Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, August 13.

How will Harris respond?

As the first California Democrat to land on the national ticket, Kamala Harris will bring the Golden State — and all of its stereotypes — into the spotlight with her. 

California has long been a Republican shorthand for homelessness, crime, radicalism and Democratic mismanagement. President Donald Trump’s campaign on Wednesday referred to Harris as a “California radical who completes the left-wing takeover of Joe Biden.” Trump last month called Oakland — where Harris grew up — “a mess,” and in December called Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district “one of the worst anywhere in the U.S. when it come (sic) to the homeless & crime.”

But Harris’ label of San Francisco Democrat — which historically connoted out-of-touch liberalism — may no longer be a political liability as California gets bluer and the country moves left on issues like gay marriage, criminal justice, the environment and marijuana use, Politico reports.   

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday: “California has a proud history of electing some outstanding leaders. … A lot of these leaders emanated from San Francisco. If you follow San Francisco politics, you know it’s not for the timid. And it doesn’t surprise me at all when so many of our nation’s great leaders — Nancy Pelosi being top among them — emanate from that extraordinary city.” 

(Newsom, often thought to have national ambitions of his own, didn’t forget to mention he was born in San Francisco, in addition to being its former mayor.)

Political analysts say Harris can counter California stereotypes by emphasizing its political and geographic diversity. 

  • Shawnda Westly, former executive director of the California Democratic Party: “I think what a lot of people overlook about California is that we are a microcosm of the nation. We have rural areas, we have Trump areas, we have urban, tons of suburban areas. … Even though (Harris is) from San Francisco, she was able to put together a statewide campaign (for U.S. Senate) where she took 23 of 25 Trump counties.”


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, California had 574,411 confirmed coronavirus cases and 10,468 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. California’s lack of protective gear cost lives, study finds

Nurses prepare to enter the testing area at a drive thru COVID-19 testing facility at Cal Expo in Sacramento on April 15, 2020. The nurses work in teams of four and take shifts throughout the day. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Nurses at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing facility at Cal Expo in Sacramento on April 15. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Nearly 21,000 essential workers wouldn’t have contracted COVID-19 and dozens likely wouldn’t have died if California had an adequate stockpile of personal protective equipment at the outset of the pandemic, according to a Wednesday report from UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and Labor Center.

Other key findings:

  • The stockpile would have saved the state $93 million weekly in unemployment benefits by allowing employees to safely return to work earlier.
  • Stockpiling masks and other protective gear in advance would have been 83% cheaper than buying them in the middle of the pandemic.

Newsom last month announced plans to create a stockpile of 100 million N95 masks and 200 million surgical masks to prepare for a surge of cases in the fall, and lawmakers are considering a bill that would require California to maintain 90 days worth of medical supplies. At the outset of the pandemic, the state had an emergency stockpile of 21 million N95 masks — all of which were expired.

2. Battle over affordable housing intensifies

Image via iStock

As California lawmakers struggle to pass an affordable housing package before the legislative session ends Aug. 31, two major advocacy groups said Tuesday it would be “detrimental” to pass many of the higher-profile bills, arguing they would make it harder and more expensive to build low-income housing by requiring union-trained workers be attached to the projects. Instead, the California Housing Consortium and Housing California asked lawmakers to focus on eviction protections and financial assistance for affordable housing providers. The striking letter, which came after months of tussle with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California over the labor requirement, highlights the fraught tensions the state must contend with in addressing its housing shortage.

  • CHC and Housing California: “We remain committed to a path forward that provides skilled workers with well-paying jobs — without exacerbating a growing labor shortage that is hampering efforts to provide much-needed affordable homes.”
  • Building Trades President Robbie Hunter in a statement to me: “We are committed to being part of the solution to California’s housing need but not at the expense of workers. We firmly believe that you cannot address poverty in housing by driving construction workers and their families into poverty.”

3. California won’t clamp down on teeth-straightening kits — for now

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters; iStock; Keith Allison, CC BY-SA 2.0; Sam Javanrouh via Flickr

In the latest California clash between a legacy industry and a “disrupter,” score one for the upstart: Lawmakers last week rejected efforts to more aggressively regulate teledentistry companies selling at-home teeth straightening treatments. But the battle will likely resume next year, reigniting questions about how California should regulate new businesses that don’t play by old rules — from ride-hail companies Uber and Lyft to teledentistry companies like SmileDirectClub, Byte and Candid, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports. The fight has attracted star power: Golden State Warriors basketball player Draymond Green, an investor in SmileDirect, and actress Kerry Washington, a Byte investor, have spoken out against stricter teledentistry regulations.

  • Washington: “Companies like Byte … offer the opportunity for all groups, especially low income, Black and Latino communities, to receive the dental and orthodontic care they need and deserve.”
  • Assemblymember Evan Low, a Cupertino Democrat behind the proposed regulations: “I support the innovation economy, but my motivation is consumer protection. The facts speak for themselves, versus the ‘tech bros’ that are willing to make a buck on the backs of people of color. These communities should not get subpar treatment.”

CalMatters events

TODAY: How Will 6 Million California Students Handle Remote Learning? RegisterSubmit Your Questions

August 18: Student Town Hall with California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. Register | Submit Your Questions

August 19: Student Town Hall with California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White. Register | Submit Your Questions

August 20: How the Pandemic is Affecting Children’s Mental Health. RegisterSubmit Your Questions

Visit our events page for more information. Questions or comments? Email

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California politicians are waging a campaign against Uber and Lyft in advance of voters’ decision on Prop. 22.

Walk away, Wall Street: Senate Bill 1079 would prevent corporations from taking over single-family homes like they did after the Great Recession, argues state Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat.

Ensuring equity: A truly equitable California has never existed. But here’s how lawmakers can help all Californians, not just a small group of billionaires, write Jennifer Martinez of PICO California and Christina Livingston of ACCE.


Other things worth your time

Newsom defends economic recovery efforts and task force amid criticism about transparency. // Los Angeles Times

Uber may shut down in California if forced to classify drivers as employees, CEO says. // The Verge

San Quentin officials ignored coronavirus guidance from top Marin County health officer, letter says. // San Francisco Chronicle

San Diego’s Black and Latino communities hit with COVID-19 triple whammy. // KPBS

California voters overwhelmingly support sweeping police reforms, poll finds. // Los Angeles Times

See you tomorrow.

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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...