I’m Christina Bellantoni, the Essential Politics host today. Let’s get started.
Rep. Pete Aguilar kept it together as he asked for prayers and a moment of silence to reflect on the victims of the Dec. 2 massacre in his congressional district.
For 20 seconds you could hear nothing but breathing coming from the U.S. House chamber, and a slideshow began in Aguilar’s mind.
"The faces. The faces of those who lost their lives, and those who are going to be dealing with this for a long, long time. Not just the 14, not just the 22 survivors. There are people who were in that room who are going to be dealing with this tragedy for a long time," the Redlands Democrat told Sarah Wire in an interview Wednesday. "It was a blur."
Then, the gavel struck, ending the 11th moment of silence held this year for gun violence victims and House members returned to the business of the day.
How have his colleagues been treating him? How has he spent the days since the San Bernardino shootings? Wire details what it’s been like for Aguilar since the attacks, and how his district will prepare for President Obama’s Friday visit.
RIORDAN'S CROWDED 2016 DANCE CARD
Michael Finnegan reports that the former Republican mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordan, greeted Sen. Ted Cruz at a private air terminal on West Imperial Highway on Wednesday, then rode with him to a Beverly Hills fundraiser for the Texas senator.
It was an interesting move for Riordan, who has already given money to GOP presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, because he had been listed as a Southern California Finance Committee member for a Bush fundraising lunch taking place the same day.
Riordan hasn’t yet made up his mind on whom to back for president, but said that making Donald Trump the Republican nominee "would be the greatest joke ever pulled on the people of the United States."
The former mayor told Finnegan, "I didn’t agree to be on any committee, but that’s OK. I’m not angry about it. That’s just the way politics is."
Bush’s fundraiser was at the home of Brad Freeman, a former partner of Riordan’s at a leveraged buyout firm. A Bush spokeswoman said Riordan "gave us confirmation to be on the invite."
Riordan said he likes Bush "a lot," but "Cruz is certainly sailing much higher than Bush is now."
A CALL ON CLIMATE CASH IN SACRAMENTO
When Gov. Jerry Brown signed the current state budget into law six months ago, one high-profile pot of money was left in limbo: the proceeds collected by the state from auctioning carbon emissions credits through the cap-and-trade program.
Now, a new effort is underway to earmark a good chunk of some $1.7 billion for disadvantaged communities.
Chris Megerian reports Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Echo Park) is ready to make that case when the Legislature reconvenes in three weeks. And Gomez, as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, may have some muscle when it comes to negotiations in 2016. The same issue, by the way, will be the focus later this morning in a meeting of the state Air Resources Board.
SEEKING DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMANSHIP
Javier Panzar reports that Eric Bauman, chairman of the Los Angeles Democratic Party and vice chairman of the California Democratic Party, announced his candidacy for the top role once Chairman John Burton steps down in 2017.
In an email blast to supporters and members of the party Wednesday, Bauman said California Democrats "must be careful not to let the contest for the nomination tear us apart. There is too much at stake for an internal fight among our activists and members to allow us to take our eyes off the end goal."
He also highlighted the "early and unsolicited" support of several party members including Legislative Black Caucus Chair Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma and the New Frontier Democratic Club.
CALIFORNIA’S POPULATION: GROWING, BUT SLOWLY
The official estimate of California’s population — the one produced each year by state government demographers — plays a major role in the state’s political and policy debates. Scores of laws divvy up revenues and other government resources for cities and counties based mainly on these same population estimates.
Sacramento bureau chief John Myers reports there is a new official population in California as of July 1: 39,071,323. That’s a net increase of about 346,000 people since the summer of 2014. And one of the long-watched trends is how lower birth rates and migration have turned the Golden State’s population gusher of the 20th century into a trickle.
But some things never change — namely, the relative size of Los Angeles County. As of this summer, more than one in every four Californians called the county their home.
SANCHEZ REPLACES GRETZKY IN HOLIDAY CARD
Gretzky, we hardly knew ye.
The beloved puffy white cat that accompanied Rep. Loretta Sanchez in her famous annual holiday cards for years even hung around after his death in 2010. Sanchez, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, seems to have moved on, Javier Panzar reports.
The Democratic congresswoman’s latest card features husband Jack Einwechter presenting her with a new feline friend as a present. Sanchez is holding a contest for her Facebook followers to help her pick a name. The winning commenter gets $500 donated to a charity of their choice. The new cat will be a Himalayan — just like Gretzky — according to campaign spokesman Luis Vizcaino, but Sanchez won’t know the gender until Einwechter delivers the gift.
So far commenters seem to like the idea of naming the cat after either John Kobylt or Ken Chiampou, the conservative hosts of the "John and Ken Show" on AM show, who love to poke fun at Sanchez’s gaffes.
Phil Willon reports that Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday announced she received the endorsement of six members of the Los Angeles City Council for her bid for the U.S. Senate. They join council president Herb Wesson, who endorsed Harris shortly after she launched her campaign in January.
The council members backing her are Bob Blumenfield, Mike Bonin, Gil Cedillo, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Nury Martinez and Curren Price.
-- George Skelton uses his column to weigh in on California’s role in the presidential race. Here’s a hint: "It doesn't really matter what any of us non-moneybags Californians think anyway."
-- Was Donald Trump touting party unity in his Jimmy Kimmel appearance? Sort of, Christine Mai-Duc explains.
-- CNN drew 18 million viewers for the final GOP debate of 2015.
-- Doyle McManus evaluated Ted Cruz’s tax plan and found it doesn’t add up.
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