Essential Politics July archives

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Welcome to our July Essential Politics news feed. Find current news on California politics here.

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Feinstein skips Democratic convention because of husband’s cancer treament

In this 2011 photo, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Richard Blum (center) watch Gov. Jerry Brown's inauguration with other California political figures.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) skipped the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia because she was caring for her husband, who has been diagnosed with lung cancer, according to her spokesman.

Richard Blum, 80, went to the doctor thinking he had pneumonia, but learned he has lung cancer, spokesman Tom Mentzer told The Times.

“It was caught early, he’s receiving treatment and expects to fully recover,” Mentzer said.

Blum is being treated at UC San Francisco and is responding well to the treatment, according to a source who did not want to be identified discussing the matter. Blum is a wealthy investment banker and University of California regent.

When Feinstein announced earlier this week she would not attend her party’s nominating convention because of a family illness, rumors swirled among California delegates that the 83-year-old senator was ill.

That was put to rest when Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, appeared on CNN Friday to discuss the hacking of the Democratic Party’s email system.

For the record: This story has been updated to clarify Blum is currently a UC Regent.

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Californians seem ready to extend the state’s landmark climate change law

A high-profile effort to extend and expand California’s decade-old climate change law may face an uncertain future next month in the state Capitol, but it has broad conceptual support in a statewide poll released Wednesday night.

About 68% of adults surveyed by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California said they supported a proposal that would require the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to be 40% below 1990 levels by the year 2040.

The current law, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, mandates a reduction down to the 1990 greenhouse gas levels by 2020.

And the poll finds a sizeable number who also accept the possibility of paying more for gas and electricity as a result.

“The commitment to help reduce global warming includes a surprising willingness on the part of majorities of Californians to pay higher prices,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s president and chief pollster.

The proposal in question, by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), has seemed to languish in the Legislature since last year but is expected to be at the center of one of the biggest political debates when lawmakers return to Sacramento next week for the final month of the 2016 session.

Though Republicans are split in the poll over a new statewide climate law, just about every other subset of Californians strongly supports it -- including 58% of those polled who describe themselves as conservative.

The survey found similar numbers when asked about the willingness to pay more for electricity if it comes from renewable sources, though African Americans joined Republicans in opposition to the idea.

Results were more mixed when asked about the estimated increase in state gasoline prices by expanding the cap on greenhouse gases to fuels.

Even so, the law signed by Schwarzenegger a decade ago this fall has remained popular in PPIC’s polling over the years. And 81% of Californians surveyed this time said that climate change is either somewhat or very much a threat to the state’s future.

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Republican voters taking a pass on California’s U.S. Senate race, poll finds

Half of California’s likely Republican voters and a third of independents said they wouldn’t vote for either candidate in the state’s U.S. Senate race this November, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The survey found that 28% of all likely California voters said they didn’t support state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris or Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez, and 14% said they were undecided. Harris and Sanchez are Democrats.

Among those backing a candidate, 38% of likely voters supported Harris, compared with 20% for Sanchez.

The two Democrats will face off in the November election, setting the stage for the highest-profile contest between two members of the same party since California adopted a top-two primary election system.

In the June 6 primary, Harris received 40% of the vote and Sanchez nabbed 19% among the 34 candidates on the Senate ballot. Duf Sundheim, a former chairman of the California Republican Party, landed in third place with 8%.

Bill Carrick, a political consultant for the Sanchez campaign, has said the congresswoman is trying to build a coalition that will “cross party lines, cross regional lines — every kind of line you can imagine” to overtake Harris before November.

To do so, Sanchez will likely need support from Republicans and independents because, according to the PPIC poll, Harris leads Sanchez by a 2-to-1 margin among Democratic voters.

Harris also leads among independents. Sanchez leads Harris among likely Latino voters.

Among likely Republican voters, 50% said they would not support either candidate and 19% said they were undecided.

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Activist launches referendum on ‘ghost guns’ law

A Carlsbad businessman has launched a referendum drive aimed at overturning a law signed last week that would require anyone building homemade firearms to obtain a serial number for the gun and undergo a background check.

Arthur Aguilar, one of several activists who opposed the bill, filed papers with the state attorney general’s office to obtain a title and summary for a referendum petition to be circulated during the next two months. He could not be immediately reached for comment.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed AB 857, a bill by Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) that is aimed at allowing the state to track so-called ghost guns, those made at home without any serial number or registration.

The National Rifle Assn. was among the groups that opposed the bill, which NRA lobbyist Ed Worley said recently would “take hobbyists who enjoy making guns and … make them criminals.”

The latest referendum comes a week after other activists filed papers to seek referenda to overturn half a dozen other new gun laws.

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‘We will get it,’ says Gov. Jerry Brown of his effort to extend California climate programs

Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t saying how he plans to pull it off, but on Tuesday, he emphasized his dedication to extending California’s landmark climate efforts.

“We will get it one way or another,” he told reporters on a sidewalk in Philadelphia, where he’s attending the Democratic National Convention.

Brown is facing political headwinds to protect California’s cap-and-trade program, the centerpiece of its efforts to battle global warming. His administration also has been talking with oil companies in hopes of clearing a path to resolving the issue.

Asked whether he hoped to reach a deal by the end of the legislative session in August, Brown demurred.

“I don’t want to handicap that,” he said.

Brown added, “I’m not telling you my whole plan. I’m still working on it. I’m committed, and I will do everything I can to make it happen.”

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Tom Torlakson gets his first task as acting governor: Responding to fires

One of two homes destroyed on North Canyon Road, where one person died.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Less than a day after starting his first stint as California’s acting governor, state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson declared states of emergency on Tuesday in two counties dealt a huge blow by devastating wildfires.

The proclamations in response to the Sand fire in Los Angeles County and the Soberanes fire in Monterey County enable quicker response by state and local officials to the residents affected by the blazes.

Torlakson is the sole statewide elected official in California this week. His fellow Democrats are in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. It is the first time in state history that the job of chief executive has fallen to the schools chief.

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Energy funded PAC accused of inserting ‘racially divisive’ ad into state San Bernardino Assembly race

A political committee funded by oil companies has launched ads on the Internet attacking state Sen. Connie Leyva of Chino for opposing the reelection of Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown of San Bernardino, a fellow Democrat, and questioning Levya’s party loyalty.

A spokesman for Leyva shot back that the ads are “racially divisive” and “reprehensible.”

The advertisements on YouTube are the latest episode in a skirmish that has divided Democrats in the state over Brown, a moderate who helped stall a provision of last year’s climate change bill that would have cut petroleum use significantly in California.

Leyva has endorsed Democrat Eloise Reyes against Brown, while the incumbent is backed by other prominent Democrats including Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León of Los Angeles and Sens. Bill Monning of Carmel, Mike McGuire of Healdsburg and Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles.

The ads, put up without coordination with Brown’s campaign, were paid for by the Coalition to Restore California’s Middle Class, which is funded by energy companies including Chevron Corp., Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp.

“California State Sen. Connie Leyva is leading a campaign to defeat Cheryl Brown, an African American candidate endorsed by the California Democratic Party and Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers,” says one of the Internet ads.

“Sen. Connie Leyva should leave her personal politics aside or leave our national convention,” conclude the ads, which have drawn about 10,000 hits each.

Douglas Herman, a political consultant for Leyva, was harshly critical of the ads.

“Chevron’s racially divisive attack ads are reprehensible and exactly what we’ve come to expect from Cheryl Brown’s top Sacramento backer,” Herman said.

He said the ads are based on incorrect information.

“Once again Chevron is wrong on facts and long on trying to divide our communities,” Herman said. “Connie is not a delegate and therefore [is] not at the convention. She’s also not leading the campaign for Eloise Reyes, but will continue to strongly support her for state Assembly.”

A Brown representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

The political coalition involving oil firms has previously spent money to support Brown’s primary campaign, leading some environmental activists to call her “Chevron Cheryl.”

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The small solution to California’s housing shortage

With Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to speed approval for developments that include units for low-income Californians facing stiff opposition, state lawmakers’ answer to the housing crisis this year might turn out to be a very small one.

Multiple bills with Brown’s endorsement are working their way through the Legislature to make it easier for homeowners to build a second unit in their backyards. It’s a way, proponents say, to add housing quickly and cheaply compared to big projects, and the measures have so far received broad support among lawmakers.

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Senate candidate Rep. Loretta Sanchez crashes stage at the Democratic National Convention

U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez didn’t have a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, but that didn’t stop her from crashing the stage Monday.

The Orange County congresswoman stood silently on stage as her sister, Rep. Linda Sanchez of Norwalk, addressed the raucous crowd Monday evening.

The two clasped their hands in triumph when Linda Sanchez reminded everyone that they are the only sisters in history to serve in Congress together.

Linda also gave her sister Loretta a nice plug for her Senate campaign.

“We will elect a Latina to the U.S. Senate,” Linda Sanchez declared.

Neither Loretta Sanchez nor her rival in California’s Senate race, state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, were scheduled to address the national convention.

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California Gov. Brown vetoes measure that would have allowed cancellation of uncontested elections

California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a measure aimed at avoiding costly, uncontested elections.
( (Michel Euler / Associated Press))

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday vetoed a bill by the late Sen. Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster) that would have allowed him to cancel an election to fill a vacancy in the Legislature if only one candidate makes the ballot. That candidate would have been declared the elected legislator, under the bill.

Runner, who died earlier this month after complications from lung disease, was seeking to streamline the process for filling a legislative vacancy to save taxpayers money.

She noted it cost counties $1.6 million to hold one recent special election. Runner was elected to the Senate in 2015 in a special election in which she was the only candidate on the ballot.

“Elections are a vital part of our democratic process, but it is not always necessary to spend taxpayer dollars on an election when a single name appears on the ballot,” she said in a statement when the Legislature first approved the bill earlier this year.

However, Brown said the change could disenfranchise some potential candidates.

“In the situation envisioned by this bill, the potential write-in candidates would be excluded from participation in the election,” Brown wrote in his veto message. “This doesn’t seem consistent with democratic principles that call for choice and robust debate.”

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White House spokesman: It’s hard to know the intent of Loretta Sanchez’s racial comment

President Barack Obama walks with California Attorney General Kamala Harris, center, and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, after arriving at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco in 2012.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said it’s unclear what Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez was trying to imply last week when asked about President Obama’s endorsement of rival Kamala Harris in California’s U.S. Senate race and she mentioned that that both are black.

Sanchez made the comment during a taped interview for the public affairs show “Conexión” that aired Friday on Univision 19 in Sacramento. When asked about the endorsement, the congresswoman noted that Obama and Harris have long been friends, but suggested that race was also a factor in his endorsement.

“I’m not really sure what she intended to imply,” Earnest said Monday.

Earnest noted that Sanchez issued a statement Friday evening saying that she did not mean to suggest that race played a role in the president’s endorsement of Harris, California’s two-term state attorney general. Harris is the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India and is the highest-ranking black politician in California.

During the Spanish-language interview on Friday, Sanchez said this about Obama’s endorsement of Harris: “I think they have, what he said they have, is a friendship of many years. She is African American, as is he. They know each other through meetings.”

Shortly after the president announced his endorsement of Harris last week, Sanchez also accused Obama of being part of the nation’s “entrenched political establishment.”

Earnest said that Obama stands by Harris and thinks she would be an excellent member of the Senate.

Harris, who is in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, on Monday said that Sanchez should apologize to the president for her remark.

“The more you think about what she said the more clear it becomes that that is not the perspective or the voice of a leader, especially in these times,” Harris told the Sacramento Bee.

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Gov. Jerry Brown signs new laws boosting the humane treatment of animals

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed two new laws aimed at more humane treatment of unclaimed stray animals and fighting dogs facing euthanasia.

In all, Brown signed 28 bills Monday, including one banning the use of carbon dioxide to euthanize animals that go unclaimed in animal shelters. The proposal expands an existing law outlawing the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers.

The bill was supported by groups including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that said animals are terrified when placed in the gas chambers and often take minutes to lose consciousness as their organs shut down.

“Gas chambers are inhumane and unnecessary,” the society said in a letter to lawmakers in support of AB 2505 by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward).

Brown also signed AB 1825, giving dogs seized in criminal dog fighting rings a second chance at life.

Fighting dogs that are seized have been automatically labeled “vicious,” and are usually euthanized, according to Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park), author of the bill.

The new law will require that professionals evaluate each dog on a case-by-case basis to determine whether it can be rehabilitated to safely re-enter society or be placed in a sanctuary.

“This law gives abused dogs a chance to live a peaceful life in a loving home,” Gordon said.

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Another California Republican running for Congress struggles with questions about Donald Trump

San Fernando Valley Republican Mark Reed is running an uphill campaign against Rep. Brad Sherman in the safe Democratic district.

Thursday night Reed struggled with the same hurdle many down ballot Republicans are confronted with: to what degree are you aligned with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump?

Reed showed up at a Los Angeles Times convention viewing party Thursday night. He touted his candidacy when taking the microphone to ask a question of Times journalists. As part of a long-winded question about voter participation rates, Reed called Trump “arrogant ... brash ... bold ... nasty.” (Around the 24-minute mark in the video above.)

That prompted an audience member to take the microphone a few minutes later to pose Reed a question. Does he agree with Trump’s proposal to build a border wall with Mexico and ban some Muslims from entering the country?

Reed responded by saying he pledged allegiance “to this great nation, not to a political party,” which provoked another member of the audience to shout “Yes or no?” The crowd got a little rowdy before Reed ultimately said he would not be endorsing Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Ed. note: The audience member who asked the question is married to a Times employee.

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California Politics Podcast: A Philadelphia preview

No state has a larger presence at this week’s Democratic National Convention than California. And for the state party’s powerhouse politicians, that means a chance to shine on the biggest stage of all.

This week’s California Politics Podcast offers a preview of what California Democrats might be talking about as they descend on Philadelphia, from Gov. Jerry Brown to his would-be successors and beyond.

We also discuss President Obama’s endorsement of Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ bid for the U.S. Senate, yet another sign of the party establishment closing ranks around Harris instead of fellow Democrat Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

I’m joined by Marisa Lagos of KQED News.

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Watch: Loretta Sanchez implies President Obama endorsed Kamala Harris because they are both black

Orange County congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, in an interview on a Spanish-language television station in Sacramento, implied that President Obama endorsed her rival in the U.S. Senate race because both are black.

The president endorsed state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris on Tuesday, praising her record as California’s top law enforcement official.

In the taped interview on Univision 19, which aired Friday evening, the congresswoman noted that Obama and Harris have been longtime friends, but said that race was also a factor in his decision:

“I think they have, what he said they have, is a friendship of many years. She is African American, as is he. They know each other through meetings,” Sanchez said in Spanish during the interview.

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State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris: Stay safe while playing ‘Pokemon Go’

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris is telling consumers they should Poke Stop and think before playing the wildly popular “Pokemon Go” game app.

The game, which has attracted legions of fans since it was introduced earlier this month, allows players to find virtual characters in the real world using the app on their phones.

Libraries, parks and other public places have become gathering spots for players, and many have been designated Poke Stops, or places to collect virtual currency.

Harris said recent experience shows people need to take care while playing the game.

“Consumers should be aware that the virtual experience in ‘Pokemon Go’ can expose players to physical danger,” said the release from Harris’ office, citing two men who fell off a cliff in northern San Diego County because they were distracted and another man in Anaheim who was stabbed late at night while playing the game alone.

Harris is advising people to turn off the app’s location access when they’re not using it, review privacy settings and to refrain from using it while driving.

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Gov. Brown signs law requiring registration of homemade guns

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Californians who assemble their own weapons from parts they’ve bought or gathered will have to apply for a state-issued serial number under a law signed Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown signed Assembly Bill 857, which imposes a new mandate on anyone who buys components that can be made into a fully functional firearm. Those weapons are not currently traceable in the same way as buying a fully operating firearm.

Democrats pushed through the bill last month as part of a sweeping package of proposals inspired by recent shootings. Several of those bills, including an effort to impose new rules on the purchase and use of ammunition, were signed by Brown earlier this month and are now the focus of an effort to overturn them by a statewide ballot referendum.

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Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter express support for anti-death penalty proposition

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter on Thursday endorsed a November ballot measure that would abolish the death penalty in California.

Proposition 62 would replace capital punishment for first-degree murder with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is one of two competing measures on the future of the death penalty that voters will weigh on Nov. 8.

“We believe that the attempt to administer the death penalty in a fair and efficient manner has failed, and note that a number of states have chosen to abandon this policy for this reason,” the couple said in a statement. “It is our hope that California will also lead the nation in adopting a more effective and fiscally responsible law enforcement approach.”

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Gov. Jerry Brown, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti among 10 California Democrats who’ll speak at the convention

Ten Californians will speak at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next week, including Gov. Jerry Brown, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Several of the speakers have been longtime Clinton boosters and have addressed delegates at previous conventions. California’s delegation of 475 pledged delegates and 76 unpledged delegates is the largest of any state.

Other California speakers include House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (San Francisco), House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (Los Angeles), Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Rep. Ted Lieu (Torrance), Rep. Adam Schiff (Burbank) and Rep. Maxine Waters (Los Angeles).

Newsom has announced a bid for governor in 2018. Villaraigosa is said to be considering jumping into the race after the November election.

Missing from the schedule at this point are either of California’s U.S. Senate candidates. Normally the party highlights up-and-coming candidates, but with two Democrats on the ticket in November — Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez — it isn’t clear whether the national party will highlight one, both or neither woman.

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Memorial service for State Sen. Sharon Runner set July 29

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State Senate leader’s daughter lands job with his campaign consulting firm

California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León’s daughter Lluvia Carrasco has landed a job with Encino-based political firm Shallman Communications, which counts De León and a number of other prominent California Democrats as clients.

Carrasco will join the firm as an account coordinator, according to an email from vice president Morty Shallman announcing the hiring of five new employees.

Carrasco made news last year after it was revealed De León called the Berkeley-based nonprofit Greenlining Institute and asked if his daughter could apply for a position there.

De León had introduced a bill proposed by the institute and four other nonprofits and was steering it through legislative committees when his daughter started working there, The Times reported last year.

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Gov. Jerry Brown softens stance on construction worker pay in housing proposal

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration now says it will consider requiring homebuilders to pay construction workers at rates equivalent to union wages as part of its effort to streamline housing development across California.

Ben Metcalf, the governor’s director of Housing and Community Development, said on Wednesday that Brown was open to including the pay rules, known as prevailing wage, as part of a package to allow homebuilders to bypass some local approvals if they reserve a percentage of their developments for low-income Californians and follow existing zoning.

“Nothing at this point is off the table,” Metcalf said at a news conference to drum up support for the plan in San Francisco.

Metcalf’s comments followed a Times story published Wednesday morning that quoted him saying prevailing wage — a key requirement of the labor group representing construction workers — was a deal breaker in the housing plan, one of the major debates facing lawmakers before the end of the legislative session in August.

Metcalf said Wednesday he meant that broad prevailing wage standards, as currently proposed by the State Building and Construction Trades Council, wouldn’t work. But he emphasized that the administration was open to narrower requirements that could vary by the kind of development proposed.

Metcalf said the governor is concerned about prevailing wage because the housing streamlining is voluntary for developers, who need a financial incentive to take advantage.

Construction worker pay has become a central issue in the debate over Brown’s housing plan, which has strong opposition from labor groups and environmentalists who are also upset that it would allow projects to bypass some review under the state’s main environmental law governing development.

No lawmaker is currently championing Brown’s effort, which is intended to help control soaring home prices, and the Democratic-controlled Legislature is especially attuned to concerns from labor and environmental groups.

Representatives from both the State Building and Construction Trades Council and the California Labor Federation were on hand for the San Francisco event on Wednesday.

Also there was San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who expressed support for the governor’s plan. The measure would have an especially large effect on how housing gets built in San Francisco because the city currently requires multiple reviews for all housing developments.

Even though the measure would take away significant authority from the city in regulating development, Lee said the city should rely more, as the governor’s plan does, on existing zoning to plan for housing.

Lee compared the city’s often slow approval for new housing to the relatively speedy sign-off elected officials gave a new professional basketball arena for the Golden State Warriors.

“We can certainly approve housing for the very people who will be working there every day,” Lee said.

Lee does want some changes to Brown’s housing plan, including further assurances it won’t give developers an incentive to demolish existing low-income units to build largely market-rate, more expensive, projects. Lee also said the measure should require homebuilders to pay prevailing wages to construction workers statewide.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first in a series of events held by Brown’s administration across the state to try to garner support for the package before legislators return from summer vacation.

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Loretta Sanchez unloads on President Obama for endorsing her rival for Senate

Rep. Loretta Sanchez.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Orange County congresswoman Loretta Sanchez let loose on President Obama for endorsing her rival in California’s U.S. Senate race, accusing him of being part of the “entrenched political establishment” that has failed California voters.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced their support for U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris early Tuesday morning, praising her record as California’s attorney general and a prosecutor. Harris has been a longtime political ally of the president.

Sanchez said she was “disappointed” that Obama would intervene in a Senate race between two Democrats, saying his time would be better spent trying to defeat Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and GOP candidates for Senate.

“I believe that California voters are deeply concerned about the entrenched political establishment which has failed to work for them. Yet, it has been clear for some time that the same political establishment would rather have a coronation instead of an election for California’s next U.S. Senator,” Sanchez said in a statement released by her campaign Tuesday evening.

Sanchez has said for months that the party has favored Harris since she jumped into the race in early 2015, when Sen. Barbara Boxer announced she was retiring. Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Democratic Party already have endorsed Harris.

“California’s Senate seat does not belong to the political establishment — it belongs to the People of California, and I believe California voters will make their own independent choice for U.S. Senate in November,” Sanchez’s statement said.

The Harris campaign responded by saying that Sanchez’s criticism of Obama was misguided.

“It’s disappointing to see Congresswoman Sanchez attack President Obama, claim he has failed to work hard and win results for our families, and question his commitment to defeating Donald Trump,” Harris campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said in a statement. “That’s not the perspective Californians want from their next U.S. Senator.”

In her statement, Sanchez also called Harris’ record as attorney general “troubling” and unleashed her most pointed criticism of her opponent in the campaign.

“Her glaring lack of experience on national security and federal issues may explain her notorious inability to take a timely stand on important federal issues, but that does not explain her failure to lead on a whole array of issues including a state investigation of officer-involved shootings,” Sanchez said. “Troubling increases in crime rates during her tenure, including a 10 percent increase in violent crimes including rape, reveal an Attorney General who says little and does even less.”

Sanchez also criticized Harris’ role in the nationwide $25-billion mortgage settlement with five major financial institutions for improper foreclosure practices during the recent housing market crash.

Harris has highlighted that settlement as one of her major accomplishments as attorney general, saying she delivered $20 billion in mortgage relief to Californians.

But Sanchez said in her statement that just a “small fraction of people got any meaningful relief,” and tens of thousands of Californians still lost their homes.

The two Democrats will face off in the November election, setting the stage for the highest-profile contest between two members of the same party since California adopted a top-two primary election system.

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Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom endorses proposition to abolish the death penalty in California

Gavin Newsom
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday threw his support behind a ballot measure that would repeal the death penalty in California, saying the criminal justice policy did not deter crime and was fundamentally immoral.

In a statement, he said Proposition 62 would abolish a system “that is administered with troubling racial disparities.” Newsom, who publicly supported a 2012 failed measure seeking to end capital punishment, said the initiative would also save the state millions of dollars. He cited statistics showing that California has spent $5 billion to execute 13 people since 1978.

Proposition 62 would replace capital punishment for first-degree murder with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is one of two competing measures on the future of the death penalty that voters will weigh on Nov. 8.

“I realize that this is a controversial issue that raises deeply felt passions on all sides,” Newsom said. “But I also believe that decades from now, like with so many other once-contentious issues, America will look back at the death penalty as an archaic mistake. On issues such as this, elected leaders owe it to themselves and to their constituents to speak up and speak out — regardless of political consequences.”

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New Democratic poll shows tightening race for Los Angeles County congressional seat

Bryan Caforio, left, candidate for the 25th Congressional District, gives his opening statement in a debate with Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster), center, and LAPD Lt. Lou Vince, right, in May.
Bryan Caforio, left, candidate for the 25th Congressional District, gives his opening statement in a debate with Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster), center, and LAPD Lt. Lou Vince, right, in May.
(Gina Ferrazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The race to between first-term Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) and his Democratic challenger Bryan Caforio is tightening according to a new poll by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Knight, considered one of the most vulnerable congressional incumbents in California, had the backing of 46% of the 400 likely general election voters polled, while Caforio had 40% and 14% remained undecided, according to a DCCC memo provided to The Times.

The poll shows Caforio, an attorney, with an eight-point lead over Knight among decline-to-state voters (40% to 32%) and an 25-point lead among Latino voters (53% to 28%).

Knight has deep roots in the district from serving in local office. He is the son of the late William J. “Pete” Knight, a former Air Force test pilot and well known Republican state senator in the Antelope Valley.

Caforio is a first-time candidate and new to the district.

Democrats are making an aggressive play for Knight’s seat, betting that they can tie the incumbent closely to his party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.

The poll showed Democrat Hillary Clinton leading Trump 41% to 36% in the district, which extends from the edge of the Mojave Desert in Lancaster to the suburban cities of Santa Clarita and Simi Valley.

Once a Republican stronghold, the district is trending more and more in Democrats’ favor. They now have a slim advantage of less than a percentage point among registered voters in the district.

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Obama, Biden endorse Kamala Harris for U.S. Senate

President Obama with California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, left, in 2012.
President Obama with California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, left, in 2012.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced they are backing state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, a longtime political ally of the president, in California’s historic Democrat-on-Democrat U.S. Senate race.

The president praised Harris as a “lifelong courtroom prosecutor” who fought international gangs, oil companies and the big banks responsible for the mortgage crisis.

“Kamala Harris fights for us. That’s why I’m so proud to endorse her for United States senator,” the president said in a statement released by the Harris campaign and Democratic National Committee. “And if you send her to the Senate, she’ll be a fearless fighter for the people of California — all the people of California — every single day.”

For Harris’ rival, Orange County congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, the endorsements are a stinging rebuke and add another political obstacle to the many she must overcome by the November election.

Sanchez, who has served in Congress for two decades, said in a statement released by her campaign Tuesday evening that she was “disappointed” that Obama picked sides in a race between two Democrats. Instead, she said, he should be focused on defeating Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“I believe that California voters are deeply concerned about the entrenched political establishment which has failed to work for them. Yet, it has been clear for some time that the same political establishment would rather have a coronation instead of an election for California’s next U.S. Senator,” Sanchez said.

“California’s Senate seat does not belong to the political establishment — it belongs to the People of California, and I believe California voters will make their own independent choice for U.S. Senate in November,” she said.

The president’s nod caps a string of major endorsements for Harris, the candidate of choice among the Democratic Party’s power barons and some of the left’s most influential interest groups. It also sends a clear signal to Democratic donors, many of whom have stayed on the sidelines this election.

Harris already has won the support of Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Democratic Party, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a favorite of the left.

Sanchez supporters expressed dismay that the administration would attempt to tip the scales in this intra-party contest.

“In this historic Democrat versus Democrat race, we have two strong, qualified women of color and it is unfortunate that instead of letting the voters decide, the Democratic party along with President Obama are picking sides,” said Martín Diego Garcia, director of the Campaign for Latino Victory Fund, a political action committee that supports Latino candidates.

Lori Cox Han, a political science professor at Chapman University in Orange, said the endorsements by Obama and Biden solidified the message that Harris was the Democratic Party’s chosen one from the get-go.

“It just kind of says that it’s really not going to be that competitive going forward,” she said.

If Sanchez had the ability to mount a serious challenge, that would have become apparent in the June primary, Cox Han said. Sanchez finished a distant second with 19% of the vote, compared to the 40% nabbed by Harris.

Sanchez supporter John Harris, the Republican owner of Harris Farms in Coalinga, still thinks the congresswoman has a chance if she can stitch together support among enough Southern California Democrats, Latinos, moderates and Republicans.

“Loretta Sanchez has a path to victory, if she can get there,” said John Harris, whose farm was home to 2014 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome.

He thinks the impact of Obama’s endorsement will be “neutral” in the Central Valley. Kamala Harris is largely perceived as part of the “elite San Francisco establishment,” and along with the president has been unsympathetic to the water issues faced by California’s farmers and ranchers, he said.

Harris has more than a 3-to-1 edge over Sanchez in fundraising and easily topped a crowded field of Senate candidates in the June primary. The attorney general also held a 15-percentage-point lead over Sanchez in the latest Field poll.

The two Democrats will face off in the November election, setting the stage for the highest profile contest between two members of the same party since California adopted a top-two primary election system.

Harris’ ties to Obama and his administration stretch back more than a decade, even before he burst onto the national political scene. While she was still the San Francisco district attorney, Harris supported and raised money for Obama when he ran for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. She later served as the California co-chair of his upstart 2008 presidential campaign.

Obama reciprocated by helping to launch Harris into the national spotlight when he gave her a speaking role at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in North Carolina.

The next year, the president landed in hot water when he called Harris the “best-looking attorney general” in the country during a Democratic fundraiser in the Bay Area.

The president called Harris the next day to apologize for the remark and the distraction it caused.

Because of that political allegiance, it would have been more surprising if Obama hadn’t endorsed Harris, said John Hanna of Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which supports Sanchez.

The Orange County congresswoman also backed Hillary Clinton in her 2008 campaign against Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, so that also could be a factor, Hanna said.

“The president and vice president are stand-up guys,” Hanna said. “They reward royalty.”

Hanna said he was thankful that the endorsement was announced this week, predicting that it would get lost in the blizzard of news coverage of Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Harris and Biden have largely operated in separate political spheres, with Harris spending her career in local and state office in California and Biden reigning as a formidable Democratic heavyweight in Washington.

Still, Harris was able to talk Biden into delivering the keynote speech at the California Democratic Party’s convention in San Jose in February,

Harris also worked extensively with Biden’s son, Beau Biden, when he served as Delaware’s attorney general. Beau Biden died at 46 in May 2015 after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Harris attended his memorial service.

“Beau always supported her, and I’m proud to support her candidacy for the United States Senate,” Biden said in a statement.

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Big money rolls in against campaign to increase tobacco taxes

(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

Opponents of a ballot measure to increase California’s tobacco taxes by $2 a pack have poured $16.9 million into the campaign over the last week.

The funding comes from cigarette makers R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, which are against the measure, Proposition 56, and was disclosed on state filings.

The big dollar contributions point to an expensive fight in November. Supporters of the measure include the American Cancer Society, American Heart Assn. and billionaire Tom Steyer.

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Leader of effort to overturn gun control laws is enlisting firearms shops for help

A San Diego-area businessman who filed papers seeking referenda to overturn six gun control laws said Saturday that he is part of a group of up to 100 activists who feel the measures were rushed through without considering public opinion.

Barry Bahrami said he realizes it will be difficult to collect 365,000 signatures on each of the six referendum petitions in the next two and a half months, but said opponents of the laws are serious about trying.

“The only certainty is that it’s an impossible challenge if we don’t at least try,” Bahrami wrote in an email to reporters. “By my math we can do it if we hustle. We have more than two thousand gun stores in this state. We will be leveraging these gun stores and numerous volunteers from the communities to get the petitions signed.”

If the referenda qualify, the new gun laws, including background checks for people buying ammo, will be put on hold until the voters act. While it’s possible the measures could qualify for the Nov. 8 statewide ballot, the lateness of the effort might mean the laws would be put on hold until the fall of 2018.

But Bahrami, the chief executive of tech firm Commercial Network Services, said his group is not just stalling.

“I assure you this is not a delay tactic,” he wrote. “We intend to veto these measures and at the same time we are exploring recalling public servants who have lost the integrity required to serve as a representative of the people of California.”

He predicted the courts would overturn the laws as unconstitutional but said going to the ballot could save time and legal costs. He said the Legislature ignored those who opposed the bills.

“They have an agenda to pass laws that are downright dangerous to public safety and nullifies our constitutional rights,” he said. “Today it is feel-good gun laws, but what will it be tomorrow? The people of California deserve representatives who will not ditch their own integrity in order to push an agenda.”

The ammo bill was authored by Senate Leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), whose chief of staff, Dan Reeves, said Californians support the gun control efforts.

Referenda, he said, are “nothing more than a cynical standard-issue delay tactic designed to further postpone common-sense gun laws.”

He noted an initiative on the November ballot, Proposition 63, will also allow voters to ratify many of the gun control proposals.

“Fortunately, voters will have the final say this November whether dangerous criminals should be allowed to buy ammo in our state.”

Bahrami said that just in the last day, support for the referenda has poured in.

“Groups of Californians from all over the state have been coming forward to assist in this effort since your stories were filed. It is quite refreshing to see people coming together to fix this,” he said.

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Issa challenger came out of nowhere, raised more money

One of the more peculiar stories to come out of California’s primary was the relative success of first-time Democratic candidate Doug Applegate, a lawyer and retired Marine colonel who launched an uphill campaign against Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista).

Issa outspent the political newcomer by more than $700,000 but Applegate still managed to claim 45.5% of the vote in the 49th Congressional District while Issa finished with 50.8%.

Issa walloped his 2012 and 2014 primary rivals by 30 and 33 percentage points, respectively.

Applegate’s showing was enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to take notice. The group put him in its “Red to Blue” program aimed at knocking off Republican incumbents this week and has begun drumming up support for him. Last month it commissioned and released a poll that showed the candidates tied with 43% of the vote while 14% of voters said they were undecided.

Applegate’s fundraising dramatically improved after his June 7 primary showing. He raised $53,000 in the run-up to the primary. From May 19 through June 30, he raised $130,000 to Issa’s $99,000, according to the latest filings with the Federal Elections Commission.

Applegate has a lot of ground to make up. Issa already has $3.7 million in the bank for the November election. And, of course, he happens to be the richest member of Congress.

Democrats are trying to use Issa’s support of Republican nominee Donald Trump against him while touting Applegate’s military credentials. They will have to overcome a GOP voter registration advantage of 8.5 points and do well among the one-quarter of voters who are registered with no party preference.

The money will have to flow to make this a competitive race, especially if you believe Applegate’s claim that Issa told him as much in person at a July 4 parade.

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California congressman on Turkey coup tweet: ‘I’m not pro-coup, but I’m not pro-Erdogan either’

Facing criticism over a tweet some read as sympathetic to the military officials who launched a coup attempt in Turkey, U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Porter Ranch) told The Times he was trying to express his view that the Turkish government and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan don’t reflect democratic ideals.

“It’s hard to be as nuanced as you want to be about foreign policy in 140 characters,” Sherman said. “I’m not pro-coup, but I’m not pro-Erdogan either.”

Amid the chaotic coup attempt on Friday night, Sherman sent this tweet:

Sherman said Saturday his original message could have been more nuanced. It has since been shared and commented on hundreds on times. Many who responded were critical and wondered why Sherman seemed to be supporting the overthrow of a democratically elected government.

Among them was the Turkish ambassador to the United States, Serdar Kilic:

Sherman, whose district is home to large Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac and Armenian communities, told The Times on Saturday that he and the ambassador have disagreed in the past over Sherman’s criticism of the controversial Erdogan.

Sherman followed up on his original tweet Friday night:

He also responded to Kilic:

President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry have both stated that the U.S. government stands with the Turkish government.

The U.S. has launched many airstrikes against the Islamic State from southern Turkey, and considers Turkey be a critical ally in the fight against the terrorist group.

Sherman said he wasn’t surprised that he and Obama took different positions.

“The president plays a different role. We have military bases in Turkey, he wants to get along with whatever government is in power and has never really criticized the Turks for the role they played in [supporting the Islamic State] when they were in their heyday,” Sherman said. “What a president says matters; members of the House can say something just because it’s true.”

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Almost 48% of registered California voters cast ballots in the June primary

More than 8.5 million ballots were cast and counted in the June 7 statewide primary, a turnout that while better than most presidential years over the past two decades was not as high as some expected.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla formally certified the primary results on Friday, more than five weeks after election day. In all, almost six of every 10 ballots in California were cast by mail. The raw total of votes cast was the second largest in state history, just behind the votes cast in the February 2008 presidential primary.

By percentage of registered voters, the June election’s 47.72% turnout fell behind both the 2008 and 2000 presidential primaries. In Los Angeles County, only 41.26% of registered voters cast ballots.

“This was the fifth straight statewide election in which a majority of ballots cast were vote-by-mail ballots,” said Padilla in a written statement.

Alpine County, the sparsely populated north state county, cast all of its ballots by mail. Its turnout was also tops in the state, with almost three of every four registered voters participating in the election.

Hillary Clinton won California’s Democratic presidential primary over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by 363,580 votes in the final tally. Donald Trump, meantime, won almost 75% of the Republican votes cast.

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Businessman wants voters to overturn six gun control laws

A San Diego-area businessman has taken the first step toward launching a petition drive to qualify referenda on a batch of six gun control laws signed this month by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Barry Bahrami, the CEO of Commercial Network Services, has filed paperwork with the state Attorney General’s Office to approve a title and summary for referenda petitions that would overturn six bills, including a measure requiring background checks for those buying ammunition.

Bahrami could not immediately be reached for comment on what kind of resources he has to collect 365,000 signatures in 90 days to qualify each one for the ballot. If the referenda qualify, the law they seek to overturn would be put on hold until voters make a decision.

The letter to the Attorney General seeking a title and summary includes an email address that includes the phrase: “VetoGunmageddon,” and his Facebook page includes the statement: “Oh no, they passed a new gun control law, I need to go and turn in all my guns--- said no criminal ever.”

The ammunition law was authored by Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles). His chief of staff, Dan Reeves, said the threatened referendum on the law “is nothing more than a cynical standard-issue delay tactic designed to further postpone common-sense gun laws.”

He noted there is already an initiative on the November ballot that would also put a background check requirement for ammo buyers into state law.

“Fortunately, voters will have the final say this November whether dangerous criminals should be allowed to buy ammo in our state,” Reeves said.

The bills facing potential ballot measures are:

--SB 880 by Sen. Isadore Hall (D-Compton) and AB 1135 by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), which together ban the sale of semiautomatic guns with “bullet buttons” allowing easy replacement of the ammunition magazine.

--AB 1695 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), which makes it a crime to fail to report a gun lost or stolen.

-- SB 1235 by De León requires those buying ammunition to undergo a background check to make sure they are not a felon.

--SB 1446 by Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), which outlaws the possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than ten bullets.

--AB 1511 by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), which prohibits short-term loans of firearms to people other than immediate family members.

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U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez has less than $1 million cash on hand

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California Politics Podcast: Cleveland calling

(Angelo Merendino / Getty Images)

California’s supersized delegation to the Republican National Convention heads east this weekend, no doubt wondering how much of the national campaign’s rhetoric will follow the delegates back home.

On this week’s California Politics Podcast, we assess what the convention in Cleveland means for the California GOP and how state party leaders sit when it comes to Donald Trump.

We also discuss the decision by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer to lead the opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison parole initiative, Proposition 57.

And we examine the possible political backstory to this week’s surprise endorsement in a high-profile Democrat-versus-Democrat race in the Assembly.

I’m joined by Marisa Lagos of KQED News.

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U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris has $2.75 million left in the bank

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Loretta Sanchez says U.S. must address ‘lone wolf’ radicalized terrorists without sacrificing freedoms

The truck that plowed through Bastille Day revelers, its windshield riddled with bullets, is examined by forensics officers in Nice, France.
(Luca Bruno/Associated Press)

A day after a suspected terrorist attack in France killed at least 84 people, Orange County congresswoman Loretta Sanchez said Friday in an interview that the U.S. should “take a look at” doing more to prevent people from being radicalized over the Internet by Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

But Sanchez, who is running for the U.S. Senate, said such an effort cannot be done in a way that may infringe on Americans’ access to the Internet or other constitutional freedoms.

Sanchez was responding to a question about how authorities can protect Americans from “lone wolf” terrorists, those not affiliated with a specific terrorist organization but may become self-radicalized online.

“What makes us American is our freedoms,” Sanchez said during an interview on Fox 11 news. “What [Islamic State] and others really want … is to shut us down. To shut us down and take away those liberties.”

She also cautioned that “we cannot guard against every single thing that will happen.”

Sanchez, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, urged viewers to follow the “see something, say something” advice given by national security agencies — to alert authorities if someone’s behavior appears suspicious or something appears out of place.

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Teachers union writes a $10-million check for income tax ballot measure, Prop 55

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Backers of the effort to extend the lifespan of California’s tax rates on the most wealthy boosted their campaign coffers Thursday, with a $10-million contribution from the California Teachers Assn.

State campaign finance reports show the effort to pass Proposition 55 has now collected almost $28 million, bankrolled largely by teachers and by the California Hospital Assn.

Prop. 55 would add 12 years to the lifespan of temporary taxes first approved by voters in 2012. Single filers earning more than $263,000 a year and joint filers reporting more than about $526,000 of income would continue to pay higher rates through 2030. The independent Legislative Analyst’s Office has estimated Prop. 55 could bring in as much as $7.5 billion in tax revenues by 2019.

While the revenues aren’t assumed in the budget Gov. Jerry Brown signed last month, his fiscal advisors have projected budget deficits if the initiative fails to pass.

The teachers group was also one of the leading proponents of the 2012 tax initiative. In addition to teachers and hospitals, the Prop. 55 campaign’s backers include the Service Employees International Union and the California Medical Assn.

UPDATE 9:15 p.m. This story was modified to reflect the total raised is almost $28 million, not $38 million. The error was due to incomplete data on the state’s campaign finance website.

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Embattled Assemblyman Roger Hernández has more troubles as his fundraising efforts crater

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, right, with Assemblywoman Shannon Grove in 2013.
(Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

State Assemblyman and congressional hopeful Roger Hernández (D-West Covina) has had a difficult month so far:

Now it looks like Hernández is having trouble raising money for his campaign.

Hernández raised only $8,849 in the last quarter covering May 19 through June 30, according to his latest filing with the Federal Elections Commission.

Hernandez has $60,668 in the bank with which to challenge Napolitano. Her campaign has not filled its latest finance report but had just under $278,000 in the bank about three weeks before the election.

Hernandez has so far raised $107,564 from individuals and committees. He also loaned his own campaign $80,000.

Napolitano has raised about $479,000 from individuals and committees.

This post was updated to reflect the dates covered by the latest FEC report.

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Leader of former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s PAC has a history with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press & Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Image)

Former Los Angles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s newly formed political action committee, which he says will combat the anti-immigrant rhetoric being stoked by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, has made an intriguing hire.

San Francisco political veteran Alex Tourk has joined Villaraigosa’s “Building Bridges, Not Walls” committee as campaign manager, said committee spokesman Roger Salazar, a Democratic campaign consultant.

Tourk happens to be a former campaign manager for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, whom Villaraigosa would be challenging should he jump into California’s 2018 race for governor.

Tourk ran Newsom’s 2007 reelection campaign for San Francisco mayor but abruptly quit after the revelation that Newsom had an affair with his wife, who was the mayor’s appointments secretary.

Newsom publicly apologized for the relationship at a packed news conference at San Francisco City Hall shortly afterward. The affair took place after Newsom had filed for divorce from his then-wife, attorney Kimberly Guilfoyle.

Tourk had been one of Newsom’s closest political advisors in San Francisco, also serving as a deputy chief of staff at City Hall, and was intimately familiar with his political and personal history.

On the flip side, Newsom’s top political consultants for his gubernatorial bid, Ace Smith and Sean Clegg, ran Villaraigosa’s mayoral races and are intimately familiar with his political and personal history.

Smith and Clegg also are working on state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ U.S. Senate campaign.

Tourk, in an email, said the committee has assembled a great team to “to mobilize Californians to engage in an comprehensive effort to defeat Donald Trump.”

Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign already is underway and Villaraigosa is expected to jump into the race after the November election. The political team Villaraigosa is assembling for his new PAC offers a clue about who might join a potential campaign for governor.

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Critics of California’s death penalty launch the campaign to pass Proposition 62

Proposition 62, California Death Penalty Repeal, would repeal the state death penalty and replace the maximum punishment for murder with life in prison without possibility of parole. It would apply retroactively to those already sentenced to death.

A group of advocates and exonerated inmates gathered in Los Angeles on Thursday to officially launch a campaign in favor of a ballot proposition repealing California’s death penalty.

“What we have here is a coalition of people from very different walks of life, from very different perspectives, who want to let you know why we should be out of the business of killing,” former “M*A*S*H” actor Mike Farrell, author of the initiative, told the audience.

Proposition 62 would replace capital punishment in California for first-degree murder with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is one of two competing measures on the future of the death penalty that voters will weigh on Nov. 8.

Both ballot measures would require current death row inmates to work and pay restitution to victims. But the opposing measure, Proposition 66, aims to speed up executions through limited and expedited appeals.

Anti-death penalty advocates on Thursday criticized the competing ballot measure as misguided and costly. And they called the current death penalty process dysfunctional and barbaric.

Ron Briggs, who with his father led the campaign that 38 years ago brought the death penalty to California, said they believed then that the law would serve as a deterrent, provide swift justice for families and save taxpayers money.

“We couldn’t have been more wrong,” Briggs said. “What we did was we created an industry for death in California, costing taxpayers $187 million a year.”

Beth Webb, who lost her sister and several friends in a 2011 mass shooting at a Seal Beach hair salon, said more violence did not bring peace. “Neither me or my mom will find closure in the death of another human being,” she said.

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Gov. Brown to lead California delegation to Democratic National Convention

Gov. Jerry Brown will lead the California delegation to the Democratic National Convention starting July 25, the state Democratic Party announced Thursday.

California’s delegation will be the largest of any state headed to the festivities in Philadelphia, with 475 delegates pledged to a candidate and 76 unpledged delegates.

“California is showing what the Democratic Party can do when it’s unified and bold,” Brown said in a statement. “We can combat climate change, fix our broken immigration system and face up to the growing nuclear danger. And later this month, we will bring this message to Philadelphia.”

In addition to Brown, high-profile California delegates to the convention include Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Treasurer John Chiang, State Controller Betty T. Yee, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León of Los Angeles and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Los Angeles.

Party officials said California’s delegation is evenly split between men and women and ranges in age from 17 to 85.

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State Sen. Sharon Runner, longtime Republican lawmaker, dies at 62

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

State Sen. Sharon Runner, a longtime legislator who championed a sweeping law that targeted sex offenders and then battled back into political life after failing health, died Thursday.

She was 62.

A statement from her family cited respiratory complications as the cause of death. She had been absent for much of the legislative year because of her health and was not a candidate for reelection in November.

Runner underwent a double lung transplant in 2012, a result of her long battle with scleroderma and subsequently dropped out of her Senate reelection bid that year. She decided to return in a 2015 special election after another GOP legislator was elected to Congress. She previously served six years in the Assembly, from 2002 to 2008.

Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) called Runner a “champion for California’s children” on Thursday, noting that she authored legislation to expand charter schools, help families adopt, and improve the lives of foster kids.

“Sharon’s battle with scleroderma and her successful recovery from a double lung transplant inspired us all, and encouraged many Californians to sign up to become organ donors,” Mayes added.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) praised Runner for service during difficult circumstances.

“While battling a tragic illness, Senator Runner endured and showed a real commitment to representing the people of her district,” De Leon said.

“Sharon Runner’s life was one of service,” said Jim Brulte, the chairman of California Republican Party, in a statement. “Sharon was committed to the people of her community and our great state.”

“Sharon Runner’s life was one of service,” said Jim Brulte, the chairman of California Republican Party, in a statement. “Sharon was committed to the people of her community and our great state.”

Her tenure in the Legislature for several years at the same time as her husband, George Runner, made them the first husband and wife in state history to serve in the Legislature simultaneously. He is now a member of the state Board of Equalization.

The Runners were instrumental in the drafting and passage of “Jessica’s Law” in 2006, a ballot measure that required sex offenders to be monitored with GPS devices and placed rules on how close they could live to schools and parks where children gather. By the spring of 2015, the law’s provisions had been weakened by a California Supreme Court ruling and subsequent actions by state corrections officials.

When she won election to the Senate in 2015, Runner told The Times that “it’s pretty miraculous to be able to come back again and serve. I’m kind of a comeback story. I’m excited that I am getting back” to Sacramento.

Runner cited health reasons for not seeking re-election to her Senate seat this year in northern Los Angeles County, a district nearly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

Her public service began in 1977 when she co-founded Desert Christian Schools, which today serves nearly 1,700 students of all ages on three campuses. Runner was born in Los Angeles and was a longtime resident of the Antelope Valley.

“She died peacefully at home, surrounded by family and friends,” said a written statement on Thursday from the Runner family.

UPDATE 11:40 a.m. This story has been updated from its original version with additional information and reaction from legislators.

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Four California ‘Political Animals’ helped set the stage for marriage equality in the U.S.

Women have a way of leading society into its sociopolitical future, putting their livelihoods on the line for what can be seen as the greater good.

And with “Political Animals,” a documentary about California’s first openly gay legislators -- all women -- and how they set the stage for nationwide marriage equality, director Jonah Markowitz is aiming to properly contextualize the present-day LGBT movement.

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Local control of Ontario International Airport headed for President Obama’s signature

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Ownership of Ontario International Airport will be transferred to San Bernardino County and the city of Ontario once President Obama signs legislation that passed the Senate on Wednesday.

Congress included wording in a bill allowing the Federal Aviation Administration to continue to operate that allows some of the $2-per-passenger facility charge collected at the Ontario airport to be used at Los Angeles International Airport.

It’s necessary under a stipulation of Los Angeles World Airports’ agreement to transfer Ontario International Airport that the Ontario airport would reimburse LAX for millions in fees used to pay for new terminals in the 1990s.

The settlement agreement calls for $120 million in passenger facility charges collected at Ontario to go to LAX over the next 10 years. But that isn’t allowed under current law.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that including the language in the bill is a significant victory for the Inland Empire.

“Today is four years in the making,” Feinstein said in a statement. “The transfer will allow the airport to be revitalized and reclaim its role as a driver of economic growth for California.”

The Inland Empire is working to revive the struggling facility that has lost more than a third of its passengers since 2007.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Corona) said in a statement that he’s delighted the bill is headed to the White House. He sponsored the language in the House.

“The Inland Empire has waited far too long to have local control of Ontario Airport — but with the passage of this bill, that wait will soon be over,” he said.

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House keeps California water provision in spending bill over Democratic objections

Provisions aimed at moving water around California remain in an appropriations bill after House Republicans on Wednesday rebuffed California Democrats’ attempts to have it removed.

The provision, sponsored by Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), focuses on funneling more water to San Joaquin Valley growers by reducing the amount used to support endangered fish populations.

The House voted 248-181 to reject an amendment by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) and other California Democrats that would have removed the language from the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill.

In an interview after the vote, McNerney said Valadao’s language would have long-term implications for Northern California to meet short-term needs in Southern California.

Valadao has pleaded with fellow members to approve something to provide relief for Central Valley farmers.

McNerney said he doesn’t expect the overall spending measure to be approved by the Senate. If it did pass, he doesn’t believe President Obama would sign it.

The White House cited Valadao’s water language as one of the reasons advisors would recommend Obama veto the bill in its current form.

The House was scheduled to vote on the overall appropriations bill late this evening.

Valadao’s language passed the House as an independent bill in 2015, and has been repeatedly inserted in other bills, but the Senate has refused to bring it up.

The Senate is considering a bill proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as part of a broad package of water bills for Western states.

On Tuesday, the 14 Republicans in California’s House delegation sent a letter to Feinstein chastising her because the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met but did not address her bill or Valadao.

In a statement, Valadao said it’s “beyond disappointing” Feinstein couldn’t get the bill considered before Congress leaves.

“While my colleagues and I in the House have made repeated attempts to advance California water provisions, utilizing a variety of legislative methods, Senator Feinstein has yet to move her water legislation through the Senate chamber,” he said. “In an effort to alleviate human suffering, House Republicans have pursued every avenue available.”

FOR THE RECORD: 7:56 a.m. This post was updated to correct the name of the appropriations bill being considered.

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San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer takes on Gov. Jerry Brown’s parole ballot measure

(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Kevin Faulconer, who tamped down talk of a 2018 bid for governor during his successful reelection as mayor of San Diego, will lead the charge against the effort to revamp prison parole laws by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Faulconer appeared with prosecutors and victim rights advocates at a San Diego news conference on Wednesday morning to launch the campaign against Proposition 57.

“Prop. 57 would make it easier for criminals who have committed deplorable, violent crimes to be eligible for early release,” said Faulconer in a written statement prior to the event.

The November ballot measure would allow new parole opportunities for those convicted of nonviolent crimes who have served the full sentence for their primary offense. That would mean those who had extra years tacked on to that sentence could be released early, provided they earn education or good behavior credits.

A key issue in the campaign is likely to be whether those serving sentences for nonviolent crimes are, in fact, nonviolent felons. The effort being led by Faulconer will attempt to convince voters otherwise.

Faulconer, San Diego’s Republican mayor, has been subject of wide speculation about a future gubernatorial effort. During the end of his mayoral race, he publicly pledged not to leave the city’s top job early for a 2018 statewide campaign.

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Kamala Harris says Minnesota police wouldn’t have shot Philando Castile if he were white

State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday said that Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer during a traffic stop last week, would be alive today had he been white.

Harris, a candidate for U.S. Senate, made the comment to Jake Tapper on CNN.

Tapper noted that Castile had been pulled over by police on 52 separate occasions before the shooting. Tapper asked Harris if she agreed with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton that Castile’s race factored into why he was shot.

“I think that there’s no question … that based on the facts as I know it that he would not be dead,” Harris said. “That officer perceived him differently.”

Castile’s death, along with the fatal police shooting of another African American man in Louisiana, Alton Sterling, triggered a wave of protests nationwide. That included a rally in Dallas on Thursday night, when a gunman killed five officers and wounded nine others. Harris called the Dallas shooting a “massacre.”

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Senate Committee considers nomination of California judge to serve on 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday considered the nomination of U.S. District Judge Lucy Haeran Koh to serve on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

If confirmed, Koh would be the first female Korean American to serve as a federal appellate judge. The Senate is not expected to consider her nomination before leaving at the end of the week for a seven-week break.

“Lucy Koh has a very distinguished record and it’s prepared her well to serve on the 9th Circuit,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said, introducing Koh. “She represents the very best of our country.”

Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer each mentioned Republican and Democratic praise of Koh.

“This is a moment we could come together behind someone who really exemplifies the American dream as both parties see it,” Boxer said. “This is a rare moment in time.”

Koh has served as U.S. district judge for the Northern District of California since 2010. The Senate confirmed her then by a 90-0 vote.

Koh has presided over several major Silicon Valley cases, including approving a $415-million settlement in September to end a lengthy legal saga over allegations that several technology companies conspired to prevent their workers from getting better job offers. She also presided over patent battles between Apple and Samsung over the iPhone.

Questions from senators on the committee largely focused on how Koh would balance individual privacy concerns with the government’s ability to quickly obtain digital information about criminal suspects.

She would replace Judge Harry Pregerson, who at 92 announced plans to step down last summer.

Boxer noted that the 9th Circuit has one of the busiest federal appeals courts in the country.

“This is an emergency vacancy,” Boxer said. “Given the quality of Judge Koh it would be unnecessary to delay this.”

Koh graduated from Harvard Law School in 1993 and worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Department of Justice before serving as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Central District of California from 1997 to 2000.

In private practice, she worked as a senior associate in the Palo Alto office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and as a partner in the Palo Alto office of McDermott Will & Emery LLP.

In 2008, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her to the California Superior Court for Santa Clara County.

Koh is married to California Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who attended Wednesday’s hearing along with more than 20 other family members and her staff.

For the record: 8:14 a.m. This post has been updated to correct that Koh is being considered for a position on the 9th Circuit.

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Regulators launch an effort to keep California’s main climate change program alive

Next month, the big debate for Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers is expected to be the future of cap and trade, the state’s key climate change program, which is facing numerous political, legal and financial hurdles.

In the meantime, the Brown administration just released a plan to keep cap and trade going past its 2020 expiration date. Should a climate change deal not materialize in August, the new plan represents an insurance policy, albeit one with weaker legal standing.

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Senate leader wades into bitter fight over Assembly seat

In a surprising move, the leader of the state Senate endorsed a Democratic assemblywoman Tuesday whose reelection is opposed by some of California’s leading environmental groups. But the announcement also revealed fractures within the top echelons of Senate leadership.

In a document obtained by The Times, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) endorsed Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino) in her bitter fight against fellow Democrat Eloise Reyes in San Bernardino County.

The endorsement came from the California Senate Democratic Leadership and included the names of four other legislators - Sens. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), Connie Leyva (D-Chino), Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) - all of whom hold top posts in the Senate.

The statement noted Brown’s victory in the June 7 primary and that other groups, including the Legislative Black Caucus and the state Democratic Party, have endorsed her.

Courtni Pugh, political advisor to the Senate Democrats, confirmed the endorsement and said “we feel the statement speaks for itself.”

But Leyva has endorsed Reyes, Brown’s opponent. Leyva said on Tuesday the inclusion of her name was an error.

“I support Eloise Reyes. Period. Somehow the pro tem must have misunderstood my position, although I thought I was quite clear,” Leyva told The Times.

Responding to questions on why Leyva’s name was included in the endorsement, Pugh wrote, “Although Sen. Leyva is a member of the Democratic Senate Leadership team, she has individually endorsed a different candidate, Eloise Reyes. However, it is our understanding that Sen. Leyva is not involved in her campaign directly or indirectly.”

Leyva has donated to Reyes’ campaign and appeared at public events supporting her candidacy.

Leo Briones, a campaign consultant for Reyes, called the Senate leader’s endorsement of Brown “unfortunate.”

“Cheryl Brown can have every special interest and every Sacramento politician ... but she still is a legislator that does not represent progressive values or her district when it comes to issues of working families, of consumers, of guns and public safety and the environment,” Briones said.

Brown’s campaign did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Brown previously said she had asked for De Leon’s endorsement late last year ahead of the contentious primary, but hadn’t heard back.

Chevron and other oil companies have contributed millions of dollars to a campaign account supporting Brown and other candidates this year, leading some progressive and environmental activists to dub her “Chevron Cheryl.

For his part, De Leon has expressed frustration in the past over the Assembly’s growing contingent of business-aligned Democrats, which includes Brown, and who held back support last year for De Leon’s landmark climate change bill until a key provision that would’ve slashed petroleum use statewide was removed.

“I’ve learned a lot from the Assembly,” De Leon joked at a charity roast last month. “Did you know that WSPA stands for the Western States Petroleum Assn.? And all this time I thought it meant We Specialize in Purchasing Assemblymembers.”

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Man gets prison time for fake 911 calls about California lawmaker

The man who put Rep. Ted Lieu through what the congressman called “one of the most traumatic half hours of my life” by phoning in a fake tip to police that the then-state senator had shot his wife has been sentenced to two years in prison.

Mir Islam, 22, of New York was sentenced Monday. He pleaded guilty on July 6, 2015, in U.S. District Court in Washington to three federal charges related to “swatting” (calling in a fake emergency to police) and “doxing” (posting identifying information online) dozens of victims, including Lieu. He also pleaded guilty to making a false bomb threat against a university in Arizona and online harassment and cyberstalking, the Justice Department said.

In 2013, Lieu was driving home when a Torrance police officer called his cellphone and asked whether Lieu had harmed his wife. When Lieu answered no, the officer hung up without explaining, the congressman recalled in an interview.

“A few seconds later I think, well, what if someone else shot my wife?” Lieu said.

He frantically called the officer and his wife repeatedly without a response. “That half hour was probably one of the most traumatic half hours of my life.”

His wife, Betty, wasn’t answering her phone because armed police had arrived at their home and had ordered her to put her hands behind her head as they searched the house for intruders.

“It was quite traumatic for her,” he said.

Lieu said police and fire vehicles blocked the street when he arrived home, and officers were still combing the neighborhood.

“I got to see firsthand the enormous waste of resources. If some other emergency was happening they would have been short-handed, and every time one of these calls happens it costs the city money,” he said.

Several celebrities, including Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Simon Cowell, have been targets of similar swatting calls, and Lieu’s Senate district included the celebrity-studded areas of Beverly Hills, Bel-Air and Pacific Palisades.

Islam told the FBI that Lieu was targeted because he was pushing to increase penalties for making “swatting” calls.

“It was highly disturbing that this person targeted me because of legislation I chose to offer. I’m very pleased the FBI has put a stop to that with this person and hopefully others won’t repeat what he did,” Lieu said.

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House passes resolution supporting L.A.’s Olympics bid

The U.S. House approved a resolution by voice vote Tuesday supporting Los Angeles’ bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“Los Angeles knows what it takes to host the Olympics,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, the resolution’s sponsor, said in a statement. “We have proven we can do this and do it successfully.”

Nineteen members of California’s delegation co-sponsored the resolution.

The L.A. 2024 Olympic bid committee has been drumming up support for the city’s application for months. Los Angeles is competing with Paris, Rome and Budapest, Hungary. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to choose a host in September 2017.

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes ballot measure to legalize pot

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