Politics & Government

Election results bring opportunities for Californians

WASHINGTON -- This week's historic election brings with it a new batch of California winners and losers. Count one-time Fresno resident Michael Robertson among the winners.

Robertson took time off from graduate study at Georgetown University Law Center to help run Obama's Capitol Hill operation. Potentially, that sets Robertson up to write his own ticket in an Obama administration.

"In Michael's case, they know him, and he obviously has political skills," noted Scott Nishioki, chief of staff for Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

As congressional affairs director for the Obama campaign, Robertson has been helping corral Capitol Hill support -- even when Obama's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, seemed to be on a roll. Robertson did not return e-mails seeking comment about his plans.

Some 3,300 presidential appointments will open up once Obama takes office Jan. 20. Tens of thousands of people are expected to submit their resumes and applications, a competition in which early loyalty can pay off.

Other Californians will certainly be in the running for one position or another. Robertson's colleague as Obama's Capitol Hill liaison, Phil Schilero, is a longtime staffer for Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles. His position, too, could put Schilero in line for a key administration slot.

Administrations also recruit from the roster of campaign advisers.

Stanford Law School professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar and University of California at Davis law professor Jennifer Chacon, for instance, have been advising the Obama campaign on immigration matters, while U.C. Berkeley law school dean Christopher Edley Jr. has been offering advice on legal affairs. Job offers to campaign advisers are never guaranteed, but neither are they unexpected.

Nor are job openings the only consequence of Obama's victory and the corresponding strengthening of the Democratic grip on both the House and Senate.

"I do see (California) as having much more influence," Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Wednesday. "I see us getting our calls returned. I see us being able to make appointments so we can go up and make our case."

Feinstein, for instance, predicted California would have an easier time getting a greenhouse gas regulation waiver from Obama's Environmental Protection Agency.

Obama, likewise, has indicated that as president he will publicly affirm that an Armenian genocide took place between 1915 and 1923. Previous candidates have made similar pledges, only to disappoint the Valley's tens of thousands of Armenian-American residents once in office.

"Joe Biden and I believe that the Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence," Obama reiterated last week.

Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, added Wednesday that other aspects of Obama's relationship with California "depend on who he appoints to key positions," including interior secretary and secretary of agriculture.

"It's critically important that we have someone from California high up at the Department of Agriculture," agreed Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced.

Cardoza is suggesting the name of Bill Lyons Jr., a Modesto-area rancher who headed California's Department of Food and Agriculture. Cardoza further acknowledged he is "concerned" that an Obama administration might clash with Valley farmers and ranchers on endangered species and other environmental protection issues.

None of the San Joaquin Valley's congressional Democrats aligned themselves with Obama early, when an endorsement might have earned the most post-election chits. Cardoza endorsed Clinton in December and then switched to Obama in May, on the same day as Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, endorsed the surging Illinois Democrat. Newly re-elected Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, stayed out of the primary fight until Obama had wrapped up the nomination.

Raising money for a campaign can translate into influence. Hollywood moviemakers Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, for instance, together with family members, funneled more than $150,000 into Obama's campaign; their phone calls will be returned. The Valley, by contrast, did not produce many big contributors to the Obama campaign.