Newsletter: Essential Politics: Serious questions for Brett Kavanaugh; a bold promise by Jerry Brown

Essential Politics

Get ready for what could be a consequential week in the effort by President Trump to get Judge Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.

Simply put: Does an allegation from the jurist’s high school days carry enough weight to sully — or perhaps derail — his nomination? Will the woman who has made the accusation bring her story to Washington?

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On Sunday, a Palo Alto psychologist said she was the one who wrote the letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein alleging sexual assault by Kavanaugh when they were both teenagers.

Christine Blasey Ford came forward in a Washington Post interview published on Sunday, accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party when they were in high school.

Kavanaugh has denied the accusation. But within hours, the story seemed to sharply change the dynamics of the nomination. A handful of Republicans said they wanted to hear more before the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Kavanaugh, and the topic could spark a major battle less than two months before the midterm elections.



Climate change and a devastating storm both made political news over the past few days.

On climate, few dominated last week’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco like Gov. Jerry Brown, the event’s co-host.

Brown spent most of the three-day event behind the scenes, and a private meeting with the veteran Democrat was one of the hottest tickets in town.

“He’s very good at drawing people together,” said Nicholas Stern, a climate change professor at the London School of Economics. “People want to talk to him because he’s so interesting to talk to.”


When Brown did emerge on stage on Friday, he made a bold promise about what California would do next in the face of climate inaction by the Trump administration.

“We’re going to launch our own satellite, our own damn satellite, to figure out where the pollution is and how are we going to end it,” Brown roared from the main stage to applause.

(For keen political observers yes, this seems to bring Brown full circle. In the 1970s, he famously pledged to launch a satellite and earned the nickname “Governor Moonbeam” from a Chicago columnist as a result.)



As the Carolinas braced for yet more rain from the massive but slow-moving Florence — downgraded from hurricane to tropical depression — the president seemed to rattle many by insisting the death count in Puerto Rico resulting from last year’s Hurricane Maria had been inflated.

The barrage of angry tweets guarantees that his handling of the current storm, which is still battering North and South Carolina, will be under the microscope.

On Sunday, his top emergency management official seemed to fall in line with that assertion — one that stands in sharp contrast to academic reports and those of Puerto Rico’s own officials.

“You might see more deaths indirectly as time goes on,” FEMA Director Brock Long said on “Meet the Press.”



-- A landmark law enacted 24 years ago to govern investigations and prosecutions of violent crimes against women is set to expire this month, and Congress has little time to rush to its rescue.

-- Immigration. Technology. Trump. A lot has changed in small-town America. One Iowa town drew the line at its movie theater.



With election day now only about seven weeks away, we’re going to routinely highlight the important role California is playing in this midterm election. In particular, the state is home to a handful of battleground races for the House of Representatives that could affect the outcome of which party is in power come January.

Look for updates in our newsletters and on our Decision California page online.

-- Congressional Republicans are launching another tax-cut push this week. And in California, it could further inflame debate about the controversial new $10,000 limit on deductions for state and local tax payments that hits many residents hard.

-- If a blue wave of Democrats sweeps across California congressional races this fall, it could be strengthened by what voters did in 2010 — taking the process of drawing districts away from politicians and giving it to an independent commission.


-- Columnist Robin Abcarian hits the campaign trail with the Latino Arab American candidate trying to oust Rep. Duncan Hunter.


When voters open their ballot pamphlet this fall and see that they’re being asked to decide whether ambulance company workers should get mandatory rest breaks, they may wonder how such a seemingly narrow topic ended up on the statewide ballot.

But the path for Proposition 11 was a familiar one: an industry that fails to get satisfaction from the Legislature decides to take its case to the voters.



-- For nearly a year, investigators have been trying to determine what caused the deadly Tubbs fire in Northern California in 2017. The answer will have huge implications for residents, insurers and, perhaps most importantly, Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

-- California’s pot czar is being squeezed between lobbyists for the cannabis industry on one side, and cities and law enforcement on the other, who are battling over a proposal to allow marijuana deliveries in municipalities that have banned pot sales.

-- With less than two months until election day, California’s two gubernatorial contenders remained locked in a standoff over whether they’ll meet in a formal debate to discuss the issues facing the state.


-- Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice endorsed Republican John Cox for California governor on Thursday, saying he has the vision to address the state’s most vexing problems.

-- Having fallen short in his recent campaign for governor, conservative state Assemblyman Travis Allen is weighing a run for chairman of the state GOP with the goal of “leading California Republicans back to statewide relevance.”

-- A Compton water district that has delivered brown water and therefore could be abolished under legislation on the governor’s desk is waging an eleventh-hour campaign for its survival.

-- Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell skipped a reelection debate on Saturday, another awkward episode in a high-powered election that’s left many scratching their heads.


-- California housing crisis podcast: What the Legislature did in 2018 and what’s coming next.


Essential Politics is published Monday and Friday.

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