Politics

Newsletter: Essential Politics: Focus on the front-runner

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(LAT)

I’m Christina Bellantoni, the Essential Politics host today. Let’s get started.

If you missed Tuesday night’s debate for the U.S. Senate race in California, you won’t need much time to catch up. The forum of the five top candidates went by at a rapid clip and provided little opportunity for anyone to break past front-runner Kamala Harris.

California’s attorney general was put on the defensive from the get-go, especially from George “Duf” Sundheim, a Republican badly lagging in the polls ahead of the June 7 primary.

Phil Willon and John Myers detail how Harris deflected attacks from Sundheim, and sharp questions from moderators, in the less than hourlong debate.

We tracked every moment and posted the debate in full on our Essential Politics news feed.

These five made it to the stage because they are most recognized statewide, even with nearly one-third of voters still undecided in our last USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

But there are 34 candidates running for office. Our editorial board talked with all of them and lays out their backgrounds here.

This was the final meeting of the candidates in a televised forum, with less than four weeks until voters select two of them to move on to Nov. 8. What will happen? A dartboard might provide the answers, this one seems so unpredictable.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM WEST VIRGINIA AND NEBRASKA

With wins in West Virginia and Nebraska Tuesday, Donald Trump edged closer to securing the 1,237 delegates he needs to capture the Republican presidential nomination outright. The New York billionaire is now just 102 delegates shy of the magic number.

But the Democratic contest continues on, with Bernie Sanders beating Hillary Clinton 51% to 36% in West Virginia, with the senator on track to capturing every single county late Tuesday. He vowed to push forward and said he wants to debate in California.

Sanders, who campaigned in Stockton on Tuesday and said he may not spend any money on California television ads, has been winning some of the most conservative Democrats throughout the primary.

David Lauter explains why.

It was a a lower-stakes primary for both Clinton and Trump as they look toward the conventions and Nov. 8. We covered the contests in detail on Trail Guide.

Sen. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, returned to the Senate Tuesday. He said he was ready to get back to work, but he isn’t ready to back Trump.

THE CONGRESSMAN, HIS FATHER, AND THE CASH

The father of Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) was quiet but chastened in a Sacramento federal courtroom on Tuesday, pleading guilty to two counts of illegally funneling at least $260,000 into his son’s 2010 and 2012 congressional campaigns.

As John Myers reports, the stealthy investigation by the feds had been underway since the fall of 2014. Babual Bera, 83, could serve time in federal prison and everyone — including federal prosecutors — says there’s “no indication” that the two-term Democrat knew about what going on.

When asked by the judge if he was admitting guilt, the elder Bera said through an interpreter, “I have, in fact, done the crime.”

SWIFT EXIT

The white nationalist on Trump’s list of California delegates ended up there by mistake, the campaign said Tuesday after Mother Jones explained who William Johnson is.

“Upon careful review of computer records, the inclusion of a potential delegate that had previously been rejected and removed from the campaign’s list in February 2016, was discovered,” Tim Clark, Trump’s California campaign director, said in the statement. “This was immediately corrected and a final list, which does not include this individual, was submitted for certification.”

A VISIT TO HIROSHIMA

President Obama plans to visit Hiroshima this month, the first trip by a U.S. president to the Japanese city devastated by an atomic bomb dropped by an American plane to end World War II. Obama will pay tribute to the victims of the attack, which killed 80,000 instantly and tens of thousands more by radiation, by visiting Peace Memorial Park, a site that acknowledges those who died. He will not apologize for the bombing, nor is Japan expecting an apology.

As Sarah Wire reported recently, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), a congressman of Japanese descent, had been urging the president to see the devastation for himself.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

— Remember Raffi? The “Baby Beluga” children’s singer is back with a song about Bernie Sanders.

Ann Coulter’s next book is titled “In Trump We Trust.”

Rep. Darrell Issa tells other Republicans to get on board the Trump Train and “get real” about trying to defeat Clinton.

— A measure to remove the word “orientals” and replace it with “Asian Americans” in federal language is headed to the president’s desk.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on Tuesday that sets strict rules barring injection of new natural gas into old wells at Aliso Canyon until independent experts determine the operations are safe.

— State GOP lawmakers are crying foul after a Senate panel approved a batch of new gun-control measures Tuesday, accusing Democrats of “political gamesmanship” in moving the bills through the legislative process.

Vice President Biden said he is confident Clinton will be the next president.

— Attorney Jesse Max Creed, who is working to bring housing for homeless veterans to the Westside, said Tuesday that he’s running to unseat Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz in next year’s municipal election.

— Los Angeles County officials are eyeing a new income tax on millionaires to help address the region’s growing crisis of homelessness, but one of the county board’s three liberal members broke ranks to at least temporarily halt the push.

— What do you think of Trump? Readers can weigh in with our quick survey.

LOGISTICS

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