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Political Breakdown


Join hosts Scott Shafer and Marisa Lagos as they unpack the day in politics with a California perspective. Featuring interviews with reporters and other insiders involved in the craft of politics—including elected officials, candidates, pollsters, campaign managers, fundraisers, and other political players—Political Breakdown pulls back the curtain to offer an insider’s glimpse at how politics works today.


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Join hosts Scott Shafer and Marisa Lagos as they unpack the day in politics with a California perspective. Featuring interviews with reporters and other insiders involved in the craft of politics—including elected officials, candidates, pollsters, campaign managers, fundraisers, and other political players—Political Breakdown pulls back the curtain to offer an insider’s glimpse at how politics works today.




When Do Congressional Races Become Toss-Ups?

The Cook Political Report is the gold standard in covering campaigns. Its founder Charles Cook started it in 1984 to provide unbiased, nonpartisan analysis of every House and Senate race in the nation. One of the tools Cook developed is a shorthand for analyzing those races — a rating system that ranges from solid Republican to solid Democrat to “toss-ups," which are races that could go either way. On today's Political Breakdown, Scott chats with Cook about how analyzing political campaigns has changed, and his decision to step back and have Amy Walter be the lead face of the Cook Political Report.


Are Women to Blame If California Ends Up With 2 Male Senators?

For most of the last three decades, California had two female senators – Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. But after the November election, there’s a chance we’ll have two men. Scott, Marisa and Guy are joined by Los Angeles Times reporter Benjamin Oreskes, who recently wrote about how women appear to be the reason why California's streak of female senators may be ending.


Katie Porter on Israel-Hamas War, Not Taking PAC Money and Her Expert Quilter Mother

Katie Porter won the Orange County House seat in 2018, flipping a Republican district blue. Now, the self-described "mini-van driving mom" is in a tight race for the U.S. Senate seat once held by Dianne Feinstein. Marisa and Scott chat with Congresswoman Porter about her Iowa roots, consumer advocacy and the key differences between herself and fellow Democrats Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee.


Competitive SoCal House Races for Schiff, Porter Seats

While Orange County Congresswoman Katie Porter is in a tough race for the U.S. Senate, two Democrats vying to replace her in the House are engaged in a knockdown, drag-out race. Plus, 15 candidates are vying to replace Congressman Adam Schiff. Scott and Marisa chat with POLITICO's Melanie Mason about the most competitive congressional races in Southern California. We’ll continue covering the California congressional races over the weeks leading up to Super Tuesday.


Homelessness, Mental Illness and Drug Addiction: Prop. 1 Takes Aim at All 3

Scott and Marisa Protests over the Israel-Hamas War continue dividing Democrats, with disagreement over what the Biden Administration should do. Scott and Marisa talk about what this means as President Biden visits California this week to fundraise. Then, Guy Marzorati joins Olivia Allen-Price, host of Bay Curious, to break down everything you need to know about Proposition 1. It’s the only statewide ballot measure in the March primary, and it's meant to address homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness. Bay Curious Breaks Down Prop. 1 Transcript: Proposition 1 — Behavioral Health Funding


Why Labor Won’t Take No for an Answer in Sacramento

Scott, Marisa and Guy chat about the week's top stories in politics, including why labor won't take no for an answer in Sacramento and Democrats' big win in the New York special election to replace George Santos. Plus, is an intra-party primary squabble killing Democrats' chance to pick up a GOP House seat?


Are Billionaires Staging a Hostile Takeover of Bay Area Politics?

Are billionaires taking over politics in the Golden State? Marisa and Scott sit down with longtime political insider and journalist Gil Duran to talk about the ongoing political plays by tech and finance elites in San Francisco, Solano County and beyond.


Open House Seat in Silicon Valley Triggers A Robust Race to Replace Eshoo

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo is retiring after more than 30 years representing Silicon Valley, and several well-known Democrats are vying to replace her. Scott talks to Guy Marzorati, who lives in that congressional district and has been following the race closely. We'll continue covering the most competitive congressional races in California over the next three weeks leading up to Super Tuesday.


Critics Say Prop. 47 Has Fueled a Spike In Property Crime. The Data Do Not Show That

The 2014 criminal justice ballot measure Prop. 47 has been the subject of discussion, debate, criticism and pushback for years. Critics blame Prop. 47 for what they say is a rise in property crimes like shoplifting — but is that real, or just perception? Would changing Prop. 47 to toughen penalties reduce high profile smash and grab crimes? Or does law enforcement already have the tools to prosecute that? Marisa Lagos joins Scott Shafer to discuss what she found after months of reporting. Read more: Prop 47's Impact on California’s Criminal Justice System


California’s Reparations Plan: Too Much Too Soon? Or Too Little, Too Late?

Members of California’s Legislative Black Caucus released its list of priorities following recommendations from the state’s Reparations Task Force. They include 14 bills aimed at addressing inequities in education, healthcare, criminal justice and business … but no mention of cash payments. KQED’s Scott Shafer and Annelise Finney discuss the process so far with LA Times columnist Erika D. Smith, who calls the recommendations “half-baked and disorganized.”


Battling Ads As Democrats Take Each Other On In Key Races

The U.S. Senate race is heating up with battling TV ads ahead of next week's second candidate debate. Plus, the congressional race for Katie Porter's Orange County House seat gets down and dirty with two Democrats trading allegations. Scott, Marisa and Guy chat about the week's top political news.


Why the Supreme Court Seems Poised to Hand Trump a Victory

Another day in court for former President Donald Trump — this time, the Supreme Court considers whether he can be taken off the Colorado presidential ballot. Marisa and Scott talk with Justin Levitt, a constitutional law professor at Loyola Law School, about the oral arguments and other legal questions Trump is facing.


Race to Win McCarthy’s House Seat Echoes D.C. Chaos

The Republican effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas failed — in part due to a surprising defection from a conservative House member from California. Plus, the congressional race to replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is getting nasty in Kern County, as MAGA Republicans pile onto McCarthy's anointed successor, Assemblymember Vince Fong. Scott and Marisa chat about all that with Jeremy B. White, senior political reporter for POLITICO.


What Will It Take to Win Over Latino Voters?

Latino voters are likely to play a big role in determining the outcome of races up and down the state and up and down the ballot this year. About a quarter of the Latinos who are eligible to vote in the entire nation live here in California. But for candidates trying to win over Latino voters, there are some obstacles. For a better sense of the state’s growing Latino electorate, Scott Shafer spoke with Matt Barreto of the Latino Policy and Politics Institute at UCLA.


Ballot Measure Titles Are Supposed to Be Non-Partisan. But Are They?

Ballots for the March 5th primary election are arriving in mailboxes across the state this week. In California, the titles and summaries for ballot measures are written by the attorney general, but some say Democrats in the job too often put their thumb on the scale with skewed summaries to help their allies. Plus, the life and death of legislation in Sacramento. Why are some bills introduced knowing they'll never make it out of committee, much less to the governor's desk? Scott and Marisa chat about all this with CalMatters reporter Sameea Kamal. Also: KQED has a voter guide! Check out our roadmap to voting in California at kqed.org/voterguide.


Why Does Taylor Swift Twist the GOP Into Knots?

New fundraising totals in the U.S. Senate race show Adam Schiff with a huge monetary advantage over fellow Democrats Katie Porter and Barbara Lee and Republican Steve Garvey. Plus, does the GOP have a Taylor Swift problem? Scott, Marisa and Guy take a look at some of the top stories bubbling up in the world of politics this week.


How Did the Crisis at the Southern Border Get So Bad?

With migrants attempting to cross the U.S. southern border in record numbers, immigration is becoming one of the top issues in this year’s presidential campaign. President Biden is adopting some hard-line positions, even vowing to "shut down" the border if Congress passes a bipartisan deal. Marisa and Scott dig into the crisis at the border with Hamed Aleaziz, an immigration reporter for the New York Times who's covered the issue since former President Trump’s tumultuous term.


Cal’s Law School Dean Chemerinsky Thinks Trump Is Ineligible to Be President

The dean of UC Berkeley’s Law School has signed onto a legal brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that Donald Trump is ineligible to be president due to his participation in the January 6th insurrection. Scott talks with Dean Erwin Chemerinsky about that issue and all the other legal perils Trump is facing.


“Train to Nowhere” Is Actually Going Somewhere

California’s high-speed rail project has been way over budget and way behind schedule since voters approved it in 2008. But progress is actually being made. Scott talks with KQED transportation editor Dan Brekke and CalMatters reporter Yousef Baig about the impact of the high-speed rail project in the Central Valley.


Could Pot Policy Light Up Younger Voters’ Support for Biden?

Vice President Kamala Harris’ push to rally voters in San José around support for reproductive rights ran headlong into protests on Monday, demanding an immediate cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas War in Gaza. Scott talks about that with Guy Marzorati, who was there before and during Harris' appearance. Plus, President Joe Biden is facing major problems with younger voters. They’re upset his climate change policies haven’t gone further, and they're disaffected by his unwavering support for Israel in its war with Hamas. Some think a push for decriminalizing marijuana use could help Biden win back voters under 30. Scott talks to David Downs, senior editor and reporter with Leafly.com, an online publication that covers marijuana policy.