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Migden, Leno, Nation take fight to ballot box

Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, made headlines for some statements she made last Friday in front of the Women's Caucus at the California Democratic Party convention in San Jose. Now the leaders of the veteran's and African American caucuses also report that Migden made some unusual comments at their meetings as well.

The incumbent senator is locked in a tough three-way race to keep her seat. Hoping to shore up her standing with a party endorsement at the convention, Migden reportedly spoke at up to a dozen caucus meetings Friday night. When the vote was taken later that night, delegates voted 742 to 298 against giving Migden the endorsement of the party.

Bob Handy, the head of the Democratic Veteran's Caucus, said Migden's performance at their meeting caused him and several other delegates present to make a point of staying at the convention long enough to vote against endorsing her.

"I probably would have been packing my car," Handy said. "I stayed for the vote."

Handy said Migden spoke just after Charlie Brown, an Air Force veteran who ran for Congress against Republican John Doolittle in 2006 and who is running again for the Democratic nomination in that seat. In his speech, Brown talked about his campaign's giving to groups that support wounded and disabled veterans. Brown's Web site reports the campaign has now given over $28,000.

Migden made comments "to the effect that she didn't care about his nickel and diming," said Handy, a Navy veteran of Korea and Vietnam. "I was concerned about her mental state. For anyone to say something like that was very offensive to Charlie Brown and the Veteran's Caucus, and it was totally uncalled for."

The comments came during a period near the end of the meeting, in which about a dozen people were given about 90 seconds apiece to address the caucus. Several other candidates spoke, Handy said, including Assembly incumbents Julia Brownley of Santa Monica and Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara. A spokesman for Brown said they left the room moments after Brown's speech concluded and did not witness Migden's remarks.

The same night, Migden reportedly went before the African-American Caucus and called for Barack Obama to drop out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. However, caucus chair Darren Parker said she quickly corrected the statement. The rest of the speech went off without incident, he said, and Migden was well received.

"She realized the audience she was speaking to, and quickly clarified what she meant," Parker said. "Because of all the excitement of what was going on that weekend, I think it caused her to misspeak. It appeared more of a misstep than an intentional statement."

Mickey Solorio Luna, chair of the Chicano/Latino Caucus, said Migden gave a good speech in front of her group.

"She was very positive, and she was well received," Luna said, adding "She even spoke some in Spanish, which I think the crowd really appreciated."

Migden's comments in front of the Women's Caucus on Friday night received the most attention, due to a video posted by Capitol Alert reporter Shane Goldmacher. At that event, she unsuccessfully tried to start a chant of "Shame on you" aimed at one of her challengers, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. She then got into some verbal sparring with Leno supporters in the room. At one point she referred to some female Leno supporters as "men."

Leno's supporters have touted their success in denying Migden the nomination – a process that required them to gather hundreds of signatures in just a few hours. Leno also secured a 60 percent vote in favor of endorsing him – 591 to 388 – but fell short of the 75 percent of the vote to gain the endorsement.

Incumbents running for re-election routinely get endorsements from their party, said Bob Mulholland, a spokesman for the California Democratic Party, although those endorsements can be hard fought, particularly in a case where two sitting lawmakers are competing for the same seat.

Migden has been in the news lately, as the Fair Political Practices Commission has been looking over the last several cycles of her campaign finances. Migden won a significant victory on Tuesday when a judge ruled she could use $647,000 in older campaign funds for her current re-election bid.

This follows a month that saw the Fair Political Practices Commission fine Migden $350,000 for 89 violations involving the improper reporting and filing campaign money; Migden suing the FPPC to gain access to the money the judge just ruled on; and the FPPC countersuing Migden for $9 million. FPPC chairman Ross Johnson said Migden has tried to bully his organization. Migden has accused Johnson, a former Republican legislator, of playing politics.

The third major challenger, former Assemblyman Joe Nation, spoke at the convention about the carbon credits he bought for $500 to offset the convention's carbon footprint. This paid for 100 tons of carbon, enough to cover 2,000 people driving from San Francisco to the San Jose convention. Nation said he was only on San Jose on Saturday, having spent most of the weekend campaigning in the district, and missed all the caucus meetings.

A call to the Migden campaign had not been returned as of press time.

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