In summary

The Newsom recall campaign is happening on multiple fronts: debate stages, in courtrooms and on social media — you can’t escape it.

Pick your poison (or your passion): Debate stage, courtroom or the internet.

No matter what you choose, it’s a front in the multifaceted battle between the campaign supporting the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom and the campaign opposing it. There was action on all three fronts Wednesday, which saw the first — and possibly only — debate between major recall candidates, a legal tussle over language in the official voter guide and, of course, Twitter barbs.

Here’s what you need to know.

—Debate: Four of the prominent Republican candidates running to replace Newsom — Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin, unsuccessful 2018 candidate John Cox of San Diego County, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and former Sacramento-area U.S. Rep. Doug Ose — gathered at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Orange County for a 90-minute debate. They slammed Newsom for his approach to everything from homelessness to California’s unemployment department, but also focused on their own policy proposals. Interestingly, they didn’t go after conservative radio host Larry Elder, who’s leading the polls and who skipped the debate to attend a Bakersfield fundraiser. But other unexpected topics did come up — including the Chinese Communist Party and Cox’s nose hair. For key takeaways, check out this report from CalMatters’ Ben Christopher and Laurel Rosenhall.

—Lawsuit: In a significant win for Newsom, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie Earl tentatively ruled that he can refer to the recall in the state’s official voter information guide as “an attempt by national Republicans and Trump supporters to force an election and grab power in California.” The ruling also permits Newsom to accuse Republicans of “abusing our recall laws,” though the mechanism is enshrined in California’s constitution.

  • Earl: “Is referring to this election as a ‘Republican recall’ exaggerated? Maybe. But the Court finds it is also the type of exaggeration that is common to political debate and that is thus permissible.”

The ruling comes a few weeks after Earl dealt Newsom a political blow by finding that gubernatorial recall candidates don’t have to release five years of tax returns in order to qualify — catapulting Elder, who appears to be Newsom’s biggest threat, onto the ballot.

—Twitter: Newsom backers circulated an article in which Elder said Roe v. Wade, which protects abortion rights, should be overturned. “What’s at stake is very clear & the dangers are very real,” tweeted Brandon Richards, communications director for Planned Parenthood California. Elder, meanwhile, praised the Orange County Board of Education for its plans to sue Newsom over California’s school mask mandate, tweeting, “Newsom’s mask mandates and authoritarian ’emergency powers’ will go away — whether by court or by soon-to-be Governor Elder.”

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,889,641 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 64,150 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data.

California has administered 44,271,553 vaccine doses, and 63.1% 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.

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1. More mandates, more vaccinations?

A drive-through vaccination clinic at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal in Larkspur on Feb. 24, 2021. Photo by Sherry LaVars, Marin Independent Journal

For many Californians, it appears that sticks are more effective than carrots. As more and more local governments and businesses adopt policies that require employees — and in some cases customers — to be vaccinated, the pace of inoculations is increasing. The state administered a daily average of 44,000 first doses from July 25 to 31 — a whopping 41% increase from two weeks ago, according to data compiled by the Los Angeles Times.

Sutter Health on Wednesday announced it will require all employees to be vaccinated, two days after Kaiser Permanente mandated the same. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco are considering following in New York City’s footsteps by requiring customers to show proof of vaccination before entering indoor restaurants, gyms and large events. Los Angeles County on Wednesday also required its 100,000 employees show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing, and Santa Barbara County is the latest to require masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. Meanwhile, California’s largest state worker union this week filed an unfair labor practice charge against Newsom’s recent directive that state employees either get vaccinated or tested weekly.

In positive pandemic news, the state’s rent relief program — long plagued with slow distribution and logistical hurdles — has made substantial progress in the weeks since Newsom and lawmakers extended a ban on most evictions through Sept. 30. The amount of money paid to struggling renters increased 232% since the end of June, while the number of weekly applications rose more than 57%, according to state data released Wednesday. Nevertheless, local distribution efforts remain plagued by delays.

2. Tribal colleges’ promise — and challenges

CINC students Victoria Chubb, center, with her sister Rebecca Waters, left, and niece Robyn Johnson, right, at the Morongo Indian Reservation on Dec. 30, 2020. Photo by Joyce Nugent for CalMatters College Journalism Network

Native American students have the highest high school dropout rate and lowest college-going rate of any racial group in California — a discrepancy only exacerbated by the pandemic, during which Native enrollment dropped 22% across California’s community college system. But it actually grew 10% at California Indian Nations College, one of three tribal colleges recently founded in the Golden State, Emma Hall and Charlotte West report for CalMatters’ College Journalism Network. Advocates say such figures illuminate the potential of tribal colleges to not only help Native students return to higher education, but also to prevent them from dropping out in the first place. Yet tribal colleges face numerous challenges: In order to award degrees, they must invest significant time and resources into earning accreditation. But resources are also limited — there are currently no federal or state higher education dollars available to tribal colleges.

3. CA tests Norwegian prison model

The lower exercise yard San Quentin State Prison. Photo by Penni Gladstone for CalMatters

Could Norway hold the key to improving California’s prison system — not only by creating a healthier and safer environment for correctional officers, but also by better preparing inmates for the outside world and lowering their risk of reoffending? Newsom is betting on it — to the tune of $13 million in this year’s state budget and $3 million per year moving forward, the Sacramento Bee reports. State officials are testing out the Norwegian model of incarceration at the medium-security Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, which will soon be outfitted with a barbecue patio for inmate family visits, laptops for all prisoners, softer furniture and expanded education and job training opportunities. But the new approach is also raising questions about what counts as rehabilitation — especially in light of a recent Newsom administration policy giving 76,000 inmates the opportunity to shorten their prison sentences.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California is testing a populist version of “direct democracy.”

Assembly Health Committee needs to allow votes on patient-centered legislation: California lawmakers make health care laws to benefit corporations, not patients. This must change, argues Shane Desselle, a professor of social and behavioral pharmacy at Touro University.

Other things worth your time

The voters who could turn California red. // The Atlantic

Los Angeles pedestrian sues after being struck by car on street where tents block the sidewalk. // Los Angeles Times

San Jose to begin clearing massive airport homeless camp. // Mercury News

Forest Service vows ‘boots on the ground’ to fight California fires. // Sacramento Bee

Electricity from hydropower in California fell 44.3% in 2020 due to drought. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Newsom’s wildfire ‘priority project’ didn’t contain Lava Fire, leaving evacuees stuck in traffic. // CapRadio

Displaced by the Camp Fire, California nomads fear eviction. // Los Angeles Times

Dixie Fire leaves Rich Bar, a Gold Rush-era ghost town, in ashes. // San Francisco Chronicle

UC Davis gets to new funding to help rescue dogs and cats scorched in California wildfires. // Sacramento Bee

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park race to vaccinate animals as COVID-19 surges. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Los Angeles County’s first human case of West Nile virus this year reported in South Bay. // Daily News

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...