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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 16, 2018 4:13 pm

Retro-Republican from a pre-Trump era: John Cox in second place, for now

Election Reporter
Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, photo by Judy Lin for CALmatters
Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, photo by Judy Lin for CALmatters

John Cox wants to slash the California income tax—abolish it, if possible. Maybe you disagree, but he thinks he can convince you.

“I don’t know why Texas and Florida have no income taxes and we do,” he said, during a recent conversation at CALmatters. “Texas, you know, is growing. Florida is growing. They’re getting tons of businesses and tons of people moving there that we could use here in California.”

As the leading Republican candidate for governor, he’s got other big ideas for reform—bold and seemingly far-fetched in California’s current political climate. He wants to revamp the Legislature by dividing the state into 12,000 neighborhood-sized districts, which he insists will take the corrosive influence of monied special interests out of politics.

He also wants to give education vouchers to private school students and enable more home schooling.

How should the state solve its housing shortage? Cut environmental regulations, he said. What about the plight of mentally ill homeless? Charities and non-profits can and will lead the way, not the state. What book should every Californian read? No surprise there: “Free to Choose” by the libertarian economist, Milton Friedman.

Cox hails from a school of conservatism, marked by a bright-eyed confidence in the power of unregulated markets to lift all boats, that almost feels like a throwback in the Trump era.

In fact, Cox didn’t support the president in 2016, voting instead for the Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson. That’s a fact that Cox’s Republican competitor in the race, Assemblyman Travis Allen from Huntington Beach, is constantly reminding voters. Cox says he regrets that decision now, but he clearly draws his cues from an older strain of Republican: President Ronald Reagan and the football player-turned-supply side loving congressman Jack Kemp. Cox sat on Kemp’s national steering committee when he ran for president in the late 1980s and often introduces himself on the campaign trail a “Jack Kemp conservative.” The resemblance is clear. Like Kemp, Cox seems earnest, cheerful and he’s unflinchingly optimistic that in the end, the right ideas—namely, his—will win the day.

You’d have to be optimistic to run for governor of California as a conservative Republican in 2018. But Cox—who has lost previous bids to be elected to Congress, the U.S. Senate and the White House—says he’s already planning his first term in Sacramento.

“There’s a lot of mismanagement and a lot of improvements I could make,” he said. “I’m going to have fun turning around this state.”

A Republican hasn’t been elected to statewide office in California since 2006. Registered independents may soon outnumber registered Republicans. The president is historically unpopular and the Democratic base is riled up. But Cox has never been discouraged by long odds. In his native Illinois, he ran for Congress and came in fifth in the Republican primary. Then he ran for Senate in 2002 and 2004, losing twice. In 2008, when he ran for President on a promise to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, he wasn’t even invited to any of the presidential debates.

Now the deep-pocketed businessman is running again, and has done surprisingly well up to now: The most recent polls show Cox in second-place behind Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. But the guy in third place, Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, just got a huge political lift—charter school backers intend to pour more than $8 million into his effort to bump off Cox and secure one of the top-two slots that will put him on the November ballot.

Granted, Californians split across six candidates—four Democrats and two Republicans—Cox was able to pull into the number two spot with only 15 percent of the likely vote. Maybe that modest success is due to Cox’s ability to spend more than many of his opponents. Maybe it’s because he’s the conservative in the race who isn’t Allen, a firebrand who has built his campaign around his support of President Trump and his opposition to illegal immigration. Cox has his own explanation.

At the meeting, Cox told a story of how he had struck up a conversation with an airport security guard that morning. After telling him about his plans to cut taxes and regulations, Cox said, he won the TSA agent’s support on the spot. “The woman in front of him in line heard this whole discussion and she said the same thing!” he said. “People just want something to change.”

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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