California Assemblyman Rocky Chavez. / Photo by Anthony Cave/News21

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez moved fast this week on Congressman Darrell Issa’s decision not to seek re-election in California’s 49th Congressional District, which stretches from south Orange County to northern San Diego. Chávez announced the same day that he would be running for the seat, highlighting the Marine base within its boundaries.

“Camp Pendleton is influenced by foreign affairs and our national policy,” said Chávez, a retired marine colonel. “This gives me the great opportunity…to take care of our veterans.”

Chávez, 66, a former Oceanside City Councilman, was first elected to the state Assembly in 2012 and briefly ran for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barbara Boxer in 2016.


If elected to Congress, Chávez said he would use his experience in Sacramento to work on immigration reform and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, policy that affects undocumented adults brought to the United States as children.

Times of San Diego reported this week that two more Republicans, state Board of Equalization chair Diane Harkey and attorney Joshua Schoonover, will seek Issa’s seat as well.

There are four Democratic contenders in the race, including retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate, who lost narrowly to Issa in 2016.

“This is an historic opportunity for the voters of San Diego and Orange Counties,” Applegate said in a statement Thursday. “It’s clear that the system is broken. We need leaders who will focus on getting things done for people rather than their own self-interest.”

The other declared Democratic candidates are Sara Jacobs, Paul Kerr and Mike Levin. Jordan Mills is running with the Peace and Freedom Party.

Speaking of Chávez

He also joined forces this week with Assemblyman Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley for the formation of “New Way California,” a group intended to promote “true Republican values” as the GOP re-defines itself in the Trump era.

In July, Chávez was part of a small group of Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of extending a tax on polluters, otherwise known as cap and trade. Party activists erupted in fury. State leaders then invited former White House strategist Steven Bannon and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio — both controversial figures, even on the right — to the next convention.

“We don’t have a healthy debate in California,” Chávez told reporters, according to the Associated Press. “California’s being controlled by one voice. And I don’t blame the Democrats. I blame the Republicans.”

Chávez urged conservatives to consider issues typically pushed by Democrats, like early childhood education, and said he was in favor of giving legal status to young immigrants living in the country illegally.

Mayes, who was forced to resign his leadership post during the cap-and-trade blowup, is spearheading the new group. He’s gotten support over the last year from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 Jesse Marx

Brown Makes Rainy Day Fund a Priority

Gov. Jerry Brown’s final budget, unveiled Wednesday, has prompted debate over how to use the state’s estimated $6.1 billion surplus.

While many Democrats, including state Sen. Toni Atkins, praised the governor’s spending priorities and plans to add to its reserves, California Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates, who represents portions of Orange and San Diego counties, warned about overspending.

Bates supports a “2-2-2 framework” that calls for investing $2 billion to rebuild communities, $2 billion to reduce pension liabilities, and $2 billion for the state’s budget reserves.

“My Senate Republican colleagues and I are advocating for a pragmatic ‘2-2-2’ framework that ensures the surplus will not be squandered on spending we cannot afford,” Bates said in a statement. “The governor’s budget already sets a new record high of $132 billion in spending. Senate Republicans stand ready to help the governor pass a fiscally responsible budget for all Californians.”

Bates added in a phone interview Thursday that she was encouraged by the governor’s plan to boost the state’s cash reserves to protect against a projected economic downturn. “We were pleased that his top priority was the Rainy Day Fund,” she said.

Atkins applauded Brown’s fiscal prudence.

“Our budget will also allow us to continue to invest in programs that provide opportunities for Californians to succeed,” she said in a statement. “This budget expands funding for our public schools; focuses on workforce education through our community colleges; maintains support for business attraction, retention, and growth through the California Competes Tax Credit; increases funding for wildfire protection; and invests in our infrastructure.”

State lawmakers have about five months to hammer out a final budget agreement.

Hueso’s Bill to Target High-Poverty Areas

Sen. Ben Hueso’s effort to create a state coordinator who can steer federal funds to communities designated as high-poverty moved forward this week. The initiative’s aim is to boost job growth, educational opportunities, public health efforts and reduce violent crime.

San Diego is among four cities in California with areas identified as “promise zones” by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The others are in the Los Angeles metro and Sacramento.

San Diego’s promise zone covers 6.4 square miles that span the East Village and Barrio Logan, east to the Encanto and Emerald Hills’ neighborhoods.

“We need to get this program kick-started,” said Hueso, a San Diego Democrat. “We need to focus on these areas and reverse the cycle of poverty.”

The bill, introduced early last year, passed the Senate Standing Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development on Monday. The bill may be heard on the senate floor before the end of the month.

President Obama launched the Promise Zone initiative in 2014.

Voepel Ain’t Horsing Around

Move over poppies, grizzly bears and avocados. California could soon have a new state symbol, or rather, state horse.

Assemblyman Randy Voepel, a Santee Republican, introduced legislation this week that would make the California Vaquero, a Spanish horse whose history can be traced back to the 1700s and the development of the Spanish missions, the official state horse.

According to the California Vaquero Horse Association, based in Jamul, there are fewer than 100 known vaqueros left. The association, located in the district, had approached Voepel about the idea. In a statement, he acknowledged the horse’s “important and unique role in the history of our state.”

Spain bred the vaqueros from Spanish conquest horses and they became a primary means of transportation between California, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, said Deborah Jones, the association’s vice president.

The bill will likely be assigned and heard in a committee within a month.

And Finally…

Democrats officially voted in Atkins as Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leόn’s replacement. She becomes the first woman and the first openly gay state lawmaker to lead the Senate.

Atkins assumes the office on March 21.

Golden State News

Congressman Darrell Issa will not seek another term for the 49th Congressional District: What does that mean for the area’s state and local Republicans?

California public health officials warn residents about worsening flu season. (Mercury News)

Jerry Brown, in his final budget, uses billions in surplus for reserves. (Sacramento Bee)

 The state’s gas tax politics could play an important role in the 39th Congressional District race, now that Ed Royce won’t be seeking re-election. (Los Angeles Times)

Female state lawmakers wear black in solidarity with women everywhere. (Sacramento Bee)

Billionaire Tom Steyer will not run for governor or senator in 2018. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Should Dianne Feinstein’s age be an issue as she seeks re-election? (Sacramento Bee)

Is Kamala Harris a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020? Phil Bronstein considers. (Alta Journal of Alta California)

Marisa Agha is a journalist based in Southern California.

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