I'm Christina Bellantoni, and this is Essential Politics.
It was a whirlwind day in politics, from the rapidly evolving presidential race to major policy shifts at the state level.
In a chat Wednesday with the Los Angeles Times, Hillary Clinton outlined her views on the presidency and running as a woman. California also became the second state in the nation to forbid anyone under 21 from smoking cigarettes.
But first, a lightning round on the Republican race that was suddenly over.
Cathleen Decker chalks it up to two overarching reasons: GOP voters were desperately concerned about the economy. And they wanted an outsider to fix it.
That left Republicans confronting a reality that seemed fantastically implausible not long ago: Donald Trump as their all-but-official presidential nominee.
The response Wednesday in some quarters was a combination of denial and resistance that was unlike anything seen in recent history, Mark Z. Barabak and Lisa Mascaro write.
And while some big-money donors, including the Koch brothers and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, were notably silent, a pro-Trump super PAC kicked into gear.
To remove any possible hope that California would remain competitive, Ohio Gov. John Kasich bid farewell to the presidential race, taking his sunny optimism along with him.
You can't say it doesn't sting, Decker and Seema Mehta write for the California section.
Gone are visions of GOP candidates chowing down at In-N-Out, walking the beach in their oxfords, pretending to understand the innards of high-tech inventions in Silicon Valley, gaping at cow herds in the Central Valley and braving the windswept cultural wilds of the City by the Bay.
The enticing possibility of the first decisive GOP presidential contest here in half a century was wiped out because of voters in a state that California outnumbers by more than 32 million people.
Still, the Democratic candidates are making their way here. Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn't announced plans to hit the Golden State just yet, but his campaign says he will. And just when he needs it most, the Sanders campaign is running low on funds, Chris Megerian and Evan Halper write. In April, Sanders' fundraising for the month fell to $25.8 million, a drop of roughly $20 million from March and February. And he's been spending more than his opponent lately.
Clinton in the meantime, is asking voters for their support and donors for their money.
CLINTON TALKS WITH THE TIMES
In a wide-ranging, nearly hourlong discussion with The Times Editorial Board and two members of the newsroom, Clinton outlined how she thinks she can pursue economic progress if elected this fall.
Asked about the nagging perception from voters that she can't be trusted, Clinton said via phone that her best response "is to keep fighting for the people who need somebody on their side."
"It's what I'm doing in this election. It's why I've got 3 million more votes than Bernie Sanders and 2 million plus more votes than Donald Trump, despite all the negative ads that have been run against me," she said.
The former secretary of State gave a nod to a potentially competitive landscape for Democrats this fall, saying she hopes to have "the benefit of a new Democratic majority in the Senate" if she wins the presidency.
"I think that is very possible. ... And I even think there are some House seats that we can target," she said, adding she will do everything she can to "raise money for other Democrats to really help achieve that."
"It would make my agenda more achievable more quickly if we did have a Democratic Senate and a greater number of Democrats in the House," she said.
As for her priorities, "We've got to move on the economy," Clinton said, from raising the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour (she didn't say to what rate) to passing equal pay measures.
She lauded California Gov. Jerry Brown for recently signing into law a measure expanding paid family leave in the state.
Clinton also said she would prioritize "comprehensive immigration reform in those first weeks because I think we got to start dealing with it early."
"And I'm hoping that … if the Republicans lose another presidential election maybe they will see the light and work with us."
The former First Lady also shared her advice for aspiring female leaders and pointedly defended Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina from Trump's gender-based attacks. Colleen Shalby posted the audio.
We will publish a full transcript of the conversation. Here is our March discussion with Sanders.
THE CLINTONS COME TO TOWN … FOR CASH
The candidate heads to Los Angeles today, and former President Bill Clinton was in town Wednesday.
As Kurtis Lee reports, the former president took a subtle jab at Trump over his comments about Muslims while campaigning for his wife at a Koreatown hotel.
Beyond the official appearances, Clinton's campaign has a host of fundraisers planned in California over the next week.
Hillary Clinton will be downtown today to attend an early afternoon fundraiser with Los Angeles City Council member José Huizar. Donors can give $2,700 or raise $10,000 to be a co-host and take a photo with Clinton. Hosts who raise $27,000 can attend a reception with the candidate and become members of the campaign's Finance Committee, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by The Times.
At roughly the same time, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin attends a separate downtown Los Angeles afternoon fundraiser hosted by Dr. Asif Mahmood. Contribution levels range between $1,000 and $5,000.
As we have reported in this space, Bill Clinton attends an evening fundraiser Friday at the Los Angeles home of Laura and Sanford Michelman.
On May 12, campaign manager Robby Mook and chief digital and technology strategist Teddy Goff will appear for a lunchtime "conversation" at Craig's in West Hollywood. Contributions range from $250 to $2,500 as a co-host who can attend a reception with Mook and Goff.
On May 13, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin will join Lily Tomlin, Meredith Baxter, Suzanne Westenhoefer and Stephanie Miller at the Santa Monica home of Baxter and Nancy Locke.
Event chairs include Roberta Conroy, Ashley Kennedy, Rosezetta Cummings, Claire Lucas, Judy Dlugacz, Andrea Meyerson and Valerie Ploumpis. Contribution levels range from $500 to $10,000 as a co-chair, which comes with the promise of an invitation to "a future event with Hillary or President Bill Clinton."
Hillary Clinton will attend an early evening event in Los Angeles on May 23 at the home of Bryan Lourd and Bruce Bozzi. Anna Wintour also is listed as a host. Donors can give $2,700, or raising $10,000 as a co-host includes a photo with the candidate.
Bill Clinton also will give the commencement address at Loyola Marymount University this weekend.
LOUD AND BRASH WINS
A victor has been crowned. How did Trump become the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee? Blame broadcast and social media, says George Skelton, who writes in his Thursday column that incivility has become the status quo in our political discourse.
21 TO SMOKE
The smoking age in California will soon be raised from 18 to 21 thanks to a law signed by Brown on Wednesday. Brown OKd a package of bills aimed at curtailing tobacco use, including legislation that outlaws vaping in many public places including restaurants, theaters and schools.
Track what's happening in Sacramento in real time on our Essential Politics news feed.
REPUBLICAN CALLS OPPONENTS 'DUMMY POLITICIANS' IN NEW AD
Republican Sean Flynn, who is running to unseat Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar, released an ad for TV and radio this week to introduce himself to voters in the Inland Empire. He wasted no time attacking his fellow GOP candidates in the spot. The ad refers to Republicans Paul Chabot and former Rep. Joe Baca as "dummy politicians who don't have a clue" while presenting Flynn, an economist, as an outsider who can fix an ailing economy.
A spokesman for Chabot, a military veteran who narrowly lost a 2014 contest for the then-open San Bernardino congressional seat, shot back, criticizing Flynn for having "zero experience fighting crime and terrorism."
Chabot and Flynn are taking two different tacks as they attempt to oust Aguilar, the former mayor of Redlands. Chabot is focusing on national security and combating terrorism — he is even selling stickers that read "ISIS Hunting Permit" to support his campaign. Flynn is tacking to the center and leveraging his credentials as an associate professor of economics at Scripps College in Claremont.
ASSEMBLYMAN'S DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HEARING POSTPONED UNTIL TWO WEEKS BEFORE ELECTION
Congressional candidate and state Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) will have to appear in divorce court two weeks before the June primary for a hearing on allegations he repeatedly abused his estranged wife.
Hernandez was at the hearing in Los Angeles but declined to comment. His lawyer said the allegations were fabricated and meant to harm Hernandez's political career.
Susan Rubio's sister, Blanca Rubio, who is running for Hernandez's assembly seat, had plenty to say, Javier Panzar reports.
— Progressive organizations are challenging the Chamber of Commerce's influence at the Capitol.
— Dexter Thomas spoke with three Asian American leaders about the work that prompted the White House to honor them this week.
— Democrat David Guzman said Wednesday ended his bid for the 29th Congressional District seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Tony Cardenas, saying it was a mistake to run for Congress as a first-time candidate with little political experience. With the California primary less than 35 days away, Guzman's name will remain on the ballot. On his website, Guzman urged supporters to examine the remaining four candidates, rather than vote for him.
— What do you think of Trump? Readers can weigh in with our quick survey.