Confusion reigns as California election season heats up
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:
- Republican Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned Monday, hours after California Democratic Party Secretary Melahat Rafiei stepped down — both for their alleged roles in Anaheim’s proposed sale of Angel Stadium that federal officials say was marred by scandal and corruption.
- Ramit Varma became the latest Los Angeles mayoral candidate to drop out and endorse billionaire Rick Caruso.
- Despite fierce criticism from his own party, Democratic Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva could easily win reelection next month on the basis of name recognition, Latino support and voter concerns about crime and homelessness.
- Former President Donald Trump hasn’t opposed the campaign of Rep. David Valadao, the only one of California’s congressional Republicans who voted to impeach him. Will that be enough for Valadao to hold onto one of the country’s most competitive seats in a district recently redrawn to lean even more Democratic? The Los Angeles Times takes a look.
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.
Other Stories You Should Know
1 Newsom threatens statewide water restrictions
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
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.
- Jesus Rojas, who opened JR Automotive in San Francisco 11 years ago: “I’ve always loved cars and I’ll work on them until I can’t anymore. So we have to adjust. … If the government is interested in helping us economically to get retrained, it could really help the people who might be struggling but want to learn.”
- State Sen. Josh Becker, a San Mateo Democrat: The “path of getting to zero (emissions) needs to foster new, well-paying, secure middle-class jobs, and work to transition those from fossil fuel industries. … It is true that it is easier to talk about the energy transition when it is not our own jobs that are threatened by it.”
3 Breed sides with LGBTQ+ law enforcement in Pride dispute
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.
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.
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