Newsletter: Essential California: Inching toward election day

A voter at Dodger Stadium
A voter casts his ballot at a vote center set up at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Nov. 2, and here’s a quick look at the historic week ahead:

In the final hours before the election, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will be on the campaign trail Monday in battleground states. Día de los Muertos also ends on Monday.

The U.S. election is Tuesday — or at least the final day of voting in the election season that has inspired extraordinary levels of engagement in both parties and shattered records for early voting.

As of Sunday, more than 10.5 million Californians had already voted, and more than 93 million Americans had already cast their ballots nationwide, according to data from the nonpartisan tracker U.S. Elections Project.

Here in deep-blue California — which hasn’t gone for a Republican in a presidential election in more than three decades — the state’s 55 electoral college votes are all but guaranteed for Joe Biden.


But there are plenty of major races still up for grabs in California, including expensive battles over numerous statewide propositions, a handful of contentious House races and a slew of fiercely fought local races up and down the state. Here are a few highlights:

  • A look at California’s November ballot propositions: the key issues behind the 12 statewide propositions on the ballot. Los Angeles Times
  • California’s Republican Party is fighting to hold onto a congressional seat in a large suburban swath north of Los Angeles. The 25th Congressional District briefly turned blue with former Rep. Katie Hill’s election in 2018, but after her 2019 resignation, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia won the May special election to fill her seat. His November race against Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith is widely viewed as a toss-up. Los Angeles Times
  • What to know about the L.A. County district attorney’s race: The battle between incumbent Jackie Lacey and challenger George Gascón has become one of the most closely watched local races in the nation, characterized by many as a referendum on criminal justice reform after a summer of protests against police brutality. Los Angeles Times
  • With L.A. in a budget crisis, the two candidates running to succeed L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson offer very different credentials. L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and attorney Grace Yoo both say they have the experience and qualifications to tackle the revenue shortfall, but they have deeply divergent relationships with the city’s political establishment. Los Angeles Times
  • How Sacramento’s “strong mayor” ballot measure would change the city: Sacramento’s Measure A has been a topic of fierce debate. Sacramento Bee

Let’s be honest. What Wednesday through Sunday will look like, more generally speaking, is anyone’s guess. It’s very possible that the results of the costliest and most contentious presidential election in modern American history will remain an open question on Wednesday morning, and into the week.

With an unprecedented number of Americans voting by mail amid an ongoing pandemic, the timing of results could depend on when ballots are due and when they can be counted in certain battleground states. (Here’s a rundown of which states you should be watching for answers, and their rules on when ballots can be processed.)

[See also: “Is the election over when it’s over? Fears Trump vs. Biden could go into overtime” in the Los Angeles Times]

Of course, that uncertainty extends far beyond the actual results. In a surreal year already defined by unprecedented disruption, many fear election-related violence and potential unrest.

And as my colleague Mark Z. Barabak writes, a blizzard of preelection lawsuits challenging who can vote and how ballots are counted and President Trump’s refusal to unreservedly say he will accept an unfavorable outcome have added to the tensions suffusing what has been a notably vicious campaign.

[See also: “How embattled police plan to guard polling stations on election day” in the Los Angeles Times]

On Sunday, while speaking in Dubuque, Iowa, Trump again raised his groundless assertion that the race should be called on election night, which would mean not counting tens of millions of legitimate ballots.

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

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


“COVID-19 has made this the saddest Day of the Dead in Los Angeles.” Angelenos are observing Día de los Muertos during a global pandemic that has devastated Latino communities everywhere. Los Angeles Times

A woman next to an art installation
Consuelo G. Flores next to an altar she designed for the Dia de los Muertos exhibition at Self Help Graphics & Art. “The Roots of All Resistance, 2020" is for Black and Latino COVID victims and has six sets of roots with 13 photos on each set.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

“I definitely feel like a minority.” Beverly Hills is an unlikely outpost for Trump supporters. Los Angeles Times

A video intended to lure athletic recruits to USC was pulled over its “insensitive” tone. The video showed unmasked Trojans players and coaches attending a fake premiere and Hollywood Hills pool party. Deadline

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Traveling with President Trump is a cognitive dissonance carnival: A White House reporter reflects on five years of covering Trump. Los Angeles Times

GOP increasingly worried about losing Senate control: To seize the majority, Democrats would have to pick up three seats, or four if Trump is reelected. Los Angeles Times

California Democrats are hoping to expand their state Legislature supermajority on Tuesday. “The majority party is on the offense this year, targeting statehouse seats in historically conservative areas of Southern California.” CapRadio

The Gen Z factor: Youth voter turnout is way up in California. What does that mean for close races? Sacramento Bee


A British court ruled Monday against Johnny Depp in his libel case against the owner of the Sun tabloid, which labeled the Oscar-nominated actor a “wife beater.” Associated Press


Oceano Dunes has reopened to vehicles after a months-long closure because of the coronavirus and a threatened bird species nesting in the area. Central Coast dune riders are “ecstatic,” while others are “disappointed” by the choice to reopen. San Luis Obispo Tribune


God, masks and Trump: What a coronavirus outbreak at a California church says about the election. Los Angeles Times

“You can feel the tension.” In red California, the election tests friendships and worsens divisions. Los Angeles Times

Big Sur countercultural institution Esalen reopens after a bruising seven-month hiatus, albeit with some modifications. (The center’s longtime “hippie buffet” has been pieced out into to-go boxes and the famed baths are now one person to a pool.) San Francisco Chronicle

A poem to start your week: “Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver. Words for the Year

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Los Angeles: sunny, 80. San Diego: sunny, 75. San Francisco: sunny, 73. San Jose: sunny, 82. Fresno: sunny, 82. Sacramento: sunny, 82. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Activist and former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick (Nov. 3, 1987), L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (Nov. 6, 1954), journalist and former California First Lady Maria Shriver (Nov. 6, 1955), Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang (Nov. 6, 1968) and singer Joni Mitchell (Nov. 7, 1943).

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.