So you didn't like Machado...
Of all the 153 legislative and congressional races in California this fall, there was only one that was truly nuclear: the $10 million-plus battle between incumbent Democrat Mike Machado and Republican Gary Podesto, the mayor of Stockton, for the 5th District Senate seat. Machado ultimately prevailed by about 7,000 votes or 4.6 percentage points.
Machado is a Central Valley moderate and a farmer. He was chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Water Resources Committee, a traditional post for someone from the Central Valley with close connections to the agriculture industry. With Machado as chair, farm lobbyists didn't always get everything they wanted, but it was always evident that they never lacked for a sympathetic ear.
When the campaign came, however, the California Farm Bureau decided Machado wasn't good enough. It endorsed Podesto, which alone might not have been that big a deal. But its political action committee, the delightfully named California Farm Bureau Fund to Protect the Family Farm, decided to engage in the campaign in a major way. It committed more than $200,000 to an independent expenditure campaign in Podesto's behalf. Among other things, automated phone calls from the Farm Bureau president were placed to district voters urging a vote for Podesto.
It hardly seemed coincidental this week when new Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata announced a committee reorganization in the Senate. Water issues have been disjoined from the Agriculture Committee and now will be under the purview of the Natural Resources and Water Committee, which will be chaired by Sen. Sheila Kuehl of Santa Monica.
Kuehl clearly has proved her mettle on water issues, having done much of the heavy lifting on the vital Salton Sea issue. Still, one wonders who the Farm Bureau would rather have chairing the committee that deals with water in the Senate: A farmer from Linden or a law professor from Santa Monica?
As always in politics, there are rewards for those who back the winner and consequences for backing the loser...