California Democratic gubernatorial candidates John Chiang, Delaine Eastin, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa are in Anaheim to discuss healthcare issues at a forum hosted by the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
The candidates will be asked questions by Times reporter Melanie Mason along with Bob Butler of KCBS radio, Maria Paula Ochoa of Telemundo and and Jeff Horseman of Southern California News Group. The event will be moderated by ABC News correspondent John Donvan.
There's a big, challenging question beyond the initial shock of sexual harassment stories told by women working in California politics: What happens next?
On this week's California Politics Podcast, we discuss the allegations that have emerged from an open letter first reported by The Times on Tuesday. And a key part of the next chapter is how legislative leaders and the state's major political parties respond to the concerns raised in the letter signed by more than 140 women.
We also take a closer look at the new effort by wealthy activist Tom Steyer to demand impeachment proceedings against President Trump, and whether the San Francisco Democrat is thinking seriously about jumping into the U.S. Senate race.
And with Gov. Jerry Brown's action on hundreds of bills complete, we offer up a few notable decisions in those final signings and vetoes.
I'm joined by Times staff writer Melanie Mason and Marisa Lagos of KQED.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton told California Republicans they should expect better days ahead, in part, because of liberal overreach by California Democrats on taxes, immigration and other issues affecting the daily lives of working-class Americans.
Cotton invoked the memory of former president and California governor Ronald Reagan as a guiding light, and ridiculed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) as a harbinger of doom.
“All it takes is a little new thinking applied with old principles. The principles of Ronald Reagan,” Cotton told a packed ballroom at the California Republican Party’s fall convention in Anaheim on Saturday.
Cotton’s keynote address hewed toward traditional conservative themes and was peppered with light moments and witty jabs about the Democrats' grip on California politics.
“When Jerry Brown has to veto your legislation because it’s too liberal, you might have to take a look in the mirror,” Cotton told the crowd.
It was a big departure from the speech the night before by GOP firebrand Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former political strategist.
Bannon unleased attacks on former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He told Republicans they needed to rise up in California or else the progressive left and “lords of the Silicon Valley” would try to secede from the union in 10 to 15 years.
Cotton, who at 40 is the youngest member of the U.S. Senate, is widely believed to be eyeing a run for higher office. During the 2016 Republican National Convention, he was the most active politician on the breakfast circuit, visiting the South Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire and California delegations.
California, of course, is home to more than 5 million Republican voters and has been a wellspring of political cash for GOP presidential candidates.
Cotton’s message of hope has been a running theme throughout the three-day GOP gathering as the state party tries once again to turn things around in left-leaning California. The party’s share of the state electorate has fallen to 26% and no Republican has been elected to statewide office since 2006.
Cotton, however, told the party faithful to remain upbeat. California’s Republican members of Congress play a pivotal role in Washington, and there are ample opportunities to rekindle the party’s presence in Sacramento and throughout the state.
Cotton zeroed in on the new gas tax and vehicle fee hike in the state, which would raise $5.2 billion annually for transportation and mass transit improvements, saying it would hurt ordinary Californians.
“If you live in West L.A. or San Francisco and you have the money to afford a Tesla, maybe you’ll be OK,” Cotton said. “What about the farmer in the Central Valley who has a pickup truck and needs to fill it up three times a week?”
He also took shots at the so-called sanctuary state law signed this month by Gov. Jerry Brown, which will limit law enforcement agencies from questioning and detaining people for immigration violations.
“Your sanctuary cities weren’t enough, you had to have a sanctuary state instead,” Cotton said. “So all your citizens will face greater danger no matter where they live.”
Before he took the stage, the state GOP played a short video introduction of the Arkansas senator, focused on his experiences serving as an Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Washington, Cotton was a harsh critic of President Obama and is considered a hawk on national defense. During a hearing in June, Cotton also openly mocked the idea of the Trump administration colluding with Russia.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) on Saturday blasted Gov. Jerry Brown over Democrats positioning the state as the liberal resistance to President Trump and for legislative efforts to circumvent the president’s policies.
Brown, he warned, could be viewed similarly to southern governors who sought to “pick and choose” which federal laws to uphold during the civil rights era. He focused on Brown's recent signing of a bill to make California a so-called sanctuary state, which will limit law enforcement agencies from questioning and detaining people for immigration violations.
“I don’t think history will be very kind to Gov. Brown,” McCarthy told a few hundred delegates and guests at a luncheon at the California Republican Party convention in Anaheim.
California is a critical part of Democrats’ efforts to retake the House of Representatives, with a focus on seven Republican-held districts that Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election. Only one of the Republican representatives of those targeted districts had appeared at the convention as of Saturday afternoon, Rep. Mimi Walters of Irvine.
McCarthy said Vice President Mike Pence raised $5 million for the efforts to protect the seats during a recent three-day fundraising trip through California, but he did not otherwise go into detail about the congressional battle expected in 2018.
He instead lashed out at Republican members of the state Legislature who voted for Democratic policies.
“My advice to those Assembly members in Sacramento: You will not win a majority by thinking you’ll be Democrat-light. You will win the majority by showing the differences in the party,” McCarthy said. “You will not win the majority by voting against your own principles on a Democratic policy, and let Democratic targets vote no. You will not win the majority if you’re concerned about being able to stand behind a podium with a Democratic governor instead of giving the freedom to Californians across this entire state.”
McCarthy did not name the members he was speaking about, but it was clear he was referring to Assemblyman Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) and other Republicans who voted for an extension of the state's cap-and-trade program this year. Mayes stepped down as Assembly Republican leader under pressure from others in his party who were upset over his vote for the climate change program, which requires companies to purchase permits to release greenhouse gases.
McCarthy spoke a day after former Trump White House advisor Stephen K. Bannon addressed the group. Bannon has declared "war" on the GOP establishment, of which McCarthy is a member. McCarthy did not push back at Bannon’s remarks, which included criticism of former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Rather, McCarthy lauded Trump’s vision, compared him to former President Reagan and pointed to economic gains and regulatory reform since Trump took office.
“What a difference nine months and one election makes,” McCarthy said. “What a difference: A man who ran for president on issues and keeps his word and actually enacts the things he promised to do.”
Trump has tried to enact many of his campaign promises but has been unsuccessful on several priorities, including a travel ban on citizens from Muslim-majority countries and a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Tax reform is the latest priority on the Republicans' agenda, and McCarthy promised that Congress would push a package by Thanksgiving that includes lowering rates for small businesses and corporations, and simplifying the tax code from seven income tax brackets to three. He also spoke out in support of one of the more controversial parts of the proposal: eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes.
“I don’t think it’s fair for somebody else to subsidize poor management in California,” McCarthy said. “Look at the entire [tax reform] bill when it comes out, you will pay less. But no longer can Sacramento say, ‘I’m going to raise the rates just because I’ll have the federal government subsidize it.’ They will have to be held accountable for when they want to raise taxes.”
Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq who feuded with Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, on Saturday criticized the Trump White House for its clash with a widow of a fallen solider this week.
Khan, speaking to reporters after addressing a National Union of Healthcare Workers conference in Anaheim, said the families of all military members killed in combat deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, especially in the days and weeks immediately following the death of their loved one.
“It was disappointing to see the behavior of [the White House],” Khan said, before criticizing Trump administration officials for standing “in front of the cameras and providing a defense for the indefensible behavior.”
Khan’s comments came just days after the uproar over Trump’s call to the widow of Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Florida, one of four U.S. soldiers who died in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger.
Rep. Frederica S. Wilson of Florida was with Johnson’s wife, Myeshia Johnson, in a car when the widow took Trump's call on speakerphone. Wilson publicly described Trump's comments as insensitive, saying he suggested that the sergeant knew what he was getting into when he joined the Army.
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, whose son was killed in combat, defended the president’s comments, saying that he advised Trump on what to say and that the president was trying to praise Johnson’s unselfish military service as well as offer words of comfort to his widow.
Khan avoided attacking Trump directly or expanding on his remarks, saying he will address the controversy in more detail after Johnson’s memorial services.
The clash between Khan and Trump ignited after Khan’s speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. There, Khan ripped into Trump, then the Republican nominee for president.
“Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son 'the best of America.' If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America,” Khan said at the convention. “Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities — women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country.”
Trump responded by questioning whether Khan’s wife, who stood by her husband’s side during the couple's high-profile appearance, was silent because of her Muslim faith. The controversy ignited by Trump’s jabs at a Gold Star family dragged on for days, and he drew rebukes from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
During his speech to the healthcare union Saturday, Khan lamented the loss of “civility” in national political discourse and pointed squarely at the president. He said the current White House has “sown division” by attacking immigrants and belittling political rivals.
The politically influential California Teachers Assn. on Saturday endorsed Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for governor, praising his support for public schools and his promise to hold charter schools more accountable.
“Gavin has long supported increased funding for education and is committed to making investing in students a top priority as governor,” CTA President Eric Heins said in a written statement Saturday. “He supports a public education system that attracts, not attacks, teachers, universal preschool and affordable college for all.”
The move is not entirely surprising given the antagonism between one of Newsom’s top Democratic rivals, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and teachers unions in California.
Villaraigosa launched his career as a union organizer, including for United Teachers Los Angeles, and labor played a critical role in getting him elected to office. But after he tried to gain control of Los Angeles schools, he questioned policies fiercely guarded by teachers unions, such as seniority protections that resulted in regular layoff notices to younger teachers who tend to staff the most challenging schools. He grew to support using student test scores to evaluate teachers and other overhauls opposed by union leaders.
Villaraigosa, who eventually gained control of more than a dozen struggling city schools through a nonprofit, ultimately blasted the city’s teachers union where he once worked as “the largest obstacle to creating quality schools.”
The teachers association also passed over Democrat Delaine Eastin, a long-shot candidate who jumped into the 2018 governor’s race last year. Eastin, who served as California's state superintendent of public instruction, has vowed to put education at the forefront of her campaign.
The key question going forward is how much CTA plans to invest in the governor’s race and how it plans to spend it. In 2014, the union spent $12 million to defeat Marshall Tuck, a huge sum in an obscure race to be state superintendent of public instruction. A Democrat and former charter school leader, Tuck was hired by Villaraigosa to run the nonprofit that oversaw his schools.
Tuck, who narrowly lost his race in 2014 against an incumbent, is running for state superintendent again in 2018. CTA on Saturday also endorsed his opponent, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond).
Republican Justin Fareed announced Saturday that he will make a third run for Congress.
Fareed, 29, lost by nearly 7 percentage points last year to Democrat Salud Carbajal in the 24th Congressional District. It was one of the most expensive House races in the state. He also ran in 2014, but did not make it past the primary.
Speaking to supporters at a restaurant in Santa Barbara, Fareed called Carbajal "at best ... an ineffective politician."
"He gave us lip service last cycle. He said that he will work across the aisle, that he will work in a bipartisan way," Fareed said, noting that Carbajal had voted with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "more than 97% of the time."
Fareed's announcement came days after he reported raising more than $215,000 for his campaign.
During his campaign last year, Fareed described himself as a "third-generation cattle rancher" and vice president of his family's company, ProBand Sports Industries, which makes medical devices to treat repetitive stress injuries.
In a statement, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Drew Godinich said Fareed's previous failed runs show he doesn't have the "values that families of California’s 24th District are looking for."
"The people of this community know Salud Carbajal’s record of defending our healthcare and fighting for good paying jobs," Godinich said.
Former Trump advisor Stephen K. Bannon stopped by a gathering of college Republicans in Anaheim on Friday night, telling them it was up to their generation to right the nation’s course.
“You guys are the cutting edge. You’re the vanguard,” he told a crowd of students gathered at a cigar reception at the California Republican Party’s fall convention. “The millennial generation, you guys are the next greatest generation.”
Bannon spoke to the students shortly after addressing about 500 delegates and guests as the keynote dinner speaker at the state GOP gathering. He told them they must continue the movement started by President Trump and others.
“I couldn’t be prouder to be a small part of this revolution. But on your shoulders, it’s going to happen or not. It’s not Trump, it’s not me, it’s not Laura Ingraham, it’s not Sean Hannity. It’s going to be you guys,” he said. “If you ever need any help … track me down. I’ve got your back the entire time.”
Bannon was mobbed by students seeking pictures and autographs on his way out.
Mere mentions of former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) drew loud boos and catcalls as former Trump advisor Stephen K. Bannon derided the GOP leaders in his address to California Republicans on Friday night at their fall convention in Anaheim.
Bannon, who runs the far-right website Breitbart News, blasted Bush for his harsh assessment of Trump and his policies, which the former president delivered at a policy seminar in New York on Thursday. Bush suggested that Trump has promoted bigotry and falsehoods, violating this country’s values.
“President Bush to me embarrassed himself. Speech writers wrote a highfalutin speech,” Bannon said. “It’s clear he didn’t understand anything he was talking about. … Just like it was when he was president of the United States.”
Bannon, who was ousted from the White House in August but said he considers himself Trump’s “wingman,” didn’t stop there. He ripped into Bush, saying he allowed China to grow as a world power under the premise that global engagement might shepherd the county toward democracy.
“There’s not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush’s,” Bannon said.
Bannon also had no love for McCain, who has openly clashed with Trump and helped torpedo Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
He praised McCain’s military service, but said as a politician, “He’s just another senator from Arizona.”
The boos from the crowd of Republican donors and activists show how much the state party has changed as its influence has waned and its numbers have dwindled in California. The brand of conservatism belonging to Bush and McCain resonated with California’s GOP voters during their presidential campaigns. Both men forged deep ties with the state’s Republican elected leaders and donors, raising tens of millions of dollars here for their political campaigns.
In California, Bush received 1.1 million more votes in the November 2004 presidential election than Trump did last November. McCain received almost 600,000 more votes in the November 2008 presidential election than Trump received in the state in 2016.
Student journalists Amy Wells and Brandon Pho from Cal State Fullerton teamed up outside Anaheim's Marriott Hotel as night descended, assigned to cover Stephen K. Bannon's speech and protesters targeting him.
"We don't underestimate how movements can pull in more youth, especially if they hear other youth pushing it on social media," said Pho, a sophomore majoring in journalism.
"We're always on the lookout for more policy to dig into because we have a lot of undocumented students on our campus and they're way aware of national issues," added Wells, a senior pursuing a journalism degree.
Pho and Wells said reporting on the small crowd of protesters will prepare them for much larger turnouts when provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos visits their campus at the end of this month.
"While Bannon is more provocative, he doesn't have the reach of someone like Milo who knows how to engage an online audience," said Pho, 19. "We learn from watching how different public figures do outreach."
Wells, 22, described the night's gathering as having "the feel of a college campus protest. And of course, that feels familiar, with people here maybe figuring out what to do next. Small steps."
Growing up as a Republican in Southern California, Michelle Fowle said she automatically registered to join the party because her parents were also members.
"I didn't know the right civics," recalled the Northridge activist, 50. "I didn't really know women died for the right to vote. I just voted for whoever I saw on signs, or whose names I remembered."
Now Fowle is the founder of The Resistance - Northridge, Indivisible, which united supporters outside the California GOP convention in Anaheim on Friday to protest an appearance by Stephen K. Bannon.
She joined a crowd of about 50 people across the street from the Anaheim Marriott on Friday night as they denounced President Trump's former advisor. They were separated from conventiongoers by metal barriers and a cordon of private security guards while police officers observed from nearby.
"Information and exposure and understanding show us that he is dangerous. He's a very, very good manipulator," Fowle said of Bannon. "His goal is to try and get rid of established Republicans and bring in more extreme people. Bannon is using whatever base Trump has left to recruit."
Carolyn Criss, a retired film industry researcher, drove from Sherman Oaks to protest.
“Bannon is a clear danger to our democracy,” she said.
Criss said Trump’s election awoke her dormant activist tendencies, and she now regularly attends protests against the president.
She said she thought Bannon's visit was an effort to “amplify his voice” while also helping the GOP raise money.
“I really hope the GOP just wants to make some money off him and doesn’t believe what he says,” she said.
A California lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that would help protect workers from employer retribution for exercising their right to free speech.
Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) said Friday that the state should be a sanctuary for free speech, including the kind that some might find offensive. He said he will introduce a measure when the Legislature is back in session in January.
"It doesn’t matter if you’re Ben Shapiro speaking at UC Berkeley, a brave female employee standing up to misogyny in her workplace through the #MeToo movement, or a Dallas Cowboy playing in California this Sunday," he said in a statement. "The Constitution does not limit speech based on value judgments so long as it doesn’t harm others."
Stern said the president's attempt to urge NFL owners to fire players who kneel during the National Anthem is a "troubling attack" on the 1st Amendment.
"The Constitution trumps Trump," he said. "Americans of all political stripes ought to stand up and defend it."
The legislation would also help public institutions fund security for events that could include offensive speech. Public institutions and law enforcement shouldn’t have to bear the cost of ensuring constitutional protections for such events, Stern said.
Stern, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is part of the ongoing work to define hate speech and find a way to address it while upholding the Constitution.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked the courts to lift an order that blocks California’s ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines, which was approved in November by voters when they passed Proposition 63.
In June, a federal judge in San Diego ruled in favor of a request by the National Rifle Assn. to temporarily delay the magazine ban until the court could make a final decision on the law.
U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez wrote then: “If this injunction does not issue, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of otherwise law-abiding citizens will have an untenable choice: become an outlaw or dispossess one’s self of lawfully acquired property.”
In a friend-of-the-court filing, Newsom and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence argued the ban on large-capacity magazines is needed “to help prevent the occurrence of high-fatality gun massacres, and to reduce the bloodshed when these tragedies occur.”
Newsom, a candidate for governor, sponsored Proposition 63 with the law center.
"It’s a tragic reality that as time passes, we are presented with more and more evidence on the devastating power of large-capacity magazines, which are consistently the accessory of choice in mass shootings for mass murderers," Newsom said Friday in a statement, predicting the federal courts would uphold the ban.
California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte kicked off the state GOP’s fall convention with a speech to delegates that outlined why he thinks Democrats will be vulnerable in the upcoming 2018 elections.
Brulte zeroed in on the new gas tax and policy declaring California a “sanctuary state” — both approved by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democratic-controlled Legislature and both, he said, unpopular with California voters.
He said Democrats have tried to deflect voter attention from these issues, as well as California’s high poverty rate and an uptick in crime, by continually attacking President Trump.
“Here in California, the reason they want to talk about Donald Trump is because they don’t want to talk about the record they created,” Brulte said. “They broke it. They own it. If Donald Trump were not president, we would still have 22% of Californians living below the poverty line. That’s not Donald Trump’s fault. That’s the Democrats who control California.”
The state GOP’s three-day convention at the Anaheim Marriott will kick off in earnest Friday night when Trump’s former political strategist, Steve Bannon, takes the stage for a keynote address to delegates.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday she needs to keep her leadership position so there is a "top" woman at the table when decisions are made.
Pelosi made the comment on ABC's "The View" while recounting being interrupted by Cabinet officials during a recent White House dinner with President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
"I was the only woman at the table, and that's why I have to stay there, to be one of the top women, top people, at the table," she said.
The Democrat from San Francisco previously said she was considering retiring if Hillary Clinton won the presidency. She said Friday she stayed in order to protect the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature healthcare law.
Pelosi, who has been in Democratic leadership since 2001 and was the first female House speaker, has faced calls to step aside to make way for a new generation of leaders. Among those calling for her to step aside is fellow Californian Rep. Linda Sanchez of Whittier.
Pelosi on Friday brushed aside a question about calls for new leadership from "The View" panelist Meghan McCain, saying that while a few Democrats want her to go, many others want her to stay.
Earlier this week, Pelosi told The Times, "I don't want to be dismissive of this, but I'm not worried about it."
Billionaire environmentalist and megadonor Tom Steyer has launched a nationwide TV and digital campaign asking Americans to petition their members of Congress to impeach President Trump.
"He's brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice at the FBI, and in direct violation of the Constitution has taken money from foreign governments and threatened to shut down news organizations that report the truth. If that isn't a case for impeaching and removing a dangerous president, then what has our government become?" Steyer says in the video, which identifies him as simply "American Citizen."
"Join us and tell your member of Congress that they have a moral responsibility to stop doing what’s political and start doing what’s right," Steyer says in the ad.
The ad is part of both an eight-figure national television buy and a seven-figure digital ad buy. It directs people to a website with a petition.
Steyer has donated tens of millions to Democratic candidates, and funded get-out-the-vote operations through his climate change political action committee, including a new effort targeting GOP House members in California. He's also weighing a run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is seeking another term.
Steyer this week also penned an open letter asking mayors and governors to support impeaching Trump. It contains a veiled swipe at the long-serving Feinstein, who angered some progressives in August by urging "patience" and saying Trump could grow to become a good president.
"This is not a time to give in to an establishment that insists on acting the way the establishment always does, with “patience” or “caution.” It is an unprecedented moment, and it calls for extraordinary measures," the letter says.
Steyer sent a similar letter last week to Democratic members and congressional candidates, demanding they support impeachment if the party regains control of Congress in 2018. It made similiar references to "patience."
Few incumbent Democrats have called for Trump to be impeached outright, but Steyer is one of the largest Democratic donors and they could find it difficult to continue to avoid the topic.
Right-wing blogger and provocateur Chuck C. Johnson gave Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) a $5,400 campaign contribution weeks after he said he helped arrange a meeting between the Orange County congressman and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
The donation, the maximum amount allowed by law, came in the form of bitcoin, a virtual currency.
Johnson, who previously was banned from Twitter after soliciting donations toward "taking out" a prominent black activist, is listed on campaign finance forms as a self-employed investor who lives in Rosemead.
Rohrabacher campaign spokesman Jason Pitkin confirmed the donor was the same person who helped arrange the Assange meeting.
Johnson also recently sat in on a meeting between Rohrabacher and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in the Capitol. Pitkin said they discussed Assange's legal situation and cannabis policy, among other things.
Rohrabacher previously said Assange had "emphatically stated that the Russians were not involved" in hacking the 2016 elections but claimed his plans to bring the information directly to President Trump have been thwarted by White House staffers.
Pitkin said Johnson approached the Rohrabacher campaign shortly after his trip to London and said he wanted to donate. "He said, 'Do you take bitcoin?' and I said, 'I think we can,' " Pitkin recalled.
The campaign then set up a bitcoin wallet to receive the funds, Pitkin said.
Rohrabacher is not the only California House candidate this cycle who has accepted contributions in bitcoin. Democrat Brian Forde, who is challenging GOP Rep. Mimi Walters of Irvine, reported raising more than $59,000 in bitcoin donations between July 1 and Sept. 30.