Confusion, contradictions swirl in lead-up to California primary
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California’s primary election is here at last — and with it a jumble of contradictions and confusing communication.
First up: Erratic emails. Californians searching for information on how to cast their ballots (which you can find in CalMatters’ Voter Guide) may have been baffled by a series of Monday emails from the secretary of state’s office, which oversees statewide elections.
- At 11:13 a.m., the office sent an email alerting voters in certain counties that they could begin casting their ballots in person on May 28 — a date that passed about a week and a half ago.
- Then, at 2:03 p.m., the office sent another email with the subject line: “Please disregard previous email — Election Day is Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 7th — Early in-person voting options available now!!”
- The secretary of state’s office did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Whether the email’s double exclamation point will motivate voters to head to the polls remains to be seen — but what is clear is that California is on track to potentially break its low-turnout record, despite more ways than ever to vote.
- Kimela Ezechukwu, a Los Angeles County Democrat, told the Los Angeles Times that she hasn’t voted yet because she’s lost trust in elected officials.
- Ezechukwu: “They’re all the same. They say what they need to say to get you to vote.”
- Voter trust in the Los Angeles Police Department has also dropped steeply, with just 38% of the city’s registered voters saying they approve of the department’s overall performance, down from 77% in 2009, according to a new poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times. Nevertheless, 47% of voters said the next mayor should increase the size of the police force.
- Eric Schickler, co-director of the Institute of Governmental Studies: The findings highlight the “ambivalence and complication in how the public thinks about policing.”
Californians’ complex — and at times contradictory — opinions on criminal justice, public safety and homelessness will also be on display in two high-profile, high-dollar races on today’s ballot:
- The race for Los Angeles mayor, into which billionaire Rick Caruso has dumped an unprecedented $37.5 million of his own money — resulting in an almost comical level of airwave domination. To wit: Although Caruso didn’t participate in a May 20 mayoral forum on homelessness, his campaign “paid to run banner advertising, which appeared over the top of the streaming video of the debate on The Times’ website,” a Los Angeles Times article ruefully read. “That meant that, as the debating candidates discussed priorities for the unhoused, Caruso’s smiling face loomed above them, with the messages ‘Caruso Can Clean up L.A.’ and ‘Vote for Rick.'”
- The recall of progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, reflecting a rapid and sharp shift in voter concerns from “criminal justice reform, over-incarceration, police conduct” to “this feeling that things are just not going well,” Jason McDaniel, a San Francisco State associate professor of political science, told the Washington Post.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 8,989,279 confirmed cases (+0.4% from previous day) and 90,815 deaths (+0.1% 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.
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1 More election tidbits
Here’s a look at some other primary election odds and ends:
- California Democrats are worried that skyrocketing gas prices — the state’s average per-gallon cost on Monday hit $6.34 — could hamper them from picking up seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. But California Republicans are equally concerned some of their top incumbents could lose highly coveted competitive seats.
- The state’s campaign finance ethics watchdog has opened an investigation into Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara after Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group, alleged insurance industry donations were diverted to independent groups working to re-elect him, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Lara, who didn’t respond to the Union-Tribune’s requests for comment, is facing a tough opponent in Assemblymember Marc Levine, a fellow Democrat who earned the endorsements of all the state’s major editorial boards.
- Democratic Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco, one of the Legislature’s most powerful politicians, is all but guaranteed to be reelected. But some San Francisco civic groups aren’t endorsing him, citing his previous extramarital relationship with a domestic worker who advocated for controversial labor legislation that Ting supported. Ting allegedly met the woman on a site on which men pay women for dates while using a photo of another Asian American state lawmaker, Republican Assemblymember Phillip Chen of Orange County.
- GOP controller candidate Lanhee Chen, who’s favored to land one of two spots in the November general election, said Monday that he tested positive for COVID and will isolate for at least five days.
2 Newsom headed to international summit
- It’s a contrast from last year, when Newsom held a flurry of campaign events in the days leading up the September recall election, including massive rallies headlined by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
- But on Monday, he simply fired off a tweet attacking his main Republican challenger, state Sen. Brian Dahle, and attended a virtual press conference hosted by the California Teachers Association to promote his proposal to infuse an additional $1.5 billion into community schools providing wraparound services such as mental health care and nutrition programs to students and their families. (The Legislature, which released its joint budget blueprint last week, panned the idea.) Newsom did not make himself available to reporters for questions.
Meanwhile, Newsom — who exited isolation Thursday after recovering from a COVID infection — is scheduled this week to travel to Los Angeles for the Summit of the Americas. He plans to “meet with world leaders and discuss the greatest challenges facing California and the Western Hemisphere, including climate change and economic resiliency,” according to his press office. The summit, however, is already plagued with controversy: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is boycotting it due to the U.S. refusing to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela for their “lack of democratic space.”
- Who exactly will the governor meet with, and what events will he participate in? “We plan on releasing additional details on the governor’s summit schedule later this week,” Newsom’s press office told me.
3 Sakaki out as Sonoma State president
Yet another top executive has resigned as a result of sexual harassment scandals ensnaring the California State University system. Judy Sakaki, the president of Sonoma State University, announced Monday that she will step down from her post on July 31. The news came several months after Santa Rosa Press Democrat and Los Angeles Times investigations revealed that CSU paid $600,000 to settle a claim that Sakaki retaliated against a former Sonoma State administrator who reported allegations to top CSU officials that Sakaki’s then-husband, a veteran Sacramento lobbyist, had sexually harassed several women at a party at his house.
- A bipartisan group of state lawmakers in April requested a state audit into CSU’s handling of sexual harassment investigations. If approved, the audit would focus on Sonoma State, San Jose State and Fresno State; it was at the latter campus that former CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro allegedly mishandled sexual harassment complaints, prompting his February resignation as leader of the 23-campus system.
But Sacramento is also facing a reckoning with its own process for handling sexual harassment investigations: On Thursday, survivors of sexual violence and their advocates are set to gather at the state Capitol to demand changes to the Workplace Conduct Unit, which was formed in the wake of the #MeToo movement to create a new, independent process for legislative employees to file and resolve harassment complaints. But some former staffers who filed complaints had markedly negative experiences with the unit, according to several San Francisco Chronicle investigations, including one published Monday.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Democratic factions are vying for power in the state Assembly.
Nursing home funding cuts amid budget surplus are unconscionable: Newsom’s proposed budget, if adopted, would reduce access to skilled nursing facilities for financially vulnerable Californians, force cuts to health care workers’ wages and threaten nursing homes with closure, writes Craig Cornett, CEO and president of the California Association of Health Facilities.
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Massive rent increases hit mobile homes, including in California. // Washington Post
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