Essential Politics November archives

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Gov. Jerry Brown honors leaders in social justice, world affairs and the arts at California Hall of Fame ceremony

(Jose Luis Villegas / Sacramento Bee)

Film icons, social justice activists and a renowned baseball player were among those inducted Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown and First Lady Anne Gust Brown into the California Hall of Fame, where honorees paid tribute to the “spirit of equality,” innovation and contributions of immigrants in the state.

“We want to look back and understand how California has come to be... the people who have built it in so many different ways,” Brown said. “We are always creating new things out of the soil that has preceded us.”

The newest class of inductees were actors Harrison Ford and George Takei, former San Diego Padres slugger Tony Gwynn, author Isabel Allende, former U.S. secretary of Defense William Perry, Tower Records founder Russ Solomon and artist Corita Kent.

Not all the inductees are California natives.

“But that is OK, because we know that most non-natives have made this place work,” Brown quipped when introducing Perry.

Perry, who served in the Army of Occupation in Japan and was at the forefront of crafting defense strategy against the Soviets, said he was attracted to “California’s pioneering spirit.”

“I am proud to be in a state that pioneered same-sex marriage,” he said to rounds of applause from the audience. “I am proud to be in a state that pioneered in introducing minority students and faculty at all of our state universities.”

Allende, a Chilean author and feminist icon in Latin America’s literary world, said she was “a real immigrant” to California.

“I am also a Latina at a time when it is very hard to be a Latina immigrant,” she said. But the induction into the state’s Hall of Fame made her realize California was home, she said.

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Rep. Darrell Issa is suing former opponent Doug Applegate over alleged defamatory campaign ads

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

The race may be over between Rep. Darrell Issa and challenger Doug Applegate, but one piece of business from the campaign may linger a long time.

The day before the Nov. 8 election, Issa sued Applegate for libel, claiming that two political ads have damaged his reputation.

Issa also named Applegate’s campaign manager, Robert Dempsey, and the campaign itself in the lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court. The incumbent, one of the wealthiest members in Congress, is seeking $10 million in damages and said he’ll donate any money awarded by the court to charity.

Issa had a 1,982-vote lead as of Wednesday afternoon — with 50.3% of the vote — and was declared the victor by news organizations Monday, with a small number of ballots remaining to be counted. Applegate subsequently admitted defeat but also announced he would run again in 2018.

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Harrison Ford, George Takei and others among the new inductees to the California Hall of Fame

(Associated Press)

Author Isabel Allende, film star Harrison Ford and actor/activist George Takei are among eight inductees to the California Hall of Fame who will be honored Wednesday in a state ceremony at the California Museum.

Gov. Jerry Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown will present each with a Spirit of California medal. Among the other inductees is journalist and former California first lady Maria Shriver, who founded the Hall of Fame in 2006 when Arnold Schwarzenegger, her husband from whom she is separated, was governor.

Since then, 96 people have been honored for making a mark on California history.

‘Sine die’ arrives in Sacramento, the official end to the 2014-16 session of the California Legislature

SACRAMENTO, CA - MAY 12, 2008: Assemblyman Todd Spitzer (R-Orange) studies a bill long after his colleagues have adjourned for day, May 12, 2008 on the floor of the state Assembly in Sacramento, California. He said it was easier to study the bill at his desk in the Assembly chambers than pick up all his materials and return to his office. The bill would expand eligibility for food stamps for those convicted of drug offenses. (Robert Durell/Los Angeles Times)
SACRAMENTO, CA - MAY 12, 2008: Assemblyman Todd Spitzer (R-Orange) studies a bill long after his colleagues have adjourned for day, May 12, 2008 on the floor of the state Assembly in Sacramento, California. He said it was easier to study the bill at his desk in the Assembly chambers than pick up all his materials and return to his office. The bill would expand eligibility for food stamps for those convicted of drug offenses. (Robert Durell/Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

The last day of November in an even-numbered year is almost always quiet in the Capitol, but it’s a big day according to state law: The end of a two-year legislative session.

Midnight marks what the California Constitution calls sine die, the final official day of the session that began on Dec. 1, 2014. For all 80 members of the Assembly and half of the 40-member Senate, this is the last day of their term in office.

Twenty members are leaving due to term limits. Assemblyman Brian Jones (R-Santee) tweeted a goodbye to his constituents.

More than 5,000 pieces of legislation were introduced over the last two years, but slightly less than half became law with the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown.

While the end of session is generally considered to be in late August or early September, depending on the year, Nov. 30 is the official changing of the guard. Rarely have lawmakers returned to Sacramento after election day in a lame-duck session. Last week, the brief speculation of last-minute work on a transportation funding plan came to an official end.

Alex Vassar, a historian of the California Legislature, has calculated that the concluding session had the least collective experience in office since 1927 — a function, Vassar said, of the large freshman class elected under relaxed term limits in 2012. But because those lawmakers can serve up to 12 years in the same office, the average time on the job will steadily rise in the next few years.

New and returning lawmakers will take the oath of office on Monday morning.

Sen. Harry Reid calls Sen. Barbara Boxer his ‘sister’ in praise-filled farewell speech

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) came to the Senate floor Wednesday to praise his longtime friend and fellow retiring senator, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

The House and Senate are expected to recess for the year next week, and the farewell speeches are beginning for members such as Boxer and Reid, who have worked together in Washington for 34 years.

In a nearly 15-minute speech, Reid praised the California delegation for taking him into its fold when he came to Congress and was the only Democrat representing Nevada. He spoke about Boxer’s efforts in preserving the wilderness and protecting Planned Parenthood and their work together with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to protect Lake Tahoe.

“Barbara, I have three brothers. I have never had a sister. You’re the sister I’ve never had,” Reid said. “To this day, we still refer to each other as ‘brother’ and ‘sister.’”

Boxer took to the Senate floor immediately after Reid was finished to thank him for his friendship and his words. She emphasized that she has a speech planned about Reid’s career that she’s sure will embarrass him.

Former California Assembly Speaker John A. Perez contemplates a bid to lead the Democratic National Committee

Former California Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles).
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Former state Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, the first openly gay person to hold the post and a forceful former labor organizer, said he is considering a run for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Politico first reported the news Wednesday.

Perez, who served as speaker from 2010-14 and ran unsuccessfully for state controller two years ago, on Wednesday said party leaders from across the nation have contacted him over the past several weeks to encourage him to run.

With President-elect Donald Trump about to enter the White House and Republicans in control of the Senate and House of Representatives, he said the national Democratic Party could learn from the methods used by California Democrats to win political dominance in the nation’s largest state.

“California has been through some of the challenges the rest of the country is facing right now,” Perez said in an interview with The Times. “It’s not that we’re an outlier. But we’re an interesting model for what’s possible in other states.”

During Perez’s tenure as speaker, the Democrats won a two-thirds supermajority in both the Assembly and state Senate. Democrats now hold every statewide political post in the state.

Several contestants for the new DNC chair have emerged, including Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who ran the national party in the run-up to Obama’s 2008 election, and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a favorite of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and the incoming Senate Democratic leader, Charles E. Schumer of New York.

The national party was rocked by controversies this past election season, including leaked emails that hastened the departure of its former chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. The emails, made public by WikiLeaks, showed her staff members discussing ways to undermine Sanders during the Democratic primary.

Perez, who lives in downtown Los Angeles, said he plans to deliberate about a possible run over the next several weeks.

Democrats pick California Rep. Linda Sanchez as the first Latina in House leadership

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

In a 98-96 vote, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Whittier) was elected the next vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus on Wednesday, making her the first Latina to ever serve in House leadership.

“We always knew it takes a lot of hard work to get a majority of your colleagues on board with something, I’ve been working at this for more than a year, worked diligently, and I knew today whatever the outcome, I left it all out on the field,” Sanchez said after the vote.

Earlier in the day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco fended off a challenge for her post from a group of younger members, some of whom had grumbled about how long some of the senior members have been in power, and whether newer members of the caucus had a voice.

Sanchez, who at 47 will also be the youngest member of House leadership, said she heard similar concerns from members as she campaigned for the position.

“I really see the vice chair position as a conduit of information from the membership to percolate it up to leadership,” she said. “I’ve heard it all in the last year, I’ve taken the time to really listen to some of their ideas, some of their concerns, some of their suggestions. I’ll be in a unique place to be able to sit in leadership meetings and try to make sure they’re aware of these discussions or these issues.”

The outcome of the election would have been historic either way. Sanchez beat out Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, who would have been the first black woman elected to House leadership.

Lee ran on a promise to create more ways for members to work on issues they care about, such as task forces and community meetings, if they aren’t on the related committees. She also said Democrats need to do more to talk directly to constituents across the country, and said she plans to find a way to do both outside of leadership.

“I’m going to create ways to do it, trust me,” Lee said after the vote. “I think that’s what we all have to do when we don’t have a sort of framework that’s institutional; we have to get out of the box and create those frameworks.”

Fellow California Democrats said it was a tough vote between hardworking, well-liked members. Three fewer votes were cast in the vice chair race than in Pelosi’s race for House minority leader early in the day, but with secret balloting, it wasn’t clear which members of the caucus didn’t vote.

California Democrats call on Trump administration to ‘save DACA’ with social media drive

Several congressional Democrats urged President-elect Donald Trump to protect so-called Dreamers, students and youth who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, when he takes office next month.

In tweets and Facebook posts, elected officials urged Trump not to reverse President Obama’s Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals plan, which put off deportations for Dreamers, as he had promised to do on the campaign trail.

The online campaign uses an image that reads “We are a nation of immigrants” and the hashtag “SaveDACA” in reference to the program.

Leading the charge were prominent Californians, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Senator-elect Kamala Harris.

Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) also chimed in, linking to an article about the open letter California college and university officials sent to Trump on the issue.

California Democrats have already asked President Obama to pardon the Dreamers and protect their information before he leaves office.

Kamala Harris names first staffers for her U.S. Senate office

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Senator-elect Kamala Harris is making her first hiring move, announcing Wednesday that her chief deputy in the attorney general’s office, Nathan Barankin, will be her chief of staff when she replaces Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in November.

“Nathan has been my trusted advisor and right hand for many years in the Attorney General’s office. He is an exceptional lawyer, legislative expert, and career public servant. He has served three different Attorneys General of California in executive roles and has worked as a constitutional litigator and an advisor to the California Senate leadership for many years. I look forward to continuing to work with Nathan in the United States Senate,” Harris said in a statement.

New senators are sworn in Jan. 3. Harris also announced half a dozen people to help set up her new office, including advisors Debbie Mesloh, Michael Troncoso and Tony West.

Also helping from Harris’ camp is director of scheduling and operations Cortney Bright; deputy campaign manager Jill Habig; campaign manager Juan Rodriguez; advisors Brian E. Nelson, Matthew Spence, Hillary Blout and Lane Dilg; as well as press secretary Nathan Click.

Nancy Pelosi handily wins another term as Democratic leader

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Don’t expect Legislature’s self-styled moderate Democrats to embrace new taxes, even for transportation

(Ken James / Bloomberg News)

Democrats who take the oath of office next week in the California Legislature will find their ranks have swelled, with the party now holding a supermajority of seats in both houses.

But there are likely to be notable intraparty disagreements on economic issues, none more important than taxes.

“I think we need to be very careful about taxes,” said Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), co-chairman of a business-aligned bloc of Democrats that calls itself the “moderate caucus.”

One tax proposal sure to face lawmakers in the coming weeks is a proposed increase in the state gas tax to help fund billions of dollars in transportation projects. A broad package of proposals designed to improve roads and highways failed to move forward in the previous session, in large part because the gas tax increase required a supermajority vote in both houses -- and Republicans balked at the idea.

Which gets back to the skepticism of some of the business-aligned Democrats to vote for a new tax.

“I think we need to be very careful,” said Cooper of a tax hike.

The looming transportation debate, say some, offers insight into the limits of Democratic dominance even in an era where the party’s political power seems stronger than ever.

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Bernie Sanders tells California audience that Democrats ‘cannot be the party of the liberal elite’

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke to a sold-out crowd of 1,400 Tuesday night in Glendale, trying to help supporters grapple with the election of Donald Trump and chart a path forward.

Opening her conversation with Sanders at the Alex Theatre, comedian Sarah Silverman posed a question with a four-letter word she said has “been on everybody’s mind since the election.”

“What the [expletive]?” Silverman said to laughter and applause. “Is that the entire question?” Sanders responded, before warning that the Democratic Party “cannot be the party of the liberal elite.”

Sanders told the audience that it would be a mistake to assume that the only reason Trump won was because his supporters are “racists, sexists and homophobes.”

“What he touched on in many, many parts of this country is a pain and a level of despair that you never, ever see on television,” Sanders said. “A lot of people are suffering, a lot of people are hurting and they need a party which brings them into the process.”

Sanders continued to de-emphasize identity politics, a move he’s made in several media outlets in recent days, saying “it isn’t enough” to support a candidate because she’s a Latina or a woman. Democrats, Sanders said, need to stand against racism and discrimination, but also emphasize progressive values such as fighting Wall Street and drug companies.

He repeated his belief that the “overwhelming share” of Americans support his progressive ideals, including a desire for clean air and water, free college tuition and greater pay equality for women, all topics that drew sustained applause from the audience.

“As we try to figure out how best to deal with a President Trump, and I’m as reluctant as you to say that phrase ... please do not believe that members of Congress can do this alone. We need a mass movement of millions of people who are engaged,” Sanders said.

Bernie Sanders talks with Sarah Silverman about the election before a sold-out crowd in Glendale

Los Angeles Rep. Xavier Becerra makes a bid to lead Democrats on House tax-writing committee

(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) is seeking to become the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee following news Tuesday that the current ranking member Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will not run for the position again.

Levin, 85, said it was time to give younger members a chance to lead Democrats on the powerful tax-writing committee ahead of expected fights with the Trump administration and House Republicans over healthcare policy and tax reform.

Becerra asked for support in a letter to colleagues Tuesday night.

“With the White House and Congress in Republican hands, we need a strong, experienced and energetic leader who will take the fight for our democratic values on the Ways and Means Committee to the American people,” Becerra said. “Over the next two years, many of America’s toughest policy decisions will play out in this committee.

The member who will become the Democrats’ next leader on the committee isn’t determined by seniority. The ranking member elections have not yet been scheduled. Becerra is the committee’s sixth-highest ranking Democrat, and the ranking Democrat on its Social Security Subcommittee.

The committee’s second- and third-ranking Democrats, Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), are both retiring this year. Though he hasn’t officially signaled one way or the other, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) the fourth-ranking Democrat on the committee isn’t expected to pursue the job.

That leaves the race down to Becerra and the fifth-highest ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who challenged Levin for the ranking member position in 2010 and lost. Neal has not said if he plans to run.

Becerra, the fourth-highest ranking Democrat and the most senior Latino in the House, is term-limited as caucus chairman and had no other step upward in House leadership unless House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-M.D.) or Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) stepped down. The three are up for reelection in Wednesday morning’s leadership vote.

Becerra was a vocal surrogate for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and spent the last year crisscrossing the country for her and for House candidates. His name was floated as an early possibility for vice president, or for a cabinet position.

After a tough election fight, Douglas Applegate says he isn’t done challenging Rep. Darrell Issa

Democrat Doug Applegate
(Sean Dufrene/Associated Press)

Democratic congressional candidate Douglas Applegate came within a few thousand votes of knocking off GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista, and now says he’s going to give it another try in 2018.

“As a Marine Colonel, I know that the hardest fights often take a couple of battles — and I look forward to continuing our fight in the days, weeks, and months ahead,” Applegate said in a statement released Tuesday. “That’s why I’m announcing my intention to run for Congress in 2018.”

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John Burton says he’s the the leader of California’s ‘Liberal Party’ — and proud of it

California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton.
California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

John Burton isn’t afraid of the “l” word.

The chairman of the California Democratic Party wasn’t shy about calling it the “Liberal Party” in an email urging members to run to become delegates. For years Republicans have used the term “liberal” as a pejorative. Many Democratic politicians prefer to be called “progressive.”

The message sent by Burton, the former president pro tempore of the state Senate, also laid out “what California Democrats stand for” — a list of policy positions that largely mirrors the party’s official political platform.

Among the highlights of Burton’s list:

  • A “common sense ban on deadly assault weapons”
  • Abolishing capital punishment
  • Endorsing Black Lives Matter
  • A belief that “healthcare is a human right” and support for a single-payer health care system
  • Support for debt-free college and free community college

California Republicans allege that the state’s online voter registration system isn’t secure

(Los Angeles Times)

Leaders of the California Republican Party are alleging that the state’s online voter registration system is susceptible to voter fraud, and say they are considering possible legal action in the days or weeks to come.

Harmeet Dhillon, the state party’s former vice chair and now a member of the Republican National Committee, said Sunday that party leaders believe the 4-year-old system allows multiple people to be registered from the same computer.

“The [California] secretary of state’s website does not track the IP addresses of the people who register to vote,” Dhillon said in a phone interview. “You could literally register hundreds or thousands of people from the same computer.”

When asked Tuesday how a single computer used to register multiple voters might be an indicator of fraud, Dhillon said she believes such a situation makes investigating fraudulent activity more difficult. But she said she does not support any ban on public computers for registering voters, such as the ones used in libraries.

The voter registration website, which asks for personal information, including a driver’s license number and the last four digits of a Social Security number, was launched in 2012. State elections officials boasted last month of a record number of voter registration visits — more than half a million — on the website over two days in late October.

“There is more security on the websites that I shopped on Black Friday than there is on the secretary of state’s website,” Dhillon said.

An email sent to GOP leaders last weekend by the chairman of the California Republican Party, Jim Brulte, suggested possible legal action over the online site. The email, a copy of which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times, also outlined a handful of other “voter registration/turnout irregularities” during the 2016 election cycle.

In a written statement to The Times, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said his staff regularly assesses security of the site and blocks any suspicious activity.

“Undermining confidence in our elections by making unfounded claims of security vulnerabilities and voter fraud is irresponsible,” Padilla said. “I will continue to work to protect the integrity of our elections systems while making the voting experience, from voter registration to casting a ballot, accessible, fair and honest.”

Padilla was vocal over the weekend in criticizing the unproven allegations of widespread voter fraud in California by President-elect Donald Trump.


3:37 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Harmeet Dhillon regarding the security of public computers.

FOR THE RECORD, 7:25 p.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly quoted Harmeet Dhillon as saying, “You could literally register hundreds of thousands of people from the same computer.” The figures she cited were “hundreds or thousands.”

This article was originally published at 2:26 p.m.

California Democrats jump in to support Nancy Pelosi’s minority leadership bid

House Democrats come together Wednesday to vote on their leadership for the next Congress, and with a challenge to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) looming, her supporters have taken to social media in recent days to explain why they back the long-serving leader.

Pelosi, who has been in House leadership for nearly two decades, has cast herself as a steady hand for Democrats as they push back against President-elect Donald Trump’s policies, including repealing the Affordable Care Act and deporting millions of people in the country illegally.

Pelosi’s challenger, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), represents a state that Trump won, and he has made the case that Democrats need to appeal to Middle America if they want to regain House control.

Several of California’s 39 Democrats joined the social media rally behind Pelosi, posting their own reasons to #StandWithNancy.