It’s election season in California, and the resignations, announcements and endorsements are coming in fast and furious.

The state’s political scene got a major shakeup on Monday, when Rep. Devin Nunes, a high-profile, powerful and controversial Republican who’s represented the San Joaquin Valley in Congress since 2003, announced that he plans to give up his seat in January to lead former President Donald Trump’s new media company.

The surprise move will trigger numerous rounds of political musical chairs, starting with Gov. Gavin Newsom calling a special election to fill Nunes’ seat through the end of his term in January 2023. State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a Democrat who also represents the San Joaquin Valley, tweeted a photo showing that she’d received nearly 600 text messages about the open seat. And Democrat Phil Arballo, who lost to Nunes in 2020 and planned to challenge him again in 2022, is apparently planning to run in the special election next spring.

2022 Election

Your guide to the 2022 general election in California

Another factor that may have prompted Nunes’ resignation: Draft maps that California’s independent redistricting commission are expected to finalize later this month show his district shifting from majority Republican to majority Democratic for the next decade, starting with the 2022 elections. Whether that holds true in the final maps could influence who decides to run for the seat.

Another sign election season is heating up: the flurry of endorsements. Rep. Jackie Speier on Monday endorsed Assemblymember Kevin Mullin — a fellow San Mateo Democrat and her former staffer — for the seat she plans to vacate after 2022. And Assemblymember Jim Frazier, a Fairfield Democrat who’s resigning at the end of the year to take a job in the transportation industry, threw his weight behind Suisun Mayor Lori Wilson to replace him.

Also Monday, crime victims served Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón with papers of intent to recall him — a few months after another attempt to oust him from office fizzled. The news came the same day state lawmakers held a joint hearing to consider proposing a 2022 ballot measure to overhaul California’s recall process, such as by limiting recalls to cases of improper conduct.

Experts say that Newsom appears to be headed for easy reelection in 2022 after his overwhelming defeat of the Sept. 14 recall. But the governor is also facing scrutiny from critics for taking several out-of-state trips despite recently extending portions of California’s COVID state of emergency through March 2022. 

The governor’s office announced Monday that Newsom will be in New York until Wednesday to promote on “The Daily Show” and “The View” his new children’s book about a young boy’s struggle with dyslexia, which is scheduled to be released today. The trip comes after Newsom’s Dec. 3-5 visit to Nevada and a Nov. 22-28 stay in Mexico.

A Newsom spokesperson called the criticism of the travel “ridiculous political attacks.”


The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 4,845,295 confirmed cases (+0.5% from previous day) and 74,209 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 59,750,037 vaccine doses, and 68.5% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.


1. State Assembly maps near completion

A redistricting illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

Here’s some more redistricting news from CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal: California’s independent redistricting commission took a big step Monday night toward finalizing its map of state Assembly districts. After many compromises and some large-scale changes to preliminary maps approved last month, commissioners say the Assembly map is one they can “live with” — one that is legal, even if it falls short of incorporating all the community input received. The commission did respond to criticism by splitting a proposed Assembly district that would have stretched about 600 miles from Inyo County up to Siskiyou and Modoc counties at the Oregon border. Although changes are still possible, as it stands now, some incumbents could be drawn out of their districts.  

What’s next: The commission will work on the congressional maps this week, followed by state Senate and Board of Equalization districts. It must submit final maps to the Secretary of State by Dec. 27.

2. An $18/hour minimum wage?

Alex Armstrong and his wife Paula Armstrong at VBurger, the Long Beach restaurant they own, on June 15, 2020. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

California’s minimum wage would rise to $18 an hour for all workers by 2026 if voters approve a measure that progressive tech investor Joe Sanberg is seeking to put on the 2022 ballot. Sanberg, who last year backed an unsuccessful bill to “tax extreme wealth” in California, told the Los Angeles Times that “if you work full time, you should be able to live with full financial security, and that’s not the case in California.” A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 19% of adults worry every day or almost every day about health care costs and paying bills — and 25% worry daily about the cost of housing.

Yet some small businesses are having difficulty meeting the state’s current minimum wage requirements amid smash-and-grab robberies, skyrocketing inflation rates, supply chain snarls, labor shortages and the economic uncertainty posed by the omicron COVID-19 variant, of which California confirmed another case Monday in Los Angeles County. Businesses with 26 or more employees must start paying workers $15 an hour in January, a requirement that will apply to all businesses by 2023. To stay afloat, many companies are raising prices — a move they fear could drive customers away. Things are even more complicated in San Francisco: The city recently approved rules to permanently allow restaurant parklets — but they’re so stringent that an estimated 90% of structures will need to be removed or significantly changed. Restaurants that don’t comply could face hefty fines.

3. Rain is coming — but drought isn’t going away

A pedestrian carries an umbrella in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Oct. 20, 2021. Photo by Jeff Chiu, AP Photo

It’s beginning to feel a lot like winter this week, as Californians bundle up for two back-to-back storms expected to scatter rain and frost across the Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego and dust the mountaintops with snow. But don’t expect the rain to alleviate California’s devastating drought: “It’s not going to make a dent in anything, but it’s welcome,” said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the weather service in Oxnard.

Indeed, as the Mercury News reports, the Newsom administration recently unveiled draft drought emergency regulations that propose levying fines of as much as $500 for Californians who hose off their driveways, water their lawns within 48 hours of a rainstorm or wash their cars without a shut-off nozzle. The State Water Resources Board is accepting public comment on the proposed rules through Dec. 23 and is slated to vote on them Jan. 4. One of the state’s top water officials warned last week that Californians could soon see mandatory statewide water restrictions if there isn’t significant rainfall this winter.


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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: No one will be sorry to see the state Capitol’s ugly, dysfunctional annex disappear.

Time to update California’s social studies curriculum: Teaching Native American history would help students gain knowledge about California’s First People, who have lived here for thousands of years, argues Assemblymember James Ramos, a San Bernardino Democrat.

Why labor unions are winning again: California workers are fed up and feeling empowered — and are organizing to improve labor conditions, writes David Huerta, president of Service Employees International Union — United Service Workers West.


Other things worth your time

Woman charged with stealing $40,000 in merchandise from a San Francisco Target arrested again for theft. // San Francisco Chronicle

Armed robbers break into Palisades home during holiday party. // Los Angeles Times

California teachers injured breaking up campus fights. // Sacramento Bee

This Bay Area police department is planting ‘decoy’ packages to deter porch pirates. // San Francisco Chronicle

Murder charges filed in Jacqueline Avant’s killing. // Los Angeles Times

Former head of Department of Water and Power agrees to plead guilty to bribery charge. // Los Angeles Times

Lab experts criticize state’s response to problems at COVID testing lab. // CBS Sacramento

$1 toll hike coming for Bay Area bridges — but where’s the money going? // Mercury News

Cupertino faces its housing reputation as cities get ready for SB 9. // Mercury News

California community colleges struggle to eliminate remedial math, English. // Desert Sun

New California law affirms Indigenous right to controlled burns. // Al Jazeera

Meet the new climate refugee in the Bay Area: Coyotes. // Bloomberg

UC San Diego’s new $4M ocean simulator could help solve one of climate change’s biggest mysteries. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Video shows beautiful scene as thousands of snow geese fill skies over California farm field. // 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...