Dems deem East Bay AG candidate ‘not viable’

By Josh Richman
Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Mike SchmierEmeryville attorney Mike Schmier is steamed that despite his place on the Demcoratic primary ballot for Attorney General, the California Democratic Party won’t let him speak or stand for endorsement at its convention next month in Los Angeles.

Schmier, 65, will be on the Democratic primary ballot along with former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo; San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris; former Facebook executive Chris Kelly; Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara; and Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark. Those six were “deemed viable and eligible to seek our endorsement,” according to a letter issued Friday
by California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton and other statewide party officers; Schmier was not.

This is Schmier’s third Democratic primary bid for Attorney General; he ran in 1998 and 2002. He also ran in the 2000 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent Dianne Feinstein, and he ran for governor in the great recall circus of 2003.

His platform each time has centered on the cause that he and his brother, attorney Ken Schmier, have made their crusade: Ending the practice of “nonpublication” of court rulings. A unpublished ruling is effective only in the case in which it’s filed and can’t be cited as precedent in other, similar cases; it’s a common practice in California and federal appellate courts, but the Schmiers and others contend it erodes courts’ accountability to the people and to the law. Mike Schmier argues that fixing the economy, education, health care, housing, environmental protection and transportation all depends on restoring uniform and equal enforcement of the law.

(UPDATE @ 12:10 P.M. MONDAY: Mike Schmier reminds me that the federal courts already ended their old practice forbidding citation in 2006, and citation of unpublished opinions issued since January 1, 2007 may not be prohibited. The Schmiers continue their battle trying to get California’s appellate courts to do the same.)

California Democratic Party spokesman Tenoch Flores said the party’s convention rules state that the party’s statewide officers in consultation with the chairman determine which Democratic candidates for statewide office are viable and eligible to seek the party’s endorsement.

“As best I can tell this candidate has no endorsements listed on his own web site and has either received zero contributions to his campaign or the contributions don’t rise above the threshold required to be listed on the SoS (Secretary of State) web site,” Flores e-mailed me. “I’m sure those were among the factors that statewide officers took into consideration when determining which candidates were viable and eligible for party endorsement.”

The party is returning to Schmier the banners, videos and promotional gifts he had intended to use at the convention. Schmier says it’s “marginalization” and “fascism.”

It’s an interesting situation. Does anyone who manages to get on the ballot deserve time at the party’s podium? If so, it’ll get crowded, because Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner aren’t the only major-party gubernatorial candidates this year – there are six other Democrats and six other Republicans on the ballot. Should all of them get equal time from their respective parties?

On the other hand, Schmier is the only Democrat on the ballot who was deemed ineligible for his party’s endorsement. Another way to look at it would be the shallowness of Schmier’s pockets: How seriously would the Democratic Party have taken Chris Kelly, who also has never held elected office, had he not put up $4 million of his own money for his campaign? And do endorsements follow money, or vice versa?