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Studying for the California primary? Our voter guides are here to help

A hand reaches to pull an "I voted" sticker from a packet.
A voter receives their sticker at International City Masonic Center in Long Beach on Nov, 8, 2022.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning. It’s Friday, Feb. 9. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

Studying for the California primary? Our voter guides are here to help

In less than a month, super Tuesday will bring out millions of voters across more than a dozen U.S. states to determine the November runoff races — or in some cases, elect candidates outright. California is among the participating states, though polling places will likely be less crowded given our vote-by-mail standard.

Democracy relies on public participation — and ideally that public is informed on the candidates and measures. But there’s an ongoing disappointment in some corners with political discourse and media coverage that frame elections more as horse races than a vital civic action with potentially life-changing consequences for everyday people.

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In December I spoke with Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, about what he believes more news organizations should strive to deliver for voters: a “citizens agenda” that turns the attention from the political class to the electorate. The core of that approach is to ask:

What do you want the candidates to be talking about as they compete for votes?

In that spirit, I put versions of that question to newsletter readers. Hundreds of you shared what matters to you as California voters. We’re exploring your responses and planning more voter-centered editions in the coming weeks and months. But I wanted to highlight a few common themes emerging from your submissions so far.

Homelessness and the housing crisis that contributes to it, is a top concern from readers, who wanted candidates to identify real solutions.
“It is embarrassing for California that we can not get this under control even after spending huge amounts of money,” Orange County resident Sandra D. wrote. “I want detailed plans and bold actions that are not temporary fixes (like hotel rooms).”

More than a quarter of the responses we’ve received so far mentioned meaningful action on climate change as a key concern they want candidates to address. Robin B., of Santa Clara, wants those seeking public office to do a better job explaining “how climate change goals and regulations are actually connected to plans for improving jobs and the economy.”

Dozens of readers emphasized their concern about the state of democracy itself at a time of intense polarization.

“I’d like to see candidates prioritize fairness, integrity and honest concern for their fellow citizens,” Claremont resident David R. shared. “Our country’s trajectory of ‘hate everyone who isn’t exactly like me’ is a recipe for disaster and the eventual end of our democracy. Democracy is a compromise, not a winner-take-all proposition.”

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By the way, our survey is still open and we hope you’ll take a few minutes to share what you want those seeking political power this election season to address and prioritize as they compete for your vote.

In the meantime, our newsroom has been hard at work handcrafting dozens of primary guides to help voters in Los Angeles and across the state understand how candidates align (or not) on issues they care about. Times reporters asked the various candidates how they would respond to major issues affecting the communities they seek to represent — including housing and homelessness, state budget woes, healthcare, education and public safety.

A good chunk of the guides are centered on L.A. city and county (this is the L.A. Times, after all). But my colleagues have also published guides on state and U.S. congressional races, including some in Orange and San Diego counties, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley.

Wondering what Proposition 1 — Gov. Newsom’s bid to reconfigure state mental health spending — would actually do (and who’s for and against it?). There’s a guide for that.

Not sure how to choose between a former Dodger and three prominent, stance-similar Democrats who are vying for the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat? Brush up here.

You can explore all of our guides to study up before your democratic assignment is due on March 5. 🗳️

Today’s top stories

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Four years after his death, Kobe Bryant still lives.
(Supe Koolphanich / For The Times)
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Kobe Bryant statue

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California storm

Crime and courts

Climate and environment

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Commentary and opinions

Today’s great reads

A man poses for a photo while standing inside of a pool
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Usher brings romance to the biggest stage in America: The Super Bowl. Recently, the R&B icon’s run of sold-out Vegas residencies, a new album and headlining the Super Bowl halftime show have sparked renewed admiration from veteran and young fans alike.


How can we make this newsletter more useful? Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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For your downtime

The red, green, and yellow wings and the green chutney (bottom) and habanero (top) pijjas at Pijja Palace in Los Angeles
The red, green, and yellow wings and the green chutney (bottom) and habanero (top) pijjas at Pijja Palace in Los Angeles.
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)

Going out

Staying in

And finally ... a great photo

Show us your favorite place in California! Send us photos you have taken of spots in California that are special — natural or human-made — and tell us why they’re important to you.

A man smokes a joint at the newly reopened Cannabis Cafe
Fredrick Marshall smokes a joint at the newly reopened Cannabis Cafe in Los Angeles. It was the first consumption lounge to open in 2019 and then closed for three years during the pandemic.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Today’s great photo is from Times photographer Dania Maxwell at the newly reopened OG Cannabis Cafe, the first consumption lounge in the L.A. area. It opened in 2019 and then closed for nearly four years. Frederick Marshall, pictured, says he’s been stopping by the cafe “about five times a week” since it reopened.

Have a great day, from the Essential California team

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Ryan Fonseca, reporter
Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor
Stephanie Chavez, deputy metro editor

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