Wednesday, June 25, 2014




    When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asked Congress the other day to authorize a new round of military base closings and consolidations in 2017, alarm bells should have gone off in many parts of California.

          For this state has been victimized more than any other in the last two such rounds, with profound economic effects in many parts of the state.

          Sure, there have been positive new uses of some old bases, from parkland in the Presidio of San Francisco to a college campus on the former site of Ft. Ord near Monterey. But the jobs lost when those bases closed, plus the ones lost from the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, the El Toro Marine Air Station, March Air Force Base and many others, still have not been replaced.

          Nor have the ripple effects stopped, as many surviving businesses near those bases now are far less profitable than before, employing many thousands fewer than they once did.

          This new potential round of closures comes at a particularly dicey time for California, which has lost or is about to lose some of the veteran members of Congress who might have fought for a fair deal for their state.

          Of course, there’s little evidence that the likes of Democrats Henry Waxman and George Miller, or Republicans Gary Miller and Buck McKeon (current chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, no less) ever did much to spare California pain.

          The base closures are one reason California ranks 43rd among all states in federal per capita spending, getting back just 78 cents for every dollar its taxpayers put into the U.S. treasury.

          Those veteran congressmen and the rest of the state’s 53-member largest-in-the-nation House contingent couldn’t even get a single Californian onto the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in the early 2000s. In the previous closure rounds, that commission each time presented Congress with one complete package of cuts, with the lawmakers committed to a yes-or-no vote on the entire thing, no amendments allowed.

          Just as it was almost inconceivable at one time to imagine the Army’s huge training facility at Ft. Ord disappearing, so it now seems impossible that the Marine Corps’ giant Camp Pendleton just north of San Diego could be closed.

          But the real estate on which that base sits is so prime that a federal commission might decide to take the money and let it be built over, as seems the likely fate for the mostly vacant former El Toro base in Orange County, now that park proposals for that land have been thwarted.

          With U.S. policy leaning against new desert wars, will Ft. Irwin and its desert warfare training facility be scrapped, some of the land perhaps to be used for trendy solar thermal electricity projects?

          The last two times around, Californians in Congress overwhelmingly backed both the creation of BRAC and its plans. It’s no coincidence that once the closures in those plans occurred, California dropped 20 places in its rank among the states in federal spending. Meanwhile, the last U.S. Census showed Texas, site of the Army’s troubled Ft. Hood, now home to much of the training that once took place in California, got $19.7 billion in military salaries in 2010 compared with just $10.3 billion for California.

          Does anyone doubt that an extra $9 billion in personal income being spent and re-spent in California might have some effect on the state’s chronic unemployment? Similarly, is there any doubt all that extra income had something to do with Texas weathering the Great Recession better than many other places?

          The upshot of all this is that Californians in Congress must make sure any new round of cuts does not again make this state its prime victim. One way to do this would be to insist that the House and Senate get some control over who serves on the next BRAC commission and that any new plan not be presented on an all-or-nothing basis.

          But Californians in Congress have rarely shown much appetite for working together for the welfare of the whole state. This has to change, or we could see a California with no Seabee base in Ventura County, no Travis Air Force Base in the East Bay and no Lemoore Naval Air Station in the Central Valley. And as many as 120,000 more related jobs gone, as happened in the last round.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          Nothing is more important to California’s large privately-owned utilities than the virtual monopolies they enjoy in most of the state.

          Those monopolies make it virtually impossible for almost all businesses and residents outside cities with municipal power companies to buy electricity from anyone but companies like Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, also guaranteeing significant profits to those utilities in perpetuity.

          But the big energy companies feel threatened these days by a movement toward energy independence now afoot from Sonoma and Marin counties to big cities like San Francisco and San Diego. Moves are also active in Alameda County and Lancaster.

          Whether the independence efforts succeed or not will depend in part on the fate of a proposed law now working its way through the state Legislature, one that advocates of competition say will surely kill their movement if it passes.

          The proposal, Assembly Bill 2145, looks innocuous on its surface: It would mandate an opt-in approach for newly-independent electric arrangements known as community choice aggregations (CCAs), rather than the opt-out setup on which every such plan in America has been based.

          So far, only two CCAs operate in California, covering much of Marin and Sonoma counties. They buy power from generators and sell it to local residents, transmitting the energy over the power grid owned and operated by the big utilities. Customers still get bills from the big firms, but part of what they pay goes to the CCAs, set up on votes by city and county governments.

          Organizers in Marin and Sonoma counties say their customers are saving a minimum of 4 percent on monthly bills, with some invoices reduced by about 6 percent. Net savings reported so far: More than $4 million.

          In each area with a CCA, existing utility customers automatically get power from the new agency, unless they opt out and go back to their former utility, which about 20 percent of Marin customers have done. AB 2145 would flip that around, forcing CCAs to recruit each of their customers.

          “This would rob community choice programs of the critical mass they need to get off the ground,” said San Diego County supervisors Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts in a recent essay. The two want a CCA for the San Diego area. “This change would cripple the creation of local initiatives and lock in an energy market that is rigged against consumers,” they said.

          AB 2145 sponsor Steven Bradford, a Democratic assemblyman from Gardena and a former Southern California Edison executive, argues that because most Californians have no idea what a CCA is, the new agencies should be forced to market themselves. “These outfits need to go into the community and convince people to join,” he said. “That is the consumerist way to introduce competition.”

          His argument is a “red herring,” says Shawn Marshall, director of a pro-CCA group called LEAN Energy US, who helped organize the Marin and Sonoma agencies. “We have no problem with reporting all we do to the ratepayers. But Bradford and the utilities know opt-in is a poison pill that would kill this entire concept.”

          Bradford’s bill passed the Assembly in May and is now before state Senate committees. It is the second utility-backed effort of the last four years to kill CCAs.

          The first was the failed 2010 Proposition 16, which sought to require a two-thirds vote for a local ballot measure before any government could set up a CCA. PG&E invested more than $40 million in that failed proposition, far exceeding what CCA backers spent. Neither it nor the other big utilities want to become mere common carriers that mainly supply transportation of power, rather than also providing the electricity.

          Bradford insists an opt-in system is needed because most citizens are clueless about CCAs. The danger is that because his fellow lawmakers are for the most part also uninformed, they will pass AB 2145, leaving it up to Gov. Jerry Brown to sign or veto the measure, which is strongly backed by labor unions which are big funders of his campaigns.

          But if there is ever to be significant energy competition in California, this bill must die, despite the consumerist rhetoric in which Bradford carefully wraps it.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Wednesday, June 18, 2014




          For decades, Californians who use the most electricity have paid extra for that privilege, on the theory that high prices might provide an incentive for them to use less.

          This system is designed to allow all ratepayers enough power for basic needs at very low prices, with the extra energy needed to run things like Jacuzzis and charge items like Tesla sedans coming at a premium price.

One typical Southern California Edison bill for the month of February showed up to 314 kilowatt hours costing just over 12 cents each, for a total of $40.06, while the top tier of that same bill had 135 kilowatt hours priced at almost 30 cents each, for a total of just over $50, about 25 percent more for only about 40 percent as much power included in the bottom tier.

Transmission costs for all rate categories were about 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour, meaning the difference in the cost of the energy itself was 17 cents between the first power used and the last, a difference of about 400 percent from the bottom tier to the top one.

This may be about to change, as the state Public Utilities Commission considers a proposal by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to cut the number of payment tiers from four to two, a move that would likely raise the rates of low-usage customers. Yes, that’s the same PG&E indicted for criminal negligence in its fatal mismanagement of natural gas pipelines.

A further change, added to switches in raw pricing, would see discounts available to low-usage (read: poor) customers cut by as much as 20 percent from today’s levels. That’s one reason the current proposals are the very opposite of a Robin Hood plan that would take more from the rich, but rather have been called “robbing the hood.”

          If approved for PG&E, it’s almost certain the same rate structure would be imposed soon after in the vast territories of Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. Typically, systemic changes in utility regulation begin with PG&E and spread to the other companies less than a year later.

          Some of this switch is prompted by complaints from electric users in the Central Valley and other high summer heat areas where air conditioning runs up electric bills. The current rate structure sees utilities charge high-use customers more for power than low users, regardless of where they live.

          But it’s also quite likely driven by a 2012 legislative conference on Maui, where some lawmakers saw their expenses paid by corporations and/or labor unions.

          Rate restructure was pushed there by meeting sponsors, who had great access to legislators of both major parties, including some members of both parties’ leadership. Disclosure documents showed lobbyists there discussed energy rate changes with Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway of Tulare and Republican Fresno area state Sen. Tom Berryhill, for two examples.

          Editorialized one newspaper during the conference, “The elected officials…receive the free trips because of…their capacity to affect public policy.”

          If the businesses and their union workers, users on average of far more power than almost any household, had even a slight influence on passage of last year’s AB 327, which enables some of the changes now being considered, a few plane tickets will have proven a superb investment for them.

          PG&E, in pushing for the rate restructure, says it wants to make prices more sensitive to time of use, with power employed at night or in early morning hours cheaper than kilowatts used in the hottest, highest-use hours of the day.

          That’s laudable, and has often been combined into the existing rate structure, which gives preference to small users. But it also could doom many poor, elderly Californians to heatstroke and worse if they can’t afford air conditioning.

          If the PUC approves rates favoring big users over small ones, the folks calling this robbing the hood will be proven right. For it would be a classic reverse Robin Hood tactic, robbing the poor and rewarding the rich.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          There was a clear message when the state Senate in mid-June first rejected a ban on legislators taking campaign contributions during the last 100 days of each lawmaking session, and then partially reversed itself to finally pass a watered-down version covering a much shorter time period.

          That message: “We would rather have money than trust.”

          The flurry of Senate action came just over two months after it refused to expel three senators who had been either indicted or convicted for perjury or selling their votes and services. Instead, the senators were suspended, leaving millions of citizens without full representation and no hope of getting it soon.

The Senate’s initial rejection, strikingly, came on the very day that two members of the state Assembly paid fines for taking illegally high contributions.

          Is it any wonder that a springtime national poll showed California among just seven states where the majority of citizens don’t trust either state or local government to act honestly?

          Had the Senate passed the last-100-day contribution ban, it would have been a major start toward restoring trust, as far from perfection as a three-month ban would nevertheless be. For there can never be a ban or a limit on promises lobbyists might make during any time span about future contributions or favors.

          But even after it took a week of heat over its initial move, where it adopted a fig leaf consisting of a one-year, one-month, end-of-session ban on members soliciting or accepting contributions, the Senate wasn’t willing even to go to 100 days. Instead, after 100-day sponsor Sen. Alex Padilla wrangled a batch of Republican votes, the Democrat-dominated upper house passed a bill forbidding all legislators from soliciting or accepting contributions from lobbyists and their clients from Aug. 1 until each legislative session’s scheduled end on Aug. 31.

 A similar ban will cover the month prior to passage of each year’s budget. The initial Senate-only resolution also applied during this summer’s budget negotiations, but since it passed just days before a budget agreement came, the add-on didn’t mean much.

          The virtually meaningless initial resolution was a sop to Padilla, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state. 

          Perhaps the most telling thing about all the Senate action was that its resolution – a measure of what majority Democrats really want -- doesn’t apply to any Assembly members and thus leaves out two-thirds of all legislators. There's also the fact it was a resolution, not a law.

          So it wouldn’t be binding beyond this year. Next year, with the pressure presumably off from the indictments and convictions of Democratic Sens. Rod Wright, Ron Calderon and Leland Yee, who knew whether senators would bother to renew it? The later passage of a real bill, a potential law, means the new ban, while shorter than the 100 days Padilla wanted, would apply in all years and to all legislators – if the Assembly passes it, too.

          But all this is still much ado about very little. For if it’s possible for lobbyists to make promises during a 100-day period, it’s even easier for them to do that during a mere month-long hiatus. Which makes all the Senate actions far too lenient.

          This didn’t stop big talk from key senators. Said the Senate’s newly-elected president-to-be, Democrat Kevin De Leon of Los Angeles immediately after the initial resolution passed, the rule intended to “ensure that members of the Senate are focused exclusively on legislative business at these crucial times in the legislative calendar.” Yeah, right. These good folks are certain to forget about fund-raising just because they can’t actually accept checks for a few days.

          Back in early spring, some of Sacramento’s most prolific fund-raisers said even Padilla’s desired 100-day ban would accomplish little. “It’s just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Dan Weitzman, who gathers funds for Democrats. What passed would be weaker.

          All of which means the Senate actions amount to little more than a public relations ploy, intended to convince skeptical voters their legislators really are trustworthy. Good luck with that.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Thursday, June 12, 2014




          “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in our selves…”  Cassius to Brutus, Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare

          Democrats and other detractors of California’s “top two” primary system have been whining ever since the June 3 primary election that it would be wrong to have two Republicans vie in the November general election for the state controller’s job, considered by many the fourth most significant statewide office.

          It would just not be right, they say, for only Republicans to have a chance at this office, when Democrats far outnumber the GOP among California’s registered voters, by about 2.7 million at last count.

          No one can be sure just now who the November contestants will be for this post, whose occupant is the state’s chief check writer and reports monthly on the inflow of taxes into public coffers.

          Two Republicans and two Democrats now have a chance to make the runoff, with Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who had just under 25 percent of the primary vote at this column’s deadline, seemingly assured a slot. Republican CPA David Evans, a former mayor of tiny California City, barely trailed both former Democratic Assembly Speaker John Perez of Los Angeles and Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, another Democrat. Each had between 21 and 22 percent of the primary vote as counting proceeded on late absentee ballots, damaged ballots and provisional votes.

          Any of the three might make a runoff against Swearengin, with either Democrat the likely fall favorite if one gets that far. 

          This uncertainty could not have happened under the old primary system, which guaranteed all political parties a November slot. But voters in 2010 passed Proposition 14, putting only the top two primary election vote-getters for each post into the fall runoff starting in 2012.

          But is it really the fault of the system that Democrats are threatened now with losing – conceding? blowing? – a statewide office for the first time in four years?

          Might this actually be the Democrats’ own fault if it happens, the party insufficiently organized and disciplined to get behind one candidate? Might it be the Democrats’ own fault that they didn’t emphasize this race at all, figuring at least one of their candidates was sure to make the runoff since Evans had less campaign money than any other candidate drawing a significant vote for anything this spring? With absolutely no evidence to back the claim, some detractors of the top two system claimed immediately after the primary that Evans became a draw for voters who dislike women or ethnic politicians.

          If that’s true, why didn’t all those folks also vote for former Minuteman movement leader Tim Donnelly for governor? Donnelly got just 14 percent of the vote running against fellow Republican Neel Kashkari, an Indian-American -- 8 percent less than Evans pulled.

          The real question in the controllers’ race wasn’t why four candidates bunched together so closely, but why so few Democrats bothered to vote in that contest.

          The post-election critics didn’t appear to notice that all three Democrats running for controller together at last count had 336,000 fewer votes than Gov. Jerry Brown won while running with no serious Democratic opposition.

          Does anyone suppose that if those 336,000 voters had bothered to turn a page or two and vote again, they might have changed things? In fact, had Perez and Yee simply split those Brown votes, instead of receiving none, both would be sitting pretty today, waiting for an all-Democratic runoff.

          But Democrats were smug, figuring their large plurality among registered voters precluded anything like what might actually happen. They also cut their own party’s vote by passing a law last year putting all citizen initiatives on the November ballot, none in primaries. That meant voters had very little to interest them this spring, diminishing turnout to a record low.

          It all goes to show that under top two, little can ever be taken for granted, and that all votes, all candidates and all tinkering must be taken seriously. Exactly what voters intended for the new system when they handily approved it in 2010.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          As the round of memorial services for the six students fatally stabbed and shot in late May by the psychotic killer Elliot Rodger recedes into memory, a serious public policy question remains even while families and friends are left with their private grief:

          If the Isla Vista killings can’t spur laws to keep guns away from persons diagnosed as mentally ill, what can?

          It now seems likely that despite some big talk from U.S. senators immediately after Rodger’s murderous spree on the edge of the UC Santa Barbara campus, there is little chance the federal government will do much. There may be more of a possibility for action by the state Legislature, far less influenced by the National Rifle Assn. and the gun lobby, but even there it’s unrealistic to expect anything.

          One thing for sure: Every legal expert agrees that Rodger bought his guns legally, despite  having a mental illness diagnosis. One therapist described him as pre-psychotic. On the day he decided to prove – in his own words – that he was a true “alpha male,” the prefix came off his diagnosis and he was just plain psychotic, which Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines as “having…a very serious mental illness that makes you act strangely or believe things that are not true.”

          Law professors consulted after the killings said such a diagnosis does not generally affect a person’s ability to own a gun, even in California, with some of America’s toughest gun controls.

          Rodger, with no criminal record, never previously having threatened anyone (except in the You Tube videos which were mostly ignored), never having been deemed a risk to himself or others and no history of addiction, raised no red flags when purchasing semiautomatic handguns.

          Another certainty in this case: The fact that Rodger stabbed his first few victims demonstrates that no matter what controls are put on guns, violent people can still find ways to kill.

          But there’s no reason to make it easy for them. That’s why Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said immediately after Isla Vista that he would try to revive gun legislation which failed to pass in the aftermath of the 2012 murders of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, CT.

          Blumenthal said that if Congress fails to take at least most guns from the mentally ill, it will be complicit in future shootings.

          This, of course, raises many civil liberties questions: Should a person be deprived of Second Amendment rights if he or she has never threatened anyone or been deemed a threat to himself or herself? Should police have the right to search for weapons in the homes and cars of every mentally ill person, even if those persons appear to be “quiet and timid,”  as Rodger was described by sheriff’s deputies who visited him shortly before his spree? How can police determine a gun owner is mentally ill when they’re not mental health professionals? How can they tell if, like Rodger, someone has refused to take prescribed anti-psychotic medication?

          Blumenthal said his legislation would allow for these questions and deploy “professionals trained in diagnosing and preventing this kind of derangement.” California’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein proposed also letting families ask a court to temporarily prohibit gun purchases based on a credible risk of physical harm to self and others.

          All that, of course, gets stiff opposition from the gun lobby, which calls these ideas “an affront to Americans’ basic rights.”

          The top priority, though, has to be preservation of human life. In the last 14 years, there have been more mass killings of the Newtown/Isla Vista/Virginia Tech sort in this country than in the rest of the world combined. The vast majority of lives taken came via shootings.

          Which means something is amiss. Does that mean no person in psychotherapy should have a gun? Does it mean police should have the right to question every gun owner?

          Probably not. But if mental illness is the common denominator in mass killings from the Texas Tower to Newtown, Columbine and Isla Vista, then it’s high time to make it much harder for the mentally ill to acquire firearms of any kind, no matter how carefully laws doing this must be crafted.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Thursday, June 5, 2014




      Results like those from this month’s primary cause detractors to call California’s four-year-old “top two” election system the “jungle primary” because it often features races with a dozen or more contestants and outcomes that can be completely unpredictable.

          For sure, that makes it a lot more fun both to vote and follow election returns – unless you are a prominent candidate or a boss of either major party.

          Focus on just one statewide race for a solid picture of what the top two system can do. This one came within a hair (and a recount might change things back) of absolutely assuring the Republican Party of one of California’s four leading political offices this fall, even though registered Democrats now outnumber Republicans by about 15 percent.

          That race pitted two established, well-funded Democratic candidates against two Republicans, with one more Democrat and a Green Party hopeful also in the field. Not as many prospects as in some other races, but still plenty to scramble some establishment eggs.

          For the 10.9 percent of the Election Day vote count won by virtually unknown Democrat Tammy D. Blair and Green Laura Wells knocked down the counts of former Democratic Assembly Speaker John Perez and state Board of Equalization member Betty Yee. And so, for much of Election Night night, it appeared Republicans Ashley Swearengin, the mayor of Fresno, and David Evans, a CPA and former mayor of tiny California City, would meet this fall with no Democratic opposition.

          In a state which has seen no statewide Republican officeholders for almost four years, that would have been remarkable.

          But Perez edged out Evans by a mere 2,436 votes, a 21.7 percent performance, when all the counting was done on Election Night, and appeared headed for a runoff with Swearengin (who herself had just 24.4 percent), pending the count of thousands of provisional and damaged ballots, not to mention a potential recall.

          Under the previous party primary system, there would have been little remarkable in those numbers – Swearengin would have been the GOP nominee and the Democratic winner would still be in the balance, but for sure a Democrat and a Republican would have faced off in the fall.

          If this kind of narrow race for an office whose occupant is the state’s chief check-writer doesn’t prove that every vote matters, it’s hard to see what could. Top two, then, will provide future motivation for two things: It will give voters more reason than ever to participate. And it will give parties reason to get organized well enough to avoid matchups between prominent party mates for the same office.

          There was no such organization in either party this time. The result is that in district after district, races will pit persons of the same parties in runoffs this fall. In runs for Congress alone, seven districts in all parts of the state will see Democrat vs. Democrat and Republican on Republican.

          In some of those contests, incumbents ran up large primary majorities, but still must run again in the fall, suggesting top two should be tweaked to make winning 50 percent of the primary vote sufficient for election. If that were the case now, Gov. Jerry Brown would already have a second term. Similarly, incumbent members of Congress like Xavier Becerra, Tom McClintock, Adam Schiff, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Mike Thompson must contest again in November, despite far outdistancing all who ran against them this spring.

          More interesting will be the same-party race pitting Republicans Tony Strickland and Steve Knight in a district stretching from Ventura County to the High Desert portion of Los Angeles County, and another matching first-term Democrat Eric Swalwell and state Senate majority leader Ellen Corbett in the East Bay suburbs of San Francisco. Silicon Valley gets a ballyhooed intraparty race between longtime incumbent Democrat Mike Honda and the well-funded Indian-American Ro Khanna. Members of the minority party in each of those districts can now decide the fall outcomes, exactly what top two intended.

          This primary also debunked the notion that top two allows only major party candidates onto runoffs. Incumbents Schiff and Thompson both face independents.

          It’s all different than after any previous California primary, with incumbents less secure than before, and voters with the power they sought when they created top two.


     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to




    No candidate campaigned harder this spring that Neel Kashkari, the former federal Treasury Department official and ex-Goldman Sachs executive who just become the first Asian-American ever nominated to for governor of California.

          He was someplace every day. His campaign issued a seemingly non-stop barrage of press releases. He willingly met with political reporters, who took him seriously even when he was at 2 percent in the polls.

          Kashkari also won the endorsements of every prominent Republican who took sides in this month’s primary election. These included ex-Gov. Pete Wilson, former presidential nominee Mitt Romney (now a La Jolla resident), possible GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush and Rep. Darrell Issa of northern San Diego County, chairman of the House Governmental Oversight Committee. Ex-President George W. Bush made fund-raising calls for him. There are no bigger GOP guns.            

          But Kashkari’s campaign was so cash-starved that during the month before the vote, the candidate who once said he couldn’t fund his own campaign because his net worth was “only” about $5 million felt he had to put up $2 million of his own cash (by his reckoning, about 40 percent of all his resources).

          This was still barely enough to put Kashkari into the November runoff election, beating out primary opponent Tim Donnelly, an assemblyman from the High Desert town of Twin Peaks best known for attempting to carry a handgun onto a Southwest Airlines flight at Ontario International Airport two years ago. Before that, the Tea Party favorite’s main claim to fame was being a co-founder of the Minutemen group battling illegal immigration. Imagine what that might have done to the Latino vote.

          Donnelly’s campaign manager, Jennifer Kerns, quit in mid-March, amid reports the candidate consistently refused to take her advice. He compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler and groundlessly accused Kashkari of promoting Islamic Sharia law. Yet, somehow, Donnelly almost managed to make the runoff, primarily because much of the Republican Party’s California base believed he was the only purely anti-government candidate available.

          Kashkari’s win meant that the Republican establishment beat back the grass roots GOP right this spring. In a contest that drew very few Democratic voters, Kashkari’s last-minute spending inspired just enough moderate Republican voters to back him. Many apparently feared having Donnelly top their ticket would drag down dozens of other Republicans in swing districts, while Kashkari might be a neutral factor.

          As of early May, just over two weeks before the first absentee ballots went to voters, Kashkari had barely run any commercials. So he was undefined to most voters before his last-week ad campaign, even as Donnelly tried to tag him a purely establishment hack.

          But at least Kashkari is a real candidate. While Donnelly railed vaguely against big government, Kashkari issued detailed position papers on job creation and education.

          Kashkari’s primary win over Donnelly at least indicates the GOP does not have a total death wish, as it avoided nominating a candidate who could alienate even more voters than the California GOP already has. But in a very lightly-voted election, with Democrats having little at stake in most places, Brown still managed to win a large majority over both Republicans combined.

          It’s possible Kashkari will make inroads into that cushion by the fall, for he’s promised that if elected, he will frequently compromise with Democrats who dominate the Legislature.

          The vote also might indicate GOP feelings against illegal immigration have eased a bit, as the party nominated the son of immigrants while rejecting a leader of the vigilante-like Minutemen.

          The bottom line is that after flirting with a potentially deep electoral disaster, just enough GOP voters realized that their party would be a dead duck on many levels if it sent Donnelly against Brown, whose job approval ratings in polls this spring were well over 50 percent.

          All of which probably means Brown, sitting on a campaign war chest of more than $21 million, will still have a clear path this fall, but the GOP likely will at least avoid a Democratic clean sweep of every competitive race in the state, which Donnelly could have made a distinct possibility.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit