Essential Politics: This is why Dolores Huerta matters in the race to win back the House

Essential Politics: This is why Dolores Huerta matters in the race to win back the House
  (Los Angeles Times)

This is a week that will answer some important questions in California politics.

First, the results of a sexual harassment investigation into state Sen. Tony Mendoza will be made public as early as Tuesday. Then the Artesia Democrat's peers will consider his political fate.


We'll also get to see the Democrats running for governor court their party in an attempt to win a coveted endorsement ahead of the June 5 primary. That will happen in San Diego starting Friday at the party convention. Also at the confab, Democrats at the local level will start to sort through the many candidates running for Congress in some of the races that are likely to determine control of the U.S. House.

In the Central Valley, a new candidate may jump into the race for the 21st Congressional District. At the moment, Emilio Huerta is the lone Democrat running against Republican Rep. David Valadao, a dynamic that concerns some senior Democrats in the district and in Washington. They are afraid he'll lose again, but fear that recruiting another contender could irritate his mom, labor rights icon Dolores Huerta.

More on all of this is below. The Los Angeles Times will be tracking every development as it happens, so stick with our Essential Politics news feed on California politics for the latest and make sure to sign up for breaking news alerts.


Sarah Wire reports that Dolores Huerta has been having pointed conversations to dissuade anyone from recruiting another candidate. Congressional sources said members of Congress frustrated by Huerta's actions don't plan to help her son campaign. Prominent members of the California congressional delegation already have lent support to candidates challenging vulnerable Republicans, but not Huerta.

Huerta says she's asked questions about potential candidates, but that she hasn't tried to keep other Democrats out. Emilio Huerta's poor 2016 showing against Valadao and anemic fundraising so far may have created an opening for someone else to jump in, just before the convention this weekend.


-- Sen. Kamala Harris endorsed longtime ally Gavin Newsom in the governor's race. The backing was not surprising, but she is the highest-ranked elected official to weigh in. Democrat Toni Atkins of San Diego, who in March will become the first woman to lead the California state Senate, also endorsed Newsom.

-- A former aide to Hillary Clinton announced her surprise candidacy in a move that shook up the race. Amanda Renteria filed paperwork to run for office but has yet to make a public statement about why she is running.

-- After an aide to Newsom rival Antonio Villaraigosa suggested that the Newsom campaign was behind Renteria's entry into the race as part of an effort to dilute the Latino vote, Newsom called the statements untrue, "sad" and "desperate."

-- All this occurs as Democrats decide whether to endorse one of the candidates. Here's what we expect from the Democratic convention.

-- In GOP politics, billionaire and prominent President Trump supporter Peter Thiel is leaving Silicon Valley and moving to Los Angeles, a move his camp describes as a bid to escape the political hegemony of the Bay Area.



-- The investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election did not take a break for the holiday weekend. David Willman had the story Sunday that in a change of heart, Richard Gates, Trump's former deputy campaign manager, will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days. Gates has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul Manafort, the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.

-- That comes after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III announced charges against 13 Russians and three Russian companies, accusing them of using stolen identities, fake campaign events and hundreds of social media accounts while spending millions of rubles to interfere in the election in a secret effort to aid the Trump campaign. That's something National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said Saturday makes evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election "now really incontrovertible."

-- What's more, Mueller's steady, relentless probe is complicating Trump's efforts to spin the Russia debate, cutting off some of his favorite lines of defense and forcing him to adjust his attacks.

-- Over the weekend, Trump lashed out at the FBI over its handling of a tip about the Florida school shooting suspect

-- Meet Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann.

-- Most politicians would have been swallowed up in scandal after new details emerged Friday of an alleged affair — with a Playboy Playmate, no less — that occurred the same weekend of a reported dalliance with a porn star. Not Trump.


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


In his Monday column, George Skelton champions the proposal and argues no one can become a mass shooter without a mass-shooting gun.

Meantime, the White House said Trump is "supportive" of efforts to expand background checks for some gun purchases.


The sexual harassment investigation into Mendoza is complete. The state Senate Rules Committee spent two hours behind closed doors discussing the report, which is confidential. The panel will recommend whether discipline is warranted.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia faced new allegations of fostering an improper work environment. Melanie Mason reports that an attorney for four former staffers of Garcia submitted a letter to the Assembly accusing the Bell Gardens Democrat of alcohol use in the office and inappropriate discussions about sex. Three of the staffers remain anonymous, but one, David Kernick, went public over the weekend, alleging Garcia encouraged staff members to play "spin the bottle" when he worked for her in 2014.

Garcia is on unpaid leave after allegations she made inappropriate advances on two men. In her absence, the California Legislative Women's Caucus named Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) the "acting-interim chair" of the powerful group.


The Republicans running for governor are attracting different coalitions and seem to be splitting the vote. If the trend holds, two Democrats are likely to make it to the November ballot. John Myers writes in his Political Road Map column that Trump could change all that with the speed of a tweet.


Our very own Christine Mai-Duc will be moderating a debate Tuesday night between five Democrats running for Rep. Darrell Issa's seat. Issa announced in January that he'd be retiring after this year, and Democratic leaders are desperate to winnow down the crowded field of candidates over concern that the top-two primary could yield two Republicans in the runoff.

The event is open to the public but is sold out. If you want to take your chances with the wait list, head to San Juan Hills High School in San Juan Capistrano. Doors open at 6 p.m. Javier Panzar will be covering the event live, so follow him at @jpanzar.


-- This week's California Politics Podcast takes a look at the surprising new entrants into the governor's race and the endorsements made by one of the state's most dominant political groups.

-- Democrats still dominate California's voting rolls and the percentage of independent voters continues to rise, according to new figures provided by the secretary of state's office. Just shy of a quarter of the state's voters now forgo any party label, registering as "no party preference." If the trend continues as expected, California's pool of independent voters could soon surpass the number of Republicans in the state.

-- Democrat Gil Cisneros got a nod from powerful labor union SEIU California in the race for Rep. Ed Royce's seat.

-- Andy Thorburn, one of Royce's opponents, is courting the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party with a couple of big endorsements from Sanders-affiliated groups this week.

-- Candidates challenging Rep. Dana Rohrabacher are starting to turn on each other, with Democrat Harley Rouda releasing an attack ad against opponent Hans Keirstead.

-- Rep. Mimi Walters broke with Trump over his idea to raise the gas tax.


-- Rep. Kevin McCarthy brushed off questions about if he wants the White House chief of staff job.

-- California ethics panel members sparred over how much they are paid for state service but approved a proposal to retroactively provide extra pay for work done on official state business.

-- Lawmakers introduced three bills designed to increase protections for renters. The biggest one would make it illegal for landlords to evict tenants unless a tenant created a nuisance, didn't pay rent or met a list of other specific criteria, a process known as "just-cause" eviction.

-- A California lawmaker wants to stop Facebook from sharing children's information without clear consent from their parents.

-- Californians have been able to use marijuana as medicine for two decades, but soon even their sick pets may be able to take advantage of cannabis' benefits. And minors with special needs or severe disabilities who rely on marijuana for medical purposes would be allowed to use the drug at their school under legislation.


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