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Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven July 28, 2022
Presented by Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership, Agricultural Energy Consumers Association, Save our Capitol and Dairy Cares

How Florida became the new California

Want to make a political point in California — and across the country? Try running ads in Florida.

That’s the tack the oil and gas industry is taking following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s much-discussed decision earlier this month to air campaign ads in the Sunshine State accusing Republican leaders of restricting abortion access, voting rights and free speech.

On Wednesday, the Western States Petroleum Association unveiled Florida ads of its own questioning the practicality of Newsom’s climate policies, including his ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035 and his administration’s sweeping strategy to phase out fossil fuels and put a stop to new oil fracking.

“Our governor, Gavin Newsom, attacks Florida,” a woman’s voice solemnly intones. “But here’s what he’s doing to us in California. We pay $1.65 more for a gallon of gas than you do. Our electricity rates are twice as high as yours. … California can’t afford Gavin Newsom’s ambition. Can Florida?”

Kevin Slagle, vice president of strategic communications for the Western States Petroleum Association, told me it spent “a little more than $100,000” to run ads for two weeks on Miami TV stations and to place periodic full-page ads in the Miami Herald. (Incidentally, that’s about the same amount Newsom spent on his own ads.)

  • Slagle: “The number one thing with why we’re in Florida is because we’re trying to get the governor’s attention. And the governor is focused in Florida and Texas and other states right now. … But, here in California, there’s real critical issues. These energy policies, these bans and mandates, the things that are being debated right now … make a real difference to Californians on a day-to-day basis. … We want the governor to engage … and really focus on the cost and the impacts, and not just give lip service and political slogans.”
  • Slagle added: “I think what we’re hoping for here is that we’ll get him focused on … trying to find some sort of partnership to move forward on climate and energy policy. I mean, he’s really good at demonizing us. What we’d like to see him do is work harder to work with us because we’re the folks who can do hard things to help us get there.”
  • Nathan Click, a spokesperson for Newsom’s reelection campaign, told me in a statement: “Being attacked by the world’s nastiest polluters is a badge of honor for Governor Newsom. These dirty companies are raking in massive profits while causing the deaths of countless Americans — from extreme heat, drought, fires and choked lungs. They are attacking Governor Newsom because no governor has done more to break American’s addiction to fossil fuel. As Floridians face historic sea level rise and catastrophic climate change fueled hurricanes, California leads the world in combatting this existential threat to our future.”

But airing ads in Florida isn’t the only quirk of California campaigns. Due in part to the structure of the Golden State’s top-two primary election system, it’s fairly easy for write-in candidates — even those with very little support — to snag the second spot on the November general election ballot in races with only one other contender, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports.

Indeed, state Assembly and state Senate candidates needed as few as 40 people to sign nomination papers to qualify as write-in candidates for the June 7 primary. And no matter how few votes they won, as long as they finished in second place, they advanced to the November election.

Hence the uneven matchup in a conservative Assembly district encompassing the Central Valley and parts of the Sierra Nevada: Libertarian write-in candidate Thomas Edward Nichols, who received just 15 votes in the primary, will face off in November against GOP incumbent Jim Patterson, who received more than 90,000 votes.

  • Nichols: The write-in process allows voters to think “outside of the duopoly that dominates our political culture. … I really appreciate the fact that an engineer up here in the foothills could wind up on the ballot going after an incumbent. I’m satisfied with the democratic process in that respect.”
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 9,871,930 confirmed cases (+0.7% from previous day) and 92,595 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.

California has administered 78,476,295 vaccine doses, and 71.5% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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1 Proposed Delta tunnel enters next phase

An aerial view of the Middle River in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta on Mar. 8, 2019. Photo by Ken James, California Department of Water Resources

The latest chapter in California’s decades-long water wars was released Wednesday, in the form of a 3,000-page report outlining the potential environmental impacts of Newsom’s proposal to overhaul the state’s massive water management system via a 45-mile underground tunnel that would allow more water to be funneled south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta. But, as CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports, the plan is far from final: It has yet to receive a price tag, though a 2020 cost estimate for an alternate tunnel path clocked in at just under $16 billion. And, if eventually approved, the project likely wouldn’t be completed until 2040 at the earliest. In the meantime, Californians have until Oct. 27 to submit public comments on the report, which has already faced pushback from environmental advocates who say it will harm endangered fish.

The news comes as Californians have water — or the lack thereof — on the mind. A whopping 68% of Californians — and 77% of likely voters — say the supply of water is a big problem in their part of the state, up from 63% and 69% last year, according to a Public Policy Institute of California survey released late Wednesday night. The same percentage of adults, 68%, say state and local governments aren’t doing enough to address California’s drought, even as 45% say they personally have done a lot to reduce water use.

When it comes to likely voters, 59% told the institute they approve of Newsom’s handling of the environment, and nearly 9 in 10 said candidates’ stance on the environment will help determine their votes in this year’s gubernatorial election.

2 California’s chief justice to step down

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye speaks in Sacramento on Nov. 6, 2019. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo

Newsom is primed to make his third appointment to the seven-member California Supreme Court following a Wednesday announcement from Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye that she will retire when her term ends on Jan. 1, 2023 instead of seeking reelection in November to another 12-year term. Cantil-Sakauye, appointed to the state’s highest court by then-GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, became the second woman and the first person of color to serve as chief justice when she assumed the role in 2011. Seven years later, she left the Republican Party and re-registered as a no-party-preference voter, citing the divisive confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

  • As CalMatters justice reporter Byrhonda Lyons writes, Cantil-Sakauye told reporters: “I am proud to have served the people of California to the best of my ability at every level of our state court system. I have said before that I hold my office in trust until it is time for the next leaders to protect and expand access to justice — that time is now.” Asked about her future plans, she told reporters politics are not in her future.
  • Cantil-Sakauye also said she hasn’t given Newsom a list of possible successors: “He did not ask me for a name or a list, and I happen to think responding with a name or list is more impactful when someone asks.” In a statement, she added, “He will have a diverse pool of exceptionally well qualified jurists and legal professionals to choose from, and I believe the judiciary, the courts, and access to justice in California will be in good hands.”
  • Newsom said in a statement: “A fierce defender of access to the courts, (Cantil-Sakauye) fought against immigrant enforcement raids at courthouses targeting vulnerable victims and witnesses of crime. …(She) has been a leading voice for bail reform, calling out its disproportionate impacts on low-income people, and has raised awareness about the unfair financial hardships caused by fines and fees on those unable to afford them.”

Cantil-Sakauye’s departure gives Newsom the opportunity to appoint another Democrat — and potentially a member of another underrepresented community — to the state’s highest court. In March, Newsom nominated Patricia Guerrero, the court’s first Latina justice; in 2020, he tapped Martin Jenkins, the court’s first openly gay justice. Of the court’s four remaining justices, three were appointed by former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. After Cantil-Sakauye departs, just one Republican-appointed justice will remain: Justice Carol Corrigan, who was nominated by former Gov. Pete Wilson.

3 Influential union gets new leader

Then-Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez speaks at a rally on Aug. 28, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

In other transition news, Lorena Gonzalez on Wednesday officially assumed leadership of the California Labor Federation, an influential alliance of unions representing about 2.1 million workers. And she’s already making headlines as the first woman and first person of color to lead the Fed, as it’s known: The United Farm Workers, which in recent years has struggled to grow its ranks and advance its policy agenda, is rejoining the Fed after leaving about 16 years ago. Gonzalez told the Los Angeles Times that one of the Fed’s priorities will be pushing through a piece of legislation to allow farmworkers to vote by mail in union elections. Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year, prompting a clapback from Gonzalez, who told the Times she saw him as a “frenemy” while in the Legislature.

Gonzalez stepped down as a state Assemblymember in January after years of being one of the Capitol’s most powerful players — and authoring some of its most controversial bills, including one that made it more difficult for gig-economy companies like Uber and Lyft and the trucking industry to classify their workers as independent contractors, and another targeting warehouse speed quotas used by companies like Amazon. But despite her high-profile confrontations with figures such as Elon Musk and her reputation as a “foul-mouthed Latina troublemaker”, Gonzalez told me in a 2020 interview that she is actually “kind of shy,” adding, “My comfort place is definitely with my family.”

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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom’s new gun control bill is just a stunt.

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Other things worth your time


Some stories may require a subscription to read

Fed raising rates: What it means for California residents. // Sacramento Bee

Fed’s inflation battle crashes California confidence in bubble-sized drop. // Mercury News

Twitter pares back office space in California and other locations to save cash. // Bloomberg

Senate approves bipartisan semiconductor bill that could bring funds to California. // Los Angeles Times

California, 11 other states negotiate tentative $4.25B settlement with opioid maker Teva. // Sacramento Bee

City Council approves controversial Ash Street settlement deal. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Law school board votes to rename UC Hastings ‘College of the Law San Francisco.’ // San Francisco Chronicle

California railroad workers aren’t entitled to state sick leave benefits, court rules. // San Francisco Chronicle

$0 bail ends in Santa Clara County, but jail debate endures. // Mercury News

Child cares face a new threat: Public preschool. // Politico

Can infants learn math? State-backed pilot project in Fresno aims to find out. // EdSource

Californians and other Americans are flooding Mexico City. Some want them gone. // Los Angeles Times

L.A.’s art deco General Hospital on track to be turned into affordable housing. // LAist

San Bernardino County urged to secede from California. // Mercury News

California wildfires may cause blood clots in cats’ hearts. // Los Angeles Times

Some Californians return home as fire near Yosemite slows. // Associated Press

At Yosemite, a preservation plan that calls for chainsaws. // New York Times

Saving a 2,000-year-old redwood, one of California’s tallest. // San Francisco Chronicle

CalMatters welcomes enterprising student journalists ahead of fall election. // CalMatters

See you tomorrow

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

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

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