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Essential Politics October archive

Welcome to the October archive of Essential Politics, our daily feed on California politics and government news.

For the latest feed, go here.

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It’s Halloween night at the governor’s mansion

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Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorses marijuana legalization initiative

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday endorsed a marijuana legalization initiative.
((Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times) )

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday became the latest high-profile politician to endorse an initiative on next week’s ballot that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in California.

Villaraigosa is considering whether to run for governor in 2018 amid a field that already includes Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a leading proponent of Proposition 64.

“I took my time on this measure because I wanted to make sure it included protections for children and public safety,” Villaraigosa said in a statement. “In evaluating the measure in its entirety, I am convinced there are enough safeguards to make it a workable proposition.”

The Proposition 64 campaign welcomed Villaraigosa’s endorsement at a time when one recent poll indicated slightly fewer than half of Latino voters support the measure.

“We’re glad to have it,” said Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the campaign.

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Every member of California’s state Senate signs a letter asking Congress to stop the National Guard paybacks

(Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

In a rare show of unanimity, every member of the California Senate signed a letter on Monday asking Congress to permanently waive any repayment of bonuses offered to the state’s National Guard members for Iraq war reenlistment.

Most of the soldiers that accepted the money “acted on good faith, relying on bad information from recruiters and others in positions of authority,” said the letter signed by all 39 sitting members of the state Senate.

The letter comes more than a week after a Los Angeles Times investigation into efforts to require nearly 10,000 of the state’s National Guard soldiers to repay the money.

“The federal clawback of the funds is devastating the families of current and former Guard members,” said the letter sent to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev).

“The recovery effort ignores that the primary fault lies with the recruiting system’s failure to ensure eligibility at the time of the awards,” wrote the state senators.

Meanwhile, the state’s congressional delegation continues to insist on action from the Department of Defense. Following a conference call with Defense officials last week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) sent his own letter on Monday afternoon, demanding that all collected funds be returned to state Guard members immediately.

Times staff writer Sarah D. Wire contributed to this report.

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Conservative group spends $3.5 million on Central Valley race once considered safe

The Congressional Leadership Fund is pouring another $1.5 million into the race between Rep. Jeff Denham and Democrat farmer Michael Eggman.

The group, which is endorsed by House Republican leaders, and works with the American Action Network, has now spent $3.5 million in the race. The race was initially viewed as an easy win for Denham (R-Turlock), but has become increasingly uncertain in recent weeks.

The district is being closely watched as an indicator of how Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump might affect down-ballot candidates. Democrats have spent more than $6 million in the district.

The Congressional Leadership Fund and American Action Network have spent $45 million in 32 districts nationwide so far and have aired ads in other California House races, including in the nearby 21st District race between Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) and attorney Emilio Huerta and the 7th District race between Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.

The group’s newest ad in the 10th District race begins running on television Tuesday. It calls Eggman, an almond and bee farmer, an “extreme liberal” and a “rubber stamp” for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) because he supports the Affordable Care Act.

It previously ran an ad against Eggman that used news footage from the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack.

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FOR THE RECORD

2:14 p.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the Congressional Leadership Fund as the Conservative Leadership Fund.

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The Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights leaders hold rally in support of Proposition 61

The Rev. Al Sharpton kicks off a rally and march in support of Proposition 61, the California ballot measure that seeks to lower the price state agencies pay for prescription drugs.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders gathered at a rally Monday morning to support Proposition 61, the ballot measure that seeks to lower the price state agencies pay for prescription drugs.

Sharpton appeared alongside black community leaders, including Marc Morial, former New Orleans mayor and head of the National Urban League, and Kevin Sauls, pastor of a South L.A. church.

“This issue is very simple,” Sharpton said to a crowd of about 40 supporters. “It’s about the right of people to afford what they need, and they need to have accessibility that is affordable with prescription drugs.”

He likened the issue of prescription drug affordability to a civil right, and recycled the well-known “Yes We Can” slogan from President Obama’s 2008 election to urge voters to pass Proposition 61.

Sharpton’s appearance came a day after he and Morial stumped for the measure at seven different churches in South Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

“The significance of bringing in people of color is that we are the ones who disproportionately are impacted by the prices and impacted by the need for healthcare,” Sharpton said in an interview afterward. “I think it’s a civil right for people to be able to afford healthcare in the wealthiest nation in the world.”

In a statement, No on Proposition 61 spokeswoman Kathy Fairbanks pointed to support for the opposition campaign from groups like the California NAACP, and the California League of Latin American Citizens.

“Higher drug prices resulting from Prop. 61 will decrease access to care,” Fairbanks said. “That’s a policy step in the wrong direction.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton at a Yes on Proposition 61 rally in downtown Los Angeles.
(Christine Mai-Duc / Los Angeles Times)

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President Obama endorses a fourth legislative candidate in California

Last week, Obama announced his endorsement of three Democrats running for the state Assembly.

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U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez releases tax returns — and is ripped by her rival’s campaign

U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez casts her ballot at Orange High School in the June primary election.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez earned a total of $156,674 in 2015 and paid $36,306 in federal and state income taxes, according to the Orange County congresswoman’s 2015 tax returns.

Sanchez declined to release the tax returns of her husband, attorney John “Jack” Einwechter, saying they filed separate returns and that she felt no obligation to disclose his tax information.

“He has no financial conflict,” Sanchez said. “My husband is a lawyer. He has four or five clients. They have nothing to do with anything.”

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris in mid-October released the joint 2015 tax return she filed with her husband, Los Angeles attorney Douglas Emhoff. The couple reported earning approximately $1.17 million that year and paid just under $450,000 in federal and state income taxes.

The Harris campaign was quick to criticize Sanchez for not releasing her husband’s return.

“Like nearly every aspect of her campaign, Loretta Sanchez’s failure to honestly and completely release her taxes is a joke. And it’s not funny,” said Harris political consultant Sean Clegg. “Every serious candidate for U.S. Senate, including Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, has fully disclosed spousal tax returns.”

The congresswoman said her husband filed separately in 2015 because he was still sorting out some financial matters with his ex-wife. Sanchez added that by filing individually she pays more in taxes because she cannot claim the marriage deduction.

“The Harris campaign can ask and whine for anything and everything they want. That doesn’t mean we need to adhere to their demands,” said Sanchez political advisor Luis Vizcaino.

Both Sanchez and Harris have a net worth in the millions, according to financial disclosure reports.

Here are some highlights from their returns:

  • Sanchez claimed $4,394 in charitable contributions, about 3% of her income, including donations to the California Breast Cancer Research Fund and the California Peace Officers Memorial Fund.

  • Harris and her husband claimed $32,947 in charitable contributions, about 3% of their income, including donations to USC and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

  • Sanchez collected $43,200 in rent from a home she owns in Palos Verdes, and had $41,000 in expenses for the home.

  • As California attorney general, Harris makes $158,775 annually. As a congresswoman, Sanchez is paid an annual salary of $174,000.

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Voters are being asked whether they want to cast more votes in future elections on big public works projects

(Russel A. Daniels / Associated Press)

Voters casting a ballot for Proposition 53 on election day are, in effect, choosing more voting on more propositions in future elections.

The ballot measure, bankrolled by a wealthy Stockton agribusiness owner, seeks to force voter approval of a particular type of borrowing for large public works projects. Its most likely impact, in the near future, would be ballot measures on a landmark water project and on California’s high-speed rail effort.

The proposition’s backer, Dean Cortopassi, argues it’s all about more transparency when it comes to government debt.

His critics suggest there’s more to it than that.

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A weekend of bus tours and political jabs in California’s U.S. Senate race

An overflow crowd watches through a window during a rally with Kamala Harris at the Democratic Party's headquarters in Santa Clarita.
An overflow crowd watches through a window during a rally with Kamala Harris at the Democratic Party’s headquarters in Santa Clarita.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Senate candidate and California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris launched a 10-day campaign bus tour in Santa Clarita on Sunday, holding a rally with down-ballot Democrats who hope she’ll bring out the party faithful in the November election.

The rally, which was jam-packed inside the tiny, local Democrat Party headquarters, will be the first of many Harris will hold this week in congressional districts where Democrats threaten to nab seats from Republican incumbents.

Harris’ rival in the race, Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange, was campaigning in the Inland Empire over the weekend, touting her record on water issues and taking a few swipes at Harris. Sanchez said she’s the only candidate in the race talking about the issues and that all she’s seen from Harris are “commercials on TV.”

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Conservative-leaning Hispanic Leadership Fund backs Republicans in Central Valley congressional races

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This congressional race could be one of the Republicans’ worst nightmares

(Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Jeff Denham represents the Modesto area in Congress and is up against Democratic beekeeper Michael Eggman, the same man he beat just two years ago by 12 points. Denham first won his seat in 2012 even as a majority of his constituents voted for President Obama.

When Denham (R-Turlock) started this latest campaign, most observers thought he would probably win.

But some now wonder if Denham’s 10th District race will be an example of what Republicans fear across the country. Will conservatives expected to win actually lose because voters aren’t excited about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump?

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Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s day on the campaign trail: Two ribbons cut, one candle lit, and jabs made at her Senate rival

U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez shows Clifford Young, president of the West Valley Water District, where to cut the ribbon for the grand opening on a new water treatment plant Saturday.
(Phil Willon / Los Angeles Times)

With less than two weeks to go before election day, U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez bounced from the Inland Empire to Monterey Park on Saturday as she tries to drum up support for her uphill Senate bid.

Sanchez, the U.S. representative from Orange, started her day with a gaggle of other Inland Empire politicians at the grand opening of a $23-million water treatment system in Rialto, using the occasion to lay out her record on water issues during her 20 years in Congress.

Sanchez told the crowd of about 60 that shortly after she was elected to Congress, two members of a local water board approached her about a way to deal with California’s serious drought.

“They said, we need to convince people that we’re going to take toilet water and we’re going to clean it up enough for people to drink it,” Sanchez said. “They said, we can’t get anyone to champion this for us. Well, no wonder.”

Sanchez said they won her over, and she helped deliver federal funding for Orange County’s Groundwater Replenishment System to do just that. The system uses treated waste water to recharge the local groundwater basin and provides enough water for nearly 850,000 residents.

After the event, Sanchez accused her rival in the Senate race, state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, of having little grasp of the complexities of California’s drought and water crisis.

“One of the biggest differences between my opponent and myself is that I actually talk about issues, I actually meet with people, I actually try to figure out what’s going on,” Sanchez said. “I’ve not seen anything about her. I’ve not seen any policy. All I see is commercials on TV.”

U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Orange) officially opens the children's Diwali celebration at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple in Chino Hills on Saturday.
(Phil Willon / Los Angeles Times)

A few hours later, Sanchez raced over to Chino Hills to open the Kids’ Diwali Celebration at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple, a family-friendly event filled with carnival rides, booths and food. She thanked festivalgoers, saying they were setting a good example for the rest of the country at a time when the presidential election is filled with “such meanness.”

“This is a time where through tradition and through culture you can show Americans the better part of people,” Sanchez said. “You give the rest of us hope.”

After listening to Sanchez speak, Kay Mistry, a volunteer at the festival, said he still wasn’t sure who he will vote for in the Senate race. He said he was aware that Harris, whose mother emigrated from India, went to a Hindu temple as a child.

“I’m not sure that matters to me,” said Mistry, 48, of Chino Hills. “I’m pretty conservative.”

Sanchez attends her second ribbon cutting of the day, this time for Halloween in the Park in Monterey Park.
(Phil Willon / Los Angeles Times)

The Orange County congresswoman’s final stop of the day was in Monterey Park, where she helped cut the ribbon to open city’s Halloween in the Park festival.

After the ceremony, Sanchez mingled with the crowd, handing out campaign fliers.

Arnold Jeung, 62, stuck the flier in his back pocket. He said he didn’t know much about Sanchez or Harris.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” said Jeung, a Republican. “I might not even vote.”

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California Politics Podcast: The lowdown on the state’s big down-ticket races

Perhaps more than any other recent election season, races for seats in the California Legislature and U.S. Congress are being reshaped by the broad, national discussion.

In short, it’s the Trump effect.

On this week’s episode of the California Politics Podcast, we take an overview of some of state’s most closely watched down-ticket races.

There’s new polling data in the U.S. Senate race that suggests a sizable number of voters will skip casting a ballot. Meanwhile, President Obama had endorsed candidates all the way down to the state Assembly level.

I’m joined by Marisa Lagos of KQED News and Anthony York, author of the Grizzly Bear Project website.

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Yes on Prop. 61 campaign to air a 30-minute documentary-style ad over the weekend

The campaign supporting Proposition 61, a measure seeking to lower the prices that state agencies pay for prescription drugs, plans to air an unusual 30-minute documentary-style ad Saturday morning on TV stations around California.

The video, titled “Your Money or Your Life,” features interviews with a war veteran diagnosed with hepatitis C, a nurse, a doctor and politicians who continue the campaign’s strategy of seizing on public anger against drug companies.

In between interviews with patients worried about the cost of prescription drugs is footage of Martin Shkreli, former chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, smirking as a congressman calls him “the poster boy for greedy drug company executives.”

Also featured are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has endorsed the measure and campaigned for it in California, and Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), who authored a bill on drug-pricing transparency that ultimately failed this year.

The advertisement will air at 10 a.m. Saturday on CBS stations and will be broadcast in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno media markets.

Yes on 61 consultant Garry South says the campaign originally purchased the time when it challenged drug company executives to a televised debate on the measure, but will use it instead for the ad.

Opponents and proponents of the proposition have raised nearly $124 million combined, with most of it raised by the “No” campaign.

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California, your official presidential write-in options include Bernie Sanders and Evan McMullin

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is one of five officially certified write-in candidates for president in California.
(Christopher Dolan / Associated Press)

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla released the names of the five officially qualified write-in candidates for the presidential race in California, along with their vice presidential running mates.

Contrary to popular belief, votes for write-in candidates only count when the candidate is officially certified. (That means votes for Mickey Mouse, Giant Meteor, or Chuck Norris will not be counted.)

The officially qualified write-in candidates are:

  • Laurence Kotlikoff for president and Edward Leamer for vice president

  • Mike Maturen for president and Juan Muñoz for vice president

  • Evan McMullin for president and Nathan Johnson for vice president

  • Bernard “Bernie” Sanders for president and Tulsi Gabbard for vice president

  • Jerry White for president and Niles Niemuth for vice president

Now, that doesn’t mean that Sanders and the other candidates wanted to be recognized as official write-ins. California law only requires that 55 “electors” sign on to declare a person a write-in candidate, not that the person consent, according to a statement from the Secretary of State’s Office.
A full list of each candidate’s electors can be seen here.

Write-in votes for these candidates will not be reported until the counties send their final vote certifications after the post-election canvass period, meaning a write-in vote will take longer to count.

You might be wondering: Does spelling count? The Secretary of State says election officials “will accept a reasonable facsimile of the spelling” of a candidate’s name. For example, “Joe Smith” and “Joseph Smith” would both be accepted.

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Dueling ads aim to persuade Latinos on proposition to legalize marijuana in California

With a poll indicating Latino voters lag in their support for a ballot proposition that would legalize recreation marijuana in California, the campaigns for and against the measure are launching dueling ads aimed at that large demographic.

A poll Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California found that Proposition 64 is favored by a majority of likely voters in California, including a majority of all ethnic groups, except Latinos. Latinos support is just under half at 47%.

The campaign against the ballot measure will launch its second ad on Spanish language television, titled “Asusta” or “Scary” on Halloween. The ad warns if approved, Proposition 64 could eventually lead to radio and television ads for “marijuana candy.”

Federal law prohibits such ads on broadcast stations, and the initiative prohibits television advertising aimed at minors if federal law ever changes.

The campaign in favor of the ballot measure said Friday it has launched new counter TV ads targeted to the Los Angeles area, where there is a large Latino audience. One ad, for Spanish language television, labels as “falso,” or “false,” the claims that there will be television commercials for marijuana candy.

A second ad, in English, features a mother of teenagers saying she appreciates that Proposition 64 has “important safeguards for families, like strict product labeling and child-proof packaging of all marijuana products and banning edibles that would appeal to a child.”

The two sides each claimed Friday that the polls are favorable to their cause.

“The polls highlight the lack of support by the Latino community because they know their neighborhoods will have to face the problems that recreational marijuana creates,” said Andrew Acosta, a spokesman for the opposition campaign.

Not true, said Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the Proposition 64 campaign.

“Polls show that Latino support for Proposition 64 and marijuana decriminalization has been increasing as they learn how communities of color are being disproportionately targeted for marijuana arrest and prosecution,” he said.

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Eva Longoria voices support for repealing English-only education in California

Actress Eva Longoria this week voiced support for a proposition that would repeal English-only instruction in California by tweeting a new “Yes on Prop 58" online campaign ad that has reached nearly 450,000 views on social media.

Like in radio ads released this month, the commercial features children touting the importance of speaking more than one language.

Proposition 58 helps students learn another language while ensuring they still acquire English in a global economy, the young supporters tell viewers. “To get the best jobs, we need the best education,” one girl says.

The ballot measure, which emerged from a 2014 bill authored by Los Angeles area Democrat Sen. Ricardo Lara, seeks to repeal a 1998 voter-approved law that mandated all children be taught only in English in public schools unless parents request otherwise through a waiver.

Opponents argue the current laws were put in place to end bilingual classes that were failing a population of mostly Spanish-speaking Latino students. But Lara and fellow supporters say they have prevented teachers and parents from developing new and more effective bilingual and multilingual programs.

Proposition 58 has garnered an estimated $2.4 million in donations from a variety of supporters this year, including business groups, school associations and the California Teachers Assn./Issues PAC. It has no organized opposition.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi endorses ballot measure to repeal the death penalty in California

(Win McNamee / Getty Images)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) on Friday announced her support for a proposition that would repeal the death penalty in California, calling the practice “cruel and unusual punishment” under the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.

“Even the most heinous of crimes can be punished without killing,” she said. “As Pope Francis said in his address to Congress, where he reaffirmed his advocacy for the global abolition of the death penalty: ‘every human person is endowed with an unalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.’”

Pelosi is among a string of top political leaders, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and celebrities to come out in support of Proposition 62, which would replace the punishment with life in prison without parole and apply life sentences retroactively to death row inmates. The initiative is one of two competing death penalty measures on the Nov. 8 ballot.

She also is among fewer political leaders to denounce the death penalty itself on moral grounds.

“I oppose the death penalty because too many defendants have not had access to appropriate legal counsel; because poor people – especially in communities of color – have been disproportionately charged with capital crimes and sentenced to death, compared with more affluent defendants; and, so many people have been exonerated with DNA evidence. It is time for us to take a moral stand.”

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Republican donor Charles Munger Jr. throws nearly $1 million into Assembly race after Obama endorsement

Charles Munger Jr.
Charles Munger Jr.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

President Obama announced Thursday he was supporting three Democrats running for the California Assembly, a rare move for any sitting president.

One of the candidates is Cheryl Cook-Kallio, a Democrat running against one of the most targeted Republican lawmakers in California, Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) in the Bay Area.

Hours later, Republican mega-donor Charles Munger Jr. reported dropping $965,455 to oppose Cook-Kallio, the largest single expenditure he’s reported this election cycle.

Munger has now spent a total of $1.2 million supporting Baker and opposing Cook-Kallio, a close second to the $1.4 million he’s poured into the 66th Assembly District race in Los Angeles County.

In total, Munger has spent more than $3.3 million across 20 legislative races this year — and there are still 10 days left until the election.

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Obama endorses Emilio Huerta in his Central Valley race against Rep. David Valadao

(Sarah D. Wire / Los Angeles Times)

President Obama on Friday endorsed 21st District congressional candidate Emilio Huerta, the Democrat’s campaign announced.

“I am proud to endorse Emilio Huerta for the United States House of Representatives,” Obama said in a statement released by the campaign. “In Congress, Emilio will be a fighter for Central Valley working families. Emilio isn’t afraid to take on tough challenges, and he’ll fight for more and better access to clean water, good jobs with fair wages, and an education system that works for every child. Emilio is the kind of smart leader who will build on what we’ve accomplished and move our country forward, and that’s why I know Californians can count on Emilio Huerta.”

Huerta, an attorney and son of labor rights icon Dolores Huerta, is challenging Rep. David Valadao in the Central Valley district. Obama had already endorsed six California Democrats.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was in the district Thursday to campaign for Valadao. He’s in the middle of a swing through California to support vulnerable House Republicans.

“David Valadao is exactly the type of representative Central Valley families and those involved in the agriculture industry need. He understands the issues impacting the area, because that’s been his life. David was born in the Central Valley, he grew up there, he went to school there -- and he even met his wife there. In Congress, he has led the fight on water, veterans issues, and education,” Ryan said in a statement.

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Voters in two different congressional districts get very similar letters from the wives of the GOP candidates

(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Voters in the 7th and 10th congressional districts might have gotten similar letters in the last few days from the wives of their Republican congressional candidates.

The personal appeals to Northern California voters have matching stationery with font that mimics handwriting and use similar language, including language on college affordability, hard work and the integrity of their husbands. The letters are each dated Oct. 22.

Both races are considered close, and a letter from a candidate’s spouse timed a few days before election day is a well-known campaign tactic that often gets a good reception from voters."We suggested concepts to them that would be effective in defending their husbands from the attacks, and they put it into their own words as they saw fit. Same print shop produced them,” said Dave Gilliard, who is a consultant for both candidates.

In her letter, Sonia Denham, wife of Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), makes the case to 10th District voters that her husband was “just as offended and disappointed about the comments Donald Trump made as I was.”

Denham, who supports his party’s nominee for president, used similar language after a 2005 tape of Trump talking about grabbing women’s genitals without their consent became public. The Denham campaign paid for the mailer.

Christy Jones, the wife of Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, writes to 7th District voters that the ads from Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) about her husband are “false and disgusting.” The California Republican Party paid for Jones’ mailer.

Both of the women write about the candidates as good men and fathers, and stress that they have faith voters will make the right choice.

And both ads include the line, “Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. It was not an easy one for me to write, but I could not remain silent.” They also include photos of the couples and their children, and the final line says, “we are proud parents.”

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Loretta Sanchez launches website to attack Senate rival Kamala Harris

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, left, and California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris in their Oct. 5 Senate debate at Cal State Los Angeles.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

California’s U.S. Senate race is getting hotter.

Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez on Thursday launched a new website criticizing the record of her rival in the race, California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris.

The site, called The Harris Files, relies heavily on past news coverage of Harris as attorney general and during her tenure as San Francisco district attorney.

Sanchez, who trailed Harris by a two-to-one margin in the latest opinion poll, started ramping up her attacks on the front-runner in early September.

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Court date canceled after Assemblyman David Hadley turns over documents to state ethics watchdog

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In rare move, President Obama endorses three California Democrats for Assembly

(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

President Obama has thrown his support behind three Democratic candidates running in races the party is targeting for the California Assembly.

Obama endorsed the following Democratic challengers, according to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee:

  • Cheryl Cook Kallio, challenging Assemblywoman Catherine Baker (R-San Ramon) in Assembly District 16
  • Abigail Medina, who’s running against Assemblyman Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga) in Assembly District 40
  • Al Muratsuchi, a former assemblyman in a rematch against Assemblyman David Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach) in Assembly District 66

President Obama has plans to endorse as many as 150 down-ballot candidates in 20 states this election, Politico reported this week.

While it’s not uncommon for presidents to throw their weight behind federal candidates, it’s rare for them to reach down into local races for statehouse seats.

All three races present key opportunities for the Democrats to capture Republican-held seats in their quest to build a super-majority in both houses of the Legislature.

Obama’s approval ratings — 60% statewide, according to PPIC survey results released Wednesday — could help boost Democrats in swing districts where he won handily over Mitt Romney in 2012.

The three California Assembly races combined have attracted more than $8.6 million in spending by state and county parties on both sides.

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Comedian Kathy Griffin pokes fun at tobacco company ads

Kathy Griffin Proposition 56 ad
(YouTube)

The tobacco industry-funded television advertisements against the Proposition 56 tobacco tax increase are ubiquitous.

They all generally have the same message: The money from the tax hike would go to Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income healthcare program, and therefore benefit the doctors and insurance groups that are helping finance the measure.

Comedian Kathy Griffin decided to spoof the advertisements’ follow-the-money message in a video she released on Twitter Tuesday.

Griffin highlighted that tobacco companies had funded the advertisement, which is clear when you read the fine print at the end.

“So in general just be careful of these opposite ads,” Griffin said, dressed in a similar gardening outfit as the actress in the No on 56 ad. “Or in general white ladies gardening.”

You can watch Griffin’s full spoof here:

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Los Angeles County Bar says expediting the death penalty system will ‘compromise justice’

(Getty Images)

The Los Angeles County Bar Assn. has joined opponents of a Nov. 8 ballot measure that intends to expedite executions in California, saying it would likely “compromise access to justice at all levels” of the court system.

In a letter released late Wednesday, the organization, which comprises more than 20,000 members, said Proposition 66 would require appellate courts to hear initial death penalty appeals, without providing the roughly $100 million needed to fund additional judges, staff and resources.

“LACBA opposes Proposition 66 based entirely on its damaging effect on the operation of an already over-taxed judicial system, and most importantly, the resulting lack of access to justice for California citizens,” states the letter signed by Margaret Stevens, the association’s president.

The association said it took no position on the death penalty itself, its effectiveness, morality or social merits.

But its opposition to the ballot measure comes as top Los Angeles County officials, including Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, have announced their support. Proposition 66 has drawn wide support and funding from law enforcement officials and organizations that argue California’s death penalty must be preserved and reformed.

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Gov. Jerry Brown launches TV ad against Prop. 53’s change to state revenue bonds

It’s a nuanced pitch from Gov. Jerry Brown, asking California voters to oppose an effort that would give them a vote on future big infrastructure projects.

But Brown has more than $15 million in campaign cash to make his case against Proposition 53, in a TV ad that began on Thursday.

Proposition 53 asks voters to add revenue bonds of $2 billion or more to the list of government borrowing that requires statewide voter approval.

Unlike general obligation bonds, which are paid back by taxpayer dollars through the state’s general fund, revenue bonds are paid back with fees charged to users of projects like bridges, dams and buildings.

Brown takes aim in the ad at the fact that “53 is paid for by one millionaire,” Central Valley agribusiness owner Dean Cortopassi. In an interview this week, Cortopassi called revenue bonds “a blank check to sell debt forward into the future.”

Proposition 53 could force statewide votes on two high-profile infrastructure projects: California’s plan for a high-speed train system and the construction of twin underground tunnels to divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California.

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New citizens can still register to vote Nov. 8 even though the California deadline has passed

Thomas Macariola, center, fills out a voter registration form after a naturalization ceremony on Oct. 26 in Sacramento, where a cardboard cut-out of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was among the witnesses.
(Sophia Bollag / Los Angeles Times)

Alex De Leon, a 30-year-old immigrant from Guatemala, was among more than 400 people who became U.S. citizens at a ceremony in Sacramento on Wednesday. After the program concluded, he walked outside and filled out his voter registration papers.

The registration deadline to vote in the Nov. 8 election for most Californians was Monday. But a 2012 state law allows people like De Leon, who became citizens after the deadline, to register late.

To vote, they must bring proof of citizenship and California residency to show to an official at a county election office. As a precaution against voter fraud, they’re not allowed to vote at a neighborhood polling place or with an absentee ballot.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan in California to campaign for vulnerable Republicans

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Backed by ‘Occupy’ activists, Loretta Sanchez criticizes Kamala Harris’ signature mortgage settlement

Senate candidate Rep. Loretta Sanchez speaks at a news conference to "expose the failure of the mortgage settlement made by Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris" on Oct. 26 in Los Angeles.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s campaign for the U.S. Senate lobbed a new attack at front-runner Kamala Harris on Wednesday, this time criticizing the landmark $25-billion national settlement Harris helped wrestle from the nation’s five largest mortgage firms.

The settlement is one of the California attorney general’s biggest victories: A recent ad from Harris’ campaign featured President Obama praising the settlement. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has too.

Sanchez, as she has done before, held a news conference outside a state building in downtown Los Angeles, joined by members of an activist group called Occupy Fights Foreclosures, a spinoff of the Occupy LA protest group.

Sanchez, who has tried to appeal to conservatives and Republicans in the campaign, tried her hand at economic populism at the news conference.

“Harris has not brought one single prosecution against any major bank executive,” she said.

Michael Troncoso, Harris’ senior counsel in the mortgage settlement negotiations, spoke to The Times recently as part of an article reviewing the settlement. He said building a criminal case against bankers involved in the foreclosures that led to the national mortgage settlement would have been “extremely difficult.”

Harris reiterated that sentiment in an interview with The Times.

“I too, like most Americans, am frustrated. Clearly crimes occurred and people should go to jail,” Harris said. “But we went where the evidence took us.”

Sanchez, who has increased her attacks against Harris in recent weeks, praised the settlement in 2012.

“Special thanks to California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris for her hard work to ensure help for distressed homeowners and also to pursue the investigation of misconduct by banks,” she said in a news release then.

Sanchez spokesperson Luis Vizcaino said Harris “failed to lead” when Gov. Jerry Brown took more than $300 million from the settlement fund and diverted it to the state’s general fund. A judge later ruled the state had to repay the money.

“Sanchez’s false attacks today are nothing more than a bogus stunt from a desperate politician,” said Harris spokesman Nathan Click. “The truth is Sanchez herself praised Kamala Harris’ leadership on the deal in 2012, spoke glowingly about the aid it provided homeowners and lauded Kamala’s perseverance in fighting the big banks.”

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A new poll shows Californians remain ready to legalize the recreational use of pot

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

A majority of California’s likely voters continue to favor legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, but the level of support has dipped from a reported 60% a month ago to 55% this month, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday night.

The latest poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found 38% of those surveyed oppose Proposition 64 and 6% are undecided. But the basic finding is that the initiative would still pass with a majority vote if the election were held today, according to Mark Baldassare, the institute’s pollster and president.

“The numbers have been favorable, consistent, and exactly where we expected and wanted to be at this point,” said Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the Proposition 64 campaign.

The poll was conducted Oct. 14-23 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4% at a 95% confidence level.

Proposition 64 is supported by 66% of Democratic likely voters and 56% of independents, but 60% of Republicans are opposed.

“Just under half of Latino likely voters (47%) would vote yes, while majorities of other racial/ethnic groups (65%) and whites (55%) would do so,” the poll report said. Support is highest, at 78%, among those age 18 to 34.

The opposition campaign said the campaign for Proposition 64 has turned voters away from the measure.

“It is clear that voters are realizing that Prop 64 is a 62-page mess that helps the marijuana industry tap into the California market,” said Andrew Acosta, a spokesman for the campaign against the initiative.

Those polled were also asked whether they have ever tried marijuana and, if so, if they used it in the last year: 18% said they have tried marijuana and used it in the last year, while 25% said they have tried it, but not in the last year.

Updated at 9:30 am to include comments by the campaigns.

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New poll shows Kamala Harris leading California’s U.S. Senate race by a 2-to-1 margin

U.S. Senate candidates Kamala Harris, left, points a finger toward rival Loretta Sanchez during their debate at Cal State L.A. on Wednesday, Oct. 5.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

With ballots already being cast, State Atty. General Kamala Harris leads by a more than a two-to-one margin over her rival in California’s U.S. Senate race, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The survey showed that 42% of likely voters supported Harris, compared to 20% who favored her opponent, Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez. Among the remainder, 20% of voters were undecided and 18% said they will not vote for either candidate by election day on Nov. 8.

The results are dramatically different that those in a PPIC released on Sept. 21, when Harris had just a 7-point lead over Sanchez.

But the new poll numbers are closely aligned with results in the June 7 primary, when Harris received 40% of the vote and Sanchez came in second with 19% in a race with 34 candidates on the ballot. In a PPIC poll in July, Harris also had 38% support among likely voters and Sanchez 20%.

“From the start this has been a race in which Harris, who did very well in the primary, has had a large advantage,” said PPIC President Mark Baldassare. “Loretta Sanchez hasn’t been able to, in any of our polls, get above 25%”

Unlike the PPIC’s surveys in July and September, the new poll included the ballot designations for the two Senate candidates, listing Harris as “Attorney General of California” and Sanchez as a “United States Congresswoman.” Both Harris and Sanchez are Democrats.

There also have been a few major developments in the Senate campaign since Sept. 21, including the Oct. 5 Senate debate at Cal State Los Angeles where Sanchez caused a stir by “dabbing” as her finale. The following day, U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein endorsed Harris.

Both Harris and Sanchez are trying to succeed Boxer, who is retiring after serving four terms in the Senate.

According to the new PPIC poll, Harris is favored over Sanchez across all general income and education levels of voters, as well as among both men and women. Harris also leads in these major regions of the state: Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, Orange and San Diego counties, and the Inland Empire.

Latinos are the only major cross-section of likely voters who favor Sanchez over Harris, by a margin of 41% to 33%, the poll shows.

Harris also gained support from Republicans and independents over the past month, mostly likely from voters who previously said they would not vote. Still, more than a third of likely Republican voters said they would not vote for Sanchez or Harris, and 16% of independent voters also plan to take a pass.

The two Democrats are facing off in the highest-profile contest between two members of the same party since California adopted a top-two primary election system.

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Will the Defense Department fix the National Guard bonus repayment problem? California congressional reps are skeptical

(Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

Some members of California’s congressional delegation aren’t satisfied with a Defense Department plan to verify whether thousands of California National Guard members fairly received bonuses for enlisting during the height of the Iraq war or must repay the money. They said Wednesday that they want a detailed plan by the time Congress returns in mid-November.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) organized a call so that California’s 53 House members could question the Defense Department about how it plans to fix the problem, which was first reported Sunday by The Times. Members weren’t sure exactly how many of their colleagues were on the call.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday ordered the Pentagon to pause efforts to claw back the enlistment bonuses. He said the suspension would continue until he was “satisfied that our process is working effectively.”

Congressional members told The Times that Defense officials said they plan to increase the number of employees reviewing the cases and expect all of them will be examined by July.

After the call, Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) said she was still outraged and wants a more detailed plan from the Defense Department.

“There was definitely a level of skepticism that they would move forward on this in a very fair and evenhanded way,” Brownley said.

Department officials told the delegation there are 13,800 questionable bonus cases in California. Of those, 4,000 have been cleared as properly eligible and 1,200 cases identified as possible fraud, meaning the guard member was not eligible or did not complete the contract. The department still must review the remaining 8,600 cases. (The case numbers relayed to members of Congress on Wednesday differ slightly from those provided to The Times by the department.)

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) said the Defense Department told members its plan is to clear up to 100 cases a day.

“They will give everybody a chance to go through the panels and make their case,” she said, even the 1,200 identified as possible fraud. Brownley’s staff said some Guard members were told to pay back more than $60,000. Many of the bonuses were at least $15,000.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) said that in many cases, Guard members weren’t spending money they knew they weren’t supposed to receive, and that the Pentagon should have the burden of proving the soldier knowingly took a bonus they weren’t supposed to get.

“In the vast majority of cases, soldiers accepted these bonuses in good faith,” Schiff said. “You don’t call them up years later and say, ‘We shouldn’t have offered that’ and try to collect.”

The department will give the California members another briefing when Congress returns Nov. 14. Brownley said several members told the department they would go ahead with legislation to forgive the bonus debt for at least some Guard members if a detailed plan was not ready by then.

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Latinos in California are motivated to vote against Donald Trump, and that could affect a lot of other races

Voters make their way in and out of a polling place at the House of Mercy in Los Angeles in November 2012.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Latinos make up the largest ethnic group in California, but are often underrepresented at the polls.

This year, however, experts say they expect good Latino turnout in November, thanks largely to the heated presidential election that is motivating many Latinos to vote against presidential candidate Donald Trump and his anti-immigration rhetoric.

They stand to have considerable impact on many down-ballot races in California, as well as on the outcome of many statewide propositions.

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GOP mega-donor is spending more than $1 million in coastal L.A. County Assembly district

The Spirit of Democracy California, an independent expenditure committee backed by Republican mega-donor Charles Munger Jr., has dropped more than $1.4 million on a single Assembly race this year between Assemblyman David Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach) and former Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat.

The matchup is one of the most closely watched this cycle, attracting more than $2.6 million in state and local party spending on both sides.

Munger’s group has spent more on the coastal Los Angeles County race than all other races it has spent on combined.

The vast majority of the money — $1.1 million in the last two weeks — has gone toward negative ads against Muratsuchi, including a scathing ad that references the Miramonte teacher sexual-abuse scandal.

The 30-second TV spot titled “Crumbles” details how the LAUSD teacher “fed his students cookies laced with semen” and was later sentenced to prison and features video of a cockroach crawling on a stack of cookies.

The ad accuses Muratsuchi of co-authoring a bill that would have made it “even more difficult to fire pervert teachers.”

The bill, AB 375, grew out of a desire to make the teacher dismissal process easier and more streamlined following the LAUSD scandal.

But Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it in 2013, saying certain provisions could “do more harm than good,” particularly a limit on the number of depositions each side could take and restricting a school district’s ability to amend charges with new evidence.

The following year, a similar measure was passed and signed into law.

Spirit of Democracy California is at the center of an FPPC investigation into whether it illegally coordinated with the Hadley campaign by sharing a political consultant. The ethics watchdog went to court last week, asking a judge to order Hadley’s campaign to turn over documents and records it says the campaign has not supplied.

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Tom Steyer is now the biggest donor in the effort to raise the tobacco tax

Tom Steyer in Yes on 56 ad
(Yes on 56)

Billionaire Tom Steyer is now the largest donor in the effort to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $2 a pack.

With a $3.5-million donation to the Yes on Proposition 56 campaign Tuesday, Steyer’s total spending on the race has reached $11.3 million.

That’s more than a third of the $31 million the primary Yes on 56 committee has raised and more than all the money raised during a similar, but failed, effort to increase the tobacco tax four years ago.

Steyer, who is a major donor to state and national liberal causes, is the focus in two Yes on 56 television advertisements. He’s said he’s motivated to spend to limit youth smoking and the memory of his mother, a smoker who died of lung cancer. Steyer also is frequently mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.

The No on 56 campaign, which is almost entirely funded by tobacco companies, has raised $71 million.

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California Republicans (sort of) wish Hillary Clinton a happy birthday

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California congressional reps say they didn’t know so many Guard members were being forced to repay enlistment bonuses

(California Army National Guard)

Some of California’s members of Congress say California’s National Guard did not explain in 2014 how many guard members were being forced to repay enlistment bonuses.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter ordered the Pentagon to suspend all efforts to collect reimbursement from the nearly 10,000 California National Guard members who were improperly given bonuses as an incentive to reenlist at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Earlier in the week, a senior California National Guard official said it told the state’s members of Congress two years ago the Pentagon was trying to claw back reenlistment bonuses from thousands of soldiers, and even offered a proposal to mitigate the problem, but Congress took no action.

After The Times first reported the problem Sunday, most of Californias 55 members of Congress signed onto letters to Carter, or House and Senate leaders, asking for an immediate fix. On Wednesday, they praised the Defense Department for halting the clawbacks and said Congress needs to stop the process entirely and refund the Guard members who already have repaid money.

Still, some members took issue with the California Guards characterization of what it told the California delegation two years ago.

Staff in members’ offices said the Guard broadly mentioned the clawbacks in a 2014 letter detailing its policy goals for the year, but officials didn’t meet with members of Congress in person or by phone, and didn’t otherwise tell them about the scale of the issue. Such letters are fairly common from groups working with Congress.

“If they would have come and said, ‘You’re going to have thousands of combat veterans having their wages garnished and tax liens being put on them,’ we would have been all over this,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine). “That was never communicated to us.”

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Los Angeles) said neither the Pentagon nor California Guard officials told him about the large number of soldiers ordered to repay bonuses, though his office had received complaints from individual soldiers.

“I have no record of receiving any formal notice of this widespread issue from any department — federal or state. The only record I have is of individual cases of service members who approached my office to get help, and we are working with these individuals who have served our country to make sure they are treated fairly,” he said.

Several high-ranking members of the delegation said this week they first heard of the scope of the problem from The Times’ reporting.

The California Guard also sent members of Congress a suggested provision that would have allowed debt waivers for the affected soldiers in the 2015 defense authorization bill.

Reps. Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) and Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) initially pushed for the provision but later abandoned the effort, and it didn’t appear in the final bill.

Cook and Denham said they dropped the effort after being told the Pentagon already had the power to waive the debts.

Guard officials said they were told the provision was discarded because waiving the debt would have cost the Pentagon money, requiring the estimated costs to be offset with cuts elsewhere in the defense budget.

For the record: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Denham declined to discuss why he dropped the provision to waive the debt. He dropped the effort after being told the Pentagon already had the power to waive the debt.

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Ted Cruz’s old gang called into action to help California GOP

Ron Nehring, a former aide in Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential bid, chats with visitors at the California State Fair in Sacramento during his 2014 campaign for lieutenant governor.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential bid may be history, but his supporters in California are banding together to help GOP candidates locked in tight down-ballot races.

Ron Nehring, the former state GOP chairman who was a top Cruz booster, said the focus will be turning out Republican voters and recruiting volunteers to work on a list of hotly contested congressional and legislative races selected by the California Republican Party.

Among those pinpointed are Vista Rep. Darrell Issa, who faces his toughest challenge since being elected to Congress in 2000, and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who is trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove.

“It is 100% exclusively boots on the ground,” Nehring said.

Michael Schroeder, who was co-chairman of Cruz’s campaign in California and also served as the state GOP chairman, said Republican turnout in the Golden State is expected to be down because of the controversies surrounding GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Having Trump at the top of the November ballot also will motivate more Democrats to vote, and that could endanger GOP candidates in close races throughout the state, he said.

“Trump’s campaign is a lost cause in California at this point,” Schroeder said. “Trump said he was going to drive Hispanic turnout, and I think he’s right -- but not in the way he’s hoping for.”

California’s Cruz alumni have a website and on Monday night held a conference call with 75 former Cruz organizers asking them to activate their local political networks to help with the effort, Nehring said.

Other Republicans they’ll work to protect or elect:

  • Reps. Jeff Denham of Turlock, David Valadao of Hanford and Steve Knight of Palmdale.
  • Assembly members Catharine Baker of San Ramon, David Hadley of Manhattan Beach, Tom Lackey of Palmdale and Young Kim of Fullerton.
  • State Senate candidates Mike Antonovich of Glendale, Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita and Ling Ling Chang of Diamond Bar.
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A record-breaking 501,206 California voters registered or updated info in the days before the Monday deadline

On the final day to register, the number broke the record for online registration transactions, Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office reported in a release.

It’s not clear how much of the activity was new registrations, but the office said 17- to 35-year-olds made up 58% of all online voter registration in the final two days.

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Central Valley congressional race shifts to a toss-up

(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

The 10th Congressional District race between Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) and Democrat Michael Eggman is now a toss-up, the nonpartisan analysts at the Cook Political Report announced Tuesday.

The contest in the heavily Latino Central Valley district had been rated lean Republican, meaning the analysts thought Eggman had a chance, but they expected the third-term Republican to be reelected.The Cook Political Report now lists several California House districts held by Republicans as toss-ups, including Rep. Darrell Issa’s seat in the 49th District and Rep. Steve Knight in the 25th District.

This is the second matchup for Denham and Eggman. Denham won their 2014 encounter with 56% of the vote, but this year, there is the added unknown of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s effect on other races and whether his unpopularity will drag down other candidates.

For the record: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Rep. David Valadao’s race in the 21st District is listed as a toss-up. It is listed as leaning Republican.

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U.S. Rep. Ami Bera: ‘Soldiers who served our country should not be penalized for the mistakes of others’

U.S. Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) wrote to top Department of Defense officials Monday urging them to stop asking veterans to repay enlistment bonuses.

The Pentagon has ordered nearly 10,000 California Guard soldiers to repay bonuses that were improperly awarded to them, The Times reported Saturday.

With his letter, Bera joined the chorus of lawmakers who have condemned the action, calling on the Pentagon to waive the soldiers’ debts.

“Soldiers who served our country should not be penalized for the mistakes of others,” wrote Bera, who faces a tough reelection battle in his Northern California district. “I urge the Department to halt the collection of these bonuses at this time to prevent placing more service members in financial hardship.”

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Crime victims oppose the death penalty in ‘Yes on Prop. 62' ads

In new online ads released Tuesday by proponents of Proposition 62, which seeks to repeal the death penalty in California, crime victims urge voters to end the system and bring peace to grieving families.

Proposition 62 would replace the ultimate punishment for murder with a sentence of life in prison without parole, ending a lengthy appeals process that some victims say has interfered with their healing. It is one of two competing death penalty measures on the Nov. 8 ballot.

In one of two videos, which campaign officials say are geared toward swing voters, Beth Webb tells viewers she has had to face the death row inmate who killed her sister and seven others in a hair salon almost 50 times in court.

“Him sitting there, soaking up all of the attention, loving it, it’s disgusting,” she says.

The commercials come as proponents of the opposing measure on the ballot, Proposition 66, have released their own ads over the last few days, urging voters to reform the system, not end it. In one of those videos, a murder victim’s mother says no punishment other than the death penalty is appropriate for the twice-convicted sex offender who abducted her child.

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Common, Russell Simmons, Shailene Woodley among celebrities pushing to legalize weed in California

Common at the 2015 Academy Awards
(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Top celebrities including Common, Tim Robbins and the author of the “Orange is the New Black” memoir are joining forces in what they are calling “Artists for 64" — the effort to legalize recreational use of marijuana in California.

A show of force announced Tuesday includes rapper and actor Common; music producer Russell Simmons; Ty Dolla $ign; actors Danny Glover, Olivia Wilde, Tim Robbins, Sarah Silverman, Shailene Woodley of “The Divergent” series, Jesse Williams of “Grey’s Anatomy” and Michael K. Williams of the HBO series “The Wire”; and Piper Kerman, author of “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.”

Jay Z, who last week put out a video calling the war on drugs an “epic fail,” also signed on to the effort.

“In California, the question on whether to legalize marijuana for adult use is a policy change that will have a lasting impact on historically marginalized communities,” Glover, the star of films including the “Lethal Weapon” series, said in a statement posted on Artists for 64. “Marijuana laws have been used as a tool by law enforcement to racially profile, harass, intimidate and criminalize mostly young African American and Latino men for decades.”

I am shocked and saddened by the harm that marijuana criminalization brings, especially for communities of color,” Wilde said in a statement.

The campaign against Proposition 64 said Hollywood celebrities are not the most credible endorsers, charging they are out of touch with the reality of drug abuse in many communities in the state.

“Today the No on Prop 64 campaign did a press event in Fresno with faith and community leaders who know that the problems that recreational marijuana creates will impact these communities and neighborhoods across California not Hollywood,” said Andrew Acosta, a spokesman for the opposition campaign.

In a video produced by Dream Hampton and included on the website, former Golden State Warrior Al Harrington talks about how marijuana helped him overcome pain and inflammation during a staph infection and helped his grandmother with her glaucoma.

“I’m a California voter and I’m voting `yes’ for Prop. 64,” he says.

Williams spoke from personal experience.

“I’m in recovery and don’t use marijuana, and my Christian faith is my rock when it comes to staying sober,” he said in a statement. “But I don’t believe people should be arrested for marijuana anymore. California can lead the country by voting yes on Prop 64.”

Drug Policy Action, an advocacy group backing Proposition 64 to legalize the drug for recreational use, paid for the site.

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A snapshot of the money raised and spent in California’s U.S. Senate race

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California’s Congress members knew the Pentagon was trying to get back bonuses from soldiers, official says