California DA paints Opponent As ‘Gascón clone,’ Vows Not To Let County Become Like Los Angeles

Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor has come under fire over his directives opponents say fail to hold criminals accountable

A Southern California district attorney running for re-election is aiming to portray his opponent as a clone of George Gascón, the top prosecutor in neighboring Los Angeles County who is facing a recall attempt and backlash from elected officials and crime victims over his prosecutorial directives that critics say has contributed to a rise in crime.

In a campaign video released Thursday, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer paints Los Angeles as a dirty, crime-ridden city besieged by homelessness while criticizing defense attorney Pete Hardin as being soft on criminals. 

“He’s already announced exactly the same lines as George Gascón,” Spitzer is heard saying in the 2-minute video titled “Gotham.” “No bail. No death penalty. No (sentencing) enhancements.”

Amid a nasty campaign in which both sides have engaged in their fair share of mudslinging, Spitzer has vowed to not let coastal Orange County become like Los Angeles County, which has seen an uptick in violent crime since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

LA SHERIFF RIPS PUSH TO FIRE 4,000 UNVACCINATED DEPUTIES AMID CRIME WAVE: ‘IMMORAL POSITION’

To reinforce his point, his campaign prominently features the hashtag #NoLAinOC. The video ad begins with security footage from a smash-and-grab robbery, voiceovers from former and current elected Los Angeles officials criticizing the crime uptick and Gascón and two mothers whose sons were murdered. 

One is heard saying that “George Gascón has abandoned us. It’s important for you to know because another Gascón-type wants Todd’s job.” 

The footage then shows several news clippings accusing Hardin of sexual misconduct during his military service in the Marine Corps and as an Orange County prosecutor while painting him as the “Joker” character from the “Batman” superhero series. Spitzer has repeatedly invoked allegations made against Hardin that he resigned from the military over the crime of adultery, according to the Orange County Register

Denial of alleged wrongdoing

Hardin has denied any wrongdoing related to sexual misconduct.

On how to hold criminals accountable, Hardin, also a former federal prosecutor, has painted himself as a progressive who vows to combat gun violence and address mental health, drug addiction and other underlying issues related to crime. 

Click here to read the full article at FoxNews

Ousted San Francisco School Board President Blames White Supremacists For Recall

The progressive San Francisco school board president who was stripped of her position in a recall vote this week has dramatically claimed that those who ousted her are “aligned” with white supremacists.

“So if you fight for racial justice, this is the consequence,” president Gabriela López tweeted Thursday.

“Don’t be mistaken, white supremacists are enjoying this. And the support of the recall is aligned with this.”

López and two other board members — vice president Faauuga Moliga and commissioner Alison Collins — were all voted out on Tuesday.

Her tweet included a photo of a Washington Post headline that said the three ousted board members were “seen as too focused on racial justice.”

This headline says it all. If you are not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” Lopez added.

The board members were ousted in the wake of widespread backlash over COVID-19 shutdowns and a controversial plan to rename dozens of schools.

Click here to read the full article at NY Post

With Trump, Against Cheney

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy endorses primary challenger to the Wyoming Republican.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed the GOP primary challenger to Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney on Thursday, his latest show of fealty to former President Trump as Republicans try to take control of Congress.

McCarthy did not mention Cheney by name as he announced he was backing attorney Harriet Hageman in the August primary.

“The most successful representatives in Congress focus on the needs of their constituents, and throughout her career, Harriet has championed America’s natural resources and helped the people of Wyoming reject burdensome and onerous government overreach,” the Bakersfield Republican said.

Hageman — once a Cheney ally — did not hold back, saying that Cheney has become an ineffective leader and was being used by Democrats to “achieve their partisan goals.”

“Cheney is doing nothing to help us, she is actively damaging the Republican Party — both in Wyoming and nationally — and it’s time for her to go,” said Hageman, who has frequently battled the federal government over its environmental policies and unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018.

A Cheney spokesman pointed to comments from prominent Wyoming journalists deriding the importance of a California politician’s endorsement to Hageman’s prospects.

“Wow, she must be really desperate,” spokesman Jeremy Adler said.

McCarthy’s move against Cheney is not surprising. Though Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, overwhelmingly supported Trump’s policies, she became an outspoken critic of his bogus claims that the 2020 election was rigged and of his role in urging his supporters to march to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

Newsom Is Weaker. Too Late For GOP?

The crime issue is teed up for her — and would be for GOP gubernatorial aspirants if they hadn’t buried the ball in the rough last year.

To use a golf analogy, the ball’s teed up for the Republican Party to contest Gov. Gavin Newsom. But it already swung weakly last year and shanked to the right.

There won’t be a mulligan — no do-over — on the foolish recall attempt that Newsom crushed by about 24 percentage points.

“After the recall, the ball’s definitely lying in the deep rough,” says Republican consultant Rob Stutzman, an avid golfer.

Newsom should be vulnerable on the issues of crime and homelessness, two separate polls showed this week. But there doesn’t appear to be a competitive Republican candidate around to take a good swing because the party wasted its shot in the recall effort.

Former San DiegoMayor Kevin Faulconer was warming up to challenge Newsom’s reelection bid this year. The Republican moderate theoretically could appeal to Democratic centrists, as he did in San Diego. But Faulconer felt compelled to enter the recall race and got swamped by right-wing talk show host Larry Elder.

Many Democratic voters ignored the contest to replace Newsom if he was recalled, leaving the irrelevant choice mainly to Republicans. And they overwhelmingly preferred the conservative who advocated zero minimum wage, opposed abortion rights and suggested that descendants of slave owners be paid reparations for loss of their ancestors’ property.

Elder was the showcase Republican. And his far-right positions probably tarnished the party image even further among Democrats and independents.

Faulconer lost to Elder by 40 percentage points. And that most likely cooled investor interest in helping to finance another Faulconer gubernatorial bid.

Elder quickly decided not to run again this year. But Faulconer has been seriously considering it, assessing whether he can raise enough money to be competitive. He probably can’t. But if the awful campaign grind is bearable, he might as well take a swing.

Newsom already has $25 million stashed and has unlimited potential for raising all he desires from interests, especially after his recall romp.

March 11 is the deadline for entering the race.

Right now, state Sen. Brian Dahle, a former Assembly Republican leader, is considered the GOP front-runner. He’s a good legislator who could handle the governor’s job, a likable seed farmer from the state’s northeastern corner.

But Dahle is little known outside his isolated district. And it’s very doubtful he’ll have enough money to get known.

Underlying the GOP’s debilities, of course, is its small voter registration that has plunged over the years. Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1 in California.

But ordinarily with poll numbers like Newsom’s, even a Democratic governor would be sweating.

After several years in relative political dormancy, except as a sentencing reduction issue for Newsom and other liberal Democrats, crime has resurfaced as a hot campaign topic. It could affect state and local races — from governor to mayor and district attorney — in California and across the country.

A poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times found that registered voters’ approval of Newsom’s job performance has plummeted from 64% to 48% while disapproval has climbed from 36% to 47% since September 2020.

Those figures make things look worse for the Democrat than they probably are. Since the recall election last September, his approval has dipped only 2 percentage points and disapproval has risen 5.

But voters are unhappy with Newsom’s handling of crime and homelessness. When people get angry about crime, as happens cyclically, it historically has benefited law-and-order candidates, mainly Republicans. And we may be there again.

Only 20% of surveyed voters believe Newsom is doing a good job on crime, while 51% think he’s doing a poor job.

Worse, just 11% say he’s doing a good job on homelessness, an issue Newsom owns after all his rhetoric and the billions the state has spent trying to get people off the street. A whopping 66% says he has done a poor job.

“The homeless issue is out of control,” Newsom told reporters in May 2019. “It’s a stain on the state of California.”

In February 2020, he devoted his entire State of the State address to homelessness. Unprecedented.

“The public has lost patience, you have all lost patience and I’ve lost patience,” he said.

Yep.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

Democratic Leaders Reluctant To Halt California Gas Tax Hike

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Amid record-high gas prices, California’s Democratic legislative leaders said Wednesday they are reluctant to adopt Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to halt a gasoline tax increase scheduled to take effect in July because the resulting $500 million goes to vital programs.

“I certainly have concerns” and others among Newsom’s fellow Democrats in the Assembly do as well, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said. “That’s something that could potentially jeopardize a tremendous amount of jobs in this state, it could inhibit some economic growth.”

The hesitancy by Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins comes with an average $4.72 per gallon gas price in California, the highest in the nation and up $1.30 from a year ago. The national average is $3.51 a gallon, according to AAA.

Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk said “Sacramento Democrats are tone deaf if they think people don’t need a break at the pump.”

California taxes gasoline at 51.1 cents per gallon, second only to Pennsylvania, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators. The planned tax increase is tied to inflation, which is surging. Last summer the tax increased from 50.5 cents per gallon.

Newsom, a Democrat, in his January budget proposed stopping the increase, at least for this year. That move would cost the state about $523 million in lost revenue that would otherwise go for things like roads and bridges. Newsom said that money can come instead from the state’s $45.7 billion surplus.

“We passed the gas tax for a very specific reason,” Rendon said. “We need to make sure that our transit operations are running and running smoothly. We want to make sure that our roads are safe and all those types of things. We want to make sure that our construction workers, folks in the building trades, are working on those projects.

“If we’re going to halt the gas tax, we want to make sure that we have a sense of what that means to our state and to our economy,” he added.

Atkins said the tax was approved with a difficult vote by lawmakers in 2017 and later ratified by voters. “It’s been doing the job,” she said.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

Amazon Suspends Black Lives Matter From Its Charity Platform

The beleaguered Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation has been kicked off Amazon’s charity platform for its failure to disclose where tens of millions in donations it received nearly two years ago have ended up.

AmazonSmile, which gives a portion of eligible purchases on the online shopping site to charities, said it “had to temporarily suspend” the group today, an Amazon spokesperson told The Post.

“States have rules for nonprofits, and organizations participating in AmazonSmile need to meet those rules,” the spokesperson said. “Unfortunately this organization fell out of compliance with the rules in several states, so we’ve had to temporarily suspend them from the program until they come into compliance.”

Amazon plans to hold any funds that have accumulated for BLMGNF “until they’re back in compliance,” the spokesperson said. AmazonSmile has raised more than $300 million for charities, according to its website.

In Oct. 2020, BLMGNF took in more than $65 million in donations from Thousand Currents, a charity that manages assets of grassroots non-profits, according to documents filed with the California Attorney General.

But the group has so far failed to disclose what it did with the cash. As a result, several states have revoked its ability to collect donations. In California, where the group is based, the state’s Department of Justice warned BLMGNF’s leaders earlier this month that they would be “personally liable” for any delinquency fees and fines.

Click here to read the full article at the NYPOST

Feinstein Approval Ratings Plunge

Senator gets negative marks from nearly half of California voters in a new poll. VP Harris also scores poorly.

Views of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s job performance have tumbled to the lowest point in her three-decade Senate career, with just 30% ofCalifornia voters giving her positive marks in a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.

Respondents gave similarly unenthusiastic marks to Vice President Kamala Harris, whose popularity is underwater, with 38% approval and 46% disapproval, while they were evenly divided in their rating of President Biden. The assessments of Biden and Harris dropped sharply from last summer, in line with their slumping poll numbers nationwide.

Amid the broadly pessimistic mood of California voters polled, two-thirds of whom said the country is headed in the wrong direction, the lagging approval for Democrats Feinstein and Harris stands out, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the IGS poll.

“I was amazed at the disaffection for both of the women,” DiCamillo said.

The 49% of registered voters giving Feinstein a negative assessment included respondents from core Democratic blocs: those who identify as “strongly liberal,” voters under 40, and Latinos and Asian Americans. In all regions of the state — including the major population centers of Los Angeles and the Bay Area, where she is from — a plurality of voters said they disapproved of her performance.

“I’ve never seen those constituencies moving to the negative side in unison as we’re seeing now,” said DiCamillo, who has conducted polls at UC Berkeley and, before that, the statewide Field Poll, on Feinstein’s popularity since she joined the Senate.

Most striking is her loss of popularity among female voters. Feinstein had typically performed strongly with women since 1992, when she and former Sen. Barbara Boxer became the first female senators from California. Now, a third of women surveyed said they approved of her performance, while 42% disapproved.

“For her to be underwater among female voters is a very significant and ominous sign for her,” DiCamillo said.

Throughout her tenure, Feinstein generally received positive marks from voters and was elected to the Senate six times. But her most recent campaign, in 2018, when she was 85 years old, rankled some in the state; now, at age 88, she is the oldest sitting senator and has had to swat down speculation about her retirement numerous times.

Her standing frayed in recent years with her party’s progressive flank, which complained that Feinstein, as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, was not tough enough on former President Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court. She has made some overtures to strongly liberal voters; namely, softening her support for the Senate’s filibuster rule in order to advance voting rights legislation. But her popularity has been low since January 2021.

Her colleague, Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, got slightly higher grades from voters in the IGS poll, with 34% approving and 26% disapproving. A plurality of respondents — 40% — said they had no opinion of his job performance, signaling that Padilla, 48, remains an unknown to many in the state since being appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year to serve the remainder of Harris’ Senate term.

For Biden and Harris, the tepid reception from voters in reliably blue California underscores their larger woes in terms of public opinion.

Poll respondents were evenly split in their regard for Biden, with 47% approving and 48% disapproving. That marks a two-digit negative shift since the last IGS poll, in July, when his standing was at 59% approval and 37% disapproval.

While Biden, 79, still has the approval of 72% of California Democrats, that support dropped by 14 points in the last six months. Among voters with no party preference, his approval ratings plunged 15 points in that time, with 50% now disapproving of his performance.

Harris’ polling has followed the same downward trajectory as Biden’s; it is not uncommon for a vice president’s numbers to lag behind those of the president. But there’s little sign Harris, 57, is getting the boost in support that would be expected from voters in her home state.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

S.F. School Board Recall: Alison Collins, Gabriela López and Faauuga Moliga Ousted

San Francisco voters overwhelmingly supported the ouster of three school board members Tuesday in the city’s first recall election in nearly 40 years.

The landslide decision means board President Gabriela López and members Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga will officially be removed from office and replaced by mayoral appointments 10 days after the election is officially accepted by the Board of Supervisors.

The new board members are likely to take office in mid-March. The three were the only school board members who had served long enough to be eligible for a recall.

The recall divided the city for the past year, with a grassroots effort of frustrated parents and community members pushing for the trustees’ removal over the slow reopening of schools during the pandemic and the board’s focus on controversial issues like renaming 44 school sites and ending the merit-based admission system at Lowell High School.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen said she wasn’t surprised by the results.

“We faced the hardest time of our entire lives as parents and as students in public schools and this Board of Education focused on issues that weren’t about dealing with the immediate crisis of the day, and they didn’t show the leadership that that was necessary and that parents needed to hear, and that kids needed to hear,” said Ronen.

At least a hundred recall backers had gathered in the back room of Manny’s Cafe in the Mission District on Tuesday night.

“This is what happens when you try to rename the schools in the middle of a pandemic!” exclaimed David Thompson a.k.a “Gaybraham” Lincoln, an SFUSD parent dressed in head-to-toe rainbow drag and towering platform shoes, who described his persona as a form of protest. “We wanted to show the diversity of the community behind this recall. I knew they were going to say, ‘Oh isn’t it just a bunch of Republicans?’ and I’m like, do I look like a Republican?”

Within the next few weeks, Mayor London Breed is expected to appoint replacements to finish out the commissioners’ terms, which end in early January 2023. To remain in office, the replacements would have to run in the upcoming November election, but would have an edge as incumbents.

Click here to read the full article at the San Francisco Chronicle

Homelessness, Crime Damage Newsom In Poll

The governor’s approval rating falls as a majority of voters say state is heading in the wrong direction.

SACRAMENTO — Less than five months after Californians overwhelmingly rejected a recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom, voters are growing more dissatisfied with the governor, and a solid majority believe the state is headed in the wrong direction, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.

Concerns about rising crime and California’s seemingly intractable homelessness crisis emerged as the top political undercurrents driving voter dissatisfaction, with most of those surveyed giving Newsom poor marks on how he has handled those issues. Californians praised Newsom’s ability to guide the state through the COVID-19 pandemic, but two-thirds believe the crisis is subsiding, diluting its effect on his overall job approval ratings, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll.

“You see a lot of changing going on in the public’s mind. I think they’re focusing less on COVID, more on the other long-standing issues that the state has been facing,” DiCamillo said. “The state has some major issues, and he’s the governor. The buck stops there.”

Newsom’s prospects for reelection in 2022 still appear strong, however, with less than four months to go before the June primary.

Thus far, Newsom’s top challenger is Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle, a seasoned Northern California conservative lacking a statewide political profile. During his nine years in the Legislature, Dahle has never had to raise the tens of millions of dollars necessary to run for governor in a state as vast as California. Newsom already has raked in $25 million for his reelection effort. When announcing his candidacy, Dahle likened the task to “David versus Goliath.”

After the failed Sept. 14 recall election, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he would consider running for governor in 2022 and on Monday said he will be announcing his decision soon. The moderate Republican received little support when he ran as a replacement candidate in the recall election.

According to the poll, 48% of registered voters surveyed approved of Newsom’s job as governor, while 47% disapproved — a difference within the survey’s margin of error. That’s down from the 64% approval rating California voters gave Newsom in September 2020 amid the first wave of the pandemic.

More than half of registered voters polled, 54%, believe California is on the wrong track, compared with 36% who believe the state is on the right path, with the remainder expressing no opinion. Voters were evenly split just last May.

While disapproval of Newsom has always been strong among conservatives, the poll found criticism rising slightly — 7 percentage points — among Democrats compared with six months ago, although Democrats still overwhelmingly give Newsom high marks.

Among Californians registered as “no party preference” or with other political parties, 41% approved of Newsom’s job as governor and 51% disapproved.

Majorities of Latino, Black and Asian American/Pacific Islander registered voters approved of Newsom’s job as governor, while a majority of white voters disapproved.

Since September, voter dissatisfaction has risen slightly among white, Latino and Asian American/Pacific Islander voters. Newsom gained support among Black voters during that time.

A spokesman for Newsom’s reelection campaign said the governor has “decisively guided California through historic and unprecedented crises” of the pandemic while taking action to address California’s most entrenched and challenging problems.

“His actions saved lives and provided real help to families as they faced uncertainty,” said spokesman Nathan Click. “He remains 100% focused on providing solutions to California’s most vexing challenges — from the pandemic and climate change to homelessness and public safety.”

Though the Berkeley poll found strong voter support for Newsom’s actions addressing the pandemic and climate change, the biggest danger sign for Newsom is growing voter anger over crime and homelessness, DiCamillo said.

Two out of three registered voters said Newsom is doing a poor or very poor job addressing homelessness, an increase of 12 percentage points from 2020, according to the survey.

On crime and public safety, 51% of voters surveyed said the governor was doing a poor job, up 16 percentage points from 2020.

“There’s a long history of state residents being concerned about crime. It hasn’t been that prominent in recent years, but now appears to be coming back,” DiCamillo said. “That issue has become much more prominent, and Newsom is much more vulnerable.”

Rising crime promises to be a major issue for Republicans in the 2022 election, especially in the races for governor and California attorney general.

Conservatives blame California’s ongoing struggles with crime on policies embraced by Newsom and the Democratic leadership at the state Capitol for decades.

That includes Democratic support for Proposition 47, the 2014 voter-approved ballot measure that reclassified some felony drug and theft offenses as misdemeanors, and Proposition 57, a parole overhaul measure ratified in 2016. This year, the Newsom administration expanded good-behavior credits permitted under Proposition 57, allowing an additional 76,000 prisoners to qualify for early release.

The Berkeley poll found that most voters want to see changes to Proposition 47.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Masks Won’t Be Required In Many Places Starting Wednesday 

Two months after it was put in place to handle the Omicron surge, California’s mask mandate falls at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, though face coverings will still be required in many settings, including schools, hospitals and public transit.

San Diego County’s coronavirus numbers continue to make the case that the pandemic is receding. The daily number of new case notifications received by the county health department dipped below 1,000 Saturday for the first time since Dec. 20, coming in at 933 followed by 787 Sunday.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, state secretary of health and human services, said in a news conference Monday that falling trends in the number of new cases and hospitalizations provide confidence that pulling back on the mask mandate makes sense.

But, he added that while it’s no longer a requirement, wearing a mask indoors, especially in crowded locations, is a good idea given that transmission rates remain high relative to previous quiet periods such as the spring and early summer of 2021.

“We are still strongly recommending that people wear them in public indoor places,” Ghaly said.

The public, though, has largely been ignoring indoor masking rules in many locations, especially restaurants. Generally, enforcement of mask requirements outside health care and education has recently been nearly nonexistent. The point was illustrated at SoFi Stadium Sunday when cameras panning more than 70,000 Superbowl attendees showed that the vast majority had their faces uncovered. 

Maintaining the mandate in schools, but ignoring it in stadiums, drew continued fire from many in the public Monday. Ghaly did not address the dichotomy when asked to comment Monday.

He did stress that the virus continues to exact a toll even though case rates have fallen more than 70 percent over the past month.

“People have lost their lives to this nasty virus, and that continues,” Ghaly said. “That said, we understand a little better where it’s headed, and what’s happened over the last many weeks, and that is why we are prepared, after tomorrow, to allow the guidance for public indoor settings.”

By far the biggest continuing mask requirement remains in K-12 schools. Ghaly said that masks will continue to be required in schools, though a reassessment is set for Feb. 28.

Dr. Davey Smith, chief of infectious disease research at UC San Diego, said he trusts the state’s public health apparatus to react to trends in disease data by adjusting the responses it asks for, and sometimes demands, from the public.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune