Thursday, December 17, 2015

It's a wrap! With rum.

As promised, here is a brief election wrap up for 2015. In San Francisco, two stalwart progressive GreenDog candidates who unfortunately ran into turbulent waters, were defeated. Wendy Aragon, who would have been a great addition to the City College board, and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. They both worked hard, but their better funded (and connected, in an establishment way) opponents were able to win. A loss for SF.

We were glad to see the return of Aaron Peskin to the Board of Supervisors, and only wish someone had challenged Ed Lee for Mayor. Next time we all hope.

In Marin, we had a big win with Gregory Mack for Novato School Board. He ran a great race, with lots of grassroots outreach and came in second place. Congrats Greg!

In other races, incumbents lost several seats on City Councils and special districts, signaling dissatisfaction. This malaise seems a general discontent, and distrust of elected officials, echoed throughout the land. We fear a rising conservatism (we hope it is a passing fever), and Yes, we are cheering on Bernie Sanders. And putting pins in voodoo dolls of Donald Trump and all the Republican scary clowns. Nothing to laugh at here.

Sorry to be a downer, but 2016 will be exciting and we are hoping for good things in the Bay Area and for Democrats everywhere. What do you all think? Comments accepted, rants encouraged, advice welcomed.

And recipes will be tried out. For now, I think a hot buttered rum is in order. Here's what the GreenDogs do on cold winter days.

Dotty's Hot Buttered Rum:

Boil water
Shot of rum mixed with brown sugar.
Pour in the water, mix lightly
Pat of unsalted (organic preferably) butter floated on top
Fresh grated nutmeg sprinkled overall
Drink, you'll feel better

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Election Wrap up Coming

Wednesday night the Marin Women's Political Caucus will hold its annual Election Wrap up night with a twist. The twist this year is one of our stalwart panelists lost her re-election campaign this year for Novato City Council. This was a shocker and should make for a good discussion. Was it a "throw the bums out" election, as some pundits have postulated? Or was it more of a mixed bag. Many incumbents, after all, retained their seats, but we did see a higher than average change in several Councils.
Now former Councilwoman Jeanne MacLeamy telling us how she sees it
One big issue? Development and traffic. Always on the agenda, but with lots of moaning and wailing and gnashing of teeth over how "affordable" housing, especially the high density kind, will destroy neighborhoods, let "those people" loose on the populace and, of course, bring down property values, some of the noise has been downright nasty. Last year was just as bad, with incumbent Supervisor Susan Adams, whose only crime was sticking to her principles (very clearly enunciated in her first race more than 10 years  back), that she wanted to help create a very modest affordable housing project as part of a much needed and desired revamp of a local shopping center.  But the times they are a changin' and not necessarily for the better.

That's not for this Campaign Cook to say. We test the kitchen, its heat, its accessibility and we help the cooks and the wanna-be chefs work their magic.

Then we let the pundits and the analysts hash it all out so to speak. This year's Election Wrap Up ought to be downright delicious.

Epicurean Electoral Hash recipe:

Makes 6 servings
Active Time
1 1/2 hr
Total Time
6 hr (includes making brisket)


    • Braised beef brisket
    • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
    • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 medium fresh poblano chiles (1/2 pound total)
    • 1 medium Yukon Gold potato (1/2 pound)
    • 1 medium rutabaga (1/2 pound)
    • 1 medium Fuji or Gala apple
    • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
    • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
    • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 6 large eggs


    1. Finely shred brisket and transfer to a bowl, then mix with mustard and Worcestershire sauce until combined well.
    2. Roast poblanos on their sides on racks of gas burners over medium-high heat, turning with tongs, until skins are blistered and slightly charred, 4 to 6 minutes. (Or broil on rack of a broiler pan about 2 inches from heat.) Immediately transfer to a large bowl and cover tightly, then let stand 10 minutes. Carefully rub off skins from poblanos. Cut open lengthwise and remove stems and seeds, including attached ribs. Wipe poblanos clean with a paper towel if necessary, then cut into 1/4-inch dice and transfer to a large bowl.
    3. Peel potato, rutabaga, and apple and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, then cook in 1/2 stick butter with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden in spots and just tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to bowl with poblanos.
    4. Cook onion in 3 tablespoons butter with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in same skillet, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes more. Transfer to bowl with poblano mixture. Stir brisket into hash until combined.
    5. Preheat oven to 250°F with rack in middle.
    6. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Add half of hash to skillet and cook, turning portions occasionally, until browned and crisp in spots, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a large (17-by 11-inch) 4-sided sheet pan and keep warm in oven. Cook remaining hash in same manner in 1 tablespoon butter. Transfer to sheet pan in oven.
    7. Rinse and wipe out skillet. Fry eggs in 2 batches with 1 tablespoon butter per batch over medium heat. Serve eggs over hash.
Cooks' note:
Hash, without brisket, can be cooked 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before using.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Election's Over. Now Start Campaigning!

Yes, it is November 5th. The fall election is two days behind us, but the June election is coming up fast. Believe it or not, if you plan a run for June 2016, you better be on it now. Start fundraising if you haven't Remember, friends and family first. And what better time to visit with friends and family than the Holiday season!

You know you will be going to lots of family get togethers, Holiday parties and maybe even a high school or college reunion. It's that time of year. Get yourself a remit envelope, a small handout, professionally created and printed and practice your elevator speech.

When people ask you what you've up to, don't be shy. Hand them a card and a remit and tell them about your run. Ask for their support and, even if it's not appropriate to hit them up for cash at that moment (maybe the carols are playing or the turkey is getting passed around the table), the right time will come soon. Pick up the phone and call back every one you made contact with within a day or so of the contact, and make the ask.

And now for a delicious Holiday fundraising fettuccine. You'll need it to keep up your energy as you dial those phones and press that flesh.

Fettuccine with Sausage & Kale


  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • 1 pound spicy italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large bunch kale, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  1. In large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta until al dente; drain. In large skillet, cook sausage over medium-low until browned, about 7 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and cream; simmer until reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Add kale; toss until wilted. Remove from heat; toss with pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Down Ticket Races - Why Challengers Sometimes Must Spend More

I often get asked by my candidates why it seems to be costing them more than the competition to run. In fact, they sometimes get downright testy about it. "Why am I spending twice as much as Joe? In fact, Joe isn't doing anything at all, except a few signs. Why should I bother? Our feedback from people at the door is great. We look stupid spending big money in this small water board/school board/Town Council race."
Then I must explain to the candidate the realities of being a challenger. "Sally," I say, "Joe is the incumbent. Joe has automatic name recognition from his 15 years in office, not to mention that all important I in front of him name on the ballot. In other words, Joe doesn't need to do anything. The election is his to lose."

And lost it  may well be if Sally is willing to work harder, walk and phone more and yes, spend more money. No one knows your name. She has never held public office. Yes, she has gone to every meeting of the board since 2005, but so what? Her and three other people. And where are they, by the way I ask? How much have they donated to your campaign? Are they out walking with you? Are they making phone calls? (Probably not, because the candidate never asked. How you can run for office and still be the shyest person in the room has always been a mystery to me.)

"But I have my signs in all the best locations," protests Sally. "People like my walk piece. My first mail went out the same time as the sample ballot. Of course people know my name by now. All my friends say so. People are beginning to talk about how much more money I am spending than Joe. What about campaign finance reform?"

Absolutely, we believe in campaign finance reform. Campaigning should not be a sport for the rich. The playing field must be leveled. But we have to deal with reality. Reality says you have to take your message to the voters several times in several different ways.

"So, yes," I say patiently, "your first mailer was great. But it will be forgotten when people go to the polls without some reinforcement. Your signs are fine, but they don't tell anyone anything about you, and they are just one in a sea of signs along the roadway. Walking is wonderful, and if you could get to every door in the district and talk to every frequent voter, you'd be in like Flynn (whoever he is), but you have 2000 doorhangers, and there are 9000 frequent voter doors.

"And yes, you are doing well in debates; you have good endorsements. But if no one hears the debates, or sees the endorsements because let's face it, they don't read the newspapers like they used to. Facebook is a tiny percentage of your voting base and. your friends, God love 'em, are just that, your friends, not the average voter who will make up his mind on or close to election day. That person needs a reminder. That person needs that second mailer from you, in their hand."

"Oh," answers Sally. Then she either agrees to make a few more phone calls and raise that last bit of money for one small mailer to poll voters, (and these days, the poll voter universe is small, with most people opting to mail their ballot in), or she shrugs and says, "Nah, it's ok. I feel really good about it."  And who knows, she may be right. But in my experience, dear candidate, it is just not worth the risk.

So, yes, our candidates in down ticket races do frequently spend more, sometimes a lot more, than the competition. But only when they have to. Only when the competition is an incumbent, or someone with great name recognition, or there is a major controversy about which they disagree. In those cases, not spending that extra cash may well lose you the seat that you are so well suited for, because the ones who need to know, the voters, never got the message.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Signs of the Times

Candidates cannot get enough signs. They love them and they must have them. And I understand - they are tangible artifacts of their campaign. They are big and bold and bright and stand right out there along the roadside with all the other signs.

They scream "look at me!", while their competitors shout just as loudly "No, look at me!" And the Kentucky Fried Chicken sign goes "Mmmmmm."

On Election Day how many votes will your signs bring to the polls? I think we all know the answer to that one.

Save money, bake a cake instead. Then go out and walk precincts, raise money and get that mail out in time for the absentee vote.  Reward yourself with a piece of cake for every $100 raised, 50 doors knocked, or 25 phone calls made. Yum!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Guest Blog: 5 Tips to Win Your Down Ticket Race

Today's guest Blogger with some good advice all candidates in down ticket races should heed:

(with thanks to Down Ticket Dems)

Posted: 17 Sep 2015 08:41 AM PDT
Andrew Collier Enlarged
Getting involved in your local or state government is a noble task, and there is a lot of opportunity to do so in down-ticket races.   Although there can be many to choose from and it’s a great opportunity to get involved, you’ll want to keep some things in mind before jumping into your down-ticket race.
§ Your race is not as sexy as you think.  Down-ticket races aren’t premiere races in states or counties.  Unfortunately, if you’re running for County Auditor, your race won’t be as watched as, say, the County Commissioners or State Senate race. You won’t be able to get as much attention as other candidates, so you’ll need to get creative in your race.
§ Create innovative strategies.  Sometimes in a crowded field and in a down-ticket race, you’ll need to do innovative things to stand out among your competitors and other down-ticket races.  Build lists around issues, rallies, and build relationships with the press to get some good earned media.
§  You still (and always) need to raise money.  Just because you’re running a down-ticket race doesn’t mean you can ride the coattails of your fellow party office-goers.  When you raise money, you bring legitimacy to your candidacy and you can spend more on digital, mail, and field.  Also, if you have a decent amount of money, you can help out some of your fellow office-goers from your party, again bringing more clout to your candidacy.
§ Don’t rely on others.  Too many candidates that are running in down-ticket races always rely on other candidates running for major offices to do the hard work for them.  Unfortunately, things don’t always work out as planned in local or statewide politics; an office holder endorses another candidate, your opponent gets a big donation, etc.  Always look out for your own campaign when running in a down-ticket race.
§ Build more coalitions.  Since you won’t raise as much as your top tier races, you’ll want to always build more coalitions.  Building coalitions can help put boots on the ground on Election Day and advocate on your behalf.
Remembering these five things can help you stay on track for your down-ticket race. For more information about running for office, download our ebook, Ready, Set Go: Jump-Start Your Political Campaign.
P.S. Remember – yard signs and “chum” don’t vote.  Make sure you aren’t spending a large portion of your budget on these items.  Focus your budget on voter communication such as direct mail, digital advertisements, or palm cards.
Andrew Collier, Junior Account and Marketing Manager, The Campaign Workshop;   a political and advocacy advertising agency in Washington D.C. that provides strategy, digital advertising, direct mail and training services to non-profit and political clients.
The Campaign Workshop   1660 L Street, NW    Suite 506   Washington, DC 20036  (202)223-8884  
Facebook – The Campaign Workshop
Twitter – @cmpwrkshp

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Facing Incumbents in Down Ticket Races

A candidate comes to me and asks about helping in his campaign for School Board in a mid sized district. There are four incumbents, all of them running. He is one of two challengers. He is clearly qualified and knows the issues. "Tell me," I ask, "Do you have any idea what kind of budget you are looking at in this race?"

"People tell me about $2000, to buy signs," he answers. Yikes. After I give him the Signs Don't Vote spiel, I explain a little bit about running against incumbents, how you have to convince the voter to fire them and hire you. "It's a several month long job interview," I explain. Then, "I think you'll need a little bit more than that."

Because I'm a meticulous campaigner, I gather up the financial disclosures in recent elections. He's right, that no one has spent more than $2000 since 2007. But guess what? Only incumbents have won since then. Two of the incumbents he is facing have been there for more than 20 years, the other two for 8 and 10 years.

The last big contested race was in 2005, when a candidate who I happened to work for spent $34,000 to oust an incumbent. Another person on that ticket running in an open seat spent $10,000.

Right now, I am working on a proposal for his campaign, along with a budget. Will he go for it? Will he hire a consultant to help him craft the message he must get into voters' hands? Will he be willing to raise and spend the money it will take to unseat an incumbent?

Or will he take his first friend's advice, buy some signs and hope for the best? Well, you know what I think. Let's see how this one plays out.

In the meantime, here's a hearty, healthy Back to School breakfast recipe for students and candidates alike:

Whole Wheat Pancakes
  • 1 cup whole wheat
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoon sugar or honey 
  1. Put 1 cup wheat & 1 cup milk in blender for 3 minutes.
  2. After first 3 minutes add an additional 1/2 cup milk.
  3. Blend for additional 2 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 cup oil, 1 Tbsp baking powder, 2 eggs, 1/2 t salt and 2 Tbsp sugar to blender until mixed.
  5. Pour onto skillet (size that you want pancakes to be), cook on medium.
  6. Makes 12 pancakes.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fundraising - Don't be Shy

Feeling a little leery about asking people for money for your campaign? Now is not the time for shyness. Be bold. Channel your inner pushy telemarketer.  Now is the time to pick up the phone and call your friends, family, including old Aunt Minnie from Fresno and put the bite on them.  In a nice way of course.  They are your best bets for early money that will make the campaign grow. They are there for you and they want you to win.  They want to be able to say, "I knew her when..."  It's an opportunity for them and for the campaign coffers.

Got a day job? Great, then you have coworkers, suppliers, vendors, customers. Be professional, but let them know you are running, hand them that all important remit envelope when you sneak in a spiel over lunch or when schmoozing that business deal.

Got friends in Public office? Get their lists. I cannot emphasize this enough, especially if they are endorsing your campaign.  They want you to win. They have raised money in the past for their own campaigns and they can help you now, with a data base of names and contact information, maybe even make an introduction or two to their highest powered donors.  Don't be shy about asking. People who gave before are the most likely to give again.

Attend church or synagogue?  Belong to clubs and organizations?  Have kids in school?  More potential donors. And don't forget the neighbors. Not only good places to display your window signs, but good people to ask for campaigns donations, even small ones. They all add up.

If you've been endorsed by unions or other endorsing entities, ask their leadership for donations personally.  See if they will provide a list of members or send a letter on your behalf.

If letters are sent, do follow up with a personal phone call, especially for higher donors.  Volunteers can help with smaller donors.

But follow up is key. And as the candidate, you are in the best position. To make the "pitch."  Remember, it's not yourself you are selling, it's all the good you will do in office that will benefit the community and the donor, even indirectly, that motivates the giver.

Now here's a delicious Money Pie to get your campaign fundraising juices flowing.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Are you planning a run in November, School Board, City or Town Council, special district? Now's the time to file. August 7 is the last day, unless the incumbent does not run. Be sure you get enough correct signatures on your nomination papers, at least 30% more than the required number. You never know who has moved or doesn't know what District they are in.

And start drafting the all-important candidate's statement, those 200 words that give the voter an idea in a nutshell who you are, why you are qualified and what you'll do in office. Be precise, concise and clear. Have someone proofread it for you. List key endorsements and don't forget your website.

What ballot designation will you use? If you are running for school board, think about how your profession relates. Are you a teacher, a school psychologist, or a parent? All relevant. If not, it's not a fatal flaw, but those with titles that sound like they have experience in the job they are seeking have a leg-up on the competition for those who only read those three words on the ballot. And there are plenty of lazy voters.

Of course if you are the incumbent, your campaign, although never a shoo-in, has an advantage no one else can claim.

And as you know I am always going to say, start raising money for handouts, mail signs, and whatever else will help get your message out to voters at least 7 times in at least 3 different media. Sound daunting? it's how the winners win.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Catholic Church 2 - People of California 0

Once again, the Catholic Church prevailed upon legislators not to pass the End of Life Options bill, introduced by Senators Lois Wolk and Bill Monning and passed easily by the Senate. This time the bill was killed (no pun intended) in the Assembly Health Committee. More disappointing as many of those good Catholic members are Democrats. Democrats who don't read their own Party platform which supports this bill. (Incidentally, I serve on the Platform Committee and on the sub-committee that got that plank passed just a few years ago.)

This is the second time, the Church played a role in squashing this bill, last time in 2006, in a Senate  Committee, when chair Joe Dunn, after a rambling speech about a talk with his Bishop cast the tie breaking vote against the bill. Interestingly enough, soon after this, Joe Dunn landed a plum position with the California Medical Association, another stanch opponent of the Bill. Ironically, the CMA has stayed neutral on this year's bill.

One of the "no" voters is a NARAL pro-choice champion Lorena Gonzales, from the 80th Assembly disrict. How does she square being pro-choice with her Church? But not helping terminally ill people have a voice in when and how to end their suffering? Others, see article below, identify as pro-choice and use that as a rationale for claiming the Church did not influence their decision.

I say Shame on you all, and shame on the Church.

California assisted death bill finished for the year

Senate Bill 128 stalls in Assembly Health Committee

Read more here:

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Class Act. Can your Campaign do this?

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July. And did not eat too many hot dogs. Remember, you are always in campaign mode, even if filing has not opened. People are watching you. Here is a great campaign story about a classy candidate who really walked, er, rode, the talk. Lifted from the pages of Down Ticket Dems, via The Campaign Workshop:

Posted: 04 Jul 2015 06:30 AM PDT
Joe Fuld

Every Fourth of July, I think about my former boss, Congressman Jim Jontz. Jim taught me the importance of grassroots campaigns, real conversations, and knocking on doors. Jim was a congressman from Indiana’s 5th district and a progressive legend. In his first campaign, he won a state representative seat by 4 votes. He went on to win a state Senate seat by less than 100 hundred votes and three congressional elections by less than four thousand votes total.

I, along with many future campaign operatives, got my start in politics by doing field work for Jim Jontz in a rural Indiana district. There, I spent six months of my life organizing volunteers and knocking on doors.

On the Fourth of July in 1990, Jim set what I believe to be the world record for the most Fourth of July parades attended in one congressional district by a candidate. Jim went to nine different parades that day, with six of them all beginning at 2 p.m. In addition to his door-to-door canvassing, Jim was famous for riding a bike in parades. I remember that he was lectured at a parade in Rochester, Indiana one year about staying in parade formation. He had started the parade as float number 24, but by time he was done, he was float number 5, right between the Ladies Auxiliary and some overly enthusiastic Shriners.

For the Fourth of July in 1990, we had four bikes strapped to different cars in preparation for the nine parades. Jim would fly to each parade on a prop plane and land at “airports”, which were often just strips of grass. He would then then drive or walk to the parade route and hop on the bike to be in the parade. There, we would have volunteers handing out literature and trying and keep up with Jim, but they never could.

At each parade, Jim would meet with everyone, shake hands, and leave the bike at the end of the route. After each parade, I would strap his abandoned bike to my car and take it to the next parade. The parades in Logansport, Peru, Chili, Twelve Mile, and Rochester were all in my area that day, but the second to last parade of the day was in Crown Point. I drove to that parade even though it was not in my area. It was a haul and the parade was spread out over a really long route, mostly uphill. During the parade, the chain on the bike broke and I convinced someone to lend Jim his bike to finish the parade. He was rewarded with shirts. It was a very cool day.

Although the parades were fun and there were a ton of other parades and county fairs, door-to-door canvassing was my primary job.

The door-to-door program was less sophisticated than today’s programs but it was way ahead of its time. Real, unscripted conversations happened with voters on a daily basis. Canvassers were trained to talk about a wide rage of topics, and engagement happened in a genuine and real way.

Jim’s campaign utilized this door-to-door strategy across a massive district that went from Kokomo to Gary, with four full-time organizers and a dedicated group of volunteers. Television and direct mail were important, but the real relationships Jim had built at the door were what kept him ahead of the competition.

What I learned from Jim’s door-to-door strategy, and from his campaign style in general, is that real relationships matter and no matter how hard the fight, genuine interactions will pay off. Jim was a master at connecting with people. He had a way of knowing how to reach someone and what to say.

Jim also never took himself too seriously. The first time I met him he was raising money by letting folks throw sponges at him. He was open to any conversation, a bbq, a photo, a handshake, or a joke. Regardless of where it was, Jim could make a connection with you. Party did not matter. Democrat, Independent, Republican, he was there for you.

Jim died of colon cancer in 2003. But his legacy lives on in the lives he touched, the legislation he championed, and the people he taught. We miss you Jim.

Joe Fuld is President of The Campaign Workshop, a political and advocacy advertising agency in Washington D.C. that provides strategy, digital advertising, direct mail and training services to non­profit and political clients. Joe also writes about politics, advocacy and engagement strategies on the The Campaign Workshop Blog.

The Campaign Workshop 1660 L Street, NW Suite 506 Washington, DC 20036 (202)223-8884

Monday, June 29, 2015

Citizen Redistricting Commissions Upheld

In California, both the Republican and Democratic Parties came out against the redistricting commission notion. Then once we had it, our GreenDog team went to work making sure that in the Bay Area, things were done fairly. No more would we share a State Senator with San Francisco. (Much as we love our City across the Bay, it doesn't make sense for a District that crosses that body of water.) Our effort was called Uniquely North Bay and was fueled by social media and in-person appearances at Commission hearings. We prevailed.

The result were good; Democrats in the state made out ok. We all breathed a sigh of relief. And then along came Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which threatened to undo it all. But the Supremes in a classic 5-4 decision (and if you've been following the Court, almost all of them have been lately, for good or ill) decided in favor of the citizens redistricting commission and against the Legislature's gerrymandering attempt. To celebrate make yourself a delicious strawberry shortcake (recipe below), as the 4th of July rolls around.

Here's the report from NPR:

U.S. states' efforts to counter extreme gerrymandering won a victory Monday, as the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a bipartisan Arizona panel that draws the state's districts. The court's vote was 5-4; Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, as did Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote the opinion for the majority, in which her citations included James Madison writing in The Federalist Papers.

"The people of Arizona turned to the initiative to curb the practice of gerrymandering," Ginsberg wrote, "and, thereby, to ensure that Members of Congress would have 'an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people.' "

Ginsberg continued, quoting a 2005 gerrymandering case: "In so acting, Arizona voters sought to restore 'the core principle of republican government,' namely, 'that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.' "

Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission was formed 15 years ago, after the state's voters approved Proposition 106 and amended the state's constitution to take redistricting power away from the Legislature (which later filed suit).

In his dissent, Roberts said that the majority's position "has no basis in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution, and it contradicts precedents from both Congress and this Court."

Saying that if the people of Arizona want to change the electoral process, they should focus on passing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Roberts concluded, "Unfortunately, today's decision will only discourage this democratic method of change."

As for the effects Arizona's commission has had, here's what Arizona Public Media reports:
"The independent commission drew boundaries after the 2000 census and again after the 2010 census. In the 2012 election, five Democrats and four Republicans were elected to Congress in Arizona. In 2014, five Republicans and four Democrats were elected."
The case could have effects far beyond Arizona; more than a dozen other states, including California, have adopted similar processes as they try to break up partisan gridlock that results from drawing polarized districts.

Today's ruling has been hotly anticipated, particularly ahead of the 2016 election cycle. The ruling "could affect as many as one-third of congressional districts," NPR's Jessica Taylor writes for It's All Politics.

A large part of the debate over the case hinged on one word: "legislature."

From the Constitution's clause on elections:
"The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof."
The two sides have argued over whether "legislature" in the clause can be interpreted to refer to voters who enact a law via ballot initiative.

When the case was argued back in March, the Arizona Legislature's lawyer, Paul Clement, said, "The whole idea of the Constitution was that we're going to form a republican government, that we can't have direct democracy."

The Constitution, Clement said, gave authority over elections to elected officials, not to the public. But Ginsberg and the rest of the majority disagreed, mentioning not only the efforts to combat gerrymandering but also dozens of voter initiatives that shape how Americans vote, such as mail-in ballots and voter ID laws.

But Chief Justice Roberts did not agree — and he cited the 1913 shift in how U.S. senators are chosen to show his disapproval. He wrote:
"Just over a century ago, Arizona became the second State in the Union to ratify the Seventeenth Amendment. That Amendment transferred power to choose United States Senators from the Legislature' of each State, Art. I, §3, to 'the people thereof.' The Amendment resulted from an arduous, decades-long campaign in which reformers across the country worked hard to garner approval from Congress and three-quarters of the States.

"What chumps! Didn't they realize that all they had to do was interpret the constitutional term 'the Legislature' to mean 'the people'? The Court today performs just such a magic trick with the Elections Clause."
Here's how NPR's Nina Totenberg described the case back in March:
"In a state with 35 percent registered Republicans, 35 percent Independents, and 30 percent Democrats, the congressional map the commission drew had four safe Republican seats, two safe Democratic seats, and three competitive districts.

"Infuriated Republican state legislators wanted a bigger slice of the pie, however, and after the Arizona Supreme Court frustrated their effort to fire the commission's chair, they challenged the commission as unconstitutional, appealing all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Original recipe makes 1 8-inch round cake Change Servings
  • PREP
    30 mins
  • COOK
    20 mins
    50 mins


  1. Slice the strawberries and toss them with 1/2 cup of white sugar. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Grease and flour one 8 inch round cake pan.
  3. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, 2 tablespoons white sugar and the salt. With a pastry blender cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg and milk. Stir until just combined.
  4. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool partially in pan on wire rack.
  5. Slice partially cooled cake in half, making two layers. Place half of the strawberries on one layer and top with the other layer. Top with remaining strawberries and cover with the whipped cream.