Good morning, California.

“There is nothing mysterious about San Francisco’s export of high-profile politicians, nothing like the alchemy of air and water that produces the distinctive tang of its signature sourdough bread. Simply put, it’s fierce competition … ” — Mark Z. Barabak, LA Times, 2015.

GOP thinks gas tax repeal is a winning issue. Is it?

California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte

Perhaps the Republicans’ biggest success Tuesday was recalling Orange County Democratic Sen. Josh Newman over his vote to raise the gasoline tax by 12 cents a gallon to pay for road and bridge repairs.

Heading into November, Republicans intend to hammer Democrats over that tax by promoting an initiative to repeal it.

“People who supported the gas tax [increase] are going to have a lot of explaining to do,” California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte told CALmatters Ben Christopher.

On Wednesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom made clear he will help defeat the gas tax repeal, as quoted by KQED:

“It’s the right thing to do. You know it’s $5 billion a year. It’s one of the biggest complaints I get is infrastructure and the state roads and bridges that are falling apart. And if we want to repeal it, then it’s going to cost our infrastructure.”

Campaigns aren’t free: Who’s going to pay for the repeal initiative? Oil companies? If they do, they’d be handing Newsom, Democrats and environmentalists a ready-made issue. Recall the 2010  initiative to roll back the California law regulating greenhouse gas emissions? Energy companies funded it and lost in a landslide.

Businesses want better roads, as the California Chamber of Commerce made clear when it announced its opposition to the initiative:

“California’s freeways and major thoroughfares are among the most congested in the nation, and Californians spend too much time stuck in traffic away from family and work. This measure would stop projects that will reduce traffic congestion.”

Expect big spending to fight the repeal by building trades unions, construction companies, and others frustrated by California’s rutted roads. Gov. Jerry Brown, who pushed for the gas tax, has almost $15 million in his campaign account.


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A focus on education

On the first day of the general election campaign, the two Democrats running for superintendent of public instruction said the burning issue in their race has little to do with charter public schools.

Remind me: Charter schools operate with fewer regulations than traditional public schools and generally are nonunion. Their advocates believe the added flexibility allows for better education.

Big bucks: Charter school advocates spent $8 million to make certain that Marshall Tuck, who has worked for and promoted charter schools, got one of the top two spots in the primary.

Public school unions, which oppose charters, spent $3.5 million to ensure a place for Assemblyman Tony Thurmond in the fall campaign. Tuck led in the latest vote tally, 1.3 million to 1.2 million.

“We have a teacher shortage we should be talking about. We aren’t preparing young people for careers in technology, and we should be talking about that. I wish those people who spent millions against me would have spent that money on making public education better,” Thurmond told CALmatters’ Jessica Calefati.

Tuck: “The charter question doesn’t come up with my audiences the way it does in the media. Voters care that California’s schools aren’t serving kids well. They’re concerned about base funding levels. Not about this.”What’s ahead:

Wealthy charter school advocates spent $20-plus million trying to get Antonio Villaraigosa into the run-off for governor against Gavin Newsom. They failed. Newsom will face Republican John Cox. Governors have far more sway over education policy than do superintendents of public instruction. But with Villaraigosa out, charter school advocates will focus on the Tuck-Thurmond race.

Quick takes on the June primary

CALmatters’ staff offer take-aways from the primary based on reporting and conversations with wise people: Trump matters. Money can’t buy love in the form of  votes. Republicans didn’t fare well in the top-two primary. Democrats’ supermajority is toast. Ambitious lawmakers might think twice about taking tough votes, unless they come to Sacramento to do what’s right, not build a career. There’s more here.

Why get involved in politics

Ever wonder what drives people to get into politics? Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox cited his involvement with his church and charities. “I’ve never not been involved,” he said. Democrat Gavin Newsom cited volunteering he on campaigns, for various causes and an internship with Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy, who held the office in the 1980s and 1990s.

CALmatters’ Byrhonda Lyons compiled their answers in this video.

A tough parole case returns

The troubling case of David Weidert, serving a life sentence for an awful murder in 1980 in Fresno, is back before Gov. Jerry Brown.

Three years ago, Brown overturned a parole board decision to release Weidert, who beat, stabbed, choked and suffocated a young developmentally disabled man by burying him alive.

The victim, Michael Morganti, who was 20, had witnessed Weidert commit a burglary, and was forced to dig his own grave.

In March, the parole board again recommended Weidert’s release. Board members noted that Weidert was 18 at the time of the crime and cited science saying teenagers’ are prone to act on impulse. Weidert, now 55, hasn’t been disciplined for 31 years, and has exhibited “positive behavior for a lengthy period,” the board said.

“People can be rehabilitated; this isn’t one of them. I’m scared for the public, and I’m scared for my family,” Morganti’s sister, Vicki Van Duyne, told KFSN in Fresno, again urging that Brown reject Weidert’s release.

Brown’s record: Since taking office in 2011, Brown has pardoned more than 1,100 inmates, far more than any governor before him, and has commuted more sentences than any governor other than his father, Pat Brown. Brown won’t consider the matter until July.

History: In 1977, Brown appointed Rose Bird as California Supreme Court chief justice. In 1981, Weidert was sentenced to life in prison without parole. In 1985, Bird wrote the decision overturning that sentence in 1985, reducing it to life with the possibility of parole. Voter ousted Bird the following year.

Walters: On primary election, 2018

CALmatters’ Dan Walters, commenting on the primary, writes that Republicans showed more strength than expected, given that, in 2016, Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in seven congressional districts on the Democrats’ target list. It may still be difficult for Democrats to make big congressional gains in California, he writes.

If that happens, Gavin Newsom will have to share some of the blame.

Please email or call with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected], 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.