Great Park, which would be stunning new news to most voters here.  Brulte made the right call because he, like all others in party officers up and down the line, considered the likelihood of Kang’s not being nominated to be — word chosen intentionally here — inconceivable!

But then Brett Murdock took one for the team and switched to the much more difficult Congressional race against Ed Royce — for which he received paltry support — and Newman was free to take on Kang one-on-one, and then to do the same with Chang.  Without Murdock voluntarily taking the short straw, Newman doesn’t beat Kang and there’s no crowd in Santa Ana this week — because Chang had already won the race on election night against the candidate who (her literature would have said) personally brought gold bars from the city’s savings to Forde and Mollrich on platters made from the skulls of schoolchildren.  So thanks and credit for Newman’s impending win should also go to him.

This is your Weekend Open Thread.  Talk about that, or whatever else you’d like, within decent bounds of decency, decorum, dignity, and discombobulation!


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)