In summary

California Sen. Kamala Harris is emerging as the top contender for Joe Biden’s vice president amid protests over police brutality and racism in America.

Good morning, California. It’s Friday, June 12.

Profile rising in wake of protests

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on August 9, 2019. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is emerging as the top contender for Joe Biden’s vice president amid protests over police brutality and a renewed reckoning about racism in America.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll taken after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police found that 46% of Democrats want Biden to choose a woman of color as his running mate, up from 36% in early April.

As a black woman and former prosecutor, Harris’ profile has risen. On Monday, she introduced a sweeping police reform bill and has made numerous TV and talk show appearances to discuss the intersection of race and law enforcement.

  • Harris in a Thursday virtual town hall: “I grew up experiencing most of what I’m talking about in terms of the abuses of the (police) system. … I made a very conscious decision to become a prosecutor … because I said, ‘Why do we only have to be on the outside trying to knock down the doors to change the system? … Isn’t there a role for us to go inside the system to try and change it?'”

However, some see this past as a liability and say Harris wasn’t the “progressive prosecutor” she makes herself out to be. They point to incidents like her decision in 2008, as California attorney general, to prosecute a schizophrenic woman shot by police and to her flip-flopping on issues that have taken on renewed urgency in recent days.

For example, Harris’ police reform bill calls for a stricter national standard for when police are legally able to use deadly force — but she didn’t take a stance on the issue in 2019, when California passed a landmark law raising the state standard from “reasonable” to “necessary.”

Her bill also calls for independent investigations of police departments, though she didn’t back a California bill to that effect as attorney general.

  • Harris: “What Black Lives Matter has done (is) to put the pressure on these systems that when you’re inside of it, work so fiercely against you trying to change it. And then to have these activists on the outside, coupled with having some of us on the inside, that’s where I believe the beauty is in the ability to actually force the change to happen.”


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Thursday night, California had 139,281 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,881 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

Other stories you should know

1. Close quarters: Inside COVID-19’s spread in overcrowded homes

Ricardo Hernandez with wife Alejandra Conde, their two sons Ricardo Jr., center, and Sebastian, and Ricardo’s parents 80-year old Laurencio Hernandez and 76-year old Rufina Hernandez. Photo courtesy of Ricardo Hernandez

The poorest ZIP codes with the most people living in overcrowded housing are suffering the most from the coronavirus, the Salinas Californian’s Kate Cimini and CalMatters’ Jackie Botts report. Many of these people are essential workers and are exposed to a lot of people both at work and at home, creating the perfect conditions for the virus to flourish. Around 16% of Californians live in overcrowded housing, defined as a home with more people than rooms. Monterey County, home to many farmworkers, leads the state with 1 in 7 of its homes overcrowded.

2. Reparations, affirmative action bills advance in Legislature

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber authored both the reparations and affirmative action bills. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

A proposal to create a reparations committee to educate Californians about the lasting impact of slavery and recommend how the state might compensate African Americans passed the state Assembly Thursday, a day after a constitutional amendment that would reinstate affirmative action in state colleges, universities and agencies also cleared the Assembly. Both measures, galvanized by widespread cries for justice in the wake of Floyd’s death, will now go before the Senate for a vote. (If two-thirds of the Senate passes the affirmative action measure, it will go before voters on the November ballot.)

In 2014, the Assembly shelved a proposed affirmative action constitutional amendment after facing pushback from Asian Americans who said it could hinder their children’s ability to get into California’s most selective public universities.

  • Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a San Diego Democrat who authored the bill: “As we look around the world, we see there is an urgent cry — an urgent cry for change … We see that race-neutral solutions cannot fix problems steeped in race.”
  • Assemblyman Steven Choi, an Irvine Republican: “The act of giving special or preferential treatment to someone based on their race is racism itself, or on sex is sexism.”

3. CA school districts under pressure to disband campus police

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group file photo

California school districts are facing demands to replace campus police officers with counselors, psychologists and social workers — and some school boards support the idea, EdSource reports. On Wednesday, West Contra Costa Unified’s school board voted unanimously to stop contracting with local police departments, while a majority of Oakland Unified’s school board supports eliminating its police department. Efforts to persuade school boards to disband campus police are also underway in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. Critics of school police point to research showing black and Latino students are arrested and disciplined at higher rates than other students, creating a school-to-prison pipeline. Police say they play a critical role in keeping students safe, especially in the wake of school shootings.

  • Amir Whitaker of the ACLU of Southern California: “It’s almost like we have a leaky roof and the school police are like the bucket that’s just going to collect the water. And investing in mental health support services would be like actually getting up there on the roof.”

CalMatters commentary

Our justice system is failing our youth: California must take the time to develop a plan that truly serves the complex needs of young people, argue Chet Hewitt of The Center at Sierra Health Foundation and Shane Murphy Goldsmith of Liberty Hill Foundation.

Churches, cinemas and COVID-19: The decision to allow churches to reopen was undoubtedly good politics, but it begs the question: What about movie theaters? writes Justin Hughes, a Loyola Law School professor.

Other things worth your time

California spent nearly $25 million deploying National Guard to protests. // San Francisco Chronicle

LAPD’s use of batons, weapons during protests appears to violate their own rules. // Los Angeles Times

San Francisco Mayor London Breed on racism and police reform. // KQED

Inside the private law firm California has relied on for some coronavirus contracts. // Sacramento Bee

Are younger, healthier people behind California’s spike in coronavirus cases? // Mercury News

Central Valley communities battle for right to clean drinking water. // Fresno Bee

The city of San Clemente is heading into the next fiscal year without an approved budget or mayor, among other problems. // Voice of OC

Disneyland to reopen July 17. // Los Angeles Times


See you Monday.

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Emily Hoeven wrote the daily WhatMatters newsletter for three years at CalMatters . Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco...