Newsletter: Bernie Sanders takes California

A community activist watches Sen. Bernie Sanders speak on screen
A community activist watches Sen. Bernie Sanders speak on screen at a Super Tuesday election night party at the Sanders campaign headquarters in Santa Ana.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, March 4, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

The biggest day of voting in the primary season has come and gone. And with Super Tuesday in the rear-view mirror, the Democratic primary field has all but narrowed to a two-person race: former Vice President Joe Biden versus Sen. Bernie Sanders.

According to Associated Press projections issued early in the night, Sanders appears to have won California, the marquee prize. But, as my colleague Melanie Mason wrote, “the question remains if his competitors will also lay claim to some portion of the state’s trove of 415 delegates.” (Regardless of how often you hit refresh, full California results are still days, if not weeks, away, as the state’s complex delegate math and expansive voting procedures make for an arduous counting process.)


[Read the story: “California voters choose Bernie Sanders” in the Los Angeles Times]

Meanwhile, in the majority of Super Tuesday states not called California, Biden had one hell of a night. Biden, as my colleague Mark Z. Barabak noted in his story, had been all but written off after his stumbling start in early contests. But a strong victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary laid the groundwork for a stunning turnaround, with the former vice president posting victories Tuesday in Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and, perhaps most surprisingly, Texas.

So far, Biden has won nine of the Super Tuesday states and Sanders has claimed four, with Sanders also securing Colorado, Utah and Vermont. As of late Tuesday night, Maine still hadn’t been called.

[Read the story: “Biden wins 9 states, Sanders takes California and 3 more” in the Los Angeles Times]


In Los Angeles, long wait times and operational errors at a number of the county’s newly designed vote centers proved a major issue throughout the day. It’s never a good sign when “stay in line” starts Twitter-trending locally on election night, and some voters waited as long as three hours to cast their ballots. Local voting officials blamed the delays on a combination of high turnout and glitches affecting the new election equipment.

When I left a vote center at a Boyle Heights park at 8:45 p.m., there were still one or two dozen people waiting in line to vote who had arrived before the polls closed at 8 p.m. And those stragglers were still luckier than some — voters remained in line to cast their ballots at a handful of L.A. polling places past 10 p.m.

[Read the story: “L.A. County voters encounter hours-long waits and glitches with brand-new system” in the Los Angeles Times]

And what of former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who purchased so much California ad time that his face seemingly lives inside the screen of every treadmill at my gym? (Inside all the screens at the only place I see live TV is, of course, not the technical figure. That would be closer to $36 million from Jan. 1 to Feb. 27, 2020 on broadcast TV in California-based media markets alone, according to FiveThirtyEight.)


Well, to paraphrase one TV pundit, Bloomberg did not have the night that he thought he had bought. Despite spending more than half a billion dollars, the former mayor emerged out of Super Tuesday with only a single victory: American Samoa. “A month ago, with centrists splintering the vote and no clear counterweight to Sanders emerging, the billionaire’s timing looked impeccable. Now he is looking more like a nuisance,” is how my colleague Evan Halper summarized it.

Results in a laundry list of important down-ballot races from around the state will continue to solidify over the next days and weeks, and we’ll keep you in the loop as they come in. But in the meantime, here are a few early takeaways:

  • After early returns, incumbent Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey held the lead in the contentious Los Angeles County district attorney’s race. Her challengers, former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon and public defender Rachel Rossi, each drew about 22% of early ballots. The top two vote-getters will continue on to November unless one candidate gains more than 50% of the returns and wins outright. Los Angeles Times
  • The race to replace Katie Hill in Congress appears headed to a runoff. Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith of Santa Clarita and Republican former Navy pilot Mike Garcia were in a tight race Tuesday night, with former Rep. Steve Knight (the Republican who was ousted by Hill in 2018) close behind. This election is likely to yield two runoffs — one in May to fill Hill’s seat for the rest of the year and another in November for the full two-year term that starts in January. Los Angeles Times
  • In L.A. City Council races, incumbents and political veterans were pulling ahead: Four well-funded Los Angeles politicians — two of them incumbents, two of them looking to win new offices — were leading in their respective races for City Council, according to early returns. Los Angeles Times
  • The fate of the Prop. 13 school bond measure was unclear. “No” votes were leading statewide, but early numbers from some of the state’s heavily Democratic counties suggested a close race. Los Angeles Times
  • Early returns showed Fresno’s former police chief leading the city’s mayoral race. Jerry Dyer led the Fresno mayor’s race with more than 57% of the vote, with Fresno County prosecutor Andrew Janz trailing him with nearly 34% in early results. Fresno Bee

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

As three more deaths in the United States were linked to the coronavirus Tuesday, World Health Organization officials warned the virus could be far more dangerous than the flu, with a mortality rate of 3.4%. Los Angeles Times


More on the coronavirus outbreak:

  • Los Angeles recorded a new coronavirus case on Tuesday, with Kaiser Permanente announcing it was treating a patient. Los Angeles Times
  • Reacting to the coronavirus’ damaging blows to the economy, the Federal Reserve announced a sizable interest rate cut Tuesday — the first such emergency rate action since the Great Recession more than a decade ago. Stocks still dropped. Los Angeles Times
  • California announced that it is going to start distributing millions of N95 face masks that had been stockpiled in emergency reserves. The move is considered a key step is getting needed equipment to California hospitals, which are already under strain as possible coronavirus cases increase. Los Angeles Times


Everyone apparently hates the name “Silicon Beach” for L.A.'s tech scene. “From the moment the Silicon Beach moniker first appeared, it has been disliked and even despised by those in the place it’s supposed to describe as too derivative, too playful, and too limiting.” dot.LA

Homeless individuals in L.A. faced challenges at the polls. County officials said they were working to overcome lingering issues. Los Angeles Daily News


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Attorneys for the man accused of being the Golden State Killer said he would be willing to plead guilty if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty, according to new court papers. Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. faces charges for 13 murders and 13 rape-related kidnappings in six counties. Los Angeles Times

The mother of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook has agreed to plead guilty to shredding evidence in her home that connected her son and his wife to the massacre. Los Angeles Times

An Orange County sheriff’s deputy mishandled evidence 92% of the time — and got a promotion. Orange County Register



An oil leak at a Chevron-owned well near Bakersfield has resumed its flow after being inactive for months. The leak at Cymric oil field has been one of the largest oil spills in California history. Bakersfield Californian

Gov. Gavin Newsom, Chevron’s Billy Lacobie and state oil official Cameron Campbell.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, left, being briefed in July 2019 on the oil spill in McKittrick, Calif., by Chevron’s Billy Lacobie, center, and state oil official Cameron Campbell.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Hundreds of bison from one of the last wild bison populations will be captured or slaughtered as they migrate out of Yellowstone National Park. Officials say the goal of the plan is to make sure the bison population isn’t growing indefinitely, which could cause overgrazing and mass starvation of animals in Yellowstone. Fresno Bee


“We are fed up.” A new surge of housing activism is forcing change in Oakland. East Bay Times


At least 43 California companies failed to add women to their corporate boards, despite a new state law mandating that they do so. Time

Planning to take a California spring break? Here are some great places around the state where you can avoid the crowds. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles: sunny, 75. San Diego: sunny, 67. San Francisco: sunny, 69. San Jose: sunny, 79. Fresno: sunny, 80. Sacramento: sunny, 78. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Ron Ranson:


“My family moved to El Segundo from Inglewood in 1950. We entered a time warp in that El Segundo still used an operator-assisted and party-line phone system. The user would lift the hand set and the operator to say, ‘number please.’ The three-digit number was given and the connection was made by hand through the central switchboard. On many occasions I can remember asking for a certain number and the operator would say something like ‘Are you calling for Gary? I think he is at Bill’s house. I’ll ring that number for you.’ What a place.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.