Good morning, California.

“Gavin is future-facing, like California. He’s almost from central casting. Like a tech entrepreneur, he’ll test ideas and fail forward—he’ll adapt to whatever happens.” —L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Gavin Newsom in the New Yorker, of course.

Why spend $8.6 million on one state Senate race?

Oil is spending big in a San Gabriel Valley Senate race.

A state Senate race between two Democrats in the San Gabriel Valley apparently will end up as California’s costliest legislative campaign of 2018, at $8.6 million.

Led by $3.1 million from oil companies, businesses have lined up behind Baldwin Park City Councilwoman Susan Rubio, a schoolteacher. Organized Labor and environmentalists are backing Mike Eng, a former assemblyman from Monterey Park.

Why so much: Moneyed interests believe that while the Assembly could become more liberal in 2019, the state Senate could become somewhat more moderate on business-related issues.

Democrats probably will emerge from Tuesday’s voting with 26 or 27 members in the 40-seat Senate. But a half-dozen or so Senate Democrats are less liberal than the others. That makes the Rubio-Eng race pivotal.

Mike Young, political director for the California League of Conservation Voters: “It is not a small Senate seat. It has to do with how close the Senate is. … One vote matters a lot.”

Marty Wilson, who oversees the California Chamber of Commerce’s campaign efforts: “There are never guarantees, but we believe we stand to have a much better working relationship with Susan Rubio than Mike Eng.”

It’s all relative. Few legislators have a more liberal voting record than Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat. But Atkins is seen as more collaborative than her predecessor, termed-out Sen. Kevin de León of Los Angeles.

P.S. Rubio said she views herself as a “good Democrat” who is “reasonable and balanced.”


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Stumping for votes, handing out candy

Gavin Newsom dressed as Batman in Sacramento.

Gavin Newsom, running for governor, stepped off his campaign bus in Sacramento on Halloween morning carrying a bucket of candy and wearing a Batman costume.

Newsom: “The things we do for votes. Unbelievable.”

Not that he’s taking anything for granted, but the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll shows Newsom leading Republican John Cox 57.5-40.4 percent. Newsom’s lead is especially noteworthy among:

  • College-educated women, 73.6-25 percent.
  • Latinos in homes where English is the dominant language, 62.4-36.8 percent
  • Latinos in homes where Spanish is spoken, 90-6.9 percent.
  • Voters between the ages of 18 and 29, 62-37.9 percent.

Cox led Newsom among non-college-educated whites, 57-41.6 percent. President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Cox, has similar numbers in California. None of those numbers bode well for California Republicans.

Medi-Cal’s $4 billion problem

California’s Department of Health Care Services paid $383,000 in health insurance premiums for a person who died in December 2013. The state might still be shelling out money if the state auditor had not informed the department in August of the individual’s demise.

State Auditor Elaine Howell’s staff found another instance in which Health Care Services paid $6 million over more than two years to care for a person who might not have been eligible.

The audit: “Health Care Services paid at least $4 billion in questionable Medi‑Cal payments from 2014 through 2017 because it failed to ensure that it was providing benefits only to eligible beneficiaries.”

An earlier audit found that 93,000 people receiving Medi‑Cal as of June 2017 had Social Security numbers that hadn’t been verified or were otherwise ineligible. Recipients could have earned too much money (more than $16,754 a year for a single adult) or provided incorrect Social Security numbers. Undocumented immigrant adults are not eligible for Medi-Cal.

Why this matters: Cost.

California pays $20 billion-plus a year for Medi-Cal, which covers a third of the state’s people. It’s one of fastest-rising parts of the budget and will rise more as federal payments decrease.

P.S. Health Care Services is asking the health care provider to reimburse the $383,000.

Former Assemblyman’s life takes a sad turn

Former Assemblyman Steve Clute has pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the negligent discharge of the firearm his wife used to kill herself in 2016 to end her chronic pain.

Pamela Clute was a UC Riverside math professor who taught teachers how to make math interesting and was especially passionate about encouraging girls to love the subject, the Riverside Press-Enterprise wrote when she died.

California approved a death-with-dignity law in 2015, allowing doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs. But recipients must be mentally competent, have an incurable and irreversible disease and have six months or fewer to live. Professor Clute had degenerative disc disease that caused unbearable pain, but she could have survived for years.

She was 66 when she shot herself in the Clutes’ Palm Desert home. Steve Clute, 69, a former Navy test pilot and her husband of 40 years, was not in the room, his lawyer said. A Superior Court judge sentenced him to three years’ probation. By state law, he must give up any firearms.

Clute served 10 years in the Assembly, ending in 1992. He was Democrats’ swing vote in the passage of California’s first assault-weapons ban in 1989.

Commentary at CALmatters

David Hochschild, California Energy Commission, and Giovanni Palazzo, Electrify America: Transportation is responsible for 50 percent of the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions and 80 percent of smog-forming pollutants. To tackle this challenge, we must rapidly accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: The Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown enacted landmark legislation that eliminates cash bail for criminal defendants and substitutes a system of evaluating pre-trial flight risk. However, the legislation is just the opening salvo of a multi-front legal and political war over the issue.

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See you tomorrow.