Pamela Sparrow, left, and Derek Bryson, right, visit Kris Rodriguez, 25. "I really don’t care, to be honest with you,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know what party I am or what the difference is.”
How badly do Democrats want to oust Rep. Steve Knight?
Rep. Karen Bass, a Westside Democrat, is already paying for buses and vans to ferry volunteers over the Sepulveda Pass into Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the Antelope Valley to reinforce local Democrats as they start up voter registration drives. Organizers say they have registered 80 voters over three trips so far.
California may offer Democrats a lopsided advantage as a whole, but this patch of the state — where the suburban sprawl of Los Angeles comes to an end and the Mojave Desert begins — is still a bastion for the Republican Party.
The volunteers are in no short supply. Many are political neophytes newly invigorated by opposition to President Trump and itching for something to do.
“In L.A., you kind of feel like you are in this helpless political bubble,” Zoe Ward, a 32-year-old student in UCLA’s film directing master’s program, said after scouring Palmdale for new voters on a recent Saturday. “Coming out here, it feels like my minutes and hours go further.”
Two weekend trips into the district this spring show the task is grueling but uplifting work for some Democrats feeling guilty that they did not do enough in 2016 to help their party.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, left, Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León appear in Riverside in April to call for gas tax hike. All three are getting raises.
Gov. Jerry Brown, state legislators and other state elected officials were granted 3% pay raises Monday by a state panel that noted that it is slightly less than the salary increase that was recently given to rank-and-file state workers.
Anthony Barkett, one member of the state Citizens Compensation Commission, said the increase was reasonable given his concern about the state’s unfunded liabilities for pensions and the potential for “catastrophic” budget effects if Obamacare is repealed.
“I’m for a moderate increase again,” Barkett told the panel, adding, "Our legislators need to address these bigger problems.”
The action, which takes effect in December, raises salaries for California officials that mostly were already higher than the pay of counterparts in other states.
Gov. Brown’s pay will jump from $190,100 to $195,803, which makes him the highest paid governor in the country. The second highest salary is the $193,304 paid to the governor of Pennsylvania, but Gov. Tom Wolf does not accept the salary.
California’s legislators will see their salaries increase from $104,115 to $107,238. They also get $183 per day in tax free per diem payments to cover expenses for each day they are in session in Sacramento.
The commission, which is appointed by the governor, also gave 3% raises to 11 other constitutional officers, including the attorney general, lieutenant governor and treasurer.
“Our data shows our legislators and constitutional officers’ salaries are greater than they are in most states,” Commission Chairman Thomas Dalzell said.
Even without the raise, California lawmakers received the highest base salary in the country. The second highest base salary is the $86,479 that goes to lawmakers in Pennsylvania.
The Legislature and governor recently granted 4% raises effective July 1 to the largest union of state rank-and-file workers.
The timing of the raises for lawmakers, coming two months after legislators voted to raise gas taxes and vehicle fees by $5.2 billion annually, was questioned by Lew Uhler, head of the California-based National Tax Limitation Committee.
“They raised our taxes and spent our money and they seek a reward for that? Come on,” said a skeptical Uhler.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) holds a news conference in the Capitol on March 22, 2017.
As Orange County faces questions about its reputation as a Republican bastion, Rep. Devin Nunes told party donors on Saturday night that their pushback was key to fighting the majority Democrats’ power in the state.
“It is so critical for us to win here and keep winning here,” the Tulare Republican said.
Nunes was the keynote speaker of the Orange County GOP’s annual Flag Day fundraiser. The event was a testament to the vulnerability of some of his fellow Republicans — members of Congress who were reelected last fall but also saw Hillary Clinton win their districts.
Protesters greeted attendees on their way into the Hotel Irvine. And several of the lawmakers who are under pressure ahead of the 2018 midterm were at the fundraiser.
“If not for Orange County, I might be standing here, but it wouldn’t be as a congressman,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) told the crowd. His district straddles Orange and San Diego counties, and he was sent back to Congress by just 2,300 votes in November.
The gathering came at a time when the GOP brand is in peril in Orange County, where voters favored a Democrat for president for the first time since the Depression. Four Orange County House seats are key to Democratic efforts to retake Congress next year.
But the roughly 1,000 attendees were unfazed.
“Bring it on,” said Fred Whitaker, the county party chairman. He noted that national Democrats planned to set up an office nearby to challenge the vulnerable Republicans here. “We save those seats, we save the House, we do our part.”
About 100 people rallied across the street from the entrance to Hotel Irvine to protest the Orange County GOP annual Flag Day fundraiser in Irvine.
Nunes also spoke about a recent $52-billion gas tax passed in Sacramento, which he argued should be the focus of a recall ballot effort. “It’s going to be up to folks like you to pass initiatives. We need to get some common sense back in the state.”
The congressman spent much of his remarks excoriating the media, including the Los Angeles Times. He suggested at one point that the media was partly responsible for the shooting at a GOP baseball practice this week that left Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana critically wounded.
“You could almost see this coming when it happened last week because the level of civil discourse has reached a point that I’ve never seen in my time in office,” he said when Whitaker asked him about the shooting. “And I think finally what manifested itself after the election is that you finally had the curtains come down on the relationship the Democratic Party and the extreme left have with the media, the universities, Hollywood, we could go on and on and on.
“What you’re seeing is a political party not willing to accept what happened in the last election,” Nunes continued. “Hopefully it’s a warning sign and hopefully the media will get back to at least pretending to do some real investigative work.”
Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, addressed the ongoing investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections, from which he has recused himself because he is under Ethics Committee investigation for his handling of classified material related to the inquiry.
“All the major papers in the country did a total character assassination on me because I was telling the truth – there was never any collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians,” he said. “Donald Trump and his agenda have stumbled out of the gate because you have an opposing political party develop a narrative, never let it go, continue to this day, and now we have a special counsel who, if you believe the leaks, is not looking at Russian collusion anymore. Was this an investigation in search of a crime?”
The audience cheered and applauded as Nunes spoke.
California state Sen. Janet Nguyen
The Orange County GOP showcased state Sen. Janet Nguyen at its Saturday fundraiser in Irvine, having the Garden Grove Republican deliver the pledge.
Nguyen, a Vietnamese war refugee, was in the headlines this year when she was forcefully removed while trying to speak out on the Senate floor against the late Sen. Tom Hayden, one of the most outspoken opponents of the Vietnam War.
Democrats were forced to apologize after the dustup and Nguyen has gotten a lot of attention ever since.
They don’t want me to talk to my constituents more; they want me to talk to them. They don’t represent my constituents. None of them represent my constituents…. They are a political organization asking me to pay homage to them. Forget it.
They’re pathetic. There were almost none. There’s a couple million people in the surrounding communities and to have those few tells you the real momentum of this movement has really died. The same has been happening at our office where they come every Tuesday. There’s less every week.
Susan Wong, a registered nurse from Orange, and her husband, Jim, who uses a wheelchair, were among scores of protesters on hand to greet Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) and other GOP lawmakers who gathered Saturday at the Orange County Republican Party’s annual Flag Day fundraiser.
“It’s all the deplorables in one basket,” said Wong, 64, outside of Hotel Irvine. “You just can’t stay home. I’m horrified every day. Instead of yelling at the television I’m going to come out and protest.”
Wong said she has seen a sharp decline in the number of uninsured people at the community college clinic where she works, progress she fears will be undone if President Trump is successful in his campaign promise to repeal former President Obama’s signature healthcare law. And she worries about the impact on her husband, a former research biologist with Parkinson’s disease who is on disability.
“I’m a nurse. I know what happens when people don’t have insurance,” she said.
Many of the protesters attended the event because they are trying to oust their representatives in Congress as well as other GOP members from California.
Nunes, the keynote speaker who is from the Central Valley and leads the House Intelligence Committee, has been at the center of controversy because of his handling of confidential information in the probe of Russian interference in the November election.
He will be introduced by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), one of a handful of Republican members in California who represent districts that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. These elected officials are major targets for Democrats as they try to retake the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections.
Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa, Mimi Walters of Irvine and Darrell Issa of Vista all have purchased tables at the fundraiser.
Their critics complain about infrequent meetings with their constituents and have been calling for town halls.
Lulu Hammad, 42, held a poster featuring pictures of all five Republicans reading, “Missing Persons. Have you seen them? If found, please notify their congressional districts.”
The Aliso Viejo resident, a lawyer turned stay-at-home mom, said she is among the protestors who have repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to meet Rohrabacher at his district office. She also said she tried to ask a question about healthcare on a tele-town hall but was hung up on. The lawmaker is holding a birthday fundraiser with a $250 entry fee next weekend, Hammad said. She feels as if the only way she could reach her congressman is by paying.
“I can’t really get a hold of him,” Hammad said.
Throughout the protest, there was talk of impeaching Trump and Russian interference in the election.
Nettie Bryan, 40, of Cypress held a sign that read, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” a reference to a joke that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield made behind closed doors among fellow Republicans in 2016.
Bryan said she was most drawn to the event to urge GOP members of Congress to hold town halls to hear from voters.
Even in a time when Democrats settle their differences quickly when it comes to California’s state budget, this year’s finale was marked by a series of bitter political debates.
On this week’s episode of the California Politics Podcast, we take a look at that intense debate over proposals to change the duties of a state tax board and the rules governing recall elections. We also step back and look at the final policy agreements on healthcare funding and social services programs.
Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel) slides in safe at home as GOP catcher Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) tries to apply the tag during the the annual Congressional Baseball Game
Eight California Democrats scored runs or made decisive plays that contributed to the Democrats 11-2 win at the Congressional Baseball Game Thursday night.
The event, played annually at Nationals Park, sold a record 25,000 tickets and raised $1 million for charity the day after a gunman who appeared to be targeting Republicans unleashed a spray of bullets on a practice field in Alexandria, Va. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and three others were shot.
Freelance politics and baseball writer Nathaniel Rakich keeps unofficial statistics for the game, and shared highlights from the California delegation with The Times. In all, lawmakers from this state scored 6 of the 11 runs.
Second baseman Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert) was the lead off hitter for the Democrats. He scored a run, stole a base and made a double play.
Ruiz spent a lot of time in the batting cages getting ready for the game this year "and learned how to be patient with my self out there on the plate, and just waited for it to come across the plate, and bam," he said after the game. "That’s what the lead off hitter needs to do, is get the momentum going early on so we can take the lead."
Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert) tags out Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Mich.) at second base as Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) watches during the annual Congressional Baseball Game.
The only two women who played in the game represent Southern California districts — Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-San Pedro) and Linda Sanchez (D-Whittier). Both seemed to be fan favorites, with the Democratic side of the stadium screaming and standing whenever they came to bat.
Barragán batted in a runner in the sixth inning.
“Every kid who plays in Little League, including me, dreams of the opportunity to play ball on a big league field,” Barragán said in a statement.
Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-San Pedro) crosses first base for a single.
Other highlights included:
- Third baseman Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) walked once, struck out once and scored a run.
- Pinch runner Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) scored a run.
- Pinch runner Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) stole three bases and scored two runs.
- Right fielder Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel) walked once, was hit by a pitch and scored one run.
- Center fielder Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) hit a double and batted three runs in.