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Young(er) California politicians get a new shot at Congress?

Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington in March 2022.
Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington in March 2022.
(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, April 28.

Age may be nothing but a number, but among U.S. political leaders, that number tends to be in the 80s.

President Biden is the oldest commander-in-chief in history at 80 (and is running again). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is 81.

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But let’s look closer to home. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, 83, only gave up her leadership post last year. Then there is the much-discussed Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 89.

Feinstein, the oldest sitting U.S. senator, has been notably absent from the Capitol as she recovers from shingles. She announced last month that she won’t seek reelection in 2024, opening up a field of younger contenders, like the 62-year-old Rep. Adam B. Schiff.

Feinstein’s and Pelosi’s decades in politics affected generations of Americans. But now, with the 2024 election on the horizon and political dividing lines seemingly deeper than the Mariana Trench, California politicians who weren’t alive during World War II may finally have a shot at powerful leadership perches in Washington.

That “generational changing of the guard,” as The Times Sacramento Bureau Chief Laurel Rosenhall wrote this week, is slated to bring a “political change that could endure for decades.”

(Sign up for Laurel’s weekly newsletter here.)

That shift could also include the U.S. House of Representatives, should Pelosi decide not to seek reelection.

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Some younger Democrats have signaled a play for her seat. One is state Sen. Scott Wiener, 52, who formed an exploratory committee last month to raise money for a congressional run, should Pelosi decide to step down.

“Wiener is most comfortable seeking out the path of most resistance,” Times reporter Melanie Mason wrote this week. “His 13-year career in elected office can be viewed as a one-man experiment: How far can a politician go when he pushes all the boundaries at once?”

Should Pelosi leave the arena and Wiener run and win, he’d be the first openly gay person to represent San Francisco in Congress. And while he’s considered one of the left-most members in Sacramento, Melanie writes, he’s a moderate “by San Francisco standards,” adding:

“His alliances with Big Tech and real estate interests make him suspect among economic progressives, who accuse him of backing “trickle-down housing” and other policies that have perpetuated the city’s stark divide between the rich and poor.”

With the median age of Californians at about 37 — slightly below the national median of 38 — does it matter if our elected leaders are pushing 90? According to a 2022 CBS News poll, most Americans say yes. The poll found a majority of Americans across political and age divides support maximum age limits for elected officials.

When their current terms end, Feinstein and Pelosi will have served 33 years and 37 years in the U.S. Congress, respectively. And given the lack of term limits at the Capitol, their successors could also hold those California seats for decades to come.

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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.

L.A. STORIES

Ready for a Friday feel-good moment? Jonathan Cornejo needed $4,000 to attend his dream UC school. The Times profiled the 4.0 L.A. student’s plight, putting a face on the struggle thousands of California’s poorest students face. Over the next 48 hours, Times readers stepped in, donating thousands to him and a fellow student. Los Angeles Times

The eased restrictions on outdoor dining that keep L.A. restaurants in business during the pandemic are close to becoming permanent. The city’s Planning Commission approved an updated ordinance to keep the initially temporary program going and streamline the application process. The City Council is set to vote on the ordinance in the coming weeks. LAist

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

The city of San Diego is in talks to buy three hotels to house homeless people. The price tag would work out to about $383,000 per room. San Diego Union-Tribune

California Democrats moved to stall some bills aimed at addressing the fentanyl crisis, citing concerns about mass incarceration. Some lawmakers worried efforts to increase punishments on dealers of the highly lethal opioid could unfairly punish people who unknowingly give out a laced pill. San Francisco Chronicle

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CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING

Santa Monica police knew one of their civilian employees had been arrested as a teen for molesting a toddler, but still let him be youth volunteer. In that role, Eric Uller preyed on vulnerable children, sexually abusing more than 200. Los Angeles Times

A reckoning is underway in Antioch after violent, racist, homophobic and sexist text messages by the city’s police officers were made public. The texts from 17 officers over periods between 2019 through 2022 include threats of violence against the city’s Black mayor. NPR

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

State wildlife officials have confirmed California’s first COVID-19 case in a wild animal. The virus was detected in a mule deer killed in 2021. State and federal officials said they’ll work together to test more deer in the state. Los Angeles Times

Much of life returning to pre-pandemic patterns, but an estimated 1.5 million Californians continue to struggle with long COVID. Those facing the ill-defined and debilitating swath of symptoms haven’t received much support from doctors and policymakers. CalMatters

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

A mirrored cube sculpture shown at LACMA now has a second life as a sound studio. Times writer Carolina A. Miranda traced the sculpture’s path from a traveling museum piece to Craigslist’s “free stuff” section to a Pasadena backyard. Los Angeles Times

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AND FINALLY

Today’s California landmark is from Jim Hartmann of Altamonte Springs, Fla.: Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City.

A lighthouse sits on a rock formation jutting out of the ocean, with fog behind.
Battery Point Lighthouse, photographed in 2009.
(Jim Hartmann)

Jim writes:

[It] began shining its Fresnel lens in 1856. The first official light keeper was Theophilus Magruder and it was automated in 1953. Beautiful views abound in Crescent Harbor.

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special spot in California — natural or human-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Please be sure to include only photos taken directly by you. Your submission could be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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