Man Found With 300 California Recall Ballots in Car

California authorities are investigating why a man found passed out in a car had more than 300 unopened mail-in ballots for the gubernatorial recall election.

The man was arrested Aug. 16 after being found in a store parking lot in Torrance, police said.

Investigators with the Torrance police special investigations division, the U.S. Postal Service and Los Angeles County district attorney’s public integrity unit were trying to determine how the ballots ended up in the suspect’s vehicle and what his intent was in having them, police said in a Facebook statement Monday.

Sgt. Mark Ponegalek told KABC-TV that the ballots were unopened and had not been tampered with.

The man was a felon who had drugs, a loaded firearm, thousands of pieces of mail, a scale and multiple California driver licenses and credit cards in other people’s name, police said. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press.

Big Donations To Newsom Raise Concern

The campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom has turned into a money magnet — for Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom’s anti-recall campaign raked in more money in its first five months — $54 million — than the $50.2 million his 2018 gubernatorial campaign raised over four years.

Most of the money came in six- or seven-figure donations from longtime Democratic financial backers, including government employee and trade unions, as well as people and interest groups that stand to gain from a relationship with California’s governor. Even allies of the governor have expressed concern about the amount of money flooding in.

Netflix co-Chief Executive Reed Hastings, a major supporter of charter schools, topped the list of individual donors with $3 million. The California Teachers Assn., which has clashed with charter school advocates for years, gave $1.8 million. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

More Than 42,000 Californians Evacuate As State Battles Out-of-Control Wildfires

More than 42,000 Californians have been forced to flee their homes as nine large wildfires continue to burn out of control in the northern part of the state, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to request a major disaster declaration from President Biden.

The Caldor Fire, which has scorched 106,562 acres, is the top firefighting priority in the nation, according to Chief Thom Porter of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (Cal Fire).

Officials fear the fire, which is just 5% contained, may push its way into the populated Lake Tahoe Basin, and they warned all Californians to be ready to evacuate.

“I personally don’t believe the fire is going to get into the basin proper,” Porter said of Lake Tahoe. “But I could be born wrong by that. The weather has outstripped and Mother Nature has taken over and taken fires like the Dixie to places that I never thought possible.” …

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COVID Hospitalizations Break Records In Six California Counties

Hospitals in six rural California counties — all in remote, northern parts of the state — are now treating more COVID-19 patients than ever, breaking records by exceeding their winter surges.

Driven by sharp spikes in infections and low vaccination rates, COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Del Norte, Tuolumne, Lake, Humboldt, Nevada and Mendocino counties have more than tripled in the past five weeks, according to a CalMatters analysis of state data.

All six are experiencing record highs — more hospitalizations than at any other time since the pandemic began. Another three counties — Amador, Placer and Shasta — have similar numbers of hospitalized COVID patients compared to their winter surge.

These sparsely populated counties have limited hospital beds and staffing for intensive care units. Del Norte and Lake counties had zero ICU beds available as of Wednesday, according to the state data. State public health officials on Monday issued an order requiring hospitals statewide to accept transfer patients from facilities with limited ICU capacity. …

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State Justices Won’t Hear O.C. Challenge of School Mask Edict

The California Supreme Court declined on Wednesday to hear the Orange County Board of Education’s petition seeking to overturn Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide mask mandate for K-12 students.

Earlier this month, board members voted 4 to 0 to pursue the legal challenge, saying they believed the mandate “compounds the harm to California’s children previously caused by prior school closures and unwarranted masking requirements.”

Public health experts have said masks help decrease the spread of the coronavirus, but some parents have challenged masking in schools, saying it can have negative emotional effects on students and create a barrier for them to connect with their peers. The board does not have the authority to impose regulations over districts in the county.

“The Supreme Court rejecting this effort to stand in the way further reaffirms the state’s strategy” of relying on safety measures like universal masking to keep students safe at schools, said Alex Stack, the deputy communications director for Newsom’s office. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Masks Won’t Come Off Soon, Say Experts

The rise of the Delta variant has upended previous optimistic projections of herd immunity and a return to normal life, with many health experts believing mask mandates and tougher vaccine requirements will be needed in the coming months to avoid more serious coronavirus surges.

While there are promising signs that California’s fourth COVID-19 surge may be starting to flatten, the fall and winter will bring new challenges as people stay indoors more often and vaccine immunity begins to wane.

The rapid spread of Delta among the unvaccinated — and the still relatively small number of “breakthrough” cases among the vaccinated — shows that significant increases in inoculations will help stop the spread. In fact, officials are now preparing to provide booster shots to those who already got their first series of vaccinations, saying the extra dose is needed to keep people protected.

Still, “the vaccines themselves are not going to likely be sufficient. And during times of increased transmission, we’ll need other tools available to protect all of us — and particularly those who, at this time, can’t be vaccinated, like our children,” UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo said. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Larry Elder Draws Fire At Three-Way Debate

Republicans hoping to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in the recall election focused their criticism on the Democratic governor and a leading replacement candidate who both declined to join them at a Tuesday debate, which included a moment of spectacle in which one hopeful was served with a subpoena on stage.

Just three of the 46 candidates running to replace Newsom in the Sept. 14 election participated in Tuesday’s debate at Sacramento’s Guild Theater, though seven were invited — former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley of Rocklin.

Larry Elder, the conservative radio talk show host who has topped recent polling, did not attend, nor did former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner. A campaign spokesperson said she would be assessing wildfire damage in Plumas County this week instead since Newsom declined to participate in the debate. Former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose was slated to attend, but announced Tuesday he would drop out of the race after suffering a heart attack. Ose said he is expected to make a full recovery.

As in a previous debate among Republicans this month, the candidates used the platform to rail against Newsom and the Democratic policies they say hurt Californians. But the event also marked the first time front-runner Elder was targeted by the candidates from the debate stage. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

New Lawsuit Challenges Constitutionality Of Recall Election

A new lawsuit spurred by a New York Times op-ed piece by two UC Berkeley professors that challenges the legality of the 2021 California Governor recall election was filed in a U.S. District Court over the weekend.

Last week, UC Berkeley School of Law legal professor Erwin Chemerinsky and UC Berkeley economics professor Aaron Edlin said in the Times article that the recall election is violating the constitution by not following the equal protection clause. They noted that because Newsom was not also listed as a replacement candidate, the two question recall means that he may be voted out by a small majority but would be replaced by someone with far less of a majority of votes or indeed far fewer than the number voting to keep him in the first recall question asking if he should remain in office.

“The first question is decided by a majority vote,” said Chemerinsky and Edlin in the op-ed. “If a majority favors recalling Mr. Newsom, he is removed from office. But the latter question is decided by a plurality, and whichever candidate gets the most votes, even if it is much less than a majority, becomes the next governor. Critically, Mr. Newsom is not on the ballot for the second question.”

“By conducting the recall election in this way, Mr. Newsom can receive far more votes than any other candidate but still be removed from office. Many focus on how unfair this structure is to the governor, but consider instead how unfair it is to the voters who support him.”

“This is not just nonsensical and undemocratic. It is unconstitutional. It violates a core constitutional principle that has been followed for over 60 years: Every voter should have an equal ability to influence the outcome of the election.”

Both professors also noted how the 2021 recall compares to the 2003 recall which they argue as legal, despite the same rules being in place. Then-candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger had more overall votes from the second recall question of who should replace the Governor, than then-Governor Gray Davis had in people voting to keep him in office in the first question.

“This issue was not raised in 2003 before the last recall, when Gray Davis was removed from office after receiving support from 44.6 percent of the voters. But his successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was elected to replace him with 48.5 percent of the vote. So Mr. Schwarzenegger was properly elected,” added the professors.

“This time, we hope that a state or federal lawsuit will be brought challenging the recall election. The court could declare the recall election procedure unconstitutional and leave it to California to devise a constitutional alternative. Or it could simply add Mr. Newsom’s name on the ballot to the list of those running to replace him. That simple change would treat his supporters equally to others and ensure that if he gets more votes than any other candidate, he will stay in office.”

The op-ed quickly got the attention of many, including Democratic party leadership. However, state Democrats were largely unsure of the argument, with many comparing it to former President Donald Trump going after voting and voting processes across the nation following the 2020 Presidential election. Governor Gavin Newsom specifically avoided the issue during the weekend when questioned about it, saying that he instead wanted to focus on the election itself.

“I’m going to leave that to others,” said the Governor on Friday. “Right now, it’s not theoretical that on Sept. 14 there’s a recall ballot; I’m going to focus on what’s in front of us, and I’ll leave that to others.” …

Click here to read the full article from the California Globe.

Gov. Newsom Received More Than $700,000 in Behested Legal Services to Establish and Defend His Death Penalty Moratorium

A Sacramento County Superior Court Judge has continued on its own motion to August 31, a hearing on mutual Summary Adjudication motions, in response to a lawsuit that challenges the Governor Gavin Newsom’s powers to repeal death penalty rules and dismantle the death chamber at San Quentin and which claims that the Governor’s actions establishing a death penalty “moratorium” by Executive Order in 2019 is legally flawed.

While the case is still pending, public disclosures and a news report now reveal that the Governor has accepted more than $700,000 from two major law firms to both create and defend his Executive Order.

Rather than relying on the Attorney General’s office, Newsom has received extensive free “behested” legal services, including $405,000 in legal services from the private law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner, to help him craft his “moratorium,” as well as an additional $305,385 from the law firm of O’Melveny and Myers to defend the alleged faulty Order in court, according to public disclosures.  While the Los Angeles-based O’Melveny and Myers has represented Newsom pro bono in the legal challenge to the Executive Order, it has also received at least $600,000 in state funds representing the Newsom Administration in other cases.

Californians remain generally supportive of the death penalty law according to the most probative recent polling of the issue.  Early in June, the national polling firm of McLaughlin and Associates found 49% of Californians would vote No if a constitutional amendment to abolish the death penalty is placed on the ballot in 2022 by the Legislature, while 43.8% would vote Yes.  When voters are informed of issues that would be raised during a campaign to repeal the death penalty, opposition to repeal increases to a majority of 53.3% of voters saying No to abolishing California’s death penalty law, and support drops to just 40.5%.  See poll results:

This article was originally published by the California Globe

Racial Disparity In Los Angeles Homicide Victims

The surge in homicides in Los Angeles since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has played out almost entirely among Latino and Black victims, according to a Times analysis of Los Angeles Police Department data.

The figures reflect wide disparities in public safety across the city, experts say, as well as compounding trauma for communities of color hit hard by past gang violence and devastated at disproportionate rates by the economic and social upheaval of the last 18 months.

Police attribute much of the latest violence to gangs, but the impact has been felt by victims old and younghomeless and housed, sitting in their cars and working a shift.

“It speaks to the two Los Angeleses,” said Jorja Leap, a UCLA professor and longtime government consultant on L.A. gangs. “I am deeply concerned.”

Kevin “Twin” Orange, a gang intervention worker for the city, said the pandemic is fully to blame, because it undercut so many programs designed to stop violence. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.