Essential California — L.A. Times | Under-the-radar midterm races

WESTMINSTER, CA – APRIL 13: Terry Rains holds up signs during a rare in-person City Council meeting during the pandemic on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 in Westminster, CA. The city of Westminster is facing bankruptcy. Instead of approving an extension of a sales tax measure that has helped to offset a $16 million budget deficit for the city, the council continues to argue over Vietnamese YouTube broadcasts spreading “fake news.” (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Terry Rains holds signs during a Westminster City Council meeting on April 13. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Iconic LAX Los Angeles International Airport Sign at Night
By Jeong Park

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Nov. 7. I’m Jeong Park, an Asian American communities reporter, coming to you from Mid-City in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, California voters will cast ballots on thousands of races, from school boards to the state’s governor.

Understandably, no media outlet can cover all of them. Much of the attention is given toward what are considered “big” races, such as the mayor of Los Angeles or the state’s congressional elections, which could tip the ideological balance of the chamber.

But from Redding to San Diego, there are many elections that could affect your lives in different ways. There also are elections that are just flat-out interesting, even if they may not have an earth-shattering importance.

Ahead of Tuesday, I asked my Times colleagues as well as the folks on Twitter about some of the more interesting undercovered races to watch out for. Going north to south, here’s what they’ve told me (along with some of the elections I’ve been watching myself):

California Senate District 8: This race between two Democrats — Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby and former Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones — for the district that covers much of Sacramento has gotten really nasty in recent months.

A legal battle ensued over Ashby’s ballot title as a “women’s advocate.” Oil and gas companies and utilities have poured in nearly $2 million to support Ashby and oppose Jones. In the final days of the campaign, both candidates are trying to woo Republican voters, with Jones’ campaign emphasizing Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s endorsement of Ashby.

Sacramento’s Measure O: The frustration over homelessness in California’s capital has led to this ballot initiative, which requires the city to create a certain number of emergency shelter spaces but also authorizes officials to clear more encampments near public spaces. Business interests are among those pushing the measure, which has also been endorsed by Mayor Darrell Steinberg, but the critics say it “will do nothing to prevent more people from becoming homeless.”

Oakland’s Measure W: Can giving voters money to spend on political campaigns improve democracy? The supporters of this initiative think so . If the measure is to pass, eligible residents would get four $25 vouchers to give to local candidates.

Santa Clara mayor: Owners of the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins are locked in a proxy war, as they pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into dueling candidates. The fight is over the plans to develop the areas around the city’s Levi’s Stadium, as explained by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Democrat versus Democrat races in Southern California: Because of the state’s primary system in which top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation move on to the general election, there are several interesting elections between two Democrats.

I recently wrote about the 34th Congressional District in central L.A., but there are several others: In Senate District 20, which encompasses much of the San Fernando Valley, Daniel Hertzberg — the son of state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (who’s running for L.A. County supervisor) — squares off against Caroline Menjivar, a director of new program initiatives for a nonprofit that provides food and support to needy families. In Assembly District 69, which covers most of Long Beach, Josh Lowenthal — the son of retiring Rep. Alan Lowenthal — faces Long Beach City Councilman Al Austin.

San Bernardino County’s Measure EE: San Bernardino County residents will vote on an advisory measure to explore secession from California, creating the 51st state backers have suggested could be named Empire. It’s highly unlikely that the county will secede, given that Congress and the president have to approve the plan, but the proponents say it’s a way to make their voice heard that they are not given a fair shake by the state.

Westminster’s Measure Y: Westminster, an Orange County city that is home to Little Saigon, has had its share of drama between bickering council members. But more importantly, the city is on the verge of drastic service cuts — with bankruptcy possible by 2024 — if the measure to renew the 1% sales tax does not pass. The measure got on the ballot only after an 11th-hour meeting by the City Council in August.

California Assembly District 63: In this district, which includes Lake Elsinore and Menifee in Riverside County, both Democrat and Republican candidate are Muslim American. According to the Council on on American-Islamic Relations-L.A., the winner will become what is believed to be California’s first Muslim state legislator. A big question in the campaign has been whether Bill Essayli, the Republican candidate who registered to vote in Orange County after he was certified for the ballot, will move back to the district.

Under-the-radar elections in Los Angeles: The Times has put together a guide to many elections you may not know much about: the L.A. Community College District Board of Trustees, the L.A. Unified School District Board of Education and local ballot measures. Curious about judges? Check out The Times’ endorsement of state and local judicial officials.

[For more, check out our guide to the 2022 California midterm election!]

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

Is desalination the future for California’s water supply? The state’s extended drought has revived interest in the technology, and several concepts such as mobile desalination units and floating buoys are being tested. At least four major plants will soon operate along the state’s coastline. Los Angeles Times

Culver City ponders whether 16-year-olds should be allowed to vote. Measure VY would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in city and school board elections in this city of 40,000 on the Westside of L.A. If the measure passes, Culver City would be one of few U.S. communities to allow people as young as 16 to vote. Los Angeles Times

Inside the water rebellion in California. Just 11% of farms and cities have complied with a 2015 state law requiring them to accurately monitor and report their water use to the State Water Resources Control Board, according to a Sacramento Bee investigation. Yet crackdowns on violators are rare. Sacramento Bee

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Los Angeles mayoral candidates Rick Caruso and Karen Bass.


How Karen Bass or Rick Caruso can become the next mayor of L.A. Bass is trying to meld a base of white liberals with Black voters, and make a solid showings among Latinos and Asian Americans. Caruso is trying to expand the electorate beyond habitual voters. Rain forecast for election day Tuesday could be a factor. Los Angeles Times

LAFC wins its first MLS Cup. In a game that went to a penalty-kick shootout after an 128th-minute goal by Gareth Bale, LAFC wrote an unlikely ending to an equally unlikely journey that began eight years ago in a dark, stuffy film studio on Sunset Boulevard. Los Angeles Times

A political controversy in central L.A. Councilmember-elect Eunisses Hernandez reported that a canvasser for Rep. Jimmy Gomez made anti-Asian comments on a stop at her Highland Park home. David Kim, who is challenging the incumbent congressman for a district that contains Koreatown, downtown L.A. and Eagle Rock, has demanded that Gomez make a formal apology to community members. LAist

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Rep. David Valadao, left, is squaring off against Assemblyman Rudy Salas Jr. to represent California’s 22nd Congressional District. (Jacquelyn Martin; Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A farmer and a farmworker’s son duke it out in the Central Valley. Congressional District 22 is a battle between incumbent Republican Rep. David Valadao, a farmer, and Democrat Assemblyman Rudy Salas, a farmworker’s son. If Salas flips the seat, he would be the first Latino elected to Congress from the Central Valley. Los Angeles Times

Bay Area is “by far” the least competitive major metro area in the country for congressional races. That’s the conclusion drawn by a Bay Area News Group analysis. The current slate of 12 Bay Area House members won its 2020 races by an average of 47 points (By comparison, the margin was 28 points for the Los Angeles metro area and 21 points for the Inland Empire.) Mercury News

How a Central Valley city has kept its library open five days a week. Many cities in the region have cut their library hours due to budget cuts (McFarland is exploring closing the library and turning it into a police station). But not Shafter, a city of 20,000 that has kept its library open five days a week, 11 hours a day. The city decided to run the library in a partnership with Bakersfield College, rather than working with Kern County. The library has hosted more than 12,000 attendees since its grand opening in January. Bakersfield Californian

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Singer Aaron Carter, 34, was found dead at his home in Lancaster. (Evan Agostini / Associated Press)

Singer Aaron Carter dies at 34. The singer, who rose to fame in the late 1990s with songs such as “Crazy Little Party Girl,” was found in his bathtub at his home in Lancaster on Saturday. For many, he was a proto-Justin Bieber, but Carter had struggled with mental health conditions and substance abuse. Los Angeles Times

Yorba Linda residents are concerned about crime. The city of 68,000 hasn’t had a homicide in eight years. It had eight robberies last year. Yet the residents are concerned about crime, and that can affect the dynamics in the 40th Congressional District, where GOP Rep. Young Kim is running against a Democratic challenger, Dr. Asif Mahmood. Los Angeles Times

Stockton reroutes mental health calls away from the police. The goal is to have a designated unit that would deescalate confrontations and connect people with services. The Record

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A team loads their magnetic levitation pod during the Hyperloop Pod Competition by SpaceX.
A student team from Germany loads its pod during the 2017 Hyperloop Pod Competition by SpaceX in Hawthorne. After the last student competition in 2019, the tube sat idle for years.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

This SpaceX tube, installed six years ago, was a testing stie for Hyperloop transportation technology. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

Oceanfront land in Ventura County will become a nature preserve. Trust for Public Land announced that it had bought the 1,250 acres of land just northwest of the Ventura County line for about $25 million. The plan is to transfer the land to the adjacent Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Los Angeles Times

Rest in peace, Hyperloop? An above-ground, nearly mile-long test tube installed on the streets of Hawthorne has now been removed at the city’s request. The tube was installed amid great fanfare six years ago to demonstrate a potential mode to transport people at more than 600 mph, but it hasn’t gone much of anywhere yet. Los Angeles Times

Snow comes to Tahoe. Some two to four feet of snow is coming through Wednesday across a broad swath of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada ranges, in what a National Weather Service meteorologist described as “the first big wallop” of the season. San Francisco Chronicle

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Port Hueneme could be renamed Hueneme Beach in an attempt by the City Council to drive attention (and tourist money) to the small strip of sand on the city’s southern edge. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

How to get employees to come to the office: A concierge that picks up their laundry. L’Oreal’s El Segundo office is offering the amenity for $5 an hour, as a way to get workers to concentrate on their jobs. The company demands that employees work in the office at least three times a week, on days of their choosing. Los Angeles Times
Port Hueneme or Hueneme Beach? A ballot initiative, if approved, would rename the small Ventura County city Hueneme Beach, an attempt by the City Council to drive attention to the small strip of sand on the city’s southern edge. A similar effort failed about a decade ago. Los Angeles Times

If you, like me, hate the Astros, at least we all can cheer for Dusty Baker. Sacramento has declared Dusty Baker Day to honor the city’s favorite son getting his first World Series championship as a manager. Sacramento Bee

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Los Angeles: Showers, 62. San Diego: Cloudy in the morning, but sunny in the afternoon, 68. San Francisco: Showers in the afternoon, 58. San Jose: Showers in the afternoon, 60. Fresno: Rain, 56. Sacramento: Showers in the afternoon, 58.

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Today’s California memory is from Daniel Stroup:

“On a hot, sunny afternoon, dad had recently started working in Los Angeles and purchased a home, welcome relief after moving across country seeking work. At age 7, my sisters and I had sung “California, Here I come” numerous times, and talked of Disneyland, the beach and all the glorious things we were going to do. Mom called out, “look, it’s Disneyland.” However, by this point our eyes and lungs were on fire from the gray haze of both the smog and heat. A portent of life to come for a country kid stifled by city.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

For the Record: Saturday’s newsletter incorrectly stated that a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies pre-election poll found that a ballot measure to raise taxes on millionaires was trailing badly. The poll showed that likely voters favored Proposition 30, 47% to 41%.

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to [email protected].


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