California Sun

Good morning. It's Monday, June 4.

A preview of the races to watch on Primary Day.
California mulls its first tax on drinking water.
And The Sun gets a redesign to match its ambitions.

The lede


Final countdown

Antonio Villaraigosa, left, and John Cox are battling to advance in the governor's race.

Denis Poroy/A.P.; Gregory Bull/A.P.

Tomorrow is Primary Day, and political junkies are getting giddy.

"This period in California politics," the N.Y. Times's Adam Nagourney wrote, "is as fraught and interesting as any since Arnold Schwarzenegger moved from Hollywood to Sacramento and became governor in a wild recall election."

It's also pretty confusing. Voters face a thicket of contests, including those for governor (27 candidates), U.S. senator (32 candidates), and five statewide ballot propositions.

A few news outlets published cheat sheets on the most intriguing subplots. Among them:

With Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom expected to win the most votes, the governor's race has shaped up as a battle for No. 2 between John Cox, a Republican businessman, and Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democratic former mayor of L.A. Only two candidates advance, and Newsom would much prefer a matchup against Cox, whose conservative views are out of sync with many Californians. Washington Post | S.F. Chronicle
The most closely watched drama nationally involves three Republican-held House seats in Southern California that Democrats think they could flip. The problem: A glut of Democratic candidates are running, and in California's “top two” primary system, the two highest vote-getters advance regardless of party affiliation. A split in the Democratic vote could effectively shut the party out of the general election. L.A. Times | N.Y. Magazine
Kevin de León, the former Democratic leader of the state Senate, had hoped to ride a wave of Democratic activism to topple Senator Dianne Feinstein, the longtime officeholder. With polling that shows her as a virtual lock to finish No. 1, de León is battling a cast of unknowns for the all-important second spot. It's far from clear that he'll pull it off. S.F. Chronicle | McClatchy
In Orange County, a recall election is testing just how angry people are over the $52 billion gas tax and transportation fee hike. Voters will decide whether to fire state Senator Josh Newman halfway through his first term over his vote in favor of the measure, which was imposed to pay for transportation fixes. CALmatters

Read more on the races to watch in the Sacramento Bee and the N.Y. Times.

Still, making up your mind? CALmatters put out a nicely done primer.



Refugees after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

National Archives

Under "Big One" earthquake scenarios, 400,000 people could be displaced in the Bay Area and 250,000 in Southern California. Factor in the state's housing shortage, and many people wouldn't be able to stay within the metro areas they once called home. “So they’ll move away," an earthquake expert said, "just like they moved away from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.”


Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing lawmakers to pass the state's first tax on drinking water. The money would go toward fixing a problem that has plagued San Joaquin Valley communities for decades: drinking water tainted with arsenic and other contaminants. But a powerful group of urban water agencies is trying to kill the bill, arguing they shouldn't have to pay for what is largely a rural problem.


Did you know California has a travel ban list? State-sponsored travel has been prohibited to Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and now Oklahoma, which was added to the list because of a new law that allows adoption agencies to deny placements with same-sex parents. "California taxpayers are taking a stand against bigotry,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.


Writing in the N.Y. Times, the Santa Cruz columnist Steve Kettmann argued that as recently as the 2000s, California was seen as an outlier, unintimidating, and flaky. "That was the old California," he wrote. The new California is a juggernaut of money, population, and politics. "In the Trump era," he wrote, "the state is reinventing itself as the moral and cultural center of a new America."

Northern California


Housing in San Francisco, one of America's most expensive places to live.

Ed Brownson/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A five-county poll of the Bay Area found that nearly half of its residents want to leave, citing dismay over the high cost of housing. Some 46 percent of respondents said they are likely to move out of the region in the next few years. Bay Area home prices have been climbing for six years, setting another record in April, when the median sale price hit $850,000. Rents are soaring too.


Over the last decade, Facebook reached deals allowing at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, and Samsung — to access vast amounts of its users’ personal information. Some device makers could retrieve data even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing. “It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends," a privacy expert said.


Leaked emails showed that a conservative Stanford professor conspired with students to conduct "opposition research" on a left-wing student activist. Niall Ferguson, a historian known for his support of British imperialism, was forced to resign from a speaker series at the university over the emails, which Vox reported "sound like they were written by comic book villains."


Two rock climbers fell to their deaths from the granite face of Yosemite's El Capitan on Saturday. The men, experienced climbers in their 40s, had climbed the rock together many times over the years, and were roped together when they fell about 1,000 feet. It was the second fatal fall at the park in a little over a week, after a hiker fell from Half Dome.


"We're starting fresh. We're starting new." The National Park Service leveled Yosemite's last Native American village half a century ago. Now Wahhoga Village is being rebuilt. The park's new superintendent, who grew up in Yosemite Valley, signed an agreement giving the native elders permission to use the site for the next 30 years. "I've always respected them and admired them," he said.

Southern California


It seemed like fires broke out all across Southern California over the weekend. They erupted in San Diego, San Luis Obispo County, and Riverside County. A 150-acre brush fire whipped by erratic winds in Orange County forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 homes on Saturday. Firefighters had the blaze under control by Sunday night. The number of California wildfires so far this year has far outpaced last year.


"It was always this creep factor." "Being so young, I didn’t have a framework for what was acceptable." "I've been holding onto this for many years, and I just get choked up thinking about it." The L.A. Times published dozens of accounts from former U.S.C. students who described experiences with a gynecologist accused of widespread sexual misconduct.


Los Angeles tenants are increasingly resorting to rent strikes, a tool that dates back to the late 1800s. The city has seen about a half-dozen of the strikes in the last two years as soaring rents have pushed more residents to the brink of displacement. “We are reaching levels of inequality that we have not seen since the Gilded Age," an activist said, "so maybe it’s time to return to tactics like the rent strikes that were invented in those years."


Professional football is returning San Diego. The new Alliance of American Football will include a franchise in the city where fans were deeply wounded last year by the departure of their Chargers for Los Angeles. The new team, not yet named, will be led by a big name coach, Mike Martz, a former head coach of the St. Louis Rams who grew up in San Diego.

Checking in


A new and improved Sun

The California Sun is getting a fresh design.

Like pretty much every startup, the California Sun launched with a mix of sweat, borrowed money, and optimism.

We recently passed the six-month mark, and the response has been encouraging enough that we’re doubling down with a redesign of the newsletter and website. We've partnered with the makers of Proof, an editorial suite aimed at helping small publishers punch above their weight.

Among the changes:

A more eye-catching design, with updated fonts and graphic elements.
Streamlined code to power the email. That means it’s easier on your inbox and lets us, for example, include more and bigger photos.
Simpler sharing. Below each summary, you’ll see options to post the item on Facebook and Twitter, or grab a link that can be shared anywhere. (This will be deployed later after some kinks are ironed out.)

We’re committed to becoming the go-to hub for the best journalism in California, and we remain optimistic that we’ll get there.

That said, we need a much bigger audience. The Sun is a shoestring operation. So word-of-mouth is really the only way we’ll get there. If you’ve been liking the newsletter, please tell your friends about us.

Later this summer, we plan to roll out a membership drive that will be crucial to making the Sun a sustainable enterprise. Stay tuned!

And thanks so much to all of you who’ve already been spreading the word. It really means a lot.

Thanks for reading!

The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

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