Is Mark Leno Getting Grief from Democratic Leaders for Vanquishing Carole Migden? Far From It

mark_leno_2.jpgIn the state Legislature, there are some things you just don't do. If your Democratic incumbent re-enacts scenes from Mad Max on the interstate, treats her employees in a manner even Naomi Campbell would decry as brutal, and, in general, make enemies at a Bernie Madoff-like pace, you do not run against her. In the name of party unity, whoever works in Sacramento stays in Sacramento.

So when Mark Leno set his sights on then-state Senator Carole Migden, it didn't make him a popular man with the movers and shakers within his own party. Former Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata insisted that other senators' staffers campaign for Migden on their own time; "This is not an optional activity," is how his letters put it. Also, Leno's bills -- even uncontested ones that would shower our financially emaciated city with cash -- suspiciously found themselves floating in limbo thanks to Perata.

Now that Leno is Sen. Leno, one might expect the cold shoulder to continue. But that's not happening. In fact, it's the utter opposite.

Leno was recently named chairman of the senate's committee on public safety and health and human services budgets by current President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg -- a notable accomplishment for a rookie senator.

"That's very good, actually. That means [President Pro Tem] Darrell Steinberg trusts [Leno] enough to put him there. He could not do that with all the freshmen coming in and most of them do not get chairmanships," said professor Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Sacramento State University.

Why is this happening? A movie analogy may be in order. When Dorothy Gale crashed her house on top of the Wicked Witch of the East, she didn't endear herself to the Wicked Witch of the West. But the Munchkins -- they were stoked.

"Had it been someone other than Carole, Mark would have been punished," said a Sacramento political insider, speaking on condition of anonymity. "If he had challenged another member who hadn't had so many altercations with leadership, Mark wouldn't receive such favorable treatment."

One of Leno's legislative colleagues, who also asked his name not be used, acknowledged that the "rules of engagement" had been broken -- but "the fact Mark won gave him a lot of street cred."

The legislator thought Leno could play a particularly vital role on the public safety committee -- which oversees police issues. "If you have too strong a 'Law and Order' membership, they come up with all kinds of draconian issues and those make it all the way to the floor. But if you have [committee members] with a more liberal, balanced philosophy a lot of things that are over the top get killed in committee.

"Mark got two chairs -- that's good."

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