News and analysis on California politics
Toni Atkins will briefly be California's first openly gay governor

With California's governor, lieutenant governor and state Senate president pro tem all out of town for part of Wednesday, newly elevated Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) finds herself briefly serving Wednesday as acting governor.

Atkins is the first openly gay person to serve as California governor, even if it is for less than the full day. Gov. Jerry Brown is flying back to California from a trade mission in Mexico on Wednesday night.

Atkins, who just became speaker in May, said she couldn’t help but think about “how a young girl who grew up in poverty in Virginia ends up as speaker and therefore gets the opportunity to be acting governor.”

“I wish my parents could see this,” she added. Both of her parents are deceased.

It is rare for the speaker to serve as acting governor -- former Assembly Speaker John Perez did not get to do it. Normally, the lieutenant governor and then the state Senate president pro tem would serve in the position, but both are also out of the state....

Read more
Activists sue Santa Barbara, alleging voting rights violations

Santa Barbara on Tuesday joined the ranks of California cities to be sued over their method of electing public officials.

Five Spanish-surnamed registered voters in the city of more than 88,000 filed suit in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, claiming the city is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act.

Santa Barabara Mayor Helene Schneider called the lawsuit premature and said the city had already authorized a study of its elections.

The plaintiffs allege the city's at-large elections system "has resulted in vote dilution for Latino residents and has denied them effective political participation in elections to the Santa Barbara City Council."

They want the court to order the city to begin electing its council members by geographic district. They believe by-district elections would give Latino voters, who are largely concentrated in certain areas of the city, a better chance of electing at least one representative of their choice to the council.

According to the lawsuit,...

Read more
In Mexico, Gov. Brown has plenty to say about immigration crisis

On Tuesday morning Gov.Jerry Brown was sitting in the second row of an armored, dark-blue sport utility vehicle as it hurtled toward the next stop of his four-day trade mission.

He was clutching a paper cup of coffee that overflowed onto his hand and dripped onto his pants as the SUV struck pothole after pothole.

“This is tricky,” he said. A few minutes later, he pulled off the lid and gulped down the coffee in an attempt to prevent further damage.

Later on Tuesday, Brown will attempt to navigate the most controversial topic of his trip -- what to do about Central American migrants traveling north across the border from Mexico to the United States. Until arriving in Mexico on Sunday, Brown had said little about the topic.

But while in Mexico, it's something he's brought up at almost every turn, emphasizing the need to reunite children with their families and criticizing U.S. politicians who have used the topic for leverage against President Obama.

Asked during an interview with the Los...

Read more
Brown, Mexican officials sign pacts on higher education, energy

Gov. Jerry Brown, on the third day of his trade mission here, signed two more agreements with Mexican officials on Tuesday.

The first, which was inked at the University of California's headquarters in Mexico City, is aimed at increasing collaboration in higher education.

Officials in each country would like to see more students crossing the border to study and conduct research. Currently, such education exchanges are limited, with only a few thousand students traveling from California to Mexico and vice versa.

"It just doesn't make sense, culturally and economically and academically that the numbers are so abysmal," said state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

The second agreement signed Tuesday pledges new partnerships on energy issues, including increasing the use of renewable sources. Officials are also exploring increasing the connections between energy grids in California and Baja California.

Both of the agreements are nonbinding, similar to one on climate change that Brown and...

Read more
Former Rep. Joe Baca takes steps to run for Fontana mayor this fall

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Baca, who earlier this year lost a bid to return to the House, has found another office to try for -- mayor of Fontana.

Baca has taken steps to become a candidate in the November election, the Fontana city clerk's office confirmed Monday. He has until Aug. 8 to complete the filing process.

The former congressman from Rialto, who has moved to Fontana, would face current Mayor Acquanetta Warren, who is seeking a second four-year term. Two others also have taken steps to run for the office.

Warren, who once ran for state Assembly as a Republican, made local history four years ago when she became the first African American, and the first woman, elected mayor in the working class city of about 200,000.

Previously she served eight years on the Fontana City Council. She is also a public works department official for the city of Upland.

Baca represented an Inland Empire congressional district for 13 years before seeking re-election in a neighboring district in...

Read more
Gov. Brown signs climate-change agreement with Mexico

Gov. Jerry Brown pledged new cooperation with Mexico on tackling climate change, signing an agreement with Mexican officials on Monday at the foreign ministry here.

The memorandum of understanding between California and Mexico, similar to one the state struck last year with China, doesn't set binding targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. But Brown called it an important step toward addressing one of the world's most potent problems.

The difficulty, he said, is persuading people to take action now when the worst damage from climate change remains some years away.

 "Can we imagine the future ... and do something about it in the present?" Brown said.

The agreement calls on Mexico and California to share strategies on addressing climate change. Although California has already established an ambitious cap-and-trade program to limit emissions, Mexico's efforts are more nascent.

However, unlike in the United States, there's a broad political consensus in Mexico about the dangers of...

Read more
Jerry Brown kicks off trade mission in Mexico

Gov. Jerry Brown, who begins his first full day of meetings here on Monday, wasted no time setting lofty goals for his trade mission to Mexico during a reception on Sunday night.

Speaking in a hotel banquet room to scores of delegates who are traveling with the governor, Brown said his trip "is not your ordinary trade mission."

"This is serious," he said. "There’s a lot we can do on some of the most important issues the world faces.”

The governor has prioritized addressing issues such as climate change, and he's expected to sign an agreement with Mexican officials on the matter on Monday afternoon.

In addition, Brown's Monday agenda was modified to include a private meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. He's also scheduled to meet with the governor of the state of Mexico and the foreign affairs secretary. A reception with the U.S. ambassador is to be held at a downtown art museum. 

On Tuesday, Brown is expected to address the controversy concerning Central American...

Read more
Jerry Brown to meet with Mexican president during trade mission

Gov. Jerry Brown, who is kicking off a four-day trip to Mexico City on Sunday night, will meet with the Mexican president on Monday, the governor's office announced.

The meeting is a late addition to Brown's tightly packed schedule, which is dominated by formal meetings with government officials and receptions for business leaders.

In another change to Brown's agenda, the governor is now expected to address the controversy over migrants entering the United States -- a topic that has roiled U.S. politics. Brown is scheduled to appear with the archbishop of Los Angeles and Central American religious and diplomatic officials on Tuesday afternoon.

So far, the governor's comments on the issue have been limited, apart from calling it "a humanitarian problem."

Brown hopes that the visit, which comes one year after a similar trip to China, fosters more trade across California's southern border and closer cooperation with Mexico on issues such as climate change.

The governor's meeting with the...

Read more
State Sen. Yee sought to extort sports figures, new indictment alleges

Federal prosecutors announced additional charges Friday in a sweeping corruption investigation involving Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee, a campaign consultant and Chinatown figure Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow.

Yee, a San Francisco lawmaker, was arrested in March and charged with accepting $62,000 in campaign contributions in return for favors, and offering to arrange the sale of machine guns and shoulder-fired missiles to an undercover FBI agent posing as a mob figure.

On Friday, a superseding grand jury indictment was issued, adding violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act, which allows enhanced criminal penalties and civil action when crimes are performed as part of a criminal organization.

Yee, who had previously faced eight felony charges, was additionally charged in a new grand jury indictment with three new counts: one count of “conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity,” and two counts of...

Read more
House candidate Carr's campaign drops ball on required finance filing

Gang prosecutor Elan S. Carr, a Republican vying this fall to succeed retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman, failed for weeks to file a required financial disclosure report, House Ethics Committee records showed.

Carr's campaign filed the report Thursday morning, after a Times reporter asked earlier this week about why it appeared to be missing.

John S. Thomas, Carr's chief strategist, said the task of submitting the report "had been delegated to a campaign intern last March."  But, he added, the intern had "lost track of the project" due to Carr's being out of the country then "to help train Jewish students in the UK to combat anti-Israel propaganda on their college campuses."

House Ethics rules require that candidates for congressional seats file forms disclosing their sources of income and other personal financial information to avoid conflicts of interest.

The reports are due within 30 days of a candidate's raising or spending $5,000 on the campaign.  According to Carr's campaign finance...

Read more
Democrats to host GOP candidates in House race to succeed McKeon

In another manifestation of how the political landscape is changing under the state's top-two election system, a Democratic club in the Antelope Valley is scheduled to host two Republican congressional candidates at its forum early next month.

The Democratic Club of the High Desert said the GOP candidates, state Sen. Stephen Knight of Palmdale and former state legislator Tony Strickland of Simi Valley, have agreed to appear at the Aug. 1 forum.  They are competing to succeed retiring Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) in the Nov. 4 election.

Strickland and Knight finished first and second, respectively, in the June 3 primary. Under the state's relatively new system, all the candidates for a given office appear on a single ballot and only the top two finishers, regardless of any party affiliation, can advance to the fall general election.

The rules left district Democrats without a candidate this fall, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be interested in the election, said...

Read more
Gov. Brown spending little on reelection despite $22-million war chest

Gov. Jerry Brown’s reelection campaign raised $1.6 million during the six weeks that ended June 30, finishing the period with $22.3 million in cash on hand.

The governor, who placed first in the June primary election with 54% of the vote, reported that his campaign spent just $269,494 in the first half of this year. Republican Neel Kashkari finished second in the June primary with 19.4% of the vote and will face Brown in the November general election.

That Brown has spent so little is no surprise to Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State L.A. “That’s Jerry. He is frugal. He runs frugally if he is not severely challenged and I don’t think he feels he is severely challenged.”

In 2013, Brown's reelection campaign spent just $207,000.

Kashkari has not yet filed his campaign finance report for the period through June 30, which is due next week. He previously reported his campaign spent $2.6 million this year through mid-May.

Kashkari will file his disclosure...

Read more