In summary

California Republican Party delegates decide not to endorse any single candidate in the recall election, after all.

If you’re one of the 40% of likely voters who haven’t decided who would be best to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom if he’s recalled in September, you aren’t alone.

The California Republican Party is also feeling torn these days.

There was plenty of tumult and controversy leading up to the CA GOP’s endorsement meeting this weekend, but alas, 90% of the delegates opted not to back anyone at all. 

That came after party leaders — the very ones who proposed an endorsement process in the first place — reversed course in a last-minute letter to delegates.

It’s an acknowledgement that no single candidate was likely to earn the needed support of 60% of the delegates. It also reflects the changing state of play in the race: Once upon a time, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer was considered the party favorite. But then along came conservative pundit Larry Elder, darling of the base.

And what about John Cox, the party’s 2018 candidate? He wasn’t even in the running, putting him back in his comfort zone — on the outside looking in, as I write today. 

The state Democratic Party isn’t selecting a replacement candidate either, but there’s nothing undecided about it. Chairperson Rusty Hicks with the party line: “Leave Question 2 blank.”

Hicks’ directive is meant to sidestep some of the befuddling advice we saw during the 2003 recall campaign — who remembers “No on Recall; Yes on Bustamante”? But if the recall succeeds, it’s a strategy that could leave left-of-center voters without a voice in choosing the next governor.

Kevin Paffrath, the only Democrat on the replacement list with any degree of name recognition, is hoping those voters will consider him instead. He’s offering a $1 million charity donation if Newsom agrees to debate him.

FYI: I got an email from a reader — a Democrat — who thought that if she votes for a replacement candidate, it will invalidate her “no” vote on the recall, itself. It ain’t so! All valid votes will be counted no matter what you decide.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,939,747 confirmed cases (+0.34% from previous day) and 64,312 deaths (+0.04% from previous day), according to state data.

California has administered 44,663,270 vaccine doses, and 63.6% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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.

Podcast: With just more than a month before the Sept. 14 recall election, four Republican candidates took the stage for their first debate. Nigel and Nicole spoke with experts about the recall election, and discussed the growing push to change how these elections are conducted.

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1. Vaccines still just extra credit

Medical assistants prepare syringes with the Moderns COVID-19 vaccine at a community vaccination clinic run by Ravenswood Family Health Network at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on April 10, 2021. The clinic will run every Saturday through May 1 to reach members of the underserved communities in the immediate area. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Medical assistants prepare syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a community vaccination clinic run by Ravenswood Family Health Network at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on April 10, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

California’s public school teachers are being begged, cajoled, enticed and guilted into getting vaccinated before the school year starts. 

But so far, few elected officials are willing to outright force them to get the shot, writes CalMatters education reporter Joe Hong.

It’s a notably different approach than what the state has taken with other frontline workers. Newsom recently announced that state employees will have to get vaccinated or be subject to regular testing. So will indoor medical workers — no opt outs allowed

But for teachers, state legislators are leaving the decision up to locals. San Jose Unified has rolled out its own requirement, but few other school districts have followed suit, wary of lawsuits and labor disputes.

So far the 300,000-member California Teachers Association has also stopped short of endorsing a mandate. But some national union leaders are already there.

Children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine. And while kids are much less likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms, cases are on the rise. That all has public health experts warning of a nightmare scenario.

  • UC Irvine public health professor Andrew Noymer: “If we end up with a bunch of sick teachers, we might end up back on Zoom.”

In related news: There are few mandates in the retail or agricultural sector, either. That threatens to “widen the pandemic’s already uneven toll,” Politico reports.

2. Another devastating milestone

Flames from the Dixie Fire spread through the Greenville community of Plumas County on Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville. Photo by Noah Berger, AP Photo
Flames from the Dixie Fire spread through the Greenville community of Plumas County on Aug. 4, 2021. The fire leveled multiple historic buildings and dozens of homes in central Greenville. Photo by Noah Berger, AP Photo

Superlatives are starting to lose their meaning when describing California’s ever more horrible wildfire seasons, but we have a new one.

The Dixie Fire, which has torched more than 700 square miles across four northern California counties, is now the second largest in state history. The first largest was last year’s August Complex fire.

Firefighters got a bit of a reprieve over the weekend after a thick blanket of smoke covered the area, bringing down temperatures and muffling the wind. (Yes, stagnant, hazardous air constitutes the “good news” here). 

But clearer skies and heat are expected to return later this week. On Sunday, the fire was only 21% contained.

Some deja vu: On Friday, a federal judge ordered PG&E to provide details on the role the utility’s equipment may have played in starting the fire.

Last week the U.S. Forest Service announced that it would no longer let small fires burn out on their own and would end prescribed burning “until further notice.” Now many forest fire experts warn that that’s exactly the wrong lesson to take from these conflagrations.

3. Returning from whence we came

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStrock

If you’re reading this over breakfast, put down your bowl of granola. 

Ecologically-inclined Californians may soon have a new “greener funerary option” available for them in the sweet hereafter, Marissa Garcia writes for CalMatters.

Composting the recently deceased — or if you prefer the more delicate “after-death natural organic reduction” — could soon be legal in California.

This wouldn’t be a first. The state would join Washington, Oregon and Colorado (apparently it’s a West Coast thing) in offering this greener way to legally dispose of the dead. 

Here’s a morbid entry for your next trivia night: How much soil does the average body actually produce? Read on to find out.

It’s yet another reminder that going green isn’t always for the weak of stomach. Last year, legislators passed a “waste not, want not”-inspired bill making it legal to “harvest” fresh roadkill

That law passed, though it hasn’t gone into effect yet, which one hungry commuter in Shasta County found out the hard way.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The drought is setting the stage for a high-stakes political and legal conflict over the state’s most precious resource.

Builders’ fees are too damn high: Local governments need to be thoughtful before levying fees on home construction that can add tens of thousands of dollars to the price tag of a home, write Sacramento County Supervisor Patrick Kennedy and Elk Grove City Councilmember Darren Suen.

Going big on guaranteed income: Experiments in Stockton and Oakland show that one of the best ways to fight poverty is to just give cash to the people who need it most. Now it’s time for a federal guaranteed income program, write Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs.

Other things worth your time

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez has breast cancer // Times of San Diego

San Francisco sheriff’s union warn of exodus over possible vaccine mandate // San Francisco Chronicle

San Diego Sheriff’s Department overdose PSA “not biologically possible” // New York Times

The Delta variant now running laps around every other strain  // Washington Post

Water now so scare in Mendocino town is considering hauling it in by train // CBS News

Biden administration extends student loan payment pause // New York Times

Why are there so few women in California’s building trades? // KPCC

See you tomorrow.

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Ben ChristopherHousing Reporter

Ben covers housing policy and previously covered California politics and elections. Prior to these roles at CalMatters, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and...