I'm Christina Bellantoni, today's Essential Politics host, as we follow several threads of news on the presidential campaign and here in the Golden State.
A BLOW TO BROWN: JUDGE BLOCKS PAROLE INITIATIVE
Gov. Jerry Brown was dealt what may be a major political and policy setback late Wednesday afternoon, when a judge blocked his much talked-about ballot initiative to change prison parole rules and revamp the juvenile justice system.
As Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers reports, the judge took aim at Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris for allowing the governor's plan to be grafted onto a proposed initiative that was already on the homestretch of the formal vetting process.
Campaign lawyers said they may appeal directly to the California Supreme Court. And the reason for that is the calendar: A complete do-over of the process could mean Brown and his political allies won't have enough time to gather voter signatures. Most campaign experts say turning in signatures to elections officials later than early May could be too late.
IF YOU CAN'T BEAT HIM, JOIN HIM?
It seems as if Republican leaders who view Donald Trump as a pox on their party have finally settled on a strategy: Resist him as long as they can. Then figure out how to retreat gracefully.
Noah Bierman talks to party insiders who suggest if Trump wins the nomination, his combative relationship with the establishment will end in an embrace, though perhaps an uneasy one.
But there's a certain Super Tuesday ahead, and in between the newly slimmed-down group of five candidates will meet in Houston, the most diverse setting yet for a Republican debate.
Lisa Mascaro identifies fiery attacks on Trump borne of desperation and other things to watch for tonight.
TRUMP'S FIRST CONGRESSIONAL BACKER IS FROM CALIFORNIA
Sarah Wire has been keeping up with the endorsements from California's delegation. While most of the Republicans are staying neutral so far ahead of our June 7 primary, Trump earned his first nod from Congress from Rep. Duncan Hunter (Alpine). Who gets the support of your member of Congress?
TRACK THE DELEGATE RACE
Our data team is keeping tabs on each and every delegate. See how far the candidates have to go to earn enough delegates for the nomination.
DIRECT TO THE VOTERS
If Hillary Clinton manages by the end of this campaign to dramatically improve her image, she can credit the cable TV networks and the town halls they have aired incessantly for weeks, Cathleen Decker writes as she evaluates how Clinton has done.
SOUTH CAROLINA HIGHLIGHTS CANDIDATES AND RACE
Chris Megerian and Evan Halper take stock of the starkly different approaches Clinton and Bernie Sanders have taken to try to win over black and Latino voters.
The candidates' divergent paths, on display as they woo a Democratic electorate in the South Carolina primary that is majority black, reflect the competing priorities of minorities at the ballot box.
Another data point: Clinton lauded police when asked about Beyoncé's "Formation" video at a Democratic town hall event Tuesday night.
FIVE YEARS FOR YEE
Former state Sen. Leland Yee was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison and a $20,000 fine for trading political favors for campaign contributions.
Yee admitted in a plea deal that he was part of a racketeering conspiracy that involved exchanging official acts for money, conspiring to traffic in weapons and money laundering. Maura Dolan and Patrick McGreevy have the story.
FATHER OF SLAIN WOMAN SPEAKS IN GUN CONTROL PITCH
Phil Willon reports that the father of slain UC Santa Barbara student Veronika Weiss, one of six people killed during a violent rampage in Isla Vista in 2014, has come out in support of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposed gun control initiative. Read Bob Weiss' argument, made on what would have been his daughter's 21st birthday.
Harris took the formal step of filing paperwork to run for the U.S. Senate Wednesday. See the photos.
NEW POT POLL
Nearly 60% of likely voters support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to a new survey taken in anticipation of an initiative to do so appearing on the November ballot.
The telephone survey of 1,000 likely general election voters was conducted by Probolsky Research. It had a margin of error of 3.1%.
— Mike Memoli writes about President Obama's criteria for a Supreme Court nominee, and the president's insistence that if the GOP doesn't consider the person, it threatens the entire judicial system.
— It could take more than a year to confirm Justice Antonin Scalia's successor. Colleen Shalby breaks down that process.
— Things are getting even more bizarre in Carson. Brittny Mejia has the story of the city clerk recall election.