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California Election 2018: Updates and Analysis

California Election 2018: Updates and Analysis

June 1, 2018

GOP now at number 3

If there’s one thing Democratic contender for governor Antonio Villaraigosa wants voters to know about him, it’s this: “I’m not afraid to take on tough issues.”

In a conversation at CALmatters on a day when a new poll showed him dropping into third place, the former Los Angeles mayor talked education, health, fiscal policy—and how his views depart from the Democratic Party orthodoxy because he’s a “small d” Democrat.

On closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers in the state’s  public schools, he said that the state should make sure the money is targeted to the kids who need it most rather than “spreading it like peanut butter.” But he also talked about weakening tenure—lengthening the probationary period for new teachers from two to three years—and relaxing teacher seniority rules.

He also said the state should increase financial support for low income university students, rather than push for tuition-free higher education across-the-board, as many progressives do.

“Making college free? Yeah, that’s a great goal, but I think we’ve got to make it free first for the people who are absolutely destitute, the poor,” he said. “I think you get the most bang for the buck, if you want to deal with this, with the kids who need it the most.”

He endorsed the idea of a state-run public insurance option that anyone can buy into, increasing reimbursement rates for doctors that serve low-income Californians, and expanding coverage to undocumented immigrants. But he reiterated his skepticism over stalled legislation that aimed to create a single payer insurance system across California—a bill endorsed by his Democratic opponents Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former state schools superintendent Delaine Eastin.

That division was eminently clear at the party’s state convention last month where Villaraigosa received 9 percent of the delegate vote in the contest for the party’s endorsement—and as he acknowledged, a much higher share of the booing and heckling.

“I’m not a Democrat because I think the Democratic Party is perfect, by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “I’m a Democrat because I believe the government has got to work for more people. I’m not a partisan warrior.”

It’s not a new persona for Villaraigosa, who sells himself as the candidate willing to speak unpleasant truths to lawmakers, interest groups, and even voters.

But there may be a downside to telling people what they don’t want to hear.

A poll released this evening by the Public Policy Institute of California showed only 12 percent of likely voters support Villaraigosa for governor—a 9 point drop for him since the institute conducted a similar survey last January. (Both polls had a margin of error of more than 4 percentage points.)

“We’ve always believed that we’ve got to get into the run-off,” said Villaraigosa, who in the latest poll comes in third among likely voters behind Newsom and Republican candidate John Cox, and ahead of fellow Democrats John Chiang and Eastin, as well as GOP candidate Travis Allen.  Under California’s “top two” primary system, only the candidates who come in first and second place during the June 5 primary will move on to the general election ballot. Villaraigosa said the biggest threat to his campaign “is a Republican knocking me out, if they consolidate….I’ve got some work to do—and I’m going to keep on working.”

Taken at face value, the new poll marks an unwelcome reversion for the former mayor, who had been eating into Newsom’s lead in most polls since last September. It also shows steep drop-offs in support from some of the demographic groups that the Villaraigosa campaign is most counting on.

In Los Angeles, his home turf, the former mayor is now 1 point behind Newsom; in January, he had nearly a 20 point lead. Meanwhile, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Newsom used to be mayor and dominates public opinion, Villaraigosa is now polling below the Republican Cox.

While Villaraigosa still had the support of more Latinos than any other candidate, at 37 percent, that’s 11 points down from the beginning of the year. Drawing strong support and historically high turnout from California’s Latino population has been a key part of Villaraigosa’s electoral strategy.

The latest poll shows a quarter of likely voters have yet to decide whom to support. Said Villaraigosa: “I don’t think the support among Latinos is anywhere near where it’s going to end up.”

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, dmorain@calmatters.org, (916) 201.6281.

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Election 2018

Oct. 12, 2018 2:50 pm

A Californian on the 2020 presidential ticket? Here’s what state insiders say

Editorial Intern
Sen. Kamala Harris at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018.

The latest conventional wisdom among state political insiders: There’s a good chance a Californian will be on the presidential ticket in 2020, and that Californian is likely to be Democratic U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris.

Among participants in a new Target Book Insider Track survey, 55 percent say it is somewhat or very likely that a Californian makes the 2020 ticket, either for president or vice president. The survey—our attempt to put some real data behind the anecdotal estimations of conventional wisdom—is based on 34 respondents who are Target Book subscribers, an assortment of politicos, lobbyists and consultants.

When asked whom they had in mind, the overwhelming favorite was Harris, with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti a distant second.

Garcetti has already made several stops to South Carolina, an important state in the primaries behind Iowa and New Hampshire.

But Harris is set to visit the state next week, according to The Post and Courier. The rookie senator has also made stops in Ohio over the weekend and was greeted by fellow Democrats as a rock star. Although she has been consistently saying she’s focused on the midterms as she campaigns for Democratic candidates across the country, she also went further than before in acknowledging her interest in 2020.

“I’m thinking about ’18 and what we need to do around these races, and then I’ll seriously take a look at things after that. But right now I’m focused on this,” she told reporters.

Harris, a former prosecutor and California’s attorney general, is the first Indian American senator and California’s first black senator. She firmly stood behind Christine Blasey Ford, Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s first public accuser, and drew headlines for her tough questioning of him during the confirmation hearing that addressed alleged sexual assault.

There hasn’t been a sitting mayor who transitioned straight to the White House, but Garcetti, who like Harris has been glowingly profiled in Vogue, has been quietly working the national circuit with visits to Iowa and New Hampshire. During these trips he would frequently introduce himself with the line: “”I come from Los Angeles, and we have a few more Kardashians than you do, but we are mostly not Kardashians,” according to a GQ profile.

For now, many national experts place Harris among the wide top tier of potential Democratic presidential contenders, behind Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. But she hasn’t given sufficient clues to determine her aim in the view of FiveThirtyEight, which places Harris behind Garcetti in a rubric of actions made by past candidates that signaled their intent to run.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, dmorain@calmatters.org, (916) 201.6281.

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Election 2018

Oct. 12, 2018 11:04 am

Video: Newsom and Cox reveal how they would run California differently than Gov. Brown

Videographer
Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Republican businessman John Cox are in a match-up to replace outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Republican businessman John Cox are in a match-up to replace outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown.

California will soon be in the hands of a new governor, and voters have less than a month to make their choice. In this video, watch Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Republican businessman John Cox explain how they would do things differently once Gov. Jerry Brown exits—and see both candidates talk about whether they would continue the state’s aggressive climate policies, how they would tackle the state housing crisis, their views on public education and whether they would carry out state executions.

You’ll also learn what book they recommend all Californians read, and what each candidate says is the hardest thing he’s ever done.

All in about 8 minutes.

To dive deeper into where both candidates stand on dozens of issues, try the side-by-side comparison tool in our voter guide.

We also provide you with full background on John Cox and Gavin Newsom.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, dmorain@calmatters.org, (916) 201.6281.

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Election 2018

Oct. 12, 2018 8:35 am

Majority Report: “Do you think your father met with a terrorist sympathizer?” edition

Election Reporter
Ammar Campa-Najjar stands beside President Donald Trump
Ammar Campa-Najjar stands beside President Donald Trump. According to Campa-Najjar, the photo was taken in 2015.

Radio debates, Twitter spats, and the political security that comes with belonging to the right party. Here’s a quick recap of what happened this week across California’s 53 congressional districts.

1. Insiders predict Hunter will win re-election—then have to resign

The race for California’s 50th congressional district is a test of the power of partisanship. Will voters here side with incumbent Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., who is facing a 60-count federal indictment for allegedly spending a quarter of a million dollars of campaign cash on vacations, spa treatments, and—yes, as you’ve certainly already heard—cross-country airfare for a rabbit? Or will voters in this Trump-loving southern corner of the state do the unthinkable and actually vote in a Democrat?

According to political insiders around California, it’s best to bet on partisanship.

But these latest results from the California Target Book Insider Track Survey—a poll of consultants, lobbyists, and other operatives in California politics—don’t exactly offer a sunny prediction for Hunter either. The vast majority of respondents believe he’ll go on to win the district that was carried by President Trump over Hillary Clinton by 15 percentage points, only to resign amid mounting legal troubles. Still only 5 percent believe that his opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, actually has a shot at winning.

Public polling gives the Democrat better odds, but only slightly. FiveThirtyEight.com’s election forecast put the odds of Campa-Najjar flipping the seat blue between 11 and 13 percentage points.

Even so, some high profile Republicans are riding to Hunter’s rescue. Enter another MAGA-loving Jr., President Trump’s eldest and most Twitter-happy son:

Donald Trump Jr. on Twitter

California leftists really outdoing themselves with the crazy these days. CA Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar Defends Donation to Radical ‘Islamist’ Group CAIR | Breitbart https://t.co/8ZxFKpnkcK via @BreitbartNews #ca #capol

On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr. shared an article from the conservative website Breitbart reporting that the Campa-Najjar campaign had given money to a local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and received an in-kind donation from the group. CAIR is the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the United States, but right-wing groups and Republican candidates, including Hunter and Florida gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis, have tried to connect it to international extremist groups. Last month, the Hunter campaign produced a video highlighting his opponents’ grandfather’s involvement in a terrorist organization and labeling him a “security risk”—an ad widely denounced as deceptive and  Islamophobic.

Although Campa-Najjar’s grandfather was a member of the Black September terrorist organization, Campa-Najjar has said he never met his grandfather and has repeatedly denounced him. Prior to running for Congress, he worked in the U.S. Department of Labor, a job for which he received a security clearance.

Thus, his response:

Ammar Campa-Najjar on Twitter

Hey @DonaldJTrumpJr, before retweeting @BreitbartNews charged allegations – might want to check with POTUS. I was given security clearance from the FBI in 2013 and met with @realDonaldTrump in 2015. Do you think your father met with a terrorist sympathizer? Doubt it.

2. McCarthy goes gaga for MAGA

Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy from Bakersfield has been on President Trump’s good side since early on in the 2016 presidential campaign. But as election day approaches he’s not taking anything for granted with the president’s base among the congressional rank-and-file, whose votes McCarthy will need to succeed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan when he steps down at the end of this term.

As Politico reports, McCarthy is in full-pitch mode, introducing bills to fund the border wall and giving exclusive interviews with Breitbart. President Trump, for one, was successfully wooed by the man he calls “My Kevin,” sending out an “URGENT” fundraising pitch by email with the header: “House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy Introducing Bill to Fully Fund Border Wall, Making Midterm Immigration Referendum.”

It’s a new look for McCarthy, who has never been an immigration hardliner. But then again, as one White House official said, maybe this is just where the Republican Party is headed.

“I know a lot of people want to make it, ‘Oh, there’s a speakership election coming up and he’s just started tacking hard right’ … but honestly he’s been doing this since Trump went into office,” the former Trump official said. “I guess I look at it more as the obvious, natural progression of Republicans like McCarthy.”

3. The “bravery” of Devin Nunes

Of all of President Trump’s talents, few are as well-honed as his knack for trolling liberals.

That may very well have been his plan when he called into his favorite morning TV show Fox and Friends yesterday and suggested that Visalia Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, one of the president’s staunchest defenders in Congress and detested by Democrats everywhere, deserves the Medal of Freedom, the highest commendation that the federal government bestows upon a civilian.

“What he’s gone through and his bravery, he should get a very important medal,” the President said.

What Nunes has “gone through” includes the publication of a memo calling into question the validity of the federal investigation into the Trump presidential campaign’s with ties to Russia.

Trump initially suggested that Nunes should be given the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, before correcting himself.

4. Rumble in the 4th

Gubernatorial candidates John Cox and Gavin Newsom weren’t the only candidates to debate on Monday. Just an hour earlier on the same radio station, Republican Rep. Tom McClintock clashed with his Democratic contender Jessica Morse over who should represent the mountain district that stretches north of Lake Tahoe to south of Fresno.

Among the many topics covered:

  • The state gas tax: McClintock was clear in his support for Proposition 6, the ballot measure that would repeal a recent increase in the state gas tax and other transportation fees. Morse equivocated, saying she would like to see the federal government provide more transportation funding, but that Prop. 6 was up to the voters.
  • Justice Kavanaugh: McClintock said the accusations of sexual assault against Justice Kavanaugh amounted to slander but said that he wasn’t sure if the most high-profile accuser, Palo Alto professor Christine Blasey Ford, had committed perjury in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee. Morse said that Kavanaugh had demonstrated himself unfit to serve on the court by failing to remain “calm, even-minded, fair and nonpartisan” during the hearings. She then used the opportunity to bash McClintock for voting against the Violence Against Women Act.
  • Ballot designation: In the run-up to the primary, one of Morse’s Democratic opponents successfully challenged the designation she had hoped to have printed on the ballot next to her name. This accompanied broader allegations that Morse, a 36-year-old former State Department employee, had inflated her resume. In the debate on Monday, McClintock amplified that line of attack: “Jessica, for the last three years, you bragged on a blog that you were leading a ‘vagabond life.’ Wondering why you didn’t put that on your ballot designation.” Morse responded: “We’ll get you a sense of humor after we send you home.”
  • Federal tax legislation: McClintock, like Republican congressional candidates across the country, championed the economic benefits of the massive tax bill that Congress passed last year, saying that it was already creating jobs in the district. He also played down concerns that the legislation is projected to add $1.9 trillion to the federal debt over ten years. Morse argued that the bill disproportionately helped the rich and not the “real people” living in the district.
  • Guns in schools: We don’t bat an eye when we see armed security guards in banks, McClintock said. What’s the big deal about arming teachers who receive the appropriate training? Morse contended that arming teachers would just increase the risk of violence. “I’ve have lived in a place where everyone is armed,” she said. “It’s called a war zone.”

You can listen to the entire debate here.

Learn more about the most competitive congressional races and just about everything on the state ballot with the CALmatters voter guide.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, dmorain@calmatters.org, (916) 201.6281.

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