This may not exactly be the quiet season in California politics, but it’s definitely been an in-between time for some of the most compelling storylines.
National politics seem as intense (or more) than ever — just consider the ramifications of last week’s indictments of Russian nationals — but California’s scene is on a summer schedule, even after one big day for Democrats on Saturday.
And what a day it was in the race for the United States Senate.
DE LEÓN: THE PARTY CHOICE OVER FEINSTEIN
As leaders of the California Democratic Party gathered in Oakland, Sen. Dianne Feinstein had only one goal: Keep the party and its money and machinery on the sidelines of her reelection race.
It didn’t happen. Sixty-five percent of the party’s executive board voted to endorse state Sen. Kevin de León over the quarter-century incumbent. The question now is whether it’s more than a short-lived headline — a challenge for De León in a state where political parties don’t always have the power to win over voters on their own.
THE LATEST FROM HELSINKI
As the week begins, it’s hard to find any political story that eclipses President Trump’s private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. For the American president, it likely comes as a reprieve from the contentious work of the special counsel investigating Russian election meddling.
America’s European allies are closely watching what happens after Trump described the European Union as a trading “foe” on Sunday. On Monday, Trump predicted the U.S. and Russia “will end up having an extraordinary relationship.”
WHAT WE’RE WAITING FOR ...
The California Legislature returns early next month for a one-month sprint to the end of this year’s session in Sacramento. Legislative records show as many as 1,800 bills remain under consideration, and we’ll be tracking the most important ones on our Essential Politics news feed.
We’ll also soon see a complete picture of campaign dollars being raised in the races for governor and beyond. That data will come on the heels of the final chapter in June’s primary election: better turnout than any similar election in a long time, but one where most voters still skipped casting a ballot.
THE BALLOT PROPOSITION FIGHTS AHEAD
Twelve measures have earned a spot on November’s California ballot, but the real focus is likely to be on just three — two are major policy choices; the third is simply like no other initiative that’s ever been considered by voters.
The Republican-led effort to repeal California’s 2017 gas tax increase, part of a $52-billion transportation improvement program, is likely to spark a sharp fight. GOP leaders think the anti-tax fight over Proposition 6 could inspire strong turnout by their base voters. So far, though, they seem to be underdogs in campaign cash; almost $12 million has been raised by business and construction groups who want to preserve the tax plan. And Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged to help raise even more.
Expect an equally fierce debate over Proposition 10, the effort to expand rent control rules in communities across the state. Opponents of the measure, including builders and apartment owners, have already collected some $12 million for a fall campaign.
And then there’s Proposition 9, the radical plan to split California into three new states — an effort that, even if voters would say yes, would still face substantial hurdles. Last week, a prominent environmental group asked the California Supreme Court to remove the measure from the November ballot. Their argument is that it’s the kind of plan that can’t legally be done through the initiative process.
Beyond those, there are several other big questions facing voters — including four bond measures in which voters must carefully consider the long-term costs of all that borrowing.
-- In one of the nation’s key congressional battlegrounds, north of Los Angeles, what counts is political party and whether Democrat Katie Hill and Republican Rep. Steve Knight are considered likely to help or hurt the president.
-- A judge has tentatively rejected a lawsuit alleging that Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra is ineligible to hold the post because he was not active in practicing law in the five years before he was appointed to the post.
-- Poison control officials are alarmed by a spike in the number of calls involving California children and teenagers accidentally ingesting marijuana since passage of Proposition 64 in 2016.
-- Gun owners filed a lawsuit last week alleging that state computer crashes prevented them from registering assault weapons by a June 30 deadline.
-- Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) has been disciplined for frequently making coarse comments, including sexual remarks about fellow lawmakers, California Assembly officials revealed last Wednesday.
-- CalPERS saw an upturn in profits generated from its investments in the past year, officials reported last Thursday, a record that offered some improvement to its long-term fiscal stability.
-- Trump may face hurdles to key parts of his agenda, but he’s made early and eager use of the unfettered authority to issue pardons.
-- Scratch about 10% of the Twitter followers that used to belong to both California’s governor and one of the candidates seeking to take his place, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
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