Capitol Alert

Catch up fast + Valadao’s lead shrinks + Conservative bright spots in OC

Too busy celebrating Thanksgiving to tune into political news last week? Capitol Alert has you covered. Here’s what you may have missed:


A bail industry-funded group says it has submitted signatures to repeal a sweeping overhaul of the state’s pretrial detention system that lawmakers passed this year.

The law, SB10, would end bail in California and replace it with a new system that gives judges more power to decide who stays in jail while awaiting trial.

It’s scheduled to take effect in October 2019. But the bail industry’s signatures, which still require verification by the state, would place a referendum on the 2020 ballot to repeal the law and delay SB10 implementation until voters weigh in.

SB10 is a “reckless attempt to reform the state’s bail system,” said Jeff Clayton, executive director of the American Bail Coalition and spokesman for the referendum effort.

Katie Hanzlik, a spokeswoman for the law’s author Sen. Bob Hertzberg, said it’s not surprising the industry is trying to overturn it.

“They will do anything to uphold the status quo of exploiting low-income Californians because it will keep their industry alive,” she said.

SB10 supporters say the existing system punishes people for being poor. Pretrial incarceration should depend on a suspect’s threat to public safety, not their ability to pay bail, they argue.

Some civil rights groups who have long advocated for ending bail say the new law gives too much power to judges and worry it will result in more people being jailed before trial.

Despite their criticisms of SB10, some distanced themselves from the referendum effort last week.

“We will never support any effort to keep the predatory bail industry in business,” said Abdi Soltani of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. “The bail industry is not interested in equal justice or equal protection under the law, they are seeking to turn back the clock to protect their bottom line.”


Gov. Jerry Brown, who traditionally grants pardons around the holidays, has given clemency to a former state senator convicted of felony perjury and voting fraud in 2014.

Former Sen. Rod Wright was among more than 100 people Brown gave clemency Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

The group also includes a man whose home was destroyed in the Camp Fire and several people at risk of deportation.

“I’m elated,” Wright said when reached by phone. “It truly is a day of Thanksgiving for me.”

Wright served just 71 minutes in jail after a court found him guilty of living at a different address than the one he used on his voter registration and candidacy papers.

Wright, a Democrat from Los Angeles County, resigned his Senate seat in 2014 over the conviction but has said he was wrongly prosecuted under an ambiguous legal standard for determining a lawmaker’s primary residence.

Earlier this year, Brown and the Legislature approved a change to that standard. Going forward, the new law will make it easier for California lawmakers to live outside their districts.

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Republican U.S. Rep. David Valadao’s lead over Democratic challenger TJ Cox narrowed to fewer than 500 votes. If the seat flips, it will bring the number of Republicans in California’s congressional delegation to 7 out of 53.

Democrat Tom Umberg pulled ahead of Republican state Sen. Janet Nguyen in the 34th state Senate District. On Saturday, he was ahead nearly 2,000 votes – almost a full percentage point.

Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein’s lead in the 77th Assembly District narrowed to roughly a percentage point over Democratic challenger Sunday Gover.


Although all the Republicans running for Congress in Orange County lost, other results out of the county were less depressing for the GOP.

Statewide, Gavin Newsom beat John Cox in the governor’s race by more than 20 percentage points. But in returns from Orange County on Sunday, Cox was still leading Newsom by a slim margin. Proposition 6, the unsuccessful measure to repeal a gas tax increase, won in Orange County by 9 percentage points. Republicans threw their weight behind that measure in an effort to hold congressional seats against the anticipated Democratic wave.

Although that strategy appears to have failed, Cox’s and Proposition 6’s relative success in the county indicate California-specific pocketbook issues still resonate with those voters, said Tim Rosales, who ran Cox’s campaign.

Rosales speculated that Cox outperformed Republican congressional candidates in Orange County because he ran a more California-focused campaign than House candidates. Voters who chose Cox for governor but a Democrat for the House appear to have used their congressional vote as one against President Donald Trump, he said.

Despite Cox’s more-than 20-point loss, Rosales said he thought his candidate’s message of affordability was the right strategy.

“There was such an overwhelming Democratic turnout in California,” he said. “I don’t know that there was anything different that we could have done or that I would have done.”