Dan Morain

Rep. Ami Bera’s path suddenly gets tougher

Republican Ron Unz announced last week his candidacy for U.S. Senate.
Republican Ron Unz announced last week his candidacy for U.S. Senate. Associated Press file

In the 1970s, 100,000 Teamsters found their way to the middle class by working in California canneries.

Now, the number of union cannery workers sits at 15,000. Doug Bloch, political director of the Teamsters Joint Council 7 in Northern California and Nevada, blames much of the job loss on the North America Free Trade Agreement.

Rep. Ami Bera, the Elk Grove Democrat seeking a third term in what will be a close race, is feeling labor’s burning anger, after breaking with unions and voting to give President Barack Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal.

Last week, Joint Council 7 took the extraordinary step of endorsing Bera’s Republican foe, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones. Bloch cannot remember the last time the Teamsters endorsed a Republican in a contested congressional race.

“We don’t have a friend in that seat,” Bloch told me. “So we’re not losing anything.”

In Christopher Cadelago’s excellent piece last week, The Sacramento Bee reported that Democratic activists, angry at Bera’s moderation, vow that they would not work to re-elect Bera.

The Teamsters have taken that a step further. Jones won the Teamsters’ endorsement because he opposes the trade deal, and is taking other pro-labor stands aligned with Teamsters’ views.

The Teamsters decision makes Bera’s re-election tougher. He won his seat in 2014 by 1,455 votes. There are 4,000 Teamsters in Bera’s district.

One-handed clapping

Sometimes, a 99 percenter can win over the 1 percent, as Gary Blenner showed last week.

One of five candidates running to replace Sacramento County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan, Blenner, a high school teacher and Democratic activist, made clear he’s a proud 99 percenter during a candidate forum hosted by Folsom Chamber of Commerce at the Harris Center at Folsom Lake College.

The 200 people who showed up politely applauded him at the start of the 90-minute event. Then he said he supports a $15 an hour minimum wage. Silence. He opposes big-box stores. Crickets. He wants to put the brakes on developers and create a community bank. Uncomfortable stirring.

On the topic of the county’s ban on marijuana dispensaries, Blenner said he would vote to reverse the ban. Dispensaries provide relief for cancer patients and jobs, he said. By my count, two people – 1 percent of the audience – clapped heartily.

Unz prepares to become unhealthy

Ron Unz, the wealthy, self-funding Republican computer whiz, caused a minor stir last week by announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senate.

Recall the Gov. Gray Davis recall. Unz gave $2,000 to help Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove (who was a legislator representing Southern California), block Arnold Schwarzenegger.

At the time, Unz told me he was appalled that celebrities and millionaires were buying political office, though he financed his candidacy to unseat Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994.

“You could put me in that category, too,” Unz said then. “But I think it’s a very unhealthy thing if the only people who can run are people who can afford to write checks or have celebrity.”

To win, Unz will need to write fat checks, unhealthy though it may be.