Kounalakis, Yee, Ma among statewide victors in California
Wednesday, November 7
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Controller Betty Yee will all return to office. Eleni Kounalakis will be the first female lieutenant governor. The four are among several statewide offices voters cast ballots for Tuesday. In the contest for insurance commissioner, Republican-turned-independent Steve Poizner had the edge over Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara.
Here’s a look at the down-ballot races:
Xavier Becerra, who was appointed California’s first Latino attorney general last year after Kamala Harris left for the U.S. Senate, was elected to stay on the job.
Becerra defeated Republican Steven Bailey, a former state court judge, with 58 percent of the vote on Tuesday.
“I’m honored and elated by the voters’ confidence to continue as Attorney General of our great state,” he said.
Becerra vowed to continue battling the Trump administration. Formerly a longtime Los Angeles congressman, Becerra regularly makes national headlines challenging the GOP president’s efforts to change environmental and immigration policies.
Bailey called the focus on Trump policies “a waste of taxpayer resources.”
In his short time as chief law enforcement officer , Becerra said he has secured more than 20 legal victories in federal court in cases involving health care, fraudulent college lenders and gun safety laws.
He also previously served as a state assemblyman and California deputy attorney general.
Bailey lagged in fundraising and ethics questions further complicated his efforts. He denied allegations he used his judgeship to aid his political campaign, improperly accepted gifts and steered business to a firm where his son worked.
A judicial ethics panel is reviewing the case and a decision is expected after the election.
Eleni Kounalakis will be California’s first female lieutenant governor after defeating Ed Hernandez in a Democrat-on-Democrat matchup.
Kounalakis won with nearly 57 percent of the vote and will replace Gavin Newsom, who was elected governor.
During the race, Kounalakis emphasized her background as a developer and former ambassador to Hungary.
She vows to fight sexual harassment in workplaces, hold perpetrators accountable, and ensure women receive equal pay for equal work.
Although the job holds little real power, it’s seen as a launching pad to higher office.
The lieutenant governor serves as a University of California regent, a Cal State trustee and as a state lands commissioner overseeing conservation and public access. The lieutenant also acts as governor when the top executive is away.
Kounalakis and Hernandez, a state senator, advanced after no Republican finished in the top two spots during June’s blanket primary.
Republican-turned-independent Steve Poizner had the edge over Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara as they vie for insurance commissioner.
Poizner held 51 percent of the vote with nearly five million ballots tallied early Wednesday.
Either candidate will break ground for a California statewide office. Poizner, a former insurance commissioner, would be the first independent to win such an election and Lara would be the first openly gay statewide officeholder.
The Department of Insurance enforces insurance laws, licenses and regulates companies and investigates fraud.
Poizner, a wealthy Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur who lost a bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2010, ran as an independent because he said the office should be free of politics.
Lara, who authored a failed bill that would have provided state-run health insurance, said that remains a top priority.
Poizner has said he would focus on making sure homeowners have adequate protection against wildfires and other natural disasters.
Both have promised not to take insurance money, though Lara had to give back money he took from the political action committee of the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer.
SECRETARY OF STATE
California’s Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla was re-elected after campaigning on his record of sparring with President Donald Trump.
Padilla defeated Republican Mark Meuser Tuesday to keep his position as the top state official overseeing elections. He won with 59 percent of the vote.
Padilla often denounced the president’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in California.
He also refused to comply with the Trump administration’s requests to provide data on California voters, arguing it was politically motivated.
Padilla was elected to his first term in November 2014.
Meuser ran on a platform of purging voter rolls of people who have moved or died and conducting audits to ensure ineligible people aren’t registered to vote.
Democrat Fiona Ma is the voters’ choice to replace outgoing Treasurer John Chiang.
Ma defeated Republican Greg Conlon with 59 percent of the vote.
The treasurer manages the state’s money and sits on the boards of California’s public employee pension funds.
Ma, a State Board of Equalization member and former assemblywoman, vowed to build a “fiscal wall” against what she called harmful policies coming out of the White House.
She said her experience as a certified public accountant will help keep the state’s fiscal house in order.
California is on the right track, she said, outpacing the rest of the nation in job growth, economic development and record-low unemployment.
Conlon, also an accountant, challenged Chiang in the last general election. He served on the California Public Utilities Commission as president for two years and commissioner for four.
Democrat Betty Yee fended off a Republican challenger and won re-election as California controller.
Yee, a certified public accountant, defeated Konstantinos Roditis with nearly 61 percent of the vote.
The controller serves as the state’s top accountant and audits various state programs, and has seats on several state boards and the State Lands Commission.
Yee vowed to “build a fiscal wall against the harmful policies coming out of the White House.”
She said California is on the right track by outpacing the rest of the nation in job growth, economic development and record-low unemployment.
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Yee has promoted tax policies that are equitable for vulnerable populations, including people living in poverty and LGBT people.
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
Los Angeles schools executive Marshall Tuck is leading with 52 percent of the vote as he vies to be the state’s top public education official.
After more than 4.5 million ballots were counted Tuesday night, Tuck led Assemblyman Tony Thurmond in the superintendent of public instruction race.
The race has become a proxy battle in a larger fight over how best to improve California schools. On one side of the debate are powerful teachers unions, which back Thurmond. On the other side are wealthy charter-school and education-reform proponents, which support Tuck.
Thurmond has stressed opposing the Trump administration’s agenda, including proposals to transfer money from traditional public schools to charters.
Tuck has emphasized giving families a choice in the schools their children attend, including nonprofit charter schools. His donors include charter school advocates such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Tuck ran for the seat unsuccessfully in 2014. Incumbent Tom Torlakson beat him with union backing.
Tuck and Thurmond both want to spend more on public schools and ban for-profit charter schools.
Thurmond and Tuck are Democrats, but the race is nonpartisan and their party affiliation won’t appear on the ballot.
Opinion: Industry and Consumers Will Benefit from CFPB’s Revision of Small Dollar Rule
By Ed D’Alessio
Late last year, on the eve of former director Richard Cordray’s departure, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans Rule,” which, while styled as consumer protection, immediately created widespread confusion and uncertainty among businesses and consumers throughout the United States.
Thankfully, the CFPB has announced it will revise this ill-considered and poorly constructed rule, a result that can’t come soon enough as businesses wait in regulatory limbo and consumers, who are already stressed, learn whether a valued financial service will remain available to them.
Without a change to this harmful rule, hundreds of regulated businesses currently offering small loan products will be forced to close. A study conducted (and submitted to Cordray’s CFPB during the rulemaking process) of the effect of the rule established that virtually all of the businesses attempting to operate under its overly restrictive provisions would become unprofitable, a result that is merely reflective of the bureau’s own estimate that revenues would decrease by at least 75 percent and that the industry would suffer sever contraction.
What’s worse will be the aftermath of these closings. Each of those shuttered stores will be forced to lay off their employees — leading to the loss of nearly 60,000 jobs nationwide. Many of the jobs belong to racial and ethnic minorities and are in communities where other jobs are scarce. The bureau, in an attempt to regulate away a critical financial product will in fact regulate away valuable jobs in America’s most vulnerable communities.
Let’s also not forget the consumers. Each year, 15 million American households rely on small dollar loan products for credit, and the other products offered by the industry including providing a safe place for consumers to cash checks, pay bills, and transfer money. The industry processes 350 million transactions annually for underbanked and unbanked Americans. Where are they to turn when they no longer have access to a financial service center?
Some might say a bank, but these consumers know that’s unlikely. Without a steady income or established credit history, or, as is more likely the case a poor credit history, these Americans will be turned away from traditional financial institutions and forced to turn to the unregulated black market.
Thankfully, Cordray has moved on, and the new leadership of Mick Mulvaney has taken notice of the infirmities of this rule. The CFPB has now announced that it expects to issue proposed rules in January 2019 that will reconsider the bureau’s Small-Dollar Loan Rule, as well as address its compliance date. Specifically, the bureau has expressed its intention to revisit the ability-to-repay provisions of the rule, which will be the primary culprit in denying access to credit.
This is no doubt a long-needed step in the right direction. The bureau plans to rightly re-evaluate this provision, which will have significant consequences for both industry and consumers if implemented in its current form. By the CFPB’s own assessment, the ability-to-repay provision itself, if left untouched, would be a major factor in drastically reducing revenues, eliminating profitability and decimating the industry.
In addition to its intent to revisit the ability-to-repay provision, the CFPB also announced it will revisit the compliance date of the rule — and rightfully so. Both industry stakeholders and consumers have been in a state of limbo as businesses struggle with whether or not to incur costly compliance fees should the rule not actually go in effect, and with customers unsure as to whether or not these important forms of credit will exist come next year. Moreover, businesses are in the process now of making business plans regarding leases, investments in store locations and technology, hiring, and refinancing of debt.
As it stands now, the compliance date of August 2019 draws near — and the CFPB’s announcement of a proposed rulemaking to reconsider the ability-to-repay provisions and the compliance date has the ability to assuage the fears of countless businesses, employees and consumers.
Mulvaney and the CFPB have taken this process seriously — something for which the financial service center industry and I have been extremely grateful. Come January 2019, it’s vital the CFPB’s proposed rules address the very real concerns of businesses and consumers alike.
The time has come to put a stop to the former bureau’s overregulation. I look forward to working with the CFPB staff to ensure Americans have access to the critical forms of credit short-term lenders provide for years to come.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Ed D’Alessio is the executive director of the Financial Service Centers of America. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
POST-ELECTION: WHAT NOW? — TWO VIEWPOINTS
Opinion: For Congress — New Gridlock, Same Old Divisions
By Patrice Onwuka
The 2018 midterm election is over. Republicans expanded their Senate majority while Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives.
For the next two years, we will have a divided government; it would be nice for Congress to come together, put aside partisan rancor and incivility, and push forward on bipartisan solutions. Don’t expect it. Here’s what Americans can look forward to.
Nothing of substance is likely to pass Congress over the next two years in part because Democrats have no need to make deals with Republicans (helping President Trump) and Republicans have lost their leverage.
Even finding common ground will be far more difficult. Democrats have veered so far from a moderate position, especially with this new class of members in the House who espouse more far-left positions, that it will be nearly impossible to find common ground on major legislation on the economy, health care and immigration.
Comprehensive immigration reform is dead. Any deals on DACA or border-wall funding breathed their last breath earlier this year. Additional tax cuts are non-starters. Criminal justice reform is unlikely, too.
—Legislative Moves to Nowhere.
Democrats in the House will look to score points with their base and force conservatives on the record with votes on raising the national minimum wage, scaling back tax cuts, passing climate change or environmental legislation, preserving the Affordable Care Act, and increasing welfare spending.
Their proposals would likely expand government, raise new costs, and stifle economic growth. For these reasons, a Republican-led Senate would not pass them, but the point is not to get them to the president’s desk but to create talking points for 2020 elections.
If there are two areas for the White House and Congress to work together, they could be infrastructure spending and the opioid crisis. However, the gulf between conservatives and liberals is huge.
President Trump proposed $200 billion in federal spending to spur $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments from local and state governments and the private sector. However, this did not go far enough for Democrats who proposed a $1 trillion all-government spending infrastructure plan. The price tag would be paid for by reversing some of the GOP-passed tax cuts and raising taxes on higher-income individuals, which is a no-go for conservatives.
Progressives have also said that proposed federal spending to address the opioid crisis falls billions of dollars short.
—Presidential Harassment and Agency Hounding.
Democrats have already pledged to investigate, investigate and investigate. They call it oversight, but it’s really meant to bog down and frustrate this administration’s efforts.
Look for the House Judiciary Committee to probe executive wrongdoing and possible impeachment of Trump. Expect aggressive oversight of the president’s dealings with the Justice Department, the FBI and the special counsel’s office.
Meanwhile, the Russia investigation may get new legs under the new leadership of the Intelligence Committee. Securing the president’s tax returns are a major target for Democrats and they will use oversight committees to probe his business dealings as well as the administration’s spending and personnel decisions.
Rep. Maxine Waters of California will tighten the screws on the banking and housing industry while the Commerce Committee will turn up the heat on the Federal Communications Commission.
—Working Around Congress.
Republicans may choose to work around the legislative process going forward. Trump, who has portrayed great willingness and skill at negotiating, will continue to use executive action to advance policies that would otherwise be stalled in the House.
Conservatives will continue deregulation through federal agencies. So far, the results of their efforts have been impressive. Federal agencies eliminated 22 regulations for every new one introduced (surpassing President Trump’s mandate of two for every one) and saved $8.1 billion in lifetime net regulatory cost savings.
—Action on the Courts.
One promising area for conservatives will be shaping the federal court system for decades to come. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that his chief focus in the new Congress will be to confirm Trump’s nominees, particularly for federal courts. Some 40 judicial nominees are still awaiting confirmation votes, stymied by delay tactics of Democrats.
And if the opportunity arises to fill another Supreme Court vacancy, this Senate would be in a good position to fill it through a less partisan and nail-biting process than with Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Americans voted for a divided government perhaps in hopes of forcing Congress to work together. After the shootings of Republicans and delivery of potentially harmful mail bombs to Democratic leaders, there was hope that national unity could override partisan rancor. But those violent episodes could not overcome the political divide, and this new Congress likely won’t either.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Patrice Lee Onwuka is a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Moving Into Uncharted Territory
By Robert Weissman
The Nov. 6 election results will launch America into completely unchartered territory. What has happened in the two years of President Donald Trump’s presidency, a period with no historic precedent, will inform what comes next, but the next two years will be wildly different than the previous two.
One key feature of the next phase in our political life will be disappointingly dull. But we will also face fundamental threats to our democracy and opportunities to move toward the kinds of transformational change desired by an overwhelming majority of Americans.
First, Americans should not expect many bills to be approved by Congress and signed by the president. In his post-election news conference, Trump sketched a scenario where he could negotiate deals with the Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, move the bills over to the U.S. Senate to be passed with Democratic and some Republican support, and sign them into law. He talked about infrastructure and drug pricing as areas where such deals could be struck.
Trump was entirely right in saying that these scenarios could occur. But there is absolutely no reason to expect he aims to negotiate. For one thing, Trump said Democrats would have to choose between performing their constitutional oversight duties — their basic check-and-balance function — or cutting deals. The Democrats shouldn’t, can’t and won’t agree to abandon their oversight obligations.
For another, working out these deals would require Trump to sideline the corporate lobbyists, lawyers and executives in his own administration — the people who are making policy in the administration and who have shown themselves far more interested in protecting their former employers than serving the broad public interest.
Second, Americans should be vigilant about ever-greater abuses of power from Trump. It’s apparent that one lesson he took from the election is that he maximizes his political power when he plays to his worst racist, anti-immigrant and authoritarian tendencies.
That’s one reason it’s so important to respond to the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ensure that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is protected. It’s not only about holding accountable anyone who sought to subvert our elections in 2016. It’s about defending the bedrock principle that nobody is above the law, and containing the autocratic inclinations of the most powerful person on the planet.
Third, House Democrats will engage in probing investigative and oversight hearings. If they do their job right, they won’t seek to create “gotcha moments” for the TV cameras. Instead, they will probe and uncover the abuses of the Trump administration: the abuses of power; Trump’s personal conflicts of interest and how they affect policy; and, most fundamentally, the corporate corruption that pervades the administration.
The policies resulting from the corporate takeover are killing and injuring people, and stealing from their wallets, through regulatory rollbacks, failure to enforce safeguards, slashed programs, corporate giveaways and more.
For all we already know, deliberate investigations will reveal depths of corruption and wrongdoing beyond our imagination.
Finally, increasingly powerful grassroots movements are going to demand that House Democrats debate and legislate to respond to the aggressive, progressive agenda that Americans of all political stripes favor.
More than 90 percent of Americans want fundamental campaign finance reform. The House will consider and likely approve the most sweeping pro-democracy, anti-corruption legislation in 50 years.
Americans ranked health care as their top issue in Election Day exit polls. Voters are absolutely terrified of Republican proposals to enable insurers to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. But they are not asking for preservation of the status quo; they want bold changes. An increasingly strong movement will force every member of Congress to take a position on Medicare-for-All, the best way to expand coverage to everyone while reducing the waste and pricing abuses of the health insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit hospital corporations.
Some very progressive bills will pass the House. Others may fail to garner a majority. Either way, they are not likely to become law with Trump as president.
But they will make clear to the American people that solutions — real solutions, not the demagoguery of Trump — are at hand for the real problems and the legitimate grievances that are widely felt in America. We don’t have to have a rigged political system. We don’t have to accept the rationing of health care based on ability to pay. There’s no reason to tolerate historic levels of wealth and income inequality. These are things for Americans to unify around, and it is hoped we will.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.