Essential Politics: It’s Handel. Now what?

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How can you begin this day in politics — given Tuesday’s momentous test for the road ahead in the era of — without quoting the song made famous by the late, great Ray Charles?

“Georgia, Georgia. No peace I find. Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.”

Good morning from the state capital. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief and there may indeed be no political peace after Georgia’s special election and the victory by Karen Handel in the state’s 6th Congressional District.

REPUBLICANS RALLY, DEMOCRATS DEFLATED

As the sun rises, there won’t be much agreement on exactly what Handel’s victory over Democrat Jon Ossoff means in today’s snake pit of American politics. But it’s undeniably a sigh of relief for .

The — a proxy war over either Trump himself or his impact on the nation’s politics.

No doubt Wednesday arrives with a bitter pill to swallow for .

“It’s a huge disappointment for Democrats, who really did put all their eggs in this one basket, feeling as though it was the kind of district — upscale, higher education, higher-income voters that went only narrowly for Trump — that if there’s any movement nationally, it should show up in this district,” said Stuart Rothenberg, a veteran nonpartisan elections analyst.

And as Evan Halper reported, it was a race closely watched here in California. There were . And no doubt, some will question whether all of the money for Ossoff helped fuel the narrative of liberal activists trying to buy the seat — often short-handed by GOP critics who would name check House Minority Leader .

Still, a number of voters other than the future of the suburbs of Atlanta — that includes any assertion that the special election was all about Trump.

(And lest we forget, a Republican also won in a South Carolina special election on Tuesday. Ralph Norman, a former state legislator, defeated Democrat Archie Parnell to fill the seat vacated by the president’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney.)

ON THE OBAMACARE REPEAL, THESE ARE THE ONES TO WATCH

In Washington, attention will now turn from the newest House member to what’s about to happen in the . Yes, it’s going to be about healthcare. But good luck figuring out anything more than that.

At least until Thursday, when details are expected to be unveiled. Lisa Mascaro has a rundown of the Republican senators that are a must-watch, the ones that will .

It’s a big test, too, for Democrats as they prepare to in protest over the secrecy surrounding the healthcare proposal being written by Republicans.

AND THAT TAX REFORM PLAN…

Meanwhile, House Speaker announced on Tuesday his big effort to overhaul the nation’s tax code — dubbed .

“We are going to get this done in 2017,” Ryan boldly promised.

And yet, there’s still no actual legislation to ponder and things like a potential border tax continue to divide crucial GOP support.

(MORE) CASH IN CALIFORNIA FOR LAWMAKERS

Back here in Sacramento, the citizens commission created by voters in 1990 approved .

The raises become effective in December. The bottom line: Brown will become the nation’s highest paid governor at $195,803 a year. But as Patrick McGreevy lays out, it’s .

TOM STEYER’S BIG DECISION

For months, billionaire Democratic donor and environmental activist Tom Steyer has been acting like a candidate running for governor — hobnobbing with party loyalists, putting out a position paper on income inequality and continuing his campaign to combat climate change. Steyer says he’s still considering jumping into the race.

But as Phil Willon found out, he may have — pushing for the impeachment of Trump.

BECK’S ON BOARD FOR A SANCTUARY STATE

Backers of legislation in Sacramento to make California on Monday: Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Beck had remained on the sidelines over , but said during an L.A. event that “this is not a soft-on-crime bill.” The bill, which would ban local and state law enforcement from carrying out federal immigration laws, is now pending in the state Assembly. Law enforcement groups still oppose the plan, but Beck’s imprimatur could carry some weight.

THE JURORS AND GERRYMANDERING

The news this week that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a closely watched challenge to the partisan political maps drawn in Wisconsin means something monumental is on the horizon.

Mark Z. Barabak takes a look at over redistricting and reapportionment, once thought to be too arcane to ever really matter to average voters.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

— The president into a critique of his predecessor.

— A Republican voter data firm , but there’s not much you can do about it.

— A new state audit says some California agencies on contracts.

— Members of the state Board of Equalization said Tuesday there remain a lot of unanswered questions about , a reorganization approved last week by the Legislature.

— Privacy advocates and consumer groups are hailing an Assembly Democrat’s bill to .

— Former Bay Area Rep. Ellen Tauscher has launched a new super PAC in the state’s congressional delegation, hoping to aid the Democratic effort to win control of the House in 2018.

— MSNBC has hired Maya , the sister of Sen. Kamala Harris, .

— With 105,000 Californians now on the state registry of sex offenders, some criminal justice leaders, including Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, .

— With Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez soon headed to Congress, Democratic women legislators have been . The Democratic arm of the women’s legislative caucus has endorsed Wendy Carrillo for the seat.

Sean Spicer’s (even though he did hold a televised press conference on Tuesday).

— Wisconsin, get ready for .

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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