Newsletter: Essential Politics: The conversation returns to ‘rigged’ elections


What seemed like a sleepy holiday weekend ended up feeling a lot like the campaign by the time it clanged to a conclusion Sunday, with President-elect Donald Trump suggesting Hillary Clinton only won the popular vote thanks to people casting ballots illegally in states including California.

I’m Christina Bellantoni. Welcome to Essential Politics, back after a holiday hiatus and about to transition to a new schedule. (More on that soon.)

Trump’s Twitter accusations are being met with encouragement by some Republican officials. Democrats appear to have a mixed reaction to the forthcoming recount in Wisconsin, led by Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

It was the Clinton campaign’s willingness to go along with the recount in that state (and potentially Pennsylvania and Michigan) that prompted Trump’s strong reaction Sunday, an 11-tweet response that reprised Clinton’s debate answer about the need for a loser to accept election results.


More striking was his claim that “millions” of people had illegally voted for Clinton.

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump wrote, citing Virginia, New Hampshire and California as his examples.

Sacramento bureau chief John Myers reports that top elections watchers say there’s no evidence of any sort of fraud here. (By the way, California still had just under 1.5 million ballots left to count before the Thanksgiving break.)


Cathleen Decker writes for Monday’s front page that the president-elect has left many questions unanswered about his new administration and that so far, if anything, the transition has been a re-run of the campaign that preceded it — more publicly riotous than most with Trump as its centering force.

Such tactics served Trump well in the 17 months since he declared his candidacy for president, she writes, but their persistence in the transition resurrects a question asked repeatedly since then: Are these growing pains, or the way it’s going to be? Some answers may come with the appointments of the most influential cabinet posts, but they are clouded by public rancor among Trump’s confidants.

We examined the pressure Trump is under to select Mitt Romney as his secretary of State, and continue to cover the comings and goings of the Trump transition on Trail Guide. For the latest, check it out and follow @latimespolitics.


Some liberals are holding out hope that Trump could be kept from the presidency by members of the electoral college, a little-known group of people who play a key role in formalizing the election results. Chris Megerian explains how it works, and why it’s unlikely that Trump has much to fear.

And Liam Dillon reports the Electoral College meeting will be bittersweet for the California electors who had expected Clinton would defeat Trump. The state GOP chairman, who would have been an elector had Trump won California, said he was fine with missing the electoral college party because Trump won the presidency.

The 55 Democrats who will gather at the state Capitol on Dec. 19 to officially cast their ballots for Clinton will be delivering the state’s massive electoral vote haul to Clinton. Many of them are either party officials, or relatives of state leaders.



Jared Kushner has never worked in government or politics before this year. But the 35-year-old real estate developer has a unique qualification to serve as one of the next president’s closest advisors — he’s Trump’s son-in-law. Megerian introduces readers to Kushner’s role in helping guide Trump’s campaign and writes that Kushner is poised to continue wielding influence, even if he doesn’t wind up with an official White House job.


House Democrats on Wednesday will elevate a woman of color to leadership for the first time — and she’ll be a Californian.

Sarah Wire reports on the historic nature of the race between Reps. Barbara Lee and Linda Sanchez for the vice chair position in the House Democratic Caucus. It may put their California colleagues in a tough position, but it will diversify the public face the party presents to the nation at a time of heightened attention to a Trump presidency. And don’t forget there are a host of ambitious Democratic lawmakers ready to move up.

We’ll be covering the race, along with Rep. Tim Ryan’s challenge to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, closely on our Essential Politics news feed.


When it comes to Trump, L.A.’s Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti and San Diego’s Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer are in agreement.

I interviewed them about the president-elect, the border and what they expect in the coming year at a recent post-election symposium hosted by The Times in downtown Los Angeles.



As California turned blue on election night, state political leaders rushed to set up the state as a liberal counterweight to Trump, laying the groundwork for four years of battles with Washington.

The posture is out of character for a state that in recent times has tended not to view federal power with hostility. Jazmine Ulloa and Melanie Mason detail how the Golden State seems to be taking a page from a perennial rival: Texas playing the chief antagonist to President Obama.


Democrat Josh Newman took the lead for the first time last week in his race against Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) in California’s 29th Senate District. Chang’s initial lead of nearly 4,000 votes shrank considerably as more mail and provisional ballots were counted, and as of Wednesday, Newman was ahead by about 1,500 votes. The next round of updates is expected Monday afternoon and we’ll be covering it here.


California elections continue to evolve from changes in the rules governing the casting of ballots and the selection of candidates.

In his Sunday columns that bookended the holiday week, Myers took a look at why the counting of ballots takes so long in the Golden State and how the 2010 decision to make a major change to candidate primary elections has changed one major political party but not the other.


Proposition 58, which overhauls English-only instruction in California, cruised to victory on election night, granting public schools more power to develop and implement their own bilingual and multilingual programs. Ulloa reports that the onus will now fall on parents and teachers to make them happen. That could prove challenging given the troubled legacy of bilingual education in the state, and as schools continue to wrestle with teacher and funding shortages.


— The new California Legislature will see a slight rise in diversity but a drop in the number of women.

Proposition 66, which seeks to expedite the death penalty, was officially called as having passed.

— The marijuana industry is celebrating the passage of an initiative legalizing recreational marijuana in California, but local elections saw voters in 37 counties and cities — including Long Beach, San Diego and San Bernardino — approve ballot measures imposing separate local taxes or fees on pot. Patrick McGreevy reports that some activists and industry leaders are worried about the affordability of legal marijuana as cities and counties pile their own taxes of up to 15% on top of the 15% state excise tax approved by voters who passed Proposition 64.

— In case you missed it while we were on break, Rep. Ami Bera was declared the winner in his re-election fight against Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones. Also, GOP Assemblywoman Young Kim (R-Fullerton) conceded her close race against Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva for Assembly District 65.

— Assemblywoman Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando) is eyeing a run for LAUSD school board. Lopez, a one-term legislator who was unseated by fellow Democrat Raul Bocanegra, has filed papers to run for the board’s sixth district and has until Dec. 6 to submit signatures.

— My former colleague Gwen Ifill passed away earlier this month after a battle with cancer. I shared my thoughts here, and Colleen Shalby wrote on Thanksgiving about what Gwen taught her — and the nation — in times of discord.


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