Good morning, California.

“This year’s midterm election cycle is slated to become the first and only member of the $5 billion club.”—Center for Responsive Politics.

Democrats’ big weapon comes in small sums

Small donors have a clear preference this year.

In campaigns, big money players get the most attention. But Democrats running in California’s seven most competitive congressional districts are vastly out-raising Republicans in small-dollar donations, a review of campaign disclosures shows.

  • Through Sept. 30, Democratic candidates running in the seven GOP-held seats where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in 2016 raised $40 million to the Republicans’ $18.7 million, filings compiledby the Center for Responsive Politics show.
  • In donations of under $200, Democrats raised $6.4 million, almost 10 times the $671,000 raised by Republicans raised through the first three quarters of 2018.

Democratic strategist Bill Burton: “There has never been anything like this. … Regular grassroots Americans are saying they want change in dozens of races across the country.”

 Some examples:

  • Republican Congressman Jeff Denham of Turlock raised $4.1 million to Democratic challenger Josh Harder’s $6 million.
  • Only 1.6 percent of Denham’s money is in small-dollar donations; 18 percent of Harder’s is in small amounts.
  • Republican Congressman Steve Knight of Palmdale raised $2.1 million; less than 2 percent came in small increments.
  • Knight’s Democratic challenger Katie Hill raised $6.26 million, 21 percent of which was for less than $200.

Why it matters: Small-dollar enthusiasm can pay long-term dividends for politicians. Candidates can return to small-dollar donors regularly to pay for everything from ads to get-out-the-vote efforts. And donors vote and volunteer.

To read more, click here.

He came to debate, she ignored him

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and state Sen. Kevin de León.

What’s the sound of one man debating?  California voters got an idea on Tuesday at the first and only scheduled candidate forum in the 2018 U.S. Senate race, CALmatters’ Ben Christopher reports. 

The “conversation” at Public Policy Institute of California’s downtown San Francisco headquarters mostly underscored how much agreement there is between state Sen. Kevin de León and incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein: 

  • Congress should revisit sexual assault allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh;
  • Children should not be separated from parents who are arrested at the border;
  • Immigration law must be overhauled;
  • The twin Delta tunnels project is a bad idea;
  • More national gun control is needed.

The difference, de León suggested, was over attitude. He charged that Feinstein represents the “status quo” and “keeps resisting the resistance” on such matters as Trump’s wall at the Mexico border.

  • Feinstein declined to engage, focusing instead on her record as a four-plus term senator for California.

To read more, click here.

‘It’s good to be Gavin.’ Or a bag of horseshoes

California gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom is so comfortable with his standing in the polls that he has started donating some of his campaign money to fellow Democrats running for contested legislative races.

  • Newsom, who has vastly outraised Republican opponent John Cox, has given the maximum $3,400 in recent weeks to at least 15 candidates for legislative offices. That will help him with his agenda if they all win on Nov. 6.

Democrats are all but assured of winning 56 of the 80 Assembly seats on Nov. 6, and could win as many as 60.

  • They also could gain a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate by flipping a San Joaquin County senate seat currently held by termed-out Republican Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres.

Newsom has given his money to Democrats in competitive races. He also has given the maximum to Democratic congressional candidates in at least seven districts where they have a chance of flipping Republican-held seats.

Why so confident? A new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll shows Newsom leading Republican John Cox 54-31 percent.

  • President Trump is playing an outsized role in the race. Two-thirds of California voters have an unfavorable view of the president, and Newsom is making clear to voters that he would stand up to Trump.
  • Of those who dislike Trump, 77 percent support Newsom, while 87 percent of voters who back Trump support Cox, the president’s chosen candidate.

Republican strategist Mike Murphy, co-director of the Center for the Political Future at USC: “California is still California. So in a Democratic state, in a Democratic year, with Democratic intensity, it’s good to be Gavin. He could be a bag of horseshoes and still do well.”

A year later, an assessment of #MeToo

The LA Times revisited the 140-plus other women who signed a letter last fall “outing a California political culture rife with sexual misconduct” to gauge the impact.

The Times: “Of the 62 women who participated in the survey, a majority said they believed the letter had a positive effect on California politics and felt optimistic for the future of the #MeToo movement.

“That doesn’t mean it has been easy. Some found themselves in the spotlight. Others said they were ‘slut shamed’ and criticized.”

Read the report by clicking here.

Can't decide? Try this voters' comparison shopping tool

Consumer Reports has perfected a system for choosing when you’re torn between, say, a Honda versus a Toyota.

Now CALmatters gives you the opportunity to size up finalists for every statewide office in the California 2018 election—from governor to attorney general to state schools superintendent and more—with that kind of comparison tool.

Select the issues that matter most and see how the candidates agree and differ. It’s just one of the unique features you’ll find on our 2018 voter guide.

Commentary at CALmatters

Jay Lund, UC Davis: California’s two recent governors, Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been unusually skilled at water policy. Both responded effectively to urgent floods and droughts in ways that also brought long-term improvements. The next governor also will face water problems. And he will see opportunities, expectations, and pitfalls along the way.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Kevin de León needed to get aggressive in his only joint appearance with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whom he wants to defeat on Nov. 6. But de León was very subdued and didn’t change the campaign’s dynamics.

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.