Newsletter: Essential Politics: California’s governor acting as climate ambassador just as Trump abandons accord

Essential Politics

A weekend terrorist attack in London prompted President Trump to renew the call for his travel ban to be reinstated and left Britain grieving but defiant ahead of closely watched elections that could dramatically reshape the country.

I’m Christina Bellantoni, and this is the Monday edition of Essential Politics.

The grim news shifted some attention away from the biggest story of the week — Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

But the battle over the environment is still top of mind for many, and will continue this week as California Gov. Jerry Brown acts as America’s unofficial climate ambassador during a trip to China.



Brown has been viewed as a political and policy counterweight on environmental issues since Trump’s victory, and he’s relishing the role as the president rolls back regulations and faces blowback from the business community for pulling out of the treaty.

Chris Megerian, John Myers and Jessica Meyers in China write that during his visit, the governor will try to demonstrate to the Chinese — and by extension, other world leaders — that some parts of the country are still moving forward.


The first two stops on Brown’s tour are places that envision themselves as California sees itself — progressive and green, Meyers writes. Brown’s meetings began Sunday in the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu, part of a weeklong trip hinged on his mantra of climate change collaboration. Sichuan’s rivers and steep terrain have helped make it a hub for hydropower. Nanjing’s Jiangsu province, which he will visit on Monday, aims to position itself as a leader on renewable energy.

And on the lighter side, Brown observed that pandas sure seem to sit around a lot.

Evan Halper took a look at how California has been joined by dozens of states and cities across the country who are vowing to fulfill the U.S. commitment to the Paris accord without Washington — a goal that is not out of reach.

Cathy Decker examined the politics of Trump’s climate change decision, finding that while his base may cheer the move he likely further alienated younger, suburban and more educated voters among whom his support was weakest — a matter of increasingly open concern for many Republicans. Looking to 2020, Trump’s challenge is maintaining his voters — and adding to them.


Rep. Darrell Issa, among the most embattled California Republicans ahead of the midterm elections, was grilled about the Russia investigation and his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the American Health Care Act. A sometimes rowdy crowd in San Juan Capistrano kept Issa answering questions for nearly two hours. See the video.

Skirmishes broke out when demonstrators gathered in downtown Portland for a pro-Trump free-speech rally and a pair of counter-demonstrations on Sunday, after a white supremacist killed two men in stabbings on a city train more than a week ago.

And back in California, a group of Trump supporters marched peacefully Saturday in Fountain Valley.



On Tuesday, voters in the 34th Congressional District will choose their next congressman. The Los Angeles-based district, which for decades has been a proving ground for major Latino political gains, could now set a new historical milestone: sending the first Korean American Democrat to Congress.

Christine Mai-Duc reports Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and attorney Robert Lee Ahn don’t have vast differences on issues like immigration or healthcare, but they have made different pitches to the majority-Democrat district. Gomez has said he has good experience and a progressive record to back it up. Ahn says Gomez is too entrenched in the political establishment and is beholden to the special interests from whom he’s raised money.

Over the weekend Mai-Duc reported that hundreds of newly registered voters have not received the mail ballots they requested.

Here’s what you need to know to catch up on the race.

Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and we’ll cover it live on our Essential Politics news feed. And make sure to follow @cmaiduc for in the moment updates.


House Democrats are complaining that Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is still playing too large of a role in the Russia investigation after saying in April that he would step aside.


Sarah Wire took a look at whether Nunes actually recused himself and what his continued involvement means for the investigation.

Get the latest about what’s happening in the nation’s capital on Essential Washington.


The race to replace Brown may be a year away, but prominent Democrats are already raising money and courting voters in what Seema Mehta reports could be the most exciting gubernatorial contest in nearly a decade.

One of the candidates, state Treasurer John Chiang, plans to poke at rival former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday by announcing a key Latino backer in Villaraigosa’s backyard, Mehta reports. Chiang will announce the endorsement of City Councilman Jose Huizar — the man Villaraigosa recruited to replace him in his East L.A. council seat when he was elected mayor in 2005 — in Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, where the former mayor was born and raised.

Chiang also acknowledged to a group of Los Angeles business people and government officials that he was not the flashiest politician in the race. But he said he believes voters will respond to his record.

Meanwhile, Villaraigosa took a dig at rival Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom when he said he supports universal healthcare but warned that advocates for a state-sponsored single-payer system may be “creating false expectations” given the enormous costs involved.


The Legislature raced last week to meet what’s known as the house of origin deadline to complete work on bills in the chamber where they originated. There’s still a long way to go before some of these things land on Brown’s desk. Here’s a quick look at some of the most interesting action.

-- A proposal to adopt a single-payer healthcare system for California took an initial step forward when the state Senate approved a bare-bones bill that lacks a method for paying the $400-billion cost of the plan. Confused on how the proposal would work? Melanie Mason breaks down on what we know, and don’t know, about the sweeping plan.

-- California moved a step closer to becoming a “sanctuary state” in which local and state police would not assist federal enforcement of marijuana laws. The state Assembly approved a bill Thursday barring state and local law enforcement officers, absent a court order, from helping federal drug agents in arresting people who are complying with state laws allowing the use and sale of marijuana.

-- The senate passed a package of bills aimed at stemming the housing crisis — though two high-profile measures stalled.

-- By 2045, California will generate all its energy from renewable sources if a bill that passed the Senate becomes law.

-- California’s bid to expand its landmark program to combat climate change hit a snag this week with a vote on a final deal delayed and the failure of multiple bills to clear the assembly. Business-aligned Democrats also unveiled their own plan for how to continue to cap and trade.

-- An ambitious plan to overhaul the bail system in California hit a hurdle in the state Assembly. But lawmakers vow the battle isn’t over.

-- The state Senate approved a bill that would expand and reshape the agency that oversees mass transit in Los Angeles County. Opponents of the measure include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the city and county of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

-- The state Senate said knowingly exposing others to HIV should no longer be a felony.

-- Students whose parents have not kept their school lunch bills current would no longer go through “shaming” that includes marking their hand so they cannot be served. The measure would require school districts to ensure that any student whose parent has unpaid school meal fees is not treated differently, or delayed or denied a nutritiously adequate meal.

-- Lawmakers are taking another shot at establishing statewide regulations for the use of drones. Similar efforts sunk last legislative session amid industry opposition.

-- For the second straight year, an effort to abolish Daylight Saving Time in California passed its first legislative hurdle. The proposal seeks a way — any way — to keep the state’s clocks steady all year. A similar proposal, however, failed at final passage last time.


State senators passed the single-payer healthcare bill, even though it needs a lot more work, George Skelton writes in his Monday column. The Senate has kicked the can to the Assembly, where it’s not clear if it has much support, and if it does survive it must somehow make it past Brown, who seems likely to veto it, Skelton says.


An effort is underway in Sacramento to fix something most voters would never know was broken: the legal definition of when a ballot measure becomes law.

In his Sunday column, Myers takes a look at long forgotten language in the California Constitution that allows a proposal to become law long before all the ballots have been counted.


-- On this week’s California Politics Podcast, Myers leads a discussion of the governor’s political opportunity on climate change, and a review of some of the biggest bills that faced legislative deadlines last week.

-- Noah Bierman reports that more than four months after taking office, the president who built his brand telling people “You’re fired!” is having a hard time staffing up.

-- Hillary Clinton, speaking at a tech conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, said she had no plans to run for office again but would remain active in civic life. Clinton also revisited her 2016 presidential loss, saying there was plenty of blame to go around.

-- Kimberly Ellis, the candidate who narrowly lost the race to be the next leader of the California Democratic Party, on Friday said the state party has rejected her request for an independent audit of the election. The party’s executive director responded over the weekend, dismissing the allegations.

-- EMILY’s List endorsed UC Irvine law professor Katie Porter’s bid to unseat Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) in California’s 45th District.

-- Emilio Huerta is back to challenge Rep. David Valadao.

-- Orange County congressman Rep. Lou Correa’s immigration town hall turned chaotic and led to three arrests

-- The California Assembly opted to not to retain former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder as outside counsel. The Senate, meanwhile, says it will keep Holder and his firm, Covington & Burling, to craft legal strategy against the Trump administration.

-- Despite swirling speculation, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California said she’s not giving “any consideration” to running for president in 2020.

-- Generations collide in Compton’s mayoral race.

-- Mark Z. Barabak talks to a central figure in Watergate about Trump.

-- Kathy Griffin had a long press conference.

-- The Supreme Court has been asked to reinstate Trump’s temporary ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries in the Mideast and North Africa.


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