Newsletter: Five reporters went to the California Democratic Party convention. Here’s what we learned.
California Democrats emerged from their annual convention Sunday with a unified enemy in President Trump and congressional Republicans, but remained divided on how to topple either from power. Some called for impeachment. Some said the party must be more progressive. Some said single-payer healthcare would forge the path forward.
Perhaps the biggest news to come from the convention was Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s inability to convince delegates she should earn the party endorsement. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León managed to earn nearly 500 more votes than the veteran senator, who hasn’t needed to rely much on the establishment in previous campaigns.
The convention also illustrated how concerned Democrats are about crowded fields of candidates splitting the votes in the June 5 top-two primary — and landing two Republicans on the November ballot. Such a result in any of the competitive races would make it that much more difficult for the Democrats to reclaim control of the U.S. House in the midterms.
For a sense of the tension, consider this quote from Daraka Larimore-Hall, vice chair of the state party.
To candidates polling under 10%, he said he has a message: “If you step aside today to make sure we don’t send two Republicans to the general, you will be my hero.” He added that if candidates put their career before the party, he wouldn’t support them for dog catcher.
Christine Mai-Duc explains how fears about the top-two primary are well-founded, and what Democrats are trying to do about it.
ACTION-PACKED POLITICAL WEEKEND
California Democrats overwhelmingly decided not to endorse Feinstein, an embarrassing rebuke of a party icon who has represented California in the Senate for a quarter-century. The snub is thanks, in part, to her asking for help after not needing it previously. “We have not seen her in 25 years,” Latino caucus chairman Carlos Alcala said at the convention.
In an expected split, California Democrats declined to endorse anyone running for governor.
Before the vote, the top Democratic candidates made their official pitches from the stage. We also have the details on how the hopefuls did their best to woo party loyalists with T-shirts, tacos, free breakfasts and other goodies.
Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had a rough go at the weekend convention. Not only did he he finish last in the endorsement vote, he also was heckled at a press conference he staged to announce the endorsement by the United Farm Workers.
CONVENTION LIGHTNING ROUND
-- After a late-night signature-gathering effort by opponents and an intense few minutes on the convention floor, Dave Min got the state party endorsement in the 45th Congressional District. Here’s a rundown of how the rest of the state party endorsements in key House races shaped up this weekend.
-- Rep. Maxine Waters took the stage Saturday to reclaim her time after a kerfuffle that cut off her microphone at the last California Democratic Party convention. Spoiler: She was no-holds-barred, and she was a hit.
-- Eric Garcetti and Nancy Pelosi rallied their troops around trying to win back House seats this year, a major focus of the convention.
-- California Democrats got a glimpse Saturday of four up-and-comers considered potential contenders for the White House in 2020, and each talked of ending what they described as the dark era of President Trump.
-- And supporters of Kimberly Ellis’ failed bid for party chair last time have switched gears and were asking for major changes to the state party’s bylaws this weekend.
For in-the-moment news on California politics, keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed.
MENDOZA SHOWS UP IN SAN DIEGO
It was an eventful week for Tony Mendoza. After an investigation concluded last week the state senator likely made unwanted sexual advances on six women during his tenure as a legislator, his colleagues in the Senate were left to determine what, if any, discipline he should face. As John Myers and Melanie Mason report, moments before the Senate was poised to expel him, Mendoza abruptly resigned, making him the third lawmaker to step down due to sexual harassment allegations.
Mendoza surprised Democrats by attending the state convention in San Diego, where he confirmed he will run for his seat again. Delegates from his district voted to block the party from endorsing him.
ANOTHER GUILTY PLEA IN THE RUSSIA PROBE
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has proven adept at securing guilty pleas and cooperation agreements from targets of the Russia investigation. The latest domino to fall was Richard W. Gates III, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to investigators on Friday.
Gates is expected to testify against Paul Manafort, his former business partner and Trump’s campaign manager during the Republican National Convention. The two men had earned millions by advising Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin government, but prosecutors say they evaded taxes, ran an undisclosed lobbying effort and committed fraud to obtain bank loans.
The plea deal revealed Friday was the product of months of negotiations with the special counsel’s office, but Gates made more trouble for himself during those conversations. He lied to investigators about the contents of a meeting between Manafort and California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher by saying it didn’t involve Ukraine.
Rohrabacher has long been a proponent of friendlier ties between the U.S. and Russia, and his name has repeatedly popped up on the fringes on the investigation.
If you’re trying to keep up with who has been charged so far in the Russia probe, check out our new graphic. We’ll be updating it throughout the investigation.
On Saturday the House Intelligence Committee released a 10-page Democratic memo Saturday that staunchly defends the decision by U.S. law enforcement to start eavesdropping on a former Trump campaign advisor three weeks before the 2016 election, countering Republican charges that abuses tainted the process.
The dueling conclusions about the surveillance reflect the bitter partisan divide on the House committee and within Congress over how to view the broader criminal investigation into whether Trump or his aides assisted in Russian meddling in the campaign or obstructed justice in the White House.
Two Californians are central to the memo fight.
Columnist George Skelton raised the idea of Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member of the Intelligence panel, running for president.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the Tulare Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, earned praise from Trump on Fox News after the Democratic memo was released.
“I really think some day he’s going to be greatly honored for his service,” Trump said. “He’s been very, very brave.”
NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND
-- The Mexican president’s planned visit to the White House has officially been scrapped as the two leaders sparred over Trump’s calls for Mexico to pay for the border wall.
-- Trump claimed credit for rising stock prices. Now he owns their fall — and a possible recession.
-- Admitting his prepared CPAC remarks were “boring,” Trump talked about his efforts to conceal a bald spot and read a poem from his campaign trail days considered to have an anti-immigration message.
-- Stormy Daniels brought her exotic dancing performance, and the political drama that comes with it, to Los Angeles over the weekend.
-- With time ticking away, here is a quick political guide to what’s next for the “Dreamers.”
-- Members of the first generation to grow up with social media at its fingertips have launched a gun control movement. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School aren’t backing down. Matt Pearce explains what happens when teenagers make gun control their cause.
-- There was a security breach and brief lockdown at the White House on Friday.
-- A new memoir from Michelle Obama will be out in November.
Get the latest about what’s happening in the nation’s capital on Essential Washington.
NO FIRM RULES FOR PUNISHING POLITICIANS
As legislators in Sacramento weigh changes to the institution of the Legislature amid the #MeToo movement, few are talking about better defining the punishment for politicians.
In his weekly column, Myers looks at how rare it is for a member of the state Senate or Assembly to be formally rebuked — and whether the traditional response of “let the voters make that decision” should still apply.
-- Why did the mayor of Los Angeles visit one of the states that will hold an early primary in 2020? Eric Garcetti is starting to test the presidential waters.
-- The debate among California’s top four Democratic candidates for governor Thursday night in San Diego was unlike most of their recent match-ups, with long stretches of broad agreement and few, if any, fireworks.
-- Mayors in California’s 11 largest cities were in Sacramento last week to fight homelessness. One of those mayors, Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, is the guest interview on the most recent “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast.” Steinberg talked about his homelessness pitch and the struggle for low-income housing.
-- Skelton explains why the time is right for bail reform.
-- Lawmakers will consider adopting a measure so the state would have the same “zero tolerance” policy for pot that it has for those under 21 who drive under the influence of alcohol.
-- California Democrats weren’t happy with Trump’s threat of removing ICE agents from California.
-- Rep. Duncan Hunter actually was regularly present, with his family, when improper campaign spending happened, the Union-Tribune reported.
-- An abortion rights group endorsed congressional candidate Katie Hill, who talks about her own unplanned pregnancy.
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