Dan Balz Doesn’t Know California’s Legislature

Well-informed Californians can get a glimpse of poorly-informed journalism about their state legislature with a peek at an article by Washington Post reporter Dan Balz, who writes that Top Two Primary’s ”promises remain mostly unfulfilled” and that “even in Sacramento, the differences are minimal.” Oh, really?

Did Balz review all 2700+ bills proposed in the California Legislature in 2017? Does he understand why ~1000 passed and ~1700 did not? Does he understand the vast differences between the two Democrats who squared off in General Elections for (say) Assembly Districts 14 and 43, Senate Districts 7 and 26, or one of the many other districts populated by same-party finalists?

Clearly Balz does not understand what a knowledgeable California reporterdoes: The California Legislature is increasingly occupied by differing shadesof Democrat and Republican. Apparently Balz doesn’t know the difference between (say) a Democrat like Tim Grayson and the Democrat he defeated, Mae Torlakson. Or Democrat Scott Weiner, who defeated Democrat Jane Kim. Or Democrat Laura Friedman, who defeated Democrat Ardy Kassakhian. And the list goes on.

Also Balz must not know about the dramatic change in fundraising for state legislators that has accompanied more competitive elections enabled by Top Two Primary. If he did he wouldn’t have written incorrectly that the only moderating influence on Democrats in the California Legislature has been business. Far from it. Individuals donated more than businesses in many of those D-on-D races and individuals continue to provide substantial donations to members in office, which keeps legislators focused on the general interest. Individuals such as those in the Govern For California network now contribute more money to members of, and candidates for, the state legislature than all but the political parties. How would Balz like to explain the victories by a moderate Republican (Catharine Baker) from a district (AD 16) in which Democrats have a 13+ percentage point registration advantage or the nearly 20 town halls she has held jointly with Democrat Steve Glazer, in whose State Senate district Baker’s Assembly district nests and who defeated a Democrat in his General Election?

Tip O’Neill once remarked that all politics is local. National political reporters should take note. California’s state government spends $300 billion per year and its legislators write laws and regulations affecting nine million students, 13.5 million enrollees in the state’s single-payer healthcare system, 20 million workers and 40 million citizens. If you’re going to write about us, drill down.


Originally appeared on Medium, 6/3/18.