10 California congressional races could tip the 2024 balance

Yes, the headline race in California’s 2024 election is the first open U.S. Senate seat in 30 years. 

But voters should also pay attention to the U.S. House: California helped flip control to Republicans in 2022 (and the speakership went from Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco to Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, until he was deposed last month).

And California is shaping up as a key battleground again next year. Both parties are spending money and resources in the state. Now, California’s delegation includes 40 Democrats and 12 Republicans, who hold an overall majority of a mere nine seats in the House.

Wednesday, the well-regarded Cook Political Report put out its latest scorecard and 10 of the state’s 52 congressional seats are in play. It says a year out from the general election, it’s more likely that Democrats will retake the House than keep control of the U.S. Senate.

One of the key races is the 47th District in Orange County, an open seat because Rep. Katie Porter is running for Senate. It’s a “lean Democratic” in Cook’s ratings, and it was a CalMatters “hot race” in 2022.

Other Democratic-held seats on Cook’s list are the 9th District represented by Josh Harder and the 49th District by Mike Levin, both rated as likely Democratic.

Seven Republican-held seats are on the scorecard, including four rated as toss-ups: the 13th represented by John Duarte, the 22nd by David Valadao, the 27th by Mike Garcia and the 41st by Ken Calvert

Also, the 45th District represented by Michelle Steel is a “lean Republican” and the 3rd held by Kevin Kiley and the 40th by Young Kim are likely Republican.

All but one of these districts were also CalMatters hot races in 2022.

But while it’s a Democrat vs. Republican battle again for Congress, a new poll suggests there might be an opening for a third party in California — if there were ever enough money and the right leaders, that is.  

Half of California voters have a negative opinion of the Democratic Party, two-thirds have a dim view of the Republican Party and one third don’t like both parties, according to a recent Public Policy Institute of California survey.   

That pox-on-both-parties sentiment is up from 20% in October 2020 and has risen steadily since. So has the proportion of voters who say a third major party is needed — 71%, up from 54% in 2019.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

California Republicans buy into ‘ballot harvesting’

For years, Republicans have railed against “ballot harvesting” as an underhanded tactic by Democrats to win elections.  

But for the 2024 election, the California GOP is going big on collecting ballots from voters and dropping them off at election offices or polling places, which is legal in California, with some conditions.  

In part, it’s a reflection of political reality: With a few exceptions, the Republican Party has been struggling. On top of Democratic majorities in the Legislature since 1996, no Republican has been elected statewide office since 2006. And since the COVID-19 pandemic, California has sent mail ballots to every registered voter, making it easier for people to cast their ballots earlier and not just at polling places on Election Day.

“These are the rules that we have been given. And we have to play by those rules,” said Jessica Millan Patterson, chairperson of the California Republican Party. “It doesn’t make any sense to only be Election Day voters. That is like only playing three quarters of a football game.”

Patterson said she has recognized the importance of early voting since 2018, when she ran for party chairperson — a “very dark time” when the GOP lost half of its congressional delegation. And she’s still saying it even though mail voting has been central to former President Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

“We would win California in a general election if they didn’t have a rigged voting system, where they send out 22 million ballots,” Trump told the party convention last month within the first few minutes of his speech — contrary to some messaging from his own campaign. “Nobody knows where they’re going, who they’re going to, who signs them, who delivers them, and who the hell counts ‘em? Nobody knows.” 

Later at the convention, though, delegates attended a session on ballot harvesting, which session leaders said could capture the votes of “lazy Republicans” in key areas. But they said it probably isn’t worth the effort in heavily Democratic neighborhoods. 

While mail-in voting is widely thought of as benefiting Democrats, studies find it doesn’t favor one party over the other.

“We did not find that there was a party advantage like increasing turnout. It didn’t increase turnout more for Democrats versus Republicans,” said Mindy Romero, director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at USC’s Price School of Public Policy.

California is one of 31 states that allows a person voting by mail to designate someone else to return their ballot, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Prior to 2017, only family or household members could return ballots, but the Legislature changed that in part because there was no way to enforce that law, according to Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation.

Now, anyone can return the ballot as long as that person isn’t compensated based on the number of ballots returned (it’s legal to be paid a flat rate). The person must sign the envelope and return the ballot in person or by mail within three days of receiving it, or before polls close on Election Day.  

What’s not legal? 

Forcing anyone you’re collecting a ballot from to vote a certain way. Employers are also barred from requiring or asking employees to bring in their ballots

Unofficial dropboxes are also prohibited. In 2020, California sent a cease-and-desist letter to the state Republican Party, as well as local chapters in Fresno, Orange County and Los Angeles, for misleading practices, such as placing ballot drop boxes that were falsely labeled as “official.” The state threatened legal action, but stood down after the California GOP agreed to modify how it collected ballots.

Asked if it would deploy dropboxes in 2024, the party only responded that it plans to “employ a robust ballot harvesting program that ensures that voters have more options to cast their ballot in the primary and general elections.”

Alexander sees the GOP effort to amp up third-party ballot returns as positive. But she does believe the laws governing the process could be more clear, and that election officials should educate voters more about their rights — such as rejecting someone’s offer to collect a ballot.  

She also notes that state law requires that the ballot collector fill out their name, relationship to the voter and signature on each ballot envelope. But even if that information is not filled out, that’s not necessarily grounds for rejecting the ballot. The information and signature are more like a contract between the voter and the collector. 

“That’s why I would always urge people to only turn their ballot over to somebody who they trust, and to make sure that person takes some time to fill out that information in their presence so they know that person is being accountable to them,” Alexander said. 

The potential payoff

For the 2024 election, the state GOP plan is focused on grassroots efforts — recruiting volunteers to go door-to-door to build relationships with voters and later collect ballots. 

That trust-building might be key to convincing people that their ballots will be counted. The party will also continue to recruit election observers — something anyone is entitled to do — and is assigning an election integrity chairperson and a lawyer in each county.

“We will continue to do the work that we’re doing to make sure that individuals are voting by every legal means necessary,” Patterson said.

But for all the Republican Party’s plans, they aren’t likely to have much impact on statewide elections. There are about 27 million people who are eligible to vote in California, and of the 22 million who are registered 47% are Democrats, 24% are Republicans, and 23% have no party preference.

In California’s 2022 general election, data analyzed by the Center for Inclusive Democracy shows a higher percentage of registered Republican voters turned out than Democrats — 61% compared to 53% — but Newsom still won by nearly 20 percentage points. 

But in some swing congressional and legislative races, Republicans narrowly won in Democratic-majority districts last November. For instance, U.S. Rep. John Duarte, a Modesto Republican, beat Democrat Adam Gray by 564 votes in one of the closest congressional races in the country in a district where President Biden beat Trump by 14.5 percentage points. And Republican Assemblymember Josh Hoover ousted Democrat Ken Cooley by 1,383 votes in a Sacramento-area district.  

Last November, of the more than 11.1 million votes cast in California, about 9.8 million were returned by mail or dropbox.

Patterson said that due to limited resources, she has to make decisions on where to spend money — which means a continued focus on races where ballot harvesting can make an impact, such as those swing district congressional seats. 

“Watching what we’ve done and the impact that we’ve already had — and the role that ballot harvesting and early voting has played in that — has absolutely already made a difference.”

Cynthia Thacker, one of the organizers of the GOP’s Take Back North Orange County movement, started collecting ballots from friends before the party started encouraging it. Ballot harvesting is one of the keys to their effort. 

Thacker says she understands voters’ reluctance to hand their ballots to someone else, but sees it as more secure than mailing them in. “It’s our way of at least making sure — instead of mailing it — that we can try and get your ballot counted.” 

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Christina Pascucci, TV Anchor, Is Running for Senate in California

The longtime reporter and anchor at KTLA and Fox 11 in Los Angeles also announced she’s pregnant.

Christina Pascucci, a veteran television news reporter in Los Angeles, launched a longshot campaign for the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat on Wednesday, further plunging one of the nation’s most competitive and closely watched primaries deeper into uncertain territory.

Pascucci, a first-time candidate who spent more than a decade at KTLA-TV and Fox 11, joins a contest that’s been rocked in recent weeks by Feinstein’s death and California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s appointment of Democrat Laphonza Butler, a labor leader and consultant who is nearing an announcement about her own campaign. Further scrambling the dynamic of the March primary is the recent entry of Republican Steve Garvey, the former Los Angeles Dodgers all-star, who is trying to vault ahead of a Democrat and into the fall 2024 runoff.

In an exclusive interview with POLITICO to announce her candidacy, Pascucci outlined a run as a moderate consensus builder in a field of bomb-throwing partisans. The 38-year-old Democrat described herself as a “truth-seeker” who would focus on legislating, adding she would apply the same approach she did to newsgathering.

“I’ve been covering the most pressing issues of California for the past 15 years and watching this race closely, as well as covering it and interviewing some of the candidates,” Pascucci said in the interview Tuesday. “And the more I watched it, the more closely I studied it, I honestly felt dismayed by how it was shaping up. I spoke to a lot of others who felt the same way. Like, this is our future — more of the same.”

Pascucci and her team also said she would work to appeal to Latinos and other voters who haven’t been swayed by a trio of far better-known Democrats in the race, Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee. Schiff and Porter have been atop the field in fundraising and polling for months, trading leads that have hovered in the high teens, but not breaking away.

A Los Angeles resident and San Fernando Valley native who lives with her husband, Pascucci also revealed in the interview that she will be starting the Senate race while she’s about 18 weeks pregnant with their first child — and that their baby was a decisive factor in her mounting the uphill statewide run.

“The only thing crazier than not jumping in this late would be not jumping in at all, because I have to fight for what I believe is possible for California and for this country,” she said.

Pascucci didn’t downplay the difficulty of climbing into the top two by Super Tuesday. She leaned hard into her adventuring background and outsider status as possible areas of appeal. She’s a licensed pilot, fluent Spanish speaker and has traveled to all seven continents and more than 100 countries to expose the shark-finning industry, report from warzones and interview the Dalai Lama at his palace in India. Closer to home, her reporting dove into wasteful water use policies of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

She suggested Democrats have shied away from talking about “the humanitarian crisis happening at our border” out of fear of running afoul of their progressive base and giving ammunition to the hard right, and pledged to fight against the “disinformation warfare” that’s being waged around immigration and more broadly. Pascucci named the late Feinstein and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah as models for the role of senator, keying in on yellow-cornered themes like bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle to make progress. She also discussed growing up with conservative Republican parents.

“I spent my life and my upbringing learning to speak the language of people who disagree with me,” she said. “A lot of times people don’t even try and they just say, ‘They’re extreme.’ That is the worst thing you can do. That is the intent of disinformation: To polarize us. The only way to combat that is by going in, sitting down and talking it out. And that’s what I’ve been trained to do as a journalist.”

California statewide races are exorbitantly expensive, and it generally takes years for politicians to establish their names and bonafides with voters. While Butler, a former leader with the Service Employees International Union, would count on support from her labor connections and relationships with Democratic insiders, Pascucci said whether the interim senator runs had no impact on her own decision.

She left her job at Fox 11 on Tuesday, where she reported and anchored, and said her exposure to donors and celebrity supporters from her time in the news business and in her philanthropic endeavors would translate into financial and electoral backing.

“I put a lot of heart and thoughts and tears into making sure this is the right decision for my family — to risk my entire career I’ve worked so hard and built up,” she said. “I am confident based on all the conversations I have had that I have the resources I need to win this race.”

Pressed on how little time she has to make an imprint in the March primary, Pascucci reiterated she wouldn’t have risked so much to run “if I didn’t see winning as a possibility.”

“People will have plenty to say — especially people who are well-versed in politics — about what can or can’t be done,” she added. “But my campaign is a campaign of possibility, of having people choose between how things have been done or what they can be. And I believe this message will resonate deeply.”

Pascucci didn’t delve deeply into policy, but said in addition to the border and immigration, she wants to focus on education and family support like childcare and parental leave policies. She pointed to a close family member who suffers from mental health issues and addiction and said she’s drawn career inspiration from her proximity to those issues.

And she pledged a different kind of campaign: “My approach to media is different than maybe what’s been done traditionally,” she said.

The campaign is helmed by Bill Burton, the Democratic strategist and Obama-world veteran. Burton began the cycle working with Democratic Senate candidate Lexi Reese, but separated from the campaign earlier in the year. He pointed to Pascucci’s varied life experiences and outsider status to politics as an edge.

Click here to read the full article in Politico

Garvey Tosses His Bat Into the Ring

Former Dodgers star, a Republican, plans to announce a bid for the Senate seat once held by Dianne Feinstein.

After nearly two decades of statewide Republican candidates being rejected by California’s left-leaning electorate, former Dodger All-Star Steve Garvey hopes to drag the GOP back toward political relevance.

Garvey plans to announce Tuesday that he is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Dianne Feinstein, a gambit by a political newcomer banking on his baseball fame and affable demeanor to overcome the long odds Republicans face in this solidly Democratic state. At the very least, Garvey offers GOP voters a dash of celebrity excitement and his candidacy may raise the stakes for the top-shelf Democratic candidates.

Though he hasn’t stepped on a baseball field as a player for more than three decades, Garvey may possess enough star appeal to consolidate California’s GOP vote and lure enough admiring baseball fans to wind up on the November ballot. If so, only one of the three formidable Democrats currently in the running may survive past the March primary and emerge as the heavy favorite in the face-off against Garvey.

Garvey, 74, has been talking to party leaders and donors for months about a potential bid because of growing concerns about dysfunction in the nation’s capital, and he said he decided to make it official after “a Giants fan came up to me and said, ‘Garvey, I hate the Dodgers, but I’ll vote for you.’ ”

“In those 20 years that I played for the Dodgers and the Padres, played up in cold Candlestick Park, I never played for Democrats or Republicans or independents,” Garvey told The Times. “I played for all the fans, and I’m running for all the people.”

His announcement came days after Feinstein, a trail-blazing Democrat who represented California in the Senate for more than three decades, was laid to rest after a somber memorial in her hometown of San Francisco. Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed longtime labor leader, abortion-rights advocate and Democratic strategist Laphonza Butler to fill the vacancy.

It’s unknown if Butler, 44, will run for the Senate seat in the 2024 election, which quickly became a heated contest among prominent California Democrats — Reps. Barbara Lee of Oakland, Katie Porter of Irvine and Adam Schiff of Burbank — after Feinstein announced earlier this year that she would not seek another term.

Garvey, who lives in Palm Desert, has flirted with politics for decades but has never mounted a campaign for public office. As he weighed a Senate bid this year, Garvey told supporters that he planned to focus his campaign on quality-of-life issues such as education, the cost of living, housing affordability, crime and homelessness — topics that could have bipartisan appeal.

“I think about families that get up each day and address all these issues,” he said.

Garvey is arguably the most well-known Republican to mount a statewide campaign since Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, who ran for governor during the unsuccessful effort to recall Newsom in 2021, and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an international movie star who won office in the 2003 gubernatorial recall and was reelected in 2006.

The only other prominent GOP candidates to make it to the general election ballot in recent years are billionaire Meg Whitman, the former EBay chief who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2010 and is now President Biden’s ambassador to Kenya, and former Hewlett-Packard leader Carly Fiorina, a multimillionaire who lost a Senate bid the same year and a presidential effort six years later.

The first baseman played for the Dodgers from 1969 to 1982 and for the San Diego Padres from 1983 to 1987 — major league teams in two of the biggest media markets in the state. Garvey won a World Series title with the Dodgers in 1981, was a 10-time National League All-Star and won four Gold Glove awards.

Garvey had a squeaky clean reputation that later was marred by revelations that he fathered children with two women after a bitter divorce. It’s unclear how those past controversies will affect his appeal among voters given that they occurred decades ago. Since that time, the country elected two presidents accused of infidelity, including Donald Trump, who had a well-known history of affairs and has faced allegations of rape and other sexual misconduct.

Garvey’s greatest obstacles, however, may be his party affiliation and his political views, neither of which align with many Californians’.

Garvey said he twice voted for Trump. He doesn’t have an opinion on who is responsible for the violent pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He opposes abortion but said he would respect Californians’ views on the matter and would not vote for federal legislation that restricted abortion rights. Asked about controversial decisions by some school districts that would require parents to be informed if their child showed signs of gender nonconformity, Garvey said it was a parental rights issue.

Garvey is leaning heavily into his baseball history in hopes of convincing voters who may not agree with his politics. His introductory campaign video, which runs more than one minute, features heroic video and images of him hitting home runs and rounding the bases, and memorabilia from his days on the diamond. His campaign logo features the stylized image of a baseball player wearing a Garvey jersey swinging a bat.

“There are a lot of people who know who I am. And now for the next five months, I’ll be reigniting that relationship we have,” he said.

Athletes running for office have a mixed record of success across the country. Basketball players Bill Bradley and Kevin Johnson were elected New Jersey senator and Sacramento mayor, respectively. Professional wrestler Jesse Ventura became governor of Minnesota. Football player Jack Kemp represented New York in Congress. Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who is holding up hundreds of military promotions and nominations in his controversial attempt to change Pentagon abortion policy, is a former football coach at Auburn University.

But others have failed, including football player Herschel Walker in a 2022 Senate race in Georgia, and Jenner, who appeared on the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” reality show.

Adam Mendelsohn, Schwarznegger’s former deputy chief of staff who now represents high-profile athletes such as LeBron James and Maria Sharapova, predicted that Garvey would land in the latter category.

“First of all, to win as a Republican in California, you need a level of celebrity that is far greater than a baseball player from the ’80s,” Mendelsohn said. “It is a competitive advantage to raise some money and get some media. But it is completely delusional to think a conservative Republican can win in California regardless of what sport they played and how good they were.”

The chances of any Republican winning statewide office are slim given the state’s electoral tilt — no GOP candidate has won statewide since 2006 and Democrats currently outnumber Republican voters nearly 2 to 1, according to the secretary of state’s office.

And a poll taken more than a month before Garvey announced his bid was not promising. Garvey and Republican businessman James Bradley had the support of 7% of likely voters in the September survey by UC Berkeley and The Times. Attorney Eric Early, a perennial GOP candidate, had the support of 5%.

Schiff and Porter had the backing of 20% and 17% of likely voters, respectively, the poll found. The other prominent Democratic opponent, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, had the support of 7%.

Democrats are doubtful that Garvey will affect the outcome of the race, given California’s left-leaning electorate.

“It’s a steep hill,” said Rose Kapolczynski, a veteran Democratic strategist. “Steve Garvey isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger, and any Republican who would be competitive in a Senate race would have to have a powerful brand already — and that’s what Schwarzenegger had. And Schwarzenegger’s personal brand outweighed the Republican brand.”

“I am skeptical that’s the case” with Garvey, she added.

While 26 candidates have filed to run for the Senate seat as of Oct. 9, according to the Federal Election Commission, the three most prominent — and those who have raised substantive money — are Democratic members of Congress: Schiff, Porter and Lee.

Regardless of his overall prospects, Garvey’s entry into the Senate race could have a significant effect on the election because of the state’s “top-two” primary system, in which the two candidates who receive the most votes in the March primary move on to the general election regardless of party.

The September Berkeley poll found that support from Democratic voters splintered among Schiff, Porter and Lee, possibly clearing a path for a consensus Republican candidate to finish in the top two. Garvey already had the most support among Republican voters and had yet to officially enter the race.

It’s happened before. Relatively unknown Republican businessman John Cox received more votes in the 2018 California governor’s primary election than two Democratic heavyweights — Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang — only to be trounced by Gavin Newsom in the general election. Cox consolidated the GOP vote because of a weak Republican field and after being endorsed by then-President Trump.

Even though his playing days are long over, Garvey’s baseball fame will probably receive national and statewide media attention, especially on Fox News and other conservative outlets that have been critical of California’s Democratic leadership on homelessness, crime and immigration.

Thus far, the other Republicans in the 2024 Senate race lack that potential sway, increasing Garvey’s ability to emerge as the candidate of choice among the state’s GOP voters.

“He adds a fun element,” said veteran GOP strategist Kevin Spillane. “Garvey adds an element of cheer, if you will. At least his candidacy will add some fun for Republicans. I think most people understand he doesn’t have a chance to win. But he will give it the old college try and definitely make it a more interesting race.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Bill to Ban Ballot Hand Counts Signed By Governor Newsom

Shasta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Patrick Jones said they will be suing to block the bill if signed into law

A bill to end the manual hand count of ballots in elections with more than 1,000 voters was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, going into effect immediately after signing.

Assembly Bill 969, authored by Assemblywoman Gail Pellerin (D-Santa Cruz), will specifically prohibit an elections official from performing a manual vote count in a semifinal official canvass held on an established election date where there are more than 1,000 registered voters eligible to participate in that election, or in any contest held on a date other than an established election date, where there are more than 5,000 registered voters eligible to participate in that election. The bill will also now only allow an elections official to conduct a manual vote count for a semifinal official canvass in a precinct  if the count is approved by the Secretary of State, with state approved machines being utilized to do all county in elections above the minimum voter threshold.

In addition, AB 969 is an emergency statute, meaning that it went into effect immediately upon being signed into law.

Assemblywoman Pellerin’s bill is in response to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors voting earlier this year to do away with machine counting and instead move back to hand ballots. The decision was divisive, passing 3-2 in March. Supporters cited cyber threats as the major reason for wanting to return to hand counting, to avoid any possible electronic miscounts or cheating. However opponents fought back that hand counting would be even more prone to error and at risk of possible cheating, as well as being more expensive. The fight in Shasta County has been ongoing for months, all the while with AB 969 advancing through the legislature and threatening to make a state law on it.

AB 969 largely passed on party lines throughout the year. In April, the bill managed to pass in the Assembly 62-9 with 9 abstaining; the Senate vote in early September came in with a similar with a 31-6 with 3 abstentions vote. Due to multiple amendments since May, the bill was then sent back to the Assembly last month for a final Assembly vote, where it passed 62-14 with 4 abstentions.

“The bill, if it becomes law, would make it very clear in our elections code that counties are to use state-certified, federally qualified voting systems for tabulating their voting results,” said Pellerin following the final Assembly vote. “We are definitely going to be reaching out to our supporters, getting letters to him, that we experienced a rogue board of supervisors that attempted to derail elections and that is something we can’t tolerate and accept in the state of California.”

With Newsom not indicating which way he would go, many Shasta County officials attempted to dissuade Governor Newsom from signing AB 969. Some, such as Shasta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Patrick Jones, went so far as to say that they will be suing to block the bill if signed into law. Despite this, Newsom signed the bill it into law Wednesday.

Following the signing, Jones added that Shasta County would continue on with hand counted ballots until at least the 2024 primary election.

“I’ve asked legal counsel to weigh in on this. And I believe that it does not affect Shasta County,” said Jones. “We already made that decision to get away from machines in January and February. We have been waiting this entire time for the Secretary of State, which she said she would approve a hand tabulation plan. She has yet to do so. So she’s simply dragging her feet on this. But we have already made our decision. And a majority of the board has already spoken.”

“Filing a lawsuit may not even be necessary anymore. As far as I’m concerned, we push forward. The state may want to sue us.”

Experts told the Globe on Wednesday that a lawsuit blocking the now-law could be expected soon.

Click here to read the full article in California Globe

Minus Trump, Republican Presidential Candidates Spar Over Education, Economy, More at Reagan Library

Former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner among Republicans, skipped the debate to speak to nonunion auto workers in Michigan

Seven Republican presidential candidates stood inside a library named after a former president revered in the party and argued policies related to immigration, economy, health care costs and education, among other issues.

They also just argued at times when they weren’t going after the GOP frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, who skipped the debate, and President Joe Biden.

The second GOP presidential primary debate was held on a muggy Wednesday evening at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, a sprawling complex that has hosted numerous presidential debates, influential Republicans and world leaders.

For two hours, with Reagan’s Air Force One hanging above them, candidates debated parental rights in education, protections for farmers and ranchers and the opioid epidemic.

Not on the stage was Trump, the Republican frontrunner who has skipped the debates as he appears set to focus on the general election, rather than the primary. On Wednesday, Trump was in Michigan where he spoke to nonunion auto workers amid the ongoing United Auto Workers strike, a day after Biden visited UAW members to show support for their strike.

“But why are they there? It’s because of all that spending (Biden’s) pushed through,” said former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, saying the federal government should focus on economic policies that would cut gas taxes but make small business tax cuts permanent.

“But why are they there? It’s because of all that spending (Biden’s) pushed through,” said former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, saying the federal government should focus on economic policies that would cut gas taxes but make small business tax cuts permanent.

“Joe Biden is missing in action from leadership. Donald Trump is also missing in action. He should be on this stage tonight,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of his former ally turned nemesis in the campaign.

Both DeSantis and Trump are scheduled to speak Friday at the California GOP convention in Anaheim – as is debate participant Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is scheduled to appear there Saturday.

Earlier this month, about 13,000 U.S. auto workers stopped making vehicles and went on strike after their leaders couldn’t bridge a giant gap between union demands in contract talks and what three major automakers, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, are willing to pay. Last week, the UAW expanded its strike when an additional 5,600 workers walked out of 38 General Motors and Stellantis parts distribution centers in 20 states.

Biden’s visit to a UAW picket line the day before the debate is believed to be the first time a sitting president who has demonstrated support for labor activity amid an active strike.

South Carolina’s Scott castigated Biden’s picket line trip, saying he should instead be on the southern border.

“Fentanyl has devastated Americans in every single state,” said Scott.

Southern California voters said they wanted to see less bickering at the second debate, but Ramaswamy often sparred with those on stage with him, particularly with Haley, Scott and former Vice President Mike Pence, who criticized his past dealings with a Chinese investment firm.

Another hot-button issue for candidates as the sun set in Simi Valley: parental rights in education.

Several candidates decried education systems for focusing on so-called critical race theory or diversity, equity and inclusion issues. Haley, in particular, said it should be up to individual states to design public education; DeSantis, meanwhile, said the “country’s education system is in decline because it’s focused on indoctrination and denying parents’ rights.”

“We’ve got to empower parents at the state level with the ability to choose where their kids go to school … you empower parents, and our schools will straighten up and reflect our values and focus on the basics faster than you could possibly imagine,” said Pence.

Stumping for Biden at the Reagan Library was California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who called the candidates on the debate stage a “JV team” while speaking to reporters ahead of the debate.

“President Reagan’s leadership and legacy won onstage at tonight’s debate,” he said in a statement. “His values — limited government, individual liberty, economic opportunity, peace through strength, freedom and democracy, and national pride — endure as guiding lights in addressing the significant challenges and opportunities America faces.”

“I think the winners tonight are the American people, watching their candidates up there doing the debate,” said CAGOP Chair Jessica Millan Patterson. “I think any single one of them would do a better job than Joe Biden.”

Despite his absence, it can’t be said that Trump was particularly missing from the debate. Hoards of supporters gathered at the entrance of the foundation’s grounds decked out in patriotic gear. Large trucks with even larger Trump signs revved their engines on surrounding streets; a plane carrying a white DNC-funded banner with black and red words reading “GOP 2024: A Race For The Extreme MAGA Base” circled from above.

And former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, at one point during the debate, looked straight ahead to address Trump: “Donald, I know you’re watching,” he said. “You’re not here tonight because you’re afraid of being on the stage and defending your record.

“No one up here is going to call you Donald Trump anymore. We’re going to call you ‘Donald Duck.’”

When asked which candidate on stage should be “voted off the island,” DeSantis refused to give an answer, while Christie said Trump.

“This guy has not only divided our party, he’s divided family, he’s divided friends,” Christie said.

When asked by debate co-host Dana Perino about his mathematical chances at the nomination against Trump, DeSantis said “polls don’t elect presidents, voters elect presidents.”

According to data from the Public Policy Institute of California, 48% of Republican likely voters would vote for Trump if the Republican presidential primary were held today, while 14% said DeSantis.

It wasn’t just Trump supporters who gathered outside the library. Demonstrators rallied in support of Ukraine amid its continued conflict with Russia. CHIRLA Action Fund and SEIU-USWW said it brought hundreds of demonstrators to the base of the library to show support for immigrants.

“We want presidential candidates, especially in the GOP, to know this truth: Immigrants are California,” said Fatima Flores-Lagunas, the CHIRLA Action Fund political director.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

California Lawmakers Vote to Limit When Local Election Officials Can Count Ballots By Hand

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers on Friday voted to limit when local governments can count election ballots by hand, a move aimed at a rural Northern California county that canceled its contract with Dominion Voting Systems amid unfounded allegations of fraud pushed by former Republican President Donald Trump and his allies.

Shasta County’s board of supervisors, which is controlled by a conservative majority, voted in January to get rid of the voting machines it used to tabulate hand-marked ballots for its roughly 111,000 registered voters. County supervisors said there was a loss of public confidence in the machines from Dominion Voting Systems, a company at the center of discredited conspiracy theories since the 2020 presidential election.

At the time, leaders did not have a plan for how the county would conduct future elections, including the March 2024 Republican presidential primary in delegate-rich California that could be key in deciding who wins the GOP nomination. The county had been preparing to count ballots by hand for its next election on Nov. 7, 2023, to fill seats on the school board and fire district, and decide the fate of two ballot measures.

On Friday, the California Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, essentially voted to stop Shasta County officials from using a hand count to tally votes. The bill, which was approved by two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers, would only allow hand counts by local election officials under narrow circumstances. The exceptions are for regularly scheduled elections with fewer than 1,000 eligible registered voters and special elections where there are fewer than 5,000 eligible voters.

“Hand counts are complex, imprecise, expensive and resource intensive,” said Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, a Democrat from Santa Cruz who authored the bill and is a former local election official. “Research has consistently shown that humans are poor at completing rote, repetitive tasks.”

The bill now heads to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The fight over voting machines has divided the Shasta County, a mostly rural area where the largest city is Redding with a population of 93,000 people.

Should Newsom sign the bill, County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen said the county has the equipment it needs to tabulate votes in upcoming elections. Despite the county getting rid of its Dominion voting machines, local leaders gave her permission to purchase equipment needed to comply with federal laws for voters with disabilities. The system that was purchased, made by Hart InterCivic, includes scanners capable of tabulating votes electronically.

Darling Allen said in an email she hopes Newsom signs it, calling it a “commonsense protection for all California voters.”

Shasta County Board of Supervisors chair Patrick Henry Jones said Friday the county would sue to block the bill should Newsom sign it. He said state officials “cannot guarantee that these machines haven’t been manipulated.”

“The state is now attempting to block us from being able to have a free and fair election without any outside influence,” he said.

Pellerin said the argument that voting systems are easily hacked “is a fallacy.”

“It is illegal for any part of a voting system to be connected to the internet at any time, and no part of the voting system is permitted to receive or transmit wireless communications or wireless data transfers,” she said, adding that California’s election standards are some of the most strict voting system standards in the country.

Trump and his allies have been pushing county officials across the country to embrace hand counts amid conspiracy theories surrounding voting equipment, particularly those manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems. But few counties have agreed to do so. Last month, Mohave County in northwestern Arizona rejected a plan to hand-count ballots because it would have cost $1.1 million.

Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News following the 2020 presidential election, alleging the news agency damaged its reputation by amplifying conspiracy theories that the company’s voting machines had rigged the election in favor of Democratic President Joe Biden. In April, Fox News agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems nearly $800 million to settle the lawsuit. The judge in the case found it was “CRYSTAL clear” that none of the accusations about Dominion’s machines was true.

While hand counts of ballots occur in some parts of the United States, this typically happens in small jurisdictions with small numbers of registered voters. Hand counts, however, are commonly used as part of post-election tests to check that machines are counting ballots correctly, but only a small portion of the ballots are counted manually.

Election experts argue it’s unrealistic to think officials in large jurisdictions, with tens or hundreds of thousands of voters, could count all their ballots by hand and report results quickly given that ballots often include dozens of races.

As one example, Cobb County, Georgia, performed a hand tally ordered by the state after the 2020 election. It took hundreds of people five days to count just the votes for president on roughly 397,000 ballots, according to local election officials. To count every race on each ballot using the same procedures, one official estimated it would have taken 100 days.

“Doing something like a full hand count in a sizeable jurisdiction is not the way to put those conspiracy theories to rest,” said Gowri Ramachandran, deputy director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s Law School. “It’s a way to waste a lot of money and potentially create chaos.”

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Will California Lawmakers Fall for Fraudulent Study Justifying Unjustified Prison Guard Union Giveaways?

California taxpayers should pay careful attention to the scheme orchestrated by the Newsom administration to further enrich his political cronies at the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

Under California law, the state of California is required to conduct compensation studies in order to determine the appropriateness of general raises for public employees.

Prior to this year, the last publicly released compensation study for California’s prison guards was from 2013. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office that compensation study determined “that state correctional officers were compensation 40.2% above their local government counterparts and 28.1% above their federal government counterparts.”

Ever since, the state has dragged its feet in completing and referencing these legally required studies.

In 2018, Gavin Newsom was elected governor with the support of the CCPOA.

In 2020, the CCPOA ousted one of its most prominent critics in the California Legislature, Republican Sen. John Moorlach, helping to elect compliant Democrat Dave Min.

In 2021, the CCPOA dumped millions to defend him from recall. That same year, over the objections of the LAO pointing out the lack of a compensation study, the California Legislature, including Min, uncritically voted to give the CCPOA a lucrative new contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

That contract is now up.

The LAO is raising alarm bells once again about how the state is trying to justify a lucrative new contract for the CCPOA.

For one, the state’s HR department has concocted a deliberately misleading compensation study using different methodology and comparison groups designed to make the CCPOA-represented prison guards look underpaid.

The LAO notes a number of problems with the Newsom administration’s compensation study. It deliberately compared the pay of prison guards to law enforcement employees in high cost-of-living counties where few prison guards actually work and even two counties where zero prison guards work.

The LAO also notes the study conveniently omitted overtime pay, “which is equivalent to roughly 24 percent of gross regular pay in 2022,” and “mischaracterizes the value of pension and retiree health benefits.”

For these reasons and more, the LAO is advising the Legislature not to even reference the study.

The LAO brings to light other very useful information. Like the fact that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has to turn away more than 90% of qualified applicants for the prison guard academy, which indicates that at current levels of compensation there are more than enough people willing to do the job. No general raises needed.

The LAO also notes that compared to 2013, “the share of state correctional officer positions that are vacant” has also gone down. This, too, indicates there’s no actual problem bringing prison guards on to the job.

And as for handwaving from the CCPOA about retention problems, the LAO points out “the average Unit 6 member is younger today than they were in 2013. To some extent, this may reflect recent rates of retirement.”

Despite this, the Newsom administration wants to reward his cronies at CCPOA.

This is yet another test voters should use to gauge who in the Legislature is truly representing them and who is willing to play political games over public service.

There is no reason to throw more money at CCPOA. None.

For comparison, consider this question from watchdog group Govern for California: “Do our elected state officials really believe that California should spend twice as much on the compensation and benefits of 64,937 [correctional] employees as it spends on the 450,000 students served by California State University?”

Click here to read the ful article in the Orange County Register

California FPPC Chief of Enforcement Demoted Without a Peep: What Led Up to Demotion?

FPPC chief’s relationship with CDPH deputy director and chief counsel

July 27, 2023, a press release was issued by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) naming the new Chief of Enforcement.

“The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) today announced the appointment of James M. Lindsay as Chief of Enforcement.

Lindsay comes to the FPPC from the California Children and Families Commission (CCFC), where he served as Chief Counsel since August of 2022. In this position, Lindsay advised the Commission, Executive Director, and staff on all legal matters, including Political Reform Act and Bagley-Keene Act compliance and training, as well as being responsible for leadership, litigation, and mentoring responsibilities. Prior to that, Lindsay spent almost four years as the lead litigation attorney at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). There, he had primary responsibility for administrative hearing matters, writs and appeals, and helped lead efforts to improve litigation practices and organizational improvements.

“I’m extremely pleased to announce Mr. Lindsay’s appointment to this important role in the agency,” said FPPC Chair Richard C. Miadich. “We’re thrilled to have someone with extensive litigation experience to lead our Enforcement team. Mr. Lindsay’s experience in government policy and operations will greatly help our ongoing efforts to promote the public’s trust and maintain our leading National role in the realm of government ethics and campaign finance.”

In addition to his roles at CCFC and CalSTRS, Lindsay spent more than 20 years in the private sector at law firms in Folsom, Modesto, and Dublin/Stockton where he specialized in numerous aspects of consumer, insurance, business, real estate, personal injury, and family law. Lindsay received his law degree from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans, LA and his undergraduate degree in Economics from California State University, Fresno.

“We have a dedicated, professional and experienced staff and we are confident James’ breadth of experience in other aspects of California’s political and legal climate will only improve and enhance the Division’s overall capabilities,” said Chair Miadich.

Assistant Enforcement Division Chief Chris Burton will remain acting chief until August 28, 2023.

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is California’s governmental ethics and campaign disclosure agency.”

Per an email from Ms. Tara Stock, Intake Manager, Enforcement Division, Ms. Angela J. Brereton, Former Chief of Enforcement has been reassigned as Assistant Chief of the Enforcement Division.

Information regarding Ms. Brereton’s reassignment remains unclear. However, Executive Staff Reports from the January 26, 2023 Commission Hearing highlight negligence in duties.

According to deed records for the County of Sacramento, Ms. Brereton shares a mortgage with Mr. Hugh A. Brereton.

A class of 2000 announcement by UC Davis School of Law further confirms the relationship between these two individuals.A press release issued by Governor Newsom’s Office in February 2020 stated the following:

“Hugh “Drew” Brereton, 44, of Sacramento, has been appointed deputy director and chief counsel of the California Department of Public Health. Brereton has served as deputy director and chief counsel for the Office of Enforcement at the Department of Managed Health Care since 2016, where he was assistant chief counsel from 2014 to 2016 and an attorney III from 2008 to 2014. Brereton was an attorney at Katchis, Harris and Yempuku from 2002 to 2008 and at Pagliero & Associates from 2001 to 2002. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California Davis, School of Law. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $195,168. Brereton is a Democrat.”

Although I currently have approximately a dozen cases open with the FPPC, Ms. Brereton has continually denied sworn complaints regarding violations of the Political Reform Act surrounding public health.

I previously reported to the FPPC that State Treasurer Fiona Ma is personally invested in pharmaceutical companies as detailed on her statement of economic interest, received donations from Pfizer and established a statewide pooled money investment account with the aforementioned entity. Why did Ms. Brereton deny this is a conflict of interest, and does her spouse’s position with the CDPH present bias?

My article in The California Globe further elaborates on these concerns: Health or Heredity? COVID-19 Vaccines & California’s History of Eugenics:

“According to the California State Treasurer’s website, “through the Pooled Money Investment Account (PMIA), the State Treasurer invests taxpayers’ money to manage the State’s cash flow and strengthen the financial security of local governmental entities. PMIA policy sets as primary investment objectives safety, liquidity and yield. The PMIA has three primary sources of funds: the State general fund; special funds held by State agencies; and monies deposited by cities, counties and other entities into the Local Agency Investment Fund (LAIF).”

“As a part of the 2023 investment portfolio, the State Treasurer’s Office has included Johnson & Johnson for both corporate bonds and commercial paper. The public at large may consider this to be a conflict of interest given that State Treasurer Fiona Ma possesses a personal investment in the pharmaceutical giant. Treasurer Ma’s spouse also holds a retirement account with Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) Financial Group. On February 16, 2023, SVB Securities held a Global Biopharma Conference in conjunction with Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and an array of other pharmaceutical corporations. Due to the recent SVB collapse and uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, California residents may seek deeper answers into the true origins and legitimacy behind the bank failure. The lack of transparency from the Biden and Newsom Administration leaves the people with unrest.”

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