As this year moved along there appeared to be a number of possible candidates for the annual Fox and Hounds Daily Black Bart Award. Then came the political earthquake on Election Day and everything looked different.
Sure, Governor Jerry Brown held firm on the rudder of the good ship California, tamping down ambitious legislators so that the state could live within its means, fighting off attempts (so far) to undercut his pet projects of the Delta Tunnels and the High Speed Rail, and firming up his reputation as a fighter against climate change.
Senate President pro-tem Kevin de León seemed to be everywhere establishing himself as a strong senate leader which seemed uncertain when he took the reins given the shadow of his predecessor, Darrell Steinberg.
Last year’s Black Bart Award winner, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom stayed relevant in a position that usually offers only obscurity by leading high profile initiative fights for marijuana legalization and gun control while presenting himself as the frontrunner in the next gubernatorial race.
Even non-elected officials could be considered for the prize given their involvement with the state government and their efforts to change life here in California. Think Elon Musk and his electric cars, hyperloop and space efforts.
There were others of course, but all seemed to be overshadowed by the extraordinary presidential election that put a non-politician in the White House. Donald Trump may have the greatest influence on California than any individual depending how he carries out plans he expressed during the campaign.
Many in California rallied against the new president. Legislative leaders and state officials made fiery declarations in opposition. Cities declared sanctuaries for illegal immigrants. Voters registered and came out to give Trump the worst presidential beating in this state since 1936 at the same time installing a supermajority of Democrats in the legislature. An effort to have California secede from the union got more ink in the mainstream media than it deserved.
While Trump’s election sent aftershocks through California’s political world, one Californian seems to be in a place to deal with his home state and the new administration in Washington—Republican Congressional Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.
In a column I wrote a month ago, I stated, “McCarthy is in the sweet spot of both being in a powerful position in the Republican majority and well-connected to the state’s political and business leaders. If any differences in the projected battles over policy can be smoothed over McCarthy is in position to do it… if the California majority Democrats and the Washington, D.C. majority Republicans hope to work together expect to find Kevin McCarthy in the center of those talks.”
Since then, McCarthy helped engineer a successful water bill working with Senator Dianne Feinstein, an effort that capped years of frustrating negotiations. Perhaps, the successful measure is a sign of McCarthy making things work for California under the new administration.
With that glint of optimism, I nominate Congressman Kevin McCarthy for the Black Bart Award of 2016.