In California, the “Jungle” Is Predictable

Gavin NewsomOne doesn’t expect the unexpected in California elections. A progressive Democrat will become governor; Dianne Feinstein will return to the Senate yet again; and so on. Nuances still matter, particularly at the congressional level, in part due to the “jungle primary” system, but nothing much has changed. Statewide, the ideological die, at least for now, is cast.

Perhaps the best news for Republicans, with the surprisingly strong showing of businessman John Cox, is that they will actually have a candidate on the November ballot for governor. Businessman Cox easily beat out the Democratic challengers to the front-running Democrat, former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom. Some conservatives, like Newt Gingrich, think that Cox has a serious shot at victory in November, but all GOP candidates combined pulled in barely 35 percent of the vote.

Here’s the reality: California Republicans, constituting barely a quarter of the electorate, now make up a smaller cohort than Independents. Combined with Independents who lean to the GOP, they perhaps could win 40 to 45 percent of the vote in November—still not good enough. The big money that once filled the coffers of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon now goes overwhelmingly to the other side: the top three Democratic gubernatorial candidates raised over $70 million, more than ten times what the GOP’s top candidate, the largely self-funded Cox, had drummed up by the end of last month.

Even more than money, the problem for Republicans is demographics, which suggest a continued decline of the state party. In the last decade, the state gained 2 million Hispanics and 1 million Asians—both groups now trending overwhelmingly Democratic—while losing almost 800,000 whites, the GOP’s vanishing base. Migration patterns show middle-aged, middle- and working-class families exiting a state increasingly dominated by the unmarried childless and older, affluent white voters, including many who have profited from the rise in housing prices and are the most bullish on the state’s future.

The Republican brand’s weakness was dramatized in the success of former state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner, a onetime Republican now running as an Independent for his old job. Poizner, who sold his GPS company to Qualcomm for $1 billion in 2000, came in first, with 43 percent of the vote. Another promising result was the first-place finish in the state superintendent’s race of school-reform advocate Marshall Tuck, also an Independent, against teachers’ union-backed Tony Thurmond. Poizner and Tuck will face the progressive money machine’s full fury in November, but each has resources with which to fight back. Such non-party candidates, suggests former GOP congressman Tom Campbell, could draw some moderate Democrats and help reestablish a modicum of policy debate.

At the top of the ballot, Newsom’s large plurality suggests that he will become the next governor. Given his strong financial support from the state’s public employees, the tech oligarchy, inner-city real estate developers, and Bay Area progressives, he represents the apotheosis of California gentry progressivism. Newsom’s showing displays how dominant the Bay Area machine, with its media, union, and tech support, has become. He swamped former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a charter school advocate, even beating him easily in L.A. (Villaraigosa’s handlers may have erred in promoting him primarily as an anti-Donald Trump candidate rather than as an independent reformer. All Democrats compete to show their hatred for the president.)

In the manner of the old Miller Lite commercial, Newsom is much like departing Governor Jerry Brown, but less filling. Brown may sometimes sound hysterical about climate change, recently suggesting that it would kill “billions,” but he has also been willing, sometimes, to speak hard truths, notably on fiscal issues. His stature allowed him to go off the progressive reservation—for example, shooting down egregious Title IX abuse—and get away with it. Newsom, a good-looking, callow opportunist, lacks this kind of uncalculated independence. When California’s economy was on the rocks, he seemed concerned about the state’s business climate, even visiting arch-rival Texas in search of inspiration. He expressed doubts about Brown’s out-of-control bullet train project. But as the economy improved, particularly for state workers and oligarchs, Newsom learned how to stop worrying and love the bullet train, though it is increasingly unpopular with voters. He has reinvented himself as a “futuristic” prospective governor, a kind of digital moonbeam who sees tech as the solution to all problems.

California’s economy is slowing some amid the national surge, but as long as it seems healthy, Newsom will feel little urgency to address the state’s serious long-term issues: pension-driven fiscal realities, a dearth of high-wage growthoutside the Bay Area, poorly performing schools, a huge homeless problem, and decaying infrastructure.

From a national perspective, the big California story is in Congress. Senator Feinstein’s reelection, based on her four-to-one margin over progressive Latino climatista Kevin de Leon, seems assured. Any Republicans who show up in November will likely back her. She will remain the most moderate, reasoned voice in the party, until she fades from the scene.

The real competition is at the House level. GOP seats are in play in seven districts that went for Hillary Clinton, mostly in suburban Southern California or the Central Valley. In many of these, an increasingly minority population spells trouble for Republicans. And with President Trump’s approval rating at roughly one-third among California voters, House Democrats have no reasonable fear of losing seats. In places like Orange County, Trump gets somewhat more support (37 percent), according to a recent Chapman University poll. Voters in this former GOP stronghold are evenly divided on whether the country would be better off under Democratic or Republican governance. Expect at least two to three California seats to flip, given the big Democratic edge in money and organization. GOP stalwarts like Devin Nunes and Kevin McCarthy won their primaries by sizable margins, though, and will be back to battle the Democrats in D.C.

With Republicans an afterthought, California’s Democrats seem poised to exert greater influence on the national stage. However wrongheaded the Golden State may seem to outsiders, it remains easily our most economically and culturally dominant state—and its massive influence likely will continue to push Democrats further left. The anti-Trump Resistance, consisting of media, oligarch-funded activists, academia, and government unions, regards the state as a role model. In the past, California Democrats have failed to win the presidential nomination, with the party choosing more pragmatic figures such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, candidates who could campaign effectively in what is now considered Trump country. But with many national Democrats increasingly contemptuous of red states, the door might open for a California presidential candidate. In 2020, that could mean three contenders—Senator Kamala Harris, presumptive-Governor Newsom, and L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti—crowding the stage. Of the three, Harris is clearly the front-runner. Part Asian, part black, and all San Francisco, she is an intersectional dream.

Yet as they consolidate control, California Democrats must face some profound contradictions, as the Marxists would say. The gentry—tech oligarchs, real estate speculators, and venture capitalists—stand comfortably with the left on symbolic race, gender, and environmental issues. But these party bankrollers could be hard-pressed if they face the prospect of higher taxes to pay for a state single-payer health-care system, massive housing subsidies, and Governor Brown’s choo-choo, not to mention the state’s ever-soaring pension costs. As Amazon is learning in Seattle, progressive politicos have figured out where to find the biggest piles of cash. Aggressive taxation of tech companies is already becoming a trend in Silicon Valley.

A stronger, motivated grass-roots Left could constitute the greatest immediate challenge to Governor Newsom. Many Californians, particularly millennials and minorities, face a lack of high-wage jobs, soaring rents, and essentially insurmountable barriers to homeownership. A majority of Californians, according to some surveys, express dissatisfaction with the state’s bifurcated economy. The disappearance of upward mobility makes these voters susceptible to embracing such things as rent control, higher minimum wages, free college, and free health care. They will support ever higher taxes on businesses and on generally white, affluent Californians. The call for new spending will become more problematic once the state comes back to earth from its Silicon Valley and real-estate inflation highs, which for now keep the operating budget in the black.

At some point, Newsom and the Democratic nomenklatura will have to deal with pervasive conditions of diminished opportunity, racial polarization, and fiscal weakness. When these realities eventually impinge, the state’s progressive rulers may find themselves on the defensive, and—if confronted with a plausible opposition—vulnerable, at long last.

Dianne Feinstein Blocks Self-Driving Car Deregulation

Dianne FeinsteinSenator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) smacked down her former Silicon Valley allies this week by blocking a federal deregulation that would have expedited the testing of self-driving cars.

Feinstein, as a 25-year California Democrat incumbent and the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee used her prerogative to block the “AV START Act,” which would have set up a friendly federal transportation regulatory structure to circumvent local restrictions for testing autonomous (self-driving) cars on America’s public roads.

Proponents of the bill thought they had bipartisan Congressional and White House support to expedite passage, due to the all-out efforts from hundreds of lobbyists representing 64 Silicon Valley companies, including big venture capital back start-ups and tech giants such as Alphabet, Apple, Tesla, and Uber.

Intel and Strategy Analytics presented an economic white paper in support of the federal takeover that forecast autonomous vehicles would generate $4 trillion from ride-hailing and $3 trillion from delivery and business logistics by 2050.

An analysis of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office data presented by L.E.K. Consulting revealed that American companies since 2007 have filed over 2,118 autonomous vehicle technology patents. Many filings are for Lidar laser sensors, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, image processing, computer vision, and advanced driver-assistance.

With a similar bill unanimously passing the House of Representatives in September, the Senate version was introduced on September 28 and moved through the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on November 28.

For her first 24 years in the U.S. Senate, Feinstein was viewed as a tireless advocate for Silicon Valley tech initiatives. But on November 1, Feinstein, threatened Silicon Valley executives that Congress would do something about foreign interference in elections through social media, if the tech industry failed to act.

Feinstein told general counsels from Facebook, Google, and Twitter at a Senate Hearing: “I must say, I don’t think you get it.” She argued that tech company platforms were responsible for foreign powers being able to use cyber-warfare during the 2016 presidential election to sow conflict and discontent all over the country.

Democrat Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna told the San Jose Mercury News that the 85-year-old Feinstein, as the oldest member of the U.S. Senate, does not represent progressive values on key issues including privacy, encryption, “Medicare for All,” and the new innovation economy.

Feinstein was also humiliated at the California Democrat Party Convention in late February, when she only received endorsement support for a fifth term from 37 percent of delegates; while California State Senate majority leader Kevin de León won 54 percent.

It is unclear if Senator Feinstein deliberately retaliated against Silicon Valley and its social justice warrior fellow travelers for failing to support her re-election effort. But Feinstein did rally several senior Democratic Senators, who now claim self-driving car technology is too unproven for a national roll-out through a federal takeover.

Feinstein’s opposition to allowing national driverless car tests carries extra Congressional weight, since the State of California has allowed testing on public roads since September 2014.

What had seemed like at least an easy victory for Silicon Valley now is rated at just a 32 percent chance of enactment, according to Skopos Labs.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Left and Lefter in California

california-flagThe California Democratic Party’s refusal to endorse the re-election of Senator Dianne Feinstein represents a breaking point both for the state’s progressives and, arguably, the future of the party nationwide. Feinstein symbolizes, if anyone does, the old Democratic establishment that, while far from conservative, nevertheless appealed to many mainstream businesses and affluent suburban voters. The rejection of Feinstein reveals the eclipse of the moderate, mainstream Democratic Party, and the rise of Green and identity-oriented politics, appealing to the coastal gentry. It offers little to traditional middle-class Democrats and even less to those further afield, in places like the industrial Midwest or the South. In these parts of the country, bread-and-butter issues that concern families remain more persuasive than gestural politics.

To its many admirers back east, California has emerged as the role model for a brave new Democratic future. The high-tech, culturally progressive Golden State seems to be an ideal incubator of whatever politics will follow the Trump era.

Certainly, California is an ideal place to observe this shift, as radicalism faces no restraints here. The Republican Party has little to no influence in politics and culture and not much even among business leaders. For the Democrats, this vacuum allows for a kind of internecine struggle resembling that of the Bolsheviks after the death of Lenin. And just as happened then, a new Stalinism of sorts seems to be emerging—in this case, to the consternation not only of conservatives but also of traditional liberals and moderates of the Feinstein stamp.

Yet as California Democrats exult in what they see as a glowing future, they are turning away from the models that once drove their party’s (and the state’s) success — a commitment to growth, upward mobility, and dispersed property ownership. California’s current prosperity is largely due to the legacy of Governor Pat Brown, who, a half-century ago, built arguably the world’s best transportation, water, and power systems, and created an incubator for middle-class prosperity. Ironically, the politician most responsible for undermining this achievement has been Pat’s son, Governor Jerry Brown. Long skeptical of his father’s growth-oriented, pro-suburban policies, Brown the Younger put strong constraints on growth, especially when these efforts concerned the fight against global warming — a quasi-religious crusade. Battling climate change has awakened Brown’s inner authoritarian; he has lauded the “coercive power of the state” and embraced “brainwashing” on climate issues.

Brown’s stridency on climate, however, does not extend to all leftist issues. Like Feinstein, Brown has some appreciation of the importance of infrastructure, such as the need to increase water supplies, and he exercises at least a modicum of caution on fiscal matters like the state’s gargantuan pension debt. He is not a strict identitarian, having vetoed an attempt to enact Title IX standards of evidence for campus sexual-assault cases, a measure embraced by the state’s vocal feminist leaders.

As Brown prepares to depart, and Feinstein struggles to retain office, a new dominant coalition — led by tech oligarchs, identity politicians, and Greens — is rising to usurp control of the party. This new coalition of the privileged and aggrieved marks a departure both from Pat Brown’s social democracy and his son’s more elitist but still measured politics.

State senator Kevin de León, the emergent leader of this new configuration and cat’s paw of billionaire Tom Steyer, the San Francisco hedge-fund billionaire epitomizes the new approach. Having made much of his fortune in oil sands and coal, Steyer is now the Democratic Party’s prime bankroller, and his largesse extends to the drive to impeach President Trump. He has made common cause with hard-Left politicians like de León, and even embraced unionism—as long as labor follows his extreme position on climate change.

Steyer and other oligarchs are working to eliminate the last vestiges of the old Democratic Party. Climate activists have been targeting, with some success, the so-called Mod Squad — centrist Democrat legislators from the state’s less-prosperous interior and working-class suburbs. This shrinking group, occasionally financed by energy, homebuilding, and other pillars of the old economy, sometimes holds the balance of power in Sacramento, and has managed to slow some of the most draconian climate measures.

De León’s enthusiastic embrace of climate-change dogma may seem odd for a politician whose impoverished district suffers from Los Angeles’s continued de-industrialization, hastened by strict environmental regulation and high energy costs. Instead of backing policies that would create more high-wage jobs, de León’s priorities are largely redistributive. This jibes with his support among public employees and from the militant California Nurses Association. He endorsed the union-backed single-payer health-care plan, a measure that assembly speaker Anthony Rendon tabled as impossibly expensive (it would more than double the state budget). Immigration is another key de León issue. He is a fervent supporter of illegal immigrants, in a state that houses one in fourof the nation’s total, bragging about his own relatives’ use of false IDs.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor and frontrunner in the governor’s race, also embraces these policies. After briefly trying to appeal to mainstream business, Newsom has fallen into line with Bay Area-dominated progressives and the big public unions on virtually every issue, including single-payer. His likely election suggests a continuation of California’s current drift, but without Brown’s occasional restraint and intelligence.

The Golden State’s progressive tilt would not be possible without demographic change. The state’s majority-minority makeup has made the capture of middle-class and moderate voters less important. As middle-class families leave California, the electorate is increasingly dominated by racial minorities — with whites, 70 percent of the population in 1970, now less numerous than Hispanics and destined to be roughly one-third of the population by 2030. California’s demography is more and more dominated by the poor and near-poor (roughly one-third of the population), the young and unattached, and a residual population of older whites, many luxuriating on generous state pensions or inflated property values.

What makes all this work is the growing power of the tech oligarchs and their more glamorous cousins in the Hollywood glitterati. The tech boom of the last decade has obscured the decline of California’s basic industries, such as energy and manufacturing. California’s above-average job performance since 2010 is almost entirely a combination of high-income employment growth in the Bay Area and the swelling ranks of low-wage service workers who serve them. The oligarchs, including tech investor Sam Altman, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Apple founder, have lined up behind de León. Tech will likely bankroll the pliable and well-heeled Newsom, who already gets cash from Airbnb, Twitter, and Salesforce.com.

This marriage of the poor and the new rich appears to be the dominant theme emerging in California. The oligarchs, as Greg Ferenstein has reported, don’t even pretend to believe in upward mobility for the masses. Instead, they favor policies — such as forced densification — that will house their largely young, childless workers, including the nation’s largest population of H1-B visa-holders. Measures such as State Senator Mark Wiener’s SB 827 would largely strip cities of their ability to control development anywhere near transit stops. Civil rights groups, mainstream environmental organizations, neighborhood associations, and cities themselves have come out in opposition, and even Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, a dedicated densifier, fears a backlash in the city’s remaining single-family neighborhoods. Yet the oligarchs and their YIMBY (“yes in my backyard”) allies, whom they generously fund, have backed the bill.

At its core, the oligarchs’ vision for California represents a kind of high-tech feudalism. Tech companies are starting to dominate sectors like electric and autonomous cars, even seeking monopolies in dense urban areas. They support limiting ownership and consumer choice, even as the bulk of automobiles remain gas-powered. In the longer term, the oligarchs have little interest in creating blue-collar jobs and would prefer to replace employment with algorithms. Deprived of work and unable to pay for housing, the working class and an ever-shrinking middle class would be bought off with income-maintenance payments — twenty-first-century alms for the poor.

Opponents of this new gentry agenda should appeal to the remnants of the middle class and the unsubsidized portions of the working class. Feinstein could win reelection by rallying such voters; her name recognition and ample campaign war chest could help her fend off de León this year. But even if she wins, it will likely be a last hurrah for the old Democrats. Tech oligarchs and activist CEOs have committed themselves to extreme environmentalism, identity politics, and open-borders immigration policy. California’s bevy of clueless celebrities, now celebrated by Time as “suddenly serious” for following the identitarian party line, have also climbed aboard.  As anyone knows who has suffered through awards shows or listened to interviews with stars, the entertainment industry—much like tech — has become homogeneous in its views.

The key issues for the glitterati are not income inequality, upward mobility, or the preservation of middle-class neighborhoods but the feverish pastimes of the already rich: gender and racial issues, climate change, guns, and anything that offends the governesses and schoolmarms of intersectionality. To the ranks of these over-exposed but influential voices, you can also add California’s media and most of its intelligentsia, who seem to get their talking points from progressive sources and work assiduously to limit the influence of moderate (much less conservative) views. With Silicon Valley increasingly able to control content and ever more willing to curb debate, the policy agenda of the state’s new elite may well become reality — a nightmarish one for millions of ordinary Californians.

CA Democrats Reject Feinstein; Signal State’s Leftward March Will Continue

Dianne FeinsteinWhat a difference a few decades make: in 1990, Dianne Feinstein was apparently too far left for California voters, losing a gubernatorial race to Republican Pete Wilson. Nearly 30 years later, she’s not left enough — at least for the state Democratic Party, which has refused to endorse her for a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. She received only 37 percent of delegates’ votes at the late February annual party convention — far short of the 60 percent needed for an endorsement. Supporters of State Senator Kevin de León, who nearly won the endorsement, serenaded Feinstein with the chant “Your time is up! Your time is up!” at the end of her speech.

Feinstein is often characterized as a centrist Democrat, though she has been reliably left of center. According to the American Conservative Union’s most recent congressional rankings, she scored an 8, on a scale where 100 represents a perfect conservative voting record. Her lifetime rating is 9.15. On the other side, left-leaning Americans for Democratic Action gives Feinstein an 85 rating, on a similar 100 scale. She scored 75 in 2015, 90 in 2014, 100 in 2013 (when she made the list of ADA Senate “heroes”), and a 95 in 2012.

With such a reliably left-wing voting record, why did Feinstein lose the support of the California Democratic Party? Maybe it’s because the party — though not necessarily its voters — is listing so far to port that it’s falling into the deep end. De León’s popularity at the convention was driven by several factors. He’s taken a harder line against the Trump administration than Feinstein, and he’s promoted himself as a young leader with more energy to fight the battles that the party is picking in 2018. De León is a steamrolling union organizer, while Feinstein is a comfortable-in-her-wealth multimillionaire. Insiders believe that de León could be an insurgent candidate who would stir up Trump’s Washington more than Feinstein has.

Since the Golden State became the Cerulean State, public-employee pensions have become a fiscal time bomb, taxation continues to increase, businesses have fled a hostile commercial and regulatory environment, the middle class is finding refuge elsewhere, the poverty rate is the nation’s highest, and the state’s quality of life has been ranked the worst in the nation. The state’s homeless problem is a national embarrassment, its housing crisis goes unaddressed, and its public school system is failing students and parents.

If the state Democratic Party’s shunning of Feinstein is any indication of how voters will mark their state and local ballots this year and in coming elections, these problems will only grow worse. California could become a 2020s version of a 1980s Rust Belt state, where economies, prospects, and populations recede at alarming rates. If the Democratic Party’s leftward swing indeed resonates with voters, California is in more trouble than anyone has previously thought.

Kerry Jackson is the Pacific Research Institute’s fellow in California studies.

This article was originally published by City Journal online

California Democratic Party isn’t backing Dianne Feinstein

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein failed to win the official endorsement of the California Democratic Party as she seeks her fifth term in Washington, but her supporters say it won’t hurt her with a broader swath of voters.

Party activists were more eager to back her primary challenger, state Senate leader Kevin de Leon, who is crafting himself as a fresh face with stronger progressive credentials. However, he too failed to earn the 60 percent support he needed to win the endorsement.

That means neither candidate will get the party’s seal of approval or extra campaign cash leading into the June primary. The decision came from more than 3,000 activists gathered for the party’s annual convention this weekend, an event aimed at generating enthusiasm for the midterm elections.

None of the four Democrats running to succeed Jerry Brown as governor secured an endorsement either. …

Click here to read the full article from CNBC

Two California Republican Congressmen Vote Against GOP Tax Reform

800px-US_Capitol_from_NWTwo California Republicans, Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), voted against the tax reform bill on Tuesday.

They were the only Republican members of California’s congressional delegation to do so. Every one of California’s Democrats did so, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) are also expected to vote against the bill.

Ten other Republicans also voted against the tax reform bill, most from other high-tax states, notably New York and New Jersey.

Both Issa and Rohrabacher are considered vulnerable in the 2018 midterm elections, after Hillary Clinton won their districts in 2016. Both are among seven Republicans in the Golden State who are being targeted by Democrats.

Issa was barely re-elected in 2018, and faces four Democratic challengers next year; Rohrabacher already faces seven Democratic challengers (plus two Republicans, one Libertarian, and an Independent) in next year’s primary. Notably, five of those Republicans still voted for the tax reform bill.

Rohrabacher has stated publicly that he opposes the tax reform bill because he is concerned that the partial repeal of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, and the cap on mortgage interest deductions, could see taxes raised on some of the residents of his district despite the lowering of income tax and corporate tax rates.

Issa opposes the bill for the same reason, but also publicly blamed Governor Jerry Brown and California Democrats for the dilemma facing California taxpayers.

One Republican who switched from “no” to “yes” was conservative Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), who voted against the original House version of the bill but supported the compromise bill drafted with the Senate because of revisions that addressed his concerns.

In a speech on the House floor, he said, in part:

The new version leaves the casualty loss, medical expense and student interest deductions intact.  No family needs to fear being ruined by taxes after a major declared disaster or illness, and graduates can continue to plan their lives knowing interest on their student loans will not be taxed.  The new bill eases the proposed limit on mortgage interest deductions and allows up to $10,000 of state and local taxes to be deducted – all important improvements for Californians.

Most importantly, the lower tax rates in this bill now more than compensate in almost every case for the remaining limits on state and local tax and mortgage interest deductions.  Even taxpayers who lose tens of thousands of dollars of deductions will still pay lower taxes than they do today.

The House will have to vote again on the bill, after two minor provisions in the legislation ran afoul of Senate parliamentary rules for reconciliation (which allows votes pertaining to budget issues to pass on a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority). Rohrabacher and Issa are expected to repeat their “no” votes.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Will Bay Area political crowd trump LA yet again?

Gavin newsomIt’s been a fait accompli that Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor and current lieutenant governor, will be California’s next governor after the iconic Jerry Brown heads off into the sunset next year. Moonbeam is a hard act to follow, having served as the state’s youngest and oldest chief executive, but it’s too bad California can’t at least muster a feisty and contentious political debate before crowning another Bay Area pol as successor.

You know, where politicians actually debate issues, take varying political stances and give voters a choice rather than a coronation.

It’s hard to understand Southern California’s inability to exert much clout at the highest levels of California government. Brown is from Oakland. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, the former state attorney general who got here start under the tutelage of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, already is touted as the inevitable Democratic nominee for president.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose slim accomplishments certainly are on par with those of Harris, is mostly garnering skepticism for his possible presidential run. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is from Marin County and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon is, of course, from Los Angeles, but he’s too busy dealing with an unfolding sexual-harassment scandal in his own chamber to have the time for a serious shot at her U.S. Senate seat.

De Leon and the low-key Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, have the top legislative spots, but they’ve mostly rubberstamped the governor’s priorities. No one would suggest that either man is a true power broker – or is on the fast track to the governor’s mansion or the U.S. Capitol. There’s little doubt that Southern California politicians play second fiddle to their Bay Area counterparts and don’t even put up a fuss about it.

They rarely set an agenda that’s distinct from the one set by their Bay Area betters, so perhaps that explains why a region with so many people can’t seem to keep up with the power of an area that’s far less populous. San Francisco Democrats and Los Angeles ones are both progressive – but their priorities should not be interchangeable. The demographics and economies are vastly different between the state’s two megalopolises.

The latest Public Policy Institute of California poll offers some mixed news for Southlanders. For instance, Newsom’s latest lead is far lower than expected. He is favored by 23 percent of surveyed voters, with former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, also a Democrat, coming in a surprisingly close second at 18 percent. The other contenders, including the two lackluster Republicans (John Cox and Travis Allen), are in single digits. With the top-two primary system, the top two vote-getters face off in the general election even if they are from the same party.

In the Senate race, Feinstein is besting de Leon by a two-to-one margin, and around half of the voters surveyed had never even heard of de Leon, which is perfectly understandable given his underwhelming tenure in the Capitol. De Leon did throw a really cool $50,000 party at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2014 to celebrate his inauguration as Senate president pro tempore, but apparently the “glitz-fest,” as the Sacramento Bee called it, didn’t help any lasting name identification.

On the surface, Villaraigosa’s competitiveness in the gubernatorial race does offer hope that a Southern California politician could once again lead the state. But don’t get your hopes up. He admirably has taken on the teachers’ unions to advance school reform, but he also touched the third rail of politics, when he called for “changes” to 1978’s property-tax-limiting Proposition 13. Instituting a “split roll,” for instance, would dramatically increase the tax bill paid by commercial property owners.

This is more than a policy problem. Villaraigosa’s path to the governor’s mansion involves rallying Southern Californians, Latinos and remaining conservative and Republican-oriented voters. The latter comprise a falling 26 percent of voters, but it’s a significant enough block to create a path to victory. But attacking Prop. 13 tax protection is a nonstarter for that group.

Last November, former Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez seemed to embrace a similar political strategy (Latinos, mod Dems, Southern Californians, Republicans) to take on Harris for the U.S. Senate race, but despite her more moderate positions, her Latina background and SoCal credentials, Sanchez could only muster 38 percent of the vote. Unless, Villaraigosa expands his appeal, he is likely to face a similar fate.

“It looks just like the Harris race that it’s preordained that the candidate from the Bay Area will get the position rather than a qualified Latino candidate from Southern California,” said Alan Clayton, a San Gabriel Valley-based redistricting expert. “The political class in California protects its own, and they are significantly from the Bay Area.”

For Southern Californians to have a greater voice in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., Southern California Democrats have to speak with a more regional voice – one that focuses on public-sector reform, fiscal responsibility and on working-class concerns (jobs, housing, etc.) rather than the often-bizarre fixations of San Francisco liberals. Until then, expect a county that’s more populous than 40 other states to remain the lapdog to the Bay Area political establishment.

Steven Greenhut is a Sacramento-based writer. 

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Kevin de León’s handling of sexual harassment scandal an issue

kevin de leon 2SACRAMENTO — Two days after state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León announced he would challenge fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in next year’s election, a sexual harassment scandal broke under his roof.

More than 140 women in and around the state Capitol signed an open letter on Oct. 17 and launched the We Said Enough campaign decrying the pervasive sexual harassment and abuse they have faced in their jobs in politics. But it didn’t take long for the women to hear the theory that their efforts were part of a well-oiled Feinstein machine kicking back an insurgent de León campaign.

“Yep, we’ve heard that rumor,” said Samantha Corbin, a leader in the We Said Enough campaign.

And, to be clear, Corbin said it’s not true. De León’s campaign said they didn’t start the rumor, nor do they believe it.

Corbin said the group has no intention of swaying any election. But she’s unapologetic that the sexual harassment scandal in Sacramento is creeping into California’s U.S. Senate race.

“Any candidate that puts themselves forward should be asked if they support finding solutions to ending systemic harassment and abuse, and what, specifically, they would advise,” Corbin said.

That’s why all eyes are on de León’s handling of the flood of accusations in the state Legislature. So far he’s getting mixed reviews on what some say could be a defining moment in his uphill campaign. De León has promised to have no mercy on any senator found to have violated the Senate’s sexual harassment policy. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

Sen. Feinstein likely to face challenge from the Left in 2018

Dianne FeinsteinJust hours after U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced she was running for re-election, progressives in the state called for a primary challenge to the long-serving Democrat.

For example, Bay Area Congressman Ro Khanna, D-Calif., reportedly asked Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich to run against the incumbent, believing the party needs someone further to the left to occupy the seat.

“There are other voices in our state who are far more in touch with the values,” Khanna told Politico.

While Feinstein has been a fixture of California politics for decades, her softer tone toward President Trump and stances on issues like national security and encryption have caused her to lose favor with some in her party.
“She was totally out of touch when the whole debate happened on encryption,’’ Khanna added, according to Politico, referencing the dialogue that took place in the aftermath of the San Bernardino terror attack. “She didn’t even understand some of those issues.”

Furthermore, she faced jeers from a town hall crowd this summer after suggesting that President Trump could become a “good president” if he would “learn” and “change.”

“Look, this man is going to be president most likely for the rest of this term,” the senator said at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club in August. “I just hope he has the ability to learn and to change and if he does he can be a good president. And that’s my hope.”

Following backlash, she was forced to clarify her remarks.

At 84, she is the oldest senator in the upper chamber and the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As some reporters noted, the announcement is seen as bad news for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, who were viewed as likely candidates if Feinstein decided to retire. De León in particular is thought to have been eyeing the seat, as he’s termed out of the state Senate next year.

The talks about a primary challenger come as Democrats nationally have been looking to revamp their image with fresh faces and “new blood” after Hillary Clinton’s defeat last November.

“Her policies are completely out of touch with California Democrats, and we think she’d be more at home in a Republican primary,” Corbin Trent of the Justice Democrats told Vox, expressing support for a primary challenger.

With California positioning itself as the center of the so-called “Resistance” against the Trump agenda in Washington, the stage could be set for a challenge to Feinstein from the left. But with support from top Democrats in the state like U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, along with a robust campaign infrastructure and strong name recognition, any effort to take her on will present a steep challenge.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Poll: State Dems want to oust Pelosi in 2018

Voter Views of California’s Three National Leaders in Washington

Pelosi:  State Democrats favor their party choosing someone else to serve as House leader after the 2018 elections.

Feinstein:  While voters rate her job performance positively, fewer than half are inclined to support a re-election bid.

Harris:  The freshman Senator’s job marks now exceed Feinstein’s, but most want her to remain in the Senate rather than run for president in 2020.

Data from Berkeley IGS Poll – Institute of Governmental Studies

California Democrats favor their party choosing someone other than Nancy Pelosi as House leader after the 2018 elections

California Democrats were asked their opinions about whether Nancy Pelosi should remain as House leader after next year’s elections or whether it would be better for their party to choose someone else. When posing this question, voters were divided into two random subsamples, with half asked the question under the scenario that the Democrats regain control of the House in the 2018 elections, and the other half asked the question assuming the Democrats do not regain control of the House.

In both settings, larger proportions of the state’s Democratic rank-and-file prefer their party to choose another Democrat as House leader rather than Pelosi. Were the Democrats to regain control of the House in 2018, 44% prefer their party choosing someone other than Pelosi as Speaker, while just 30% would like Pelosi to serve in that role. If the Democrats don’t regain control of the House next year, the proportion favoring the Democrats to choose someone other than Pelosi as their House leader grows to 50%.

Table 5

 

To view the entire poll, click here