Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Nice to Meet You, Mr. President (Pro Tem)

6:42pm: It's official, State Senator Don Perata is the new President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate. Perata represents the East Bay (Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland, etc). He'll take over for termed-out legend Senator John Burton. Perata’s selection likely makes NorCal members happy given SoCal’s dominance in the Assembly, with their last 4 Speakers hailing from the greater L.A. area. It was a contentious race between Whittier's Martha Escutia, Santa Monica's Sheila Kuehl, and Perata.

The Los Angeles Times, and a lot of Building folks, favored Kuehl. She lacked the bigger money powers of the other two however. Of course, she also lacked the ethical question marks and less-than-stellar reputations of the other two. And she's also a former child star. And a lesbian. And from SoCal. She was likely the better choice. And doomed from the start.

The Bee, and others, say the position is "widely considered the state's second-most powerful position."

It's a testament to the power of lazy journalists. It's much easier to just take what the Senate calls itself as fact. They certainly act superior.* A look at the structure of the Senate, combined with the deleterious effects of term limits means there's really little difference between the houses now. Aside from the Senate's role in the confirmation of gubernatorial appointees, not much difference between it and the Assembly.

There are no "upper" and "lower" houses in the California Legislature.

For further proof, take a look at who's running for what in November. We have Senators stuck without a Senatorial future jumping back "down" to the Assembly because they still have time left to serve there. That would've been very odd 30 years ago - when the structure and reality of the Senate made it more powerful (largely out of its collective experience).

Want more "I'll take any office, thanks" wackiness? Check out the targeted race in the 54th AD (Phoblog's home field). We have an incumbent Senator Betty Karnette who was an Assemblywoman from 1992-1994 (hey, remember '94, THAT was a year, wasn't it) running to reclaim her seat. Her opponent? Why, it’s former State Assemblyman Steve Kuykendall. Oh, and he was also a Member of the United States House of Representative.

Don't tell me the Assembly isn't a hot ticket.

Who thinks there's going to be some voter confusion in Pedro and Long Beach precincts in November? It's a safe bet to assume more than a few voters will scratch their heads thinking one or both of these candidates is already their Assembly Member.

*Disclaimer & Disclosure: I have worked for two Assembly Members and my parents were both Assembly staffers. This legislative nut didn't fall far from the trees - and I still have a strong allegiance to the much maligned, 80 member fun house.

Update: At 4:39pm, Calraces said they would be the first with the scoop on the results of the Pro Tem race. At 5:37 they called it for Perata. I got my link above from Sac Bee, time stamped after 6:29pm. Oakland Tribune had it at 6:07pm. And as of 9:17pm, the Los Angeles Times has nada on the vote. Really - no where that I can find (using their search function and a quick ctrl+F on the front page. Good scoop, Calraces.

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