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Rocky Chavez’s next move, Brian Maienschein gets a Republican challenger and more in our weekly roundup of news from Sacramento.
It’s been an interesting Sunshine Week.
It began with lingering backlash against Sen. Ben Hueso and City Attorney Mara Elliott’s proposal to make it harder for members of the public to sue to enforce the Public Records Act.
The San Diego City Council unanimously voted to oppose the measure. Council members expressed discomfort with the measure itself – as well as bewilderment that they only learned Elliott was sponsoring a bill by reading about it in Voice of San Diego. Mayor Kevin Faulconer also told us that he opposed the measure.
The next day, Hueso killed SB 615. In separate statements, Hueso and Elliott both claimed their goal was to make it easier for members of the public to obtain records. And both suggested they’d take another stab at reform in the future.
“From the outset, my objective for this bill was always to make the process of obtaining public records more efficient and expedient for taxpayers,” Hueso wrote in a statement announcing he’d pulled the bill from consideration. “After hearing from stakeholders on both sides, I concluded the discussion about how to accomplish efficiency in that system requires a lengthier conversation between all interested parties.”
“The intent of this bill was simple – to strengthen the Public Records Act, a critical state law I strongly support, by making it easier for ordinary people to access public information and reducing costly lawsuits along the way,” Elliott wrote in a statement. “Yet despite those aims, widespread concerns have been raised, especially regarding the bill’s provision on attorney’s fees, which must be addressed before we move forward.”
Also this week, Assemblyman Todd Gloria’s office unveiled details on a bill that addresses public agencies’ handling of a specific type of public records: emails.
Though the law already states that agencies must keep public records for at least two years, many cities and other entities delete emails much more quickly – some hold onto them for as few as 30 days. To justify this, they use two main arguments: that the law isn’t entirely clear on the retention period for emails, and that some emails don’t actually count as records.
Gloria’s bill would explicitly require public agencies to retain emails for at least two years.
Gloria’s office also announced a separate bill that would require law enforcement agencies to grant the media access to police scanner communications.
Republican June Cutter, a Rancho Bernardo attorney, announced she will challenge Assemblyman Brian Maienschein in the 77th District.
Though Cutter is a newcomer to politics, she’s racked up endorsements from Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, Sen. Brian Jones and San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate. She also has some heavy-hitters on her campaign team, including consultant Stephen Puetz, formerly Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s chief of staff, as well as finance director Ashley Hayek and campaign treasurer April Boling – both veterans of many GOP campaigns.
Maienschein left the Republican Party in January to become a Democrat.
Maienschein was already in for a rematch of sorts with Sunday Gover, a Democrat who challenged him from the left last year and came up just about 600 votes short.
The California primary is one year away, and the district includes portions of San Diego as well as Poway and Rancho Santa Fe. As of February, Democrats maintained a slight advantage over Republicans in the voter registration rolls — about 32 percent to 30 percent. Nearly 33 percent of voters, however, are listed as no party preference.
Rocky Chavez is not running again for the Assembly.
The former Marine colonel has opened a 2020 Assembly campaign committee but told Voice of San Diego this week that he believes he can make a bigger impact in North County than Sacramento.
Before stepping down to run for Congress, Chavez served three terms in the Assembly. He’s still eligible for six years in the Legislature. But he’s watched in recent years as Republicans lost seats and became increasingly irrelevant. Democrats control all the state’s constitutional offices and have a veto-proof majority in the Legislature.
“I’d rather be here, where I can do things,” Chavez said.
That means serving on the Tri-City Medical Center Board of Directors. He’s also chair of the Governor’s Military Council, which exists to keep the Department of Defense dollars flowing into California’s economy. He also recently interviewed, he said, for a seat on the executive board of the Association of Defense Communities, a national vehicle for the distribution of military funding.
Chavez’s decision to run in 2018 for Congress over the 76th Assembly District caused a free-for-all on both the left and right. Two Democrats wound up competing in the general election for his seat, which was unprecedented.
As a fairly moderate conservative, Chavez was the target of both Democrats and Republicans last year. But after he failed to get through the 49th Congressional District primary, he aimed much of his criticism at fellow Republicans, including outgoing Rep. Darrell Issa.
In October, Chavez told an audience at VOSD’s Politifest that Issa had initially promised him an endorsement but instead gave it to Diane Harkey knowing she’d lose. Issa, said Chavez last fall, believed that if a Republican won the race, it would show that Issa was the problem.
I asked Chavez if Issa or his allies were upset by what he’d said publicly in the fall, and whether they’d challenged his version of events.
“Nope,” he said. “What does that tell you? Truth is a tough thing.”
– Jesse Marx