Western Electrical Contractors Association, Inc.

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Opinion: Richard Markuson

Friday, November 16, 2018

California Republicans and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day[1] 
"From the moment Alexander wakes up, things just go wrong in his way." The exact same thing could be said for the California Republican Party. Some readers may have concluded over the years that I am a registered Republican because of my take on most things political but the truth is, after a brief fling with the Democratic Party of George McGovern, I have been a decline to state--or in the current vernacular--No Party Preference (NPP). As many of you know, I worked for a Democrat in the State Senate who was a true moderate. And while Senate Rules (for whom I actually worked) expected staff to walk precincts (on vacation time) my Senator and his Chief said it was up to me if I used my precious vacation to elect more Democrats. I didn't, which partially explains why I left the Senate when he termed out.
But back to the election. As you probably know, Republicans in California didn't do to well last Tuesday (and beyond, since California counts votes so long as they were post-marked on election day--or were later found hidden behind a dumpster in back of the local Democratic party HQ.)
In addition to being shut out of the Constitutional offices (again), two candidates for state-wide office who initially did well on election night have now fallen behind. Steve Poizner secured 24 of 24 newspaper endorsements for Insurance Commissioner, but is currently trailing State Senator Ricardo Lara[2] by 250,000 votes. Poizner identified as NPP, which probably helped a little (plus his previous experience as IC) but did little in his campaign to appeal to Republican voters. He did the best of any candidate against a Democrat opponent--getting 48.5% of the vote--almost 10 points ahead of the top of the ticket John Cox and much better than any of the other constitutional races (except in the Lieutenant Governor and US Senate Race, where there was no Republican).
Another close race was for Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State's only non-partisan race (which is why you can write-in a candidate for SPI, the only race in California's "top two" for which write-ins are allowed). Two Democrats ran for SPI, which turned out to be the most expensive race in California--the $50 million seat. And why for a position without much real power? Well the teachers union (and State Building and Construction Trades Council) LOVED Democrat Tony Thurmond and charter school supporters LOVED Marshal Tuck. Tuck led on election day but saw his lead shrink as votes rolled in after election day. (There are two alternate theories, one is that people who actually think about elections are more conservative and actually vote ahead of election day, whereas those who wait until 5pm on election day are less thoughtful, and two is that Democrats wait until they see how the various races are trending and then "find" more ballots to deliver to the County election officials). WECA was particularly rooting for Tuck because the SPI gets a seat on the California Apprenticeship Council, which seat has been held for the last 20 years by the former Apprenticeship director for the UA.
In district contests for Board of Equalization (District 4), Republican State Senator Joel Anderson is losing to his Democrat challenger Mike Shaefer for a seat which had been held by Diane Harkey, who is losing her race for Congress. Shaefer is an 80-year-old "perennial candidate in San Diego, Los Angeles, Nevada and elsewhere" who has "been disbarred in Nevada. He was first disbarred in 2001 and four attempts for reinstatement have failed. The Nevada Bar says his misconduct involved 'dishonesty, deceit, [and] fraud.' Former Las Vegas Mafia lawyer and mayor, who once represented former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgeock, stuck up for Schaefer in a reinstatement hearing, saying he has known him for 40 years and he is 'a character I have admired.'" Voice of San Diego has an interesting story about Shaefer.
The races too close to call are:

  • CA 39, which covers parts of LA, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties. This seat was vacated by Ed Royce and pits Young Kim (R) against Gil Cisneros (D). Cisneros is about 1,000 votes (0.4%) ahead.
  • SD 34, which covers parts of LA and Orange. Incumbent Janet Nguyen (R) is ahead less than 3,000 votes (1.4%) and leads in Orange County, her opponent Tom Umberg (D) leads in LA County which is notoriously slow in counting.
  • AD 16, which covers parts of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties has incumbent Catharine Baker (R) tied 50/50 (about 150 votes) with Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D).
  • AD 38, which covers parts of LA, and Ventura Counties shows incumbent Dante Acosta (R) about 1,800 (1.2%) behind Christ Smith (D). Acosta is leading in Ventura and trailing in LA. 
  • AD 60 which is in Western Riverside County. This was a vacant seat and was once considered a Republican pickup. Incumbent Sabrina Cervantes (D) leads Bill Essayli (R) by 1,400 votes (1.8%).
And as I mentioned, there are still almost 4 million ballots to be counted!
  • Vote-by-mail: 2,789,236
  • Provisional: 1,030,487
  • Conditional Voter Registration Provisional: 56,258
  • Other (i.e. damaged): 69,923
  • Total: 3,945,274 
So what does this mean in "California terms?" In the House delegation, the current split is 39 D. 14 R. 2019 will be 44 D, 8 R and CA 39 still undecided--a pickup of 5 seats. In the Assembly it was 55 D 25 R and will now be 58 D, 20 R and if AD 16 and AD 38 go D, that will give them 60 seats, 3 more than a 2/3 super-majority. In the State Senate, it was 26 D, 14 R. With all the races decided Ds will hold 28 (one more than super-m) Rs 12.
And with a new Governor, what can merit-shop contractors expect? Here is a top ten.
  1. Governor Newsom is a relative unknown and untested political leader. Brown came into office with a considerable resume of government experience (30+ years) Newsom spent 8 years as SFO mayor and 8 more as LtG - a job he once said he spent no more than 1 day a week performing. He is regarded as "a national progressive figure who was a prominent early advocate for same sex marriage, universal healthcare, and the legalization of cannabis." He will almost certainly rely upon the building trades unions for advice and perhaps senior leadership in his administration as Gray Davis did. Ann O'Leary, a former top adviser to Hillary Clinton with an emphasis in children and family policy, will serve as chief of staff. The choice potentially signals that Newsom will prioritize the expansion of early childhood education, a proposal he emphasized in the final days of his campaign above other key issues. Capitol veteran Ana Matosantos, who worked as director of finance for Govs. Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be the cabinet secretary, coordinating between Newsom's office and the dozens of agencies and departments that make up the state government.
  2. Dynamex California business will seek some solution to the case and the new ABC test imposed by the SCOC. Organized labor is sure to oppose. Will Newsom, a former "entrepreneur," side with business or with labor?
  3. Arbitration in employment. While federal law is quite clearly pre-emptive, labor will surely deliver a new prohibition on arbitration agreements in employment contracts.
  4. More #MeToo legislation. Newsom and his wife have been staunch supporters of the movement and you can bet additional legislation will be sent to Newsom next year.
  5. Pay equity. While California has some of the strongest pay equity mandates, Democrats believe that if a little law is good, a lot of law is better.
  6. Workforce development. While California has extremely low unemployment levels, Democrats will want additional programs to train both unemployed and under employed, including some groups (like homeless and former prison inmates) with disproportionate employment rates.
  7. Housing. Voters passed two ballot measures on housing, one a bond measure and the second a reallocation of mental health dollars to improve housing for those with mental disabilities. Further, Newsom has stated he wants to develop 3.5 million new housing units  by 2025. Beyond the logistical issues with this challenge, the building trades will undoubtedly insist that this work be, at a minimum, prevailing wage. Prevailing wage studies vary in how much they affect California residential construction costs.
  8. There is always the possibility that the BTs could seek to restrict the benefits components of PW calculations to "pursuant to a CBA" like SB 954 (industry advancement).
  9. STWF changes.
  10. Strengthening penalties for contractors who fail to use apprentices.
Author Percent Cost Increase
UC Berkeley 9% to 37%
The California Institute for County Government 11%
National Center for Sustainable Transportation 15%
San Diego Housing Commission 9%
Smart Cities Prevail 0%*
Beacon Economics 46%

*No cost impact, especially when taking into account increased worker productivity and savings from decreased public subsidies.
I have been accused of being the perennial voice of gloom and doom, or as my wife says "You can see the dark lining in any silver cloud," but one of my jobs is to anticipate the worst-case scenarios and prepare for them. With your help, and the help of all merit-shop contractors, we can remain a viable part of the construction industry in California. But hang on--it will be an interesting couple of years! And remember, the California Presidential Primary is just 14 months away!
[1] With apologies to Judith Viorst
[2] Incidentally five Democrats have formed committees to run for Ricardo Lara's safely Democratic seat (SD 33). Lara had a "safe ride," if he had lost the race for IC, he still would have been a State Senator! Bell City Councilmembers Ali Saleh and Ana Maria Quintana, both elected in a 2010 recall election that saw the Mayor and four council members ousted after a much-publicized corruption investigation, have formed committees, as have Lynwood City Councilman Jose Luis Solache, Long Beach 8th District City Councilman Al Austin, and Central Basin Municipal Water District member Leticia Vazquez-Wilson.