L.A. Urges Return to Mask-Wearing Amid Winter Covid Spike

Los Angeles is urging that residents wear masks again in all indoor public settings amid a Covid-19 spike that’s expected to intensify in the winter months.

The county announced Thursday that it is once again “strongly recommending” people resume masking, although it is not requiring it in most indoor venues. However, masks are still mandated at health care and congregate-care facilities, for those infected in the last ten days, and in establishments that have imposed their own restrictions, county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said according to ABC7 News.

Los Angeles and many other progressive cities finally lifted their masks mandates a few months ago amid a decrease in Covid-19 contraction nationwide. Children enrolled in public pre-school and daycare in New York City, who were not vulnerable to the disease and not likely to spread it, were among the last groups to be freed of masks.

Last January, Los Angeles forced students to wear high-grade, non-cloth masks indoors and outdoors in K-12 public schools and be tested as a condition of returning to class.

On Thursday, the local seven-day average of daily new Covid-19 infections in Los Angeles increased to 100 per 100,000 citizens, up from 86 per 100,000 a week ago. The rate the previous week was 65 per 100,000 citizens, the outlet noted.

“Now it is strongly recommended that all individuals wear a high-quality mask that fits well in the following settings: in public indoor spaces; when using public transit, including buses, ride-shares, taxis and medical transport; correctional and detention facilities; and homeless and emergency shelters,” Davis said.

Davis warned that the number of reported cases is probably an undercount as many people test for the virus at home and don’t report a positive diagnosis to health officials. The number of Covid-positive patients being hospitalized is also growing in the county but reportedly only about 40 percent of them have been admitted because of Covid-related complications.

The county health officer told residents to be careful ahead of the holidays and when attending large gatherings.

While there is some evidence to suggest that wearing a well-fitting N95 mask might help curb transmission around the margins, research showsthat cheap cotton surgical masks, the kind the most commonly worn throughout the pandemic, are ineffective at preventing transmission.

Click here to read the full article at the National Review

McConnell Fends Off Leadership Challenge

He remains Senate GOP head, quashing bid by Scott, but vote shows caucus’ unrest.

Sen. Mitch McConnell was reelected as Republican leader Wednesday, quashing a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the Senate GOP campaign chief criticized after a disappointing performance in the midterm elections that kept Senate control with Democrats.

McConnell, of Kentucky, easily swatted back the challenge from Scott in the first-ever attempt to oust him after many years as GOP leader. The vote was 37-10, senators said, with one other senator voting present. McConnell is poised to become the Senate’s longest-serving leader when the new Congress convenes next year.

“I’m not going anywhere,” McConnell said after the nearly four-hour closed-door meeting. He said he was “pretty proud” of the outcome but acknowledged the work ahead. “I think everybody in our conference agrees we want to give it our best shot.”

At a GOP senators lunch Tuesday, Scott and McConnell traded what colleagues said were “candid” and “lively” barbs. The 10 Republican senators joining in Wednesday’s revolt against McConnell and voting for Scott included some of the most conservative figures and those aligned with former President Trump.

“Why do I think he won?” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), among McConnell’s detractors. “Because the conference didn’t want to change course.”

The unrest in the Senate GOP is similar to the uproar among House Republicans in the aftermath of midterm elections that left the party split over Trump’s hold on the party. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy won the nomination from colleagues to run for speaker, with Republicans seizing the House majority Wednesday, but he faces stiff opposition from a core group of right-flank Republicans unconvinced of his leadership.

Scott said in a statement that although the “results of today’s elections weren’t what we hoped for, this is far from the end of our fight to Make Washington Work.”

Retreating to the Capitol’s Old Senate Chamber for the private vote, the senators first considered, then rejected, a motion by a Scott ally, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, to delay the leadership votes until after the Dec. 6 runoff election in Georgia between Republican Herschel Walker and incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock that will determine the final makeup of the Senate.

Cruz said it was a “cordial discussion, but a serious discussion” about how Republicans in the minority can work effectively.

In all, 48 GOP new and returning senators voted. Retiring Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska missed the vote to be home after his office said his wife was recovering from a nonthreatening seizure.

Senators also elected the other GOP leadership posts. McConnell’s top posts ranks remained stable, with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) as GOP whip and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in the No. 3 spot as chairman of the GOP conference. Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines was elected to take over the campaign operation from Scott.

The challenge by Scott, who was urged by Trump to confront McConnell, escalated a long-simmering feud between Scott and McConnell over the party’s approach to try to reclaim the Senate majority.

Restive conservatives in the chamber have lashed out at McConnell’s handling of the election, as well as his iron grip over the Senate Republican caucus.

Trump has been pushing for the party to dump McConnell ever since the Senate leader gave a scathing speech blaming the then-president for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

McConnell has forcefully pushed back, blaming the Republicans’ problems on what he has called “candidate quality” after many of his preferred candidates were replaced by Trump-backed Republicans on the ballot. McConnell said Republicans put up the kinds of candidates who “frightened” independent and moderate voters.

Those voters held the view that “we were not dealing with issues in a responsible way, and we were spending too much time on negativity and attacks and chaos,” McConnell said earlier this week. “They were frightened.”

Among the many reasons Scott listed for mounting a challenge is that Republicans had compromised too much with Democrats in the last Congress — producing bills that President Biden has counted as successes and that Democrats ran on in the 2022 election.

The feud between Scott and McConnell has been percolating for months and reached a boil as election results trickled in showing there would be no Republican Senate wave, as Scott predicted, according to senior Republican strategists who were not authorized to discuss internal issues by name and insisted on anonymity.

The feuding started not long after Scott took over the party committee after the 2020 election. Many in the party viewed his ascension as an effort to build his national political profile and donor network ahead of a potential presidential bid in 2024. Some were irked by promotional materials from the committee that were heavy on Scott’s own biography.

Then came Scott’s release of an 11-point plan early this year, which called for a modest tax increase for many of the lowest-paid Americans, while opening the door for cutting Social Security and Medicare, which McConnell swiftly repudiated even as he declined to offer an agenda of his own.

The feud was driven in part by the fraying trust in Scott’s leadership, as well as poor finances of the committee, which was $20 million in debt, according to a senior Republican consultant.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Battles with Biden and Within New Majority Anticipated

Republicans secured the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, boosting the party’s ability to stymie President Biden’s agenda even though the midterm results stop well short of a mandate from the electorate.

It took more than a week for the Associated Press to determine the GOP had won the 218 seats needed to win control. The belated milestone underscored Republicans’ underwhelming performance in an election cycle when economic conditions, historical precedent and a sour national mood had been expected to give them a greater advantage.

The party’s gains mean Biden will contend with a divided government in the latter half of his current term. Democrats have cemented control of the Senate with 50 seats, and can further bolster their ranks if Sen. Raphael Warnock wins reelection in a Georgia runoff next month.

Republicans had projected confidence before last week’s election of a “red wave” that would yield them at least a dozen more House seats. But Democrats’ surprising strength, powered largelyby voter outrage over the Supreme Court’s reversal of federal abortion protections, blunted the GOP’s edge to single digits.

Republicans claimed their majority with a victory by Rep. Mike Garcia over Democrat Christy Smith in a northern Los Angeles County district that Biden won by 12 points in 2020. The AP called the race Wednesday, though official results will take longer. Six competitive races, including four California contests, remain to be called.

“Republicans have officially flipped the People’s House! Americans are ready for a new direction, and House Republicans are ready to deliver,” House GOP leader Kevin Mc-Carthy tweeted after his party clinched control of the chamber.

Biden congratulated McCarthy and pledged a willingness to collaborate with the GOP, reiterating his call to move past “political warfare.”

“The American people want us to get things done for them,” he said. “They want us to focus on the issues that matter to them and on making their lives better. And I will work with anyone — Republican or Democrat — willing to work with me to deliver results.”

A Republican House is widely expected to clash with the Democratic president on policy, including potential standoffs over raising the debt limit and providing more aid to Ukraine. GOP members have also threatened impeachment proceedings against Biden and members of his Cabinet, and have vowed to launch multiple investigations, particularly into allegations against Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

But the GOP confer-ence’s relatively small majority could exacerbate its ideological fissures. Many of the incoming members from deep-red districts hail from the party’s right flank and are loyal to former President Trump, even as prominent Republicans grow increasingly vocal about his drag on the GOP. A narrow majority means that a small number of defectors can have an outsized impact on the party’s agenda.

McCarthy, who has doggedly pursued the speakership, has played down disappointment that Republicans didn’t pick up a larger number of seats.

“Remember, in the House, they don’t give gavels out by ‘small,’ ‘medium’ and ‘large.’ They just give you the gavel,” he told Fox News’ Jesse Watters, referring to the symbol of House control. “And we’re going to be able to govern.”

But his party’s slim margin leaves the Bakersfield Republican little room for error as he seeks the votes to become the next speaker. Though McCarthy had assiduously worked to strengthen alliances with the GOP’s most conservative faction, he nevertheless faced open hostilities from the right after he led the party to a lackluster midterm showing.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a staunch Trump ally, blasted McCarthy last week, tweeting that he represented “FLIGHT over FIGHT when the chips are down” and “is not a Speaker for these times.”

McCarthy cleared the first hurdle for the job on Tuesday after House Republicans voted for him to be nominated speaker. But with roughly 30 conservatives backing a challenge by Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, it is clear McCarthy does not yet have the 218 votes necessary to cement his place as top House leader.

“My bid to run for speaker is about changing the paradigm and the status quo,” Biggs tweeted before the vote. “Minority Leader McCarthy does not have the votes needed to become the next speaker of the House and his speakership should not be a foregone conclusion.”

The speaker of the next Congress will officially be determined by a vote of the entire House in January.

The current speaker — Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco — agreed in 2018 to step down from House Democratic leadership by the end of 2022. Her spokesman said she would announce her plans Thursday.

“House Democrats defied expectations with an excellent performance: running their races with courage, optimism and determination,” Pelosi said Wednesday. “In the next Congress, [they] will continue to play a leading role in supporting President Biden’s agenda — with strong leverage over a scant Republican majority.”

Republicans had reason for high hopes this election cycle. Large majorities of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, polls have shown, an indicator that theoretically should bode well for the party that does not hold the White House. Persistent inflation gave them an opportunity to run on the economy — an area where many people tend to favor the GOP over Democrats.

Biden threatened to be an albatross for Democrats. Only twice in the decades after World War II has the party that controlled the White House gained seats in Congress — in 1998 and 2002, when the approval ratings for Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively, were in the 60s. Biden’s ratings, in contrast, have been in the low 40s.

That Democrats performed so well — not picking up House seats, but avoiding significant losses — makes this midterm even more of an anomaly, said Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst with Inside Elections, a nonpartisan newsletter.

“For the first time, it really does feel like midterm voters were willing to get beyond their dissatisfaction with the president,” he said.

The GOP’s underperformance was most apparent in its failure “to make inroads into places that they were hoping would be most competitive. … They were unable to claw back the suburbs. And they were unable to make New England Republicans a reality again. And they were unable to dislodge quite a few strong Democratic incumbents in places that they had hoped they could.”

Trump, launching his 2024 presidential bid this week, cheered Republicans’ House takeover, but acknowledged they should have done better.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Kevin McCarthy Wins GOP Nomination for House Speaker Amid Party Factions

 Republican leader Kevin McCarthy won the nomination Tuesday for House speaker, clearing a first step with majority support from his colleagues, but he now faces a weeks-long slog to quell right-flank objections before a final vote in the new year.

McCarthy has led House Republicans this far, and with the party now on the cusp of majority control, he has a chance to seize the gavel from Nancy Pelosi if Democrats are defeated.

The GOP leader won a 188-31 vote, with ballots cast by new and returning lawmakers, but the challenges ahead are clear. McCarthy will need to grind out support from no fewer than 218 lawmakers from his slim ranks when the new Congress convenes in January, leaving just a few votes to spare.

“We’re going to have the ability to change America,” McCarthy said, upbeat as he entered the private meeting.

He noted backing from right-flank Republicans Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as part of his “vast support.”

But Republican leaders are facing an intense backlash on Capitol Hill over their disappointing performance in the midterm elections, when McCarthy’s promises of a GOP sweep that would transform Washington collapsed. Instead, the House could have one of the slimmest majorities in 90 years, leaving McCarthy exposed to challengers.

The fallout is spilling down-ballot into other Republican leadership races and into the Senate, where Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will face a challenge from GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the party’s campaign chairman, in Wednesday’s elections. Scott announced his bid at a party lunch Tuesday.

The former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, announced he was challenging McCarthy, saying Americans want a “new direction.”

“The promised red wave turned into a loss of the United States Senate, a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives, and upset losses of premiere political candidates,” Biggs said in a statement. “McCarthy does not have the votes needed to become the next Speaker of the House and his speakership should not be a foregone conclusion.”

Many in the Republican Party are blaming their losses on Donald Trump, the former president who endorsed hundreds of candidates, many of them far-right contenders rejected by voters. Trump is expected to announce his 2024 bid for the White House from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Tuesday evening.

It’s not just McCarthy whose leadership is in question but his entire team. This includes Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., the campaign chairman who traditionally would be rewarded with a leadership spot but finds himself in a three-way race for GOP whip that was forced into a second-round of voting.

The No. 2 Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, had an easier time, winning the majority leader spot uncontested, by voice vote. He pledged that House Republicans, if they win the majority, will launch “oversight necessary to hold the Biden Administration accountable.”

And one of Trump’s top allies in the House, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York — the third-ranking House Republican and the first lawmaker to back Trump in a 2024 run — is working to fend off rival Rep. Byron Donalds, a Black Republican from Florida seen by many lawmakers as a potential new party leader.

A self-described “Trump-supporting, liberty-loving, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Black man,” Donalds said after a closed-door forum late Monday he has enough support for the race with Stefanik to be close.

Trump backs McCarthy for speaker, but the two have had a rocky relationship, and even Trump’s support is no guarantee McCarthy will reach the needed 218 votes when the new Congress convenes, particularly if Republicans win the House with just a slim, few-seat majority that would leave him no cushion for detractors.

At least one Trump ally, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, said he’s voting no on McCarthy.

It’s a familiar dynamic for House Republicans, one that befell their most recent Republican speakers — John Boehner and Paul Ryan — who both retired early rather than try to lead a party splintered by its far-right flank.

McCarthy survived those earlier battles between party factions, but he was forced to back out of a bid for the speaker’s job in 2015 when it was clear he did not have support from conservatives.

The weeks ahead promise to be a grueling period of hardball negotiations with the Freedom Caucus and rank-and-file Republicans as McCarthy tries to appease them and rack up the support he will need in the new year.

In a sign of how desperate Republicans are to bolster their ranks, some made overtures to conservative Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas to switch parties and join the GOP.

“They just said, ’name your price,″” Cuellar told reporters. “I’m a Democrat.”

The conservative Freedom Caucus lawmakers, who typically align with Trump, are prepared to extract demanding concessions from McCarthy before giving him their backing. They have a long list of asks — from prime positions on House committees to guarantees they can have a role in shaping legislation.

“I’m willing to support anybody that’s willing to change dramatically how things are done here,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the chairman of the Freedom Caucus and a Trump ally, said after meeting privately with McCarthy.

But even rank-and-file lawmakers are assessing their choices for speaker, a position that is second in line to the president.

“I don’t just automatically assume heir apparent, necessarily,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., who said he is still studying his choice for House speaker.

“We are voting for somebody who is going to be two heartbeats from the presidency,” he said.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNewsLA

Pelosi Says Members Urging Her to Consider House Leadership Again

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday her congressional colleagues are encouraging her to run for another term as Democratic leader.

Why it matters: The comment is the starkest indication yet that Pelosi is mulling another run for the position she’s held variably as speaker and minority leader for nearly two decades.

What she’s saying: In a CNN “State of the Union” interview, Pelosi said “of course” she will make a decision about re-election to the position before the Democrats’ leadership elections on Nov. 30.

  • “People are campaigning, and that’s a beautiful thing, and I’m not asking anyone for anything,” Pelosi said, “My members are asking me to consider doing that.”
  • “Let’s just get through the [2022 midterm] election,” she added.

Between the lines: Whether Democrats keep the majority in the House is expected to have a significant impact on Pelosi’s decision-making.

  • She is much more likely to stay if she can be the speaker than the House minority leader.
  • “The Speaker will make an announcement when she makes an announcement,” Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill said in a statement. “Until then, let’s all enjoy watching Kevin McCarthy lose a speakership his party hasn’t even won in the first place.”
  • Asked on Sunday whether McCarthy has what it takes to be speaker, Pelosi said, “No, I don’t think he has it.”

State of play: Roughly 20 House races remain uncalled by the Associated Press as of Sunday. Neither party has reached the 218 seats needed to take the majority.

  • Democrats would have to win three-quarters of those seats to keep the House — a long shot, but not out of the question.
  • “They’ve been measuring for draperies. They’ve been putting forth an agenda. They haven’t won it yet,” Pelosi said Sunday.

Click here to read the full article on Axios

Newsom Resumes His Homelessness Crusade

As he was celebrating his landslide re-election last Tuesday night, a reporter asked Gavin Newsom what his most important issue would be during his second term.

He quickly replied that it would be confronting homelessness and the state’s chronic shortage of housing.

It was a déjà vu moment. Nearly three years earlier, Newsom had devoted virtually all of his second State of the State address to those issues, particularly the many thousands of people camped on the streets and sidewalks of California’s major cities.

“Let’s call it what it is, a disgrace, that the richest state in the richest nation — succeeding across so many sectors — is failing to properly house, heal and humanely treat so many of its own people,” Newsom told legislators, while outlining a series of proposals he wanted them to enact.

“The biggest risk is not taking a risk on homelessness,” Newsom later told reporters. “The biggest risk is denying the reality that we see on the streets and sidewalks across the state. The biggest risk is abdicating responsibility, pointing fingers.”

However, just a few weeks after Newsom delivered that speech, he declared a state of emergency as the murderous COVID-19 pandemic hammered the state. He shut down much of the state’s economy to limit spread of the disease and the pandemic became his preoccupation for the next two years while the state’s worst-in-the-nation homelessness crisis deepened.

A few days before winning re-election last week, Newsom stepped back into the homelessness crisis in a big way — harshly criticizing local government officials for failing to write aggressive and effective plans to spend state funds to reduce the number of unhoused people.

“Californians demand accountability and results, not settling for the status quo,” Newsom said in a statement as he suspended distribution of the funds. “As a state, we are failing to meet the urgency of this moment. Collectively, these plans set a goal to reduce street homelessness 2% statewide by 2024. At this pace, it would take decades to significantly curb homelessness in California — this approach is simply unacceptable. Everyone has to do better — cities, counties, and the state included. We are all in this together.”

Newsom was even more pointed in a Los Angeles Times interview, saying, “Deliver damn results. … It’s a crisis. Act like it. Everybody step up. I’m not the mayor. You want me to come in? I’ll do the job. I’ll do it. Happily. I’ve been going into cities cleaning up encampments. Has anyone gotten the hint? If someone did that to me when I was mayor, I’d be like, ‘OK, I got it.’”

Newsom’s action touched off angry reactions from local officials, who complained that he was seemingly “pointing fingers” in violation of his 2020 injunction.

“Now is not the time to play politics when people’s lives are at stake,” Carolyn Coleman, CEO of the League of California Cities, replied to Newsom. “Failing to release state funding will not put roofs over the heads of Californians or deliver desperately needed supportive services.”

Polls tell us that homelessness — or at least its squalid visibility — looms large in the public’s consciousness and it was a significant factor in this year’s elections. Newsom didn’t have to worry about his own re-election, but it was the pivotal issue in the hard-fought battle for the Los Angeles mayoralty and figured in other local campaigns.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Karen Bass Moves Ahead of Rick Caruso in L.A. Mayor’s Race

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass overtook businessman Rick Caruso in the seesaw battle to be mayor of Los Angeles, with Friday’s tally putting the veteran lawmaker 4,384 votes ahead of the real estate developer in a contest that will not be settled until next week at the earliest.

The new totals from county election officials put Bass ahead by a fraction, 50.38% to 49.62%, for the first time since Caruso took a slim advantage in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Bass has now bested Caruso in the last two updates from the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office.

Going into Friday, Caruso held a tiny lead of one-half percentage point, or 2,695 votes. The fourth lead change in less than 72 hours tended to affirm pre-election predictions that a winner might not be known for a week or more after last Tuesday’s election day. The L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office promises another updated count Saturday.

With only about 30,000 votes added to the mayoral tote board Friday, Caruso’s supporters cautioned against reading too much into the new totals. But Bass partisans sounded buoyant that despite the modest overall numbers, their candidate had taken 60% of the votes revealed since Thursday.

Independent analysts suggest that a minimum of 300,000 ballots remain to be counted, the vast majority of them mail-ins. Bass pulled from behind in the vote count in the June primary on the strength of mail-in votes, and the new totals this week — with the congresswoman gaining three-fifths of the total 82,510 new votes over two days — suggested a possible repeat of that pattern.

“Give me one more [vote batch] like these last two and it will officially be a trend,” said Paul Mitchell, an expert in voting patterns who has been closely tracking the L.A. election. “It becomes increasingly hard for Caruso to claw back, and makes it hard to come up with any intellectually credible justification of why these ballots should start changing course.”

The new frontrunner’s campaign manager, Jenny Dellwood, said the Bass team “continues to feel great about the numbers, and Karen is optimistic and ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work.”

In the race for L.A. county supervisor in the 3rd District, West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath also pushed into a narrow lead with the new vote totals Friday. Her 670-vote advantage over State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), if it holds, would keep the five-member board all female.

“I’m so grateful to the voters of District 3 for their confidence and support,” Horvath said in a statement. “We are confident that when every vote is counted and certified, we will win this race and bring much needed change to L.A. County.”

In another high-profile county race, Sheriff Alex Villanueva continued to lag far behind challenger Robert Luna, leaving his chance of winning a second term in considerable doubt. The latest batch of ballots had Luna up more than 235,000 votes.

The two would-be mayors have presented a study in contrasts since voting concluded Tuesday: Bass hunkering down with her family and staff members and Caruso spending at least some of his day presenting himself to Angelenos as a kind of mayor-in-waiting.

On Wednesday, the 63-year-old mall developer folded into a pastrami sandwich at Langer’s Deli west of downtown. On Friday, he dropped in on a Veterans Day parade, greeting the crowd with his golden retriever Hudson and sharing a brief greeting with Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was riding in the parade and has one month left in office.

Bass, who would be the first female mayor in L.A.’s nearly 250-year history, hasn’t been seen by the press since her election night speech and has been relatively silent compared with her opponent. The veteran House member “has been catching up on her personal life and spending time with family,” said spokesperson Sarah Leonard Sheahan. “Today she held a luncheon for her staff to express her appreciation.”

On Friday, hours before the latest tally was released, Caruso stood on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, waving to veterans taking part in parade and posing for photos with fans who approached the mayoral candidate.

“This is exactly what we were expecting,” Caruso said. “We’re gonna go up and down as these ballots get counted. … We’re going to be on a roller coaster for a while. But I’m very optimistic.”

Caruso’s interview with reporters was interrupted when Garcetti passed by, wearing his Navy Reserve uniform and sitting atop the back of a convertible that rolled down Laurel Canyon.

“Look who it is!” Caruso said, walking over to shake the mayor’s hand.

The two had earlier exchanged texts and, after shaking hands on the parade route, agreed to soon connect on the phone. Garcetti said he had also been in touch with Bass and that his staff and city department heads had begun to work with both camps to smooth the way for a transition that will be completed with the swearing in of a new mayor on Dec. 12.

Meanwhile in other races, city attorney candidate Hydee Feldstein Soto continued to lead attorney Faisal Gill. Feldstein Soto has 57.7% of the vote, to Gill’s 42.2%, according to Friday’s results.

In the City Council race for a Glassell Park to Hollywood seat, labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martinez maintained his edge over Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who is vying for a third term. Soto-Martinez leads 53.3% to O’Farrell’s 46.7%.

On the Westside, Traci Park maintained a 9-percentage-point lead over attorney Erin Darling in the race to succeed City Councilmember Mike Bonin.

In the race to replace Councilmember Paul Koretz for a Fairfax to Bel-Air seat, political aide Katy Young Yaroslavsky continued to lead attorney Sam Yebri, 57% to 42.9%.

Attorney Tim McOsker also maintained a significant lead over neighborhood council member Danielle Sandoval, with McOsker at 65.4% and Sandoval at 34.6%.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Chinese company is found guilty of bribing ex-LA Councilman Jose Huizar

Owned by fugitive billionaire Huang Wei, the company showered Huizar with dirty cash, prosecutors said

A Chinese real estate company was convicted on Thursday, Nov. 10, of federal charges of bribing former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar with cash and gambling trips in exchange for his support in getting approval for a towering downtown L.A. skyscraper.

Shen Zhen New World I, owned by fugitive developer Wei Huang who fled to China, faces millions of dollars in fines in its  sentencing at Los Angeles federal court on Jan. 23, 2023. Jose Huizar faces trial next February on federal bribery and fraud charges.

A Los Angeles federal jury on Thursday found Shen Zhen New World I guilty of eight counts including honest services wire fraud, interstate and foreign travel in aid of bribery, and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.

Federal prosecutors have convicted nine defendants as a result of “Operation Casino Loyale,” a broad corruption investigation into Los Angeles City Hall by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A thick trial memo written by federal prosecutors recently unveiled dramatic new fireworks, alleging that Huizar was so entangled with Huang that he traveled with the billionaire Huang to Las Vegas 19 times.

Billionaire Huang planned to build a 77-story tower on the site of the L.A. Grand Hotel downtown, and federal prosecutors said the company bribed the ex-councilman to smooth the way. Prosecutors said Huang allegedly gave Huizar $1.5 million, including $250,000 in casino chips and a loan which Huizar never paid back.

An earlier conviction in June involved real estate developer Dae Yong Lee and one of his companies, found guilty of federal criminal charges for allegedly providing $500,000 in cash to Huizar and his special assistant in exchange for their help in resolving a labor organization’s appeal involving a downtown Los Angeles development project.

Devastating testimony in recent days by Huizar’s estranged wife, Richelle Rios, detailed her suspicion that her husband was involved in an extra-marital affair, and in August 2013 she learned that Huizar was being sued by a former aide alleging sexual harassment. The woman sought between $600,000 and $1 million to settle with her ex-boss, Rios said.

Because Huizar was about to run for his third and final four-year term on the Los Angeles City Council — and news of the lawsuit could potentially torpedo his campaign — Huizar and his associates were worried, Richelle Rios testified.

Rios, who did not face charges, said she was called to a meeting with her husband, and then-Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan who is also accused of wrongdoing, and billionaire Huang — known in Huizar’s circle as “Chairman Huang.”

The topic of the meeting: How Huang could “help in resolving the lawsuit,” Rios testified.

“They wanted to know if I was going to stay in the marriage and would I stand with (Huizar),” Rios, 53, told the jury.

She said she felt “humiliated, angry and devastated” about the situation, but agreed. Huizar was able to privately resolve the suit and was re-elected.

Around that time, Huizar began traveling with Huang to Las Vegas and elsewhere on private jets for weekend gambling trips, Rios said.

After one such trip, Rios testified, she found “a stack of cash” in hundreds at their home. She attempted to speak to her husband about it, but the conversation quickly turned “unpleasant,” she told jurors. Another time, she said, she found a wad of hundred-dollar bills about an inch thick hidden in a traveler’s belt in a pocket in one of Huizar’s suits.

Opening statements began Thursday, Oct. 27 in the federal trial against Huang’s company and ended on Nov. 10 with his company found guilty.

The government’s trial memorandum, filed with the U.S. District Court on Oct. 17, outlined the evidence federal prosecutors  presented. The case included voluminous records, and the new details alleged that the relationship between the powerful council member and the powerful billionaire was significantly closer than previously reported.

A federal prosecutor told the jury that the China-based hotel company owned by Huang provided Huizar with over $1 million in bribes, trips on private jets and “casino chips and prostitutes” in exchange for his official support of a downtown L.A. skyscraper project.

Huang wanted to build the tallest skyscraper on the West Coast at West 3rd and Figueroa streets, where the Huang-owned Grand Hotel still stands.

The defense said that L.A. city officials “universally loved” Huang’s proposed project, so “there was no reason to bribe anyone” to approve it.

Shen Zhen New World I was charged by the Department of Justice with interstate and foreign travel in support of bribery, devising and participating in a scheme to defraud the city of Los Angeles and to deny its citizens of Huizar’s honest services.

The trial offered a glimpse into the alleged criminal relationship between the billionaire real estate developer and the high-rolling former councilman, whose District 14 included much of downtown and is now represented by Councilman Kevin de Leon who, himself, is caught in a more recent City Hall scandal.

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, who served on the L.A. City Ethics Commission, said earlier during the trial that  federal prosecutors were trying to present evidence showing that Huizar had a relationship with the billionaire real estate developer that stretched well beyond what has previously been reported.

“I think what (federal prosecutors) are really trying to show is closeness and coziness and the possibility of favors and favoritism and preferential access,” Levinson said.

Representatives for Huizar and Shen Zhen New World I didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment during the trial.

Huang, who also maintains a residence in the upscale San Gabriel Valley suburb of San Marino, did not appear in court before he vanished, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, who added that charges against Huang will remain pending.

“It will be a criminal trial, and it’s just (that) the defendant is a corporate entity,” Mrozek said in late October. “You can’t put a corporate entity in prison, but you can — if it’s convicted — obtain another sanction against it like probation, court supervision, fine and restitution.”

On the opening day of the trial, federal prosecutors said that Huang allegedly provided Huizar and his special assistant George Esparza with a “lineup of prostitutes for their choosing” during the trips, adding that “It would become a recurring theme of their trips together.”

Prosecutors alleged that Huang’s company provided Huizar with casino gambling chips cash, flights on private jets, lavish meals and trips to Las Vegas. In exchange, prosecutors alleged, Huang expected Huizar to hurry the city approval process for his L.A. Grand Hotel commercial and residential project.

“The stream of bribes turned into a flood” as Huang lavished Huizar with gifts, including a 10-day trip to Australia, visits to golf resorts, luxury suites, cash and private gambling in Las Vegas hotels, Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Castañeda alleged.

According to the prosecutor’s troubling memo released before the trial began, Huizar used his own family members to allegedly launder bribes that prosecutors claim Huizar got from Huang.

“Huizar consistently concealed the benefits he received, and his relationship with Mr. Wei Huang tends to demonstrate that Huizar understood that the money he received was for a corrupt purpose,” the federal prosecutors’ memo said.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Daily News

‘GTA’ Police Chase Suspect Steals Pickup Truck on Live TV in LA County

A police chase suspect went on a dangerous 2-county crime spree, including breaking into multiple vehicles, backing into a cop car and breaking into someone’s house – all to avoid getting in handcuffs.

The suspect, 32-year-old Johnny Anchondo, who was initially wanted by police in Fullerton led officers on a chase before being cornered into an apartment complex parking lot in the northern part of Anaheim. Despite being cornered in the parking lot, Anchondo refused to surrender as he backed into one of the cop cars and then drove off in a white van.

The dangerous pursuit later became a 2-county chase as the suspect drove through parts of Fullerton, Anaheim and Santa Ana before ditching the white van in Whittier. Viewers commenting on FOX 11’s live streams as the crime spree unraveled compared the police chase to a popular video game series Grand Theft Auto.

After leading police on a brief foot chase, Anchondo went inside a nearby home, was confronted by the people inside, including two dogs, and got inside a white pickup truck that was parked in the drive to once again drive off in a possibly stolen vehicle. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department went on to take over the later parts of the lengthy chase.

FOX 11’s Gina Silva spoke with the carjacking victim. He said he had purchased the pickup truck three weeks before the incident, saying he got the vehicle to aid his family’s landscaping business.

“It was just hard work,” said Andres Benitez, the man whose truck got stolen. “This was my goal since two years ago.”

According to Benitez, the suspect broke into the house trying to evade police. With his mother home, Benitez brandished a knife to escort the suspect out of the home. As the suspect was led out of the house, the suspect snatched Benitez’s car key and ran off with the key and the vehicle.

The dogs who were involved in the tense struggle are OK, Benitez told FOX 11. While devastated after getting his pickup truck stolen, he playfully told FOX’s Gina Silva he was “disappointed” that the family’s pit bull didn’t try to stop the suspect.

Anchondo was eventually cornered by law enforcement at a gas station in San Gabriel Valley. After a brief and tense standoff, he was eventually placed in custody around 6 p.m. Anchondo was being held on a parole violation. 

GoFundMe page has been launched for Benitez after he got his work truck stolen. Those looking to help can click here for more information.

Click here to read the full story at Fox News

Election 2022: Newsom and abortion rights measure score easy victory, gambling falls flat

Props. 1, 31 swept to victory, Props. 26, 27 went down in defeat

Gov. Gavin Newsom coasted easily to a second term as California’s governor Tuesday evening, in an election in which voters voiced their support for abortion rights loud and clear but soundly rejected an expensive push to legalize betting on sports.

The Associated Press called the race for Newsom — a heavy favorite over Republican challenger Sen. Brian Dahle — almost as soon as polls closed. Democrats unsurprisingly also swept California’s other statewide offices, and incumbent Alex Padilla cruised to victory over Republican challenger Mark Meuser in the Senate race.

“The Democratic party just has another boost of political capital to go back to Sacramento and keep doing what they’re doing,” said Melissa Michelson, a political science professor at Menlo College. Newsom’s decisive victory, coming on the heels of beating a recall attempt last year, also gives him a strong launching pad for a potential future presidential run, Michelson said.

Proposition 1, which explicitly guarantees the right to an abortion by adding it to the state’s constitution, passed by a landslide. On the other hand, Props. 26 and 27, both of which would have allowed sports gambling, fell flat.

Newsom, who had little need to put resources into his re-election campaign for governor, instead turned much of his focus this season to supporting abortion rights. After the polls closed Tuesday, he celebrated at pro-Prop. 1 watch party in Sacramento.

“We have governors that won their reelections tonight in other states that are banning books, that are banning speech, that are banning abortion, and here we are in California moving in a completely different direction,” Newsom said at the event, according to the Associated Press. “That’s a deep point of pride.”

With the battle for Congress shaping up to be much tighter than expected, California’s House races could have a significant impact on the outcome. Democrat Adam Gray had a slight lead over Republican John Duarte in the newly drawn San Joaquin District 13. In Orange County, Republican Michelle Steel and Democrat Jay Chen were neck-and-neck. Despite a backlash from conservatives for his vote to impeach President Trump, Central Valley Republican incumbent David Valadao held an early lead over Democrat Rudy Salas.

It will take some time for California’s final election results to roll in, as counties still have to count mail-in ballots that may arrive up to seven days after Election Day. Statewide, 28% of ballots had been returned as of Tuesday, according to Political Data, Inc., which tracks voter data.

Dahle, a state senator from a family of ranchers in Lassen County, faced huge odds from the outset in his bid to unseat Newsom. Californians haven’t elected a Republican governor since Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, and, just weeks before the election, Dahle was still an unknown to many voters.

In a Public Policy Institute of California poll taken right before the election, 52% of likely voters said they approve of the way Newsom is handling his job, while 45% said they disapprove. Perhaps the biggest storyline was how Newsom focused more energy on confronting red-state rival governors such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis, who also cruised to re-election Tuesday, over abortion and other social issues in what could be a potential preview of the 2024 presidential campaign.

Prop. 1’s victory also was no surprise in a state that heavily supports abortion rights. The measure isn’t likely to have an immediate effect, as the California constitution already protects the right to privacy — which has been interpreted to cover abortion — and the state’s 2002 Reproductive Privacy Act also guarantees a woman’s right to choose. By voting to formally enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, though, Californians sent a firm message that they stand behind the principle.

“Voters used their voice to say loud and clear they support access to abortion and contraception — safeguarding people’s rights for generations to come,” Jodi Hicks, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a statement.

Abortion became a cornerstone of this election when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year, rolling back 50 years of abortion rights. The issue immediately became a key piece of politicians’ campaigns in California and across the nation, showing up in mailers, stump speeches and TV ads seemingly everywhere voters turned. Democrats hoped abortion would fire up voters and increase turnout, and even deployed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help spread the word with an event at a San Francisco Planned Parenthood facility.

Prop. 31, which would uphold California’s ban on flavored tobacco products, also scored an easy victory Tuesday. Two years after Newsom signed a law banning the sale of the flavored products — which critics say help hook kids on smoking — the tobacco industry gathered enough signatures to place a referendum on the ballot asking voters to overturn it. But Californians showed little willingness to do so. As of late October, 58% of likely voters said they’d uphold the ban, and just 32% said they’d vote to kill it, according to a poll by the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.

The one ballot measure projected to be a tight race was Prop. 30, which would have taxed the richest Californians to fund electric vehicle rebates and other environmental initiatives. Advocates said it would help improve air quality, while opponents — including Newsom — worried it would drive wealthy Californians out of the state. Lyft, which along with other ride-sharing companies must use zero-emission vehicles for at least 90% of its miles by 2030, bankrolled the measure. The measure appeared headed for defeat Tuesday night.

The dueling measures for sports gambling also failed to get enough voter support. After more than $556 million in fundraising for and against Props. 26 and 27 — making them the most expensive set of propositions in state history — and a blizzard of campaign ads, Californians gave a huge thumbs-down to the proposals to legalize betting on sports. Prop. 26, backed by a coalition of California tribes, and Prop. 27, backed by large online sports-betting companies, pitted the two sides against each other for control of what could be a billion-dollar industry. Prop. 27 was projected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the state in fees and taxes, 85% of which was pledged to go toward programs addressing homelessness and mental health.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register