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Essential Politics: Coming to terms with elections past, present and future

One year from today, Californians will be choosing a new governor, and voters across the country will be deciding which party should control of Congress.

Following a week marked by violence, indictments in the Russia probe and the release of the Republican tax plan, it’s impossible to foresee what the political conversation will be 365 days from now. Both parties continue to look back as they attempt to forge a path forward.

Wednesday marks another important date — one year since Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States.

To deflect attention from Robert Mueller’s special investigation, Republicans are using some explosive details about how the Democratic National Committee was working with Hillary Clinton. Former DNC leader Donna Brazile, who has gone public with what she says are concerns about the 2016 primary election, told critics Sunday to "go to hell."

Some Democratic campaign operatives are seizing on the clarity that comes with distance to plunge into difficult discussions about what might have been done differently – and how they can put those lessons to use in upcoming elections, Evan Halper and David Lauter write.

TRAGEDY, AGAIN

We’re still learning about the man responsible for the massacre of more than two dozen churchgoers in a small town outside San Antonio, Texas, on Sunday.

We reported late Sunday that Devin P. Kelley was given a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force three years ago after being court-martialed for assault. Federal law prohibits a person who has been dishonorably discharged from buying a firearm. Whether Kelley's discharge would trigger the law was not immediately clear.

Trump, who is traveling in Asia, called it a “horrific shooting” in a “place of sacred worship.” On Monday, Trump blamed the gunman’s mental health, and said it wasn’t “a guns situation.” In a statement Sunday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California hinted at the policy debate, without mentioning the words “gun control.”

"We have a solemn obligation to the victims of Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Orlando, Newtown and the many tragic shootings that occur each day to respond not only with prayer and unwavering love, but with action," she said. "Much more needs to be done in the Congress to ensure that no other family is forced to endure such an unimaginable tragedy."

NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND

-- Larry David’s Bernie Sanders was back on “Saturday Night Live.”

-- There’s an election tomorrow. Mark Z. Barabak explains the importance of a vote in Washington State, where the stakes are control of the state Capitol in Olympia, and Cathy Decker notes that even minor contests in swing-state Virginia are getting attention because Virginia represents a nationally watched early test of whether Democrats can halt a series of ignoble defeats and craft a template for the 2018 congressional and gubernatorial elections.

-- Newly leaked documents show that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Trump administration's point man on trade and manufacturing policy, has a stake in a company that does business with a gas producer partly owned by the son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

-- About that disappearing @RealDonaldTrump account.

-- Jaweed Kaleem reports on Hawaiians’ decidedly unwelcome feelings as Trump passed through on his way to Asia.

-- Trump and Abe bonded in Tokyo over golf, steaks and trucker hats that say “great again.”

Follow the trip and what’s happening in the nation’s capital on Essential Washington. We’ll also have election results Tuesday.

ONE YEAR SINCE THE ELECTION THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING

The Times’ Opinion team asked liberals, moderates and conservatives, political observers and politicians to consider what happened and reflect on the nature of the Trump presidency to date. Yes, the “impeachment” word comes up.

Here’s Sanders.

Here’s Los Angeles Rep. Maxine Waters.

And read the whole thing.

’PATIENCE,’ IN CONTEXT

We’re starting a new series we’re calling In Context, closely examining political claims, advertisements and more.

The debut examined the two phrases Sen. Dianne Feinstein uttered over the summer that have become the rallying cry among progressives who would like to see the veteran Democrat ousted next year. Her statements — about having "patience" with Trump and saying he could be a "good president" if he changed — are not as simplistic as many have portrayed them, as Seema Mehta reports.

See something you’d like explained? Get in touch.

THE PEOPLE CHALLENGING FEINSTEIN

State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León is well known in Sacramento for his work on climate change policies. Now a group of environmental activists called Climate Hawks Vote is endorsing him as he tries to unseat Feinstein.

Sarah Wire reports on a new progressive candidate who entered the race against Feinstein on Thursday who has the backing of a popular online progressive media outlet, the Young Turks.

THE OTHER ELECTION

State Treasurer and candidate for governor John Chiang has launched a website attacking Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the front-runner. The site, www.gavinfacts.com, highlights a 2009 San Francisco Weekly with the headline: "Why was Mayor Gavin Newsom's San Francisco Called 'the Worst Run Big City' in the U.S.?"

Chiang defended the website as providing an opportunity for voters to examine the candidates’ records, while Newsom dismissed the attack as indicative of the standings in the race.

Both men joined joined other elected officials and candidates at a conference in San Diego to discuss the state’s housing, workforce and water shortages. Former Los Angeles Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa warned of the growing divide between the rich and poor in California. GOP businessman John Cox, also running for governor, called for the repeal and replacement of the state’s primary environmental law governing development. And state Sen. Toni Atkins, who is among the contenders to become the new Senate leader, said the recently enacted sweeping housing package is only the start of tackling the state’s affordability crisis.

TAX DEBATE HITS HOME

The GOP tax plan unveiled Thursday would be a blow to many California taxpayers. That’s not a deal breaker for California’s Republicans, who so far seem optimistic the bill is the best deal for their constituents, Wire reports.

That optimism hasn’t stopped Pelosi from being critical of the plan, and the Republican members who support it.

George Skelton writes Monday that California’s Republican members of Congress seem to have conflicting tax philosophies. They’re blasting Democrats for an increase in the state’s gas tax, which went into effect Wednesday, and several are supporting its repeal. But there’s been no protest when it comes to their colleagues in Washington working to take away federal tax breaks used by millions of middle-class Californians, Skelton says.

BOCANEGRA UNDER FIRE

The chairman of the California Democratic Party said Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra must "come to terms" over whether he can continue serving after a Times report that as a staffer he was disciplined following allegations he groped another staffer.

Party leader Eric Bauman stopped short of indicating whether he thought Bocanegra should step down. Bauman added that Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) should help the Pacoima assemblyman decide "what his future is going to be."

Several San Fernando Valley activists protested at Bocanegra’s office last week, calling for him to resign.

If you have a story to share about harassment in government or politics, we’d like to hear from you.

A reminder you can keep up with what’s happening in the state in the moment via our Essential Politics news feed on California politics.

CALIFORNIA HOMEOWNERS GET PROPERTY TAX RELIEF AFTER WILDFIRES

State law provides plenty of property tax protections for people who lose their home in a wildfire, Liam Dillon reports.

Under Proposition 13, tearing down your old house and building a new one would normally result in a full reassessment of your property and therefore a higher tax bill.

But after a disaster, those rules don't apply. Instead, affected homeowners are able to delay paying their taxes, receive temporary lower tax rates while they rebuild and maintain their previous tax rate even if they move to a new home.

POLITICAL ROAD MAP: CHANGE THOSE PENSION INVESTMENTS?

When a group of California Democrats in Congress asked the state’s largest pension fund to cancel an investment linked to Trump, it was the latest effort in decades of demands about flexing some political muscle with those billions of dollars.

In his Sunday column, John Myers looks at the many efforts to force divestment in everything from tobacco and guns to now the president’s business dealings. Both supporters and opponents of these divestment efforts have one thing in common: They both know that those actions have consequences.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- This week’s California Politics Podcast takes a closer look at the sexual harassment conversation in Sacramento, plus talk of taxes from Washington to your local gas pump.

-- The California Republican Party has spent $822,000 on a petition drive for a recall election against state Sen. Josh Newman, while the Democratic lawmaker from Fullerton has raised $1.8 million to fight the effort to remove him from office, according to campaign finance reports.

-- Corporations, unions and other interests spent $86.2 million on lobbying state government during the last quarter, with the oil industry leading the way as the Legislature approved an extension of California’s cap-and-trade program.

-- 12,000 California legislators? A plan to create that kind of system is now closer to getting on the statewide ballot than ever before.

-- California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra is increasing his legal push against Trump’s plans to end deportation deferrals for certain young immigrants.

-- Trump nominated a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California.

-- California’s senators signed onto an online sex trafficking bill after the tech industry signaled its support.

-- The GOP’s tax plan would cost California billions of dollars in low-income housing funding, Chiang wrote Friday in a letter to Congress.

-- Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) picked up another Republican challenger this week. Michael Allman, a former CEO at SoCal Gas, says he plans to ask citizens to tell him directly how to vote on key issues.

-- Gov. Jerry Brown wants the federal government to spend $7.4 billion to help the state in the aftermath of recent wildfires in Northern California.

-- San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin -- two of the most prominent Republicans in the state -- each insisted they do not plan to run for governor or U.S. Senate next year.

-- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who recently ruled out a gubernatorial bid, announced he would travel to Indiana this week to launch a nonprofit, another out-of-state trip that will feed speculation about his 2020 plans.

-- Check out the “11/8/16” documentary that features the Los Angeles Times and 15 other settings across the country from election day.

-- I was a panelist Friday on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” talking about the tax plan, the Russia investigation and the politics of terrorism. On the "Overtime" panel after the show, we discussed California’s Senate race. And I fact-checked myself.

LOGISTICS

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