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Essential Politics: Why sexual misconduct accusations against an assemblywoman have shaken California's capital

Essential Politics: Why sexual misconduct accusations against an assemblywoman have shaken California's capital
  (Los Angeles Times)

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia jolted California's state capital when she said last fall she'd been groped on her breasts and buttocks as a legislator. In the weeks since, the Democrat from Bell Gardens has been a vocal member of the #MeToo movement in Sacramento — signing the letter that sparked the first reports of a culture of harassment in government and politics, calling for accused lawmakers to bid farewell and even appearing on the cover of Time magazine.

Perhaps that's why the allegations of sexual misconduct from two men against Garcia are doubly shocking — both because it has been incredibly rare to see women accused and given her visible stature on the issue.

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As Melanie Mason reports, it's a twist to the gender dynamics that have unfolded in every industry in the last several months.

Garcia had been outspoken in demanding her accused male colleagues should step aside. One day after allegations against her were made public, she announced she'll take an unpaid leave of absence.

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It also has thrown into question who will take the reins of the Women's Caucus, which has played an influential role in shaping the Capitol's response to the controversy. There is no timeline to the investigation, one of 10 open probes in the Assembly. There are six ongoing investigations in the Senate.

We'll be tracking the developments on our Essential Politics news feed.

THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

The past extramarital relationships of Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa are seeing renewed scrutiny in light of the #MeToo movement, report Seema Mehta and Phil Willon. The aide with whom Newsom had an affair more than a decade ago also spoke out about their relationship.

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Days before one of the most powerful state unions announces its endorsement, the four Democratic candidates for governor promised to fight for higher pay and stronger union protections in front of SEIU 2015, its largest local chapter.

Newsom on Monday morning plans to launch his first digital ad about his record, notably his decision to make same-sex marriage legal 14 years ago when he was mayor of San Francisco.

The Republicans last week met for a feisty debate that included talk of sexual misconduct in politics and a comparison of conservative bona fides.

John Cox, one of three top Republican candidates for governor, announced he was increasing his personal donation to his campaign to $4 million.

Calling himself the only "true conservative" in California's race for governor, Republican Travis Allen revved up a crowd of supporters at the state Capitol on Sunday with praise for President Trump and a call for cutting taxes and securing the border.

A reminder you can keep up with the race in the moment via our Essential Politics news feed on California politics.

NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND

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Trump is upset with Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and would like to replace him, but Republican congressional leaders and strategists are strongly counseling him against feeding the perception of an inner circle in nonstop disarray, a person close to the White House said. Hoping to quell the furor, the White House scrambled aides Sunday to publicly defend Kelly and his handling of the domestic violence allegations against staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned or was fired Wednesday, a day after Kelly had praised him as "a man of integrity and honor."

The last week's departures provided the opportunity to make several updates to our detailed graphic on the notable Trump administration firings and resignations.

The White House has delayed the release of a Democratic memo related to Congress' Russia investigation, saying that it contains sensitive information that would compromise national security. Trump said Democrats wrote a memo that was "too long."

Unlike last year's National Prayer Breakfast, Trump didn't trash Arnold Schwarzenegger this year.

Learn more about Sen. Tammy Duckworth, the Democrat who went after Trump's accusations of "treason."

THE IMMIGRATION DEBATE TO COME

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Congress came to a two-year budget agreement in an early-morning vote Friday. Learn more about what's in it.

As the Senate prepares to tackle immigration next, Trump's White House has floated the idea of maintaining legal immigration at current levels, about 1.1 million people a year, for more than a decade.

The California Department of Justice took its federal counterpart to court, seeking an order to release documents that would explain the rationale of a threat to withhold law enforcement grants unless agencies in the state cooperate with immigration enforcement.

Meanwhile, the state and the federal government clashed in court over the border wall in San Diego last week.

LAWMAKERS WANT TO BRING BACK A BILLION-DOLLAR AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROGRAM

As the state's housing problems continue to worsen, lawmakers are searching for ways to find funding to build low-income developments.

Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) wants to try to revive an urban renewal program that allocated $1 billion a year for housing. The problem? Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated the program seven years ago, arguing it was too costly.

Chiu says even if his idea doesn't pass this year, he's hoping that Brown's likely successor — many have already endorsed bringing back the program — will sign off on a replacement.

THE REAL JERRY BROWN LEGACY: CALIFORNIA'S SUPREME COURT

Legal and political watchers are counting the days, 165 of them as of Monday, that the seventh and final seat on the California Supreme Court has been empty.

As John Myers writes in his Sunday column, the choice that Brown is still weighing will be decisive — his fourth appointment on the state's highest tribunal, whose justices are poised to weigh in on some major policy debates later this year.

WHY HASN'T WATER BOND MONEY BEEN SPENT?

The California Water Commission hasn't allocated the $2.7-billion from 2014's Proposition 1, and no projects have been approved, Skelton writes in his Monday column.

TODAY'S ESSENTIALS

-- California could become the first state to bar organized tackle football before high school. Just days after the Super Bowl, Assembly members Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) said Thursday they are introducing the "Safe Youth Football Act," legislation that will be considered this year by state lawmakers.

-- Schwarzenegger teed off last week on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt: "He does not represent the people. He only represents the special interests. He should be removed immediately."

-- A new bill could require that all cars driven for Uber and Lyft must be electric by 2028.

-- Right-wing blogger Mike Cernovich said he's considering a run for Congress.

-- A new report from Politico revealed more details about the FBI investigation into Rep. Duncan Hunter's campaign spending.

-- With marijuana sales now legal in California, one lawmaker wants to find out whether drugged driving is going to be a significant problem.

-- Find out what Rep. Nancy Pelosi ate after ending her more than eight-hour filibuster over immigration on the House floor.

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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