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Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven November 3, 2022
Presented by Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership, Californians Against Higher Taxes, Save our Capitol and Sutter Health

Is a ‘red wave’ about to crash over California?

How concerned are Democrats in California and across the country about a Republican “red wave” cresting in the Nov. 8 election and clinching the GOP’s control of Congress?

I’ll give you three hints:

1. Today, President Joe Biden is set to visit San Diego to campaign for Democratic Rep. Mike Levin, who’s facing a tough battle against Republican challenger Brian Maryott. On Tuesday, Levin was among the candidates identified by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as requiring “immediate resources” to win their seats.

2. Also Tuesday, analysts for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report said that 10 Democratic-leaning districts across the country had shifted in the GOP’s direction, including three in California. (CalMatters is tracking nine particularly hot House races in California — follow along here.)

3. And when Gov. Gavin Newsom was asked in a Saturday interview with CBS News if it feels like a red wave is coming, he said simply, “Yeah. Of course it does. … Look, I can be the cheerleader” for Democrats, but “I’m also pragmatic. … You feel it. It’s not just intellectualization based on polling.”

The House races most likely to see upsets may be those in blue states where there aren’t competitive statewide races driving turnout, where Democratic governors are underperforming and where GOP candidates have been able to leverage crime and inflation as campaign issues, Dave Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report, wrote in a blog post.

At least two of those three conditions apply in California, where the most exciting statewide race may be for the relatively obscure office of controller and where the state GOP has repeatedly hammered Democrats for high gas prices and skyrocketing inflation rates.

  • Jessica Millan Patterson, chairperson of the California Republican Party, said in a Tuesday statement: “Joe Biden and Gavin Newsom have no greater friends than California Democrats in advancing new taxes and reckless policies that make us increasingly dependent on foreign oil. A vote for a California House Democrat candidate is a vote for handing over more of your hard-earned money to pay for higher gas prices.”
  • Democrats, meanwhile, continue to attack Republicans for their stance on reproductive rights. In a Wednesday fundraising email, Democrat Jay Chen — who’s seeking to oust GOP Rep. Michelle Steel of Orange County — slammed Steel for signing “an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade” and for voting “against the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify reproductive freedoms into law.”

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In other last-minute election maneuvers:

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1 Feinstein poised to achieve major milestone

Sen. Dianne Feinstein gives remarks at the U.S. Capitol on Feb, 1, 2022. Photo by Graeme Sloan, Sipa USA via Reuters

“It’s an incredible honor to become the longest-serving woman senator in our nation’s history,” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement Wednesday — though she won’t actually reach that milestone until Saturday, the day after her 30-year anniversary of representing California in the Senate. “We went from two women senators when I ran for office in 1992 to 24 today — and I know that number will keep climbing,” Feinstein added. “But we still have work to do. … I will continue to advocate for women’s rights in all aspects of life, I will continue to advocate for more women leaders and I will continue to do all I can to represent the people of California.”

The last sentence suggests that Feinstein, 89, may not be ready to leave the Senate when her current term ends in 2024. Though she hasn’t yet indicated whether she plans to run for reelection, she’s vehemently pushed back against reports in which some unnamed colleagues express concerns that she’s mentally unfit to remain in office. Others have defended her, noting that elderly male officials’ competence often isn’t questioned in the same way: “We’re not used to senior women leaders in this country,” Democratic political consultant Hans Johnson told Spectrum News. “I think we need to recognize that there are biases afoot in the evaluation of Senator Feinstein.”

Feinstein noted in her statement that “women continue to struggle to achieve pay equality,” earning an average of 84 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same position. And the pandemic has only widened the Golden State’s gender pay gap, according to a new report from the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. Some key findings:

  • The pandemic added an estimated 36 years to the time it will take for women to earn the same as men in comparable roles, pushing that milestone to 135 years from now.
  • If all working women and working single mothers earned as much as men in comparable roles, California’s poverty rate would fall about 40%.
  • During the first year of the pandemic, nearly 62% of mothers with kids under 12 reported handling either the majority or the entirety of extra child care work, compared with 22.4% of fathers.

2 Bonta goes after plastic bag manufacturers

Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks at a press event in San Francisco on Sept. 21, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

The plastic bags sold for a small fee at California grocery stores are supposed to be recyclable — but, according to Attorney General Rob Bonta, they almost certainly aren’t. Bonta on Wednesday sent letters to the seven manufacturers who supply California grocery stores with most of their bags, demanding they provide proof the sacks are not only recyclable, but also recyclable in the state as required under a 2014 law. Despite the “chasing arrows” symbol or the words “100% recyclable” printed on many of the totes, “there’s a good chance that most, if not all, these bags are not actually recyclable in California,” Bonta said in a statement.

  • A key reason why, according to Bonta’s office: Plastic manufacturers “have not made efforts” to establish collection systems, processing infrastructure and markets so the bags can be recycled. “Instead, the placement of these bags in curbside recycling bins interferes with the processing of actual recyclable waste, shutting down recycling equipment and increasing the risk of worker injury,” the office said.
  • Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics at the American Chemistry Council, told the San Francisco Chronicle: “We continue to strongly disagree with the characterization of our industry by Attorney General Bonta … and are aggressively working so that all plastic packaging that is manufactured is remade into new plastics.” (A new state law requires plastics manufacturers to ensure all single-use packaging and foodware is recyclable, reusable, refillable or compostable by 2032.)
  • This isn’t Bonta’s first time going after the plastics industry: In April, he launched what he dubbed a “first-of-its-kind” probe into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries’ alleged role in driving a global crisis in plastic waste pollution, accusing them of “perpetuating a myth that recycling can solve the plastics crisis” when “the vast majority of plastic cannot be recycled.”

3 State evaluates heat wave response

The sun sets over a grapevine outside Fresno on Aug. 30, 2022. An excessive heat warning was in effect as temperatures soared to 104 degrees. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

It may seem strange — given that California just experienced its first significant storm of the season, with more rain and snow in the forecast for early next week — to think back to this summer’s record-setting heat wave. But hindsight is 20/20, and California’s electric grid operator on Wednesday unveiled a report analyzing its response to the sky-high temperatures that pushed the state to the brink of rolling blackouts several days in a row in September. Here are the California Independent System Operator’s top-line takeaways of what went well and what didn’t:

  • 👍 California now has 3,500 more megawatts of battery storage than it did in 2020, when the state experienced its first rolling blackouts in nearly two decades. Coordination and communication have also improved among state agencies and state and regional utilities (though there’s still room for progress on that front). New state programs have added resources to address extreme events. And “significant conservation” from commercial and residential electricity customers helped reduce demand.
  • 👎 The grid operator needs to improve coordination between day-ahead and real-time use of batteries, handle some software issues and take steps to more accurately report its energy capacity to regional partners.

Newsom applauded the report, saying in a statement, “This is a success story in how we are facing the challenges created by more extreme weather. … We must continue to prepare ourselves amid intensifying climate impacts. That means continuing to build on what we know works as we move to end our dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate our transition to an affordable, clean and reliable energy future.”

Indeed, a new report from state scientists found that “California is experiencing a climate crisis that is increasingly taking a toll on the health and well-being of its people and on its unique and diverse ecosystems.”

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CalMatters Commentary


Fossil fuel campaigns are subverting democracy: Oil and gas interests are spending big on local and state ballot measures to dismantle laws that protect Californians and the climate, argues Tomás Rebecchi of Food & Water Watch.

New plastics law is hindering advanced recycling: Innovative processes enabling the reuse of products such as artificial turf are taking off around the country, except in California where a new plastics law prevents greater adoption, writes Robert Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable.

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See you tomorrow

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

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

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