Newsletter: Essential Politics: The race to be California governor just got more crowded

Essential Politics

There’s a new candidate in the race to be California’s next governor. More on that below.

What might have been a quiet Independence Day otherwise was marked with new North Korean aggression, a provocation Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said should be met with action from all nations to “publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences” for its nuclear program.

Before that, the weekend was dominated by -- you guessed it -- one of President Trump’s tweets, this one directed at CNN.

In Los Angeles, the resistance braved the heat for an impeachment march that, in true California fashion, also had a mediation room for pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces to talk out their differences.


I’m Christina Bellantoni. Welcome to Essential Politics after a little holiday break. Hope it was a wonderful Fourth of July.

We’re also keeping an eye on the growing number of states that have rejected a request for personal information about voters from a presidential commission on voter fraud.

It will be a sleepy week in Washington, but lawmakers are active in Sacramento. They even worked on Monday, although that might have had something to do with their paychecks.


One outstanding question is whether a deal is made on extending California’s cap-and-trade program before Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez heads to D.C. to become a congressman. For those keeping track, any deal would need to be struck by Friday so the legislation could be posted for 72 hours before his last day July 10. If that day comes and goes, there’s a short window for getting something done before summer recess.

Congressional Republicans are under a similar time crunch when they return from the holiday break. Sen. Kamala Harris pointedly mocked her GOP colleagues while making stops in Southern California this week.

She went after the team of Republicans who came up with the Senate healthcare plan — all white men, whom she described as “this group that looks exactly like each other and not like most of us here.”

For more this week on what California’s politicians are up to, keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed. And get the latest about Trump’s second trip abroad, his meeting with Vladimir Putin and what’s happening in the nation’s capital on Essential Washington.



It costs a lot to live in California, and the problem is only getting worse. State lawmakers introduced more than 100 bills this year to try to make housing more affordable.

But there’s already a 50-year-old law on the books that aims to encourage developers to build housing. As Liam Dillon reports in a new project, the law has failed at helping stem the statewide shortage of homes driving California’s affordability problems. The reason? The law requires cities and counties to produce prodigious reports to plan for housing — but it doesn’t hold them accountable for any resulting home building.

Cities and counties resent the law. To avoid complying, they’ve asked the state to let prison beds count toward their low-income housing goals, among other things. And despite knowing about the law’s weaknesses for decades, state lawmakers have provided no incentive, such as a greater share of tax dollars, for cities and counties to meet their housing goals.


Have questions about the state’s housing policy? Tweet them to @LATpoliticsCA and Dillon will answer them in an upcoming Q&A.


If you missed it late Friday as the holiday weekend kicked off, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer made it crystal clear he won’t be leaving his job anytime soon. The Republican has said it before, but amid a lobbying effort from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others, Faulconer felt the need to declare again that he won’t run for California governor in 2018.

The Republican mayor’s decision has major repercussions in the nation’s capital. He had been under intense pressure from GOP leaders. Not only is Faulconer seen as one of the California GOP’s brightest political stars, but party leaders also believed that having him at the top of the ticket in the 2018 election would have helped Republicans up and down the ballot.


A prominent political strategist posits that Faulconer decided he didn’t want to be a “sacrificial lamb” in national Republicans’ efforts to hold control of the U.S. House of Representatives.


Shortly after Faulconer’s announcement, former state Assemblyman and Republican David Hadley told Seema Mehta that he is running for governor.

The Manhattan Beach resident demurred when asked if the San Diego mayor’s decision prompted his move. But his ideology makes him the likely choice of the GOP establishment in an election where national eyes and donors’ dollars are likely to focus on California because of seven races that are critical to GOP efforts to keep the House.



Eric Garcetti was just sworn in Saturday for his second term as L.A. mayor, but is he already picturing himself in the Oval Office?

As far-fetched as a Garcetti candidacy for president might sound, it’s the mayor himself who has stoked the chatter. With Trump’s election, he says, “I think all the rules are off.”

History suggests he faces steep odds, Michael Finnegan and Dakota Smith report.



Noah Bierman explores the character that is Mike Pence, writing that the vice president copes with the drama that defines life as Trump’s sidekick by acting as though everything is normal, boringly normal.

Those “great” jobs numbers? They aren’t actually that great.



Yet another California law runs afoul of the feds, with a judge blocking the voter-approved measure requiring disposal of large-capacity magazines. At the same time, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is continuing his spat with the NRA, lashing out at the group’s new recruitment video, arguing that it was dangerous and could lead to violence.


Supporters of state Sen. Josh Newman filed a lawsuit seeking to stop a recall campaign against the lawmaker, alleging that signature gatherers have misled voters and the petition contains false information.

The Democratic legislator from Fullerton faces a recall funded by the California Republican Party for voting to increase the state’s gas tax and vehicle fees to raise $5.2 billion annually for road repairs.


Gov. Jerry Brown, meanwhile, defended the bill headed to his desk that would effectively force the recall to a later date and thus a higher-turnout election.

“The only people who would be against that are people who wanted to fool people and don’t want to test it in court or in the light of day,” Brown said. He also dismissed critics opposed to the gas tax, saying that of course it’s unpopular, but Californians want paved roads, and “to have paved roads you’ve got to spend real money.”


Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has come under attack from progressive activists, including the California Nurses Assn., for blocking a single-payer healthcare proposal this year. But what he did provided a rare look at a politician acting heroically, George Skelton writes.


The protesters were back at Rendon’s office Monday, Melanie Mason reports.


Fewer and fewer people are voting, and they’re giving up their say in how government is run, Skelton writes. The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California has reported that there’s been a decline in voter registration in California compared to other states, and that’s coupled with declining voter turnout in non-presidential elections.



Brown’s signature last week on a new state budget adds a chapter to the story of his focus on whittling down California’s budget liabilities.

But as John Myers points out in his Sunday column, the governor’s “wall of debt” was only the first of several hurdles when it comes to paying off huge obligations. And the ones to come are much, much larger than what Brown and lawmakers have been able to knock down in the past six years.

Myers also found the spending plan is the latest example of California Democrats’ seething anger over Trump’s efforts to shift the nation’s priorities rightward. In fact, Assembly Democrats nicknamed their proposal the “protect and persist” budget.



-- On this week’s California Politics Podcast, our Times team discusses the political fallout from the fight over single-payer healthcare in Sacramento and the prospects in this legislative session for a broad fix to the state’s housing woes.

-- California is seeing an increase in hate crimes. There were 931 incidents in 2016, an 11.2% spike over 2015, the state Department of Justice reported.

-- There would be tougher penalties for people repeatedly caught illegally crossing the border and millions of dollars less in federal funds for so-called sanctuary jurisdictions such as Los Angeles under two House immigration bills approved Thursday.

-- After long pushing for Congress to reconsider the open-ended Authorization for the Use of Military Force it granted in 2001, Rep. Barbara Lee got a foot in the door last week when her amendment, which would make Congress review the president’s current authority to use military force, was added to a Defense Department spending measure.


-- Mark Z. Barabak examined local efforts to flip seven GOP congressional seats, a switch from the national groups that like to swoop into California.

-- Sacramento’s sheriff asked Trump’s immigration chief for help fighting California’s “sanctuary state” bill.

-- Anticipating billions of dollars from new tax increases, the California Department of Transportation is predicting it will make significant headway during the next decade on delayed highway and bridge repairs.



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