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Senator Kamala Harris

Paul Wellman (file)

Senator Kamala Harris


How Kavanaugh Fight Will Shape California Politics and Policy

Kamala’s Star Is Rising, While Kevin de León Misfired


Take your pick of conventional wisdom about the national political impact of newly sworn U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation in the wake of a savage partisan cage match in the Senate.

The internets are awash in hot takes, propagated by sectarian media zealots and festooned with quotes from party hacks and spinners, that alternately insist that in the crucial upcoming midterms, the Kavanaugh fight will:

(a) surely energize conservative Republicans outraged over efforts to stop Trump’s appointment of one of their own to the swing seat on the court.

(b) obviously aid Democrats enraged that right-wingers succeeded in their decades-long power grab that began with the 2000 Bush vs. Gore decision.

To paraphrase the writer William Goldman’s famous adage, “Nobody knows nothin’.”

Although post-Kavanaugh political implications across the U.S. remain uncertain, the repercussions for California are clearer, less than one month before the November 6 election. Five key takeaways:

KAMALA’S STAR IS RISING. Senator Kamala Harris put on a characteristically showy performance during Judiciary Committee hearings, dramatically walking out at one point while channeling Perry Mason in cross-examination of Kavanaugh at several others. She generated a big online fundraising haul after several of those exchanges went viral, helping to finance her ongoing national barnstorming that, over the weekend, landed her at a big state campaign event in Ohio, where she was greeted by cheers urging her to run for president in 2020, a possibility that appears increasingly likely.

KDL MISFIRED. State Senator Kevin de León’s flailing campaign against U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein suffered pushback from advocates for survivors of sexual assault and harassment after he led with his lip, accusing the longtime incumbent of “a failure of leadership” in handling the once-confidential allegations of Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s chief accuser. She and her attorneys publicly praised Feinstein for honoring Ford’s privacy, while activists in California threw a harsh spotlight on de León’s own record of hindering sexual harassment reform in Sacramento.

WELCOME TO THE O.C. For Democrats to prevail in their desperate struggle to win the House by flipping 23 Republican seats nationwide, they must turn nearly half a dozen California districts from red to blue, most of them in the suburbs of Orange County. To pull that off, they need to roll up big margins among white women voters, not only Dems but also independents and Republicans without membership in the Trump cult, a task that will provide a consequential measure of the fallout from the Kavanaugh affair.

THE PATH OF MOST RESISTANCE. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra already has filed dozens of lawsuits against the Trump administration on issues from agriculture safety and fuel efficiency standards to health care and immigration, but looming over every state legal action now is the shadow of Kavanaugh, pushing the court to the right from his perch atop the federal justice heap. That’s not to mention litigation already nearing the high court, as CALmatters columnist Dan Morain noted this week in highlighting a closely watched eminent domain case that could affect a host of policy matters in California, from coastal access to local government requirements that developers provide parks or other services in exchange for permits.

WOMAN OF THE HOUSE. Minority Leader and former speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has spent months hosing down red hots within her party eager to pursue articles of impeachment against Trump, a campaign issue she believes is a big loser, now finds herself fending off calls from the left wing to impeach Kavanaugh if Dems capture the House. Nearly two dozen Democratic congressional candidates are running with the promise not to back Pelosi for a leadership post, but because she remains the party’s most prodigious fundraiser, she’s a good bet to reclaim the gavel if there’s a blue wave, a result almost certainly made more difficult to achieve if Democratic wannabes get distracted from focusing on health care and other bread-and-butter issues in favor of railing about High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Don’t forget to vote.

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