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Politics

Newsletter: Essential Politics: Tobacco tax redux

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(LAT)

If you have that strange feeling you’ve seen this movie before -- California voters asked to raise the tobacco tax -- you’re right. And it now looks as if you’re going to see it again on Nov. 8.

Good morning from the the state capital. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, and the newest arrival on November’s blockbuster ballot looks to be an initiative increasing the state’s tobacco tax.

On Monday, a coalition of health and labor groups began turning in signatures to boost California’s tax on tobacco products by $2 per pack of cigarettes. And as Patrick McGreevy reports, they’ve got a powerful ally: billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer.

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It’s worth noting that everyone in the looming November ballot fight can argue that the past is prologue. Supporters of the tax hike will correctly point out that Californians voted to raise the tobacco tax in 1988 and 1998. The current 87 cents per pack dates back to the 1998 initiative, one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation.

Critics, led by the tobacco industry, will rightly counter that voters rejected a tax increase in 2006 and again as Proposition 29 in 2012. The most recent campaign was decided by just 24,076 votes out of more than 5 million cast.

And it was ugly, with efforts on both sides costing a combined $56 million -- most of that spent by Big Tobacco. Might we see this same kind of scorched earth campaign again?

Keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed, as this is a big week for all of the November ballot measures, as we now believe as many as 18 proposals have what it takes to qualify.

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OREGON AND KENTUCKY

Democrats Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders face off today in the Oregon and Kentucky presidential primaries, with almost no one expecting tonight’s results to change the minds of either candidate’s supporters.

In fact, Sanders will already be back here in California, with an evening event scheduled in Carson as part of what his campaign says is its three-week push in the Golden State.

And so Mark Barabak offers what may be the definitive state-of-the-race: Clinton has lost several recent primaries but keeps on winning the race to the Democratic nomination.

Back in the Beaver State, Chris Megerian reports that Sanders has inspired one Democratic congressional candidate to work towards his own “political revolution.”

We’ll have live results and analysis of Tuesday night’s returns on our Trail Guide news feed. And make sure you’re following @latimespolitics for breaking news and more. You can also track the delegate race in real time.

REPUBLICAN SHUTOUT IN ORANGE COUNTY?

For the first time ever, Orange County voters may end up choosing between two Democrats for Congress. You can thank California’s relatively new top-two primary (and a 21-point lead in Democratic voter registration) for the potential downfall of the county’s long-held reputation as a bastion of conservatism.

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In the 46th district race to replace Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana), who is running for the U.S. Senate, three strong Democratic candidates are waging fierce campaigns, while Republicans have struggled to raise either money or publicity.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- Gov. Jerry Brown’s pitch to make it easier to build houses in California got a boost when one of his newly endorsed housing supply bills passed the Senate.

-- The state’s independent Legislative Analyst’s Office offers its first thoughts on Brown’s revised budget, and says lawmakers should pledge no less money toward the rainy-day reserves than has Brown.

-- A political committee run by Republican mega-donor Charles Munger Jr. has leaped into California’s U.S. Senate race, plunking nearly $53,000 with a new independent expenditure campaign supporting GOP candidate Duf Sundheim.

LOGISTICS

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