Politics ESSENTIAL POLITICS

This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Here's what we're watching right now:

  • Former GOP Senate leader Dave Cogdill died at 66
  • California legislators adjourned Friday for a month-long summer recess
  • After receiving pressure to step down because of his cap-and-trade vote, Assembly GOP leader Chad Mayes held a caucus meeting Thursday to discuss his role. Mayes remains in his leadership post, but another top Assembly Republican stepped down from hers in protest

Be sure to follow us on Twitter for more, or subscribe to our free daily newsletter and the California Politics Podcast. Also don't miss our Essential Politics page in Sunday's California section.

As candidates for governor are pressed on affirmative action, Antonio Villaraigosa says it's vital to California

 (Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

Gubernatorial candidates, who have been pressed to offer their thoughts on affirmative action by Latino and black state lawmakers, began to weigh in Monday evening.

Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, gave the most concrete response.

"Mayor Villaraigosa agrees with both caucuses that keeping this issue at the forefront is vital to the future of California,” a campaign spokeswoman said in a statement. “He went to UCLA on an affirmative action program and was on the frontline against Prop. 209. Villaraigosa believes California can’t truly be progressive unless we’re all making progress together, which means we must support and expand programs that lift more families into the middle class."

Villaraigosa was responding to a questionnaire sent to six Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates about affirmative action and the ramifications of a 1996 voter-approved law that banned it in publicly funded institutions of higher education.

The letter by the chairmen of the Latino and black legislative caucuses, which was mailed Friday, injects a potentially volatile racial issue that has previously splintered California Democrats into the 2018 contest.

The questions also raise a divisive 2014 effort to repeal the ban on affirmative action.

While polling shows that Democratic voters tend to favor efforts to increase opportunities for underrepresented minorities, schisms emerged between Latino and black lawmakers, and their Asian American colleagues, when Democrats tried to repeal the ban. It was ultimately shelved.

A spokesman for GOP candidate John Cox used the letter to poke the Latino caucus for not being inclusive. (The caucus has come under fire for not including Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside.)

"We did not receive this questionnaire from the caucuses, but suggest that the Latino caucus take the first step towards greater diversity by allowing Republicans to join their closed caucuses," spokesman Matt Shupe said.

Representatives for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former state schools chief Delaine Eastin, both Democrats, said they had not yet received the letter, while the campaigns for Democratic state Treasurer John Chiang and Republican Orange County Assemblyman Travis Allen did not respond to requests for comment.

Special election date set to replace Jimmy Gomez in the Assembly

California DemocratsCalifornia Republicans

Latino, black state lawmakers press California gubernatorial candidates on affirmative action

 (Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

Latino and black state lawmakers are calling on gubernatorial candidates to publicly state their opinion about affirmative action, injecting into the 2018 contest a potentially volatile racial issue that has previously splintered California Democrats.

“Each of our caucuses, as you may know, is driven by a mission to further the interests of all Californians through advocacy for programs and policies that promote diversity and empowerment. To that end, we would appreciate your candid thoughts and official position on affirmative action and related topics,” wrote state Sen. Ben Hueso and state Assemblyman Chris Holden, the chairmen of the Latino and black legislative caucuses respectively, to the six most prominent gubernatorial candidates.

The candidates are being asked to describe their views on affirmative action, their thoughts on the ramifications of the 1996 law that bans its use at publicly funded colleges and universities, their track record on diversity and equity efforts, and specific proposals they would try to enact on such matters in schools, state government, businesses and nonprofits if elected governor.

A 2003 report by the University of California found that implementing race-neutral admissions policies led to a "substantial decline" in the proportion of black, Latino and American Indian students entering the system's most selective institutions.

The question raises a 2014 effort led by Latino and black Democratic members of the Legislature to repeal the ban on affirmative action. While polling shows that Democratic voters tend to favor efforts to increase opportunities for underrepresented minorities, schisms emerged on racial lines in the party when state lawmakers tried to repeal the ban.

 (Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

The measure quietly sailed through the state Senate before it caught the attention of Asian American activists, who vocally argued that their children would be harmed if affirmative action were reinstated.

On popular Chinese-language social media networks, some said the number of Asian students admitted to UC schools would be slashed, called the measure the "Yellow Peril Act" and compared it to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which restricted Chinese immigration.

The activism worked – Asian American senators who supported the move expressed new reservations, and others in the state Assembly vowed to oppose it, leading then-Assembly Speaker John Perez to shelve it. 

The caucuses’ letter was mailed Friday to Democrats Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, John Chiang and Delaine Eastin, and Republicans John Cox and Travis Allen. Some of those campaigns did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, while others said they had not yet received the letter or were formulating a response.

California Democrats

Kimberly Ellis to contest ruling that upheld her loss in race for California Democratic Party chair

 (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The drama and division over the California Democratic Party chairperson's election does not appear to be ending anytime soon.

Kimberly Ellis, who narrowly lost the race to lead the party, announced Monday that she planned to appeal a party committee’s affirmation of the election results two days ago, a potential precursor to a lawsuit.

“While I, perhaps more than anyone, want immediate closure, I also understand my tremendous responsibility to the thousands of delegates and supporters who are counting on us to see this through to its final conclusion. No doubt, this is not the easier path, but often times the righteous one is not,” she wrote in a fundraising plea to supporters. “To turn away now would be a betrayal to my own sense of integrity and ethics.”

The election took place during the state party’s annual convention in May, and longtime Democratic activist Eric Bauman was declared the winner. Ellis’ campaign has repeatedly contested the results, reviewed every ballot cast and called into question the validity of hundreds of votes.

On Saturday, the party's compliance review commission held an all-day hearing in Sacramento to determine the fate of 355 ballots deemed questionable. In the end, 47 votes were invalidated — 25 for Bauman and 22 for Ellis. That action, however, did not change the outcome of the election. Bauman won by 1.9%

Ellis, a Bay Area Democrat, called the review an “inherently biased process” and said she would file an appeal within 12 days, though she said she didn’t expect the commission to overturn its decision. She alleges that the six-member commission includes several Bauman supporters. The members were appointed by former chairman John Burton.

The bitter campaign exposed schisms in the state Democratic Party that echo the divide between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ supporters during the 2016 presidential primary. Some party leaders worry that the infighting will hobble the party, which dominates California politics and is at the center of the opposition to President Trump.

Ellis did not mention a lawsuit in Monday’s email to supporters, though she has previously indicated one was likely. She also warned state party officials that she and her supporters will remain active in trying to reshape the party.

“What happens next rests on a lot of shoulders because this progressive movement to redefine what it means to be a Democrat is not going away…because we are not going away,” Ellis wrote. “We're going to organize for progressive policies and around candidates who share our vision and be vocal against those who don't. We all agree that Democrats need to come together; the question is what are we truly fighting for?  No more same old, same old. We must have the courage of our convictions for a bigger, better, bolder vision for California – and the rest of our nation.”

FOR THE RECORD

4:30 p.m.: A previous version of this post said Bauman won by less than 1%. He won by 1.9%

Al Gore praises Gov. Jerry Brown for climate change victory while touting new documentary

Former Vice President Al Gore has been promoting a new documentary, "An Inconvenient Sequel" — the follow-up to his Oscar-winning film about climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth." The media tour brought him on Monday to San Francisco, where he was interviewed on stage during an event organized by the Commonwealth Club. 

California lawmakers just approved extending the cap-and-trade program, the centerpiece of the state's global warming battle. Gore noted the victory for Gov. Jerry Brown.

Gore said he was optimistic that the United States could meet its climate goals under the Paris accord, despite some research suggesting otherwise. 

Some of the questions and answers drew laughs from the crowd at the Marines' Memorial Theater. 

Watch live: Former Vice President Al Gore talks about climate change in San Francisco

At Comic-Con, California treasurer John Chiang explains what infrastructure repair has to do with superhero movies

John Chiang (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
John Chiang (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Comic-Con is, at its root, an escapist event for fans and obsessives of pop culture. This year it made room for public policy wonks as well.

In a lively panel called "Who Cleans Up the Mess?" at the conference Saturday morning in San Diego, a collection of politicians and civil servants looked at how civic life would be different if the dazzling superhero battles seen in blockbusters year after year came to life.

Among them was California Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate John Chiang, who used "X-Men" footage as a jumping-off point to talk about the need for infrastructure repair, and a scene of Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man damaging high-rises while trying to stop a runaway train to talk about the need for more affordable housing.

Another panelist, former California State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, referenced his military training in first restoring communications, order and human needs in crisis areas. And California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones looked at the potential for a homeowner's recovery.

2018 electionCongressional races

Early fundraising numbers show some congressional candidates building war chests, others with a long way to go

 (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call; Olamikan Gbemiga/Associated Press; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; CQ Roll Call; Pete Marovich/TNS; Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call; Olamikan Gbemiga/Associated Press; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; CQ Roll Call; Pete Marovich/TNS; Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

California’s congressional races are pivotal to Democratic efforts to flip the House, and there are already more than 60 candidates in more than a dozen battleground districts for the 2018 election.

Political insiders and donors are looking at the most recent campaign finance reports for indicators of who has fundraising ability. A strong early fundraising figure can deter potential rivals or draw support from the national political parties. Weak fundraising can encourage new opponents to enter the race.

California DemocratsCalifornia in Congress

Major Democratic donor hosts Sen. Kamala Harris in the Hamptons as speculation mounts about her political future

 (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Speculation over California Sen. Kamala Harris’ political ambitions was stoked over the weekend by her appearance at the Hamptons home of major Democratic donor Michael Kempner, a top bundler for former President Obama and bankroller for liberal causes across the country.

“So great hosting Senator Kamala Harris @kamalaharris at our Hamptons summer home today,” he wrote in a private Instagram post that featured a picture of Harris, her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and Kempner and his wife, Jacqueline. “She’s a star!”

Kendall Glazer, granddaughter of billionaire Malcolm Glazer, the late owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team and the Manchester United soccer team, replied, “Yes she is!!”

Harris’ appearance at the Hamptons event comes as rumors swirl that she is pondering a 2020 presidential run. Harris and her team have tamped down on talk of her future, arguing that she is focused on her new Senate job that she was elected to in November.

But notable events in recent months, including her speech at the women’s march on the day following President Trump’s inauguration in January and repeated interruptions by male colleagues during Senate hearings earlier this year, have thrust Harris into the spotlight.

And the former California attorney general’s visit with Kempner is sure to add fuel to such speculation. Kempner has been a top fundraiser for Obama, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, Senate and congressional candidates, and state parties and politicians across the country.

He was among Obama’s top bundlers, raising more than $4.5 million for the former president’s campaigns and aligned Democratic efforts between 2007 and September 2012, according to the New York Times.

California in Congress

California's Rep. Adam Schiff gets a Trump nickname: 'Sleazy'

President Trump on Monday morning criticized the Democratic leader of the House investigation into Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 election, calling Burbank Rep. Adam Schiff "sleazy" and "biased."

Schiff is the highest ranking Democrat on the House Select Intelligence Committee, which is examining whether the Trump campaign assisted in Russia's efforts. The committee is meeting behind closed doors Tuesday to hear from Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The investigation has catapulted Schiff into the national spotlight. Schiff has become a frequent guest on cable and Sunday morning news shows, and has turned to Twitter, the president's preferred medium, to respond directly to Trump.

It is not clear whether a particular Schiff comment angered the president. But Schiff was on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday morning to discuss Kushner's anticipated testimony and whether Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller should look into Trump's finances as part of the Russia investigation.

Trump told the New York Times last week Mueller would be crossing a line if he looked at the financial dealings of Trump's business or his family.

Schiff pushed back on that in the CBS interview, saying Trump's finances would fit the scope of the FBI special investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

"The president is clearly worried that Bob Mueller's going to be looking into allegations, for example, that the Russians may have laundered money through The Trump Organization [the president's company]. That is really something in my opinion he needs to look at. Because what concerns me the most is anything that could be held over the president's head that could influence U.S. policy," Schiff said.

California budgetCalifornia Legislature

Dave Cogdill, who paid a political price for his role in ending the 2009 budget crisis, dies at 66

Former state Sen. Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), seated on the floor in 2010. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Former state Sen. Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), seated on the floor in 2010. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Dave Cogdill, a Central Valley Republican whose support for temporary taxes during the state's economic meltdown ended his legislative career, died Sunday after battling pancreatic cancer, his family said. He was 66.

A real estate appraiser in Modesto, Cogdill served three terms in the state Assembly, and served as assessor of Stanislaus County after his departure from the Legislature. Since 2013, he has been the president and CEO of the California Building Industry Assn.

"He selflessly dedicated his life to his family and community," said his son, David Cogdill Jr., in an emailed statement about his father's death. "Throughout his life, he made such a difference in the lives of so many people."

Cogdill was less than a year into his tenure as Republican leader of the state Senate when the state's fiscal crisis, exacerbated by the national recession, forced lawmakers to consider a $42-billion deficit-reduction package in February 2009.  The proposal included more than $14 billion in temporary taxes, embraced as a necessity by Democrats and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger but angrily denounced by most Republicans.

Cogdill helped craft the deal as one of the Legislature's leaders, but found it a hard sell with his fellow GOP senators. Over the course of several days, no Republican in the Senate would join Cogdill in supporting the plan. Two other GOP senators ultimately agreed to the deal, which Schwarzenegger immediately signed into law.

Shortly after midnight on Feb. 15, 2009, a majority of members of Cogdill's caucus fired him as leader during a heated closed-door meeting — during which reporters gathered in the hallway could hear the shouting. Cogdill calmly returned to his seat on the Senate floor as Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) was announced as the Republican leader.

Three days later, Schwarzenegger praised Cogdill, telling reporters that the Republican "did what was right for the people."

On Sunday, the former governor took to Twitter to praise his fellow Republican.

"Dave Cogdill was a fantastic friend, a great leader & a true public servant who put the people above all else," Schwarzenegger wrote.

Gov. Jerry Brown echoed those comments, writing in a tweet that the late GOP leader "always put [California's] interests above party."

Cogdill did not run for reelection to the state Senate in 2010, and returned home to Modesto. That same year, he and the three other legislative leaders who crafted the multibillion dollar deficit package were awarded the Profile In Courage award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

"It's an example for legislators across the country and also for Americans that we really need to solve the problems that our country faces," said Caroline Kennedy, the late president's daughter, in a 2010 television interview on the award presented to California's four legislative leaders.

Cogdill is survived by his wife and two adult children.

Update July 24 9:51 a.m.: This story has been updated with comments from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown. It was originally published at 10:21 a.m. on July 23.

Eric Bauman confirmed as leader of California Democratic Party as rancor over close vote continues

Eric Bauman, center, addresses the California Democratic Party's annual convention in May. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Eric Bauman, center, addresses the California Democratic Party's annual convention in May. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Kimberly Ellis addresses the California Democratic Party Convention in Sacramento in May. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)
Kimberly Ellis addresses the California Democratic Party Convention in Sacramento in May. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

After spending weeks sifting through allegations of vote stuffing and corruption, a California Democratic Party panel on Saturday affirmed the election of Eric Bauman as the party leader.

The decision is not expected to bring the bitter fight over the election to an end.

Bay Area Democratic organizer Kimberly Ellis, who lost the race for party chair to Bauman by just 57 votes, has indicated she will likely mount a court challenge.

She has accused the party’s six-member compliance review commission of being biased in Bauman’s favor, and Ellis' political consultant dismissed Saturday’s hearing as “bad political theater” before it even started.

The bitter fight has exposed schisms in the state Democratic Party that echo the divide between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ supporters during the 2016 presidential primary. Some of the state’s top Democratic Party leaders and activists worry that the internal feud may fracture the party, which dominates California politics, and hobble the state’s role in opposing the policies of President Trump and the Republican Congress.

Christine Pelosi of San Francisco, chair of the party's Women's Caucus and daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said she has urged Bauman and Ellis to do everything they can to mend the rift.

“There needs to be a very very strong showing form the party that the Ellis voters are included, are empowered,” Pelosi said.

At the very least, some of Ellis’ supporters should be appointed to lead the state party committees, allowing them to shape the party’s platform and policies, Pelosi said.

Shortly after the May election, Pelosi said she had urged Bauman to hire Ellis as a top party executive, hoping that would help bring Democrats together.

After recently reviewing every ballot cast in the election for chair, the party's compliance review commission held an all-day hearing in Sacramento on Saturday to determine the fate of 355 ballots deemed questionable.

In the end, 47 votes were invalidated — 25 for Bauman and 22 for Ellis. That did not change the outcome of the election. Bauman won by 1.9%.

The hearing was chaired by party official Michael Wagaman, who said the review found no evidence of vote stuffing or ballots being destroyed, which were among the allegations made after the election. He added that there was "no evidence of bias" by the party to favor any one candidate.

Along with affirming Bauman's election, the panel rejected a request by Ellis for an independent audit of the election. Wagaman said a thorough review was done by the commission and in full view of representatives from the Ellis and Bauman campaigns. 

“It was a transparent process,” Wagaman said.

Ellis challenged the election results in June. She alleged that her campaign found hundreds of voting deficiencies during a review of the ballots and other election material. Those questionable votes may have swayed the election to Bauman, Ellis alleged.

The party held elections for chair and other officers during its annual convention in Sacramento in May. Nearly 3,000 party delegates cast ballots in the election.

There were a variety of reasons the panel disqualified the 47 ballots Saturday. In some cases, delegates failed to pay their party dues or receive an official waiver for the dues, which would make them ineligible to vote. Ballots also were tossed because proxy voters were determined to be ineligible, including a few who weren't registered Democrats. 

Among the ballots reviewed by the panel were those cast by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, state Treasurer John Chiang, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate leader Kevin de León. All of them came under scrutiny because they had staff members sign them into the convention. All their votes were deemed valid.

However, the panel threw out the vote of Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the state's chief elections officer. Padilla did not pay his party dues, the panel found. 

FOR THE RECORD

July 24, 4:19 p.m.: A previous version of this post said Bauman won by less than 1%. He won by 1.9%.

UPDATES

3:20 p.m.: This story was updated with information about Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Politics podcast

California Politics Podcast: The winners and losers in the new cap-and-trade agreement

No topic in Sacramento this year has been the focus of more intense, high-level negotiations than extending the state's cap-and-trade program.

And the political ramifications of Monday's final vote by the Legislature are likely to be felt for a long time.

This week's California Politics Podcast is devoted entirely to digging deep into the bipartisan deal, one that extends the life of the state's key climate change program by an additional decade.

The deal was a major victory for Gov. Jerry Brown, and put a handful of Republican legislators in the spotlight for their decision to cross the aisle and support a program that critics say will cost Californians money in the long run.

I'm joined by Times staff writer Melanie Mason, as well as Anthony York of the Grizzly Bear Project and Marisa Lagos of KQED News.

State government

Becerra and 19 other attorneys general pen letter to President Trump urging him to defend DACA

Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, left, and Rep. Jimmy Gomez speak about immigration at Cal State L.A. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, left, and Rep. Jimmy Gomez speak about immigration at Cal State L.A. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

State Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra and 19 of his counterparts from across the country sent President Trump a letter Friday urging his administration not to touch an Obama-era policy that shields as many as 750,000 young immigrants from deportation.  

The letter comes a month after Texas and nine other states threatened to sue the Trump administration if President Obama’s landmark Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy was not scrapped. 

"We urge you to affirm America’s values and tradition as a nation of immigrants and make clear that you will not only continue DACA, but that you will defend it," the attorneys general wrote. "The cost of not doing so would be too high for America, the economy, and for these young people."

Becerra was met with cheers at Cal State L.A. when he told a crowd of students — including some DACA recipients — that he thought the program would survive legal challenges it could face in the future.

"It has been a great boon for the California and American economy to have the 'Dreamers' come out of the shadows, and so we are here to say we stand with them because they are working for us," he said. 

Becerra's statements come after Trump and his administration have sent mixed messages about the future of the program, leaving many on both sides of the immigration debate frustrated.

The president has said DACA is "one of the most difficult subjects" he faces because there are "incredible kids.”

Becerra, a former congressman who was appointed California's top law enforcement official after Kamala Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate, was joined by his newly elected successor Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles). 

Gomez, just two weeks into his new job, told the group of students Friday that he was looking into using his position on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to call for hearings on the Department of Homeland Security's enforcement actions. 

"Are they really going after DACA recipients and 'Dreamers'? We are going to try and put them on the witness stand and really push on that," he said.  

"A lot of times the Trump administration says one thing and then they do something else over here so we have to show people what they are actually doing over here," Gomez added. "So that is an idea we are kicking around in my office."

Melody Klingenfuss, an organizer with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles who came to the U.S. from Guatemala at age 9, is among the DACA recipients. 

She was pleased Becerra took a stance Friday.

"Having a public face to defend 'Dreamers' and who believes in the contributions we have made to this country is key," she said. "We still have a long fight ahead of us."

California Legislature

Affluent Marin County can continue to limit home building under bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown (Gregory Bull / Associated Press)
Gov. Jerry Brown (Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Marin County will continue to limit home building beyond what other regions of California are allowed under affordable housing laws after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Friday afternoon.

The measure, Senate Bill 106, lets Marin's largest cities and incorporated areas maintain extra restrictions on how many homes developers can build. Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) inserted the provision into the bill, which was tied to the state budget and didn't have to go through the regular committee process.

Levine has argued that the measure would allow for more affordable housing in Marin, the state's wealthiest county, because smaller buildings would lower construction costs. But housing advocates were universally opposed because they said it was counter to the state's push for more development to stem a housing shortage. 

Levine wrote a bill in 2014 that gave Marin an exemption from state housing laws until 2023. This measure extends that exemption for five more years.

California Democrats

Gov. Jerry Brown marks the start of Caltrain's electrification project with rare praise for the federal government

 (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Celebrating rare cooperation between California and the Trump administration, Gov. Jerry Brown and federal officials on Friday marked the start of a more than $1.3-billion project to convert the Caltrain service between San Jose and San Francisco from diesel to electric trains.

The Brown administration, which has disagreed with Trump over issues ranging from climate change to immigration, joined congressional Democrats in aggressively lobbying the White House and U.S. Department of Transportation for federal funding of the project when it appeared to be in jeopardy.

"Today, we are recognizing a successful train [project]," Brown said at the ceremony at the Millbrae Caltrain station. "It's about the future. It's about clean air. It's about efficiency, speed. It's about not sitting on the freeway for a couple of hours bumper to bumper."

With the state using money from bonds for its bullet train, the 50-mile project has been touted by supporters as an important step in converting systems for high-speed rail.

Eventually, the bullet train would use the same electrical system and the same tracks.

After Trump initially delayed a decision on the project in February, Brown met with the president’s Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in Washington, D.C., to seek approval of the grant.

Chao released the first $100 million and committed her department to prioritizing an additional $408 million in appropriations for the project in the future. Other money is being provided by local, regional and state agencies.

Caltrain serves some 65,000 riders every weekday from San Francisco to San Jose, a number that has nearly doubled in the last 10 years and is straining the system, Brown said.

Shortly after Trump took office, he proposed spending $1 trillion on infrastructure projects throughout the country. The Caltrain Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project was on a list of $100 million in key infrastructure projects submitted by Brown’s office to the federal government in February.

Brown said the federal government needs to do more for the nation's infrastructure.

"This is a good example of cooperation between local, state and federal [agencies]," agencies, he said. "We need to do more of it, a hundred times more than what this train represents."

California LegislatureCalifornia Republicans

Assembly Republicans defend climate vote as 'protecting Californians from higher costs'

Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A cadre of Republicans have spent days taking slings and arrows after breaking with party activists and many of their colleagues to support California's premiere climate change program.

Now some of them are defending themselves in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

"We served our people and did our jobs as legislators by rolling back taxes, cutting regulations and protecting Californians from higher costs," wrote Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside, two of the eight Republicans who voted for the legislation on Monday. 

Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The Journal had criticized some Republicans for supporting the extension of the state's cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gas emissions. The newspaper's editorial board said California Republicans are "so beaten down in the minority that they now confuse surrender with victory."

Cap and trade could boost gas prices by 24 to 73 cents a gallon by 2031, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. 

But Mayes and Chavez argued that the program is preferable to other, more costly regulations that would have been needed to meet the state's climate goals, which became law last year. The final legislation also included two other Republican goals: the rollback of a fire prevention fee, which has been levied on landowners, and the extension of a tax credit for manufacturers.

"Republicans in California must live with the realities of a deep-blue Democratic state," they wrote. "This isn’t Washington, D.C., or Kansas. We have to cut taxes and regulations every chance we get."

California Democrats

After bitter fight, decision expected on challenge to election of California Democratic Party leader

Kimberly Ellis and Eric Bauman. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times; Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Kimberly Ellis and Eric Bauman. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times; Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A California Democratic Party commission reviewing allegations of voting irregularities in the election of a new leader is expected to announce its findings on Saturday.

Democratic organizer Kimberly Ellis, who narrowly lost the race for party chair to Eric Bauman, formally challenged the election results in June. Ellis blamed her 62-vote loss on possible ballot stuffing and other voting improprieties.

Earlier this month, the party’s compliance review commission inspected the nearly 3,000 ballots cast by Democratic Party delegates and found 223 ballots that required further review — 104 were cast for Ellis and 119 for Bauman.

The commission has since been contacting those delegates. In some cases, there were questions about whether a delegate had paid their party dues, which may be required to cast a ballot, or whether a proxy voter was properly registered.

The commission will review those ballots Saturday morning at state party headquarters in Sacramento. The 10 a.m. hearing is not open to the public but will be broadcast on the party’s Facebook page.

"We have full confidence in the Compliance Review Commission, which has conducted an exhaustive, open audit in full view of representatives of each candidate's campaign in accordance with our party’s bylaws,” party spokesman Mike Roth said in a statement.

Ellis, however, already is indicating that she will not accept the findings of the commission, which she has accused of being biased in Bauman's favor.

"Despite the toxic response from some in leadership, the CDP by its own admission has validated our original concerns. As demonstrated by their own actions, the CDP has proven that there is little to no interest in getting to the truth or resolving this matter outside the courts," said Joe Macaluso, Ellis' campaign advisor. "What we're watching is bad political theater. Very few have real faith in the independence, authenticity and fairness of Saturday's matinee."

Bauman has been serving as party chairman since the election. Ellis had called on the party to have an independent audit of the election done, but Bauman rejected that request, saying the party already has a process in place to review contested elections.

The party's compliance review commission is made up of six members who were appointed during former Chairman John Burton's tenure.

The bitter fight to be the next state party leader highlights the lingering tensions in the Democratic Party that arose during the 2016 presidential primary when Hillary Clinton beat Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the nomination.

UPDATE

1:38 p.m.: This post was updated to include a comment from the Ellis campaign.

Congressional races

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher draws a Republican challenger in 48th Congressional District

 (Courtesy of Stelian Onufrei for Congress)
(Courtesy of Stelian Onufrei for Congress)

Following a spate of Democrats announcing runs in the 48th Congressional District, GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher now has a challenger from his own party.

Orange County businessman Stelian Onufrei, a Romanian immigrant who owns a construction business, announced Thursday that he's running against the Costa Mesa Republican.

In a statement, Onufrei, 52, called Rohrabacher an "entrenched career politician" who has "become a political lightning rod." Much of that controversy has stemmed from critiques on the left, particularly over Rohrabacher's long-held belief that the U.S. should normalize relations with Russia.

Onufrei, who like many candidates this cycle has never run for public office before, said tax reform, "restoring religious freedoms" and instituting congressional term limits would be among his top priorities if elected. (The last one would probably require a constitutional amendment.)

Onufrei joins the race just after the latest campaign finance filing deadline, but said he would contribute $500,000 of his own money to fund his run.

2018 election

For young California homeowners, a proposed 2018 initiative could make buying a new house a lot less expensive

 (Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times)
(Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times)

Under a ballot measure filed Thursday, California's landmark Proposition 13 property tax breaks would be extended to young homeowners who sell their residence and buy a new one.

The proposal, which aims for a spot on the November 2018 statewide ballot, would allow homeowners of any age to carry a portion of their existing property tax rate across county lines when they purchase a new house. Homeowners often are reluctant to switch houses, given that Proposition 13's cap on annual property taxes ends once they sell and move somewhere else.

"A lot of people kind of feel locked into their properties," said Alex Creel, a lobbyist for the California Assn. of Realtors, who filed the proposed initiative. "This will free up those folks."

The new tax rate, Creel said, would be based on a "blended" value of the old and new properties, and could be considerably lower than the market rate property tax otherwise assessed once a new home is bought.

Creel filed three different versions of the proposal, all of which would create tax incentives for selling one house and buying another.

Homeowners older than 55 in certain counties can already transfer existing property tax rates to a new home of equal or less value. Creel's initiatives, though, would expand the program. One version would retain the age restriction, but make the program available statewide. Two other versions would remove all age limits, likely enticing young homeowners to sell and buy homes.

Unlike current law, the proposal would allow homeowners to take advantage of the tax break as many times as they want.

Creel said the broader impact on statewide property tax revenue is unclear, and that the realtors group won't decide until the fall whether to mount a political campaign to place one of them on the 2018 ballot.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
71°