Essential Politics: This is what happens when Steve Bannon comes to California


California Republicans walked into their weekend convention facing a persistent question: What direction should they take to stop the ongoing decline of their power in the state? Three chaotic days later, there was little resolution.

Those divisions were on display at the GOP convention headlined by Steve Bannon this weekend, just as they are struggling to get viable statewide candidates any traction.

Not that the Democrats are much more unified, although Nancy Pelosi downplayed the party’s schisms when I interviewed her last week at our summit event in Los Angeles.

Meantime, the candidates vying to replace Gov. Jerry Brown appeared together on a stage for the first time in a preview of the pivotal race ahead.

BANNON COMES ON STRONG

The California Republican Party gathered for its fall convention in the shadow of Disneyland in Anaheim this weekend. But Seema Mehta reports that for some members, it wasn’t the happiest place on earth, largely because of the presence of Bannon, President Trump’s confidant. Even before the convention started, there were concerns about Bannon’s nativist message, Phil Willon wrote. The appearance drew protests. Some members of Congress stayed away.

Convention attendees did appreciate Bannon’s message about how Trump won the White House and how Republicans can win in California. “California is to Donald Trump as South Carolina was to Andrew Jackson,” he said during his speech.

Worries about inflammatory statements quickened after Bannon’s attacks on former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain.

Want to know exactly what Bannon told the delegates? We’ve got the full transcript.

Bannon also cheered college Republicans by making a surprise appearance at a cigar reception late Friday night. The young men and women who make up the future of the GOP had their own contentious battle over their new leader, ultimately picking an ally of conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

Other speakers at the state GOP fall convention included House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who went after state lawmakers, and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who criticized the new California “sanctuary state” policy.

Just down the street, the major Democratic candidates for governor took part in their first gubernatorial candidate forum at a gathering of the National Union of Healthcare Workers. (The Times’ Melanie Mason was one of the moderators.)

They splintered over single-payer healthcare but little else. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom won the group’s endorsement later Sunday, the day after he earned the backing of the powerful California Teachers Assn.

A reminder you can keep up in the moment via our Essential Politics news feed on California politics.

A LOOK AT THE CULTURE OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN SACRAMENTO

An explosive letter on the culture of sexual harassment that pervades California politics continues to reverberate in the Capitol. Mason reports that legislative leaders have begun looking into a graphic allegation of a lawmaker attempting a forced sexual encounter with a lobbyist. Her story — and others like it — underscore a systemic flaw in the sexual harassment protections afforded to lobbyists and other non-employees who work in, but are not employees of, the Capitol.

State Sen. Connie Levya (D-Chino) says she will introduce a bill next year barring confidential settlements in sexual harassment cases. Those settlements, she said, serve to cover up serial misconduct, such as the alleged behavior of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein; her proposal would cover public employers, such as the Legislature.

Harassment also is the subject of this week’s California Politics Podcast.

A CONVERSATION WITH NANCY PELOSI

Asked about differences between her party’s leaders and the rank and file, Pelosi suggested the GOP has bigger problems. But she defended her own experience as a party elder, told me she wasn’t worried about calls for her to step aside and made a bold prediction her party would be returned to power after the 2018 midterms.

The House minority leader also insisted she hasn’t personally experienced any harassment, and said there should be a “zero tolerance” policy in the Capitol when it comes to the behavior being described through the “me too” movement.

Watch the conversation, co-hosted by the L.A. Times and the Berggruen Institute, in full here.

Appearing a few days later on “The View,” Pelosi said it’s important to have a woman “at the table” with Trump and GOP leaders, and she intends to remain that woman.

You also can watch John Myers’ conversation from our event with state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, GOP strategist Luis Alvarado, UCLA professor Lynn Vavreck and Alma Hernandez, executive director of SEIU California.

$3.8 MILLION AND NOWHERE TO SPEND IT

State Senate Leader Kevin de León launched a run for the U.S. Senate with $3.8 million sitting in various state campaign accounts, including one for an abandoned race for lieutenant governor, but he can’t just roll the money over into his federal contest. Federal law prohibits transferring funds raised for state committees into a campaign for U.S. Senate like the one he has launched to unseat Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Legal experts and political strategists say there may be legal, although heavily restricted, ways money raised for state campaigns could end up helping De León get to Washington, but the candidate acknowledges there are hurdles and says he is focused on raising new contributions to his campaign for U.S. Senate. And Team Feinstein has done its research.

George Skelton said voters shouldn’t be surprised if De León shakes things up. It’s rare, but it happens: An esteemed, powerful, senior politician is booted from office, he writes.

NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND

Trump raised expectations Sunday about Republicans’ timetable for completing tax reform, indicating he expects the as-yet-unwritten overhaul of the tax code on his desk by Thanksgiving.

Trump tweeted he plans to allow the release of classified files related to the November 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.

Noah Bierman writes that both Trump and his chief of staff John Kelly hark back to an undefined time in America when some things were “sacred,” as Kelly put it, to a better moment that’s been lost.

Female U.S. senators shared their personal “me too” stories on “Meet the Press.”

Get the latest about what’s happening in the nation’s capital on Essential Washington.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRES FORCE THOUSANDS OF RESIDENTS TO FACE THE REGION’S HOUSING PROBLEMS

Even before devastating wildfires struck Northern California last week, the region’s housing market was in crisis. Home values and rents already were at or near record highs, and decades of slow construction has left few homes available for the thousands of displaced residents.

The number of new families flooding the market is giving rise to fears of widespread displacement and even higher costs, reports Liam Dillon.

POLITICAL ROAD MAP: CALLING THE GOP CANDIDATES

As Republicans wrapped up the convention, it was still unclear whether viable candidates will emerge for several statewide offices in 2018. In one race, there’s not any GOP hopeful who’s ready to run.

In his Political Road Map column, Myers takes a look at the long losing streak of Republicans for any of the eight statewide offices in California. And it’s unclear whether donors will step up to change that in the election cycle that’s on the horizon.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

— Skelton tells the story of a California lobbyist who lost his home in the fires. All he wanted was for the governor to sign his bill — and he did.

— Brown is in Washington, talking about the threat of nuclear war.

— Billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer, still contemplating a U.S. Senate bid, launched a nationwide call for Trump’s impeachment.

— Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who clashed with Trump during the election, also appeared before the National Union of Healthcare Workers on Saturday and criticized the Trump White House for its clash with a widow of a fallen soldier last week.

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