Essential Politics: Clash over staff in Sacramento


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

With gun control an increasingly hot topic and the 2016 and 2018 elections seeming closer than ever, there’s a power play brewing between Democratic Senate leader Kevin de León and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Patrick McGreevy has details about the political rift in Sacramento: De León aides notified Newsom’s office that they are recalling two employees who had been on loan to the lieutenant governor's office by the Senate.

Newsom’s staff believe it stems from the lieutenant governor introducing a 2016 ballot initiative to enact the same kinds of gun control measures that the Senate leader has tried, unsuccessfully, to move through the state Capitol in the past.

"It was callous to play with the careers of legislative staff over an issue in which they had no involvement, gun control," said Rhys Williams, a senior Newsom advisor.

Newsom’s office manager and chief consultant for economic development have been told to return to the Senate for reassignment on Monday. That would leave four workers left on Newsom’s staff.

A top De León aide told McGreevy the recall of the staffers is all about allowing the Senate to function better.

Read the rest here.


Phil Willon was in Fresno on Wednesday with Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Santa Ana Democrat running for U.S. Senate against Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris.



11:08 a.m.: An earlier version of this report identified Loretta Sanchez as a Whittier Democrat. Her district is based in Santa Ana.


Sanchez went directly after a Harris weakness, given her rival lost Fresno County in each of her statewide elections. "She’s written off the Central Valley. I’m solidifying it," the congresswoman said. "She has no experience in Washington, making laws, working through them. Understanding historically, what will fly and what won’t work. Let her stay as an attorney general. That’s what she brings to the table. I’m going to bring 19 years of congressional experience."

In a little preview of the story as he reported, Willon tweeted that one Fresno party official said Harris is a "stranger" to the valley.


If you ran out of the living room during Tuesday’s Republican debate, you missed the latest six-figure national ad buy from Bay Area billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer’s advocacy group NextGen Climate Action, Javier Panzar reports.

The dramatic ad titled "Dear World" features a montage of natural disasters as a narrator reads a speech by Pope Francis urging action to fight climate change. The group also bought full-page print ads in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Wisconsin State-Journal.

The ads are chump change for Steyer -- he spent $74 million in 2014 to elect candidates willing to tackle climate change with little to show for it.

Steyer is back at it, urging candidates to back a plan to reach 50% clean energy in the country by 2030. The group has ground outreach efforts in presidential battleground states of New Hampshire, Iowa, Florida and Ohio. Just last week activists from the group confronted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as he filed paperwork for the New Hampshire primary.


-- George Skelton uses his column to take a look at the arguments around legalizing marijuana as a crush of proposals are aiming for next year’s ballot.

-- David Horsey creates Tinder for presidential candidates, and it's animated. Check it out.

-- A new Metro analysis finds that $1.4-billion downtown subway project, hailed as the missing link in Los Angeles County’s rapidly expanding rail network, is encountering cost overruns and schedule delays. The problems could delay the Downtown Regional Connector’s projected late 2020 opening date by at least six months.

-- Bob Iger, the chairman and chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, has been appointed by the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders to head their proposed stadium project in Carson. He will be responsible for working with the city of Carson on the project. The owners of the Chargers and Raiders are competing with St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who is backing a stadium and accompanying development in Inglewood on the old Hollywood Park site.

-- As the Obama administration moves to challenge the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on his immigration executive orders, the key question will be: Is the president enforcing the immigration laws or changing them? David Savage and Tim Phelps explain.

-- Lisa Mascaro noticed one voice lost in the debate exchange on immigration was Sen. Marco Rubio’s. The onetime "Gang of 8" senator who pushed a comprehensive bipartisan bill made the television circuit Wednesday morning to get his message across, explaining while he still believes the current "chaotic" immigration system needs to be fixed, he now prefers a step-by-step approach to immigration reform favored by most Republicans.

-- Mary McNamara uses her column to declare Tuesday’s debate was a safe zone for the GOP contenders.

-- Joseph Tanfani notes that support for Big Sugar is a sticky issue for Rubio.

-- On our Opinion page, columnist Doyle McManus has some harsh words for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

-- Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Paul Conrad’s anti-nuclear war "Chain Reaction" sculpture in Santa Monica may have once and for all avoided a meltdown.

-- Don’t miss this graphic detailing the demographics of California’s veterans.


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