Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race:
California Sen. Kamala Harris dropped her first major piece of legislation this week: A pre-trial bail reform bill sponsored with Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul.
The political significance of the bill is twofold: It positions Harris, the former state attorney general, as a leading voice in social and criminal justice reform – which fits her state, but is also a potentially important lane in the Democratic 2020 contest, with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker making similar appeals. And it gives her a key policy issue that crosses party lines.
Harris also delivered a speech this week on criminal justice reform focused on the dramatic increase in women in prison at a Justice Action Network event.
Afterward, she talked to reporters about the Democratic Party’s message. She said that “essentially it’s about telling the American public we see them. All Americans want to know that they are healthy, that their children and their parents are going to have access to health care and dignity. All Americans want to know they can get a job and keep a job. All Americans want to be able to retire with dignity.”
Speaking of Harris: She’s increasingly drawing attention from Democratic donors, and is making the rounds with those donors — including a trip to the Hamptons this weekend that includes a meeting with Harvey Weinstein, an event hosted by Michael Kempner and more.
News and notes:
A new chief in Big Sky country: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has hired a new chief of staff: Tom Lopach, who was the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s executive director in the 2016 cycle. It’s a homecoming for the Montana-born Lopach, who previously was Sen. Jon Tester’s chief of staff. Still, Democrats nationally are taking notice of Bullock bringing aboard a seasoned veteran strategist.
— Bullock (who won re-election in a state Donald Trump carried by 20 points last year) launched the Big Sky Values PAC this week, giving him a vehicle to pay for more political travel and to help other Democrats. He recorded an interview for Thursday’s “Pod Save America” episode. He was also the focus of Jonathan Martin’s New York Times look at the Democrats’ pragmatic governors. And he’ll kick off the Aspen Institute’s “Divided States of America” half-day forum at 9:30 a.m. MT Monday.
Sanders’ Iowa roots continue to bloom: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — through his own calls and visits, and his allies’ pushes to entrench themselves within the county and state Democratic Parties — is staying organized in Iowa, making himself a force there whether he runs at age 79 on election day in 2020 or not. Here’s our new story.
— Sanders’ key Iowa conduits right now are Pete D’Alessandro, who’s likely to run for Congress, as well as Robert Becker, a top 2016 campaign aide who recently moved back to Iowa, and Evan Burger, a 2016 Iowa staffer.
August 31: A busy day in Iowa: We already knew that Sanders would be back in Iowa on August 31, this time for a book talk at Iowa City’s Prairie Lights. It turns out Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is going to be there the same day. She’ll visit Iowa State University to receive a women-in-politics award and speak on campus in Ames.
Netroots’ headliners: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has joined the list of headliners at Netroots Nation, the massive gathering of progressives set for August 10-13 in Atlanta. She’ll speak in a Saturday morning session. Also on the list of speakers so far: Former Vice President Al Gore, who this week endorsed single-payer health insurance.
— Warren also put out a report Thursday with Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tracking 193 “lobbyists and corporate insiders” who work in the Trump administration. It mocks Trump’s “drain the swamp” slogan.
NextGen’s rebrand: The progressive group founded and funded by Tom Steyer, the biggest donor in the Democratic Party and a potential candidate himself, is rebranding. NextGen Climate is becoming NextGen America, Steyer announced this week. The plan is to shift its focus from solely addressing climate change to taking on Trump. “This is a fight for the soul of American democracy, and we have expanded our mission to meet the challenge at hand,” Steyer said in a statement.
The week ahead:
Saturday, July 22 — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will hold a home-state town hall at 9:30 a.m. ET. It’s at Hostos Community College in New York City. Then she’ll be on stage at OZY FEST — which brands itself as “TED meets Coachella” — at 12:45 p.m. ET, where she’ll speak with Katie Couric.
Monday, July 24 — Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are among the Democratic lawmakers on a 2:30 p.m. ET panel on federal issues at the NAACP’s convention in Baltimore.
Before you go:
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken is teaming up with David Letterman for a six-part video series on climate change called “Boiling the Frog.” You can watch the episodes here. … Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy mixed it up on Twitter with Vice President Mike Pence over health care. … The latest stop on Mark Zuckerberg’s cross-country trip was Montana.
CNN’s Ashley Killough, Sophie Tatum, Miranda Green, Saba Hamedy and Betsy Klein contributed to this memo.