California braces for post-Pelosi future – CalMatters

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California, explained
“We are mindful that we’re going to have to be more proactive as a state in terms of our efforts in Washington, D.C.”
That was Gov. Gavin Newsom’s delicately worded assessment of how California might fare differently under Kevin McCarthy — the Bakersfield Republican positioned to take over as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives after his party won a slim majority in the midterm elections — than it did under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat who announced Thursday that she plans to step down from a leadership position next year even while remaining in Congress.
During a Thursday press conference in Napa Valley to highlight California’s firefighting investments and announce that peak fire season has ended in most parts of the state, Newsom said “no one has been more consequential in modern American history” as House speaker than Pelosi.
McCarthy, meanwhile, speculated on Fox Business that Pelosi chose to make her announcement now because “she just doesn’t want to hand me the gavel.” Instead, the incoming Democratic House minority leader — whom some suspect will be New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries — will handle the formal transition of power.
Although Pelosi said she plans to continue serving in Congress — she was just reelected to another two-year term ending in 2024 — her decision to step down from a leadership role is likely to intensify a behind-the-scenes battle among ambitious San Francisco politicians to succeed her.
Also brewing in the background: a fight to replace Dianne Feinstein, another San Franciscan, in the U.S. Senate. Feinstein, who recently became the country’s longest-serving woman senator, has not yet indicated whether she plans to seek reelection after her current term ends in 2024, but officials are already angling for a seat that hasn’t been open since 1992 — especially amid reports of Feinstein’s alleged mental decline.
“Don’t ever count her out,” Newsom said Thursday of Feinstein. “I don’t care what the pundits are saying. … She still commands a room, commands our respect, and I don’t expect her to resign.”
During his 2021 anti-recall campaign, Newsom pledged to appoint a Black woman to Feinstein’s seat if she were to resign before her term ended. (He appointed California’s other U.S. senator, Alex Padilla, to replace Kamala Harris after she was elected vice president.) But that backfired among some prominent Democrats, prompting Newsom to walk back his comments.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 10,573,758 confirmed cases and 96,494 deaths, according to state data now updated just once a week on Thursdays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
California has administered 84,917,740 vaccine doses, and 72.3% of eligible Californians have received their primary vaccine series.
After an avalanche of attack ads, record-breaking spending on ballot measure campaigns and an influx of independent expenditures seeking to sway legislative races, what does California have to show from its Nov. 8 election? Although the state still has to tally about 1.5 million ballots, some clear patterns are beginning to emerge — and CalMatters’ Ben Christopher visualized them in six easy-to-read charts, maps and graphics. Here’s a peek at some of the key questions he answers — and what they reveal about power and political divisions in the Golden State:
Latest coverage of the 2022 general election in California
From CalMatters health reporter Ana B. Ibarra: As the early arrival of the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) strain health systems in parts of California, public health officials are also warning that a rise in COVID-19 cases seems imminent.
Every measure — from case counts and transmission (per wastewater surveillance) to hospital admissions — is increasing, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary, said in a Thursday call with reporters. California had a 6.3% test positivity rate as of this week, up from 4.3% just a month ago. 
What the state experienced in the spring, summer and early fall was manageable, but that’s starting to shift, Ghaly said. “Unlike the past two years when we discussed a COVID and flu collision, this year we’re actually starting to see it,” he said. 
In Los Angeles County, these indicators are concerning enough that health officials there are “strongly recommending” that people mask in indoor public spaces again. The county on Thursday reported a 26% increase in COVID-related hospital admissions since last week, and a 54% increase since Nov. 1. 
Statewide, only about 13% of the eligible population is vaccinated with the bivalent booster. Experts warn that low uptake can contribute to pressure on the health care system.
Water is one of the most politically thorny topics in California in the best of times — but with the state coming off its driest three-year stretch on record and heading into a fourth straight year of drought, tensions are mounting. Two Thursday examples:
Will Newsom put his popularity to use? The governor should leverage his historic electoral success to unite constituencies and improve some of California’s most intractable problems, argues Timothy Perry, a private attorney and co-chair of Newsom’s 2018 “Defending California Values” policy committee.
Death threats against Sacramento councilwomen followed months of misogynistic messages. // Sacramento Bee
Handcuffs in hallways: Thousands of California children are being arrested on K-12 campuses. Why? // CBS Sacramento
Ann Hsu, a Breed-picked candidate, loses school board election to anti-recall contender. // San Francisco Chronicle
Santa Clara mayor withstands 49ers’ spending barrage, wins re-election. // San Francisco Chronicle
UC Regents delay final decision on UCLA’s Big Ten move until December. // Los Angeles Times
UC says tying workers’ housing costs to pay could have dire cost impacts. // Los Angeles Times
Shrinking household size strains California’s housing market. // Public Policy Institute of California
S.F. alerts FBI about nonprofit after supportive housing is illegally sold to residents. // San Francisco Chronicle
How a mega-rich oligarch linked to Putin derailed a Bay Area homeless shelter. // San Francisco Standard
California county to look at ending zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug activity in taxpayer-funded housing. // Fox News
S.F. launches guaranteed income program for transgender residents. // San Francisco Standard
30 water suppliers pledge to address Colorado River shortage by targeting decorative grass. // Los Angeles Times
California Plant Rescue: the race to save precious wild seeds and sprouts. // Mercury News
Biologists fear California’s Mojave desert tortoise is headed for extinction. // Los Angeles Times
Is this experimental green suburb in California the future of single-family housing? // Bloomberg
Tips, insight or feedback? Email [email protected].
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