Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven May 24, 2022
Presented by California Cattle Council, NextGen Policy, and California Water Service

Confusion reigns as California election season heats up

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With California’s June 7 primary election just two weeks away, political campaigns are intensifying — and getting more confusing. 

Take this mailer circulating in Southern California, which reads, “We all want to protect the environment, increase recycling and reduce plastic waste, but adding billions of dollars in higher costs on the backs of working families is the wrong way to do it.”

The flier was mailed to constituents of at least five Democratic state lawmakers, and appears to be pushing them to support a legislative alternative to a measure eligible for the November ballot that would, among other things, require reductions in plastic waste and tax producers of single-use plastics, the Los Angeles Times reports. (Another ballot measure was avoided Monday, when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to reform California’s medical malpractice system.)

But the mailer doesn’t explicitly mention either the bill or the ballot measure.

  • Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel of Van Nuys: “I don’t know anyone who can figure out exactly what it’s trying to communicate.”
  • Michael Bustamante, a spokesman for the coalition behind the ad campaign, “also was unable to succinctly sum up the message of the fliers,” according to the Times.

Adding to voter confusion, this effort and many like it are funded by “independent expenditure” committees, or IEs, which often sport names so vague as to possibly be misleading.

  • For example, Bustamante represents the Environmental Solutions Coalition, which includes such business and industry groups as the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Independent Petroleum Association and the California Fuels and Convenience Alliance.
  • IEs are also allowed to spend as much money as they want to boost a political candidate, as long as they don’t coordinate with the campaigns they’re trying to help.

And that’s where things get really confusing, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports: Many of these groups are focused less on supporting the candidate of their choice than on tearing down that person’s opponent — or, paradoxically, lifting up an opponent they believe their preferred candidate has a better chance of defeating in the November general election.

  • Hence, an IE backing Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta is spending big money on ads that seemingly boost his Republican challenger Eric Early — partly due to the political calculation that Bonta may have a better chance of beating the Trump-aligned Early than his more moderate and better-financed opponents, Republican Nathan Hochman and independent Anne Marie Schubert.
  • And sometimes committees battle each other with flurries of ads that essentially accuse their preferred candidate’s opponent of being in the pocket of nefarious interest groups (i.e., the IE working to support the challenger’s campaign).
  • Democratic political consultant Steve Maviglio: “The IEs have the money and so whoever the IEs are for or against, that’s used to define the candidate.”

In other election-adjacent news:

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 8,797,890 confirmed cases (+0.5% from previous day) and 90,382 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 75,709,724 vaccine doses, and 75.2% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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1 Newsom threatens statewide water restrictions

The Contra Costa Canal winds through Oakley on Feb. 9, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

From CalMatters water reporter Rachel Becker: California could enact mandatory statewide water restrictions if local conservation efforts don’t produce the desired results, Newsom warned some of the state’s biggest water suppliers — including the powerful Metropolitan Water District and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power — in a Monday meeting.

  • The summit came a few months after Newsom ordered local water agencies to ramp up their drought responses starting in June. (Today, state regulators are expected to formally approve that directive, in addition to a ban on businesses and other institutions watering decorative lawns.)
  • Water agencies called for more local control over conservation during California’s historic drought from 2012 to 2016. But in the Monday meeting, Newsom told them that their current efforts were falling short, urging “more aggressive actions” and more regular reporting of water use data
  • He also labeled recent increases in water use “a black eye,” a source in attendance said. California saw a nearly 19% increase in urban water use in March compared to two years ago, despite the deepening drought.
  • But some water watchers said Newsom, who has threatened statewide water restrictions before, is just trying to pass the buck: He’s “simply continuing to urge local agencies to become more aggressive in their own efforts to cut water use,” said Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank. “This hasn’t worked in the past and continuing on this path is unlikely to be enough.”

2 Electric car mandate could hit mechanics hard

Walter Preza works on a car at JR Automative in San Francisco on May 12, 2022. Photo by Nina Riggio for CalMatters

California’s economy could see a net loss of nearly 40,000 jobs by 2040 if the state follows through on its proposal to phase out new gas-powered cars by 2035, according to estimates from the California Air Resources Board. No single workforce would be hit harder than auto mechanics, a profession that could lose more than half of its nearly 61,000 jobs statewide if the mandate goes into effect, CalMatters’ Nadia Lopez reports. Electric vehicles need far less maintenance and repair than gas-powered cars, and any fixes would require knowledge in complex areas like electrical engineering — training that could be difficult to afford or access for mechanics who are undocumented, low-income or who lack a college degree.

3 Breed sides with LGBTQ+ law enforcement in Pride dispute

Mayor London Breed speaks during the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco on June 1, 2019. Photo by Stephen Lam, Reuters

California’s longstanding debate over police reform and public safety escalated on Monday, when Mayor London Breed announced that she won’t participate in San Francisco’s upcoming Pride Parade due to a policy banning law enforcement officers from marching in uniform. In sitting out the event, the mayor joins the San Francisco Police Officers Pride Alliance and LGBTQ+ members of the fire and sheriff’s departments, who said in a Monday statement: “The board of SF Pride offered only one option: that LGBTQ+ peace officers hang up their uniforms, put them back in the closet, and march in civilian attire. … For LGBTQ+ officers, this brings us back to a time when we had to hide at work that we were LGBTQ+. Now they ask us to hide the fact of where we work.”

  • Suzanne Ford, the interim executive director of SF Pride, said law enforcement officers are welcome to wear other clothes designating their affiliation, but uniforms could be triggering for LGBTQ+ victims of police violence.
  • Ford: “We are disappointed in Mayor Breed’s decision, but look forward to working with her and law enforcement agencies in finding a solution that is satisfactory to all.”
  • Breed: “One of the central planks of the movement for better policing is a demand that the people who serve in uniform better represent the communities they are policing. We can’t say, ‘We want more Black officers,’ or ‘We want more LGBTQ officers,’ and then treat those officers with disrespect when they actually step up and serve.”
  • The conflict comes a few weeks after Breed, who has increasingly embraced tough-on-crime rhetoric, appointed former San Francisco Police Department spokesperson Matt Dorsey to the supervisor seat vacated by Matt Haney, who won a special election runoff for a state Assembly seat.
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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Progressive Democrats are vying with the “mod squad” for power in the California Legislature.

California needs to put its money where its mouth is on public transit: Unless Newsom and lawmakers address flaws in the way the state plans for and develops public transit and rail projects, California’s ambitious climate-related goals cannot be realized, argues Jeff Morales, former CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Other things worth your time


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Sacramento prosecutors seek death penalty in Land Park slaying. // Sacramento Bee

California parents could soon sue for social media addiction. // Associated Press

California Assembly passes bill to shield against Texas-style abortion laws. // Associated Press

Editorial: Sure, reduce pot taxes. But California needs bigger fixes to its broken marijuana market. // Los Angeles Times

You can cuss, but please don’t clap: The perils of managing public discourse. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Peninsula official likened YIMBYs to Nazis, then deleted her Twitter account. // San Francisco Chronicle

Even Apple’s millions couldn’t pull them out of homelessness. // Mercury News

Stinson Beach, Bolinas could be impacted if Marin County temporarily bans short-term rentals. // San Francisco Chronicle

A customer threw her drink at a S.F. restaurant employee over 25 cents. It’s not an isolated incident. // San Francisco Chronicle

TaskRabbit to close all office locations, including S.F. headquarters, as it moves to remote work model. // San Francisco Chronicle

Study: Cal State system needs to increase staff pay. // EdSource

A billionaire’s gift expands reach of ‘unapologetic’ Oakland parent’s group. // The 74 Million

Gun violence costs Santa Clara County $72 million, according to public health report. // Mercury News

A 17-year-old San Jose boy died by suicide hours after being scammed. The FBI says it’s part of a troubling increase in ‘sextortion’ cases. // CNN

Is 2022 L.A.’s most expensive mayor’s race ever? Yes and no. // Crosstown

Biden administration races to salvage Summit of Americas in Los Angeles. // Los Angeles Times

Who killed California’s high-speed rail? There are many suspects. // San Francisco Chronicle

Why electric cars are cheaper to own in New Jersey than California. // Bloomberg

Health concerns raised over toxicity of gas used at 5 Southern California facilities. // Orange County Register

PG&E is beginning to bury its electrical power lines to prevent wildfire. // Mercury News

Tensions rise as drought worsens and heat surges across California. // Washington Post

See you tomorrow

Tips, insight or feedback? Email emily@calmatters.org.

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