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Ben Christopher

Election Reporter
Ben Christopher is covering the 2018 election season for CALmatters. Prior to that, he was a contributing writer reporting on the California economy and budget. Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, he has written for San Francisco magazine, California magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Priceonomics. Ben also has a past life as an aspiring beancounter: He has worked as a summer associate at the Congressional Budget Office and has a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

California voters will vote this fall on whether to divide the state in three. We ask the question: How did the three would-be new states vote in last week's primary…

The preliminary count from California's primary suggests that voters in certain high profile districts are much more inclined toward Democrats than they were in 2014. That may or may not…

The California Republican Party had a good Election Day. Now what?

In a speech that came as a surprise to absolutely no one, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom heralded his decisive first place victory in tonight’s primary election for Governor, while pointing…

Gavin Newsom, who wrote the book on "how to take the town square digital," is holding his election night campaign party in San Francisco, metropolis to the tech world. So…

There’s a lot to keep track of on the California ballot. Here are seven questions to keep in mind as you cast your vote and wait for the results to…

It finally happened. For years Republicans in California has been steadily falling as a share of registered voters. At the same time, “no party preference” voters—those who don’t align themselves...

At stake in a California recall race is more than the short tenure of a state lawmaker. The fate of Sen. Josh Newman will provide an object lesson to politicians…

We have another lawsuit. With a new filing this morning, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra brought the state’s total number of legal challenges against the Trump administration to 33....

Democrat Gavin Newsom is trying to swat away growing complaints that his campaign tactic of boosting Republican rival John Cox could cause collateral damage in autumn: driving up GOP turnout…

With the California primary less than two weeks away, two new polls provide some clues to what voters are thinking. And while the state overall still looks true blue, the surveys do give Democrats a...

In California—a massive state with a pricey, fragmented media market and spotty voter participation—sometimes it pays to run a creative, out-of-the-box campaign.

President Trump threw the California's governor's race into a tizzy today with his surprise endorsement of Republican San Diego businessman John Cox—despite the fact that Cox acknowledges he didn't vote…

California Democrats know exactly the trouble they’re in: They have too many candidates, it's too late to back down, and they risk cancelling each other out. Now the party's scrambling…

The top candidates hoping to be the next governor of California all agree on this: The state is failing those who suffer from mental illness. Watch to see how they…

On stage for 90 minutes tonight in San Jose, the top six contenders to be California’s next governor echoed existing positions, with no one managing to score a breakout moment or strike a fatal...

As our own Jessica Calefati has reported, California public schools tell a tale of two education systems. The achievement gap that separates well-off and needy students mirror the socioeconomic and...

Party leaders say they've found the secret to winning this year: Keep it local.

The results are in. Delegates of the California Republican Party have cast their votes to endorse a candidate in the governor’s race. And their choice is…no one. Businessman John Cox and Assemblyman...

The two leading Republican candidates for governor took the stage at the state party convention in San Diego this afternoon, touting their conservative credentials and seeking the party’s...

Bill Essayli says his candidacy “destroys the Democrat Party’s narrative.” That’s not because of his policy positions, though his campaign against Riverside Democratic Assemblywoman Sabrina...

Tim Donnelly is at the California Republican Party convention that opened today in San Diego, but he won’t be staying long. Tomorrow morning the arch-conservative candidate for Congress will be...

With pithy descriptions by their names on the ballot, candidates can tell voters a little more about themselves.

Watch our video and learn.

As the leading Republican candidate for governor, John Cox offers big ideas for reform—bold and seemingly far-fetched in California’s current political climate.

It’s hard to run as the change agent in the California governor’s race when you’re the state’s second-ranking elected leader. But Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is giving it his best shot. Since launching...

It’s hard to run as the change agent in the California governor’s race when you’re the state’s second-ranking elected leader. But Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is giving it his best…

John Chiang is known as the wonk in the contest to be California's next governor—but sometimes having a nuanced position can be hard to distinguish from failing to state a…

California may face its share of thorny policy problems and political conflicts, but for Republican gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen, the solutions are actually “very simple.”

If there’s one thing that Antonio Villaraigosa wants voters to know about him, it’s this: “I’m not afraid to take on tough issues.”

Delaine Eastin has staked herself out as the most progressive Democrat running for governor of California. But in a wide-ranging discussion with CALmatters in our Sacramento office, the former state…

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has been using the courts to try and stop policies coming out of the White House that harm Californians, and it's working.

It wasn’t meant to be for Doug Ose. This morning, the former Republican congressman announced that he won’t be running for the governor of California after all.

As California’s Democrats wrapped up their party’s annual convention Sunday, they left San Diego as they arrived: a party still fraying at the seams after the 2016 election, held together…

As California’s Democrats wrapped up their party’s annual convention Sunday, they left San Diego as they arrived: a party still fraying at the seams after the 2016 election, held together…

At the state party convention in San Diego this weekend, delegates were split, offering no endorsement in the race for governor. And they rebuffed two of its most prominent incumbents…

Antonio Villaraigosa can’t quite catch a break this weekend. Late this morning, as the rest of the California Democratic Party rallied inside the San Diego Convention Center for their annual state...

In some of the state's most high profile races, the battle for the Democratic endorsement is expected to get rowdy. Why all the fuss?

On issues relating to housing, climate change, health care, immigration and taxes, the three GOP contenders for governor disagreed on little—except who on the stage represented the true conservative choice…

California is supposed to be the vanguard of social change, but by one metric the state seems downright retrograde: It has rejected ever female candidate who's ever run for governor.

On Tuesday night, the four Democrats running to be governor of California met in San Francisco to spell out exactly where they stand on abortion, birth control access, and other matters of...

What’s on your ballot this year? Here are some major themes and a few examples of the propositions Californians may be asked to vote on in 2018.

The 2018 elections are coming—and those of you who don’t spend your waking hours monitoring the secretary of state’s website may have some questions. Here’s a quick primer for anyone…

Almost a year into his gig as California's top lawyer, Xavier Becerra’s office has put its name on 21 lawsuits against the Trump administration. By volume, that represents a rate…

You’ve heard the term “all politics is local”? After the anti-Trump blue wave of national elections this week, California Republicans had better hope so.

Twice  this week, the Democratic candidates in the 2018 California governor’s race assembled to discuss state issues—and largely agree. But there are a few issues where there’s a sliver of…

If you were to judge strictly by the California GOP's convention in Orange County, the war within the party is over. This is Trump’s party now.

This weekend the rank-and-file of the state’s second favorite political party are descending upon the Anaheim Marriott in Orange County to rub elbows, pass bylaws, cheer keynote speaker/bomb-thrower Steve Bannon,…

After a particularly wet rainy season fueled growth of lush vegetation, the sweltering summer of 2017 dried those plants to a crackly, combustible crunch. Several locales had racked up record…

Ongoing coverage of this weekend's semi-annual CA Republican Party convention in Anaheim, CA, featuring Steve Bannon, and a Democratic governor candidate forum on Sunday.

There’s sometimes a fine line between good governance and trolling. One of this year’s most controversial—if not quite as consequential—state bills is a proposal by Democratic Sen. Mike McGuire of…

California cities are hoping to tailor new state housing laws to their own needs.

President Trump today unveiled his proposal to revamp the federal tax code, and state Democrats swiftly pointed out that it could hit Californians particularly hard by revoking a deduction that…

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra suing the Trump administration for alleged violations of state and federal environmental law and the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to consider President Trump’s controversial travel ban, California is officially weighing in with a friend of the court brief.

At this point, it’s practically a California tradition. First, state judges find a loophole in California’s constitutional bulwark against new, higher taxes. Then conservative legislators and anti-tax activists rush in…

California would allow residents to opt for a “nonbinary” gender marker on all forms of state identification—"M" and "F" would likely be followed by “X" —under advancing legislation. That would…

Half the state's households struggle to afford the roof over their heads. Here’s what you need to know about one of California’s most vexing issues.

The state’s top prosecutor, Xavier Becerra, and San Francisco City Attorney, Dennis Herrera, announced this morning that they are filing side-by-side lawsuits against the Trump administration—the goal is to protect…

Tax reform may not be much more than a glimmer in the eye of Republicans in Washington D.C., but their promise of lower rates and closed loopholes appears to be…

In a letter to San Bernardino and Stockton—cities plagued by violence— the Trump administration made clear that cities need not apply for new crime-fighting funds if they are "sanctuaries" for…

Today California lawmakers respond to Trump's threat to "let Obamacare fail" with a retort of their own: “We’ll see you in court.”

(Update: Gov. Jerry Brown split on these bills, signing into law AB 168 to prohibit job interview questions about previous salary, but vetoing AB 1209, which would have required companies to submit...

A mutant octopus? A psychedelic Rorschach test? The world’s most elaborate Chinese finger trap? No, this CALmatters creation is the California state budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Follow...

The Trump administration is ramping up its campaign to root out voter fraud, but it won’t be getting much help from California.

Angelo Henry describes himself as “unemployed,” but that isn’t entirely right. Under California labor law, he’s a self-starting freelancer. An entrepreneur. A 25 year old...

Amy Woods got a call last year from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, informing her that the mother of her 2-and-a-half-year-old foster son had just given birth to...

The Trump administration’s proposed spending plan would ax funding for a region-spanning earthquake early warning system that is in the process of being rolled out along the West Coast.

At the bottom of a lengthy appendix to the president’s budget are a few paragraphs that would expand the definition of “sanctuary” jurisdiction and give the federal government new tools…

As Sacramento kicks off its yearly scramble to pass a state budget, lawmakers have yet to agree whether one controversial provision will make the cut: an untested $6 billion scheme that the governor...

The Trump administration unveiled its fully fleshed out budget proposal today, a fiscal vision for America characterized by significant cuts to discretionary spending programs and, among other things, a dramatic…

After months of hemming and hawing, the Department of Transportation announced it will approve a $647 million grant to fund the electrification of the Caltrain rail corridor that connects San…

California cities and counties are discovering a hard truth as they angle for a cut of the state’s newly legalized marijuana proceeds: Tax collecting in cannabis country comes with its…

In a vote likely to upend both political fortunes and insurance markets across California, the House passed the American Health Care Act today, a bill that would repeal and replace…

Could a few words buried within a recent court ruling make it easier for the state to raise money from Californians? Those words—contained within a decision affirming the constitutionality of...

President Trump is rounding out his first 100 days in office with an ambitious tax reform proposal that threatens to nix a provision that Californians particularly enjoy—axing the state and…

The state has issued its first round of bonds to finance the construction of the state-crossing, GOP-enraging infrastructure project.

As California lawmakers consider beefing up regulations for immigration detention facilities within the state, the Trump administration appears to be heading in the opposite direction.

The Trump administration’s plan to publish a weekly shame list of so-called "sanctuary" jurisdictions has been put on ice over concerns they have contained inaccurate or misleading information.

If the estate tax meets is untimely end in Washington D.C., state Sen. Scott Wiener is pushing a bill that would have California enact a state substitute—with the money going…

In a party-line vote, the Senate voted 27-12 on Senate Bill 54, a law that would ban state and local law enforcement agencies from using public resources to cooperate with…

The legislature’s approval Thursday of a $52 billion road repair plan couldn’t come too soon for rain-battered streets and highways that have already suffered severe damage this year....

The Department of Homeland Security released its latest tally of cities, counties, and states that it considers to be sanctuary jurisdictions. California made the cut.

See correction below California’s grand plan to extend retirement security to millions of workers, a cornerstone of the economic agenda put forward by state Democrats, is looking a little bit less...

This afternoon, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in U.S. District Court, siding with San Francisco in its lawsuit against President Trump’s executive order to defund sanctuary…

Update: On Oct 5, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a scaled-down version of SB 29— placing a moratorium on local governments entering into new immigration detention contracts with federal immigration...

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that any states and cities receiving federal Justice Department grants will have to certify that they aren't acting as "sanctuaries" for immigrants in the country…

Amid a worsening housing and homelessness crisis, President Trump's proposed $6 billion cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development comes at an inopportune time for the Golden State.

Two economic forecasts released in recent days warn of dire consequences for California should President Trump’s policies steer the country into a trade war.

Today, House Republicans finally pulled back the curtain on their legislative effort to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Trump administration has postponed deciding whether to approve millions in federal funding for an electrified Caltrain. Should the project become the newest casualty of the word of words (and…

Rizi Manzon is a teacher, so naturally, he has a lot to worry about: a stack of homework assignments to grade, a week’s worth of culinary arts classes to prepare for, kitchen supplies to purchase on...

Cozying up to the new administration might not be a good political look for most state Democrats—but if President Trump wants to make due on his campaign promise to direct…

With the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress gearing up to make America's tax code great again, one of California's biggest tax breaks might be on the chopping block: the…

Five things to know about sanctuary status for at-risk immigrants

For basic background, start with The weigh-in:...

For basic background, start with The weigh-in: Health

For basic background, start with The weigh-in:...

For basic background, start with The weigh-in: Education

In a pre-Super Bowl interview with FOX News host Bill O’Reilly, President Trump said “California is in many ways out of control” and that a potential weapon of his would…

Rocio Zavala is doing her best to keep her daughter from eating her coupons. It’s 11:30 on a Friday morning and Zavala, 30 years old and unemployed, is sitting at a foldout table in her living...

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