Newsletter: Essential Politics: A nation roiled by vitriol and violence hurtles toward election day


In a season where we often talk about the “October surprise,” this penultimate political month ends on tragedy and division. It’s the kind of unsettled moment that’s become too commonplace in recent times, and one that makes predictions about Nov. 6 the ultimate exercise in futility.


As authorities released the names of the 11 victims in Saturday’s horrific synagogue massacre, there were reminders both of the policy questions — gun control — and the human, political dilemma posed by heightened fears of hate.


President Trump was quick to deny responsibility for any part in raising the national temperature, citing instead “Fake and Dishonest reporting” of the news media in a Sunday night tweet. He also raised the question of armed security, a reality some Jewish communities are already experiencing amid ever-increasing tensions.

And the accused gunman’s online writings will surely add scrutiny to how the organized white nationalist movement spreads its message inside the U.S.

The election is eight days away. October has been a month with so many storylines — the Supreme Court fight, immigration, bomb threats and now anti-Semitic violence — it feels as though we’ve been trying to gauge the political impact forever.

Sign up for the Essential Politics newsletter »


The national political currents are poised to affect a handful of key races for governor in states across the nation.

Success in several contests would give Democrats a political foothold in states that Trump carried just two years ago and place an important check on Republicans as the states redraw political districts after the 2020 census.

Education too has emerged as a key topic. Electing Democrats could serve as proof “that states can only cut education so far because they face a kind of revolt, even in deeply, deeply red states,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll.


-- In 2016, voters who disliked both Hillary Clinton and the president broke heavily toward the Republican, handing Trump the victory. This time around, those who disapprove of both sides appear to be favoring the Democrats, a USC-Los Angeles Times poll shows.

-- Trump called the Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday to congratulate the far-right populist on his electoral victory.

-- Defense Secretary James N. Mattis condemned the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi as intolerable, minutes before Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister characterized the global reaction to the murder as hysterical.

-- Here are key things you need to know before next Tuesday’s midterm election.


-- We now have our final snapshot of the money being raised and spent in California’s battleground congressional races.

-- Who’s stepping up to write checks to the GOP candidates for statewide offices in California other than governor? Almost no one, as I wrote in my Sunday politics column.

-- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has endorsed Proposition 10, California’s rent control initiative. So has the Los Angeles City Council. Meanwhile, the ballot measure looks to be in serious trouble in the latest statewide nonpartisan poll.

-- Early voting has started. Here’s where you can cast a ballot before election day.


The race for California governor features two men with very different worldviews about the role of government. But both Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox share at least one thing in common: an array of victories in the world of business.

For Newsom, the beginning was a wine shop in downtown San Francisco in 1992; for Cox, it was a series of real estate investments in the Midwest in the 1980s. Both men had help: Cox had wealthy investors who helped him buy apartment buildings across three states, while Newsom’s fortunes were boosted by his long relationship with oil scion Gordon Getty.

Both men report vast financial holdings, but also seem to have taken different things from their experiences. And so far, polls continue to show Newsom with a lead over Cox as the final chapter of the campaign comes to a close.


Four measures on California’s Nov. 6 ballot ask voters to sign off on sizable new borrowing — $16.4 billion in bonds to help build housing for low-income and homeless residents, improve the state’s watersheds, natural habitats and water treatment facilities and expand a network of children’s hospitals.

Most of the cost would go toward the water-related bond, Proposition 3.

Total estimated cost of principal and interest over the next four decades: about $26 billion.


-- California officials upped the ante Friday in their fight with President Trump over vehicle fuel economy standards, urging the administration to withdraw its proposal to weaken federal rules and eliminate the state’s ability to set its own greenhouse gas emission guidelines.

-- Gov. Jerry Brown will become the executive chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Chicago-based organization best known for its Doomsday Clock that is reset periodically to measure the threat of global annihilation.

-- A Sacramento lobbyist who was sued by former San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Matt Dababneh for defamation after she publicly accused him of sexual misconduct is seeking dismissal of the lawsuit.


Essential Politics is published Monday and Friday.

You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

Miss Friday’s newsletter? Here you go.

Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to

Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox.