Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, March 18.

Surge in anti-Asian hate

Pressure is mounting on Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint an Asian American or Pacific Islander attorney general amid a surge in anti-Asian harassment and violence, including Tuesday shootings in Atlanta in which a man killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent.

On Wednesday, top Asian American and Latino officials called on Newsom to replace Xavier Becerra — expected to be confirmed today as President Joe Biden’s health and human services secretary — with Assemblymember Rob Bonta, an Oakland Democrat and California’s first Filipino American legislator. The push followed a Tuesday report from Stop AAPI Hate documenting nearly 4,000 incidents of anti-Asian discrimination nationwide from March 2020 through February 2021. Around 70% of incidents were reported by women, and almost 45% took place in California.

  • Assemblymember David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat: “California deserves to have a top cop who understands our communities, our diversity, and that has experience in building community-based solutions that target hate.”

Although Atlanta authorities said the shootings did not appear to be racially motivated, Chiu said the murders were “hate crimes fueled by racism” encouraged in part by former President Donald Trump calling the coronavirus “the China virus.” Anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents skyrocketed in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orange County in 2020, according to police department data. Numerous unprovoked attacks on elderly Asian Americans prompted Alameda County to form a special response unit dedicated to crimes against Asians, and San Francisco police are increasing patrols in areas with large Asian populations. Newsom in February signed a bill allocating $1.4 million to better track and respond to anti-Asian violence.

Chiu and other officials suggested Wednesday that Newsom owes the attorney general position to the Asian American community, which supported the governor’s decision to appoint Alex Padilla as California’s first Latino senator and Shirley Weber as its first Black secretary of state. Top Asian American Democrats also recently backed Newsom by denouncing the recall effort.

  • David Nelson, vice president of the California Asian Chamber: “The CalAsian chamber implores the governor to not overlook our community yet again when it comes to his appointment power. … Now it is up to the governor to meet this moment himself.”


The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 3,532,496 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 55,577 deaths (+0.4% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 13,037,557 vaccine doses.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.

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1. Women, independents key to Newsom recall

Recall Newsom volunteer Pat Miller at a petition-signing event at SaveMart in Sacramento on Jan. 5, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Organizers of the effort to recall Newsom said they had submitted more than 2.1 million signatures by the Wednesday deadline, likely more than enough to force a special election later this year. Around 64% of signatories were Republicans, compared to 25% no party preference voters, 9% Democrats and 2% other, said Dave Gilliard, a Republican consultant working on the recall campaign. Gilliard also noted that 49% of the signatures came from women — a key constituency Newsom will need to mobilize in order to keep his job. In his State of the State speech, the governor highlighted mothers “who’ve juggled and struggled” to balance work, child care and distance learning amid the pandemic — but his recent pledge to appoint a Black woman to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat should she retire before the end of her term didn’t sit well with members of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus.

  • Christine Pelosi, chair of the caucus: “I would hope that (the Newsom campaign) remember(s) there are a lot of women who vote in the recall, and it’s not a very good look to pit women together to save the job of a man. … If you don’t respect us, don’t expect us.”

Newsom will also have to appeal to independent voters, 39% of whom said in a recent poll they would vote to recall him. “I suspect that you’re going to find a lot of independents who signed” recall petitions “were women,” Gilliard told me, adding, “From what we’re hearing, a lot of that has to do with schools closing.”

2. Comparing California and Florida

Condo apartments along Fort Myers beach in Florida during spring break in 2011. Image via iStock

Despite radically different coronavirus policies, California and Florida have the same case rate and nearly identical death rates, raising questions as to whether certain restrictions were necessary, the Associated Press reports. Though Newsom defended his COVID strategy in a Tuesday interview on CNN by saying “we have lower death rates than the vast majority of states in this country, certainly much lower than places like Florida and Texas,” the Golden State’s death rate ranks 28th nationwide, just slightly lower than Florida’s 27th place. Meanwhile, Florida’s December unemployment rate was 5.1%, nearly half California’s 9.3%. And theme parks and schools have been open for months in Florida, whereas the vast majority of campuses in California remain far from full-time in-person instruction and the Disneyland resort in Anaheim plans to reopen on April 30. Florida has also vaccinated more residents per capita than California. Still, differences in the states’ geography, density and weather make direct comparisons difficult.

  • Patricia García, a Democrat who lives in Miami: “People here, they’ve been able to work. The kids have been able to go to school. We have this reputation in Florida of being all … crazyland. But I’d much rather be in Florida than California, New York or Chicago.”

3. College, interrupted

Theater major Fatemeh Mehraban during a Zoom rehearsal for an American River College production on Nov. 4, 2020. Photo by Ashley Hayes-Stone, CalMatters

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Newsom issuing a statewide stay-at-home order, transforming California’s bustling college campuses into ghost towns. As many students traded their dorms for childhood bedrooms and in-person classes for laptops, photographers from CalMatters’ College Journalism Network documented it all. Check out these lovely — and haunting — photos memorializing the past year on campuses across the state.

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CalMatters commentary

California gets a C for climate action: In 2020, the state Legislature abandoned any efforts to deal with the climate crisis, argues Mary Creasman, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters.

Coachella Valley takes on the housing crisis: Our regional housing network has a bold vision of producing 10,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years, write Assemblymembers Eduardo Garcia, a Coachella Democrat, and Chad Mayes, a Yucca Valley independent.

Other things worth your time

Report shows California lagging most states in vaccination equity. // San Francisco Chronicle

California could allow school districts to choose their own standardized tests this year. // EdSource

San Francisco and Los Angeles sue a New York company for violating California’s gig-work law. // San Francisco Chronicle

California sues San Diego County over giant housing projects in fire-prone area. // San Francisco Chronicle

California’s small landlords left struggling when renters stop paying. // CalMatters

5 California cities would lose ‘metropolitan’ status under federal plan. // Mercury News

California pushes forward with statewide pesticide notification system. // Bakersfield Californian

Port of Los Angeles continues breaking cargo records in historic 7-month surge. // Daily News

California gas prices in 13-week surge rise to $3.73 average. // Orange County Register

California police degraded women in texts. // Sacramento Bee

There isn’t enough housing or shelter for domestic violence survivors in Sacramento. // Sacramento Bee

Oakland’s Mills College will stop granting degrees, ending 169-year run for women’s school. // San Francisco Chronicle

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...