Good morning, California.  

“There’s no doubt we’re at one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous point, since the atomic bomb was first dropped.”—Gov. Jerry Brown to The Los Angeles Times after becoming executive chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, best known for its Doomsday Clock. 

LA Times: “The Bulletin was founded in 1945 by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, the wartime effort that led to the United States’ development of an atomic bomb. Among its early advisors were Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, the UC Berkeley physicist who helped develop the weapon of mass destruction for the U.S. military.”

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Congressional Ground Zero

GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, one of many Dem targets.

How central is California to the fight for control of the U.S. House of Representatives?

  • This central:  The California Target Book reports that outside groups operating independent campaigns have spent $67.5 million primarily to sway voters in seven California congressional seats held by Republicans. In 2016, outside spending was $32.7 million.

The L.A. Times: Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent $11 million in recent days in California. That includes $5.1 million on behalf of Democrat Katie Hill’s effort to unseat Congressman Steve Knight of Palmdale and $4.4 million to help Democrat Harley Rouda defeat 15-term Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in Orange County.

  • There still is time to spend more elsewhere, perhaps including in the San Joaquin Valley race where Democrat Josh Harder seeks to defeat Republican Congressman Jeff Denham of Turlock.

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How far left will CA Democrats go?

Assembly candidates Jovanka Beckles and Buffy Wicks.

The East Bay Assembly race between Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, a Democratic Socialist, and Democrat Buffy Wicks of Oakland is testing how far to the left some California voters are willing to go.

  • Wicks is a former Obama administration official who was key to passage of the Affordable Care Act and before that worked to organize workers at Walmart.
  • Obama and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris have endorsed Wicks, and Gavin Newsom, the front-runner to be governor, donated $3,400 to her earlier this month.

Newsom: “She is tough, smart and will be a real force if she is successful. … She is just at another level. She is a special person. She is a special talent.”

However, Wicks’ progressive cred is being questioned in the district that includes Richmond, Berkeley, and part of Oakland.

Beckles’ spokesman Ben Schiff, citing Obama, Newsom and the other Wicks backers: “We view them as mainstream Democrats who respond to the corporate moderate Democrat part of the party.”

  • Beckles voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein for president in 2016 and is endorsed by Green Party organizations.
  • Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a Berkeley Democrat, endorsed Beckles, citing her stand for a $15 minimum wage and rent control. Sen. Bernie Sanders is traveling to the East Bay this weekend and is expected to tout Beckles’ candidacy.

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DAs lose clout, with implications for a teen killer

Daniel Marsh was 15 when he stalked and stabbed an elderly couple to death in the college town of Davis in 2013. On Thursday, he was on his way back to R.J. Donovan State Prison outside San Diego.

Whether Marsh remains behind bars remains to be seen. His case is testing the bounds of new laws passed by voters and the Legislature intended to give young offenders a second chance.

  • Marsh fantasized about becoming a serial killer, crept through an open window as Oliver Northrup, 87, and Claudia Maupin, 76, slept, stabbed them each repeatedly, and mutilated their bodies more after they were dead. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to 52 years to life in prison in 2014.
  • In 2016, voters approved Proposition 57. Pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the measure required that judges, not prosecutors, decide whether to try juveniles as adults. As a result, Marsh got a new hearing.

The Davis Enterprise: Marsh, now 21, testified he is “horrified” by his crime and has changed for the better in prison. But on Wednesday, Yolo County Superior Court Judge Samuel McAdam affirmed his original sentence after a two-week hearing.

Policies matter: California’s tough-on-crime pendulum has been swinging toward rehabilitation. This year, the Legislature approved Senate Bill 1391 by Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens. It’s intended to recognize teen offenders’ brains are not fully developed. Prosecutors fear it could result in Marsh’s release when he turns 25.

Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor: “I don’t believe he is rehabilitated in any manner. I am certain if he were to get out, he would kill again.”

What’s ahead: Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen is leading a challenge of Senate Bill 1391’s constitutionality.

The issue behind the UC strike

Patient care workers rally at UC Davis Medical Center this week.

The University of California this week weathered its second strike in a year, the latest skirmish in an ongoing conflict over how the state’s third-largest employer should treat its workers in an era of tight education budgets.

The strike illustrates a dilemma facing public universities across the country, CALmatters’ higher ed reporter Felicia Mello explains.

  • Lawmakers want them to do more with less, while workers pressure them to increase wages without outsourcing lower paid jobs.

Harvard University solved that problem by requiring its labor contractors to offer the same wages and benefits as equivalent university jobs. But that’s a private university, unlike UC, which is taxpayer funded.

  • California legislators have sought without success to impose similar requirements on UC. It would cost the university tens of millions of dollars at a time when the university is being asked to serve increasing numbers of California students while containing tuition and payroll, and making do with limited state funds.

What mattered in 1850

A monument to Sacramento cholera deaths. (Courtesy California State Library.)

In the days after California became a state in 1850, between 800 and 1,000 people died in Sacramento in a cholera outbreak. They were initially buried in one cemetery and later moved.

  • A headstone in the Sacramento City Cemetery ultimately commemorated the cholera victims. It was photographed in 1938 by Eugene Walter Hepting, an amateur historian who worked for the Treasurer’s office.
  • The California State Library cannot say for sure whether the monument commemorates the 1850 outbreak or another in 1852. The disease was common then.

Commentary at CALmatters

Helen Hutchinson, League of Women Voters of California: Let’s do a little math. Eight private children’s hospitals each contributed $681,500 to place Proposition 4 on the ballot. Proposition 4 would be a great return on investment: $198 for each $1 invested by the hospitals.

Gregory Favre, CALmatters: Surely, we will learn the answers soon from the experts, rather than from the rambling rants from the left and right no-nothings. But, meanwhile, shouldn’t our leaders start doing something about the tone of our discourse? And shouldn’t we as citizens, as voters, send them a message?

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected], 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you on Monday.