Protesters calling for a ceasefire of Israeli bombing in Gaza interrupted the general session at the California Democratic Convention in Sacramento on Nov. 18, 2023. The group broke past security and gained access to the general session events at the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza interrupted the general session at the California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento on Nov. 18, 2023. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

With California Democratic Party Chairperson Rusty Hicks characterizing the split vote as “a benefit of riches,” the party failed to endorse a candidate in the March 5 primary for the state’s next U.S. senator, reports CalMatters politics reporter Yue Stella Yu.

None of the leading candidates won the 60% share of delegate votes needed to win the endorsement. But with 41% of the vote, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland came out in the lead, despite placing third among likely Democratic voters in recent polls. Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank followed with 40% and then Rep. Katie Porter of Orange County with 16%. 

  • Lee, in a statement: “I am incredibly proud and honored to receive the support of so many hard-working Democratic Party delegates…. Our momentum is picking up speed, and tonight’s vote is evidence that our movement is touching people across the Golden State. The people want a tried and tested progressive with the record to prove it. I’m ready to deliver.”

Voting took place Saturday and results were ratified on Sunday. Hicks told reporters that he was not “worried about division within the party,” and that it’s still “a good day” when the party has the opportunity to send another Democrat to the U.S. Senate.

But the vote wasn’t the only drama to unfold during the convention. On Saturday night, protestors broke through security at the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center in Sacramento, waving Palestinian flags, calling for a Gaza ceasefire and prompting party officials to cancel the night’s events.

Earlier Saturday, protests interrupted candidate speeches inside the convention hall. At times, things got physical with building security as protesters made their way through metal barricades meant to restrict access. Outside, hundreds of pro-Palestine demonstrators gathered at a nearby park before some moved inside the convention center.

The California Legislative Jewish Caucus issued a statement condemning Saturday’s takeover as “completely unacceptable,” and said that “a number of Jewish delegates — who were already very anxious attending the convention… now believe it is unsafe to participate at all.”

On Sunday, Hicks said the protests left him “deeply saddened and disappointed” and vowed to hold any delegates who violated the code of conduct accountable.

Of the three leading Democratic candidates, only Lee has called for a ceasefire. When she reiterated her stance at the end of her speech to delegates Saturday, writes Stella, supporters erupted with cheers. Both Schiff and Porter told CalMatters they are calling for “humanitarian pauses” in the war, which is similar to President Joe Biden’s policy

For more on what happened at the convention, read Stella’s story.

CalMatters is hiring: We have several newsroom opportunities, including a reporter with the new Digital Democracy project, investigative reporters and state Capitol reporter focused on San Diego and the Inland Empire (in partnership with Voice of San Diego). See all our openings and apply here.

Schwarzenegger, 20 years later

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks during an event at the Sutter Club hosted by the Sacramento Press Club on Nov. 17, 2023. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

From CalMatters state Capitol reporter Alexei Koseff:

“I am a f—ing happy camper.”

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was buoyant Friday as he reflected on the 20th anniversary of his inauguration in an interview hosted by the Sacramento Press Club.

Two decades ago, one of the world’s biggest movie stars ousted the sitting governor of California in a recall election, an astonishing political earthquake that brought an adrenaline shot of celebrity to the state Capitol before running aground on budget woes and partisan conflict.

Schwarzenegger, one of the last two Republicans to win statewide office in California, had been warned. He said Friday that, at his 2003 swearing-in, former Gov. Pete Wilson told him, “This is your most fun day.”

“So I said, ‘What a negative bitch,’” Schwarzenegger said to roars of laughter from the audience of more than 200. But within a month, he conceded, “hell broke loose” as he struggled to persuade the Democratic-controlled Legislature to create a rainy-day budget reserve. “And I called Pete right away back, and I said, ‘Pete, you’re the wisest man. Because this sucks. I mean, everyone is fighting.’”

Though he spent little time reflecting on the specifics of his greatest successes (catapulting California to climate leadership) and failures (a stinging rebuke by voters of his fiscal overhaul plan, which kneecapped his political momentum) in office, Schwarzenegger said he loved being a public servant.

“There is no university in the world that can teach you what I have learned in the seven years,” he said. “You have that many smart people coming through.”

Not that he plans to return to office any time soon. Schwarzenegger “totally” ruled out a campaign for California’s open U.S. Senate seat as he focuses on his return to acting.

“The only thing that I would have been interested in running (for) was president, but I can’t do that,” said the Austrian-born Schwarzengger. “I’m not going to complain about it, because every single good thing I’ve accomplished in my life is because of America. So I’m not going to complain about the one thing I can’t do.”

“I will always be ready, no matter if a Democrat or Republican wins, to help them if they need help with anything. But that’s as far as that goes,” he added.

Schwarzenegger reiterated his frequent call for new blood in the White House and American politics, though he had some kind words for President Biden’s performance at last week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference — and none for former President Donald Trump, currently leading the Republican primary field.

“I don’t want to comment now on every single stupid thing that he says, because otherwise I would be sitting here for the next eight days,” Schwarzenegger said.

Evictions surge as moratoriums end

Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

Even as it struggles with a homelessness crisis, California appears to also be hurtling towards an “eviction cliff” it was intent on avoiding during the pandemic.

As Jeanne Kuang from CalMatters’ California Divide team reports, despite a yearslong statewide moratorium on evictions and $5 billion in rent relief, eviction cases in California have soared since the end of the state’s moratorium in June 2022, with some counties reaching rates higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

According to the CalMatters analysis:

  • San Diego County: Eviction filings peaked at more than 1,000 in October 2022, and this year, have hovered around its pre-pandemic average of 723 a month.
  • Santa Clara County: Evictions filed in 2023 through August were more than 35% higher than in 2019, on average.
  • Alameda County: In June, the month before Oakland ended its local moratorium, landlords filed nearly 800 eviction cases, the highest monthly total in at least a decade.

But with debts of their own, landlords’ groups say they often have no choice but to be aggressive with evictions. One research group estimates that as of September, 605,000 California households owed a total of $1.8 billion in back rent. Property owners also argue they were given little state assistance when tenants failed to pay rent. One Oakland landlord blamed the moratoria for “creating a culture” that permitted tenants to skip rent even if they were working and had income. 

Tenants’ advocates point to the recent rise of rent costs for contributing, in part, to the eviction filings. Even when subject to a 2019 rent cap law, landlords have been allowed to raise rent on tenants by as much as 10% this year. Tenants can also rarely afford representation in eviction court, compared to landlords who have attorneys most of the time.

For more on California’s rising eviction filings, read Jeanne’s story.

Which campuses ban e-bikes, scooters?

A student rides his scooter at California State University, Long Beach on Oct. 4, 2023. Photo by Lauren Justice for CalMatters

Just as some California cities and counties are weighing whether to permit or ban electric bikes and scooters, so, too, are California college campuses, write Christina Chkarboul and Jada Portillo of CalMatters’ College Journalism Network.

The popularity of these “motorized micro-mobility” devices is growing rapidly: Shared e-bike trips rose from 9.5 million in 2018 to 17 million in 2021, according to a report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials. For college students, e-bikes and e-scooters are often faster than walking, are cheaper than buying a car and are considered more sustainable since they run on electric-powered batteries. (Though even some would argue that fact.)

But topping at more than 30 mph, they can also be dangerous to riders and pedestrians alike. A survey in 2022 at UC Davis found that 22% of students who fell on campus from an e-bike had to go to the emergency room or hospital. That rate among students who rode regular bicycles was only 7.5%. In the worst cases, mishaps can be fatal: In 2020, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo freshman died from falling off an e-skateboard near campus.

Regulations for these devices are uneven. A CalMatters analysis found that while all University of California campuses allow e-bikes or e-scooters to be ridden on campus, only half of California State University campuses and about one-third of California community colleges allow them.

And some campuses, such as Sacramento State, only allow e-scooters because officials don’t believe that current law gives them the power to deny their use on campus. Senate Bill 295, currently under further evaluation by the Assembly Transportation Committee, however, would add e-scooters to the state vehicle code.

For more on these devices and to check the rules for a specific California college, read Christina and Jada’s story.

CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters contributor Pedro Rios: As the Tijuana River sewage crisis worsens, San Diego leaders and groups have pleaded with Gov. Gavin Newsom to intervene. So far, he’s deferred to the feds. 

CalMatters commentary is now California Voices, with its first issue page focusing on homelessness. Give it a look

Other things worth your time:

Some stories may require a subscription to read.

CA’s first lesbian Senate leader could make history again if she runs for governor // AP News

Newsom TV ad hits DeSantis on abortion as Fox debate looms // Politico

CA workers died of silicosis despite years of warnings // Los Angeles Times

Big changes coming to Medi-Cal, for 40% of Californians // San Francisco Chronicle

10 Freeway in LA to reopen in time for Monday morning commute // Los Angeles Daily News

Where did SF homeless people go during APEC? Not very far // The Mercury News

White House slams ‘antisemitic and racist’ Elon Musk post // San Francisco Chronicle

Apple to pause advertising on X after Musk backs antisemitic post // Axios

OpenAI Board stands by firing of Sam Altman, reports say // San Francisco Chronicle

60 statements, 600 pieces of evidence in death of Jewish protester // Los Angeles Times

Babies lose their lives to syphilis. She’s trying to stop it // Los Angeles Times

Immigrant parents report faulty, slow translation of special education documents // EdSource

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions:

Lynn La is the WhatMatters newsletter writer. Prior to joining CalMatters, she developed thought leadership at an edtech company and was a senior editor at CNET. She also covered public health at The Sacramento...