Full steam ahead for November election — and 2024
When it comes to California elections, it’s out with the old and in with the new.
Secretary of State Shirley Weber on Friday certified the results from the June 7 primary election, which for many Californians probably already feels like a lifetime ago as the state’s political focus shifts to the complex and controversial initiatives on the November ballot and the persistent rumors that Gov. Gavin Newsom may be contemplating a presidential run in 2024.
Still, there was one key new takeaway from the June primary results: Despite concerns of low voter turnout, a record 7,285,230 residents cast ballots — a new high for a California gubernatorial primary, Weber announced. Although that represents just 33% of ballots mailed to active registered voters, the turnout was nevertheless remarkable considering the lack of drama in top statewide races and the absence of statewide ballot measures, a Public Policy Institute of California analysis found.
On to November 2022 — and, yes, even 2024:
- Timing is everything: Proponents of an initiative to raise California’s minimum wage to $18 an hour by 2025 announced Friday they’re suing Weber to get the measure on the November ballot, CalMatters’ Jeanne Kuang writes. Although the campaign turned in more than a million signatures in mid-May — more than enough to qualify the measure — county election authorities didn’t finish verifying signatures by last month’s deadline, bumping the initiative to the November 2024 ballot. In the lawsuit, campaign supporters claim the pandemic prevented them from gathering enough signatures earlier and allege that Weber’s office erroneously told counties they had until mid-July, rather than June 30, to verify signatures. Weber’s office declined to comment on the pending litigation. A Secretary of State guide for ballot measure proponents lists the deadline as June 30 to qualify for the November ballot.
- Negotiations can go a long way: Also slated for California’s November 2024 ballot is a measure that would hike taxes on residents earning more than $5 million to pay for pandemic detection and prevention programs. But the initiative’s proponents, cognizant of the increasingly precarious economy and rapidly rising inflation rates, are seeking to negotiate a deal with Newsom’s administration to bolster state public health funding without having to raise taxes or put a measure before voters, California Healthline reports. It could be the latest example of an off-ballot compromise: This year, advocacy groups and lawmakers struck deals obviating the need for initiatives to reform California’s medical malpractice laws and slash the use of single-use plastics.
- Newsom says speculation that he’s considering a presidential run is “nonsensical,” even as 2024 suspicions swirl: The governor returned to California on Friday from a high-profile trip to Washington, D.C., capped off by meetings with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of California’s House delegation. He also had lunch with Vice President Kamala Harris and expressed his “unwavering support for the (Biden) administration,” according to his press office. It’s a sentiment Newsom has reiterated in countless interviews — even as his campaign ads in Florida and calls for the Democratic Party to stand up more aggressively to Republicans fuel speculation he might be contemplating a presidential bid. While in D.C., Newsom told the Sacramento Bee that the Florida ads were a direct response to GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration threatening to fine the Special Olympics $27.5 million if it didn’t drop its COVID vaccine mandate ahead of last month’s USA Games in Orlando. But, when asked if he’s considering running other out-of-state ads in the near future, Newsom said, “I’d be lying if I suggested otherwise. … But that’s not to suggest that I have anything specific in mind.”
- Nicknames galore: Regardless of whether the two men will face off in 2024, DeSantis and Newsom have come up with pet names for each other. DeSantis’ supporters have taken to referring to Newsom as “Governor French Laundry,” while Newsom’s campaign has dubbed DeSantis “Governor DeathSantis” for his COVID policies.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 9,677,827 confirmed cases (+0.6% from previous day) and 92,185 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 Crime dominates LA, SF elections
Perhaps nowhere are Californians’ concerns over crime and homelessness — and disagreements over the best way to handle such issues — clearer than in upcoming elections in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Let’s take a closer look:
- We’ll know by Aug. 17 if the campaign to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón collected enough valid signatures to force an election. But the progressive prosecutor is not shying away from his controversial policies: Gascón announced Thursday that he’s appealing to the California Supreme Court a case brought by a union of his own deputy district attorneys challenging an order banning them from pursuing longer prison sentences for repeat offenders, the Los Angeles Times reports. “Think about Biden coming in and keeping Donald Trump’s cabinet — that’s what it’s like,” Gascón told Politico. In the same interview, he reflected on San Francisco voters recalling District Attorney Chesa Boudin earlier this year: “One of the mistakes that Chesa made that I learned from it — and he’ll readily recognize — is he was trying to talk to people about data. People don’t care about data. This is about emotions. This is about how you perceive and feel. And you cannot use data to deal with feelings.”
- Crime is serving as a major wedge issue in the Los Angeles mayor’s race. Billionaire developer Rick Caruso, who’s depicted himself as tough on crime, was preparing Friday to slam U.S. Rep. Karen Bass for her support of progressive city attorney candidate Faisal Gill — only for Bass to withdraw her endorsement of Gill, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Bass campaign says she withdrew her endorsement on Wednesday, though Gill said the congresswoman yanked it on Friday.
- Meanwhile, San Francisco is roiling from Friday changes to the district attorney’s office. Brooke Jenkins — appointed by Mayor London Breed to replace her former boss, Boudin — announced a wave of hirings and firings that suggest she’s preparing for a tougher-on-crime approach than her predecessor. Jenkins hired as her second-in-command Ana Gonzalez, who led the DA’s gang unit until she was fired by Boudin. Among those Jenkins fired was an attorney who represented the office on San Francisco’s Innocence Commission, which investigates possible wrongful convictions, and an employee who created the office’s first public data tool visualizing case resolutions. “I promised the public that I would restore accountability and consequences to the criminal justice system while advancing smart reforms responsibly,” Jenkins said in a statement. Boudin, who hasn’t ruled out running against Jenkins in November to reclaim his seat, tweeted a fire emoji in response to a San Francisco Chronicle opinion column arguing that it’s “hard to believe a self-described progressive prosecutor is behind” Jenkins’ vision for the DA’s office.
2 Newsom opens up on wide range of topics
While in Washington, D.C., Newsom shared his thoughts on everything from the Gascón recall to UCLA joining the Big 10 in a wide-ranging interview with Fox 11’s Elex Michaelson. Here are some key takeaways:
- On whether Gascón has done a good job as Los Angeles County’s district attorney: “I don’t know enough about the job he’s done. I’m deeply concerned about the criticism — and we have expressed ourselves very publicly along those lines, including in Los Angeles as it relates to some of the issues happening in retail theft, some of the issues happening in the railroad yards, and I’ve expressed my own issues privately, as well. And I’ll leave the more objective analysis of his job to locals that’ll have the opportunity to make that determination” if the recall effort against him qualifies for the ballot.
- On whether California should consider changing its law banning state-funded travel to certain red states following Newsom’s own family vacation in Montana: “I honestly have not given it really two seconds of thought. … It’s an open-ended question. Now that this has been brought to the fore, I’m not sure I’m the best, most objective person at this moment to decide. I’ll leave it to more objective minds.”
- On whether California should terminate its COVID state of emergency by enshrining in legislation Newsom’s remaining executive orders, such as one waiving a requirement that a doctor sign off on each PCR test result before it’s released to patients: “I keep telling the Legislature — especially some of these folks out there outraged, and they didn’t even introduce legislation to change it. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up. It’s the worst of politics: They identify problems then offer nothing in solutions. … But some of those things are difficult because they’re scope of practice issues, they have consequences across the spectrum, and people would prefer to have a governor do it and then say, ‘I would do it differently and what’s wrong!’ I’ve been in this business perhaps too long.”
- On UCLA leaving the Pac-12 conference to join the Big Ten: “I have strong opinions about this for no other reason than that as a member of the (UC Board of) Regents, we were never consulted, never asked for an opinion, and they didn’t even have the decency to provide a heads-up. … Trust me when I say this: We’re not going to be looking into it, we are already looking into it, within minutes after reading about this in the newspaper.”
- On making pizza dough from scratch after receiving an outdoor pizza oven for Father’s Day: “It takes me four hours! Because each one has to be done and one of the kids says, ‘No, not that one, no, put that on my brother’s, no I don’t want it,’ so I have to custom-make these things. Gotta get the wood right, everything’s — it’s so much fun. But those are things that matter, right? … It does matter because the kids have fun with all that.”
3 Tech summit comes as lawmakers weigh key votes
Some state lawmakers are spending part of their month-long summer recess on international trips funded by special interest groups that lobby them on various issues — but the junkets won’t come to an end when the Legislature returns to Sacramento on Aug. 1. Shortly after business resumes at the state Capitol, lawmakers and select tech lobbyists will descend on a Napa Valley resort and spa for a two-day event dubbed the Technology Policy Summit, Los Angeles Times editorial writer Laurel Rosenhall reported Sunday. Lobbyists can win access by making a donation of at least $10,000 to the event’s sponsor, a foundation affiliated with the California Legislative Technology and Innovation Caucus. Democratic Assemblymember Evan Low of Cupertino, who leads the tech caucus, is under state investigation for having stopped disclosing donations made to the foundation at his request, as Rosenhall reported in a series of 2020 CalMatters investigations into lawmaker-affiliated nonprofits.
The donations may be a small price to pay for lobbyists looking to influence lawmakers’ positions on controversial tech bills facing do-or-die votes in August, the final month of the legislative session. One of the high-profile proposals aims to hold social media companies liable for deploying features they know will addict kids. Although the tech industry has already succeeded in watering it down, a prominent lobbyist told me last week the goal is to stop it entirely. Other contentious bills would strengthen kids’ privacy protections online and tighten regulations for the cryptocurrency market.
- Rosenhall writes: “I’d love to know if the lawmakers elected to serve the public will be discussing these issues with tech lobbyists over wine tastings and spa treatments next month. Wouldn’t you?”
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Most Californians don’t like the direction the state is heading in. A new project examines potential scenarios for changing its future.
Californians should decide if their cars can spy on them: Residents can weigh in on whether to put privacy and safety before automakers’ profits by commenting on the California Privacy Protection Agency’s draft rules on companies’ use of personal car data, argues Justin Kloczko of Consumer Watchdog.
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