Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, January 13.

Dems affix ‘coup’ label

In a sign that the movement to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is increasingly perceived as a serious threat, the California Democratic Party took the extraordinary step Tuesday of branding it as a “coup” and alleging that its backers were linked to the violent mob who stormed the U.S. Capitol last week.

  • Party Chairman Rusty Hicks: “This recall effort, which really ought to be called ‘the California coup,’ is being led by right-wing conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, anti-vaxxers and groups who encourage violence on our democratic institutions.”
  • Randy Economy, a recall spokesperson: “Our recall effort is tied to all Californians. Jesus Christ, they’re going to go there? That’s how bad the Democratic Party is in California.”

The press conference marked the party’s first attempt to combat the recall effort, which has gained steam in recent weeks amid a series of high-profile endorsements and cash infusions. Organizers said last week they had collected more than 1 million of the 1.5 million signatures needed to prompt a recall election, underscoring Democratic strategists’ warning that Newsom shouldn’t ignore the effort.

But although Democrats attempted Tuesday to “draw a straight line from the horrible events of last week in Washington, D.C., to current events here in California” — in the words of San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria — they were unable to provide proof that white supremacists or other extremists were linked to the Newsom recall. Hicks also acknowledged the “legality” of the recall, which, unlike a coup, is a democratic mechanism written into the California constitution that allows voters to remove an elected official by popular vote, as CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

Several Democrats also accused former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican who last week launched a gubernatorial exploratory committee, of trying to “exploit” the recall to revive a “flagging political career.”

  • Faulconer: “Comparing the capitol attack on our democracy to a recall effort allowed under the state Constitution, signed by 1 mil. people across the political spectrum, is absolutely disgraceful.”

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 2,747,288 confirmed cases (+1.3% from previous day) and 30,513 deaths (+1.8% from previous day), 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.


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1. Capitol increases security ahead of protests

The California Capitol. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

California law enforcement is on high alert following the FBI’s recent warning of potential attacks on state capitols in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. A group called Let Freedom Ring is seeking to hold a 3,000-person event at the California Capitol on Sunday to protest the election results, which Congress certified last week. Though the protest is billed as “peaceful,” it will likely be met with beefed-up security measures, including additional barricades and a greater law-enforcement presence. Trump supporters have gathered near the state Capitol every weekend since the election to protest the results, frequently clashing violently with counterprotesters.

Meanwhile, anger over the U.S. Capitol attack continues to simmer. A group of elected officials and veterans called Tuesday on state lawmakers to expel Republican Assemblymember Randy Voepel from the Legislature for his incendiary comments about the Capitol violence. Meanwhile, a former Democratic Assembly candidate was arrested Monday for refusing to leave Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s Bakersfield office while livestreaming herself calling for the Republican to resign.

2. Vaccine, virus update

Image via iStock

In a major change to California’s vaccine rollout, the state will today reveal how it plans to comply with new federal guidelines ordering that vaccines be made available to people 65 and older, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. But some counties aren’t waiting for the state, and began Tuesday to inoculate older residents. The new policy could help speed up California’s vaccine rollout, which is one of the slowest in the nation and whose critics say is bogged down by unnecessary restrictions. But it could also create new difficulties for providers as they rush to adapt to a new set of guidelines.

Also Tuesday, Greater Sacramento became the first region to exit Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order tied to ICU capacity, giving the green light for restaurants to resume outdoor dining and hair salons, barbershops and other businesses to reopen. Remaining under the stay-at-home order are the Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

3. Bullet train hits more delays

A conceptual illustration of California’s bullet train. Image by NC3D via Flickr

Don’t count on boarding California’s bullet train anytime soon. A key 31-mile segment of the already significantly downsized project likely won’t be completed until at least November 2023 — six years after the original deadline, according to a scathing letter one of the project’s top contractors sent last week to the California High Speed Rail Authority. The letter, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, says the project’s other two segments are also behind schedule — directly contradicting state officials who in December said the project was making good progress. The delays, which the contractor alleges are due in part to the state’s failure to obtain necessary land parcels, will likely add billions of dollars in costs to a project already running billions of dollars over budget.


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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s stumbling vaccination program is — as it should be — highly embarrassing for Newsom.

Inside California’s Master Plan on Aging: It’s a framework for action that starts today, with an online summit on steps we can take in the next 100 days, writes Kim McCoy Wade of the California Department of Aging.

California’s lessons on land restoration: We have the opportunity in 2021 to begin healing degraded ecosystems around the world before it’s too late, argue Julie Rentner of River Partners and Manuel Oliva of Point Blue Conservation Science.


Other things worth your time

Unions file lawsuit against Prop. 22, gig-worker initiative approved by California voters. // San Francisco Chronicle

Trump’s rhetoric behind California’s big gains in Latino voter registration. // CalMatters

Biden to return donation from ex-California Sen. Barbara Boxer over Chinese lobbying. // Axios

How Biden’s debt forgiveness plan would affect millions of California students. // CalMatters

Finally, rent relief for a graduate student starting out in the job market. // CalMatters

Los Angeles students must get COVID vaccine when available, superintendent says. // Los Angeles Times

Homelessness could triple in Los Angeles due to COVID-related job losses, report finds. // Los Angeles Times

This California city just ended chronic homelessness. // Fast Company

City Administrator Naomi Kelly to resign amid City Hall scandal. // San Francisco Chronicle

CalPERS spent $80,000 on legal bills after one of its own leaders sued it. // Sacramento Bee


See you tomorrow.

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