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California Election 2018: Updates and Analysis

California Election 2018: Updates and Analysis

June 1, 2018

GOP now at number 3

Election 2018

April 9, 2018 11:34 am

In race for California governor, John Chiang is the anti-soundbite candidate

Election Reporter
John Chiang
John Chiang

Gubernatorial candidate John Chiang is known as the wonk in the race. The Democratic state treasurer, former state controller and high school “mathlete”  touts himself as the no-drama candidate—the guy who compensates for his lack of pizzazz by a willingness to dive into the details.

In a conversation with CALmatters, Chiang certainly lived up to his reputation as soundbite-averse. Ask the gubernatorial candidate for his stand on a particular topic and he might provide a program’s financial minutiae, an overview of the pros and cons of a political debate, or—more often than not—a call for more conversation, more study, more data, more deliberation.

On one of the most hotly contested primary issues, Chiang says that he supports moving to a single-payer system in California, just like the Democratic front-runner in the governor’s race, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. But he has reservations about how it would be funded and implemented, just like the other Democrat polling ahead of Chiang in the race, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. And while Villaraigosa has dismissed a legislative proposal for single payer as “snake oil,” Chiang said he supports the bill “if amended.” In the meantime, he advocates a public insurance option that Californians could buy into.

Nuanced, yes—but sometimes having a nuanced position can be hard to distinguish from failing to state a position at all.

For example: On rent control, state law currently bans cities from enacting new ordinances restricting how much landlords can charge their tenants. Does Chiang support repealing that ban, and are are there any restrictions he would keep in place? His response was to enumerate the costs and benefits of the policy—how it helps keep current tenants in their homes but discourages development.

“Is there something that we can do intermediately as part of a comprehensive plan to try to make housing more accessible and affordable in this and the next decade?” he said. “I want to have that conversation.”

The state’s latest method of trying to channel more public education dollars to school districts with needier students has been in place for four years, but so far under-performing schools haven’t shown much progress. What’s Chiang’s assessment? “We will continue to ask questions.”

Chiang also says he’s prepared to “ask questions,” hold “difficult conversations,” or otherwise  “look at” changes to state forest management to try to prevent wildfires, whether police personnel files should be kept confidential, if the pensions owed to current public employees should be renegotiated, and whether the state should make it easier for local authorities to compel the mentally ill to get psychiatric treatment.

Of course he is far from alone—most of his fellow contenders for governor also sometimes avoid staking out simple stands on issues that are complex, or controversial, or both.

For Chiang’s supporters, his wait-and-see approach to policy indicates a policymaker who does not jump to conclusions, and who respects the consensus-building process at the heart of California democracy.

What would he do to try to resolve the academic achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers in California? Chiang championed “evidence-based decisions making” but called for more research on the types of classroom interventions that have the biggest impact on student achievement.

On criminal justice reform, advocates want to replace cash bail with a system in which defendants would not be detained before trial if they pass a risk assessment. Not so fast. Chiang said that he is open to that change, but cautioned that “further deliberations” are still needed to make sure the replacement works as intended.

What changes would he like to see made to Proposition 13’s caps on property taxes for homeowners and businesses? Chiang offered a detailed description of the how commercial landowners can skirt tax reassessments by carefully structuring the sale of their properties, while also explaining the logistical challenges of finding a legal fix. So does he support simplifying the tax code or raising property taxes on commercial properties?

“I would look at the details before I make a final determination,” he said.

No one could accuse him of being hasty. Yet with the June 5 primary rapidly approaching, Chiang doesn’t have much time to convince voters that cautious deliberation and fiscal discipline are what California needs for the next four years. That approach ought to sound familiar to most Californians after two terms of Gov. Jerry Brown.

But John Chiang is not familiar to most Californians. Despite an early start on fundraising, he has yet to rise above the single digits in most polls, even as he tries to thread an ideological needle between the two Democratic frontrunners in the race, Newsom on the left, and Villaraigosa, whose positions are more centrist.

Whether you call Chiang’s approach sophisticated nuance or not, voters only have less than two months to size him up and cast their ballots.

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

Aug. 13, 2018 6:45 pm

Meet California’s shortest-serving state senator in more than 100 years

Political Reporter
The newest member of the Legislature is Vanessa Delgado, a Montebello Democrat who will be able to cast critical votes for the next three weeks. And then—poof.
The newest member of the Legislature is Vanessa Delgado, a Montebello Democrat who will be able to cast critical votes for the next three weeks. And then—poof.

In probably the strangest outcome of California’s elections so far this year, a new state senator was sworn in Monday—with just three weeks left to go in the legislative session.

Vanessa Delgado, a Democrat from Montebello, was elected last week to replace former Sen. Tony Mendoza, who resigned in February after an investigation found he likely harassed several young employees.  

But voters had two chances to vote for Delgado this year—once to complete the remainder of Mendoza’s term and again to serve a new four-year term that begins in December—and in an odd twist, they chose her only to fulfill the rest of the current term. That means Delgado will serve as a senator for just three-and-a-half months.

“This is an unexpected result, but it’s what the voters decided,” she said in a brief interview after being sworn in while her parents and 15-year-old daughter looked on.

Delgado, a real estate developer who resigned as Montebello mayor to join the Legislature, will be the shortest-serving state senator in more than a century, according to legislative historian Alex Vassar. (The last time a senator served a shorter term was in 1903, Vassar said, when Orrin Z. Hubbell served 15 weeks before he died.)

Delgado arrived in Sacramento Monday as the Legislature begins the most consequential final three weeks of the legislative year, a time when lobbying is intense and lawmakers face tough decisions on hundreds of bills. In September she’ll return to the district in southeast Los Angeles County and work on constituent issues until Dec. 2. Then—poof—her time as a senator will be done.

The man who hopes to replace Delgado on Dec. 3 was also in Sacramento Monday. Democrat Bob Archuleta, who faces Republican Rita Topalian on the November ballot, mingled with lobbyists and Democratic senators at a campaign fundraiser near the Capitol, just minutes before Delgado began her super-short term.

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

Aug. 3, 2018 10:53 am

Yes, a political action committee exists to legalize ferrets

Senior Editor
Logo of the Ferret PAC, a political action committee which seeks to legalize ferrets.
A political action committee exists to legalize ferrets.

Gavin Newsom has raised more than $22 million for his run for governor. Patrick Wright hopes he notices one donation of $125 from his Ferret PAC.

Wright, who answers his phone “Ferrets Anonymous,” has been on a mission for 25 years to persuade California’s legislators to legalize ferrets as pets, without success. He hopes Newsom will change that if he is elected governor.

Wright told me: “He accepted the money. Sometimes they return it. I got a nice thank you note.”

Then again, the Newsom campaign has not returned Wright’s calls or responded to his pleading tweets. Wright also approached Republican John Cox, Newsom’s opponent, at a campaign stop at Rudfords Diner in San Diego, and asked for his support:

“He looked at me like I had three eyes.”

State scientists and environmentalists oppose legalizing ferrets, believing they will escape and do what their cousins the weasels do: reproduce and hunt prey, including burrowing birds and other native critters. Although Newsom’s spokesman opted against discussing the topic in any detail, Wright should not count on Newsom reversing that stand.

This story originally appeared in WhatMatters, our daily roundup of the most important policy and politics news in California. Subscribe here.

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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Wealthy charter school advocates spent $22.43 million in a failed independent campaign to get former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa into the runoff for governor, and ended with a debt of $620,782, final campaign finance filings show.

Teachers unions and other labor groups teamed with a few wealthy donors, health insurer Blue Shield and Pacific Gas & Electric, to spend $6.6 million to help the top vote-getter, Democrat Gavin Newsom, campaign finance reports filed earlier this week show.

The pro-Villaraigosa campaign spent $16 million to boost the former LA mayor; $4 million to attack Newsom; and $1.89 million to muddy second-place finisher, Republican John Cox. Villaraigosa placed third, 840,000 votes behind Cox.

The biggest winners: television stations. Canal Partners, a company that purchases airtime, grossed $15.9 million but spent most of that on television ad buys.

This story originally appeared in WhatMatters, our daily roundup of the most important policy and politics news in California. Subscribe here.

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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