Good morning, California. 

Matt Levin again, filling in for Dan on back-to-back days. They say the presidency ages you faster than any other job. They’re wrongI started writing this newsletter yesterday in my early 30s, and today I’m eligible for Social Security.

“I wish him the best in his new position.”Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, Republican from Rocklin, conceding the race for a state Senate seat in a Facebook post to fellow Assemblyman Brian Dahle, Republican from Bieber. Dahle beat Kiley by about 8,000 votes after a bitter campaign in which Dahle’s side sent voters a mailer with an edited photo of Kiley next to Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris.


Dems split on "electability" in 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders lost the state's Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

If you’ve been following the Democratic presidential primarywhether voluntarily or through cable news osmosisyou may have noticed one adjective has taken pole position among 2020 political buzzwords: Electability. 

  • The term is nothing new (check out this 2008 clip from The Colbert Report for a trip down “electability” memory lane).
  • Primary voters in both parties have long struggled with the choice between the candidate who pulls at their ideological heartstrings and the more moderate nominee with conceivably broader appeal in November.

Because lawmakers pushed up California’s primary date to March, the state’s Democrats (and some independents) will finally have a chance to confront the head-versus-heart dilemma when it mattersearly in primary season. New polling suggests “head” is…well…slightly ahead.

  • A new poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California finds that 48% of likely Democratic primary voters would prefer a candidate more likely to beat President Trump than a candidate who holds political views more in line with their own.
  • Forty-two percent say they’d want the nominee who reflects their own positions over the better shot at Trump.

Unsurprisingly, there’s an age divide, with older, blue-leaning Californians tending toward “realpolitik.”

But it’s not as if younger primary voters are completely shunning the importance of electability.

  • Among those ages 18 to 44, 43% say beating Trump is more important than choosing a candidate with similar political stances.

Pro-socialism shout-downs at state party conventions aside, the poll suggests that California Democrats’ national reputation as the progressive vanguard of the party may not rule out more moderate nominees (the poll did not ask about specific candidates).

  • Remember: In both 2008 and 2016, California primary voters opted for “establishment” candidate Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders.



FSB Core Strategies: Public Affairs. Ballot Campaigns. Legislative & Regulatory Fights

Voters: Fix the housing crisis

A poll suggests voters want to abandon "local control" over housing decisions.

Another interesting finding from the PPIC poll: A majority of California voters want state lawmakers to take aggressive steps to address an ever-worsening housing crisis, even if that means overriding uncooperative local governments. 

And given the state Legislature’s recent track record, they’re probably in for a disappointment, writes CALmatters’ Ben Christopher.

The survey’s finding:

  • 57% of likely voters support forcing local governments to allow denser development near mass transit and job centers.
  • 53% support a proposal by Gov. Gavin Newsom to require local governments to approve a certain amount of new housing before getting additional funds from a recent gas tax increase.

Decisions about where homes are built and under what conditionshave traditionally been made by local governments in California. But with housing costs at crisis levels, the principle of “local control” seems to be falling out of favor.

That probably comes as unwelcome news to many state legislators. 

  • Last month, a bill that would require cities to allow denser development was put on ice in a key Senate committee.
  • Meanwhile, the governor’s housing-for-transit cash idea has gotten a chilly reception from many lawmakers.  

Matthew Lewis, a spokesman for California YIMBY, which supports more housing development in the state’s cities: “At some point, someone is going to have to (ask) the question: Is it our political leaders who are wrong about the housing crisis or is it the majority of Californians?”


Tariffs: A ‘Molotov cocktail of policy’

California grape growers are feeling the pinch from President Trump's China tariffs.

At the same time Republicans in Washington are threatening to block President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Mexico, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is counting the wounds inflicted on California by the White House’s “Molotov cocktail of policy.” 

Kounalakis, who is Gov. Gavin Newsom’s point person on trade, says the Trump administration’s tariffs on China have been deeply disruptive and costly to California’s $323 billion export market.

  • The dollar volume of shipments to China declined 14% during the first three months of 2019 compared with last year at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s largest container port complex.
  • And last year, California’s wine exports to China fell nearly 25%. Kounalakis says the Chinese simply bought more wine from Chile and Australia instead.

If Trump has his way with tariffs on Mexico, the former ambassador to Hungary warns it will launch an all-out trade war that puts the state and national economy at risk.

Kounalakis, testifying on tariffs in the Capitol: “The actions that are being taken by the federal government related to trade are seriously impacting us…and if California’s economy is negatively impacted, the rest of the country will be negatively impacted.  It doesn’t make any rational sense. It’s self harm.”


Health care for the undocumented

A rally in L.A. to expand Medi-Cal eligibility to undocumented young adults

Efforts to extend state-funded health care to low-income undocumented immigrants are not new in California, but this year they stand a realistic chance of happening, writes CALmatters health reporter Elizabeth Aguilera.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Assembly each have backed budget proposals to expand Medi-Cal to undocumented young adults 19 to 25 years old.
  • The Senate’s proposed budget goes further, and would offer Medi-Cal to young adults and also to undocumented seniors 65 and older.

If any of the proposals become law, California would be the first state in the nation to offer such coverage.

  • Estimated cost of the Medi-Cal expansion to undocumented young adults: $96.1 million in the first year.
  • The state expects that some 90,000 undocumented young adults would gain coverage

Advocates would like to see all low-income undocumented immigrants gain coverage, but starting with young adults is a critical first step.

  • Supporters say it’s about time the state begins offering coverage because it’s the humane thing to do.
  • Critics point out the additional cost and say it would be an incentive for more illegal migration to California.

Budget boost for governor's office

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants $700,000 for the office of First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

Gov. Gavin  Newsom is requesting a 22% hike for his own office budget, report Sophia Bollag and Ryan Sabalow in the Sacramento Bee.

  • Newsom has taken a much different approach to staffing the “horseshoe” than his predecessor, the famously frugal Jerry Brown.
  • The self-described fan of “big, hairy audacious goals” has created multiple new senior advisory positions on policies ranging from child care to wildfires.

If approved by the Legislature, the budget will increase from $20 million to $24.5 million.

  • $700,000 of that would go to the new Office of the First Partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. That office will have seven positions under Newsom’s proposal.

Newsom’s request would bring the governor’s office staffing roughly back to the size it was under former Gov.  Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  • Schwarzengger had 202 staff positions in the last year of his term, report Bollag and Sabalow. Brown cut that to 108.

Commentary at CALmatters

Lois Capps, former congresswoman from Santa Barbara: Over 40 years of evidence shows that Nurse-Family Partnership reduces preterm birth, improves child health and school readiness, and reduces child abuse and juvenile crime. In addition, there are cost savings on medical care, child welfare, special education and criminal justice.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Midway through the legislative session, there’s no discernible progress on solving California’s housing crisis.

Thomas Umberg, state Senator from Orange County, and Robin Umberg, retired Brigadier general: President Donald Trump’s presence at D-Day ceremonies will remind the world that he disdains NATO and insults our coalition partners, while at the same time extolling the virtues of the dictators who lead our enemies. The president shouldn’t go to Normandy.

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.