Greetings from the smoky Sacramento newsroom. We’ve got plenty of news. There’s our latest podcast, Jerry’s Supreme Court nominee, a new reporter at The Sacramento Bee and much more. But let’s start with the midterms that refuse to end.
WHERE DID REPUBLICANS GO WRONG?
It’s been exactly three weeks since my visit to Orange County, and there are two moments from that warm Thursday afternoon that continue to stick with me. Let’s put them in context:
No. 1: Republican overconfidence
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Orange County GOP Chair Fred Whitaker said on Oct. 25 that the idea congressional incumbents Mimi Walters and Dana Rohrabacher could lose their districts was “mostly made up by the media.” And yet, this is where we find ourselves right now: Democratic challenger Katie Porter has overtaken Walters in the Irvine-based district, while Harley Rouda has defeated Rohrabacher in the conservative Costa Mesa area. Walters and Rohrabacher each won their districts in 2016 by 17 percentage points.
But can we be that surprised by the results? Democrats ran quality candidates presenting themselves to voters as moderating forces capable of building consensus in an all-to-partisan D.C. environment. Perhaps Diane Harkey was expected to lose an open GOP seat to Democrat Mike Levin. Yes, there is still a glimmer of hope in northern Orange County for Republican Young Kim to fend off Democrat Gil Cisneros. But any way you want to look at it, Orange County has been a nightmare for Republicans in 2018, or – in the words of former Assembly leader Kristin Olsen – “not salvageable.”
Maybe this Democratic wave will be short-lived, and California Republicans can find their way back into power in 2020. Regardless, a clear message has been sent to future congressional candidates: Complacency is not an option.
No. 2: Young Kim’s shift
In Fullerton, Whitaker was confident Republican hopeful Young Kim could defeat Gil Cisneros. Sure, it’d be close. But how could she lose? She wasn’t aligning herself with President Donald Trump, had a compelling immigrant backstory and was running against a challenger who was raising less money and, unlike her, had never held a political office. Kim is still winning by 122 votes (0.06 percentage points), but with thousands of outstanding votes, it’s only a matter of time before Cisneros jumps ahead. Kim’s candidacy revolved around being a moderate. When I asked her three weeks ago if Trump was helping or hindering her messaging, she replied, “I am running as my own person. I am running neither as with him or against him.”
Yet as results began showing Cisneros cutting into what was once a solid lead, Kim accused the Cisneros campaign on Twitter of “harassing and intimidating vote counters in Orange County” in order to “influence and alter the outcome of this race.” As one AM Alert reader pointed out to me, the Los Angeles County Registrar appeared to softly push back on this claim. Los Angeles County covers a portion of the district Kim is running in. In Florida, where a massive recount is underway in high-profile races, the president has pushed voter fraud conspiracies. Kim is now laying the groundwork to make similar claims if she loses.
MAKE COLLEGE AFFORDABLE AGAIN
Most of us have been there, sipping on a cup of Ramen Noodles while reading a textbook from the comfort of a less-than-comfortable mattress. This is college.
Once you leave, you’ll likely find yourself saddled with debt. This is precisely what Californians are tired of. They want solutions.
Nearly six in 10 respondents to a new poll released Wednesday night by the Public Policy Institute of California say college affordability is a big problem, while another 25 percent say it is “somewhat” a problem.
The same poll shows three-fourths of California residents believe the state’s public higher education system should be a high or very high priority for Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom.
Andrew Sheeler tells you what you need to know.
MEET THE BEE’S NEW POLITICAL REPORTER
You may know her from the Associated Press, but she’s ours now — and we’re very happy to introduce her. Meet Sophia Bollag. She’s a political reporter who joined The Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau this month. She can best be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Unlike me, she enjoys coffee. “Addict” may be the more appropriate terminology. So if you’d like to make an introduction, share a few tips or offer some insight on life in the Capitol community, shoot her an email.
Here’s what you need to know about Sophia: She’s spent most of the last two years covering the legislative session for the AP’s Sacramento Bureau. Before that, she interned at the Capitol for the Los Angeles Times, for the Boston Globe in D.C. and the Texas Tribune in Austin. At The Bee, she’ll be covering .... California politics.
Other interesting tidbits:
- Hails from the East Bay and is a proud Northwestern graduate
- Likes “pretty much all snacks”
- Wants to learn a third language
- Dislikes “other people talking while I’m talking” — Don’t we all?
CALIFORNIA NATION EP. 5
We’re back with a new episode! Ryan Sabalow has been covering the Camp Fire over the last week and will leave you on the brink of tears by the end of the show. I promise, the story has a happy ending. But the bulk of this edition of “California Nation” focuses on what lies ahead for Newsom. Former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis joins former GOP Assembly leader Kristin Olsen and Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to offer some tips. We also have Mike Madrid and Roger Salazar agreeing on something: Republicans are in deep trouble after the midterms, but it isn’t all roses for the Democrats.
Nate Silver thinks there’s something obvious that reporters are missing. Congressman David Valadao is no longer safe, Silver tweeted Wednesday night. The man behind FiveThirtyEight wrote, “Valadao led by ~7.5% when the race was called for him a week ago; now the lead is down to ~2%. Still a LOT of uncounted ballots. This is clearly a case where the right thing to do journalistically is to un-call the race.”
As of 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Associated Press was standing by its call. The Fresno Republican leads Democratic challenger TJ Cox by 2.2 percentage points — a lead that has trimmed to just 2,090 votes. With the latest coming in from Kern County on Wednesday afternoon, Valadao extended his advantage by 206 votes. Still, the Central Valley race in California’s 21st Congressional District has tightened quite a bit since Election Day.
The AP did not call any new races in California. But in Assembly District 38, Assemblyman Dante Acosta conceded, according to a Wednesday afternoon tweet from his Democratic challenger, Christy Smith. With this pickup, Democrats will have at least 56 Assembly seats — the largest advantage in four decades. Democrats are expected to gain additional seats as well, as eight other races remain uncalled. Four seats in the California Senate also remain uncalled, one of which is guaranteed to go to a Democrat. Three seats currently controlled by Republicans are also in play.
As for the U.S. House, Kim’s lead over Cisneros has dropped to just 0.06 percentage points. Her 122-vote advantage is expected to slide away very soon. Meanwhile, Porter has increased her lead over Walters. Victory appears inevitable for Porter, though she has yet to claim victory. Wins in House Districts 39 and 45 would give Democrats six congressional pickups in California alone.
Tony Thurmond continues to move up over Marshall Tuck in the race for superintendent of public instruction, as does State Sen. Ricardo Lara in his insurance commissioner campaign against independent Steve Poizner. State Sen. Joel Anderson trails Democrat Mike Schaefer by 1 percentage point.
THE LAWYER, NOT THE SINGER
After more than a year, Brown finally selected the next person he wants on the California Supreme Court: Joshua Groban. Groban is Brown’s senior adviser for judicial appointments. According to the governor’s office, Groban served as the legal counsel for Brown’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and oversaw the appointment of about 600 state judges.
But don’t get the Supreme Court nominee mixed up with the “You Raise Me Up” gospel singer. The musician couldn’t resist commenting on the coveted nomination of a fellow Josh Groban.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Josh Groban (@joshgroban) —”Haha very related to me, very kind and smart and very qualified. It’s a win win with the name, he gets great tables at restaurants and I get out of speeding tickets.”