The Influencer Series

Will California elections stop ‘an unhinged president’? Put us on ‘a path to gridlock’?

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The California Influencers Series

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California Influencers this week answered this question: What will be the most important result to come out of next Tuesday’s election?

Barbara Boxer – United States Senator (1993-2017)

The most important election results are the outcomes of the U.S Senate and U.S. House races. That is because for the first time in my life I see an unhinged and dangerous president who governs by fear, prejudice and greed. We know that President Lincoln talked about appealing to “the better angels of our nature” while Trump appeals to hatred. A check and balance is sorely needed in the Congress.

Jon Fleischman – Publisher of FlashReport

There is no single more important election result than the election of Gavin Newsom as Governor. His election will cement a strong hold on the most important Governorship in the nation to an extreme-left wing partisan, who is bought and paid for by the state’s largest public employee unions. While much of the “Jerry Brown being the adult in the State Capitol” talk was overrated – there is no doubt that with the ascension of Newsom, the inmates are now firmly and completely in control of the asylum. For those already surprised as the size and scope of state spending, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Madeleine Brand – Host, KCRW Radio Los Angeles

The House races. We’ll see whether or not the midterms are a referendum on the Republican Party in the age of Trump. If the Republicans prevail, they will have a green light to pursue policies the president wants, e.g. more tax cuts, a continued crack-down on undocumented immigrants, and a loosening of environmental laws.

Michele Siqueiros – President, Campaign for College Opportunity

Voter turn-out. Are Democrats mobilized and energized to take back the House of Representatives and by some near miracle the Senate? Do voter suppression tactics depress turn out and deliver big wins for some Republicans? Did Kavanaugh hearings reinvigorate Trump’s base? A blue wave that provides some checks on this Presidency will be the best news we can work toward, hope for and wake up to the morning after the election.

Karthick Ramakrishnan – Director of AAPI Data and the Center for Social Innovation, UC-Riverside

The most important election result will be the turnout rate in California, particularly among young voters and communities of color. The state has implemented a slew of measures to make voting and registration easier, and we saw a relatively high level of voter engagement during the June primary. It will be important to see whether that high level of enthusiasm and mobilization carries through to the general election.

Aziza Hasan – Executive Director, New Ground Muslim-Jewish Partnership

The election of strong leaders who respect different opinions and model and inspire problem-solving is essential right now. California needs leadership that has heart, vision and compassion at its core. Ultimately the candidates we elect as citizens will represent our collective priorities, and selecting candidates who can hear and respond creatively to the needs of a variety of Californians will yield policy that serves California in the strongest possible way. I simply hope that citizenship, civility and coalition building occupy greater space in our leadership and decision making.

Laboni Hoq – Litigation Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice

We are at a real crossroads in our nation, where the politics of hate are rearing their ugly head. I will be closely watching whether campaigns that have relied on Islamophobic or racially charged ads and dog whistles will be successful. If so, we need to double down on our efforts at the local and national level to stop the normalization of these trends.

Amanda Renteria – Board member, Emerge America & Former Chief of Operations, California Department of Justice

I believe 2018 could be the beginning of a new generation of civic engagement. Wins across the country have the potential to seed an entire generation of engaged citizens and political leadership. A shift in the balance of power in the House of Representatives will set the tone nationally. New faces and voices will redefine governance and policies in cities and states across the country. Lastly and most importantly, a fired up voter base with validation of their participation will lead to a more involved citizenry that will hold leaders accountable and rebuild the strength of our democracy.

Dorothy Rothrock – President, California Manufactuters and Technology Association

The choice for Governor is the most important single decision that voters will make in California. The candidates have very different views about how to solve the looming problems in the state, what should be done to improve our quality of life, and the role that government should play in those solutions. Because the difference between the candidates is so stark and politics in the state is so polarized, it may be tough for the winner to get broad support for solutions that require compromise. For that reason he should make it a high priority to encourage citizens who were not his voters to stay productively engaged in the discussions on how to move forward. The next Governor will be successful if he can bring together Californians of all regions, parties and interest groups and find common ground to address our challenges.

Christine Robertson – Vice President of Community Engagement and Advocacy, Visit SLO CAL

The most important election result will be the one no one is talking about. While all eyes are fixed on which party will control Congress heading into the 2020 Presidential election, a startling 82% – or 6,073 – of all state legislative seats up for grabs. This number should give pause anyone who cares about the policy and political direction of our country over the coming decade.

In the current session, Congress enacted 271 new laws, while statehouses across the country put 54,871 new laws on the books during the same period. Unlike Congress, States have a long track record of policy innovation, experimentation and exportation. They have forged policy innovation in areas such as public education, climate change, criminal justice reform and public health. Additionally, state government possess the power to impose and enforce spending and policy mandates upon local governments, and also profound discretionary authority over the expenditure of hundreds of billions of federal dollars annually. In fact, while the combined general fund budgets of the 50 states exceed $1.6 trillion annually, so too do the annual budgets of our nation’s local governments, the priorities of which are often heavily constrained by state policy.

Despite the sheer power and influence of our state legislatures, they remain largely overlooked in our political coverage and conversation. While Congress is likely to remain the center of the political theater, the real policy decisions that will affect people’s daily lives will be determined by the outcome of these 6,073 state legislative races.

Monica Lozano – President and CEO, California Futures Foundation

Much has been said about of the likelihood of a blue wave and the Democrat’s chances to take the House and maybe the Senate. I will be watching to see whether Trump’s 2018 supporters send a strong message of repudiation. It’s time to bring civility and a defense of core American values back into national politics.

Linda Ackerman – President, Marian Bergeson Excellence in Public Service Series

One of the most important responsibilities the President has is to make judicial appointments, particularly the Supreme Court. For this administration it is extremely important for Republicans to maintain control of the Senate to aid in the confirmation process. The House is equally as important for Republicans to keep their majority in order to effectively move their legislative agenda. Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the additional 13 Congressional seats are important for California to hold as well, so that California citizens interests are represented. If Lt, Governor Gavin Newsom is elected, the most important issue for voters is to return California Senators and Assembly members to office. That action will prevent the Democrats from securing a 2/3 majority vote.

Chad Peace – Founder/President, IVC Media and Founding Board Member, National Association of Non-Partisan Reformers

Prior to 2010, it was virtually impossible for anyone but a Democrat or a Republican to win an election in California, let alone a statewide race. This year, however, California’s top-two nonpartisan primary has pitted a far-left Democrat against a viable independent candidate for the first time in our state’s history.

If the voters choose Democrat Ricardo Lara, not a whole lot will change with the status quo; the Democratic Party and its rising stars from the progressive left will continue that momentum. If the voters choose Independent Steve Poizner, the status quo will be in for a shock when they have to confront a new reality: our nonpartisan election process belongs to the voters.

To be clear, the “importance” of this election result is not about Lara or Poizner. This matchup is just a coincidence of history. And to be realistic, the deck is still stacked against Poizner because he does not have many of the benefits that come with a party, including a get-out-the-vote (“GOTV”) operation. But we do like to say that “California leads the way.”

At a time when voters all across the country are expressing a dissatisfaction with partisan politics on both sides of the aisle, this one little race for insurance commissioner could be the most important of them all.

Lanhee Chen – David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow, Hoover Institution at Stanford University

If Steve Poizner can win his race for Insurance Commissioner, and demonstrate that no party preference (NPP) candidates can actually emerge victorious from a contested campaign, it will be a game-changer for those seeking to break the stranglehold that Democrats have on state-wide elected offices in California. Specifically, this presents an opportunity for independent-minded Democrats and Republicans to craft a middle way in a state where intense polarization (particularly on the left) has become all too common.

Maria Salinas, President & CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

For California, the defeat of Prop 6 will be the most important result. If approved, we’ll lose billions annually for infrastructure investment. Our transportation networks are foundational to quality of life and economic success. The safe, efficient movement of people and goods throughout this state is possible only if we adequately build and maintain the roads that people depend on to get to work and to school, the highways that move products from ports to warehouses to consumers, and the bridges that connect our communities. The defeat of Prop 6 will signal Californians’ commitment to investing in our future, and our status as the world’s 5th largest economy.

Jim Boren – Executive Director, Fresno State’s Institute for Media and Public Trust

On the national level, this election will set up how politics is shaped for the next two years, and tell us whether Republicans or Democrats have the momentum going into the 2020 presidential election. With congressional control being decided, it also will have a huge say over how effective President Trump will be in the next two years. In California, the Nov. 6 election will be another referendum on the viability of the Republican Party in the Golden State.

Mike Madrid – Principal, Grassroots Lab

The most important election result will be understanding how college educated Republican women will vote. Their decisions will determine the fate of Congress as well as the future direction of the Republican Party

Larisa Cespedes – Chair, Hispanas Organized for Political Equity and Partner at Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller

The results of voter turnout among women, Latinos, and young people will be important, particularly in the two open House seats vacated by Ed Royce (R -39th District) and Darrell Issa (R - 49th District). Women living in suburban districts, Latinos in Anaheim and San Diego County, and new voters will be critical in the outcome in these two districts, and a handful of other highly contested Congressional races. These voters will determine the composition of the California delegation in the House and will have a far reaching impact through the 2020 general election.

Jon Coupal – President, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

The most important election result to come out of the upcoming election will be control of the House of Representatives. While Republicans are well-poised to pick up 2-4 seats in the Senate, if the Democrats take the House, we can expect 2 years of solid gridlock. That would be unfortunate because there are obtainable solutions that can be achieved across a range of policy areas, including immigration, entitlements, military readiness, etc. Republican control of the House would not mean that Democrats would be shut out of the process entirely as Republicans would still not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. But it might mean we could start putting the rancor and hostility behind us and actually make progress -- with compromises -- in key policy areas.

Daniel Zingale – Senior Vice President, California Endowment

Turnout. The most important outcome of this election will be the turnout rate among under-represented eligible voters. The generation of Californians who will embody our future are deeply dissatisfied with how issues like climate change, racial and social justice, and the widening gap in wealth and opportunity are being managed now. Improved turnout will suggest a readiness to channel that discontent peacefully into political power by voting. If turnout continues to be unequal and low, it may indicate dissatisfaction slipping into powerlessness and despair. That would not bode well for the future and would demand serious reflection on why we are failing to inspire broader faith in the system. But if the electorate this time does turn out to be more diverse and more equally representative of eligible Californians, that will be good news for all of us who love democracy and share a stake in its future.

Janet Napolitano – President, University of California

The most important result that could come out of the upcoming election is for the Democrats to take the majority in one or both houses of Congress. If that does not happen, there will be no effective check on the excesses of the Trump Administration, a result that should chill the heart of anyone who believes in enforcing government ethics, protecting the social safety net, and grappling honestly and forthrightly with some of the thorniest challenges (like climate change and immigration reform) confronting our country. At the state level, the election for Insurance Commissioner would indicate whether an independent (Poizner) can break through the Democratic monopoly on state office holders.

Manuel Pastor – Director of Program for USC Environmental and Regional Equity

At this point, it will be whether Democrats are able to achieve enough Congressional wins in California (and in other states) to not only win the House but to attain a decisive margin. Much of the direction California wants to take -- protecting the environment and addressing climate change, welcoming and integrating immigrants, improving policing and reducing incarceration, and generating economic growth that is equitable and inclusive -- is threatened by an overreaching federal government that is tilting in the other direction (and, through tax policy that limits state and local deductibility, constraining our ability to move forward). For California to thrive, the power of the current administration needs to be checked -- and the House will be the institution to do it.

Kim Belshé – Executive Director, First 5 LA

The results with lasting impact will be happening at the local level. Four communities in California are turning to voters to prioritize young children to give them the best start and opportunity to succeed in school and life. Oakland, Richmond, Capitola and San Joaquin County all have measures on the November ballot to support investments in early learning and child development. These communities join the City of Richmond and San Francisco, Alameda and Yolo counties, where strong majorities of voters this past June supported a number of local budget measures to prioritize the well-being of young children. The best leaders listen. Voters have the opportunity to issue a clarion call to elected officials at every level. Voters time and again have said they want thoughtful, statewide approaches to support the health, safety and school readiness of our youngest Californians.

Les Simmons – Pastor, South Sacramento Christian Center

While wave of Trumpism never penetrated California, the State has a number of congressional seats that support his views and ideology. Trump and congressional members that support him continue to threaten California’s future and values by attacking our sanctuary cities, eliminating key environmental protections, and sending ICE to raid their fields. Trumps tactics have deeply injured the republican congressional races this election cycle and provided opportunity for California to play a key role in flipping the House majority to blue. From Northern California to the Central Valley and of course Orange County there are key targeted races where democrats can win for the first time. While California is very blue, we also have the largest republican delegation greatly contributing to the destruction of our diverse, beautiful State. The result of the congressional elections is undoubtedly the most important races in California and the nation.

Chet Hewitt – President and CEO, Sierra Health Foundation

While the current electoral season has experienced what seem to be dramatic swings in party momentum from one week to the next, the question of which party’s “wave” actually gets voters to the polls and why will be the most important result emanating from Tuesday’s election.

Voter turnout will not only determine who will control Congress - a critical question and California has an central role in answering it- but, perhaps more importantly, it will signal whether apathy, anger, chaos or hope is the dominant political orientation of our nation.

This will be critical data for both parties, more important perhaps than any individual race, as we turn our attention to the 2020 presidential election.

Jim Wunderman – President and CEO, Bay Area Council

In answer to an earlier Influencers question, I argued that voters leverage a variety of sources to get informed about the myriad initiatives appearing on the November ballot. To seek out diverse sources and perspectives, in large part to counter and/or balance the immense volume of self-interested and often skewed or narrow political noise that is now hitting mailboxes, inboxes and the airwaves. As the noise now builds, it’s clear that the role of the initiative process in reaching sound policy decisions on extremely complex issues must be examined and reformed. California’s initiative system is unique in the access and power it affords to its citizens. It has also become a tool for manipulation and abuse of the very power it provides. It’s time we take a hard look at our initiative process and develop reforms that ensure it is working for the greater good of the state and all it citizens.

Timothy White – Chancellor, California State University

Whoever is elected governor will take the reins at a pivotal time as California faces generational challenges such as education, water, transportation and the environment.

This individual must have the vision to lead our state through these challenges including making tough decisions with the finite resources that are available.

California State University campuses are working to address many of these issues. At the CSU, we believe that our state’s greatest challenges will be solved by California’s greatest asset… an educated population.

Sustained investment in public higher education is not only key to the state’s economic prosperity… it’s key to developing long-term solutions.

Karen Skelton – Founder and President, Skelton Strategies

The most important election results will be the Governorships across the nation. Democrats could pick up 7-10 seats, including the key states in the mid-west of Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Florida is also in play. We are much more likely to understand what direction the nation is headed by the results of these statewide elections in traditionally blue states that went for Trump than from the house races that might give Democrats control of Congress. No predictions here, but will be watching closely for the impact of the Kavanagh confirmation, immigrant caravans, the Khashoggi murder and a testosterone-driven economy have on mid-west voters.

Bonnie Castillo – Executive Director, California Nurses Association

The most important outcome of the mid-term election would be the repudiation of the politics of fear and deceit perpetrated by the Trump administration and those parroting its words and actions.

We have seen depictions of their democratic opposition as mob rule, outlandish appeals to nativist alarm over immigration and people seeking asylum from violence at home, transparent efforts to stoke racial division, and encouragement of rampant voter suppression.

There should be no place in America, or any democratic society, for such behavior, and a defeat for its proponents would be welcome and well deserved.

Finally, at a time when the Trump administration is further destabilizing the Affordable Care Act, and the Senate Majority Leader is threatening new cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to pay for its corporate tax cuts, the election of more advocates of systemic healthcare reform, Medicare for all, would be a welcome advance for alleviating a growing healthcare crisis nationally, and in California as well.

Antonia Hernandez – President and CEO, California Community Foundation

Electing congressional representatives that reflect the needs, demographics and diversity of the state who will promote and protect our way of life.

Jim Newton – Lecturer of Public Policy, UCLA

I would say the the governor’s race, but Newsom is such a prohibitive favorite that I don’t think that’s in doubt. Given that, I’d argue that Prop. 6 is the most important – and contested – matter on the ballot, and its result will determine whether California infrastructure gets badly needed repairs.

Rob Stutzman – Founder and President, Stutzman Public Affairs

The most important election result for the future of California politics will be the insurance commissioner’s race. If Steve Poizner wins, he’ll be the first independent to succeed at being elected statewide and that could be an important playbook for the next decade in a state that appears it won’t elect Republicans to statewide offices.

David Townsend – Founder, TCT Public Affairs

The fate of our nation will be determined by the results of the House of Representatives elections. A Democrat victory will put the necessary brakes on an out-of-control presidency and cowardly U.S. Senate. If the Republicans hold control of the House of Representatives, Trump will be even more unchained and unhinged. It is not an overstatement to say the fate of the values most Americans hold dear is in the balance.

Steve Westly – Former California State Controller & Founder of the Westly Group

There are two. I think this election will show that Californians are serious about moving into the future by committing to improve roads and infrastructure and by voting for the education reform candidate for Superintendent of Public Education

Angie Wei – Chief of Staff, California Labor Federation

Congressional seats. We must take back the House to help put a backstop on this (white) nationalist who is our President.

Lara Bergthold – Principal Partner, RALLY Communications

It’s hard not to see this election as a referendum on truth and civility. But the biggest and most important result from this election may be voter turnout, because if this political environment is turning off more voters than turning on, we are in real jeopardy as a democracy.

Jessica Levinson – Professor of Law, Loyola Law School

On the national level, control of the Senate is the most important thing to watch on election night. As Americans have now seen, the Senate’s power to confirm or reject judicial nominees is of the utmost importance. President Trump has been extremely effective getting his nominees to the federal bench confirmed. This means his impact will be felt for generations. In California, California-based House races will be the most important election result. If the House flips from red to blue, that will significantly stall President Trump’s legislative agenda, and hurt his chances for re-election in 2020. House committees also have the power to issue subpoenas, which will be enormously important under the Trump administration.

Corey Matthews – Vice President, LeadersUp

In one of the most historic election seasons in our nation’s democracy, Americans (and Californians alike) are finding themselves fighting for the very soul of the United States of America. Everyday citizens are thinking critically about the type of society we want to build and maintain for our present day and for future generations to come. No issue seems agreed upon across the aisle at this moment. And ironically, though the economy is on the uptick and the unemployment rates are down, we find ourselves in the thick of ideological warfare that has saturated our nation in these past few months. Everything from healthcare to immigration to infrastructure and cyber security to foreign policy and trade agreements are all on the table and folks are confused and terrified about the fast pace of change that has ensued under Trump’s leadership backed by a Republican Congress. It seems as if the gubernatorial election in California is a mere microcosm of our nation’s fight between the GOP and the newly energized Democratic left because of Trump’s notorious influence as a President during the midterm elections. Thus, the most important election result to come out of this upcoming election will be whether or not the Democrats are able to take back Congress. Americans will choose who we want to be during this election, and the results of which will have implications on our present day society and on the generations to come.

Jim Brulte – Chairman, California Republican Party

Which party controls the House of Representatives.

Donna Lucas – CEO and President, Lucas Public Affairs

For California? The next governor.

Eloy Oakley – Chancellor, California Community Colleges

The most important election result to come out of the election will be a clear signal to the rest of the nation. Will we as a state continue to reject the policies of the Trump Administration, or will we give in to the fear mongering that has become the dog whistle of Trump endorsed candidates?

Kathryn Phillips – Director, Sierra Club California I can’t pick just one. So here are a handful of important results.

We’ll have a new governor who is committed to continuing to move us away from fossil-fuel dependence. He’ll be ready to keep cutting climate pollution and dealing with climate change’s impacts.

Voters will have demonstrated that they now understand that there’s a direct link between the condition of our transportation infrastructure and the tax increases created by Senate Bill 1. That is, they will have rejected Prop. 6. That will put one nail in the coffin of decades of misleading and cynical measures that imply that taxes have no link to services.

Democrats will have picked up some seats in Congress. No telling at this point how many, but some of them will be in California.

Some really smart women around the country who have never run for office will win. They were moved to act in part by the Trump Administration’s undisguised misogyny and general bigotry. Their entry into politics might be the only good thing to come out of the last two years of the Trump reign.

Conan Nolan – Chief Political Reporter and Anchor of ‘News Conference”, KNBC-LA

Gavin Newsom will tell you. John Cox will as well but doesn’t want to. Congressional candidates from both sides try to ignore it but can’t. Even the challenger in the race for Sheriff of LA County has tried to use it against the incumbent. It’s all about Trump.

A referendum on the president? Sure. But the most important outcome will be what this election says about where we are headed. A takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives by Democrats would constitute a backlash against the president and his party from suburban America (such as in traditional GOP districts like the 48th and 25th). Senate GOP victories, and a strengthening of their Senate majority would indicate a backlash to the backlash.

And the potential loser in all this? Moderate members of Congress. The Republicans and Democrats who are most in jeopardy are ones who have actually worked across the aisle on policy. They’ve had to. A member of Congress whose district is both suburban and rural must seek balance for survival. They are also the ones most likely to have friends on the other side.

The result on Tuesday may be an even more strident majority/minority in both houses of Congress. Elections are designed to help the nation navigate its course through policy at home and relations abroad. What happens in November will determine how much of that is actually accomplished or how much the nation will continue to be divided. And if it’s the latter than we can assume the moment this election is over… the next one will begin.

Catherine Lew – Principal and Co-Founder, Lew Edwards Group

WHO are the voters who will be expressing their passions at the polls? And who will be staying home? So much has happened in the last several months, let alone the past week—the Parkland shooting, Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearing, and continued state smackdowns on rent control and the gas tax. The stakes for who participates in California’s 2018 election couldn’t be higher nationally. Democrats must win nearly two dozen seats nationwide to take control of Congress and thwart Trump’s agenda. The outcome of elections right here in our Central Valley and Southern California regions could make the difference – several of these races are expected to be down to the wire. Nationally, a couple hundred female congressional candidates – the most ever in our country’s history – will have races decided in this election, including over a dozen female newcomers in California. Will young people or tenants angry about the lack of gun control or affordable housing see voting as the difference? Will women turn out in record numbers to ensure our voice is adequately represented? We’ll find out soon enough – and until then, it’s time to put your vote where your heart is. #vote

Ashley Swearengin – President and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation

In California, there are rarely close general elections. It’s pretty easy to anticipate the outcome of most races around the state. There are, however, a few close House races this cycle, which could be very consequential for our nation. And, there are big questions on statewide ballot measures that will affect transportation, housing, and water that are getting quite as much attention as most would have thought. I am paying close attention to propositions 3, 6, and 10 and urge voters to get as much information on these measures before voting.

Renata Simril – President and CEO, LA84 Foundation

With severe budget issues facing LAUSD (among other districts) and a teacher strike looming over the largest school district in California, my first thought was that the most important election result is the State Superintendent’s race. We should all be paying attention, if we care about the structural problems plaguing the school systems financing, a school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately affects low-income and black and Latino families or the educational and sport/play inequities that are leaving our most venerable youth behind.

With so many people paying so much attention to the 2018 midterms regarding national politics – will the Dems win back the House and/or the Senate? What will that mean to the President and his agenda and to investigations of him and/or people close to him – it can be easy to forget that there are other important down-ballot races that could potentially carry generational impact. Easy to forget even when the candidates and their backers for a job not well known, and not necessarily having too much direct power, like superintendent, have spent $43 million to make sure we pay attention.

So upon further reflection I’ve come to this; the most important election “result” is really voter turnout rates. If we can’t get people to engage in this environment and to care about important issues when so much is at stake, them democracy has bigger problems than a single election result; no matter how much the candidates and their backers spend. The success of our Democracy requires informed and active participation.

Cassandra Pye – President, California Women Lead and Founder/CEO, 3.14 Communications

Turnout. Turnout. Turnout. As Senator Dianne Feinstein said just last week: “You can march. You can talk all night. It doesn’t change anything. What changes things are elections.”