Sometimes Second Place Is Better

Capitol Weekly‘s latest Top 100 List is out (well, the top 50 anyway). The newspaper of California government and politics annually lists “the top influence peddlers, power brokers and political players in California.” Elected officials do not make the list.

Topping the list is Anne Gust Brown, the governor’s wife. In second place is Joe Nuñez. Who is Joe Nuñez?

The California Teachers Association remains the most powerful single interest in the state and Joe Nuñez moves the CTA’s power around. His official title is associate executive director for government relations, but what he really does is back the teachers’ political friends and punish their enemies – and they have a lot of both. The CTA, which represents some 340,000 teachers, was instrumental in helping Brown get elected, and since then they have fought on his behalf, including statewide radio spots opposing budget cuts. He’s sort of the Avis Rent-a-Car of Capitol Weekly’s 100 List – he’s always No. 2.

It might make sense that Nuñez is second during the term of a Democratic governor, but he was also second last year, during a GOP term.

However, we might finally have found the upper limit of CTA’s power and influence in the state Capitol. If reaching No. 1 requires sleeping with the governor, it’s probably a bridge too far.