Shane Goldmacher is a former reporter for Capitol Weekly. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where he served as editor of the Berkeley Political Review.

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  • Schwarzenegger targets the 'ElimiDate Voter'
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  • Schwarzenegger has a special interest in Capitol-area money
  • Schwarzenegger's million-dollar woman
  • The kings and queens of the California political quotation
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  • 1A: 76.9-23.1
    1B: 61.3-38.7
    1C: 57.4-42.6
    1D: 56.6-43.4
    1E: 64-36
    83: 70.6-29.4
    84: 53.7-46.3
    85: 45.9-54.1
    86: 48-52
    87: 45.2-54.8
    88: 23-77
    89: 25.5-74.5
    90: 47.6-52.4

    U.S. Sen.
    Feinstein 59.7
    Mountjoy 34.9
    Schwarzenegger 55.8
    Angelides 39.2
    Lt. Gov
    Garamendi 49.5
    McClintock 44.9
    Atty. Gen.
    Brown 56.7
    Poochigian 37.9
    Sec. of state
    Bowen 48.5
    McPherson 44.7
    Lockyer 54.8
    Parrish 37
    Chiang 50.9
    Strickland 40.1
    Insur. Comm.
    Poizner 50.7
    Bustamante 38.9

    For complete election results click here.

    Angelides 48.2
    Westly 43.1
    Lt. Gov
    Garamendi 42.9
    Speier 39.3
    Figueroa 17.8
    Atty. Gen.
    Brown 63.2
    Delgadillo 36.8
    Sec. of state
    Bowen 61.1
    Ortiz 38.9
    Parrish 56.4
    Richman 43.6
    Democratic primary
    Chiang 53.4
    Dunn 46.6
    Republican primary
    Strickland 40.9
    Maldonado 36.9
    Insur. Comm.
    Bustamante 70.5
    Kraft 29.5
    Supt. of Schools
    O'Connell 52.5, avoids run-off

    For complete election results click here.

    73: 47.4-52.6
    74: 45-55
    75: 46.6-53.4
    76: 38-62
    77: 40.5-59.5
    78: 41.5-58.5
    79: 38.9-61.1
    80: 34.3-65.7

    For complete election results click here.

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    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    The kings and queens of the California political quotation

    The following first appeared in Capitol Weekly today

    What do the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Daily News, San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, Reuters and the Associated Press have in common?

    They all quoted Sherry Bebitch Jeffe the day after last month's Democratic convention.

    Jeffe isn't with either the campaign of state Controller Steve Westly or state Treasurer Phil Angelides. She isn't even a Democrat. But Jeffe, a political analyst at the University of Southern California, is one of California's leading opinion-slingers.

    Often pithy, and always on-the-record, she is a standby of the Capitol press corps, racing to meet daily deadlines with an insatiable need of a good quote.

    "I was in the room. I had watched the whole convention," says Jeffe. "I was the only analyst there."

    As Election Day nears, the phones ring more and more often for the small cohort of oft-quoted California political experts. "It heats up as elections come along," says Barbara O'Connor, a communications professor at California State University, Sacramento. "I probably get 25 calls a week."

    O'Connor, Jeffe and the state's two other leading quotemeisters, Bruce Cain, a political science professor at UC Berkeley, and Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College, don't advertise their services. But everyone covering California politics knows who they are--and how to get in touch with them.

    The system works like viral marketing. Once an academic is quoted as an expert observer of California politics, the pundit's name makes its way into other reporters' Rolodexes.

    Then another reporter calls. Then another. And another.

    "Once they see a commentator quoted, that's what they look for," says Pitney, who says that LexisNexis, the searchable Internet newspaper database, has compounded the number of calls he receives.

    Academics like those in the "Big Four" say what reporters, striving for objectivity, can't.

    "I don't care about puffing one side up or trashing the other," says Jeffe. "There are things that an analyst can say that a reporter ought not be saying in his or her own words."

    Picking up their phones for reporters who are on tight daily deadlines doesn't hurt either.

    "The reason I get quoted is I actually call people back," says O'Connor, who shares her home, office and cell-phone numbers with reporters. "You have to accept it as a priority, as part of your work product as a professor. … I don't speak in sound bites but I know how to."

    Pitney agrees. "I usually return phone calls promptly," he said. "And I speak in short sentences."

    If this year's primary-election season is raising the call volume of the state's leading political analysts, it is nothing compared to the zoo that was the 2003 recall election.

    "The greatest call volume I ever got was the day after Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy," says Pitney, who followed Gov. Schwarzenegger's career before he jumped into the recall race. "I got 27 calls in one day from reporters all over the world, from Australia to Japan."

    O'Connor describes the media descent on Sacramento during the recall as "nightmarish," with a peak of 61 reporters calling her for insight the night of the Schwarzenegger debate.

    And O'Connor, along with Cain, who was working in Washington, D.C., at the time, were supposed to be on sabbatical.

    "It didn't seem to prevent people from finding us," she quipped. These four top academic quote-machines each followed very different paths to becoming California political gurus. None of them were born or raised in the Golden State.

    Pitney hails from upstate New York, and got his start with California politics 3,000 miles away--in Washington, D.C., on the staff of GOP Rep. Jerry Lewis of San Bernardino. He moved to California more than two decades ago and is considered the only one of the four with right-leaning tendencies.

    While at graduate school at Rutgers University in New Jersey during the 1960s, Jeffe studied under visiting scholar Jesse Unruh, then-speaker of the California Assembly. After that semester, she moved out to California and began working for Unruh, a Democrat, on higher-education issues. She joined the faculty at USC in the early 1970s. A former Democrat, she considers herself a nonpartisan observer.

    O'Connor, originally from Texas, started her career in politics working for U.S. Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota. After his failed presidential bid, she started teaching political communications at CSUS. Soon after helping launch the local radio station KXPR, then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed O'Connor to the California Public Broadcasting Commission.

    She has closely followed the California political scene ever since, and says she gives analysis without bias, though admits to having a left-leaning political slant.

    Cain, born in Boston, moved to California in the late 1970s. The Assembly Democrats hired the former Rhodes scholar to help redraw the state's political maps in what became a bitter and political redistricting in 1981. "Since I was hired by the Democrats, to many Republicans I still have partisan blood on my hands. I've worked hard to rehabilitate myself since then," Cain told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2001.

    After the redistricting battle, he rejoined the academic world--and is usually quoted as a neutral observer.

    So do these four--and a whole host of other, less-often quoted pundits--impact the state's political landscape?

    In 1994, Clint Reilly seemed to think so. Reilly was the campaign consultant for state Treasurer Kathleen Brown's gubernatorial bid and he tried to take Jeffe out for a few drinks--on him.

    "Clint Reilly tried that," said Jeffe. "He brought two or three members of his staff on the Kathleen Brown gubernatorial campaign out. I don't let my sources pay. I learned that from the L.A. Times," where she has contributed periodic columns since the 1980s.

    O'Connor says that by lending her voice she hopes to help make sense of the political world for an apathetic and angry public. "I view this as my community-service role," she said.

    Pitney was less optimistic about the importance of his role. "I would be surprised if it were any kind of major impact," he said.

    Still, the calls keep on coming. Cain's name has appeared in 289 articles in the San Francisco Chronicle since 1995. That's a rate of almost one every two weeks--for more than a decade.

    Bebitch, who has appeared in 155 Chronicle stories herself and has an exclusive contract to provide on-air analysis for NBC-affiliate stations, says she has kept her quoting standards.

    "[Reporters] will call me about something I know absolutely nothing about and I am not about to blather on about it," says Jeffe. "I have turned down Bill Maher, Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight. My analysis only goes so far."

    Comments on "The kings and queens of the California political quotation"


    Blogger Luke said ... (9:23 AM) : 

    Why is everything centered. I can't read this. I'm leaving.

    Stop with the centered text.


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