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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

May 29, 2018 5:35 pm

Gavin Newsom insists his campaign tactic won’t really cost Democrats the House

Election Reporter
Gavin Newsom campaigning for governor. Photo by Ben Christopher for CALmatters
Gavin Newsom campaigning for governor. Photo by Ben Christopher for CALmatters

Democrat Gavin Newsom is trying to swat away growing complaints that his campaign tactic of boosting Republican rival John Cox could cause collateral damage in autumn: driving up GOP turnout and thereby undermining Democratic efforts to win key California congressional seats necessary for their party to take control of the House of Representatives.

But what would be bad for the Democrats in November is good for frontrunner Newsom now. Only two contenders will advance to the general election after the June 5 primary, and he would prefer to knock out any Democratic contenders who might be tougher for him to beat one-on-one in this blue state.

But Newsom, the lieutenant governor, rejected the suggestion that having Cox, a San Diego-area businessman, on the November ballot would imperil Democratic chances to seize the House.

Just the opposite, he claimed today.

“Isn’t this a moment of opportunity to unite the Democratic Party?” said Newsom, as his sky blue campaign bus made its way through Silicon Valley traffic between San Francisco and San Jose.

He went on to argue that the party would instead benefit from a race “where you can line up a Democratic agenda and support those down-ballot tickets and unite the party…instead of spending resources attacking one another.”

Newsom has taken flak from Democratic gubernatorial candidates Antonio Villaraigosa and Delaine Eastin for giving the Cox campaign an implicit boost. Earlier this month, Team Newsom ran a political ad reminding voters that Cox “stands with Donald Trump and the NRA.” That’s an attack ad that happens to double as a ‘signal boost’ for the conservative businessman with Republican voters.

That Newsom, a progressive Democrat and avowed political foe of President Trump, would favor a Republican with the president’s endorsement, is an odd artifact of California’s “top two” election system. In a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two-to-one, Newsom’s clear preference would be to face a member of the opposite party. “A Republican would be ideal,” he said at a recent debate.

“Cox himself would not be a huge GOP voter draw, but the absence of any Republican candidate at all would probably depress the party’s turnout,” said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College.

And contrary to Newsom’s assertion that a single Democratic candidate would rally progressive voters, Pitney pointed to the 2014 gubernatorial campaign in which Gov. Jerry Brown faced off against Republican Neel Kashkari. “And turnout was a record low,” said Pitney.

Lower turnout among California Republicans in November could have national implications. Democrats need to net only 23 congressional seats to take back political control of the House of Representatives next year. Some of the most heavily contested districts are in California, including seven Republican-held seats highlighted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In other words, political control of Congress—and with it, the fate of President Trump’s future policy agenda and potentially even the likelihood of impeachment proceedings down the road—could be decided by California voters. A lot hinges on who votes and who doesn’t.

Last week, the Villaraigosa campaign filed a complaint with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, arguing that supporters of the Newsom campaign broke state election rules by failing to disclose that they support Cox as well. “This is a man who will justify just about anything that is in his personal political interests,” said Villaraigosa campaign spokesman, Luis Vizcaino, referring to Newsom.

Meanwhile, supporters of the Villaraigosa campaign have been engaged in the opposite strategy of tearing down Cox’s cred with conservative voters. Public polls show Cox and Villaraigosa competing for the second place spot.

“Newsom’s interests clash with those of Democrats down the ballot,” said Pitney. “They want lower GOP turnout, which could tip some key races their way. Newsom wants an opponent whom he could beat without any effort. That’s Cox.”

Cox, of course, would disagree. He spent the day in Fresno holding back-to-back press conference with Republican candidate for attorney general, Steven Bailey. Villaraigosa also spent the day getting out the vote in Fresno, holding a press conference with the city’s police chief and touring a high school.

But neither launched their last week before election day on June 5th with quite as much fanfare as Newsom, who kicked off a statewide bus tour outside his former stomping ground at San Francisco City Hall.

On the first leg, Newsom spoke to reporters for just shy of an hour and a half, where he re-articulated many of the policy positions he has outlined throughout the campaign—from support for single-payer health care to urging a more proactive state role in land use decisions. “Local government has to be incentivized for good behavior and…penalized for bad behavior,” he said. (Here’s a deep dive on where Newsom and his fellow candidates come down on 40 state issues.)

If virtually every public poll is to believed, Newsom is a lock for one of the top two spots next week. Still, he said, “we’re running as if we’re way behind.”

Then again, it’s never too early to start campaigning for November.

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

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Election 2018

Aug. 15, 2018 2:36 pm

McCarthy praises Trump policy over “backwards” California—and is met with protest

Election Reporter
Protesters carry signs that read "Trump Loves 'My Kevin'" and "Kevin McCarthy AKA Trump Puppet!" outside the Sheraton Grand Hotel in downtown Sacramento
Protesters outside the Sheraton Grand Hotel in downtown Sacramento. Photo by Elizabeth Castillo for CALmatters

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy today touted federal policy under the Trump administration, in contrast to what he termed “backwards thinking” coming out of California.

“Once President Trump was elected, it seemed as though California wanted to be in a position to just sue and fight instead of take a pause and listen,” he said.

Speaking at a Sacramento event hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California, McCarthy offered a laundry list of reasons why he and his caucus deserve to be reelected this November. He championed the Republican-led federal tax overhaul, which cut personal and corporate taxes across the board last December. He credited those changes to the tax code for the recent round of rosy economic statistics nationwide. He also called for tighter borders and defended the president on trade policy, predicting agreement on the North American Free Trade agreement “probably sometime within the next month.”

In contrast to federal policy, McCarthy slammed the state of California, leading with his criticism of the recent increase in the gas tax. Last year, state lawmakers hiked taxes on gasoline and diesel and introduced two new vehicle fees to fund more than $5 billion in extra transportation spending per year.

“It’s the backwards thinking between what California is doing and what Washington (is doing),” he said. “Washington lets you keep more of your own money.”

McCarthy, whose district includes Bakersfield, is hoping to replace fellow Republican Paul Ryan as the next Speaker of the House. He’s considered the most likely successor—but only if Republicans maintain their House majority after November’s midterms.

He’s also long maintained a cozy relationship with President Trump, who once called the congressman “my Kevin.” As CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall wrote in her profile of the congressman last year, he has served as Congressional Republicans’ Trump-whisperer throughout the president’s tumultuous first term, “charged with shepherding the president’s legislative agenda.”

“No politician has more clout with the Trump White House than he does,” she wrote.

This November, voters will be given the chance to repeal that increase in the gas tax, with its business and labor defenders arguing that it’s necessary to maintain the state’s crumbling roads and highways, but Republicans hoping to channel opposition to boost GOP turnout.

McCarthy also lambasted plans to implement a single-payer health insurance system, either in California or nationwide. He called the state’s vehicle emission standards, which the Trump administration recently challenged, “impossible to reach” and predicted that whoever becomes the next governor of California will be forced to cancel the high-speed rail project, which is now estimated to cost up to $98 billion. Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox has promised to do just that if elected.

The interview was interrupted for several minutes by immigration activists chanting “McCarthy, where’s your heart?”

Angela Hart on Twitter

@GOPLeader being shouted at by protesters.

After the banner-toting activists were ushered from the room, McCarthy bemoaned what he sees as the demise of civility in our national discourse—an erosion for which many hold Trump responsible.

“Why can’t we sit down and communicate with one another?” McCarthy asked. “Why do we have to be so divided?”

Elizabeth Castillo contributed to this story.

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

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Election 2018

Aug. 14, 2018 3:43 pm

Prop. 13 could be partly undone in 2020—here’s what you should know

Data and Housing Reporter
A fight may be coming over whether to tax commercial and residential properties differently.

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,, (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,, (916) 201.6281.

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