Essential California Week in Review: A week of waiting

People wearing masks stand in a long line on sidewalk outside a community center
Voters wait in line to cast their ballots Tuesday at the Cesar Chavez Community Center in Riverside.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Nov. 7.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

The waiting is the hardest part. The week began with boarded-up windows and worries of unrest. But though election day came and went quietly, the mood in California and across the country remained on a knife-edge with no clear answers.

A fluke or a shift? In a year dominated by massive street protests over racial injustice and wrenching losses from the pandemic, Los Angeles voters backed a slate of progressive candidates and measures. The question now is whether the leftward push is the beginning of a larger realignment.

Criminal justice reform wins big. Voters gave a big boost to that reform movement, with some key measures ahead. Among the biggest successes: Progressive candidate George Gascón went from barely surviving his primary to being elected L.A. County’s next district attorney.

How the ballot measures get made. Voters waded through a dozen propositions covering a variety of complicated policy ideas. Most were carefully crafted by powerful interest groups, often as much a solution to their problems as addressing an urgent public need.

How did all those measures do, anyway? The 2020 season of them was unlike any other, drawing more than $785 million from interest groups to lobby voters in one of the most expensive years ever. And the results were mixed. There’s counting still to come, but here’s where things stand on the biggest ones:

  • Proposition 16, which would have allowed affirmative action policies in California, was rejected. Los Angeles Times
  • Proposition 17 was approved. It restores the vote to some 50,000 parolees by changing the state Constitution. Los Angeles Times
  • Proposition 21, which would have allowed for the expansion of rent control statewide, was rejected. Los Angeles Times
  • Proposition 22, Uber and Lyft’s $200-million campaign to keep drivers as independent contractors was successful — a blow to labor unions. Los Angeles Times
  • Proposition 25 was rejected. The measure would have abolished California’s cash bail system. Los Angeles Times

Check out the rest of the California results here.

There is no “Latino vote.” When it became clear that the election would not be a resounding victory for Biden, an angst-ridden question arose: Why didn’t more Latinos vote for Biden? But Latino communities across California and the country say they’re not a monolith and are tired of being treated like one.

Sinking grades and feelings. Anxiety, Ds and Fs have all risen among middle and high school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, in a troubling sign of the toll that distance learning — and the coronavirus crisis — is taking on children.

Relief for fire victims. With parts of California still smoldering, the state Department of Insurance has issued a one-year moratorium barring insurers from canceling or refusing to renew about 2.1 million homeowners’ policies.

Enjoying this newsletter?

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a Times subscriber.


1. This Generation Z gig worker ran for office. Now he’s California’s youngest legislator. Los Angeles Times

2. A Korean “national treasure” was found at a Fresno estate sale. Now it’s back at a museum in Korea. Fresno Bee

3. 2020 California election results. Los Angeles Times

4. Celebrities deployed sex appeal to get out the vote, from thirst trap Instagram posts to political ads featuring nudity and innuendo. The Hollywood Reporter

5. “Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver. Words for the Year

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Local campaign officials are becoming election-week celebrities. They’re too busy to notice. Washington Post

A nameless hiker and the case the internet can’t crack. The man on the trail went by “Mostly Harmless.” He was friendly and said he worked in tech. After he died in his tent, no one could figure out who he was. Wired

“For the last four years, reporters and politicos have descended upon my native Orange County like detectives at a murder scene.” Columnist Gustavo Arellano on the shifting politics of his Southern California homeland. Los Angeles Times

Poem of the week: “A Supermarket in California” by Allen Ginsberg.

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. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)