Capitol Alert

Fading in polls, Democrat wants 'more vision' from her opponents

Get to know gubernatorial candidate Delaine Eastin

She was the state's first female Superintendent of Public Instruction. Now, she wants to be governor.
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She was the state's first female Superintendent of Public Instruction. Now, she wants to be governor.

Gubernatorial candidate Delaine Eastin, a liberal Democrat and the only woman in the race to have been elected statewide, isn't thrilled about the competition to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown.

Eastin, who served as the state's elected education chief in the late 1990s and 2000s, under both a Republican and Democratic governor, acknowledged the steep challenges she faces in the remaining five weeks before the June 5 primary. Behind other candidates in fundraising and with little name recognition, Eastin is way behind in polls but still angling for the coveted spot for second place in the November runoff.

But if she doesn't make it, who is the best choice?

"I haven't made up my mind," Eastin told The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board. "I'm not enthused, frankly. We've had a lot of debates. I'm disappointed there isn't more vision, more courage, more heart."

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat and the former mayor of San Francisco, is leading in polls and fundraising, followed by San Diego businessman John Cox, who has never held public office. Trailing them are Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang – both Democrats.

Eastin focused her critique on Newsom and Villaraigosa, and their records leading California's two biggest cities.

"I don't see evidence that he really did a lot to really improve housing in San Francisco," Eastin said of Newsom. "I don't see the consistency. He says one thing, (but) show me.

"He says he had a homelessness program. I understand it was one-way bus tickets out of San Francisco," she said.

On single-payer health care, a policy she wholeheartedly supports, Eastin says Newsom has "waffled" in his position.

Eastin also criticized Villaraigosa for the homelessness problem in Los Angeles.

"Antonio was the mayor of the largest city in California, and during his time as mayor, he didn't really move the needle on homelessness himself," she said. "We do have a serious problem with homelessness – the most serious in the nation. It was begun under his watch for sure."

She said she didn't like the move by Villaraigosa to take over the city's public school system and move more in the direction of charters.

"He has a tendency to say there's a quick and dirty way to do this, and that's just charter everything," Eastin said, characterizing Villaraigosa's support of charter schools as the wrong approach. She has made education the core focus of her campaign.

Eastin previously served in the state Assembly on the city council for Union City in the East Bay.

She also criticized Brown, saying he has not gone far enough on enacting measures to protect the environment. She voiced support for a ban on fracking, possibly erecting new wind turbines in the ocean and a new tax on oil and gas production, noting California is the only oil rich state that does not have an oil severance tax. She also said California should halt all new drilling, and phase out current production.

"I would do no new drilling, (and) shut down what we've got," Eastin said. "When you look at our history, why would we be doing fracking? And not just the earthquakes, (but) putting poison water in the ground? In California? Where there is a water shortage? It's just stunning to me."

She said part of Brown's legacy, the state's cap-and-trade program, a market-based mechanism that requires polluters to purchase permits for the greenhouse gases they emit, does not go far enough.

"Cap-and-trade is a feather in his cap, but the failure to look this problem in the eye is of enormous proportions," Eastin said. "I don't think (cap-and-trade) goes far enough. I think there needs to be a carbon tax."

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REMEMBERING JOHN BURTON: Legislatures of the past took some hits Wednesday at a press conference announcing the arrest of the suspected East Area Rapist from Bruce Harrington, whose brother Keith and sister-in-law Patty were beaten to death in Orange County in 1980. Police suspect the East Area Rapist was the murderer.

On Wednesday, Harrington noted that he fought with the Democrat-controlled Public Safety committees over bills to widen the use of DNA testing, but was thwarted amid opposition from civil liberties groups. He and then-Attorney General Bill Lockyer ultimately sponsored Proposition 69 in 2004 to allow DNA testing of all suspects arrested for a felony.

"It's been a struggle to bring DNA and California to the forefront," Harrington said at the press conference. "When I looked at the situation in the late 90s, California was a laggard. Virginia. Florida. Some of the more progressive states on the East Coast were light years ahead of California."

Harrington called out former Senate leader John Burton.

"Senator Burton, and the Senate Public Safety Committee, my nemesis, I shamed you then and I shame you now. You were wrong."

State legislation aimed at reducing the backlog of untested rape kits, Senate Bill 1449 by Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, received some love at the press conference

"This is critical legislation to bring us to a place where we can bring justice to those victims who suffered this crime in such a horrific way," said Alameda County District AttorneyNancy O'Malley.

Leyva's bill, which would appropriate $2 million and is estimated to cost more than $6 million, is on the suspense file in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Finally, Chiang, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, is expected to discuss the statewide problem of untested rape kits at a press event outside the Capitol beginning at 9:20 a.m. Advocates for victims of sexual assault and activists who identify with the #MeToo movement will also be present.

SANCTUARY FIGHT: Allen is expected to unveil today 35,000 petitions he says he's received from California residents urging local elected officials to defy the state's so-called "sanctuary state" law that prevents, in some cases, law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration officials.

Allen, a strong opponent of the protections for immigrants, is making the announcement in his hometown of Huntington Beach. He's expected to mail the letters of support to city and county officials.

MUST READS: Antonio Villaraigosa is fading in the latest poll. Is James Bradley breathing down Kevin de León's neck?