Essential Politics: To Russia, with (no signs of) love

President Trump's top diplomat arrives for tense talks in Russia, while a Kansas special congressional election has everyone looking for the Trump effect.

For a presidency that was supposed to be “America First,” the young administration of President Trump has been shaped in so many ways by a different slogan: “What about Russia?”

Now, a high-stakes shift in that narrative has emerged after mounting tensions over a deadly attack in Syria.

Good morning from the state capital. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, and we begin our midweek look at Essential Politics with the visit by Trump’s top diplomat to Russia.

The oath of office was administered on Monday to Justice Neil Gorsuch, the end of a saga that left a lasting mark on the United States Senate.

Gorsuch was sworn into office twice -- first by Chief Justice John Roberts and then in a public event by Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Rose Garden at the White House.

The new justice will join the court in time for a closely watched dispute over religious rights. Meanwhile, it was Trump’s pronouncement on Monday that stole the show.

“I got it done in the first 100 days!" he said to the crowd.

CALIFORNIA: THIRD IN THE NATION?

California Democrats are ready to shake up the state’s role in the picking of a president, it seems. In fact, they’re even willing to give the governor the power to call a presidential primary audible.

A bill by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) would move the state’s primary in presidential years to the third Tuesday in March. Unlike prior efforts, it would also move up congressional and legislative primaries starting with the 2020 electoral cycle.

But the bill, also endorsed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, takes it one step further than other efforts: It would allow the governor to move the primary even earlier than late March, depending on what happens with other states that try to jockey themselves into position after the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The bill gets its first committee hearing in Sacramento next week.

LAWMAKERS’ STADIUM BIDS COME UP SHORT

For the last eight years, state legislators have tried to make it easier for numerous professional football and basketball stadiums to be built in California. Despite high-profile bills often subject to intense debate, lawmakers don’t have much to show for their efforts, Liam Dillon reports.

Dillon also put together a timeline of all the stadium bills over the years, including the one clear success: a 2013 measure for the construction of a new Sacramento Kings arena.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- The end of the political road came on Monday for (now former) Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned after pleading guilty to campaign violations after an attempted cover-up and his interest in an affair with a former aide.

-- An anti-marijuana group faces campaign finance violations from its work opposing Proposition 64, last fall’s marijuana legalization initiative.

-- The attorney for California legislative leaders sent a letter Monday to the nation’s attorney general saying that they will use “all available means" to defend the state’s priorities against any crackdown on illegal immigration.

-- Democrats are sending national staffers into California in an effort to flip House seats now held by Republicans.

-- More than 90% of late-arriving ballots counted in L.A.’s congressional primary went to Robert Lee Ahn, putting him just three percentage points behind Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez in near-final results. Turnout stands at just over 14%, and the two are headed to a June 6 runoff. Results are expected to be certified Thursday. Meanwhile, Gomez announced the support of six of his primary opponents Tuesday.

-- A former Navy SEAL is the latest Democrat to announce a run next year against Alpine Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter.

LOGISTICS

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