Thursday, September 26, 2019

Essential California

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Sept. 25, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

California is always an indicator, if you know where to look.

Over the frenzied past few days — as Democratic support for an impeachment inquiry hurdled from the liberal edges to mainstream to the mouth of the speaker of the House, who had long opposed taking such a formal step — California’s seven freshman congressional Democrats from “purple” districts acted as a mood ring of sorts, reflecting the shifting zeitgeist of the party at large.

All of the California Seven defeated Republican incumbents in 2018. They hail from historically red districts, primarily in Orange County and the Central Valley, and face competitive races in 2020.

Three of their brethren (Reps. Katie Porter, D-Irvine; Harley Rouda, D-Newport Beach; and Mike Levin, D-Vista) had already called for impeachment earlier in the summer in regard to the Russia inquiry. (When Porter became the first freshman House member from California to do so in June, this paper wrote that her decision “could mark a subtle shift in the lineup of Democratic lawmakers who support trying to remove Trump from office.” Rouda and Levin had both followed suit by the end of July, reflecting the growing support for an inquiry still cleaving the party.)

On Monday night, the publication of a much-talked about pro-impeachment op-ed in the Washington Post marked a rapid shift in the political winds. It was jointly written by seven freshman Democrats (this group from competitive districts across the country) with a background in the military or national security.

One of them, Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda), was among the California Seven. That op-ed, as congressional reporter Sarah D. Wire wrote Tuesday, “helped set off a cascade of calls for impeachment from previously reluctant representatives, setting the stage for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to announce the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry.”

[Read the story: “Why now? How House Democrats shifted to favor starting impeachment proceedings” by Sarah D. Wire]

Both Rep. Katie Hill (D-Santa Clarita) and Rep. Josh Harder (D-Turlock) announced that they now supported impeachment inquiries early Tuesday, before Pelosi’s announcement.

[See also: “Trump impeachment: Freshman California Democrats say they’re ready for an inquiry” in the Sacramento Bee]

Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Fresno), who ousted former GOP Rep. David Valadao by a margin of less than a thousand votes and will face off against Valadao in a highly competitive 2020 race, remained quiet on the matter during the early part of the day. But after Pelosi’s announcement, the tide had unequivocally turned, and he too voiced his support. By Tuesday night, all but 16 of the 235 House Democrats had publicly voiced support for the inquiry. 

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