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Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven November 1, 2022
Presented by Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership, Californians Against Higher Taxes, Save our Capitol and Sutter Health

Attack ads in full force as election nears

The claws are coming out in California — not because it was just Halloween, but because voters have only one week left to cast their ballots for the Nov. 8 election.

As campaigns enter the final countdown, fights over hotly contested seats in the state Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives are becoming increasingly nasty — with candidates or independent committees sending out political attack ads blasted by their opponents as false or misleading.

In Los Angeles, for example, U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez’ campaign sent out three mailers in October depicting his challenger, immigration lawyer David Kim, as a MAGA Republican supported by QAnon extremists, the New York Times reports. The catch: Both men are progressive Democrats.

  • Longtime Democratic strategist Garry South told the Times: “It’s a race to the bottom. … I just don’t think these runoffs between Democrats should turn into a derby about who can accuse the other of being the most extreme. That’s not a healthy debate to have.”

A similar dynamic is at play in the increasingly heated race between Democrats Angelique Ashby and Dave Jones to represent Sacramento in the state Senate, which has already seen legal battles and massive amounts of special interest spending.

The latest controversy: A Jones campaign flyer that accuses Ashby of “lying to Republican voters,” noting that she received endorsements from Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Fem Dems of Sacramento, a chartered Democratic club.

That earned a Twitter clapback from Jim DeBoo, Newsom’s executive secretary, who questioned why the California Democratic Party would endorse Jones if his campaign “sent a piece of mail to Republicans denouncing Democrats.” The Fem Dems also slammed Jones for his “decision to use us as pawns for political gain with Republican voters, whose values run afoul of our club’s progressive principles.”

  • Michael Soneff, a consultant for Jones’ campaign, tweeted: “Dave Jones didn’t denounce Democrats. We’re setting the record straight. … Ashby has been telling Republicans that she’s a Republican. … We’re telling voters the truth.”

But accusations of misleading mailers aren’t limited to Dem-on-Dem races.

  • NARAL Pro-Choice California is slamming the California Medical Association and California Apartment Association for sending a “misleading mail piece” in an intense race for a state Assembly seat anchored around Santa Clarita that claims incumbent Republican Assemblymember Suzette Valladares “supports reproductive freedom.” NARAL Pro-Choice California, which supports Valladares’ Democratic challenger, Pilar Schiavo, described Valladares as an “anti-choice Republican” who “time and again … has voted against reproductive freedom.”
  • Allegations of racism are flying in the fierce contest to represent Orange County in the U.S. House, with state Sen. Dave Min of Costa Mesa calling on GOP Rep. Michelle Steel to immediately retract “despicable campaign ads” that “falsely slander” her Democratic opponent Jay Chen as “a Communist Chinese sympathizer.” Those ads, Min said in a statement, “will further stoke the flames of anti-Asian hate and result in more violence against Asian Americans.” Newsom’s campaign sent out a fundraising email in support of Chen on Monday, the same day Steel’s campaign sent out a press release titled: “Who’s the racist? Jay Chen’s longstanding support of affirmative action hurts Asian Americans.”

2022 Election

Your guide to the 2022 general election in California

In lighter election news: Calling all crossword enthusiasts! If you’re looking to bone up on the statewide ballot measures — or are just desperate to make the subject of kidney dialysis regulation fun — CalMatters’ Ben Christopher and Jeremia Kimelman packed some prop-themed clues, election tidbits and other assorted trivia into this 86-clue crossword puzzle, which we’re challenging you to finish in less than 15 minutes. Getting some help is fine if you use the CalMatters Voter Guide.

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1 What might affirmative action ruling mean for California colleges?

Mills College, a private university, photographed in Oakland on Jan. 10, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

It looks as though the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to take the same stance as California voters did in 2020, when they rejected a ballot measure to restore affirmative action in the state’s public universities and agencies. In oral arguments Monday, a majority of justices on the nation’s highest court sounded skeptical about continuing to allow universities to consider using race as a factor in admissions decisions: “I’ve heard the word ‘diversity’ quite a few times, and I don’t have a clue what it means,” Justice Clarence Thomas said as the court considered two cases seeking to overturn race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Tell me what the educational benefits are.”

A final decision isn’t expected for months, but if the Supreme Court were to declare affirmative action unconstitutional, it would have an immediate effect on admissions practices at California’s private schools, which enrolled more than 356,000 students in 2020. The University of California, which along with other public higher education systems has been barred from using affirmative action since 1996, offered a glimpse of what that could look like in a brief urging the court to uphold the practice: Despite launching new programs to boost the number of underrepresented students on campus and ending the use of SAT and ACT scores in admissions considerations, “UC struggles to enroll a student body that is sufficiently racially diverse to attain the educational benefits of diversity,” the system’s president and chancellors wrote.

  • Femi Ogundele, UC Berkeley’s associate vice chancellor of enrollment management, told the Los Angeles Times: “What I’m learning in this environment is that there is no alternative. There is no race-neutral alternative to being able to consider race.”

2 How are new state bail rules holding up?

Abba Bail Bonds across from the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 21, 2020. Photo by Tash Kimmell for CalMatters

Let’s bounce over to the California Supreme Court: You may remember that last year, the state’s highest court issued a landmark decision banning the practice of holding defendants in jail solely because they can’t afford to make bail. But, although advocates of criminal justice reform applauded the ruling, they acknowledged it left many questions unanswered and was unlikely to quickly throw open the jailhouse doors for many of the 44,000 people across California behind bars on a given day despite not being convicted or sentenced for a crime.

Indeed, according to a new report from the UCLA School of Law Bail Practicum and the UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic, there is no evidence that the state’s bail amounts, pretrial jail population or average length of pretrial detention have decreased since the ruling.

  • Rachel Wallace, clinical supervisor at the Berkeley Law Policy Advocacy Clinic, said in a statement: “All of the records and data we received point to the alarming conclusion that many judges are not following the mandates of the (state Supreme Court) decision. Greater transparency around judicial decision-making and increased efforts towards judicial training are key to ensure judges are following” standards outlined in the ruling.
  • The report found that many judges across the state have interpreted the decision as increasing their authority to hold defendants without bail and often ignore the requirement that they consider less restrictive alternatives to pretrial jail detention.
  • Alicia Virani, director of UCLA Law’s criminal justice program, said in a statement: “Many thought that we would finally see relief for Californians, particularly Black, brown and Indigenous people who are subject to targeted policing and more likely to be held pretrial. Instead, we found that many judges are finding new ways to justify holding people pretrial and expanding the reach of the system.”

3 Inside state efforts to lower prescription drug costs

Pharmacist James Lee hands a patient her prescription at La Clinica on Sept. 26, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

As California seeks to rein in future growth in health care costs — including by advancing a plan to manufacture and distribute more affordable versions of insulin — a Monday report from the California State Library’s Research Bureau takes a closer look at whether state policies have limited unjustified increases in prescription drug prices.

The report’s bottom line: It’s “unclear how effective (Senate Bill) 17” — a 2017 state law requiring pharmaceutical companies to publicly share and explain certain price increases for some prescription drugs — “is at deterring unjustified price increases,” in part because it doesn’t define an acceptable increase. But the law, by providing “transparency to a portion of the supply chain that was previously either not available or easily accessible,” has armed the public and state lawmakers with important information “they can use to advance the public debate on how to curb or manage drug price increases in California.”

A few other key findings:

  • California fined 49 prescription drug manufacturers more than $72.1 million between January 2019 and December 2021 for failing to report required price increases.
  • However, 37 manufacturers appealed more than $71.8 million of those fines, and 79% of the appeals resulted in reduced penalties.
  • To date, the state Department of Health Care Access and Information has collected about $6.7 million in penalties from 41 manufacturers.
  • One key challenge for the department’s enforcement efforts: identifying all of the drug manufacturers subject to reporting.
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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: What’s next for sports betting in California?

Addressing California’s lack of Black doctors: Many Black Californians say they have been treated unfairly or felt disrespected by a health care provider because of their race or ethnicity. A recent study found that increasing the number of Black doctors is the best solution, writes Wynton Sims, a medical student at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine.

Desalination key to California’s water future: Once improved, desalination could be a better drought solution than water reuse or more sustainable groundwater management, argues Grayson Zulauf, CEO of Resonant Link.

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Other things worth your time


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Attack suspect David DePape intended to kidnap, ‘kneecap’ Nancy Pelosi, prosecutors allege. // Los Angeles Times

Paul Pelosi attack: Suspect’s ex-girlfriend says he struggled with mental illness and drugs, believed he was ‘Jesus for a year.’ // San Francisco Chronicle

Foundations set up by the rich are increasingly using charity loophole, California attorney general audit finds. // Bloomberg

Is the FBI still investigating in Irvine? // Voice of OC

Sacramento teachers union drops tens of thousands of dollars on school board races. // Sacramento Bee

Newsom is spending big to clear California’s homeless encampments. What has he done so far? // Mercury News

California’s business climate is third-worst in U.S., according to Tax Foundation study. // Sacramento Bee

In just two weeks, 223k people applied for Section 8 housing in Los Angeles. // LAist

See where Californians stopped spending this summer. // Mercury News

Assemblymember Tina McKinnor to bring legislative staff unionization bill back from the grave. // Capitol Weekly

PG&E formally moves to extend life of Diablo Canyon, the last nuclear plant in California. // Sacramento Bee

Study says L.A. flood risk is far greater than expected, would disproportionately hit Black communities. // Los Angeles Times

Hoopa Valley tribe sues over water contracts in California. // Associated Press

In the age of megadrought, farmers in the West see promise in agave. // Civil Eats

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

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

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