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Newsletter: Essential Politics: Why insiders think the ‘Trump effect’ could alter California politics for years

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Essential Politics
(LAT)

Since 1978, Mark DiCamillo has been polling the political views of Californians. So when you think about the millions of young voters in the Golden State inspired to cast ballots in the wake of President Trump’s election, the veteran pollster points out the 2018 election results are unlikely to be a one-time phenomenon.

“The political forces that form your opinion when you’re young carry on,” DiCamillo told me.

It was part of a common theme at last week’s post-election symposium at UC Berkeley: Trump may have changed the course of California elections for years to come.

THE TRUMP EFFECT

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Simply put, there’s a strong sense among political insiders — many of whom touched on the issue at the Berkeley event — that the president and his agenda are as polarizing (maybe more) as three successive ballot measure campaigns in the ’90s inspired by conservative anger over illegal immigration, affirmative action and bilingual education.

“I think there’s a new awakening in California, that elections actually matter,” Ace Smith, a longtime Democratic strategist, said.

And it wasn’t just Democrats piling on in the wake of historic defeats that cut the size of the state’s GOP House delegation in half and left the party’s candidate for governor with only 38% of the vote.

Kristin Olsen, a former Republican leader in the Assembly, told the symposium audience that it’s unclear “if the [state] party can outlast Donald Trump’s presidency.”

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ABOUT THAT JOHN COX ENDORSEMENT ...

The Berkeley event began decades ago as a quadrennial post-mortem on the governor’s race, broadened in recent years to include panels on other election themes. But the centerpiece of the gathering is still the chance to hear from the campaign consultants who ran the races discuss what really happened and why.

This year’s best moment came when Tim Rosales, a top strategist for GOP candidate John Cox, was asked about last May’s endorsement by Trump. Did Cox want it? Did he know it was coming?

“That is such a complex question, on so many levels,” Rosales said. The crowd chuckled.

He later said advisors didn’t know the presidential tweet of approval was on its way. And it was unclear whether the campaign really was happy about it — yes, it solidified Cox’s GOP support but it was also toxic in the general election, where he lost to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

NATIONAL POLITICS RIGHT NOW

-- Can Democrats win back the working class in 2020? Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown thinks he might be the guy who can.

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-- Howard Schultz thinks he, too, has what it takes to win the White House. The ex-Starbucks billionaire certainly got everyone’s attention with that idea, though not for the reasons he might have hoped.

-- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam spent the weekend trying to save his political career, defiantly refusing to resign because he said he doesn’t believe it’s him in a racist photograph from his 1984 medical school yearbook.

-- As you take in the highlights of Sunday’s Super Bowl victory by the New England Patriots, here’s one to ponder: Why did Trump stop bashing the NFL?

ESSENTIAL POLITICS

-- Interest groups spent a record $360 million last year on lobbying California government, led by electric utilities seeking help with wildfire costs, oil companies fighting new restrictions and telecommunications giants opposing a net neutrality bill.

-- Gov. Newsom sent a letter Friday to a federal trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of PG&E requesting that wildfire victims, employees and customers are represented on a committee with significant sway in the proceedings.

-- A state audit released Thursday found corrections officials have failed to connect many prisoners with services, monitor rehabilitation programs and keep people away from incarceration.

-- In 1950, Californians approved a ballot measure that requires a public vote before some low-income housing can be built in a community. The decision had lasting effects on the state and the nation.

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-- George Skelton: A little-noticed gem in Newsom’s proposed budget would return California partway back to its glory days of tuition-free college.

LOGISTICS

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