When San Francisco police broke down a door inside a group home for mentally disabled people in 2008 and shot a 56-year-old resident, then-District Attorney Kamala Harris didn’t charge the officers with a crime. Instead she prosecuted the schizophrenic woman who was severely injured in the shooting.
Harris charged Teresa Sheehan with assaulting the officers, alleging she came at them with a kitchen knife after they forced their way into her room. But the jury was not convinced. It deadlocked in favor of acquitting Sheehan on the assault charges, and found her not guilty of threatening to kill a social worker who had called the police for help to get Sheehan into a psychiatric hospital.
“Somebody used very poor judgement in deciding to bring these charges,” said Laurie Levenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
“If (Harris) actually looked at it and said, ‘This is a righteous case, I want to go after a mentally ill woman who was shot,’ then you question that decision. If she didn’t know about it, then you question her management skills.”
Today Harris, California’s junior U.S. senator, is trying to win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination by highlighting her experience as a “progressive prosecutor.” The Sheehan case, though, is an example of her complicated record in criminal justice.Read More
Half a year out from California’s presidential primary, you can already envision the enthusiasm gap creating a turnout gap.
Democrats of every ideology have plenty of incentive to vote in the March 3 election: It’s their chance to pick the winner in one of the most crowded, competitive presidential primary contests in a generation.
But there’s little to lure the state's shrinking Republican base to the polls. President Donald Trump seems assured of garnering his party’s nomination for re-election, even if a recent law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom were to keep him off the California ballot entirely.
So although Republicans historically get a higher share of their voters to the polls than Democrats, the 2020 primary could well scramble that.
In theory, it could give Democrats an opportunity to edge more Republican congressional and legislative candidates out of qualifying for the November general election, given that only the top two March voter-getters in each district advance to November, even if they're in the same party.Read More
When presidential candidates spent time in Iowa (and they spend a lot of time in Iowa), they are expected to ingratiate themselves to the state’s 2.1 million registered voters by chowing down on deep fried foods and spending plenty of time talking about grain growing, trade policy and corn ethanol.
With California Democrats now scheduled to pick their preferred party’s nominee on March 3rd (at the latest; those who vote from home can cast their ballot as early as the Iowa Caucus) there was hope that the Golden State might finally earn itself some presidential pandering too.
So what is the political equivalent of corn ethanol in California?
“I don’t know,” said presidential candidate and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan. “I’m going to find out,”Read More
California Democrats have spent the last decade busily removing barriers between would-be voters and the ballot box — in fact, they've been so successful, they may be running out of strategies to drive up turnout.
So now the state's top election official is taking the California model national. The goals: Get other states to adopt vote-boosting policies, and boot Republican secretaries of state out of office.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced a new campaign this morning to unseat his Republican counterparts in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Missouri and West Virginia in 2020. He also wants to protect two Democratic Secretaries of State, in North Carolina and Vermont.
Padilla's isn't leading the charge in his official capacity of California's election regulator, but as chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State.
In a campaign video, Padilla said the association will take on Republican Secretaries of State who are "helping Trump wage a Jim Crow-style assault on our voting rights, targeting students, seniors and people of color."Read More
How many times have you heard someone say, "I don't know who I like in this election, but I sure know who I don't like"?
Negative emotions are a powerful driving force in politics. That is why so many ads, from campaigns as well as special interest groups, try to tear down the perception of opposing candidates.
When campaign season rolls around, you can count on your favorite TV show being saturated with ads featuring grainy black and white photos, ominous music and gravelly voiced announcers intoning:
"Why did [fill in the blank] betray the voters and make sure his/her cronies got rich? Phone his/her office now and demand an answer."
Of course, they don't want you to call the office, they just don't want you to vote for the candidate named.Read More
Updated August 24, 2019
What was once an obscure, weedsy legal battle over labor classification in California is now well on its way to becoming a capital-I Issue on the presidential campaign trail.
Weeks after Sen. Elizabeth Warren took a public stand on one of the most controversial bills being considered by California lawmakers, Sen. Kamala Harris now says she supports a bill to would make it harder for “gig economy” companies to classify their workers as independent contractors.
As California's junior senator, Harris has been hounded by reporters for her position on the high-profile bill for over a week. That’s in part because the proposal is coming from her home state. But critics have also attributed the radio silence on the issue from the Harris campaign to a potential conflict of interest. Tony West, who is married to Maya Harris, the senator’s sister and campaign manager, is general counsel for Uber, which vociferously opposes the law.
Earlier this month, Warren wrote an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee supporting a California bill that would make it harder for companies to classify workers as "independent contractors." In the process, she not only waded into what has largely been a California-specific debate, but provided yet another way to distinguish herself from the many other Democrats in what remains a very crowded field hoping to unseat President Donald Trump.Read More
More than any other presidential candidate, Kamala Harris’ biography is singularly Californian.
Born and bussed to school in Berkeley, tested by San Francisco’s cut-throat municipal politics and propelled onto the national stage as the state’s top law enforcement officer and then its first female senator of color, Harris’ approach to politics and policymaking were honed here.
What most Americans are still just beginning to learn about California’s junior senator—the particulars of her political pedigree, her record on criminal justice, her reputation as (depending on your point of view) a pragmatic or an over-cautious political figure—we’ve seen it here for decades.
Here are eight ways that California shaped Kamala Harris and that Harris has shaped California.
In a state full of transplants, Harris is a lifelong Californian.Read More
For more than 20 years, political observers have pointed to California’s Proposition 187 campaign as the seminal moment in Latino political consciousness--a year in history when Latinos across generational, educational, economic and national divides united in a singular voice against a threat to the community.
Latinos have experienced a similar event nationally—The El Paso Moment—when a deranged racist, whose rhetoric at times matched the President of the United States, gunned down 22 people and injured dozens more.
Resentment and racism toward Latinos has been simmering in the underbelly of American society for a long time. But in the past few years, this dark force has risen to the surface, even as many denied it was happening.
The El Paso Moment will mark the day in our history when people could no longer pretend there wasn’t an explosion of violent actions and attitudes towards the fastest growing segment of our nation’s population.
Latinos were targeted for slaughter and the President’s words and deeds fomented the event and--as more and more Republican officials are acknowledging--the GOP has been complicit by its silence.Read More
Give Gavin Newsom credit on this one. Signing a bill that would require Donald Trump to disclose his tax returns to qualify for next year’s California primary ballot was a savvy political maneuver for our governor.
Not only does it reinforce his pre-eminence as the state’s preeminent Resistor-in-Chief, his decision unites his party behind him at a time when he is preparing to take on difficult policy challenges that are likely to divide it.
California Democrats may not agree on housing or education or tax policy, but they are fully united in their animosity toward Trump. Newsom is smart enough to realize that any criticism he takes from his own party on these and other issues will be muffled by the unanimity of support he will receive from taking potshots at the president. So kudos to a politically adroit governor for a shrewd political stratagem.
But the practical impact of Newsom’s maneuver is negligible and the potential downside is considerable.
The question of whether a state can impose additional requirements on a presidential candidate beyond those specifically outlined in the U.S. Constitution is an unsettled one. Legal experts are lining up on both sides of the argument with a level of ferocity that suggests a drawn-out court battle.Read More
Interested in helping to redraw California’s electoral map—dicing up the state into legislative and congressional districts and shaping the next decade of Golden State politics?
You now have another week and change to get that application in.
State Auditor Elaine Howle, charged with staffing California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission, announced today that her office would be extending the application period from August 9 to August 19.
All regular voters without a history of state government employment, lobbying or big campaign spending are encouraged to apply.
Particularly if you aren’t a white guy.Read More