California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) delivers his final State of the State address in Sacramento on Jan. 25. Democrats who want to replace him are aiming even further left in a state already known for its liberal politics. (Pool/Reuters)

By Scott Wilson
February 3, 2018

SACRAMENTO — For those who think California politics is on the far-left fringe of the national spectrum, stand by. The next election season, already well underway here, will showcase a younger generation of Democrats that is more liberal and personally invested in standing up to President Trump’s Washington than those leaving office.

Here in the self-labeled “state of resistance,” the political debate is being pushed further left without any sign of a Republican renaissance to serve as a check on spending and social policy ambitions. Even some Republicans are concerned about the departure of Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who proved to be fiscally cautious after inheriting a state seven years ago in deep recession.

The race to succeed him, as well as contests for U.S. Senate and statewide offices, probably will feature a November ballot exclusively filled with Democrats. The top two primary finishers compete in the state’s general election regardless of party, setting up several races between the Democrats’ left and even-more-left wings in the nation’s most-populous state, races that could signal the direction of the party’s future.

In an off-presidential election year, California will serve as a campaign lab for many national issues, including taxes, immigration, health care, climate change, rural-urban income disparities and sexual harassment. The campaigns will test for national Democrats the most useful positions on issues important to the party’s base and will provide a preview for national Republicans of the popularity of those stands.

“You are going to be talking about Democrat-on-Democrat crime, for the most part,” said Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. “What also is certain is that the next governor is going to be more progressive than Jerry Brown.”

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