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California Election 2018: Updates and Analysis

California Election 2018: Updates and Analysis

June 1, 2018

GOP now at number 3

Gubernatorial candidate Amanda Renteria

Most of the Democrats running for governor of California are hard to miss at the state party’s convention this weekend in San Diego. Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, John Chiang and Delaine Eastin are roaming the convention center, making speeches to delegates and—whether signing autographs or being booed—facing crowds of supporters and detractors at every turn.

Not so with Amanda Renteria, the political director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run, who announced her longshot campaign for governor earlier this month. Renteria is at the convention but keeping a relatively low profile. She’s not addressing delegates because she got in the race too late to have her name included on their endorsement ballot.

“We are doing it differently,” Renteria said in a brief interview with CALmatters.

“The normal, traditional ‘Did you get this endorsement? Did you raise $10 million? Are you poll-tested?’… Those are the kinds of things we are just not going to do. In fact, I believe they have eroded the authenticity of people running.”

Renteria, who grew up near Fresno, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014 when she challenged Republican Rep. David Valadao for his seat representing the Central Valley. Renteria now lives in Menlo Park with her husband and two young children. She recently stepped down from her job as operations chief to Attorney General Xavier Becerra to launch her gubernatorial campaign, a move that shocked the political establishment.

Renteria said she’d been thinking about running for governor since November but decided to go for it in January after sitting through a debate among the Democratic candidates in which Newsom and Villaraigosa attacked each other over their business ventures.

“It was the debate of who used what more to get rich,” Renteria said.

“I’m sitting there in the crowd with a lot of college students … and there was a piece of me that wanted to jump up and say, ‘Wait, this is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be about how you’re going to enrich yourself. It’s supposed to be about serving others.'”

Renteria said she wanted to focus on poverty and income inequality, but offered no policy specifics on the subject. Instead, she said she wants voters to get to know her first.

“It is also important for political leaders not to just put forth policies but to make sure we’re actually working with people to understand what their needs are,” she said.

“A lot of people criticized the Hillary campaign for having all these policies—and we had some really great policies—but if you’re not actually connecting them to folks, I think it’s hard for people to understand how they’re involved or to be a part of it.”

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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Two years from now, California voters may have a chance to touch the third rail of state politics.

A coalition of good-government groups, social justice organizations, affordable housing advocates and teachers unions held press conferences across the state today announcing they had submitted signatures for a measure that would significantly increase property taxes on California businesses and generates tens of billions in revenue for local and state governments. If it qualifies for the 2020 ballot—which it likely will—it would mark the first time in decades that voters would have a chance to change a key provision in Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 ballot measure that placed stringent caps on California property taxes, making them some of the lowest in the country for both residential and commercial property.

What would this initiative actually do? 

California treats commercial and residential property almost identically when it comes to taxes.  In most cases, Prop. 13 allows properties to be reassessed for tax purposes only when they are sold to a new buyer. That means that a homeowner and the Target down the street (assuming Target owns that land) pay taxes on the value of the property when they acquired it, not at its current market value. That’s a huge discount for both homeowners and businesses, especially those who bought property a long time ago in a pricey area.

This initiative would treat California commercial property different than residential property, a concept in the Prop 13 wonk world known as “split roll.” Under the proposal, businesses would have their properties reassessed to market values every three years or less. Nothing would change for residential properties—the most untouchable part of Prop. 13. Commercial properties would still be taxed at 1 percent of their value.

Who’s behind it, and what do they want? 

Backers include good-government groups like the League of Women Voters, social justice groups like the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and some prominent state and local teachers’ unions. Big money has come from Bay Area philanthropic organizations such as the San Francisco Foundation and the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (yes, that Zuckerberg). The California Teachers’ Association, one of the most powerful labor unions in the state, has not endorsed the initiative.

More than anything else, proponents want the revenue that would be generated from “split roll.” Prop. 13 has long been criticized for starving local governments by denying them a steady revenue source. Proponents estimate that altering this part of Prop. 13 would provide $11.4 billion annually for state and local governments, with about $4.5 billion going to schools.

Who opposes it, and why? 

The California business community writ large, including organizations like the California Chamber of Commerce and anti-tax groups like the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. They argue that at best, increased property taxes would simply be passed on to consumers, and at worst, businesses would reduce employment or shut their doors entirely and flee to other states. The cost of doing business in California is already high—this would make it even more difficult to squeeze a profit.

This won’t be on the ballot for 2 years—why should I care now? 

Because even though you may not be voting on this until 2020, the political repercussions start now. Changing Prop. 13 is still an uphill fight—one that dissuaded advocates from their initial plan to place the initiative on this fall’s ballot. But the pro-split roll camp can proudly boast that they collected 800,000 signatures, and received a big bankroll to do so. A recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found that 54 percent of Californians said they would support the measure.  The core of Prop. 13—property tax initiatives for homeowners—is obviously a much tougher fight than targeting commercial properties.

The prospect of split roll on the 2020 ballot could also induce legislative action at the Capitol.  Leading gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom has voiced lukewarm support for the concept, but has repeatedly stated that Prop. 13 reform should be part of a “broader conversation on tax reform in the state.” With both legislators and special interests eager to avoid a costly battle at the ballot box, the initiative could spur action for a broader compromise well before voters get a chance to weigh in.

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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