Across the country, the GOP pushes intrusive and pointless ‘Nanny State’ bills

SACRAMENTO – One of the basic tenets of American conservatism – at least it has been until the Make America Great Again movement has re-jiggered the Republican Party – is that individuals rather than government regulators are best-suited to manage their own lives and raise their families. There’s always been an authoritarian streak in social conservatism, but progressives have traditionally been the ones to promote what we call the Nanny State.

AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File

“Whether it is forcing restaurants in England to print calorie counts on menus or banning energy drinks for under-18s, the government is full of ideas about how to protect people from themselves,” explained a 2018 BBC article. Although the term is of British origin, such policies are rampant throughout the United States and California in particular. One can think of any number of recent policies that fit the bill, but they all meddle in our lives to “help” or “uplift” us.

Most of these laws – from bans on single-use plastic bags and super-sized soft drinks to limits on trans-fats and e-cigarettes – accomplish little in terms of public health or the environment. There always are endless workarounds to render the edicts pointless. The Nanny State term is ideal, as we envision a hectoring nursemaid intent on depriving us of the simplest pleasures.

But now conservatives are giving leftists a run for the money. Throughout Republican-run Western states, lawmakers are passing legislation that treats adults as if they are children by mandating a variety of mostly pointless regulations in the name of protecting kids from pornography and other internet nastiness. Everyone wants to protect The Children, which makes it difficult to push back – even when such laws impose restrictions on everyone.

The latest frenzy started in Utah, which in 2021 passed a content-filter law that requires that all new cell phones and tablets sold or activated in the state be equipped with a filter that blocks “material that is harmful to minors,” as reports note. Because the law is contingent on five other states approving similar measures, lawmakers in other like-minded states have followed suit. The bills vary somewhat, but ultimately they require some form of age-verification to disable the filter.

It’s obviously hypocritical for supposedly free-market lawmakers to mandate meddlesome business regulations. Device manufacturers don’t always know where their products will be sold or activated. Following the model of progressive California, these conservative legislatures are trying to use their muscle to create a de facto nationwide standard. But that’s the least of the problems with these proposals, which raise constitutional and privacy concerns.

If they pass, these laws will certainly get tied up in the federal courts. Previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions have made it clear that legislatures must take the least-intrusive approach to limiting public access to websites. By foisting content filters on every device, these efforts take a heavy-handed approach. Such laws, as the court found, presume that parents lack the ability to protect their children.

In fact, parents have a nearly endless array of tools. They simply need to enable the filters and voluntary verification processes that are currently offered. The Competitive Enterprise Institute lists dozens of filter blockers from social-media companies, Internet Service Providers, gaming companies, web browsers and operating systems, as well as standalone app controls.

As the free-speech group NetChoice argued in testimony against Utah’s bill, such measures only provide a false sense of security, leading parents to believe their children are protected. Even the best filters are imperfect, so parents still need to be involved. The group also notes that it will stifle market innovation by imposing a one-size-fits-all standard.

There’s also a serious slippery-slope argument. I can only imagine what lawmakers in California might propose if the courts uphold these laws. How about mandated filters to block supposed “climate-change denialism” or “hate speech”? Conservative nannies should be careful what they wish for, as they might get it (“good and hard” as H.L. Mencken said).

The bills require age verification, which is problematic. These requirements take two forms. Either users enter their own age or the site demands actual ID, such as a driver’s license. Any 15 year old can claim to be 47, so the former are toothless. The latter are burdensome for businesses and creepy for the rest of us. A case can be made for age verification for actual porn sites, but not for every app or website. Do you want to send more personal information to tech companies?

Click here to read the full article in The Sun

Pressure mounts on CPAC chief Matt Schlapp as legal costs spiral

Another board member resigned amid concerns over the cost of defending Schlapp from a sexual battery claim

The parent organization of the Conservative Political Action Conference lost another high-profile board member this week amid mounting criticism of Chairman Matt Schlapp and ballooning legalfees from a sexual misconduct lawsuit against him.

Morton Blackwell, who has served on the board of the American Conservative Union (ACU) since the 1970s, said he submitted his resignation Monday but declined to comment further. Blackwell is the founder and president of the Leadership Institute, which trains conservative activists, and also serves as one of Virginia’s members on the Republican National Committee. He has previously expressed concerns about the sexual misconduct claim against Schlapp.

Blackwell is the fifth board member to depart in recent months, following an exodus of more than half of the staff since 2021. Some former board members are calling for Schlapp’s resignation to protect the reputation of one of the oldest and most prominent institutions in the conservative movement.

“Morton Blackwell resigning is a signal to the entire conservative movement that the game is over,” said Grover Norquist, the well-known anti-tax activist who served on the CPAC board for more than 15 years. “CPAC stopped being a useful part of the movement long ago and now it’s veering toward dysfunctional.”

In a statement, CPAC expressed gratitude for Blackwell’s decades of service and blamed the criticism of Schlapp on “those with an axe to grind.”

“To be clear, CPAC stands in full compliance with all statutes and regulations and any claims to the contrary by a disgruntled former board member are false,” the organization’s statement said. “The full board has been united in its support of the Chairman and the CPAC leadership team.”

Schlapp was sued in January by a Senate campaign staffer who claimed that the longtime Republican power broker groped his crotch during a campaign trip to Atlanta last fall. Schlapp has acknowledged going to two bars that night with the staffer, Carlton Huffman, but has denied any wrongdoing and attacked his accuser’s credibility.

The ACU’s payments for Schlapp’s legal fees in the case exceeded $1 million as of August, as the discovery process was only beginning, according to the resignation letter from former vice chairman Charlie Gerow that recently was filed as part of the litigation in Alexandria Circuit Court. When board treasurer Bob Beauprez resigned in May, saying he could no longer vouch for the organization’s financial statements, he also sounded the alarm about Schlapp’s legal fees.

“Any settlement of upwards of a couple of million dollars plus the accumulated legal expenses … would break the organization, not to mention the reputational damage,” he wrote.

It is common for nonprofitsto cover officials from liability while they are conducting official business. In his resignation letter, Gerow said he was never provided with proof, demanded by the board in June, of Schlapp’s pledge to reimburse the organization if it was determined that the allegations arose from conduct outside his professional responsibilities.

“Tragically, for those who are encouraging Matt to ‘fight this to the end’ the costs are already staggering,” Gerow wrote in the letter.

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James Lacy, a lawyer and expert on nonprofits who served on the ACU board for decades until 2017, argued that the organization has no obligation to pay for Schlapp’s legal defense. The alleged misconduct occurred late at night and not at a sanctioned CPAC event, said Lacy, who said he has discussed with other former board members making a public statement calling for Schlapp’s resignation.

“The conduct at issue isn’t something ACU should be responsible for,” Lacy said. “It’s a big mistake because it has the effect of implicating ACU in the conflict, plus it’s a financial burden. The appropriate people to pay for the defense are the Schlapps themselves,” he said, referring to Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, who also works for CPAC and is named in Huffman’s lawsuit.

The ACU and its related organizations are not defendants in the lawsuit. The organization’s statement said that indemnifying top officials is “normal business” and required by its bylaws.

In the ongoing litigation, Huffman’s attorney subpoenaed two other witnesses who may be asked to testify about other misconduct allegations against Schlapp. As The Post reported in August, those incidents involve an attempt to kiss a staffer and an unwanted physical advance on someone else’s employee during a CPAC business trip, according to people familiar with the incidents. Schlapp has not commented on those allegations. Matt Smith, a member of the ACU executive committee, has said they were false.

Several former board members — including the two preceding chairmen — said Schlapp should step down or expressed grave concerns about his leadershipin recent interviews with The Post.

“There’s enough out there in the public eye to warrant not only transparency but also consequences,” said Al Cardenas, who served as chairman immediately before Schlapp and previously led the Florida Republican Party. “It’s time for damage control if ACU is going to continue to be a viable entity. For the benefit of the ACU and its future, there’s no other solution than to elect new leadership.”

Since Schlapp became chairman in 2014, board members who questioned his stewardship have quit or felt pressure to resign, said David A. Keene, who served as chairman for more than two decades before Cardenas.

“Dissent is not tolerated. … If all of this had happened at some other point in the past, there would have already have been in an intervention,” Keene said. “The board needs to be thinking about the importance of what they do to the movement as a whole.”

CPAC has long been a must-stop for Republican candidates eyeing higher office, and Schlapp helped build the conference into a global brand, with spinoff gatherings around the world. He also has been credited with putting the organization on more solid financial footing over the past decade.

“I think they’ve done everything by the book,” said Republican pollster Jim McLaughlin, a board member who stands by Schlapp. “Matt has always impressed me as a good marketer and a good communications person who believes in the cause. He’s really taken the organization to another level.”

But Schlapp has also faced criticism for moving the group away from its roots in the conservative movement and aligning it too closely with the donor class and far-right wing of former president Donald Trump’s political base. Some corporate sponsors have backed away, and ticket sales were slow at this year’s flagship gathering in Washington, D.C., which was scheduled shortly after the sexual misconduct claims became public.

Click here to read the full artucle in the Washington Post

California’s Top Two Primary System Denies Voters a Real Choice

Will California voters get a choice between parties for the U.S. Senate election on Nov. 5, 2024? They didn’t in two of the last three Senate elections, when it was only Democrats on the ballots.

In 2018 the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein survived a challenge by Los Angeles Councilmember Kevin DeLeon, recently disgraced from racist comments at a meeting. In 2016, it was Attorney General Kamala Harris, now the vice president, defeating Rep. Loretta Sanchez. 

The culprit is one of the worst initiatives ever, the Top Two system instituted when voters passed Proposition 14 in 2010. Under it, a “jungle primary” is held in a battle of all against all. Then the top two, regardless of party, or no party, rise to the November runoff.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, hoodwinked voters into thinking it would advance “moderates” like him from both parties. As recently as 2017, Politico reported he was stirring “buzz” he might run for the Senate in 2018. He didn’t.

But instead of moderation, Top Two gave us only liberal Democrats in those two races. And although the California GOP certainly has wounded itself often enough, not having candidates in these crucial, statewide races of national import kept it out of the public eye.

With global and domestic crises boiling over, next year’s race is vital. Ballotpedia currently lists 37 hopefuls for the job. They include 16 Democrats, the top ones being Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee. And 13 Republicans, the two most prominent being Eric Early, an attorney, and Steve Garvey, whose website so far largely features pictures of him during his Dodgers playing career.

Then there’s Sen. Laphonza Butler, whom Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed to complete the remainder of Feinstein’s term. Butler has until Dec. 8 to decide if she runs in the primary. My guess is she well. The Senate is the world’s most exclusive club after the College of Cardinals in Rome.

So far, the top three Democrats have engaged in two debates and, most recently on Oct. 15, the AFSCME California PEOPLE Forum at Loews Coronado Bay Resort. Their views weren’t all that different.

I wondered if future debates would include any Republicans. Calls and emails to all three Democratic campaigns were not answered. Someone from the California Democratic Party got back to me and said she would check, then crickets. Garvey’s campaign also didn’t get back to me.

Early quickly replied to my call to his campaign. “They won’t invite me for whatever reason, and it’s not good because I absolutely should be part of these debates,” he told me, as his chihuahua chirped in the background. “You know they’re in dreamland the other side. They are just approaching it and their media allies are approaching it as if, oh, it’s just an automatic Democrats are going to win the Senate.” He said denying him and other Republicans places on stage is “to try and skew it so only two Democrats remain on the top. But I have a very good chance of ending up in the top two.”

Fred Whitaker is the chairman of the Orange County Republican Party. “I like the idea of a debate,” he told me. “We are working with all the Senate candidates to see if they are willing to come to Orange County to speak to the Central Committee.” Of that, Early said, “Absolutely I’ll be there.”

Finally, Republicans should make passing an initiative repealing Top Two their top priority. It clearly is hurting them, making it harder to get out their message. They still can do it for the Nov. 5, 2024 election as the signature filing deadline is next June 27. Call it the Restore California Democracy initiative.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

2023 CAGOP Convention: Golden Opportunities

Republicans at convention express renewed hope for party, candidates in the coming

Every year, the CAGOP convention has a theme. Last year, for example, it was “Together We Win.” It’s always something that is a stated goal that doesn’t have the bluntness of “Beat the Democrats” or something like that to it.

The theme this year is ‘Golden Opportunities.” And it makes sense. California’s Republican Party has improved significantly since 2018. The four OC House seats they lost that year have been mostly won back. The remaining seat, the 47th District, is being vacated by Katie Porter next year to focus on her Senate run, with the top Republican, Scott Baugh, currently likely to face state Senator Dave Min (D-Orange County), who has been bogged down by a recent DUI scandal. For the Senate seat, Republican Eric Early is currently in position to make it past the primary, thanks in party to a three way split Democratic race there. 

Presidential hopefuls are also looking at the Golden Opportunity in the state. Should Donald Trump face even more legal woes, his current strong showing in California could be his saving grace come Super Tuesday. Other Republicans see that high delegate count, and also see opportunity here, with DeSantis, Scott, and Vikram among them.

The convention floor of the Anaheim Marriot is lined with hopefuls both big and small. Posters are everywhere for candidates, and there is a buzz here that really hasn’t been seen at the convention for some time. While this may be because of Trump, DeSantis, and others making stops here, people are talking more and more about the what-ifs. Less people talked about wanting to get a certain percentage as a goal, and more people began talking about actually winning.

Walking down the aisles on Friday morning, the news Dianne Feinstein’s death was discussed. People speculated who Newsom would pick, but, generally, the conversation seemed to return to the wider Senate race. And that’s where it all seemed to head back to: the choices coming up.

“There’s something different this year,” said one delegate to the Globe. “It felt good last year and the year before, and those years we put Newsom to the screws with a recall and then brought more House seats in California to the GOP. And this year, it continues to build. I mean, all the major candidates are coming here for this. California is a really important primary state. And while we are not the dominant party, we are building fast.”

The sentiment was shared by Sandra, an attendee.

“We’re here for Trump, because he is all but certain to win the state,” Sandra said. “But we’re also here for all the candidates. Everyone in the GOP is getting a better showing, and this year, this close to the primaries, we want our people in the race.”

“Look at Trump alone. The whole ballroom is sold out and supporters are lining the street for him. Nobody expects California to have that kind of support level for Republicans, but we are really showing it this year. I think we are going to have some surprises for people this year.”

The theme of this year is, so far, living up to it’s name.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Republican presidential hopefuls head to Southern California this week

What to know about the debate, GOP convention and our coverage

Political eyes turn to Southern California this week as presidential hopefuls swoop in for the second presidential primary debate, fundraisers and a state GOP convention.

While it still remains to be seen which candidates officially qualified for the debate — the Republican National Committee is expected to confirm attendees Monday, Sept. 25 — at least four will be in Anaheim later in the week for the California Republican Party’s fall convention: former President Donald Trump, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

Trump will also be in Costa Mesa on Saturday, Sept. 30 for a fundraiser. Former Vice President Mike Pence has a reception on the books in Anaheim on Thursday.

But before all that, the presidential primary debate kicks off Wednesday, Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, a popular setting for Republicans.

“The Reagan Library is always an attractive venue for Republican debates, in part because it is a great space but also because Ronald Reagan’s legacy still has pull within the Republican ranks,” said Matthew Beckmann, a political science professor at UC Irvine with expertise in presidential politics. “Of course, that presidential candidates can use the trip to fundraise in Southern California doesn’t hurt.”

The threshold to qualify for this debate — to be broadcast on Fox Business Network and Univision from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. — was raised from the previous contest.

Candidates need at least 3% in two national polls or will need 3% in one national poll as well as two polls from four of the early voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. And their donors must include 50,000 unique contributors with 200 of those coming from 20 states.

DeSantis, Pence, Ramaswamy, Scott and Trump, as well as former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, appear likely to have qualified.

Trump, who sat out the first debate, will be speaking to auto workers in Detroit instead. His contentious history with the Reagan Library aside, Trump is looking more to the 2024 general election rather than the primary.

California Republicans will still hear from Trump as he’s scheduled to address a luncheon at the convention on Friday. The event — with tickets ranging from $500-$600 — is already sold out.

Scott will speak around 3 p.m. Friday, and DeSantis is slated to headline a dinner banquet later that evening. Ramaswamy leads a reception and lunch banquet on Saturday.

“All eyes will be on California next week as our state hosts the second GOP presidential debate in my hometown of Simi Valley and on the hallowed grounds of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,” said CAGOP Chair Jessica Millan Patterson. “With 169 delegates up for grabs — the most of any state — California will play a pivotal role in deciding our party’s nominee.”

While in Southern California, the presidential contenders would be wise to “understand the electorate and strike a balance of fiscal conservatism, an acknowledgment of the environment (and) climate change and avoid the cultural wedges,” like LGBTQ+ rights and abortion, said Matt Lesenyie, a Cal State Long Beach political science professor.

Voters, he said, are less concerned with “the controversy of the day” but want to hear more “plain-spoken, common sense-sounding solutions and the hope for bipartisanship.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

California GOP May Strip Opposition to Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage from Platform

A rebellious campaign within the California Republican Party to break away from its historic opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage is dividing the party weeks before planned appearances by former President Trump and other GOP White House hopefuls.

A proposed platform overhaul, which could be voted on at the state GOP’s fall convention in Anaheim, is a remarkable break from conservative dogma in the state that nurtured Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.

“It’s a seismic shift but it’s a shift born out of practical necessity. Look at what’s happening not just in California but in much more conservative states, realizing antiabortion, anti-same-sex marriage stances are no longer tenable,” said Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School. “I think it shows their acknowledgment that the sand has shifted underneath their feet.”

Political platforms, while largely symbolic, are supposed to embody a party’s principles and core beliefs. Debate about modifying them often prompts controversy.

The California GOP proposal — adopted by a party committee in late July — supports “traditional family values” and a “strong and healthy family unit.” But it removes language that says “it is important to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.”

The draft also excises opposition to a federally protected right to abortion, while maintaining support for “adoption as an alternative to abortion.”

Longtime conservative leaders are appalled by the proposal — both over its content and its likelihood to foment division at a key moment before the state’s presidential primary.

“This will be extremely controversial and will take a convention that is supposed to be about unifying the party and instead it ends up becoming a big feud,” said Jon Fleischman, a former state GOP executive director. “It’s the last thing the party needs.”

He described it as “a big middle finger” to the presidential candidates who are scheduled to speak at the convention, “all of whom embrace the various party planks that are proposed for removal.”.

Supporters counter that the updates align the party’s principles with voters.

Charles Moran, a Los Angeles County delegate who is a member of the platform drafting committee, said it is critical to move away from rigid orthodoxy “to give our California Republican candidates a fighting chance.”

“We need a party platform that empowers our candidates, not one that serves as an albatross around their neck,” said Moran, the president of Log Cabin Republicans.

The draft proposal also eliminates language about taxpayer protection for homeowners and a plank about opposing racism. But at a time while the GOP nationally is focused on culture wars, the changes in approach to same-sex marriage and abortion are likely to draw the most consternation among state Republicans.

The proposal slims the platform from 11 pages to four. The vote approving the draft took place in Irvine on July 29, after a contentious state party executive committee meeting about revising how the state party’s presidential delegates will be awarded in the March primary. (Despite California’s overwhelming blue tilt, it is home to the largest state Republican party in the nation and will send the most delegates to their presidential nominating convention next year.)

The draft platform will be voted on at the state party’s fall convention, which former President Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and other presidential candidates are expected to attend. If the party’s delegates cannot reach consensus, the platform debate may be shifted to their spring gathering.

If the proposed modifications are adopted, it would place the party’s platform closer to the beliefs held by most Californians and Americans.

More than three-quarters of California adults did not want federal protection for access to abortion to be overturned, according to a 2021 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. That included 59% of Republicans.

Nationally, 71% of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legal, according to a recent Gallup poll.

But the state GOP is more conservative than the state’s voters, which makes the proposed revision of the platform a test of the party’s priorities.

Click here to read the ful article in the LA Times

RNC, CAGOP, and House Speaker McCarthy Launch California ‘Bank Your Vote’ 

Bank Your Vote encourages voters to pledge to ‘bank’ their vote before Election Day

Today, the Globe learned Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced California’s state buildout for “Bank Your Vote” and launched the State Leadership Team. Bank Your Vote encourages voters to pledge to “bank” their vote before Election Day.

“To beat Joe Biden and California Democrats in 2024, we must ensure that Republicans bank as many pre-Election Day votes as possible,” RNC Chairman Ronna McDaniel said. “The RNC is proud to work with Republican leaders across the state to encourage voters to Bank Your Vote and deliver Republican victories up and down the ballot next November.”

Ahead of 2024, the Bank Your Vote operation is leveraging the full infrastructure of the RNC, the California Republican Party, and the historic investments in data driven ground game to encourage, educate, and activate Republican voters on when, where, and how to lock in their votes as early as possible. In addition to staff and the statewide volunteer network, California will have a state-specific voter resource page on BankYourVote.com, which will include pre-Election Day voting processes, links to state government sites where voters can request their ballot directly, and digital reminders for voters on all applicable pre-Election Day voting options.

“California Republicans secured our House Majority in 2022, and it’s here that we will continue to expand that majority next November,” said Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. “Together with the RNC and CAGOP, it is critical that we continue our momentum and encourage Republican voters nationwide to ‘Bank Your Vote’ ahead of Election Day in 2024.”

The RNC said “Building on our absentee return rate, early in-person voting, and ballot harvesting success in 2022, Republicans must now improve on our overall number of pre-Election Day voters to ultimately secure victory in 2024. A crucial part of getting Republican voters to become pre-Election Day voters will be ensuring voter confidence in elections through our continued Protect Your Vote efforts. In 2022, we had nearly 1,800 volunteer shifts filled by Poll Watchers and Poll Workers during Early Voting and on Election Day in California.”

“To win in 2024, Republicans must reach more voters than ever before, which is exactly what we will do through ‘Bank Your Vote’ with the RNC,” California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said. “As Chairwoman, I have long made it a top priority for California Republicans to maximize every option to turn out voters, especially Vote-By-Mail, all of which are crucial efforts in delivering more low propensity and swing voters.”

“Ahead of 2024, Republicans are fully focused nationwide on maximizing pre-Election Day voting, and California will lead the way,” RNC National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon said. “To make sure that Joe Biden is a one-term president, we take back the Senate, and expand our Republican Majority in the House, Californians must ‘Bank Your Vote’ early and join our efforts to ‘Protect Your Vote.’” 

From elected officials to grassroots leaders, the Bank Your Vote California Leadership Team is comprised of Republicans from across the state:

  • Federal Officials
  • Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy
  • Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-01)
  • Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-05)
  • Congressman Kevin Kiley (CA-03)
  • Congressman John Duarte (CA-13)
  • Congressman David Valadao (CA-22)
  • Congressman Jay Obernolte (CA-23)
  • Congressman Mike Garcia (CA-27)
  • Congresswoman Young Kim (CA-40)
  • Congresswoman Michelle Steel (CA-45)
  • Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-41)
  • Congressman Darrell Issa (CA-48)
  • RNC Members
  • Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson
  • National Committeeman Shawn Steel
  • National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon

California Politics: State GOP Starts Convention with No Prominent Senate Candidate

SACRAMENTO —  Programming note: Next week we will begin sending the California Politics newsletter on Thursdays instead of Fridays. Please look for us in your inbox March 16.

Will a prominent Republican jump into next year’s race to replace California Sen. Dianne Feinstein?

It’s a question that’s top of mind as more than 1,000members of the California Republican Party and their guests gather in Sacramento this weekend for a convention that kicks off today.

The fact that no prominent Republican has so far announced plans to seek California’s open Senate seat is another sign of the decline of a onetime GOP powerhouse that produced two presidents and four governors in the span of just over a half century, reports my colleague Seema Mehta.

The GOP is now so marginalized in California that a Republican has not won a statewide election since 2006. California hasn’t elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since Pete Wilson in 1988.

Republicans who ran in two of the last three Senate races in California did not make it past the nonpartisan primary, allowing two Democrats to advance to the general election in 2016, when then-Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris won over Rep. Loretta Sanchez, and in 2018 when Feinstein won reelection over Kevin de León, who serves on the Los Angeles City Council.

Next year could play out the same way and result in another race between Democrats. Or it could wind up very differently: If the Democratic vote splinters among multiple party candidates, a Republican could advance to the general election if GOP voters consolidate behind one candidate.

But at this point there’s no sign the party or its supporters are working to make that happen. Instead, the California Republican Party’s strategic focus is on smaller races for the House of Representatives and the state Legislature in regions where GOP voters are concentrated.

And in that domain, the party is celebrating some bright spots: It helped successfully defend GOP Reps. Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita, David Valadao of Hanford and Michelle Steel of Seal Beach in competitive congressional races and aided farmer John Duarte’s win in a new Democratic-tilting district in the Central Valley.

By helping the GOP win narrow control of the House, the California Republican Party is now celebrating its biggest win in years: the rise of Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy to speaker of the House.

“California Republicans are taking a victory lap for sure,” state GOP chair Jessica Millan Patterson told Mehta.

Who should pick the state schools superintendent?

Here’s a surprising side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic: It could force Californians to rethink how the state selects its superintendent of schools. Times reporter Mackenzie Mays explains:

When California children were stuck at home in distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and schools reopened unevenly across the state, raising equity concerns, frustrated parents demanded action from Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

But unlike in other states, where superintendents were leading the charge, it was Gov. Gavin Newsom who steered the pandemic response in California, negotiating with teachers unions and setting guidelines for schools. Meanwhile, Thurmond was criticized for a lack of action.

Now, two years after the governor and legislative leaders devised a multibillion-dollar plan to safely reopen schools, lingering COVID-19 frustrations could add momentum to a decades-long debate about the role of California’s superintendent of public instruction.

Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) has introduced legislation that would require California’s superintendent to be appointed by the governor instead of elected by voters, in what he called a “good government” policy that could add power and influence to an office that oversees nearly 6 million public school students.

McCarty said that Thurmond has “admirably” led the state’s schools and has been “an effective voice,” but that’s not enough, calling the role “nothing more than an education cheerleader.”

Read the full article here.

State of the road show

For decades, California governors have been giving an annual speech to the Legislature known as the “state of the state.” Like its federal counterpart that the president delivers to Congress, the speech is an opportunity for governors to tout their accomplishments and lay out a vision for the upcoming year.

Newsom hewed to tradition his first year in office but then began breaking the mold. In 2020, he focused the entire speech on just one topic, homelessness, a departure from the usual format touching on numerous big issues. In 2021, he used the speech to kick off his campaign against the recall election and delivered it on the field at an empty Dodger Stadium due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year he shunned the usual location inside the ornate Assembly chamber in favor of a modern auditorium in a state government building.

And this year, Newsom is really mixing things up by taking the show on the road.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

GOP Support for Trump Fades, Polls Show

Following a month of negative publicity, nonpartisan and partisan surveys signal a fall from grace.

 It’s been a rough month for former President Trump.

Since his Nov. 15 announcement that he plans to make a third run for the presidency, his legal problems have increased; his handpicked candidate, Herschel Walker, lost the Senate runoff in Georgia; he has endured widespread criticism over his public association with racists and antisemites; and a growing number of Republican figures have started to say publicly what they used to whisper in private: Trump is a liability for their party.

Just after the midterms, it appeared that the results would undermine the former president within the GOP. A raft of new polls show that this has occurred: Trump’s once-solid support among Republicans has cracked, and his approval within his adopted party has fallen to levels not seen since he won its nomination in 2016.

No one should count the former president out. If we’ve learned anything in the more than seven years that he’s dominated public attention, it’s that Trump has formidable survival skills and that Republican elected officials have little stomach for battling him. But for now, and perhaps for longer, the midterm results have shaken his hold on the party in a way that previous events — even the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol — failed to do.

The evidence of a Trump fade could be almost as unwelcome at the White House as it is at Mar-a-Lago: President Biden and his aides have been planning a reelection campaign in large part around the argument that Trump poses a singular threat to American democracy. The former president’s recent social media post in which he called for the “termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” in order to place him back in office could serve as Exhibit A.

If Republicans nominate someone else, Democrats will argue that the candidate poses the same threat. But that’s a more difficult case to make to voters, especially if whoever emerges as the GOP nominee keeps a distance from Trump.

In this year’s midterm elections, candidates who closely tied themselves to Trump and his lies about the 2020 election — such as gubernatorial hopefuls Kari Lake in Arizona, Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Tudor Dixon in Michigan — all lost. But voters seemed perfectly willing to cast ballots for other Republicans, such as Govs. Brian Kemp in Georgia and Mike DeWine in Ohio.

The evidence for a Trump fade comes from surveys by both partisan and nonpartisan pollsters.

The most recent Wall Street Journal poll found Trump trailing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis 52%-38% in a hypothetical primary matchup. Perhaps worse for Trump, only 71% of Republicans had a favorable view of him. That’s down from 85% in March and the 90% or higher that polls typically found through most of his presidency.

At the same time, the share of Republicans who see Trump negatively has increased. The Economist/YouGov poll reported last week that 28% of Republicans had an unfavorable view of Trump — the worst rating since YouGov began tracking his image at the start of his presidency. Most of the change had taken place since August, the polling found.

Suffolk University poll conducted for USA Today found that just 47% of Republicans want Trump to run again, compared with 45% who do not. The share that wants him to run dropped from 56% in October and 60% in July.

It’s possible that these polls have caught Trump at a temporary low from which he’ll rebound. He has been through a month of steady negative publicity and has a rival, DeSantis, who benefits from not having been tested in a national campaign.

But those negative headlines aren’t likely to go away any time soon.

Some of the most damaging stories for Trump have resulted from his own actions, including his decision last month to have dinner with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, two of the country’s best-known antisemites. Some Trump supporters blamed the dinner on the former president’s staff and said that in the future, aides would more diligently screen his visitors, but Trump has never taken well to efforts to control him.

On Wednesday, Trump posted on social media that he had a “major announcement” scheduled for Thursday. It turned out to be the launch of a line of digital playing cards featuring cartoon versions of his image. That’s hardly as damaging as dinner with racists, but it’s not the sort of action likely to calm Republicans who worry that their former standard-bearer isn’t focused on the task ahead.

Then there are the legal problems.

Between now and the first primaries of 2024, Trump could face trials in three civil cases: New York state Atty. Gen. Letitia James has accused him and his company of financial fraud involving inflated claims about the value of his assets; the writer E. Jean Carroll has accused him of raping her in the 1990s, then defaming her after she made her allegations public; and investors who lost money in what they allege was a pyramid scheme by a company called American Communications Network have sued him and his adult children for promoting the plan in television ads and public appearances.

Trump has survived many lawsuits over the decades, but now he also has exposure in at least three criminal investigations.

The district attorney in Atlanta is investigating whether he violated Georgia laws with his telephone call on Jan. 2, 2021, pressuring Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” — the number he would have needed to overturn Biden’s victory in the state. And Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith is overseeing two federal investigations, one into the Jan. 6 attack and the other into the mishandling of classified documents and other records that Trump hid at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate.

Some Trump backers have suggested that if he were indicted in one or more of those cases, he could use the charges to rally Republican voters to his side. Perhaps. What the current polling suggests, however, is that bad news has encouraged many Republicans, including some inclined to sympathize with Trump, to look for an alternative candidate.

Right now, that’s DeSantis. Whether the Florida governor can maintain his high standing remains unknown — lots of candidates look great until the campaign begins. For now, however, he fulfills the need that many Republicans feel for a candidate who espouses Trump’s policies without his erratic personal behavior.

The Suffolk University poll found that 65% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they want “Republicans to continue the policies Trump pursued in office, but with a different Republican nominee for president,” compared with 31% who want Trump to run again.

“Republicans and conservative independents increasingly want Trumpism without Trump,” said the poll’s director, David Paleologos.

But, as Paleologos noted, the 31% who still back Trump could be enough to win Republican primaries in a multicandidate field, which is how Trump won in 2016.

And it’s possible that many of those who have stuck with Trump this far will remain with him. His remaining backers are disproportionately rural and white voters who did not go to college — groups that have been among his staunchest supporters since the 2016 campaign. DeSantis does better among groups of Republicans who were more skeptical of Trump to begin with, such as college-educated white voters.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Republican Committee Sues Google Over Email Spam Filters

The Republican National Committee has filed a lawsuit against tech giant Google, alleging the company has been suppressing its email solicitations ahead of November’s midterm elections — an allegation Google denies.

The lawsuit, filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of California Friday evening, accuses Gmail of “discriminating” against the RNC by unfairly sending the group’s emails to users’ spam folders, impacting both fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts in pivotal swing states.

“Enough is enough — we are suing Google for their blatant bias against Republicans,” said RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in a statement to The Associated Press. “For ten months in a row, Google has sent crucial end-of-month Republican GOTV and fundraising emails to spam with zero explanation. We are committed to putting an end to this clear pattern of bias.”

Google, in a statement, denied the charges. “As we have repeatedly said, we simply don’t filter emails based on political affiliation. Gmail’s spam filters reflect users’ actions,” said spokesperson José Castañeda, adding that the company provides training and guidelines to campaigns and works to “maximize email deliverability while minimizing unwanted spam.”

The lawsuit focuses on how Google’s Gmail, the world’s largest email service with about 1.5 billion users, screens solicitations and other material to help prevent users from being inundated by junk mail. To try to filter material that account holders may not want in their inboxes, Google and other major email providers create programs that flag communications likely to be perceived as unwelcome and move them to spam folders that typically are rarely, if ever, perused by recipients.

The suit says Google has “relegated millions of RNC emails en masse to potential donors’ and supporters’ spam folders during pivotal points in election fundraising and community building” — particularly at the end of each month, when political groups tend to send more messages. “It doesn’t matter whether the email is about donating, voting, or community outreach. And it doesn’t matter whether the emails are sent to people who requested them,” it reads.

Google contends its algorithms are designated to be neutral, but a study released in March by North Carolina State University found that Gmail was far more likely to block messages from conservative causes. The study, based on emails sent during the U.S. presidential campaign in 2020, estimated Gmail placed roughly 10% of email from “left-wing” candidates into spam folders, while marking 77% from “right-wing” candidates as spam.

Gmail rivals Yahoo and Microsoft’s Outlook were more likely to favor pitches from conservative causes than Gmail, the study found.

The RNC seized upon that study in April to call upon the Federal Election Commission to investigate Google’s “censorship” of its fundraising efforts, which it alleged amounted to an in-kind contribution to Democratic candidates and served as “a financially devastating example of Silicon Valley tech companies unfairly shaping the political playing field to benefit their preferred far-left candidates.”

Since then, the commission has approved a pilot program that creates a way for political committees to get around spam filters so their fundraising emails find their way into recipients’ primary inboxes. Gmail is participating in the “ Verified Sender Program, ” which allows senders to bypasses traditional spam filters, but also gives users the option of unsubscribing from a sender. If the unsubscribe button is hit, a sender is supposed to remove that Gmail address from their distribution lists.

As of Friday evening, the RNC had not signed up to participate in the pilot program.

Click here to read the full article in AP News