Newsletter: Essential Politics: California’s House Republicans voted for the healthcare bill but are coming home with nothing to show for it


I’m Christina Bellantoni. Welcome to the Monday edition of Essential Politics.

We know you have lots to do, and lots to read, so we’re experimenting with a shorter format today. Let’s get to it.



There’s sudden open resistance to President Trump from congressional Republicans.

Can’t keep the Trump administration’s musical chairs straight? This might help.

Kid Rock for Senate? It could happen. Matt Pearce explains.

Making sloganeering great again.


As we noted last Monday, incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was scheduled to make multiple appearances at the Politicon convention in Pasadena amid the White House staffing shakeup. He pulled out Friday, shortly after a profanity-laced interview emerged, disparaging his new administration colleagues, and just before the resignation of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus became public.


Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-Costa Mesa) was among those who did show up at Politicon, for a panel called “From Russia With Trump.”


It was not a friendly audience, as I reported Sunday night.

The congressman compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to “Mayor Daley and his gang” and spent a lot of time talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Other Rohrabacher headlines from the week: He was accused of violating Russian sanctions by the backer of a Russian sanctions law. And the race for his Orange County seat is now rated a toss-up by election prognosticators.


With an industry looking for an edge when it comes to newly legal recreational marijuana in California, it’s no surprise donors tied to pot businesses are opening their wallets in the 2018 race to be the next governor. One candidate is dominating the field.

Ryan Menezes and Maloy Moore crunched the numbers and have lots of great detail about what’s happening at the fundraisers.


One invite warned: “YES, this is an OPEN BAR event, but sorry... no MJ consumption allowed. YES, we know this is hypocrisy, but that’s a great reason to support this event!”

In other pot news, California has too much of it, and growers won’t be able to export the surplus.


Amid the nonstop drama of the Trump White House, Democrat John Chiang is hoping Californians will turn to a more ordinary style of leadership.

The reserved and low-key state treasurer from Torrance is facing two of California’s most telegenic politicians in the June primary for governor. But is Chiang, who jokes that he’s “Torrance stylish,” ready for prime time? Michael Finnegan has our latest profile of the leading contenders.


The newest member of Congress, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, was among the protesters in downtown Los Angeles who took to the streets to push Republicans to keep the Affordable Care Act as law. Like the other protests Saturday across the country, this was planned when it seemed as if the repeal-and-replace measure might pass the Senate.


In the wee hours of Friday morning, the Senate failed in its effort, but that doesn’t negate the political consequences right here in California.

Earlier this year, every single House Republican in California’s delegation voted for the House healthcare plan, even though some wavered until the last minute. That plan would have taken health insurance from as many as 1 in 3 Californians, and the dozens of challengers who have signed up to run against these Republicans aren’t going to let that vote go, Sarah Wire reports. We’ll be keeping close tabs on how these lawmakers defend their vote during the August recess.

More fallout:

Cathleen Decker on the relatively unheralded female GOP senators who determined the outcome of the repeal-and-replace Obamacare plan. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, the senators from Maine and Alaska, came under treatment that seemed familiar to many women, she writes.

And we have the view from Alaska on Murkowski.


More than two dozen candidates who have announced runs in California’s 13 most competitive congressional races have never run for office before. Christine Mai-Duc writes that many of them say they were spurred to run by the election of a first-time candidate who rode his reputation as a political outsider to the highest office in the nation.


Most are concentrated in Orange County, where four of California’s seven most vulnerable Republican House members are based. But newcomers to politics are popping up on both sides of the aisle. The 2018 roster includes scientists, businessmen, doctors, veterans and at least one lottery winner.

A reminder you can keep up with these races in the moment via our Essential Politics news feed on California politics.


Mark Z. Barabak details the bit of luck that has visited itself upon Adam B. Schiff, in the form of Russian meddling and a president who hurls tweets like poison thunderbolts.


A watchdog commission appointed by Democrats opted Thursday to support lifting the limits on donations to officials targeted by recalls — just as a Democratic state senator is facing one.


The change must be finalized at a future commission meeting, and the limits still apply until that happens, but if it goes through, it could have a big effect on efforts to oust freshman Sen. Josh Newman.

Former Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang said she is aiming to replace Newman in that recall election, a rematch from their battle last fall.


California has been cracking down on greenhouse gas emissions, but there are neighborhoods around the state that still suffer from toxic pollution. So when Gov. Jerry Brown negotiated a deal to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program, he also offered a new plan for improving air quality. Brown signed the legislation on Wednesday during a ceremony in Bell Gardens, and many activists remain unsatisfied with the result. Chris Megerian and Tony Barboza look at the political tension and lingering questions over the state’s plan.


Volkswagen spent years cheating emissions tests, but now the automaker will be responsible for helping California build a network of electric car charging stations. The first phase of the $800-million investment was approved by state regulators on Thursday, part of a much larger settlement over the emissions scandal.



Lots of California politicians, business leaders, housing activists and others want 4,400 new homes built on 640 acres right outside the city of San Francisco.

But none of them gets to decide what happens on the land, Liam Dillon reports. Instead, it’s under the control of the city of Brisbane, whose residents are wary of a project that could triple the city’s population from its current 4,700. Beyond that, California’s tax system ensures the city would earn a lot more revenue if it approved more commercial or hotel development on the site.

These reasons, state officials say, show why California is struggling to meet its vast housing affordability problems.


Brown has put the state Board of Parole Hearings at the front line of his effort to reduce the prison population and to focus more on rehabilitation rather than relying solely on punishment.

The commission of 14 men and women says it has been empowered to grant more offenders a chance at parole after a series of court decisions and state laws. Criminal justice experts see a pendulum swing in California, coming after decades of tough sentencing policies that led to overflowing prisons and a court-ordered cap on the state inmate population. Jazmine Ulloa takes you inside the parole process.



California’s statewide general election is not that far off in political terms, just about 15 months away. While candidates are lining up for state and regional races, one part of the electoral universe has been super quiet.

There are very few ballot measures on the playing field.

In his Sunday column, John Myers looked at why some interest groups’ focus could be elsewhere come 2018.


-- On this week’s California Politics Podcast, Myers along with Times staff writers Melanie Mason and Liam Dillon examine a new hint of continued infighting among California Democrats.

-- While women have lost ground in California’s Legislature and its congressional delegation, the state has seen a small increase in women serving on city councils over the past two years, a new report found.


-- Emily’s List, a pro-abortion rights group that aims to elect Democratic women, has put several Republican incumbents “on notice” in California, promising to spend resources in the races to recruit or assist female candidates running against them.

-- Amid speculation about a potential 2020 presidential bid, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota headlined a fundraiser for her reelection campaign in Brentwood hosted by some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

-- Proponents of a bill to establish single-payer healthcare took their first formal step to launch a recall against Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), who shelved the measure last month.

-- Members of California’s Board of Equalization objected to a broad interpretation of a new state law requiring that they disclose their private meetings with taxpayers who are engaged in appeals.


In another experiment, we’ll be highlighting interesting reporting from elsewhere.

PBS NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins takes you inside the most dramatic 90 minutes the Senate has seen in recent history.

Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev explains how for Trump, the worsening conflict over sanctions poses a dilemma between his oft-stated desire to build ties with Russia and mounting congressional opposition to that effort.


Reuters’ Amanda Becker gets at why that hot-mic moment was such a big deal on Capitol Hill.

Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman has the behind-the-scenes on how the new Democratic campaign platform came together.

And finally, insights from Maggie Haberman, the New York Times reporter who knows Trump best.


Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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