Good morning, California.

“Has he endorsed her? No. No one on our team knew these were going out,” Dana Williamson, consultant to Gov. Jerry Brown, said of Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s campaign mailers suggesting Brown endorsed the Bell Gardens Democrat. Garcia is running for reelection, but is on leave pending an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against her.

Newsom’s wish: A Republican opponent 

Six major candidates for governor appeared in a statewide televised debate Tuesday night. The questions: did any candidate break out in a way that might alter the dynamics? Were enough voters tuned in?

The four Democrats supported the 12-cent per gallon gasoline tax for road repairs and promised to fight Donald Trump at every turn. The two Republicans took the opposite view.

CALmatters’ Ben Christoper was in San Jose for the main event: No one managed to score a breakout moment.

Most interesting question: Workplace automation. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom called it a defining issue.

Housing dominated early questioning, a reflection of the crisis California faces. Candidates predictably urged more construction.

Best in show: Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, the Democrat with the least funding, showed the most passion. She called for more spending on education and universal preschool, and made clear the obvious, that she was the one woman on the stage.

Not best: Democratic Treasurer John Chiang came off as earnest while he tried to jumpstart his lagging campaign by attacking Newsom. Villaraigosa seemed subdued, firing no zingers at any of his opponents.

The format: A function of California’s top-two primary in which the top vote getters in the June 5 primary will face one another in November, regardless of their party.

The fight: Polls show Newsom is the front-runner. But who will come in second: one of the two Republicans, San Diego businessman John Cox or Orange County Assemblyman Travis Allen, or one of three other Democrats?

Newsom got points for honesty by responding to a question from NBC’s Chuck Todd: he’d be delighted to face either Allen or Cox. They’d have a tough time winning in heavily Democratic California.


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 George Deukmejian, 1928-2018

Gov. George Deukmejian, who died Tuesday at 89, built his career by advocating for the death penalty and campaigning to unseat liberal Supreme Court justices appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

But the two-term governor broke with many fellow Republicans by signing a bill banning assault weapons after a shooting at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton in 1989.

His most lasting mark occurred in 1986 when he forced the University of California and state pension funds to divest from South Africa. In 1990, the late South African leader Nelson Mandela later came to Oakland and praised California for helping to end apartheid.

Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown told me it would not have happened without Deukmejian. “The Republican Party nationally and statewide never had any control over George. George always did what he thought was in the best interest of people.”

On the day he signed the bill requiring divestment, Deukmejian said: “We all ought to ask ourselves the question as I have done: How would we feel if our rights and if our individual freedoms were denied and the rest of the world turned its back on us?”

California’s ‘progressive’ tax system

Californians’ overall tax burden is 10th  highest in the nation. The richest among us pay by far the most in taxes to the state. Poor people pay a significant chunk of their income in taxes. And families in the market for new homes ultimately pay for highest-in-the-nation fees on developers. That’s an unintended consequence of Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that cut property taxes. CALmatters’ Judy Lin compiled all that and much more in our background piece on taxation.

A vote for the Delta tunnels

The Santa Clara Valley Water District narrowly approved spending $650 million for its portion of a $17 billion plan to bore twin tunnels 30 miles across the Sacramento River Delta.

So what: The vote was noteworthy, given vocal opposition from some Bay Area environmentalists. But it’s hardly the final word.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California earlier agreed to spend $10.8 billion on the project. But other water districts have not taken final votes and the state has not issued the permits necessary for it to proceed.

Fraught politics: Delta interests say the project would wreck the Delta ecosystem and destroy fisheries. Backers say the project is needed as sea level rises to ensure water reliability and will help to improve the environment. Gov. Jerry Brown is the project’s most prominent advocate, but his time in office is ending. At best, his replacement will be unenthusiastic about the undertaking.

Billionaire Soros’ latest campaign

Despite living in New York, billionaire George Soros has spent no less than $3 million since 2000 on California initiatives that liberalized penalties for drug and property crimes.

Now, Soros is taking aim at county prosecutors, spending $1.5 million on an independent campaign to unseat San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, and hundreds of thousands more to defeat incumbent district attorneys in Alameda and Sacramento counties.

Why: The California District Attorneys Association generally opposes efforts in the Legislature and on the ballot to reduce penalties. Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, of the ACLU in San Diego, called campaigns against local prosecutors “the next step” in overhauling the criminal justice system. It’s inspired in part by the Black Lives Matter movement, and by district attorneys who have declined to prosecute police officers in excessive use of force cases, she said.

Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten, past president of the California District Attorneys Association: “[Soros] has a radical agenda that favors criminals to the distinct disadvantage to crime victims and law enforcement. He is trying to buy the offices of district attorney.”

Long term: For Soros, it’s smart to help liberals win district attorney seats; it gives them a ready made platform for higher office. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, for one, started as San Francisco district attorney.

The world’s 5th largest economy

In his latest commentary, CALmatters’ Dan Walters goes beyond the headline that California is now the world’s fifth largest economy to provide a  history and context. The growth in the health industry has propelled the economy, thanks to huge injections of Obamacare funds. More than a third of the state’s population is on Medi-Cal, the state program for low-income people.

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