Boxer and Brown Move Ahead in Polls 

The two Oakland Democrats are disproving forecasts about a Republican electoral tidal wave this year. Plus, more job losses strike the East Bay.

For months, pundits have been predicting lopsided victories this fall for Republicans throughout the nation. But polls released in the past week show that those forecasts appear to have been off the mark — at least in California. With five weeks until the election, Barbara Boxer has opened up a comfortable lead over Carly Fiorina, while Jerry Brown has moved ahead of Meg Whitman. Boxer's strong lead over Fiorina also promises to derail any hope that Republicans had about regaining control of the US Senate in November.

Two polls, Public Policy Polling and the Los Angeles Times/USC, showed Boxer with a solid, eight-point advantage over Fiorina, 50 percent to 42 percent and 51 percent to 43 percent. It might have been different had Republican voters nominated moderate Tom Campbell in the June primary. The pro-choice Campbell was polling well against Boxer, but he wasn't conservative enough for the Republican Tea Party base. So it picked Fiorina, and now the GOP appears ready to lose a seat it might have won.

It's a pattern being replayed from Delaware to Kentucky to Nevada, as Tea Party activists have nominated far-right Senate candidates in races that Republicans should have won easily. Immigrant bashing, which displaced baseball as the Tea Party's favorite pastime, also appears to be backfiring. The LA Times/USC poll shows that Brown is beating Whitman by 19 points among Latino voters in the Golden State, while Boxer is whipping Fiorina by a whopping 38 points. In short, Fiorina's support of Arizona's reactionary immigration law appeased the right-wing, but it's now alienating large portions of the electorate.

Whitman seems to realize that ultra-red conservatism doesn't sell well in California. Last week, the ex-CEO tacked toward the center when she announced her opposition to Proposition 23 — the statewide measure that would roll back California's landmark climate-change law. Prop 23 is backed by Fiorina and the right.

But will Whitman's new moderation be enough to overcome Brown's new lead in the polls? Both Public Policy Polling and the LA Times/USC polls showed him with a five-point advantage, 47 percent to 42 percent and 49 percent to 44 percent. Yes, it's only five points. But Whitman has spent a record $119 million of her own money in the campaign so far and she still hasn't made the sale with a majority of state voters. More ads could just make voters less inclined to vote for the overexposed candidate.

Job Cuts Pummel East Bay

The so-called "jobless recovery" worsened last week when several large East Bay employers announced they were laying off hundreds of employees and slashing numerous positions. Chevron said it was cutting about 750 jobs, including 95 at its Richmond refinery, 500 in San Ramon, and 150 in Concord, the Oakland Tribune reported. The cuts are part of the company's restructuring plan and not related to its stalled proposal to expand its Richmond plant.

UC Berkeley, meanwhile, said it will eliminate 200 jobs by January 1, raising the total number of campus job cuts to 800 since last year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The cuts came as a result of decreasing state revenue and Cal's attempt to reduce inefficiency and waste identified in a recent campus audit.

And Oakland got bad news when Clorox announced that is was transferring up to 700 jobs to Pleasanton. The job losses promise to inflict damage on downtown restaurants, bars, and shops. Clorox, one of Oakland's largest employers, said it plans to keep its headquarters in the city, but that its new Pleasanton campus will create synergies for the company.

PG&E's Pipes Leak — A Lot

PG&E has reported leaks in its natural-gas pipelines at a rate six times higher than the national average for urban areas in recent years, the LA Times reported. The number of leaks that PG&E has reported annually also has been increasing — the opposite of what's been happening nationwide. Meanwhile, the death toll from the San Bruno pipeline disaster grew to seven when the San Mateo County Coroner's Office identified three more bodies through DNA tests.

PG&E also released a list of its 100 riskiest pipelines, although the disclosure appeared to be incomplete. The list was missing the San Bruno line even though the utility had told state regulators last year that its risk of failure was "unacceptably high." But the list did include eight lines in the East Bay — four in Livermore, two in Sunol, and one each in Fremont and San Pablo.

Finally, the California Public Utilities Commission, which has also been criticized for lax oversight of PG&E, appointed an independent panel to investigate the San Bruno disaster and apparent mistakes that PG&E made before the blast. PG&E said it would pay for the investigation and that the money would come from investors and not from ratepayers.

Three-Dot Roundup

AC Transit severely cut weekend and overnight service in an attempt to bridge an $18 million budget deficit. It was the third service cut this year and it came in response to a judge's decision to rescind $15.7 million in employee compensation reductions that the agency made this summer. ... An Alameda County judge refused to move the murder trial of Yusuf Bey IV, the former head of Your Black Muslim Bakery accused of ordering the assassination of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey. Bey IV wanted his trial, which is scheduled to begin in November, out of the Bay Area. ... Berkeley Unified's groundbreaking nutrition program appears to be working as more school kids are eating healthier, according to a new UC Berkeley report. ... And the California Air Resources Board adopted new regulations requiring utilities to increase renewable energy use to 33 percent.

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