Good morning, California.

“The one key piece of advice I got from the governor is, ‘Don’t touch the bear.’” — Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, outside Gov. Jerry Brown’s office Tuesday.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger bought the 800-pound bronze grizzly in Aspen and placed it at the door to the governor’s office. California Highway Patrol officers named the statue Bacteria Bear because of all the school children who pet it on field trips to the Capitol.

Camp Fire’s deadly toll rises

University of Nevada, Reno, archaeologists scour rubble for Camp Fire victims.

The terrible numbers: The human toll in Northern California’s Camp Fire reached 48 dead, with hundreds unaccounted for Tuesday. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said bodies were found in homes, outside their homes and in cars.

  • The city of Paradise, with a population of 26,000, has a single, two-lane road leading out of it.

Gov. Jerry Brown, at a press conference Tuesday: “This is unprecedented, what I call the new abnormal. The winds are faster. The temperatures are hotter. The soil and vegetation is drier. This is unprecedented.”

And devastating, for all Golden State walks of life.

Angela Loo, whose 63-year-old, disabled father perished in the Camp Fire: “They were basically trapped. My dad is a big guy. My stepbrother is a big guy. From some miracle he got him into a wheelchair and to the van, and that’s where they found him.”

Phil John, chairman of the Paradise Ridge Fire Safe Council: “There’s just no way to prepare for what happened. Unless you had some kind foresight to say there’s going to be a big fire and it’s going to jump the creek and it’s going to burn down the whole town.”

Rachel Bailey, whose four-bedroom Westlake Village home was destroyed by the Woolsey Fire: “We lost everything. This street just got annihilated.”

Neil Young, on the rock star’s web site: “We are up against something bigger than we have ever seen. It’s too big for some to see at all. Firefighters have never seen anything like this in their lives. I have heard that said countless times in the past two days, and I have lost my home before to a California fire, now another.”

Please see CALmatters fire tracker for more details.


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And then there were 10

Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, upset by Josh Harder

First-time Democratic candidate Josh Harder has upset San Joaquin Valley Republican Congressman Jeff Denham, who had pushed for an immigration law overhaul but failed to gain support among ever more hardline Republicans.

The Associated Press declared Harder the winner Tuesday as vote tallying continued. Denham’s loss means Republicans have lost at least four congressional seats in California and will emerge with no more than 10 of the state’s 53 congressional seats.

The race included themes that played out in congressional contests nationally:

  • An emphasis on the Affordable Care Act rather than Trump in Harder’s television ads, which pointed out that Denham voted to repeal Obamacare.
  • Huge sums raised for Democrats, $7 million for Harder to Denham’s $4.4 million.
  • Massive spending by outside groups, another $14 million for and against the candidates.
  • TV ads by national Republican groups slamming Harder as a “San Francisco liberal” and a pawn of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Democratic victory against Denham also is a testament to the power of on-the-ground organizing. Democrats and organized labor targeted Denham’s seat and deployed volunteers to knock on voters’ doors more than a year ago, and continued through Election Day

Denham, an Air Force veteran and a farmer, served eight years in the state Senate before winning a congressional seat in the Republican wave of 2010. Denham promised to battle any state efforts to curtail water deliveries to farmers.

Trump effect: President Donald Trump made a show of his support by appearing in Arizona with Denham a few days before the election to sign an order promising more water for the Central Valley.


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Orange County is about to turn blue

Statue of John Wayne at OC's airport, erected in more conservative days.

A leading Republican strategist predicted Tuesday that two undecided congressional races in Orange County will flip to Democratic hands, leaving what was once the center of Republican power in California without a congressional representative.

Consultant Mike Madrid said that if election results go as he suspects, it will show that “Republicans have had enough of this party.” He made the statements after former Assembly GOP leader Kristin Olsen wrote a commentary for CALmatters saying the California Republican Party is essentially dead.

  • Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters of Laguna Beach was trailing Democratic law professor Katie Porter by 261 votes as the count continued Tuesday.
  • Republican Young Kim of Fullerton clung to an 839-vote lead over Democrat Gil Cisneros. Kim and Walters both led by significant margins on election night.

If they manage to win in 2018, Madrid said, they will almost surely lose in 2020.

  • Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a 30-year veteran of Congress, already lost to first-time Democratic candidate Harley Rouda, and Democrat Mike Levin defeated Republican Diane Harkey in a San Diego-Orange County seat held by outgoing Republican Congressman Darrell Issa.

Madrid cited several reasons for the Republican losses:

  • GOP emphasis on the border wall in an increasingly diverse, Latino and urban county.
  • Party leaders’ turn toward nationalism rather than conservatism, despite a globally connected electorate.
  • The embrace of President Donald Trump by Republican candidates fearing the fury of his base.

Madrid: “It is clear that Trumpism is a losing proposition. You are going to see more Republicans coming out saying we made a terrible mistake.”

A congresswoman’s ‘unexpected family matter’

U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez

Democratic Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, having easily won reelection, was set to ascend further into leadership until her lobbyist husband was indicted on charges of misusing federal funds to, among other things, fly Sanchez to the Kentucky Derby in 2013 and 2014.

  • Sanchez’s husband, James Sullivan, was indicted two days after Election Day on charges of misusing federal funds while serving on a Connecticut utility’s board. Sullivan lobbies on behalf of energy clients in Washington, D.C.

The Norwich Bulletin, a 10,000-circulation newspaper in Connecticut, began reporting on the board’s misuse of public funds in 2016, as Linda Sanchez’s sister, then-Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of Orange County, was running against U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris to fill Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat.

  • Linda Sanchez was ranking member of the House Ethics Committee when she traveled to the Kentucky Derby at a cost of $13,511 in 2013 and $15,807 in 2014, plus an additional $712 for a flight to Florida. Sanchez, a labor lawyer who represents Whittier, is not accused of wrongdoing.

But she has dropped her candidacy for the fourth highest post in Democratic congressional leadership, citing an “unexpected family matter requiring my attention, ” The Los Angeles Times reported last week. 

Newsom transition watch

Jason Kinney, a long-time adviser to Gavin Newsom and consultant to Senate Democrats, has left his advocacy firm, California Strategies, deregistered as a lobbyist and has a new gig, The Sacramento Bee’s Alexei Koseff writes.

The Bee: Kinney, a former speech writer to Gov. Gray Davis, is helping newly-appointed chief of staff Ann O’Leary lead the transition for the incoming administration.

Kinney, The Bee also noted, registered as a lobbyist five years ago, after he was fined $12,000 by California’s political ethics watchdog agency for trying to influence state government decisions without registering as a lobbyist.

Commentary at CALmatters

Former Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen

Kristin Olsen, former Assembly Republican Leader: The California Republican Party isn’t salvageable at this time. The Grand Old Party is dead—partly because it has failed to separate itself from today’s toxic, national brand of Republican politics.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Californians—most of us, anyway—loathe President Donald Trump, and the state’s voters punished him this month by flipping as many as half of its Republican-held congressional districts. Donald Trump feels the same way about California and with the votes still being counted, he lashed back by blaming two horrendous post-election wildfires on state mismanagement of forests.

Mayors to discuss California Dream

Four big-city California leaders—San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg—discuss California’s crisis in homelessness and housing on Friday in Sacramento. CALmatters Laurel Rosenhall will moderate the panel. It’s part of CALmatters’ California Dream project done in collaboration with public radio. For event details and registration, please click here.

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected], 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.