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  • California Legislature
  • 2018 election
Democrats Jesse Gabriel and Luz Rivas were the top vote-getters in respective special elections
Democrats Jesse Gabriel and Luz Rivas were the top vote-getters in respective special elections (Jesse Gabriel for Assembly; Luz Rivas for Assembly)

Contests to replace two Democratic San Fernando Valley state assemblymen who resigned amid accusations of sexual misconduct are headed to a June primary with Democrats favored to keep both seats.  

Democrats Luz Rivas and Jesse Gabriel each won the most votes in their respective races to fill the remaining terms of former Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra and Matt Dababneh in the heavily Democratic districts, according to initial but still unofficial results.

Rivas, a 44-year-old science educator and Los Angeles Public Works Commissioner, beat out four other Democrats on the ballot with 41% of the vote. She will face No. 2 finisher Republican plumbing and electrical contractor Ricardo Benitez, 60, who claimed 21% of the vote in the race to replace Bocanegra. 

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Flanked by civil rights advocates, California lawmakers announced new legislation Tuesday designed to make it easier to prosecute police officers who kill civilians.

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  • California Legislature
  • 2018 election
  • California Democrats
Sydney Kamlager was elected to the California Assembly in a special election on Tuesday.
Sydney Kamlager was elected to the California Assembly in a special election on Tuesday. (Sydney Kamlager Twitter photo)

Sydney Kamlager, a Los Angeles community college trustee, was elected Tuesday to the Assembly in a special election while candidates in two other nearby vacant seats are headed to a June 5 runoff.

Kamlager, 45, will serve the remaining seven months in the term of former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, who cited health issues in his resignation late last year.

Unofficial returns on Tuesday showed her winning almost two-thirds of the votes cast for any of the four candidates on the ballot in the 54th Assembly District — more than enough needed to win the job outright without a runoff election.

  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
Former state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) casts his vote for a Democratic party endorsement in February.
Former state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) casts his vote for a Democratic party endorsement in February. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

A former legislative aide sued the California Senate and recently resigned Sen. Tony Mendoza on Tuesday, alleging she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for complaining about Mendoza’s alleged sexual harassment of a young female staff member.

Mendoza, a Democrat from Artesia, resigned in February under threat that the Senate would expel him after an investigation concluded that he made six female aides uncomfortable with a pattern of  "unwanted flirtatious or sexually suggestive behavior." He has denied wrongdoing and is running in the June election to reclaim his seat.

Adriana Ruelas, who filed the lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court, was the legislative director for Mendoza when he terminated her in September. She was not one of the women allegedly sexually harassed.

  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
Former Assemblyman Matt Dababneh (D-Woodland Hills) opened a new fundraising committee that would enable him to tap previously raised funds.
Former Assemblyman Matt Dababneh (D-Woodland Hills) opened a new fundraising committee that would enable him to tap previously raised funds. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Matt Dababneh, the former Democratic assemblyman who resigned last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct, has opened a new fundraising committee that would enable him to tap into previously raised campaign cash.

Dababneh, who represented Woodland Hills from 2013 through 2017, stepped down at the end of last year after being accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, including a female lobbyist who said he masturbated in front of her. Dababneh denied any wrongdoing but resigned in December, saying the current environment made it too difficult to do his job. A legislative investigation into those claims is ongoing.

A prolific fundraiser, Dababneh had more than $1.1 million in his reelection account as of January. Under campaign finance law, those funds would become “surplus” 90 days after he left office. Surplus funds are restricted in how they can be used, such as paying off debts or refunding contributors. They cannot be used for future elections.

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  • Governor's race
  • 2018 election
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox launched a radio ad in the Central Valley on Monday blasting Democratic rival Antonio Villaraigosa over his support for high-speed rail.

“L.A. Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa would spend billions on the bullet train because - quote – ‘it connects the two engines of the California economy.’ Apparently, Mr. Villaraigosa doesn’t realize that the Central Valley is home to another economic engine – one that actually produces something,” Cox says in the 60-second ad. “It’s called California agriculture, and it’s feeding the world.”

Cox, who inched ahead of Villaraigosa in a recent poll for second place in the race, is spending about $70,000 to air the ad for two weeks on radio stations between Bakersfield and Modesto, according to his campaign.

  • California Legislature
Curtis Gordon, center, the uncle of Stephon Clark, speaks at a rally in Sacramento on Saturday calling for police reforms.
Curtis Gordon, center, the uncle of Stephon Clark, speaks at a rally in Sacramento on Saturday calling for police reforms. (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

Lawmakers’ tempers flared Monday as the California Senate adjourned in memory of Stephon Clark, an unarmed African American man who was shot to death by Sacramento police officers on March 18.

Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) denounced the shooting, saying Clark did not get a day in court “because the police chose to be judge, jury and executioner.”

Bradford, who is black, said the shooting was part of a pattern of “brutalization of African Americans by law enforcement.”

  • State government

Gov. Jerry Brown’s move on Friday to pardon five immigrants facing possible deportation for past criminal acts prompted a Twitter tit-for-tat with President Trump over Easter weekend.

Brown granted pardons to 56 people as part of his traditional Easter act of clemency. Among them were five people who face potential deportation due to their criminal records, including one person who is in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

That prompted a Saturday morning rebuke from Trump, who used the nickname “Moonbeam,” which has dogged Brown since a newspaper columnist called him that in the 1970s.

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California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra supports expanding a task force that has been investigating the underground economy in Los Angeles.
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra supports expanding a task force that has been investigating the underground economy in Los Angeles. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

State officials on Monday proposed expanding a task force that has gone after tax scofflaws operating in the underground economy in Los Angeles and Sacramento, saying California continues to lose billions of dollars in revenue from the illicit activity.

The underground economy is made up of unlicensed individuals and businesses selling services and goods that are often counterfeited, without paying the state income or sales taxes, or paying legally required wages and benefits to employees.

Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said he supports legislation that would expand the Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement Task Force, a pilot project in the state Department of Justice, to also operate in San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley.

Five immigrants with criminal records who face possible deportation were pardoned by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday, continuing his tradition of granting clemency around the Easter holiday.

The five individuals were among 56 pardons granted by Brown, as well as 14 sentence commutations for current inmates.

Brown’s inclusion of those at risk of deportation — which he has now done for several rounds of pardons — is yet another sign of how California has diverged on immigration from the federal government, which has increased arrests and detentions under President Trump.