Glazer Victory Proves Government Union Reform Is Bipartisan

Steve Glazer is a symbol of change.

The Democrat mayor of Orinda, Glazer, won a decisive victory over Concord Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in last week’s special election for the vacant 7th District State Senate seat. Given California’s open primary system, it was a Democrat vs. Democrat runoff in which Glazer’s foes resorted to attacking him as being a DINO – Democrat in Name Only.

Glazer identifies as a progressive Democrat and is a former political consultant to Governor Brown. While his election will not reverse the Democrats’ stronghold on the Senate, his rejection of blind party loyalty beholden to powerful special interests – led by public sector unions – marked him a target to defeat by these unions and Democratic Party bosses dependent on them.

Glazer’s victory wasn’t cheap. In fact, much of both Bonilla’s and Glazer’s electioneering was paid for by special interests, which spent more than $7 million in the runoff to support their candidate – more than three times what the candidates raised.

Labor unions and the California Democratic Party backed Bonilla – defining her as the “true” Democrat. Outside interests, like charter schools and the business community (including one wealthy businessman) matched their spending prowess, funding Glazer’s campaign.

Political reformers are hopeful that Glazer’s election could become the poster child for a more independent Democrat in California – one who remains loyal to the party on most social issues, including support for fighting climate change, reproductive rights, higher education expansion and accessibility, but more restrained on fiscal issues, including taxation, pensions and the rights of public sector unions to strike.

Privately, many Democratic officials resent the seemingly unabated power commanding policy and electoral outcomes in Sacramento, but fear confrontation with the hand that feeds them. There is a thin blue line in the political world for Democrats, many choosing to “go along to get along” to lengthen their political careers – but, in the process of doing so, they perpetuate California’s fiscal dysfunction and block reforms, particularly in education and pension systems.

Glazer had conviction and courage. This week he was sworn in having looked the most powerful special interests in the eye and taken them on by any means necessary, including targeting his message to a more independent voter likely to vote in a special election, while his opponent’s supporters tried to paint him as a new type of political devil trying to falsely gain entrance into the Democratic Party. Steve Maviglio, a Democratic political consultant, railed that Glazer was “an opportunist” who would become “an island in the State Senate since neither D’s or R’s will trust him.”

On election night, Shawnda Westly, executive director of the California Democratic Party, rather than congratulating him, seemed to embarrassingly be in denial that a Democrat didn’t have to follow her dictate and could actually be independent and win. She publicly lashed out at Glazer, releasing a scathing “official” statement from the party saying that “[Glazer] claimed to be Democrat but ran a cynical campaign to appeal to Republican voters in a low-turnout election” and, essentially, warning that future candidates shouldn’t think about doing what he did.

Boo hoo for party bosses.

Bravo for independent candidates of all stripes – those bold enough to not drink the Kool-Aid of power as dictated to them by others; bold enough to actually have a spine.

About the Author: Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles resident, served in the California Legislature from 1998 to 2008, the last seven years as Senate majority leader. Romero is the director of education reform for the California Policy Center. This article originally appeared in the Orange County Register and is republished here with permission from the author.

A Challenge to Moorlach and Glazer – Build A Radical Center

On March 22, 2015, John Moorlach was officially sworn in as state senator for California’s 37th District. On May 28, 2015, Steve Glazer took the oath of office as state senator for the 7th District. Moorlach is a Republican serving mostly conservative constituents in Orange County. Steve Glazer is a Democrat serving mostly liberal constituents in Contra Costa County.

Different parties. Different constituents. You wouldn’t think these two men had much in common. But you’d be wrong.

John Moorlach and Steve Glazer have both distinguished themselves as politicians and candidates by doing something that transcends their political party identity or conventional ideologies. They challenged the agenda of government unions. As a consequence, both of them faced opponents who were members of their own party who accepted money and endorsements from government unions.

It wasn’t easy to challenge government unions. Using taxpayers money that is automatically deducted from government employee paychecks, government unions in California collect and spend over $1.0 billion per year. These unions spent heavily to attack Moorlach and Glazer, accusing – among other things – Moorlach of being soft on child molesters, and accusing – among other things – Glazer of being a puppet of “big tobacco.”

This time, however, the lavishly funded torrent of union slime didn’t stick. Voters are waking up to the fact that the agenda of government unions is inherently in conflict with the public interest. Can Moorlach and Glazer transform this rising awareness into momentum for reform in California’s state legislature?

Despite sharing in common the courage to confront California’s most powerful and most unchecked special interest, Moorlach and Glazer belong to opposing parties whose mutual enmity is only matched by their fear of these unions. With rare exceptions, California’s Democratic politicians are owned by government unions. Fewer of California’s Republican politicians are under their absolute control, but fewer still wish to stick their necks out and be especially targeted by them.

The good news is that bipartisan, centrist reform is something whose time has come. Democrats and Republicans alike have realized that California’s system of public education cannot improve until they stand up to the teachers unions. Similarly, with the financial demands of California’s government pension systems just one more market downturn away from completely crippling local governments, bipartisan support for dramatic pension reform is inevitable.

There are other issues where voters and politicians alike realize current policy solutions are inadequate at best, but consensus solutions require intense dialog and good faith negotiations. An obvious example of this is water policy, where the current political consensus is to decrease demand through misanthropic, punitive rationing, when multiple solutions make better financial and humanitarian sense. Supply oriented solutions include upgrading sewage treatment plants to reuse wastewater, building desalination plants, building more dams, increasing cloud seeding efforts, and allowing some farmers to sell their allocations to urban areas.

Imagine a centrist coalition of politicians, led by reformers such as Moorlach and Glazer, implementing policies that are decisive departures from the tepid incrementalism and creeping authoritarianism that has defined California’s politics ever since the government unions took control. How radical would that be?

Ultimately, forming a radical center in California requires more than the gathering urgency for reforms in the areas of education, government compensation and pensions, and, hopefully, infrastructure investment. Beyond recognizing the inevitable crises that will result from inaction, and beyond finding the courage to stand up to government unions, Moorlach and Glazer, and those who join them, will have to manifest and pass on to their colleagues an empathy for the beliefs and ideologies of their opponents.

Ideological polarities – environmentalism vs. pro-development, social liberal vs. social conservative, libertarian vs. progressive – generate animosity that emotionalizes and trivializes debate on unrelated topics where action might otherwise be possible. The only solution is empathy. The extremes of libertarian philosophy are as absurd as those of the progressives. The extremes of social liberalism can be as oppressive as an authoritarian theocracy. Economic development without reasonable environmentalist checks is as undesirable as the stagnant plutocracy that is the unwitting consequence of extreme environmentalism. And while government unions should be outlawed, well regulated private sector unions play a vital role in an era of automation, globalization, and financial corruption.

Despite being inundated with a torrent of slime by their opponents, John Moorlach and Steve Glazer took the high road in their campaigns. They are worthy candidates to nurture the guttering remnants of empathy that flicker yet in Sacramento, and turn them into a roaring, radical centrist fire.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Glazer vs. Bonilla 7th Senate District Battle Reflects New Political Split in California

California’s politics remain polarized, but not just via the traditional division of Republicans vs. Democrats. As reported here two months ago in the post “Issue of Government Unions Divide Candidates More Than Party Affiliation,” there were two California State Senate contests that remained unresolved after the November 2014 election. One of them, pitting Republican John Moorlach against Republican Don Wagner for the 37th Senate District, was settled on March 17th. Moorlach, who has fought to restore financial sustainability to public employee pension systems, was opposed by government unions. Wagner, also a conservative, but less outspoken than Moorlach on the issue of pension reform, was endorsed by government unions. Moorlach won.

The other race, originally pitting three Democrats against each other for the 7th Senate District, has narrowed to a contest between two candidates that will be settled on May 19th, Democrat Steve Glazer vs. Democrat Susan Bonilla.

It will be interesting to see how voters in a largely Democratic district respond in a race that is not between candidates from opposing parties. Glazer is a fiscal conservative who is progressive on virtually all of the issues important to Democrats. Bonilla offers up many similar positions, with one important exception: Glazer has stood up to government unions on critical issues, to the point where government unions do not consider him reliable. As a result, Bonilla is receiving cash and endorsements from the unions representing our public servants, all of it, of course, money that originated from taxpayers.

Here’s a list of some of Bonilla’s government union endorsements:

California Association of Highway Patrolmen
California Professional Firefighters
California State Sheriffs’ Association
California State Coalition of Probation Organizations
CALFIRE Local 2881
Peace Officers Research Association of California
Deputy Sheriffs Association of Alameda County
Antioch Police Officer’s Association
Concord Police Officer’s Association
Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association
Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney’s Association
Brentwood Police Officers Association
Livermore-Pleasanton Firefighters, Local 1974
Livermore Police Officer’s Association
Pittsburg Police Officers Association
Pleasanton Police Officers Association
Probation Peace Officers Association of Contra Costa County
San Ramon Valley Firefighters Association, Local 3546
United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County, Local 1230

One has to ask why so many public safety officials are endorsing Bonilla rather than Glazer, and it is fair to wonder if their endorsement has anything to do with the positions of these candidates on issues and policies relating to public safety. Take a look at this flyer from the Bonilla campaign:


As can be seen, Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson and Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, both apparently Republicans, are touting the pro public safety record of Susan Bonilla. But would they have made these statements if Susan Bonilla was challenging their unions on fiscal issues relating to pensions and compensation?

From that perspective, candidate Steven Glazer is a threat to government unions. For ten years starting in 2004, Glazer was a councilmember, then mayor, in Orinda, one of the most fiscally responsible cities in the state. In a California Policy Center study released late last year entitled “California’s Most Financially Stressed Cities and Counties,” every city and county in California was ranked in order of its risk of insolvency. Orinda was ranked 369 out of 491, putting it in the top 25% in terms of financial health. More significantly, in a subsequent California Policy Center study entitled “California City Pension Burdens,” every city in the state was ranked according to how much pension contributions strain their budgets. Orinda wasn’t even on this list, because they are among only nine cities in California who don’t have a defined benefit plan for their employees. They use a defined contribution plan instead.

Hopefully the reader will forgive this prurient dive into personal financial data, but when public employees endorse political candidates, how much they make is relevant. Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson made $322,180 in 2013, an amount that included $111,897 in employer paid benefits. Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern made $556,268 in 2013; an astonishing $266,130 of that in the form of employer paid benefits. The vast majority of these benefit payments were to cover the required employer pension contributions. These men would have to be saints to have an objective perspective on an election that could result in a fiscal conservative holding office who is conversant in pension finance and formerly presided over a town that offers defined contribution plans to their employees instead of defined benefit pensions.

To drive the point home, take a look at the salaries and benefits for Alameda County workers, the pensions for Alameda County retirees, the salaries for Contra Costa County workers, and the pensions for Contra Costa County retirees. No conflict of interest there.

In the race for California’s 7th Senate District, Government unions have already spent over $2.0 million to support Susan Bonilla and oppose Steve Glazer. Download this spreadsheet to view the latest contributions through 4-20-2015, or click on the following four links to follow the money pouring in to make sure a fiscal conservative Senator does not head to Sacramento on May 19th:

Bonilla for Senate 2015, Putting the East Bay First
Bonilla for Senate 2015
Bonilla for Senate 2016
Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate 2015

California’s Republican leadership, to the extent they tepidly claim to support pension reform while taking money from public sector unions and doing nothing, should understand as clearly as the Democratic leadership who avoid the issue entirely: It doesn’t matter what else you believe, or what you stand for, or what’s in your platform. Government unions support candidates who fight to preserve and increase the pay and benefits of unionized government employees, at the same time as they fight to minimize the accountability of unionized government employees. Across California, their demands, almost invariably fulfilled by politicians they control, have taken money away from other services, including infrastructure investment, and nearly destroyed California’s system of public education.

This is having a polarizing impact in both parties, and rendering the distinction between Democrat and Republican less important than whether or not they are willing to stand up to government unions.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Unions in the News – Weekly Highlights

Steve Glazer, Blazing a Trail
By Joel Fox, April 14, 2015, Fox&Hounds
A Democrat will be elected in the Senate District 7 special election next month but depending on which Democrat is elected the result could change the course of California political history. Steve Glazer, the Orinda mayor and former Jerry Brown advisor is a life long Democrat who stands for many issues the California Democratic Party endorses. He was the campaign manager for Jerry Brown’s return to the governor’s office after a three-decade absence, and he helped promote the Proposition 30 tax increase in 2012. Yet, Glazer is more than a candidate for office. He could become a symbol of change in state politics. Glazer has dared to stand up to the powerful public employee unions who have great influence over elected Democratic officials in the legislature. (read article)

L.A. Public Works Okays Hiring Non-Union Trash Collectors
By Mirna Alfonso, April 14, 2015,
With city workers threatening to strike, Los Angeles public works commissioners agreed today to give city officials the authority to hire outside contractors to pick up solid waste and perform other critical jobs if necessary. The Board of Public Works Commissioners voted to allow the Bureau of Sanitation to quickly hire contractors in the event that sanitation workers walk off the job. (read article)

Unions central to Brown’s infrastructure plans
By James Poulos, April 13, 2015,
Faced with a restive constituency disgruntled by drought, Gov. Jerry Brown has moved to execute on his plans for California infrastructure — a boon to labor unions, but a point of contention for his political adversaries. As the Los Angeles Times reported, trade workers will benefit from Brown’s aims to refurbish roads and replumb the state’s waterworks. But most of all, they’ll cash in on the construction of California’s high-speed railway, under increasing fire as a misplaced priority amid the water crisis. (read article)

Obamacare Funds Allegedly Used For Union Recruitment
By Connor Wolf, April 13, 2015, California Political Review
According to a letter made public Saturday, federal investigators are looking into whether Obamacare funds were misused to benefit a union. The letter, which was obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation, says the Office of Inspector General has been investigating whether Southern United Neighborhoods and its sub grantee, United Labor Unions Local 100, purposely misused federal funds from the Obamacare Navigator program to recruit members. The program was designed to help people enroll in Obamacare. (read article)

Proposed pension initiative targets local changes
By Ed Mendel, April 13, 2015, Capitol Weekly
The leaders of two local pension reforms, former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, are working with a coalition on a statewide initiative to help local governments make cost-cutting pension reforms. DeMaio called the proposal a “tool kit” for local officials to “fix the problems in a manner that reflects their community’s ability.” (read article)

Legislator takes aim at automated union dues
By Madlin Mekelburg, April 12, 2015, Houston Chronical
A Senate panel on Monday is expected to vote on a bill that would keep most state employees from paying union and other association dues through payroll deductions. Police officers and firefighters would be exempted from the bill by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, who said the measure “keeps state resources from funding political campaigns.” (read article)

Unions fight to preserve Obama’s immigration actions, their members
April 12, 2015,
Two of the country’s most powerful and politically influential labor unions are backing President Obama in the recent court challenge to his 2014 executive action on illegal immigration, saying they support the president’s effort because “undocumented workers” need more workplace protection and their participation helps the U.S. economy. (read article)

Smear campaign by public-employee union beyond the pale
By Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts, April 11, 2015, Contra Costa Times
If you are a voter in Walnut Creek or Concord, San Ramon, Livermore or Pleasanton, you might not want to support Democrat Steve Glazer for state Senate. Maybe you support the right of transit workers to strike, or you don’t want to reform teacher tenure or government pensions. Maybe you just want to support the candidate who will always vote labor’s position on every issue. (read article)

Unions Eyeing 2016 California Ballot for Tax Hike Measures
By Steven Greenhut, April 10, 2015,
As California faced massive deficits, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and legislative leaders asked taxpayers to raise sales and income taxes to prevent cuts in funding for public schools and other services. Voters, repeatedly assured that Proposition 30’s increases were only temporary, approved the 2012 measure by a solid margin. “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program,” said free-market economist Milton Friedman. Apparently, there’s nothing as permanent as a temporary tax, either, as many in the same coalition that backed Proposition 30 are preparing another campaign to make it permanent. (read article)

Yearly dose of sunlight for labor unions
By Nathan Mehrens, April 10, 2015,
With the coming of spring, baseball season, and longer daylight hours, another type of sunshine arrives — light on union finances. At the end of March, the financial reports for unions in the private and federal sectors for the previous calendar year come due. (read article)

Teachers unions: wanting the perks of membership without the politics
April 9, 2015, Los Angeles Times
If you’re a public school teacher and you pay your union dues, you get to enjoy whatever salary deal the union negotiates for you. But the union spends part of your dues on political lobbying and campaigning, perhaps for causes and candidates you can’t stand. Then what? Forcing you to pay to advance positions you dislike violates the 1st Amendment. (read article)

Doctor Strike May Be Harbinger of Reform Era Labor Problems
By George Lauer, April 9, 2015, California Healthline
Doctors at University of California student health centers are on strike this week — part of the first full-fledged strike by doctors in the U.S. in 25 years. Is this a harbinger of new labor struggles in the post-health reform era? Maybe, said Stuart Bussey, president of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, which staged the UC walkout. (read article)

By Jon Fleischman, Aprilo 9, 2015,
A couple of weeks ago a freshman Republican member of the State Assembly said to me: “You were right, this place is controlled lock, stock and barrel by the unions.” It’s no surprise, of course that “Big Labor”–as these immense public and private labor unions are known–controls legislative outcomes in the State Capitol on those issues where they choose to weigh in. (read article)

Teachers union starts legal battle to unionize L.A.’s largest charter school group
By Thomas Himes, April 8, 2015, Los Angeles Daily News
United Teachers Los Angeles has brought its fight to unionize the city’s largest charter school organization to the state’s top labor authority. In a complaint filed Monday evening, the teachers union alleges Alliance College-Ready Public Schools has interfered with efforts to unionize more than 500 teachers. Los Angeles-based Alliance’s 26 campuses are located in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, south and east of downtown. Earlier this year, Los Angeles Unified’s school board approved Alliance plans to open a 27th campus in Sun Valley for 1,050 students in grades 6 through 12. (read article)

High Court Urged To Ignore Union Fees Challenge
By Aaron Vehling, April 8, 2015,
The California Teachers Association and the National Education Association have urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject review of California teachers’ challenge to union fees and a request to overrule the high court’s 1977 Abood ruling, which gave states a green light to require public workers to pay union agency fees. (read article)

Finding common cause in fighting public sector unions-Republicans and Democrats should join forces to face the threat
By Terrence Scanion, April 8, 2015, Washington Times
“If we don’t win this fight, there’s no other fight left.” That’s what New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie said soon after taking office in 2010, when he faced off with the unions representing some 400,000 state employees. Mr. Christie knew what was at stake when he pushed through reforms that included changes in future pensions and greater employee contributions for health care. (read article)

Taxpayer money fuels big labor’s political machine
By Jason Hart, April 8, 2015,
America’s four largest labor unions spent more than $179 million last year promoting big government, and did so using taxpayer money. Public-sector unions were crucial to the passage of Obamacare, and in 2014 they helped push progressive priorities including minimum-wage hikes and amnesty for illegal immigrants. (read article)

California sides with unions, against charity hospitals
Adam B. Summers, April 8, 2015, Orange County Register
Given the progressive nature of California’s ruling Democratic Party, one might expect politicians to be especially compassionate about the medical treatment of the poor in the state’s charity hospitals, but their recent actions have been anything but sympathetic. (read article)

Forced Union Dues Fuel Billion Dollar Political Machine
April 8, 2015, National Institute for Labor Relations Research
The National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) has released a new analysis conservatively estimating that Big Labor spent nearly $1.7 billion on politics and lobbying in 2013 and 2014. The NILRR analysis relies on reporting forms filed by union officials themselves with federal and state government agencies. (read article)

San Bernardino County public workers union losing 671 more members to rival
By Joe Nelson, April 8, 2015, The Sun
Service Employees International Union Local 721 dealt another blow to San Bernardino County’s largest labor union when it announced that 671 Superior Court employees would be leaving the San Bernardino Public Employees Association and joining the SEIU. (read article)

Long Beach approves historic agreement with unions for city construction projects
By Eric Bradley, April 7, 2015, Press-Telegram
Union workers will have an easier time getting a job on public construction projects after the City Council approved signing a historic project labor agreement Tuesday more expansive than any other city in California. The five-year deal with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council applies to projects costing more than $500,000, and is worth an estimated $28 million annually. (read article)

Three Labor Union Members Plead Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to Accepting Bribes in Exchange for Labor Union Memberships
U.S. Attorney’s Office, April 7, 2015, Feceral Bureau of Investigation
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that CHRISTOPHER LUPINO and KELWYN BENJAMIN pled guilty today, and ADAM FORESTA pled guilty on March 31, 2015, each to participating in a conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud in connection with their accepting bribes in exchange for memberships in Steamfitters Local 638, a New York City labor union. (read article)

California Democrat Goes Rogue, Incurs Government Union Wrath

It didn’t take long for “the brotherhood” of status quo politics to pile on. Within hours of former Assembly member Joan Buchanan having lost her election bid for Northern California’s 7th Senate District seat in last week’s special election to fill the vacancy, she endorsed labor-embraced and fellow Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord. Together, they joined the panoply of monied special interests led by public sector unions that are largely funding the Democratic Party, to defeat a third Democrat – independent Steve Glazer.

Glazer describes himself as “fiscally conservative, socially progressive.” He is the mayor of Orinda and former political aide to Gov. Jerry Brown. Glazer brandishes “blue” credentials in California, having worked for decades to support Democratic candidates and causes.

But a funny thing happened on the way to governing California: Glazer ran afoul of the Democratic Party establishment when he started challenging the power of public sector unions on municipal and state government. Glazer supported banning strikes by public transit workers, embraced pension reforms and campaigned to elect more business friendly Democrats.

Millions of dollars were spent to try to bury Glazer on Election Day, prompting questions on whether there is a zero tolerance policy in the Democratic party against independent-minded Democrats.

Yet, on Election Night, Glazer not only survived, but emerged as the top vote-getter. A May runoff is scheduled.

Glazer stands out because it is rare for Democrats to “go rogue” and support labor-opposed changes to teacher tenure or curbing government pensions. Despite the “big tent” image, discourse and dissent is disallowed, despite growing public support for these reforms. Party-supported candidates are reminded that the hand that feeds them comes with a demand of loyalty.

If not, as was done to Glazer, they become labeled with the equivalent of a political red-letter A: abandonment of the Democratic Party for not remaining subservient to the interests of those who fund them. Forget 50 shades – can Democrats even be allowed to display more than one shade of blue? Yet, the dirty laundry of adherence to blind allegiance has erupted into public view in recent election cycles.

Indeed, in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama lost favor with the National Education Association for his support of holding teachers and schools accountable and linking student outcome data to teacher evaluations. Since then, he and his Education secretary have largely earned the wrath of national teachers unions.

In the most-recent Los Angeles mayoral election, Eric Garcetti defeated a fellow Democrat largely by portraying his opponent as blindly subservient to the city unions that had endorsed her. Today, Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces a re-election runoff due to his willingness to battle Chicago’s powerful teachers unions.

Meanwhile, in Orange County’s special election to fill another vacant state Senate seat, two Republicans battled each other. Former county Supervisor John Moorlach – the candidate who refused to accept campaign contributions from labor unions – claimed outright victory in that Republican stronghold district. His opponent, Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Tustin, was financed by labor unions who perceived him to be more allegiant to the state’s public sector unions.

The outcomes of both elections – one in a Democratic and one in a Republican stronghold district – send strong signals that voters desire to reclaim their party, and not allow candidates to be constricted to only one shade of red or blue. The challenge now is to seek independence in California’s remaining 38 Senate districts, 80 Assembly districts and every statewide and constitutional office.

About the Author:  Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles resident, served in the California Legislature from 1998 to 2008, the last seven years as Senate majority leader. Romero is the director of education reform for the California Policy Center. This article originally appeared in the Orange County Register and is republished here with permission from the author.

Unions Back Unelectable Republican to Draw Votes from Reform Democrat

Last November’s election saw some of the most craven political tactics ever seen in California.  Fearful that they would lose the two thirds supermajority in both houses, many anti-taxpayer candidates – usually Democrats – attempted to portray themselves as friendly to taxpayers and in favor of Proposition 13 when, in fact, the exact opposite was true.  Perhaps the worst example of this was the race between Proposition 13 ally Janet Nguyen and Jose Solorio for a Senate seat in Orange County.  Democrats were so fearful of losing this seat that Governor Brown unleashed radio advertising claiming that Solorio was the candidate who would protect Proposition 13.  Thanks in large part to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Political Action Committee, voters were informed that Nguyen was by far the superior candidate over the proven tax-and-spend Solorio.  Thankfully, she won the election handily receiving more than 58% of the vote.

Well, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, here we go again.

Next week, on March 17th, voters in the East Bay area of Northern California will decide who will fill a state senate seat.  Or, more likely, they will pick two candidates who will face one another in a runoff election.  In this race, there are three viable candidates – all Democrats.  The lone Republican candidate, Michaela Hertle, dropped out of the race and threw her support behind Steve Glazer, a moderate pro-business Democrat who appears to be a good fit for this fiscally conservative, socially moderate district.

The problem is that Glazer is hated by powerful public sector labor organizations.  From their view, he had the audacity to oppose a BART strike – which inconvenienced tens of thousands of Bay Area commuters – and, even worse, he said he would not support a change in Proposition 13’s rules regarding property owned by businesses.

Labor organizations would like nothing more than to prevent Glazer from being one of the top two vote getters next week.  If that occurs, then the only candidates appearing on the ballot in the May runoff election would be two tax-and-spend, labor compliant, left leaning Democrats.  For Proposition 13 supporters, this is the worst case scenario.

So, rather than tell the truth about their anti-taxpayer agenda, the labor organizations have financed an expensive mail campaign in favor of the Republican who has dropped out of the race.  This may seem crazy, but the goal here is to confuse Republican voters into voting their party as opposed to a moderate Democrat who actually has a chance to win.

This strategy reveals two things.  First, powerful public sector labor organizations will stop at nothing to advance their narrow interests.  Second, they recognize – as do most political observers – that Proposition 13 and the interests of taxpayers still resonate powerfully in California.

While the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association PAC has not endorsed a candidate in this special election, we reserve the right to do so in the runoff election.  But one thing is certain.  Of the candidates, Steve Glazer appears to be the most sympathetic to the issues of concern to California taxpayers – including the preservation of Proposition 13.  At a minimum, he is the least beholden to unions.  And in this state, that is saying something.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Issue of Government Unions Divide Candidates More Than Party Affiliation

“Agent Keen, in this world there are no sides, only players.”
–  Raymond Reddington, played by actor James Spader, NBC’s “Blacklist,” February 12, 2015

To exemplify the intensifying battle of players regardless of sides, look no further than California’s two competitive State Senate special elections set for this March. In Orange County’s Senate District 37, Republican John Moorlach is running against Republican Don Wagner. In Contra Costa County’s Senate District 7, three Democrats are competing for the open seat, Steve Glazer, Susan Bonilla, and Joan Buchanan.

What differentiates these candidates? It certainly isn’t their party affiliation.

In Contra Costa County the reason these candidates differ is very clear. Steve Glazer has taken positions that are hated by the unions, and the other candidates have not. In particular, Glazer was critical of the 2013 BART strike, and he has been outspoken for years on the need for pension reform. The city of Orinda, where Glazer has served as a councilmember and currently serves as mayor, offers a defined contribution plan to city workers. This solution terrifies the government unions, and the union’s allies in the financial community, but it spares that city of crippling financial challenges in the form of pension obligation bonds and payments on the inevitable unfunded pension liabilities.

When Glazer ran for state assembly last year, the unions reported over $2.0 million in campaign spending to defeat him. They spent an estimated additional unreported $2.0 million on “internal member communications,” i.e., mailers and other campaign communications to the households of any of the thousands of members of any of the unions that actively opposed his candidacy.

Glazer has been endorsed this time by Democrat Chuck Reed, the San Jose mayor who had the temerity to question the financial viability of paying public safety employees retirement pension and benefit packages that average well over $100,000 per year after 25 years of full time work. Glazer has also been endorsed by Republican Michaela Hertle, who, prior to dropping out of contention, had been the only Republican in the race.

As Chuck Reed once said, there are union democrats and there are progressive democrats. Or as Glazer has put it, if you believe government should provide services, you have to have accountability and efficiency. But the unions who oppose Glazer haven’t fought him on the issues. Instead, last year they successfully smeared him as being a puppet of billionaires, because he worked for a few months as a consultant to the California Chamber of Commerce – and since that group receives some of its support from tobacco and oil companies, apparently Glazer is a puppet of those companies.

These tactics rely on ludicrous distortions. But they work. Take a look at the attack ads used against Glazer. “The Facts About Steve Glazer and Big Tobacco,” a photo of Glazer in a pile of cigarette butts, a photo of Glazer standing beside a pool of spilled crude oil. And right now, some political consulting firm is testing new attack ads to use on Glazer. His offense? He is a centrist Democrat who has firm principles and isn’t afraid support policies opposed by government unions.

In Orange County’s District 37 two Republicans are squaring off, former Orange County county supervisor and long-time pension reform advocate John Moorlach, vs. 68th district Assemblyman John Wagner. These are both strong candidates, but Moorlach probably scares the unions more. As a certified public accountant and successful public servant, Moorlach both understands the intricacies of pension finance and – if elected – possesses the ability to communicate the challenges with pensions to his colleagues in the state legislature.

Wagner, by contrast, while having a voting record as a politician that has earned him credibility with voters in conservative Orange County, has incensed union reform advocates by recently accepting a donation to his campaign of $8,500 from the Peace Officers Research Association of California. Reached for comment earlier this week, Wagner acknowledged that around 2011 he had probably signed a pledge to the Orange County Lincoln Club to not accept union money, but noted that it was during a previous election. Wagner also said he adhered to the so-called “Baugh Manifesto,” authored by former Orange County GOP chairman Scott Baugh, which prohibited GOP candidates from accepting government union contributions, but stated the Baugh Manifesto only applies to local races, not races for state office.

More to the point, when asked whether or not he would feel compelled to vote in accordance with a government union since he took their money, Wagner paraphrased Ronald Reagan, who famously said “when somebody gives me money, that doesn’t mean I am buying their agenda, it means they are buying my agenda.” Hopefully Wagner, if elected, will resist the government union agenda. And hopefully he will not, like many conservatives do, exclude public safety unions from being impacted by reforms designed to improve accountability and efficiency in government. A bankrupt police state is no more desirable than a bankrupt welfare state. The government union agenda impels California and the nation towards both of those undesirable outcomes.

California’s conventional political sides – Republican and Democrat – are blurring. Two big issues facing Californians that are both urgent and utterly bipartisan are (1) quality education, and (2) fiscal responsibility. On both of these issues, government unions oppose reforms. Any voter who cares about these two issues, regardless of their party affiliation, should ask themselves just one question: Which player do the government unions fear more?

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.


California’s Emerging Good Government Coalition, November 4, 2014

The Challenge Libertarians Face to Win American Hearts, October 14, 2014

Reinventing America’s Unions for the 21st Century, September 2, 2014

The Looming Bipartisan Backlash Against Unionized Government, August 26, 2014

Two Tales of a City – How Detroit Transcended Ideology to Reform Pensions, July 22, 2014

Government Employee Unions – The Root Cause of California’s Challenges, June 3, 2014

A “Left-Right Alliance” Against Public Sector Unions?, May 20, 2014

Conservative Politicians and Public Safety Unions, May 13, 2014

The Unholy Trinity of Public Sector Unions, Environmentalists, and Wall Street, May 6, 2014

Public Pension Solvency Requires Asset Bubbles, April 29, 2014

Construction Unions Should Fight for Infrastructure that Helps the Economy, April 1, 2014

How Much Does Professionalism Cost?, March 11, 2014  (The Kelly Thomas Story)

Pension Funds and the “Asset” Economy, February 18, 2014

Forming a Bipartisan Consensus for Public Sector Union Reform, January 28, 2014

How Public Sector Unions Skew America’s Public Safety and National Security Agenda, June 18, 2013

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