Newsletter: Essential Politics: 5 things we’d ask at the Democratic debate


I’m Christina Bellantoni, the Essential Politics host today. Insert Las Vegas cliché here, and keep reading.

It’s fight night, the gloves are off, the chips are on the table, what happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas ... you get the idea.

You might recall we offered five questions for the Republican candidates ahead of the last presidential debate. So you know we wouldn’t leave you hanging for the first meeting of the candidates who want to be the Democratic nominee.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will take center stage, literally and figuratively, fielding debate questions as a candidate for the first time since April 16, 2008. (2,736 days ago to be exact.)

For his part, Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn’t debated anyone for three years, though his best-known forum would likely be the 2010 "filibernie" when he held the Senate floor for more than eight hours to protest President Obama’s extension of the Bush tax cuts.

They won’t be alone, of course. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Sens. Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee each will work to find a memorable moment. And we’re guessing Vice President Joe Biden will get a mention, even if he doesn’t appear alongside the quintet of actual candidates.

The premise for our new project here at the Los Angeles Times is that California is one of the drivers of the national debate. One in 10 Americans lives here. The state is reflective of the changing nation. So without further ado, here are some things we think Californians would want to know about.

1. A new study of census data suggests Asians are likely to surpass Latinos as the nation's largest immigrant group shortly after the middle of the century, going from 6% of the population to 14%. How should the conversation about immigration shift to reflect these figures?

2. Given the extent of the drought, what role should the federal government play in water conservation efforts?

3. As president, would you continue to uphold the Obama administration's waivers from No Child Left Behind, which let most states — and a few California districts — escape the law's most stringent punishments in exchange for signing on to particular education policies? (Question via Joy Resmovits of Education Matters)

4. This weekend California became the first state in the nation to pass a law prohibiting public schools from using the term "Redskins" as a team name or mascot. Was that the right thing to do?

5. Who is your city council member where you live?

Regarding that last question, the Los Angeles Times recently polled Los Angeles County residents about their neighborhoods and feelings about civic engagement. The overwhelming sentiment was that people want to get involved but feel disconnected, especially from local government. These candidates probably have spent more time in Davenport, Iowa, than in their own homes lately, but we’re curious how connected they feel to their own governing bodies.

Do you have suggestions for good questions? Tweet them to @latimespolitics. We’ll highlight the best ones.

What time does the debate start? CNN’s coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. Pacific, and the debate kicks off at 6 p.m. Doors open at our watch party at the Regent in downtown Los Angeles at 4:30 p.m. If you’d like to join us, don’t forget to RSVP!

Our team will be covering every angle of the debate from multiple locations all day. (Here’s a primer for how you can follow along online and via social media, and make sure to download our bingo card later.)


Chris Megerian reports that Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) spent Saturday night surrounded by friends and family as he married his fiancée in Los Angeles. But the next day he got some bad news — Gov. Jerry Brown had vetoed his bill to help patients with life-threatening illnesses obtain experimental drugs that haven't yet received federal approval. After the announcement he tweeted that the news "wins for worst wedding present."

And another Democratic lawmaker took to Twitter to gripe, but for a far different reason.

Evan Low tweeted a photo Monday showing a Huffington Post story that had misidentified another lawmaker as him. He used the hashtag "#notallasianslookalike."

And it’s not the first time that’s happened.


-- Michael Finnegan gets at the heart of this presidential campaign’s issues by exploring Nevada’s economic woes.

-- Melanie Mason reports that operators of religious pregnancy centers have sued Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris to block a new California law that requires such clinics to provide information about abortion and contraceptive services offered by other providers.

-- Here's a Q&A from Brian Bennett and Evan Halper outlining everything you want to know about Clinton's emails.

-- A 26-year-old African American City Council member was tased and arrested in Prairie View, Texas, prompting the mayor to convene a special City Council meeting with the police chief in the same college town where Sandra Bland’s arrest and jail-cell death ignited national controversy.

-- Dexter Thomas labels a rapper dissing Donald Trump as "genius."


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