California braces for flooding again as another wet winter storm hits

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The latest in a series of wet winter storms gained strength in California early Monday, with forecasters warning of possible flooding, hail, strong winds and even brief tornadoes as the system moves south over the next few days.

Gusts topped 30 mph (48 kph) in Oakland and San Jose as a mild cold front late Saturday gave way to a more powerful storm on Sunday, said meteorologist Brayden Murdock with the National Weather Service office in San Francisco.

“The winds are here and getting stronger, and the rains will follow quickly,” he said Sunday afternoon.

California’s central coast is at risk of “significant flooding,” with up to 5 inches (12 cm) of rain predicted for many areas, according to the weather service. Isolated rain totals of 10 inches (25 cm) are possible in the Santa Lucia and Santa Ynez mountain ranges as the storm heads toward greater Los Angeles.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

California braces for inundation as atmospheric rivers barrel in from Pacific Ocean

Still reeling from last year’s onslaught of winter wind and rain, communities along the California coast are bracing for a one-two punch of hefty storms that began to move onshore Wednesday and are expected to last through early next week.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Federalcounty and municipal officials are preparing for potential flooding and power outages from strong atmospheric river systems, followingGov. Gavin Newsom’s move Tuesday to activateCalifornia’s Emergency Operations Center. State officials warned that the back-to-back storms may be only the beginning of a strong, wet weather pattern that could linger for up to two weeks.

“This is a longer-duration event,” Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the state’s Office of Emergency Services, said at a news conference Wednesday morning. “It’s not just the localized impacts, but the duration of the impacts and the wide geographic distribution of the challenges. … We want to be early and proactive on our emergency response efforts.”

Fire crews, swift water rescue teams and other first responders have been moving into place throughout the state in preparation of the storms, and supplies such as sandbags and snowplows are being distributed, Ferguson said.

“The state is working around the clock with our local partners to deploy life-saving equipment and resources statewide,” Newsom said. “With more storms on the horizon, we’ll continue to mobilize every available resource to protect Californians.”

The first storm was expected to wallop the northern part of the state beginning Wednesday, with the National Weather Service issuing multiple flood advisories, winter storm and high wind warnings across the state through at least Friday. The second one, forecast to arrive late Sunday, is anticipated to hit harder in the south, potentially wreaking havoc in Southern California.

Along the North Coast from Klamath to Fort Bragg early Wednesday, officials reported widespread urban and small stream flooding, with an additional inch or 2 of rain expectedto fall. In the Bay Area, wind gusts had been recorded above 60 mph, reaching as high as 70 mph at one location in Marin, according to the weather service.

Officials continue to predict possible power outages. Ferguson said state officials are already working with utilities to get crews dispatched quickly when power goes down.

“Much if not the entire portion of the state is expecting measurable rainfall as we head through today and tomorrow,” said Robert Hart, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Northern and Central California can generally expect 2 to 5 inches, with up to 6 inches locally, he said.

As the storm moves south Thursday, Southern California can expect on average 1 to 3 inches of rain, but up to 5 inches locally, Hart said.

The second storm system, aimed with a particular ferocity toward Southern California, is “the one we’re more concerned about,” Ferguson said. It is warmer — allowing it to pack more water — and is expected to move slower, which can leave some regions inundated. Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Diego could be in for massive amounts of rain. The mountains east of Los Angeles could face heavy snow.

“Storm No. 1 will be significant and is notable, but won’t bring extreme impacts anywhere,” said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain in a Tuesday briefing. But he said his eyes are on that still-developing second storm, which “has a higher potential to produce some major and significant either wind- and/or flood-related impacts,” with flooding concentrated in Southern California.

Ferguson added that the dangerous flooding that devastated communities such as Pajaro and Planada in last winter’s atmospheric rivers — and killed dozens across the state — was less of a concern this time around. But many of the levees that crisscross the state are aging, privately maintained and something of an unknown to officials.

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“That is always a challenge,” he said. “We don’t know which levees have ground squirrels in them, which farmer put a pipe [in somewhere]. Unknowns are the things that are hardest to solve for.”

He added that officials are also confronting “tons of misinformation and bad information” about the weather on social media. Contrary to one rumor flying around cyberspace, this is not a megaflood or “ARkStorm” scenario, he said, though he still urged residents to take it seriously and prepare.

Jim Shivers, a spokesman for Caltrans District 5 — which covers the Central Coast — said they’re keeping an eye on Paul’s Slide, a two-mile stretch of Highway 1 south of Big Sur that was knocked out by a landslide last year. It’s been closed ever since and remains under repair.

Worker safety is the biggest concern, he said, and the agency will pull all construction workers from the site until the storm has passed. They’ll then wait a couple of days until they have drier conditions, and only then bring them back.

In Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, officials said there are no signs these storms will cause flooding in the Pajaro River — where a levee breached last year, flooding the community of Pajaro — but said those areas will be monitored closely.

Mark Strudley, executive director at Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency, said the 400-foot area that breached last year “and caused all the grief … was repaired using modern engineering standards [and] is actually better built than the older levees to either side of it.”

Because of that and “a bunch of other work that the counties did in preparation for this winter, we are going into this winter in a better position than we went in last year,” he said. However, despite those efforts, “it is still an old, decrepit levee system. So you can make your best efforts, but if Mother Nature gets too angry at us, you know … they’re still vulnerable.”

Along the North Coast, though, the Navarro and Hopland rivers will probablay come close to or reach flood stage Wednesday, according to the California Nevada River Forecast Center, and waters at many points along the Sacramento Valley rivershed could also rise dangerously high. On Thursday, the San Diego River at Fashion Valley is forecast to again overflow its banks, as occurred last week during historic rains that caused widespread urban flooding and some devastating flash floods.

“We don’t expect a repeat of Jan. 22 [flash flooding] on Thursday,” Alex Tardy, a meteorologist with the weather service in San Diego, said Wednesday, adding, “That said, new and additional flooding is possible.”

Much of San Diego and Orange counties, as well as parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, already have a flood advisory out for Thursday, when the first storm will have moved south and east. But Tardy pointed out that besides San Diego, much of Southern California has received below average rainfall this year.

“In general, this is a beneficial rain,” he said. “We need this rain, we need the snow too.”

In Los Angeles, officials are less concerned about the first storm — though some minor flooding is likely — but concern is growing about the second system. County and city officials opened additional shelter options through at least Tuesday, offering motel vouchers during the coming storms for anyone living on the street.

“The Los Angeles region has been cold recently, but the addition of rain this week could make conditions especially dangerous for anyone living on the streets,” said Va Lecia Adams Kellum, chief executive of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Click here to read that the full article in the Los Angeles Times

California Population Loss Slows, State Loses Only 32,000 Between July 2022 and July 2023

‘More people are still moving out than moving in’

The California Department of Finance announced on Tuesday that California’s overall population loss slowed down dramatically during the 2022-2023 fiscal year, with the state population going down by only 37,200 people between July 2022 and July 2023.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, California’s population that year was at roughly 39.5 million. However, due in part to high taxes, a high cost of living, crime issues, the decline of the tech industry, an increase of work from home positions, and the COVID-19 pandemic freeing up many people to go into a position to more easily move, California’s population decreased dramatically in the next several years. Hundreds of thousands of people left the state. At the same time, immigration was largely curbed by the pandemic, with fewer families choosing to start families during the same time. As a result, even with inter-state immigration, California continued to lose people. By July 2022, the state had just over 39.1 million people, with the greatest losses coming from the Bay area of the state. In 2022 alone, over 800,000 people had left to go to other states.

However, in the last fiscal year, population losses in California have begun to shore up once again. A rebounding birth rate, immigration into California reaching pre-pandemic levels, and less people leaving the state compared to other years turned things around. Other smaller factors, such as companies cancelling out-of-California moves, like Disney’s failed Lake Nona venture in Florida, and some residents moving back after finding that they didn’t like the state they moved to led to many staying in California as a result in the past year.

“The decline in California’s population continued to slow during the past fiscal year, reaching 39.11 million as of July 1st, according to official estimates released today,” said the California Department of Finance on Tuesday. “The 0.1-percent decline of 37,200 since July 1, 2022 is a fraction of the 295,000 decline (-0.75 percent) during the first full fiscal year of COVID-19 In 2020-2021. In 2022-23, that decline dropped by more than half to 100,428 (-0.26 percent). Above-average deaths have continued to decline from their 2021 peak, while immigration levels have largely recovered since the end of stringent federal rules imposed early in the COVID-19 response.”

“Leading factors contributing to population trends in the past fiscal year include:
• Natural increase –the difference between the number of births and deaths — added 107,300 people from 2022 to 2023 with 409,200 births, and 301,900 deaths. Births were down from 423,400 in the year ending July 1, 2022, while deaths were down from 318,500.
• After two consecutive years of decline, foreign immigration recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with a net gain of 115,900 in 2022-2023.
• Domestic out-migration continued its decline in 2022-23 at 260,400 people – dropping from 361,270 in 2020-21 and 295,578 in 2021-22.”

California stays above the 39 million population mark

While many of the bigger reasons for moving out of state still exist in California, experts told the Globe that net losses in population would likely end in the next few years.

“A big trend we have been noticing is that few companies are offering remote work,” explained Catherine Constantine, an interstate job placement specialist, to the Globe. “And many that do want people nearby offices so that they can come in, or do that as sort of a hybrid situation. And California has a lot of those types of jobs, so people who moved out are now coming back, especially from Texas.

“Politics is part of it too. A lot of people are going to California because of the policies there, and, of course, the weather. But take a look at those numbers, more people are still moving out than moving in, so overall it is not exactly what you would call a recovery, but the situation is getting better overall in that regard.”

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

Why do California, Texas differ so much? Religion, priorities of white minority play huge roles, poll shows

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas —  A Californian suddenly transported to this South Texas town on a Sunday morning, just in time for the service at the Tree of Life evangelical church, might be hard-pressed to know she wasn’t in California anymore.

California has more megachurches than any other state, so the nature of the congregation wouldn’t provide the tip-off. Rows of pickup trucks in the large parking lot might be a tell, but the percentage of Texans who drive trucks is actually around the national average.

Even if the Californian began asking for political opinions, she’d still have trouble proving she was in Texas.

“We’re a diverse congregation,” said Kristen Kallus-Guerra, a congregant who serves as a greeter at the church doors. “Around the election, our pastor always reminds us to go out and vote — but he doesn’t tell us who to vote for.”

The most obvious evidence that the Tree of Life Church was in Texas would be the number of Dak Prescott jerseys. At least five congregants wore the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback’s No. 4 uniform to church on a recent November morning.

The diversity of Texas can surprise people used to viewing the state through the lens of its very conservative public policies.

The people of the two states do not differ nearly as much as their governance, according to a poll of roughly 1,600 California and Texas residents, conducted by YouGov for the Los Angeles Times.

California versus Texas is a rivalry without parallel. The nation’s two most populous states are political mirror images — the liberal bastion on the left coast, and the conservative Southern garrison on the Gulf.

California fervently protects abortion rights; Texas bans nearly all abortions. Texas upholds gun rights; California strictly regulates firearms. California plans to ban new gasoline-powered cars by 2035; Texas has banned companies that divest from fossil fuels from doing business with the state.

But a plurality of respondents in both California and Texas identified as moderates — 32% of Californians, and 31% of Texans — the poll found. Moderate can mean very different things to different people, but on specific policy questions, residents of the two states were often surprisingly close.

Asked if government should do more to solve problems and help the needs of people, majorities in both states said yes — 61% of Californians and 55% of Texans. The opposing view, that government does “too many things better left to businesses and individuals” was only a bit more popular in Texas, 34%, than in California, 26%.

Asked about government benefits, 55% of Californians and 50% of Texans agreed that “poor people have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to provide a decent standard of living.”

Even on the most hot-button issues — abortion, same-sex marriage, climate change — the poll found that the differences between Californians and Texans came down to a difference that’s fewer than 10 percentage points.

The poll shows that one demographic group has an outsized impact in widening the political gulf between the two states — white residents, who also are more likely to vote than other racial groups. Religious belief is a major factor in why white residents of Texas and California hold opposing views, the poll indicates.

Overall, the poll illuminates one of the central aspects of America’s political divide: Rather than huge splits in public opinion, the gap between America’s quintessential red and blue states comes down to tipping points.

Texans, on average, lean a few points to the right, Californians, a few more points to the left. Those leanings tip politics in each state, empowering conservative Republicans in Texas and liberal Democrats in California who have driven policy in opposite directions, magnifying differences between two states that otherwise have much in common.

***

If it weren’t for their political reputations, it might be easier to see California and Texas as twins, not foils.

Both western states, with their dramatic landscapes, used to be part of Mexico; both have brutal colonial pasts, with Spaniards and later Americans waging wars of removal against Native peoples. The early economies of California and Texas were defined by cattle and agriculture and later oil. In the last few decades, California, and increasingly Texas, have benefited from a boom in tech and venture capital.

Latinos make up the largest group in both states, a little over 40% of the population in each, according to the most recent Census. Non-Latino white residents are a minority in both states (34.7% of the population in California and 39.8% in Texas).

Texans are more rural — or more likely to label their communities that way: 30% of Texans, but just 15% of Californians, say they live in a rural area or small town, the poll found. Half of Californians, but just a third of Texans, say they live in an urban area.

It’s easy to forget that as recently as the 1990s, Texas was a mostly Democratic state. Democratic control began to crumble in the 1980s, but only ended in 1994 with the political ascension of a popular governor and heir to a political dynasty: George W. Bush.

Bush’s rise set the tone for Texas politics over the next three decades. Take guns, for instance.

When Bush ousted Democratic governor Ann Richards, it was still illegal to own a handgun in Texas. The year before that election, after the bloody battle in Waco between law enforcement agents and a religious cult known as the Branch Davidians, Richards vetoed a bill that would have made handguns legal. In his campaign, Bush used that veto as a wedge issue.

It proved highly successful. Thirty years later, Texans can legally carry concealed handguns in public — without any license.

***

California moved in the opposite direction over roughly the same period.

Several issues spurred political organizing that helped drive the state to the left: Then-Gov. Pete Wilson’s campaign in 1994 for Proposition 187, a ballot measure aimed at cutting off social services to unauthorized immigrants, increased voter registration and mobilization among Latino residents. A revived labor movement led to growing union power and influence — about 1 in 5 California residents have a union member in their family, roughly twice the level in Texas, the poll found.

Few issues, however, have had more grassroots impact on the state than environmentalism.

When he was 4, Jeremy Terhune’s family moved from Kansas to Stockton.

In the early ‘90s, as Terhune grew up, Stockton blended more seamlessly into the ranch and farmland of California’s Central Valley. But in the last 20 years, Stockton has transformed. With a population of 322,000, it has absorbed thousands of residents priced out of the Bay Area.

Stockton is hard to define. It is, by some measures, the United States’ most racially diverse city. While more liberal than the surrounding counties of the Central Valley, the city still elected a Republican mayor in 2020 (albeit in a nonpartisan election).

Terhune has spent more time thinking about Stockton’s political values than most. For over a decade, he worked as a community organizer with environmental groups in Stockton and the Valley.

He had to learn a key lesson.

“You have to start by asking questions; you have to meet people where they’re at,” Terhune said. “When it comes to people who aren’t what some call traditional environmentalists — like farmers, or hunters, or even the Latino community — I start by asking how they recreate. Where they get outdoors, even if it’s just a park.”

Terhune’s work culminated in founding PUENTES, an organization dedicated to making underserved communities environmentally healthier and more sustainable. The organization’s biggest victory was founding Boggs Tract Community Farm, a large urban garden in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

“We took a garbage dump, got the soil tested, and converted it into an organic farm,” Terhune says. “Now all of a sudden, everybody’s a gardener— suddenly urban gardening is a thing in Stockton.”

Efforts like that have made environmental values a major part of California culture. As the Democratic party nationally embraced environmentalism, and the Republicans moved away from it, that helped cement the state’s Democratic identity.

The impact can be seen in how California residents view climate change — 70% percent say climate change is a “serious” issue, including just over half, 51%, who call it “very serious.”

In Texas, by comparison, 62% call the issue serious, but only a minority, 42% said it was very serious.

Terhune points to a century-long history of community organizing to explain why California is culturally green: the Sierra Club was founded in San Francisco in 1892.

As the environment changes in Texas — the state just had one of its hottest summers in history in the midst of a exceptional drought — attitudes there might change as well, Terhune suggests. He points to the devastating 2021 February winter freeze, which brought the state’s electrical grid to the point of collapse.

“I think Texans are just as environmental and just as engaged in environmental justice as we are,” Terhune says. “But it’s about making that connection — and [after these storms] people are more aware of the environment.”

***

Like Stockton, New Braunfels has gone through a period of explosive change — it’s one of the fastest-growing places in the country, with a population of roughly 100,000. It’s the sort of place that will define Texas’ future.

Once rural ranchland, New Braunfels has been transformed into a bustling suburb between two of the country’s largest cities — San Antonio is about 20 minutes south, and Austin is 40 minutes north.

That makes New Braunfels the sort of place where aspects of Texan culture collide — and that includes politics.

San Antonio and Austin each went heavily for Joe Biden in the last election, and rural Texas went strongly for Donald Trump. New Braunfels was something of a swing district.

Of course, politics aren’t the only thing that makes the culture of New Braunfels diverse.

At the Tree of Life Sunday service, the choruses to the worship songs were sung in English and Spanish. The Latino — Tejano, more specifically — influence of South Texas is clearly present.

After the 75-minute service on the first weekend in November, Kallus-Guerra sat chatting with other members of the congregation.

With the outline of the state tattooed behind her right ear, Kallus-Guerra is proud to be Texan, although she says she has trouble defining what precisely being Texan means.

Texas identity matters in this state — 50% of residents said that being a Texan was a “big part” of their identity, compared to 44% of Californians who felt that way about their state. That’s true even though the share of people who are recent arrivals is significantly higher in Texas than in California.

“As far as like California-Texas, they can be different, sure,” she said. “But everyone has differences.”

Kallus-Guerra has met enough first-time churchgoers coming through the doors that she recognizes that some things about people — their needs, their yearnings — are more universal.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Farmer’s Joins Insurance Exodus from California

Another major insurance company — Farmer’s — will stop providing many insurance policies in California, joining an exodus of insurers from the state.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday:

Farmers Direct Property and Casualty Insurance Company will withdraw from all insurance programs offered in California, including home, auto and renters policies. Most of the policyholders with Farmers Direct will get “soft-landing offers,” which will resemble renewals in another Farmers company, according to Michael Soller, deputy insurance commissioner. He estimates there will be only about 2,800 Farmers Direct policyholders who may not get an offer.

In July, Farmers Insurance capped the number of policies it would write each month due to “record-breaking inflation, severe weather events, and reconstruction costs continuing to climb,” according to the company. It made a similar move in Florida, another coastal state heavily impacted by severe weather.

Click here to read the full article in BreitbartCA

These are the highest-paid University of California employees

Each circle represents a University of California employee who made over $1 million in total compensation in 2022. Select a circle for details.

The University of California, among the most prestigious university systems in the country, is famous for its academic programs, research institutions and medical centers. But data shows that the university’s top-paid employees are not involved in any of these pursuits.

The very highest-paid employees in 2022 were not professors, chancellors or even the president of the university. Instead, the most compensated employees were UCLA football coach Chip Kelly, UC Berkeley football coach Justin Wilcox and UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin. Each head coach earned over $4 million last year.

That’s according to UC payroll data from Transparent California, a database of California public employee salaries. The Chronicle used this data to analyze the salaries of the 186,000 UC employees who made over $30,000 in total compensation last year. Total compensation includes base pay, overtime pay, other payments (like bonuses) plus health and retirement benefits.

Kelly, the Bruins football head coach and the highest-paid UC employee last year, made $5.7 million in total compensation. Though Kelly’s base salary is $300,000, nearly $5.5 million of his earnings came from various talent fees and bonuses, according to his 2022 employment contract. These payments include $4.5 million for media appearances, a $1 million retention bonus and smaller payments contingent on the team’s season record and players’ academic performance.

Wilcox and Cronin made about $4 million each in compensation, with a substantial amount coming from fee and bonus payments as well.

The highest-paid professor and the fourth most-compensated employee was Jason Roostaeian, a UCLA clinical professor in the plastic surgery department, who made $3.5 million last year. The president of the university system, Michael Drake, earned $992,000 in 2022.

The three head coaches who make over $4 million are among the highest-paid public employees across the state — a circumstance common in other states as well. Their compensation far exceeds the earnings of, for instance, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who is the highest-paid California mayor with a total compensation of $444,000 in 2022. The highest-compensated person employed by the California State University system, the state’s other large university system, was San Diego State University president Adela de la Torre, who made about $710,000 last year.

“Due to the competitive market of the conferences in which the three coaches noted participate in, the amount of compensation is in alignment with comparable peers in the industry,” wrote UC spokesperson Ryan King in an email to the Chronicle.

In fact, relative to coaching salaries at other schools in the country, the compensations of these three coaches are modest. Kelly’s nearly $6 million compensation, for instance, is ranked No. 27 among the salaries of other college football head coaches across the country. The highest pay, according to USA Today, is University of Alabama coach Nick Saban’s $11.4 million.

Kelly’s compensation is expected to grow after a contract extension signed earlier this year outlined a $6.2 million salary by 2025, with UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond citing the team’s improved record under Kelly as a reason for increasing his salary.

UCLA’s football and basketball programs are big business. Last year, the school’s football program made nearly $43 million in revenue from ticket sales, media contracts and sponsorships, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. The Bruins men’s basketball program generated close to $13 million.

Still, the UCLA athletic department reported a $28 million deficit at the end of the 2022 fiscal year and an overall four-year shortfall of $131 million, as revenue remain below pre-pandemic numbers. Coach salaries totaled $22 million across all teams last year, equivalent to roughly a fifth of all UCLA team expenses.

Despite head coaches topping the list of UC salaries, the majority of individuals in the top 1% of earners — those with compensations of over $525,000 — are professors or executive-level administrators like chancellors, deans and vice presidents.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

McCarthy’s fall leaves state Republicans in bind

Successor may bring in less money, even as Democrats try to tie incumbents to new speaker’s extremism.

WASHINGTON — Since House Republicans unanimously elected Louisiana’s Rep. Mike Johnson as speaker last week, the GOP has sought to portray itself as an emboldened party willing to battle President Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

But for California Republicans, Johnson’s election presents a host of potential problems that could make trying to survive in a deep-blue state even harder than it already was.

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster is the first of those challenges. McCarthy’s fundraising allies have said they will work with Johnson to ensure the money continues to pour into Republicans’ coffers. But Johnson is relatively unproven as a fundraiser, and McCarthy, who pulled in more than $500 million last election cycle, rose to the top of his party in part because of his ability to rake in dough.

The loss of McCarthy from upper leadership could have especially dire consequences for the California Republican Party, which has long relied on him to keep money coming into the Golden State, said Mike Madrid, an anti-Trump Republican consultant who’s become a critic of the party.

“Kevin McCarthy was the last card holding up the house that we call the California Republican Party,” Madrid said. “He was the last reason any money — any serious money — was actually moving through the operation.”

Now that McCarthy is out as speaker, “that money is going to dry up very, very quickly,” Madrid added. “The state party is going to have a very difficult time keeping its head above water while it’s already sinking.”

Even before his first election to Congress in 2006, McCarthy demonstrated his value by raising money and sending funds to fellow candidates and the National Republican Congressional Committee. As he rose the ranks in party leadership, donors were more eager to hand over their cash. This was a godsend to the state party, which had struggled to raise enough money to field competitive candidates in safer Democratic districts.

Madrid said it’s very unlikely that candidates in California’s most competitive districts will see their bank accounts dry up. Donors in and outside the state will continue giving to protect the five Republicans who hold districts that President Biden won in 2020 — Young Kim of Anaheim Hills, David Valadao of Hanford, Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita, Michelle Steel of Seal Beach and John Duarte of Modesto.

If donors don’t deliver for those members, the GOP could lose its House majority.

But, Madrid said, for Republicans in safe districts, donors are unlikely to want to invest, since they are unlikely to see anything change.

Even if the money keeps flowing, California Republicans have another problem: Democrats are eager to tie them to the deeply archconservative Louisiana Republican they’ve elevated to the post second in line for the presidency.

“Johnson is as extreme as they come. He led the plot to overthrow the 2020 election. He’s a Trump loyalist. Above all, he’s a MAGA extremist,” a new ad from the Congressional Integrity Project, a Democratic-aligned nonprofit, warns Californians.

“This is who John Duarte voted for,” the ad continues. “Tell him to stop putting MAGA over the American people.”

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report changed its assessment of Valadao’s race from leaning Republican to “toss-up” on Tuesday.

Dave Wasserman, a senior editor and elections analyst at Cook, wrote that the fight over the speakership had “supercharged House Democrats’ confidence that they can flip the five seats they need to reclaim the chamber by convincing swing voters that ‘dysfunctional’ Republicans can’t be trusted with the keys to power.”

And Dan Gottlieb, a spokesman for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a news release that “Californians are eager to reject the extremism that [Valadao has] been enabling.”

That sort of attack may have some resonance in California. Although McCarthy may have been unpopular with Democrats, he was a Californian. The differences between his home of Bakersfield and the rest of the state are not as vast as the differences between California and the Deep South.

Though McCarthy declined to vote to certify some states’ presidential election results in 2020, Johnson went a step further, rallying more than 100 Republicans behind his brief endorsing a lawsuit to overturn the election. He has repeatedly backed measures to ban abortion nationwide, and previously worked for a nonprofit — labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — that defended state-sanctioned sterilization of transgender people. Such viewpoints are at odds with many swing district voters.

But Jon Fleischman, former executive director of the state GOP, doesn’t think connecting vulnerable California Republicans to Johnson will go far with voters.

“I don’t think the ideological views of the speaker really matter at all,” he said. “It’s not clear to me that the positions on the issues of the new speaker are really any different than the positions of the issues of the old speaker.”

Of Republicans surveyed in an October Economist/YouGov poll, 38% said they wanted House members to back the speaker candidate supported by the majority of the GOP caucus even if they disagreed with the nominee, while 33% of Republicans said they should not.

“I don’t think they’re going to judge their member of Congress based on who their party put forward as speaker,” Fleischman said. “If there’s any potential for impact, it’s not going to be [due to] the views of the congressman from Louisiana on the issues.”

Democratic groups may have an easier time tying the lawmakers to former President Trump, he argued. Trump is the likely GOP presidential nominee, is very popular among the GOP base, but is still deeply unpopular among swing voters.

“These incumbents are going to have to run under the banner of Trump for president,” Fleischman said.

Still, Republicans and their allies will seek to localize races and focus on specific issues to make clear the role their candidates could play in Washington.

“Californians demand relief from the surging cost of living, gas prices and violent crime fueled by extreme left-wing policies in D.C. and Sacramento,” Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ben Petersen said in a statement.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

31 stores in California on Rite Aid Closure List

At least 10 stores are in Los Angeles County; another six are in Orange County and just two are in the Inland Empire.

Rite Aid has marked 31 stores in California for closure in its restructuring plan, which was filed Monday, Oct. 16 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey.

The chain, which previously said it might close 500 stores, wrote that at least 154 stores would close.

The troubled retail pharmacy chain is facing slumping sales and several opioid-related lawsuits. To make ends meet, the company is looking to reduce its debt while resolving “litigation claims in an equitable manner,” Rite Aid reps said Sunday.

At least 10 stores will close across Los Angeles County. Another six will shutter in Orange County and just two in the Inland Empire. Only one, a store on South Archibald Avenue in Ontario appears to have closed already.

“Many of the stores on this list have already closed and received ample notice of the closure, while some will close in the coming weeks,” Rite Aid said via email Tuesday.

Here’s the list of stores Rite Aid has marked for closure in California. The store number precedes each address:

LA County

5448 — 4044 Eagle Rock Boulevard, Los Angeles

6288 — 959 Crenshaw Boulevard, Los Angeles

5457 — 4046 South Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles

5466 — 7859 Firestone Boulevard, Downey

5521 — 4402 Atlantic Avenue, Long Beach

5571 — 935 North Hollywood Way, Burbank

5585 — 139 North Grand Avenue, Covina

5593 — 13905 Amar Road, La Puente

5611 — 920 East Valley Boulevard, Alhambra

6333 — 15800 Imperial Highway, La Mirada

Orange County

5735 — 24829 Del Prado, Dana Point

6717 — 8509 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine

5753 — 30222 Crown Valley Parkway, Laguna Niguel

5757 — 19701 Yorba Linda Boulevard, Yorba Linda

5760 — 1406 West Edinger Avenue, Santa Ana

6213 — 3029 Harbor Boulevard, Costa Mesa

Inland Empire

6318 — 3000 South Archibald Avenue, Ontario (marked closed on Yelp)

5730 — 25906 Newport Road, Menifee

North of LA

5772 — 2738 East Thompson Blvd., Ventura (marked closed on Yelp)

5780 — 720 North Ventura Road, Oxnard

San Diego County

5635 — 3813 Plaza Drive, Oceanside

5638 — 1670 Main Street, Ramona

5657 — 6505 Mission Gorge Road, San Diego

5661 — 8985 Mira Mesa Boulevard, San Diego (marked closed on Yelp)

Northern California

5967 — 20572 Homestead Road, Cupertino

5976 — 2620 El Camino Real, Santa Clara

5979 — 901 Soquel Avenue, Santa Cruz

6001 — 571 Bellevue Road, Atwater

6045 — 5409 Sunrise Boulevard, Citrus Heights

6080 — 1309 Fulton Avenue, Sacramento

6769 — 499 Alvarado Street, Monterey

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Feud Between Native American Casinos and California Card Rooms Moves to Legislature

When California voters were deciding the fate of two competing sports gambling ballot measures last year – and defeating both after seemingly jillion-dollar campaigns – they were unwittingly passing judgment on three ancillary gambling issues.

Proposition 26, the measure sponsored by American Indian tribes that would given them control of sports wagering, contained three other provisions that drew little media attention. One would allow a few horseracing tracks to take bets on sporting events, a second would have expanded gambling in tribal casinos into roulette and dice games, and a third could have driven the state’s poker parlors out of business.

The third was an effort by the tribes to settle a long-simmering political and legal dispute with the card rooms over which kinds of games the latter could feature. The casino-owning tribes contend that their rivals, with such games as blackjack, have expanded into tribal territory under the state’s very complicated definitions separating legal gambling from illegal forms.

If approved, Prop. 26 would have given the state attorney general new powers to crack down on violations of gambling laws, including the power to close facilities that the AG deemed to be violators, and if the AG refused to act, a private party – such as an tribal casino – could file a civil action itself. Card room operators saw the passage as a death sentence and were relieved when the proposition failed.

However, it was not the end of the long-running gambling turf war, and hostilities are being resumed in the state Legislature in the form of a bill that would allow tribes to do what voters didn’t approve last year: file civil actions against the rival card rooms.

Senate Bill 549 began as a measure dealing with education when it passed the Senate, but in June its author, Sen. Josh Newman, a Democrat from Fullerton, stripped out its language and substituted verbiage lifted almost word for word from Prop. 26, giving tribes a three-month window next year to take legal action against their rivals.

Both sides are gearing up for war when the Legislature reconvenes this week. The tribes have a bottomless pit of political money and have long established themselves as a major interest group in the Capitol. But, the family that owns a large card room in Hawaiian Gardens, a tiny city – just one square mile – in Los Angeles County, has committed $5-plus million just this year to lobbying against SB 549.

Hawaiian Gardens is located just a few blocks from the boundary of Newman’s district and taxes on the Gardens Casino, one of the state’s largest card rooms, provides more than two-thirds of the otherwise impoverished city’s revenue.

This isn’t the first time the casino has been embroiled in political battle.

The casino’s late founder, Dr. Irving Moskowitz, was a major financier for settlements in territory claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. As I wrote in a Sacramento Bee column 23 years ago, Moskowitz’s actions in Israel were supported by the nation’s hardliners but drew criticism from moderates and the conflict found its way into the Legislature over allegations that the city of Hawaiian Gardens had improperly used redevelopment funds to underwrite construction of the casino.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Tensions Flare As California GOP Gives Trump a Boost by Overhauling State Primary Rules

In a move backed by former President Trump’s campaign, the California Republican Party on Saturday changed its rules for allocating delegates in the state’s presidential primary — a shake-up that could discourage other GOP candidates from campaigning here and make the state less competitive in next year’s nominating contest.

Tensions flared as the California GOP’s executive committee approved the plan, with some pro-Trump demonstrators denouncing the move, police getting called and two factions nearly coming to fisticuffs.

Although demonstrators argued that the state party leadership was trying to undermine the former president, the decision by the California GOP’s executive committee reflects a concerted effort by the Trump campaign to mold state party rules across the country to benefit his candidacy.

The Michigan Republican Party also recently changed its rules for awarding delegates in a way that’s expected to benefit Trump. Republicans in Idaho, Nevada, Louisiana and Colorado are considering other measures that could give Trump an advantage.

The new rule in California means a Republican presidential candidate who receives more than 50% of the vote in the March 5 primary will win all 169 delegates from California, which has more than any state in the nation. If no one reaches this benchmark, delegates will be awarded proportionally based on the statewide vote.

State party leaders argued that the new plan would draw candidates to compete in California.

“Today’s vote … was a massive victory for California Republicans who are eager to have a say in deciding who our Party’s 2024 presidential nominee will be,” state party Chair Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement.

“Republican presidential candidates will not only be encouraged to spend real time campaigning in our state and making their case to voters, but Republican voters will equally be encouraged to turn out to support their chosen candidate to help them win delegates,” she added

But other Republicans say the plan will instead make California less competitive than if the party had stuck with some version of the system it has used for much of the last two decades, in which three delegates were awarded for each congressional district won, said Jon Fleischman, who was executive director of the state GOP in 2000, when it adopted this plan (though it didn’t go into effect until after the 2004 election).

Such a system allows a candidate to strategically target a handful of areas instead of trying to campaign and advertise in an enormous state with some of the most expensive media markets in the nation.

“The net effect of passing this proposal will be no presidential campaign will be incentivized to do any campaigning in California, period,” Fleischman said. “The cost to advertise statewide is too great and the impact of trying to motivate volunteers is too small. So they will go to other states and ignore California in the primary, as they ignore California in the general election.”

Trump’s campaign supported the plan because polling shows he can win more than half the votes in California’s GOP primary, allowing him to sweep up the state’s huge haul of delegates, according to an executive committee member who had spoken with a campaign official.

Trump strategists also believe a previous proposal — that the California GOP scrapped — could have helped Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, said the executive committee member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the insider conversation.

Under that system, delegates would have been awarded by congressional district, with two going to the winner in each district and one delegate going to the second-place finisher. California is so big, with 52 congressional districts, that such a system would have created an enormous “consolation prize” amounting to more delegates than those awarded by multiple other states combined.

Ken Cuccinelli, founder of the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC, blasted the state GOP’s decision to go the other route.

“Smoke filled back rooms do not reflect the will of or benefit voters in any state. Yet across the country games are afoot to enhance the potential outcome of primary elections for one former president who half of the Republican electorate no longer wants as the party leader,” said Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general who served in the Trump administration, in a statement.

But “even with these asinine primary rules changes,” he added, “we remain confident Governor DeSantis will become the Republican nominee and 47th president of the United States.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Had it not changed its rules, the California GOP would have lost half of its delegates to the Republican National Convention — a huge blow to the state’s clout. Either of the plans that were considered would have met the national party’s requirements for sending a full delegation.

California’s 2024 primary is scheduled for Super Tuesday on March 5, along with contests in more than a dozen other states. While California’s overwhelmingly Democratic tilt has long made it uncompetitive for Republican presidential nominees in general elections, the state could play a significant role in deciding the next GOP nominee — particularly if a candidate doesn’t take a commanding lead in earlier contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

By the time California votes in the spring, Trump could be under indictment in four separate criminal cases. He has already been charged in connection with an alleged hush money payment to an adult-film star in the final days of the 2016 campaign, and with mishandling and illegally possessing classified documents at his Florida home after his presidency ended.

Trump is also being investigated in Georgia on allegations that he attempted to overturn his 2020 loss in the crucial state to Democrat Joe Biden; and federal prosecutors have targeted the former president in an investigation into other efforts to keep him in office, including the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

But Trump’s legal issues have not dampened support from his base — including the more than 50 supporters who staged a protest at the Marriott hotel in Irvine on Saturday morning.

The protesters saw the California GOP’s earlier proposal as a purposeful effort to harm Trump, and remained angry that a decision was being made by the party’s 100-member executive committee rather than by more than 1,400 members at their fall convention — a reflection of the distrust of party leadership among conservative activists across the country. They unsuccessfully pushed for a candidate having to receive a certain percentage of the vote to be awarded any delegates.

“There’s a part of me that does think that maybe they’re trying to take votes away from Trump, specifically, who’s coming in strong, and so they’re kind of thinking, ‘What can we do to take away votes for Trump?’” said Bonnie Wallace, president of the Greater Pasadena Republican Assembly. As a state party delegate, she was able to observe the committee meeting, which was closed to the media, but she was unable to vote on the matter.

“What I heard in there is, ‘Oh, we need to open this up so all the candidates are welcome. … If they get 5% of the vote, they’ll get something,” added Wallace, who carried a sign that read, “CAGOP & RNC/Why not Trump? Stop supporting corruption!” “You know, we need to whittle things down. We don’t have participation trophies.”

The executive committee approved the delegate allocation plan on a 53-16 vote. State party officials said they could not wait for the convention to debate the matter due to a tight deadline for submitting plans to national Republicans.

The protest was driven in part by fury and confusion sowed on social media, where far-right activists argued that Millan Patterson and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, who effectively controls the state party, were trying to derail Trump’s candidacy.

“They are trying to change the laws so they can orchestrate a brokered convention at the National convention and steal the GOP nomination from Donald Trump,” Laura Loomer, a Trump supporter from Florida who has a history of spreading conspiracies to her large online following, wrote on Twitter on July 20. “We can’t allow [Millan Patterson] and [McCarthy] to get away with their deceptive rule changes that are designed to screw Donald Trump.”

Millan Patterson and McCarthy did not respond to requests for comment on the accusations.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times