- - Sunday, November 28, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Golden State Republicans fade

In a year when Republicans won big victories in midterm elections across the nation, California Democrats made a clean sweep of eight statewide contests on Nov. 2.

California counted more registered Republicans in 1988 than it does today, even though the state population has since grown by about 10 million. Setting aside Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose celebrity eclipsed his Republican ties, the California GOP counts only a single victory in 21 statewide contests since 2002 - that of insurance commissioner in 2006.

You’d have to go back more than two decades to find a Republican, George H.W. Bush, who carried the state in a presidential election.

“They know who we are and they don’t like us,” said former state Republican Party Chairman Duf Sundheim. “The brand of the Republican Party in California is tarnished.”

MINNESOTA

Recount begins in governor’s race

The recount in Minnesota’ 2008 U.S. Senate race took 47 days. But election officials are optimistic that the recount starting Monday in the governor’s race between Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer will go more quickly. The total certified by the State Canvassing Board on Tuesday gave Mr. Dayton an 8,770-vote lead over Mr. Emmer, triggering the automatic recount.

Election workers will open ballot boxes Monday and sort votes for the candidates as observers from both sides monitor the process.

Local election officials must finish the recount by Dec. 7. The canvassing board is expected to certify a winner by Dec. 14. The Jan. 3 inauguration could be delayed, however, if either side challenges the recount results in court.

NEW YORK

Rangel will ask to plead his case

Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, is ready to make a last stand to salvage his reputation and tell the House that a censure should be reserved for crooked politicians. He will argue that he’s not one of them.

Mr. Rangel, 80, wants his punishment for ethics violations downgraded to a reprimand, according to congressional and nongovernmental sources who are in touch with the congressman.

He will ask the chairwoman of the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, for time to plead his case on the floor of the House, where he has served for 40 years. There is precedent for Mr. Rangel’s argument that censure, the most severe punishment short of expulsion, is too harsh in his case. He must overcome the overwhelming vote of a committee that has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.

Mr. Rangel plans to argue that censure has been imposed for violations including bribery, accepting improper gifts, personal use of campaign funds and sexual misconduct; none is present in his case.

FAA

Pilot certificates now require photos

More than six years after Congress ordered pilots to have their photos on their pilot certificates for security reasons, the Federal Aviation Administration has begun the process of issuing such a regulation to phase in a photo requirement over the next three to four years.

Pilots already must carry a government ID with a photo, but the faceless certificate could be counterfeited easily by terrorists. Along with the photo, Congress also mandated that the certificates be made of plastic and include a hologram.

The FAA’s inaction has drawn criticism from Congress. Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican, recently called the agency guilty of “an incredible level of incompetence.”

The agency said there was no particular urgency because of an array of security protections already in place. The public has until Feb. 17 to weigh in on the proposed FAA rule.

CONGRESS

Sen. Graham sees support for tax cuts

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, gave a blunt analysis Sunday about extending tax cuts to Americans and other legislation in the lame-duck congressional session that resumes Monday. Mr. Graham said Congress has “enough bipartisan support” to extend the so-called Bush-era tax cuts, despite the refusal by Democrats to extend them to all Americans.

During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” he predicted defeat for efforts to pass the DREAM Act - legislation to give amnesty to illegal immigrants, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, promised during the campaign to bring up for a vote.

“If we bring up the DREAM Act in the lame duck, that’s going nowhere,” Mr. Graham said. “How can you give citizenship to 2 million people without securing our borders first?”

On extending the Bush-era tax cuts, which is likely to be the most pressing order of business when the Senate reconvenes, Mr. Graham predicted a bipartisan lame-duck vote to extend all of the tax cuts for two or three years.

Also on Fox, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said she would support raising the upper-income limit on tax cuts to $1 million. “I think we should draw the line in the sand for millionaires,” she said, decrying that “the middle class could be held hostage” by the extended tax debate.

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