Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Are Assembly Democrats expanding the map in real time?

A protest outside the California State Capitol on Friday, July 8.
A protest outside the California State Capitol on Friday, July 8. aseng@sacbee.com

California Democrats looking to recapture supermajorities in the Legislature have identified a handful of obvious Republican districts they endeavor to flip.

While Assembly Democrats must pick up just two GOP-held seats to win back the two-thirds majority needed to unilaterally raise taxes and change rules, a review of recent campaign finance data suggests a below-the-radar effort to expand the map.

Democrats in recent days have set their sights on the 35th Assembly District held by termed-out Republican Katcho Achadjian, a moderate whose congressional hopes were dashed this spring when he failed to emerge from the crowded 24th District primary.

In the 35th, which takes in all of San Luis Obispo County as well as Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc, Republicans maintain a slim voter registration advantage and are putting up Jordan Cunningham, owner of Cunningham Law Group and a member of the Templeton Unified School District Board of Trustees.

Democrats, meantime, have Dawn Ortiz-Legg, a San Luis Obispo-based public affairs and construction liaison. In the last two weeks, the Del Norte County Democratic Central Committee has pumped $75,000 behind Legg’s upstart campaign.

Need more proof the district could be in play? The California Democratic Party has come in with another $10,000.

In the 38th Assembly District, from which Scott Wilk hopes to springboard to the state Senate, the Republican Party’s registration advantage has slipped to less than three percentage points. Democrat Christy Smith, of the Newhall School District, has picked up $17,000 from the California Democratic Party since late August. She is squaring off against Republican Santa Clarita City Councilman Dante Acosta.

In the toss-up 29th Senate District, where GOP Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang is running against underdog Democrat Josh Newman, Democrats have put a modest $6,000 behind Newman in the past two weeks.

Click here to go to The Money Trail.

GOING COASTAL: Days after lawmakers scuttled bills to overhaul the state environmental board, the California Coastal Commission kicks off three days of meetings in Southern California where panel members will weigh a massive residential-retail development at the 400-acre Banning Ranch oil field in Newport Beach.

Legislation that would have increased transparency at the Coastal Commission faltered despite a campaign against perceived problems at the agency following the spring dismissal of the commission’s longtime head Charles Lester.

Following the slaying of her legislation, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, promised to resume the fight next year, warning that “our coast is not the property of well-connected special interests.”

The commission, which meets in the council chambers, 100 Civic Center Drive, will consider plans to abandon oil operations, clean and re-mediate the soil and subdivide the 401 acres into residential, commercial and open space. The plan calls for 895 residential units, 45,100 square feet of retail and a 75-room resort and 20-bed hostel. Staff is recommending approval, saying the site “continues to support a remarkable and unique array of sensitive coastal species and habitats.”

WHO’S BITING? And now, we pause for some recreation while Gov. Jerry Brown ponders the mountain of bills on his desk. Reports from the front lines indicate fishing along the Sacramento River is slow. However, boats were reporting up to two fish a day late last month.

On Wednesday, the State Water Resources Control Board meets for a presentation on salmon recovery efforts there by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service and Northern California Water Association. The meeting is 9 a.m. at the CalEPA Building, 1001 I St. in Sacramento.

BILS, BILLS, BILLS: Check out this morning’s story on the bills Brown has before him. There’s also a video.

INDEPENDENT SYSTEMS: A Brown administration supported effort to link California's energy grid to other Western states stalled this year, with environmentalist critics fearful of sustaining coal-powered plants and other dirty energy sources.

Today, Brown and a roster of heavy hitters in California’s energy policy world will gather for a symposium hosted by the state Independent System Operator at the Sacramento Convention Center. The two-day conference will feature remarks from Steve Berberich, president and chief executive of California ISO; Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission and Jan Smutny-Jones, chief executive of the Independent Energy Producers Association. Brown is scheduled to speak around 12:30.

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer will delivery keynote dinner remarks. Steyer, a possible candidate for governor when Brown steps down in 2018, is one of the forces behind a proposed increase in the tobacco tax, Proposition 56. On Tuesday, Steyer came out in support of Proposition 59, the nonbinding measure on the fall ballot giving Californians a say in whether to overturn the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision opening the Super PAC flood ways.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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