Newsletter: Essential Politics: Sports spat starts with California teams and brings politics to the football field

Essential Politics

It was one of those incredibly newsy Fridays — with breaking stories on North Korea, healthcare and even Russian interference in our election — but still the day somehow managed to be eclipsed by the weekend’s national political drama over one of America’s favorite pastimes.

President Trump didn’t relent from his criticism of NFL players, even as players at stadiums across the country linked arms in solidarity, or took a knee during the National Anthem. (See the photo gallery.)

The Trump sports spat all started Friday night when the president was campaigning for Sen. Luther Strange ahead of Alabama’s special Senate election. It wasn’t much of an endorsement for Strange, since Trump instead went after Kim Jong Un, Hillary Clinton and Colin Kaepernick.

As Cathy Decker noted, it was Trump’s typical us versus them style. The story didn’t end there.


On Saturday, the Golden State Warriors said that, instead of a visit to the White House, they would use the February trip to Washington “to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.”

Here’s some context for sports teams visiting the White House, events that President Obama held more than any of his predecessors. Meanwhile, California lawmakers made clear the Warriors will be welcomed in the state Capitol.

Then players’ associations got involved.


And not to be left out: the fans. At the StubHub Center in Carson, where Los Angeles Chargers fans were gathered to watch the team battle the Kansas City Chiefs, reporter Hailey Branson-Potts found plenty on both sides of the debate.

It’s interesting to look back to the USC/Los Angeles Times poll from last fall, which found huge partisan divisions in how California voters viewed Kaepernick at the time. Democrats liked him more, while he had just 6% favorability among tea party Republicans here. The state was evenly divided on whether to support his protest during the national anthem. (Even a quarter of people who didn’t like Kaepernick thought the protests furthered a dialogue about policing and race.)


California’s top elections officer said the federal government confirmed a Russian effort to pry into a state election website in 2016. Secretary of State Alex Padilla blasted the administration for the delay in telling him about it.


Sen. John McCain announced his opposition to next week’s scheduled vote on the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal measure. From the sound of things on the Sunday shows, the plan is on life support. Senate Republicans are adding billions of dollars to it, hoping to win support.

If it were to pass, California would take the biggest hit, Noam Levey wrote for the Sunday front page.


The Trump administration announced a new ban Sunday on most travel to the U.S. by nationals of seven countries: North Korea and six in the Mideast and North Africa. Venezuelan government officials and their relatives would also not be allowed to enter the U.S. in most cases under the new rules.


Trump said Sunday the White House has “totally finalized” a tax plan, but the particulars are substantially different from what’s been reported about the proposal. The rates he cited seem low.

The Supreme Court opens its new term Oct. 2. David G. Savage has a preview of the major questions before the court, involving Trump, immigration policy, religious liberty, gay rights and partisan gerrymandering.

What’s a dotard, anyway?



Our team gets all the uncomfortable details about how Trump’s speech and snubs of the North Korean dictator came about -- against the wishes of his advisors.

We’ll be covering these stories and other news in the nation’s capital on Essential Washington all week.


The single-payer healthcare debate, which has rattled California politics, is now going national, with Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiling a Medicare for All bill. Melanie Mason examined how the national push for single-payer will affect California’s effort.


Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom promised single-payer backers that, should he be the next governor, “I will lead the effort to get it done. We will get universal healthcare.”

One of his Democratic rivals, Antonio Villaraigosa, accused Newsom of “parsing” his position on government-financed healthcare, and specifically, the controversial state bill that sputtered earlier this year

Even as he came to San Francisco on Friday to evangelize for single-payer, Sanders first took on the role of Obamacare defender. He urged supporters to mount an aggressive opposition to the latest GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.



On the same day Trump announced he would withdraw the country from the Paris agreement on climate change, California joined with New York and Washington to pledge their commitment to the goal. The U.S. Climate Alliance has since grown to 15 members, including Puerto Rico, and on Wednesday it added North Carolina. Gov. Jerry Brown was in New York for a press conference intended to demonstrate to the world that some states are still making progress despite resistance from Trump.


San Francisco and Oakland have been looking at potentially billions of dollars in costs when it comes to preparing for the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels. On Wednesday the city attorneys announced a lawsuit against five major oil companies, saying they should have to foot the bill because they helped cause the problem despite knowing the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.



In a rare court rebuke of the state attorney general’s office, a judge said that the title and summary written for a proposed initiative is misleading — and that he’d do a rewrite himself to make it clear the measure would repeal recently approved increases to gas taxes and vehicle fees.

Patrick McGreevy reports that Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley said he would draft a new title and summary to be placed on petitions for the initiative after attorneys for the state and proponents of the ballot measure could not agree on compromise language.


In case you missed it last week, we detailed California’s latest front in its broad legal battle against Trump’s policies, a lawsuit alleging that the administration has overstepped its powers in expediting construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.



Seema Mehta traced Villaraigosa’s arc from union organizer to union critic, reporting that it’s a remarkable evolution that could lead to one of the state’s most powerful interests trying to sink his gubernatorial campaign.

Meanwhile, California Republicans desperate to avoid another shutout on the ballot next fall, might change their rules to create an endorsement process to increase their relevance in statewide races and avoid an embarrassing repeat.

Next year’s elections were also the focus of a big party thrown Saturday night by Orange County Democrats, who declared “orange is the new blue” and had Rep. Keith Ellison as a guest speaker.



With his political clock ticking, Senate leader Kevin de León is remaining mum about what he will do next, injecting uncertainty into the races for governor and U.S. Senate, and demanding patience from those aspiring to succeed him as leader of the upper house.

One thing is certain: De León is preparing for a legal fight over “sanctuary state” legislation.

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



George Skelton thinks Brown should junk the presidential election bills on his desk.

And he writes in his Monday column that the problems for Brown’s delta tunnels plan seem like history repeating itself.



With hundreds of bills now sitting on his desk, Brown has a big decision to make about a high-profile effort to force more disclosure of big political donors: Are the bill’s details reasonable or risky?

In this week’s Political Road Map column, John Myers looks at how questions over “earmarked” contributions -- money bundled in small amounts from individual donors -- have led the chairwoman of the state’s campaign watchdog agency to suggest Brown veto the bill.


-- This week’s California Politics Podcast episode tackles the effect of a new state lawsuit challenging Trump’s border wall and Brown’s setback for a sweeping water infrastructure project.


-- How “Free Speech Week,” a.k.a. the “Coachella of Conservatism,” fell apart at UC Berkeley.

-- “Who the hell is Dana Rohrabacher?” Seth Meyers asked on “Late Night” as he slammed the congressman.

-- Rohrabacher’s latest challenger is a millennial without a party.

-- “Reclaiming my time”: Rep. Maxine Waters’ viral words will be the theme of Women’s March convention.


-- California Republicans haven’t said much about their thoughts on the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal Obamacare, but James Veltmeyer, a GOP challenger running against Rep. Scott Peters of San Diego, came out in support last week.

-- A group calling itself the “SoCal Health Care Coalition” ran ads online last week urging Republican Congress members to oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill. But it’s not clear who was really paying for them.

-- One of the Republicans targeted by the ads, Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton, showed up at a campaign volunteer kickoff over the weekend but wouldn’t say whether he supports Graham-Cassidy.

-- You might have never heard of Pat Harris, the little-known Democrat who’s running for U.S. Senate against Dianne Feinstein. But he’s treading ground familiar to many statewide candidates Monday by holding a big-ticket fundraiser in Hollywood.


-- A candidate in a state Assembly race is sending out mailers starring Obama.

-- It’s official, California has its own state dinosaur.

-- Finally, don’t miss our business desk’s excellent investigation asking if Disney is paying its fair share in Anaheim.



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