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 President Trump — 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 John Myers 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 Republicans.

The four-point win by Handel puts to an end the most expensive congressional race in history — 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 Democrats.

“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 more individual donations from the Golden State than any state, including Georgia. 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 Nancy Pelosi.

Still, a number of voters rejected the idea that what happened on Tuesday was a referendum on anything 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 Senate. 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 either make or break the GOP promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

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

AND THAT TAX REFORM PLAN…

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Tuesday his big effort to overhaul the nation’s tax code — dubbed the “crown jewel” of the Republican agenda.

“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 pay raises for Gov. Jerry Brown, other statewide elected officials and members of the Legislature.

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 much more lucrative to serve as a locally elected official in Los Angeles.

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 something else in mind — pushing for the impeachment of Trump.

BECK’S ON BOARD FOR A SANCTUARY STATE

Backers of legislation in Sacramento to make California a “sanctuary state” in the battle over illegal immigration won an important new ally on Monday: Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Beck had remained on the sidelines over Senate Bill 54, 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 the white-hot politics that have erupted nationally over redistricting and reapportionment, once thought to be too arcane to ever really matter to average voters.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

— The president turns the death of an American who was held captive in North Korea into a critique of his predecessor.

— A Republican voter data firm probably exposed your personal information, but there’s not much you can do about it.

— A new state audit says some California agencies sidestepped competitive bidding rules on contracts.

— Members of the state Board of Equalization said Tuesday there remain a lot of unanswered questions about how their agency will transfer many of its duties to two new offices, a reorganization approved last week by the Legislature.

— Privacy advocates and consumer groups are hailing an Assembly Democrat’s bill to revive broadband privacy rules that were killed on the federal level and implement them in California.

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

— MSNBC has hired Maya Harris, the sister of Sen. Kamala Harris, as a political analyst.

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

— With Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez soon headed to Congress, Democratic women legislators have been working to ensure his replacement in the Assembly will be a woman. The Democratic arm of the women’s legislative caucus has endorsed Wendy Carrillo for the seat.

Sean Spicer’s camera time is being cut (even though he did hold a televised press conference on Tuesday).

— Wisconsin, get ready for IronStache 2018.

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

Miss Monday’s newsletter? Here you go.

Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to [email protected].

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[email protected]

Follow me on Twitter at @johnmyers and listen to the weekly California Politics Podcast



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