Back to the ballots in California- POLITICO

THE BUZZ: California’s 2022 voting season is officially underway.

Tens of millions of ballots began rippling out from election headquarters to voters Monday, launching the state’s latest round of universal mail voting. Some foundational aspects of the state’s politics have barely budged since the 2020 primary. But the evolution of some key California issues and the vagaries of redistricting will fuel some markedly different dynamics from last time around. Some things to consider:

TO THE NUMBERS: Democrats dominate California. In fact, they comprise an even larger share of the electorate than ahead of the last primary — up from 45.3 percent to 46.8 percent — as the party added more than 900,000 registered voters.

Conversely, both the proportion and overall number of no-party-preference voters has slipped from 25.1 percent to 22.8 percent as the ranks of the unaffiliated shrank by about 170,000 voters. The Republican share has held steady even as the CAGOP added some 80,000 voters. Overall, there are about 1.4 million more registered voters.

ON THE ISSUES: Crime and abortion are both poised to play a dramatically larger role. Rising anxiety over public safety makes the attorney general’s race the statewide contest to watch, and the primary will answer a question that could largely determine the outcome: can no-party-preference Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert break through, or will it be either Republican Nathan Hochman or Eric Early facing incumbent AG Rob Bonta in November?

Voters’ views on reproductive rights, on the other hand, have not changed. Californians still overwhelmingly support abortion access. But the Supreme Court’s vote to overturn Roe v. Wade has vaulted the issue to the top of the midterm agenda. It already formed the centerpiece of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first campaign ad. You can count on it permeating races throughout the ballot, potentially boosting Democratic turnout.

SEA CHANGE: Redistricting will have voters selecting from a plethora of fresh faces. Dozens of incumbent state lawmakers — and a handful of House members — have chosen to retire or run for something else rather than seek another term. In a number of those districts, multiple candidates of the same party are vying to make the runoff. That means party identification won’t be enough. A new generation of candidates will need to introduce themselves to voters.

DOUBLE DUTY: Redistricting will also add a new variable for hundreds of thousands of lucky voters. In a pair of Assembly districts and a House district, voters will both select someone to fill out the term of departed lawmakers under current lines and decide who should advance to the general election for the next term under new lines.

Similarly, Sen. Alex Padilla will be on ballots twice: once to finish the rest of the term, which now-Vice President Kamala Harris initially won, and once to move on to the general election for a full six-year term. This as Padilla competes with Democrat Dan O’Dowd, who is spending heavily on a quixotic campaign to undermine Elon Musk. Got all that?

BUENOS DÍAS, good Tuesday morning. An offshoot of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee is interviewing state auditor candidates today, looking to fill the sizable shoes of widely respected former auditor Elaine Howle.

Got a tip or story idea for California Playbook? Hit us up [email protected] and [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @JeremyBWhite and @Lara_Korte

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Our proud pro-choice House Majority must continue this fight in the public arena so that the American people know that their rights are on the ballot this November.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi urges her caucus to focus on abortion rights heading into midterms.

BONUS QOTD: “They were definitely thrilled and they were happy when I said yes.” Assembly member and perennial DCCC prospect Rudy Salas on finally running for Congress, via POLITICO.

WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.

— “Lawmakers call for inquiry into state Controller Betty Yee’s role in failed mask deal,” by the LA Times’ Melody Gutierrez: “After California officials were forced to claw back the state’s $457-million cash advance to Blue Flame amid fraud concerns, lawmakers demanded transparency and accountability during a hearing in May 2020. But Yee’s name was never mentioned.”

— “Twitter’s top lawyer long weighed safety and free speech. Then Elon Musk called her out,” by the WaPo’s Elizabeth Dwoskin, Cat Zakrzewski, Will Oremus and Joseph Menn: “Defenders say her team, known as the trust and safety organization, has worked painstakingly to rein in coronavirus misinformation, bullying and other harmful speech on the site, moves that necessarily limit some forms of expression.”

BETTING ON DEFENSE — Tribes abandon 2022 California online sports betting initiative, by POLITICO’s Jeremy B. White: Native American tribes have pulled the plug on a late effort to qualify an online sports betting measure in California this cycle, focusing instead on battling a rival effort by online platforms.

LAST CHANCE — “Democrats’ chance to save the House majority runs through these districts,” by POLITICO’s Ally Mutnick and Sarah Ferris: “[Assemblymember Rudy Salas] was Democrats’ dream recruit to run in California’s Central Valley, and this election, he finally agreed — just when the party might need him most.”

STAND YOUR GROUND — “Dem AGs pledge to hold the line if Roe falls,” by POLITICO’s Alice Miranda Ollstein: “In January, California Attorney General Rob Bonta released a memo warning every district attorney, police chief and sheriff in the state not to use any state law ‘to punish people who suffer the loss of their pregnancy.’”

 WHAT COMES NEXT — “Column: Is Gavin Newsom running for president? No, it just sounds like it,” by the LA Times’ Mark Z. Barabak: “In the meantime, associates say, the governor is eager to carve a larger role for himself on the national stage, befitting the overseer of the world’s fifth-largest economy and head of the country’s most populous state.”

— “People, not politicians, should reshape direct democracy,” opines Joel Fox for Zócalo Public Square.

DATA WATCH — “How many people are homeless in San Francisco? Data reveals a worsening crisis,” by the SF Chronicle’s Yoohyun Jung and Mallory Moench: “Based on all the different pieces, the latest best estimates of homelessness range from 8,000 to more than 19,000.”

WELL, WELL, WELL … —“‘A race to the bottom’: New bill aims to limit frenzy of well drilling on California farms,” by the LA Times’ Ian James: “[Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura)] said the fundamental problem is that new wells have been approved without an analysis of how the pumping will affect other wells in nearby communities.”

GRASS ISN’T ALWAYS GREENER — “Facing a new climate reality, Southern California lawns could wither,” by the WaPo’s Joshua Partlow: “Water for landscaping makes up about 70 to 80 percent of urban water use in Southern California, said Heather Cooley, director of research at the Pacific Institute, a water think tank.”

STICK TO THE PLAN — “There’s a Real, Live Plan to End Poverty in California,” by Capital & Main: “The experiment’s success in lifting 125 Stockton residents out of poverty and, consequently, improving their mental and physical health has spawned dozens of similar programs across the country.”

— “Are California companies about to get more transparent?” by CalMatters’ Grace Gedye: “The California legislators have two goals: shrink gender- and race-based pay gaps, while also increasing the quality of jobs.”

— “Dips in subscribers and a fight for your attention: How ed tech looks a lot like Netflix,” by Protocol’s Amber Burton: “And while some may be concerned that this foreshadows a future in which the space is controlled by a few mighty corporate learning providers, experts say the opposite is true.”

PULITZERS — “Times photographer Marcus Yam wins Pulitzer Prize,” by the LA Times’ James Rainey.

— “New Sacramento Bee columnist wins Pulitzer for columns on former Kansas cop accused of rape,” by the Sac Bee’s Michael McGough.

REPORTER ARRESTS — “Knock LA journalists sue Los Angeles over LAPD arrests at Echo Park protest,” by the LA Times’ Kevin Rector: “More than 180 people were arrested that night, most on charges that they had disobeyed a police dispersal order, but none were prosecuted, as City Atty. Mike Feuer chose not to file charges.”

— “How one California tribe protects the history of its land,” by Capradio’s Manola Secaira.

— “Health Care Workers At Cedars-Sinai Are On Strike,” by the LAist’s Phoenix Tso.

— “Two from Sacramento killed in plane crash near Golden Gate Bridge, officials say,” by the Sac Bee’s Michael McGough.

— “Black birders are taking flight in L.A. Here’s how to join them,” by the LA Times’ Maya Richards-Craven.

Brad Lightcap has been promoted to be COO at OpenAI. He most recently was CFO of the company.

John Meroney … Instagram’s Divya Kunapuli … Will Serio … Carter Foxgrover

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