Monday, June 11, 2018




          There isn’t a woman alive who was ever raped while either intoxicated or unconscious who doesn’t consider the entire experience violent.

          But that’s not how these crimes are defined legally in California. The same for human trafficking of a child, abducting a minor for prostitution, drive-by shootings at inhabited homes or cars, felony domestic violence, solicitation to commit murder, among others.

          The failure to designate these heinous offenses as violent is an aberration that can be fixed by the state Legislature, one that should have been accomplished last year, after passage of the 2016 Proposition 57 began allowing early paroles of non-violent criminals in exchange for certain achievements and good behavior in custody.

          No sociologist or psychologist has ever claimed that earning a college degree (one achievement that can help create eligibility for early prison releases) reduces the likelihood a parolee will repeat his or her prior crime.

          Official state statistics now do not link Proposition 57’s early paroles with crime increases. But the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys early this year claimed violent crime in some cities was up by 50 percent since 2013, about the time Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison realignment program took hold. Under that plan, designed to comply with federal court orders to ease crowded conditions inside state prisons, many inmates have been shifted to county jails, while lesser offenders sometimes serve little or no jail time.

          Combining that with the early releases of Proposition 57 is a sure-fire ticket to increased crime, says the prosecutors’ group.

          One way to decrease the exodus of felons from prison would be to change some definitions, something a few lawmakers tried to accomplish last year.

          But a series of bills aiming to expand the list of crimes defined as violent died in legislative financial committees. Too expensive, was the verdict. That was the reason given when the Assembly Appropriations Committee just about one year ago killed a bipartisan measure aiming to classify all rapes and all human trafficking as violent.

          Keeping in custody the approximately 120 prisoners who could then have been affected by that proposed change would have cost $1 million a year. If just one of the men involved were prevented from repeating such a crime, those dollars would likely have been among the best-spent in the state budget.

          No one has tracked how defeat of the measure actually affected crime in the streets. But Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims told one reporter the new parole laws combine with realignment to erode public faith in the justice system.

          She cited reports of arrestees saying immediately after their capture that Proposition 57 and the 2014 Proposition 47 (which lowered many felonies to the misdemeanor level) would cut their prison time by half or more. Soon after, Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper blamed lenient new laws for the early 2017 slaying of Police Officer Keith Boyer, shot by a recently paroled felon involved in a car accident. “We need to wake up,” said Piper, whose claim was never proved. “Enough is enough. This is a senseless, senseless tragedy that did not need to be.”

          Meanwhile, in the final proposed state budget of his long career, Brown wants to spend $50 million more in the next year (on top of more than $100 million spent last year) on programs to help former inmates stay out of jail. Currently, 46 percent of state inmates released in the latest year for which data is available were convicted of new crimes less than three years after release.

          Official numbers are not yet in on the effects of Proposition 57 on violent crime, but there is no doubt property crimes in big cities rose sharply in the two years after Proposition 47 passed.

          Efforts are underway again in the Legislature to change at least some crime designations to violent. This time, they must succeed, or it’s a good bet that lives will be lost as public safety is diminished.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          Only occasionally does a proposed California law approach the status of being an absolute no-brainer.

          There’s just one such measure before the Legislature right now, a bill that could possibly restore a modicum of public trust in California government, even if it doesn’t go anywhere near as far as it should.

      With the Capitol under the firm control of a single party, suspicions of corruption and favoritism are common in California today. It’s for sure that Democratic Party domination pretty much assures that anyone Gov. Jerry Brown or his successor appoints to major state jobs will be confirmed with few questions.

          Take the example of Mark Ferron, now in his second three-year term on the state Independent System Operator (ISO) board of governors. This board essentially decides where California utilities buy electricity and then supervises its distribution.

          Ferron, a former Deutsche Bank investment official and later a partner at the Silicon Valley Venture (capital) Fund, contributed the maximum $25,900 to Brown’s 2010 election kitty and got a seat on the powerful rate-setting state Public Utilities Commission soon after.

An illness forced him to leave the PUC, but on his recovery Brown quickly put him on the ISO. Two open questions: Would he have gotten either job without his contribution? Would Brown even know who he is without that money?

          While on the PUC, Ferron voted consistently for whatever big utility companies wanted, so long as they complied with state laws demanding an ever-greater emphasis on renewable energy, regardless of cost. Never mind consumer concerns over prices. He’s had no significant differences with utilities while on the ISO, either, and his current term runs out Dec. 31, giving Brown just enough time to appoint him to a third term if he likes.

          Because Ferron, with degrees in mathematics and economics, had no prior background in utility regulation, it was hard to see how he qualified for the jobs Brown tossed his way – but then $25,900 has usually been enough to buy California political donors something, whether it’s a job or mere access to high officials. Money talks.

          Now comes Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced with a proposal that would ban contributions to state senators by political appointees for up to a year between the time they are nominated to a job by the governor and when the vote on their confirmation comes up in the Senate.

          This wouldn’t keep someone like the seemingly unqualified Ferron off a powerful board like the PUC or ISO, but it’s a start. Even though it leaves open the appearance of appointees buying their nominations, at least it would remove the appearance of appointees buying confirmation.

          Ferron, of course, is far from the only political donor with a political patronage job. Another is Mary Nichols, the longtime chair of the state’s Air Resources Board, which sets smog policy for cars and other pollution sources and is currently battling federal efforts to squash some California anti-smog regulations.

          Not only did she kick in $5,000 to Brown’s campaign before he reappointed her to the job she held both in his earlier administration and under ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but she also gave $1,000 to a senator’s reelection campaign before her confirmation vote came up. Was there any doubt which way that senator would vote?

          These practices are common not just at the state level, but also in the federal government. So it’s no wonder many believe government is really about keeping the rich that way.

          These kinds of financially greased appointments and confirmations have gone on at other powerful commissions, too, ranging from the state’s Transportation Commission (which hands out highway repair and construction funds) and its Energy Commission to boards regulating everything from chiropractors to solid waste disposal.

          Appointees may or may not be qualified, but there’s a public perception regardless that corruption is deeply embedded in both the state and national capitals.

          The only way to change this is to take at least some money out of the picture. Gray’s bill is a start and an obvious no-brainer. Once it is (hopefully) passed, the next action ought to limit how soon governors can name big donors to powerful jobs for which they may or may not be qualified.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to




          As the primary election vote count drags on, not to reach a final tally until July 6, one large question confronts Gavin Newsom, winner of a plurality of the vote in the preliminary round of this year’s run for governor:

          Where will he get another 17 percent of the vote, beyond the 34 percent he took in that first round?

          Even though Newsom and his campaign staff glossed over this question all spring, now it has become an urgent matter they must confront. For Newsom drew about 30 percent support in the first polls in the race, taken way back in the spring of 2017, and that’s not far from where he ended up on Election Night.

          This means that despite spending many millions of dollars on advertising, despite his indefatigable campaigning in almost every corner of California, support for the lieutenant governor and former San Francisco mayor did not increase beyond its original base over the last 15 months.

          One striking aspect of the polling history in this election was that while more than 40 percent of voters surveyed were undecided in the earliest phases of the campaign, Newsom’s support did not swell greatly when those on-the-fence voters eventually decided how to mark their ballots.

          As the primary vote neared this spring, Newsom tended to downplay this unpleasant reality. “People who voted for other Democrats will eventually support me,” he said in a May interview.

          For him to get the majority support he needs to win his two-man race against Republican John Cox, Newsom must draw most voters who went for state Treasurer John Chiang, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former state Schools Supt. Delaine Eastin in the primary. But those voters may still be influenced by negative advertising used against Newsom during the spring, mostly in May. For sure, Cox will air even more negative ads on Newsom this fall.

          Running against Cox, an opponent of climate change mitigation best known previously for trying to expand the state Legislature to12,000 members, Newsom must attract Villaraigosa voters, Chiang voters, Eastin voters and a good proportion of the 25 percent of registered Californians who have no party preference. This may not be as hard as it would have been to attract the same voters if he were now opposed by Villaraigosa, the third-place primary finisher and a fellow Democrat.

          For on almost every issue other than single-payer, the positions of Villaraigosa, Chiang and Eastin were far closer to Newsom than Cox.

          This is precisely the scenario Newsom wished for as he ran myriad TV commercials attacking Cox for being a virtual clone of President Trump, who sealed his ballot slot when he endorsed Cox in mid-May. Essentially, Villaraigosa, Chiang and Eastin voters – 24 percent of the primary total – have nowhere to go but into Newsom’s camp.

Meanwhile, Cox’s primary vote total closely approximated the GOP’s voter registration percentage, meaning he got the vast majority of Republican votes and some from independents, too. He’ll keep that support in November, but will have difficulty winning over many who voted Democratic this spring.

          While there’s a chance some Chiang voters might end up in the Cox column, it’s doubtful the primary leader will lose very many more Democrats or liberal-leaning independents.

          Meanwhile, Republican voters who supported Cox’s tough anti-sanctuary immigration position will likely turn out strongly for him and could influence other contests on the ballot, including hotly contested congressional races and ballot proposition fights.

          Had Villaraigosa survived the primary, things would have looked very different. He might have splintered the Democrats’ fall vote in ways that Cox cannot.

          So the main hope for Cox and Republicans may be for many thousands of Democrats to become complacent and not bother voting, since the November outcome looks like a sure thing.

There’s a test here for Newsom: Can he inspire Democrats to vote not only for him, but also for the causes and fellow candidates he holds dear? We’ll know the answer Nov. 6.
    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




       Petition carriers – mostly volunteers -- have been on the streets and in the parking lots of California for a few weeks now, eager to qualify an initiative for the next available ballot asking this state’s voters to set a date for a formal referendum on whether to leave the Union.

        The last time anyone tried something like this, the central issue was slavery and the brutal Civil War ensued, still the most deadly of all America’s conflicts.

        But that might not happen this time, if California voters decide in a couple of years to divorce the rest of America.

       For there are signs much of the rest of America might cheerfully let California go, just to get rid of us.

       Perhaps the most significant of those indications takes the form of a lawsuit that essentially says California has gotten too big for its britches.

        This isn’t about California’s lifestyle choices or its “resistance” to President Trump’s administration and its edicts, even though he became President over the strong opposition of most California voters.

       Rather, it’s about a spate of measures passed in California that impact commerce in and among other states.

     The lawsuit bears the name of a group of egg and poultry growers in the Canadian province of Quebec, with fully one-fifth of America’s states either listed as co-plaintiffs or friends of the court supporting the anti-California action.

         “California is flouting the limits federal law puts on California’s regulatory reach…California lacks power to regulate agriculture or commerce beyond its borders, but…California is enacting law after law governing other states’ economies,” says the action, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

          Essentially, the Quebecois and 11 states supporting them object to laws like the 2008 Proposition 2, which mandates that eggs and poultry sold in California must come from chickens that can turn freely in their cages.

       The other states also don’t like California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. “This standard makes businesses that sell fuels in California reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels by 10 percent…,” gripes a friend of the court brief submitted by the state of Missouri. Essentially, the bill severely cut use of out-of-state ethanol in gasoline, seriously impacting Iowa and other corn-producing states.

        Objecting states also worry that California may start a contagion affecting their businesses negatively. “Worse still,” their brief adds, “other states like Massachusetts and Colorado have begun to follow California’s lead and pass extraterritorial laws themselves.”

         In other words, we dastardly Californians are not only impeding interstate commerce, we’re setting a “bad” example.

       Nowhere is this more clear than in the Northeast Consortium of states, a region extending from Maine south to Maryland which automatically adopts California’s smog standards shortly after they take effect here. This has been a major hindrance for Trump and the ironically named Environmental Protection Administration he now controls as they try to eliminate environmental protections begun and inspired by California.

       Moan the objecting states, “California has become so emboldened by failure to enforce (federal laws against interstate trade barriers) that it has taken the unprecedented step of sending agricultural inspectors into other states to register and inspect.”

     The new lawsuit is not totally unprecedented: Other states have filed actions against specific California regulations before. But the new case is different.

       “This is an escalation,” says Marcus Ruiz Evans, president of the Yes California! organization now circulating the pro-secession initiative petitions. “This makes very bold statements about how California is a threat to America itself.”

       The lawsuit, then, seems to reinforce Evans’ earlier prediction that no civil war, no war of any type, would follow if California declared its independence.

       But a lawsuit against Californians who demanded (by a 63 percent majority in 2008) that their eggs be at least something approaching free range is very different from the rest of the country willingly releasing the state that provides more tax dollars and military personnel than any other.

      Much of the rest of America may resent California for its salubrious climate, its mix of lifestyles and its liberal politics, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will cheerily wave goodbye and good luck if California suddenly decides to secede.


     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          Gov. Jerry Brown has made this year something like a farewell tour, traveling the world as the de facto leader of American environmentalism and basking in compliments from major state and national media over his bringing California back from financial collapse while growing the state’s economy into the world’s fifth largest.

          These are major achievements, not to be denied. But neither can anyone deny the fact he has tolerated, if not suborned, corruption and unfairness from his appointees to the state’s most powerful regulatory commissions.

          The outgoing governor’s naivete toward his favored officials has been staggering, and a recent veto message from him demonstrates the unsuspecting trust he continues to give them.

          Brown, for example, knew the unfairness of the grant-giving practices of the state Energy Commission as it doled out multi-million-dollar grants for building hydrogen refueling stations around the state while preparing for use of H2-powered cars whose exhaust is nothing but drops of water. No greenhouse gases at all.2HH

          Building the stations with gasoline tax money was a worthy project, but at one point that commission had to pull back $28 million in grants because this column exposed the sheer unfairness of its grant-giving process. Later, the commission refused to cancel a large grant to an outfit whose leader had trained the commission’s own staff in how to evaluate grant applications – and then just three months later submitted one that fit all the criteria he had trained staff to look for.

          Brown knew about these plainly unjustified actions, but did nothing and in fact reappointed the commission’s chairman, Robert Weisenmiller.

          His actions toward the even more powerful state Public Utilities Commission have been similar. When the commission’s former president, Michael Peevey, met secretly with utility executives to hash out a clandestine deal sticking consumers with most costs for the failure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Brown did not object and let Peevey serve out his term.

          Then he appointed his former aide Michael Picker, who voted for that corrupt San Onofre settlement as one of his first acts on the commission, to replace Peevey. As The Who once sang, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

          Now Brown has vetoed a relatively minor bill designed to keep homeowners using rooftop solar photovoltaic power from being overcharged. The bill, by Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno, demanded that electric providers like Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric compute the state’s average residential power use and set a baseline quantity for residential electricity, excluding power generated by customers themselves.

          Brown’s veto message called the bill “premature.” He noted that the PUC already can exclude customers with “onsite generation” when it figures average consumption.

          Said Brown, “The commission will determine whether or not to exclude customers with onsite generation through the general rate case process…I believe the commission will act to ensure that energy costs to ratepayers are fair and equitable.”

          That’s about as naïve a statement as anyone could make about energy price regulation in this state, which has the highest electric rates in the Lower 48 states, and features utility companies continually pressing for even more profits.

          It’s a fairy tale to believe the PUC’s processes are fair and equitable. Rather, they have been stacked in favor of utilities for more than half a century, with some PUC members moving to big utility company jobs and some utility executives, like Peevey, moving onto the commission.

          The general rate case process cited so trustingly by Brown has also long been as good as fixed. Utilities invariably request larger-than-needed rate increases even when profits are historically high, all the while knowing the PUC will cut their proposals by about half and then brag about “saving” money for consumers.

          So there’s every reason to believe the PUC will conspire with utilities that hate the idea of rooftop solar to penalize those who install it. It’s simply naïve to think otherwise, as Brown plainly does.

          The bottom line: There’s no disputing the constructive aspects of Brown’s second eight years as governor. But there’s also no doubt about the unfair practices and actions he’s tolerated and/or approved.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to




          It happens every two years during the spring primary election season: One major party or the other feels wronged by the Top Two primary system Californians adopted in 2010 and whines for months about its plight.

          In 2016, the griping came from Republicans whose vote splintered in the primary run for the U.S. Senate and left the eventual November runoff field to two Democrats, Kamala Harris winning the seat previously held by three-termer Barbara Boxer.

          This year Democrats did the complaining. Their rush of candidates seeking to knock off seemingly vulnerable Republican members of Congress created the possibility of extremely fragmented Democratic votes, especially in three Orange County-based districts carried two years ago by the party’s presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

          As Republicans did two years earlier, Democrats made much of the Top Two system’s “jungle primary” nickname.

          But as it turned out, counts in the first post-election week indicated Democrats will likely make the runoffs in all those districts, the chief remaining doubt coming in the 48th District, represented for decades by Republican Dana Rohrabacher.

          In that coastline district, Rohrabacher had tallied just over 30 percent of the vote, with the possibility of going higher when all provisional and late absentee ballots are counted. Former Orange County Republican chairman Scott Baugh trailed a bit behind two Democrats for the district’s second November ballot slot under Top Two, which allows only two candidates to appear on runoff ballots for each position: the two highest primary election vote-getters regardless of party.

          If Baugh eventually makes the runoff (and chances are he will not, as he was more than 1,400 votes behind Democrats Hans Kierstead, an M.D. and a stem cell researcher, and businessman Harley Rouda – separated by just 87 votes), Democrats should blame it on their own disorganization, not on the system. Kierstead was supported by the state Democratic Party, while Rouda was funded in large part by the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

          Their circumstance evokes a 1930s-era remark by philosopher/comic Will Rogers, who famously observed that “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

          Meanwhile, in the 49th District just to the south, former Orange County Democratic Party executive director Mike Levin, a lawyer, pulled 17.1 percent of the vote, beating out two other significant Democrats for the right to take on Republican political veteran Diane Harkey for a seat long occupied by the GOP’s Darrell Issa.

          And in the 39th district, represented more than a decade by retiring Republican Ed Royce, Democrat Gil Cisneros – winner of a $266 million Powerball lottery prize in 2011 – easily beat back several other Democrats and will take on Republican Assemblywoman and former Royce aide Young Kim in November.

          Further north, late counts indicated Democrat Josh Harder had emerged from yet another crowded Democratic field to take on veteran Republican Jeff Denham this fall.

          It began to dawn on Democrats only in late April that their surfeit of eager hopefuls could produce two GOP runoff candidates in districts that seemed ripe for turning from red to blue. This happened once before, in 2012, when Republicans placed two candidates into the runoff in a San Bernardino County district with a large Democratic voter registration edge.

          But most likely not this time, because the party put significant money into all these districts to assure that voters knew there could be such distortion.

          In the end, the more moderate Democratic candidate won out in all districts where the outcome has been determined, precisely the intent of Top Two when it passed as a ballot initiative.

          If a party was actually wronged this year, it was probably the GOP, which for the second straight November will apparently have no candidate for the U.S. Senate, longtime Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein to be opposed by fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon, who barely beat out a field of almost completely unknown and unfunded Republicans.

          The fault here lies not with the system, but with the GOP for failing to recruit and support a significant candidate. Now Republican voters may decide the race between the moderate Feinstein and the far more leftist de Leon.

          All of which means Top Two worked just as designed, no matter what the whiners said before Election Day.
Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is

Wednesday, June 6, 2018




          When all the votes have finally been counted, the total tally for the two major Republican candidates in this month’s California primary election run for governor likely will come to just over 35 percent of the total.

          That’s the lowest percentage for the GOP in a seriously contested primary in modern history, and there’s a reason for it: Despite constant Republican rhetoric about this state’s decline and despite the echoes of President Trump in the vows of GOP candidates John Cox and Travis Allen to “Make California Great Again,” things are actually going pretty well here – at least for the vast majority of Californians.

          Generally, when the economy is successful, challenges to the party in power can flop.

          So it will almost certainly be a defeat this fall for Cox, a former Illinois businessman and peripatetic 12-time losing candidate there who beat out Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa and Orange County Assemblyman Allen for the right to run against Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom this November.

          With Republican voter registration now barely 25 percent of the total and actually third behind Democrats (45 percent) and those with no party preference (almost 26 percent), Cox will have a difficult task.

          No California candidate has ever faced such a party-registration deficit and it isn’t because the GOP hasn’t tried hard. Over the last 25 years, the party spent millions of dollars on voter registration efforts aimed at whites, Latinos, Asian-Americans and African-Americans, with little or no success.

          One result is the low percentage of votes for the party’s major springtime candidates for governor.

          This performance led to Democratic primary winner Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor, instantly becoming a big favorite to win the November election and succeed Jerry Brown as governor.

The reasons for it include California’s economic performance, which belies Trump’s labeling this a “failed state.” Simply put, reality is the opposite.

          Yes, as Newsom said in a springtime interview, this is both America’s richest state and its poorest. But the election results demonstrate the poor have no faith Republicans will solve their problems, while the well-off are satisfied with the party that’s at least partly enabled them to achieve that status.

          California is doing well by almost every measure. The latest ranking by the often-cited Wallethub website of the best and worst state economies in the nation – out early this month – placed California in fourth place, contrary to GOP rhetoric that routinely calls this a rotten place to do business.

          California had the fifth-most start-up businesses in America over the last year. It tied Massachusetts for the most independent inventor patents per capita. It ranked among the lowest in unemployment. That was just one ranking system.

          Perhaps the most important ranking for California came when it surpassed the United Kingdom and France for the first time ever to become the world’s fifth-largest economy (behind only the overall U.S., China, Japan and Germany) with a gross domestic product of more than $2.7 trillion, an increase of $127 billion over just the last year.

          The rise in gross domestic product put California’s pace of growth far ahead of low-tax states like Texas and Florida, which style themselves as the wave of the future and California’s chief rivals. Economic and job growth has far outstripped the nation as a whole, accounting for the lion’s share of national growth.

          It’s hard to see how Trump, who says his decimating of federal regulations has created economic growth, can try to make the same claim about California, which is fighting most of his changes.

          This all trickles down, as the conservative economist Arthur Laffer (a former Californian) might say. It even trickles into the voting booth.

          Essentially, the party registration figures and the flight of onetime Republican voters into both the no-preference and Democratic columns are the result of Democratic successes with the state economy.

          Cox will surely keep arguing that things are terrible. As a challenger of the status quo, he needs to do that. But barring a sudden collapse that could be blamed on Democrats, he’s unlikely to have much more success in the fall than his party did this spring.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          Things began looking desperate in early May for Antonio Villaraigosa’s campaign to become the next governor of California, as one poll after another showed Republican John Cox overtaking him for the second slot on the November ballot, to run against current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

          One of those surveys put his support as low as 9 percent, which would have classed him as a second-tier candidate, quite a blow to the ego of any former mayor Los Angeles.

This was quite a change for Villaraigosa, who in a March interview displayed insouciant confidence that he would win the six-way race for a spot opposite Newsom, who led every public opinion poll in the primary race and easily won the most votes.

          At that time, Newsom led Villaraigosa in fund-raising by more than $12 million, while Cox had just plunked 3 million of his own dollars into his campaign. Shortly after, Cox’s advertising propelled him to a narrow edge over Villaraigosa.

          Yet, Villaraigosa was exuberant about his chances, several times repeating that “I am ascendant!” By then, he likely knew that several charter school backers were about to fund an independent expenditure committee backing him to the tune of about $15 million.

          But then along came Donald Trump. The President may be the single least popular political figure in California, where he spends a little time as possible, but his influence among the 25 percent of the state’s voters who register Republican is enormous.

From the moment Trump pronounced Cox the man to “make California great again,” Cox moved well ahead of his lone significant GOP rival, Orange County Assemblyman Travis Allen, who had all along presented himself as a kind of surrogate Trump.

At the same time, Newsom began saturating the state with television ads presenting Cox as a virtual Trump clone. Newsom wanted to pick his fall opponent and he has. For Villaraigosa never really had a chance at second place once counting of votes began. Never mind that he and his supporters spent at least twice as much money as Cox, who is now likely to draw much more support from other Republicans.

Newsom’s reasoning: If he got Cox as an opponent, he would likely attract November support from virtually everyone who voted in the primary for him, Villaraigosa, state Treasurer John Chiang and former state schools Supt. Delaine Eastin (a total of more than 55 percent of all votes cast). But if Villaraigosa (or any other Democrat) were his fall foe, those votes could splinter unpredictably. For Newsom, the easiest path to the governor’s chair appeared to be getting a Republican opponent. His ads attacked Cox as a Trumpist after the President’s endorsement essentially doomed Allen’s effort.

          Newsom is well aware that no Republican not named Schwarzenegger has won a California statewide election in almost two decades.

The donations to Villaraigosa from big pro-charter school contributors like developer Eli Broad and Netflix founder Reed Hastings were in a way a reward for Villaraigosa’s help getting that movement started while he was state Assembly speaker in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, Newsom has long had strong support from the California Teachers Assn., the union which often opposes expansion of charters and the companies that run them.

          The primary outcome, with a first-place Newsom finish, may take the November election focus away from the run for governor, where Newsom and Cox will differ over almost everything. But the Democrats’ vast voter registration advantage and Trump’s unpopularity with the full electorate removes most doubt about an eventual Newsom win.

          That could place a bright spotlight on the fall race for the Senate between veteran U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and either fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon, the more extremely liberal former president of the state Senate, or Republican political neophyte James Bradley. Propositions will also deserve major attention, covering subjects from gasoline taxes to the liability of paint makers for damage done by lead in their past products to an attempt to divide California into three states.

          One thing for sure: A single personality – Donald Trump – ended up trumping big money and dominating a primary election scene where he wasn’t even a candidate.

    Elias is author of the current book "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It," now available in an updated second edition. His email address is