Newsletter: Why the idea of a ‘home state’ paper in California is absurd

California is vast.  It contains multitudes.
(Dreamstime / TNS)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Jan. 22, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, Newsweek published a much-shared article with the following headline: “Devin Nunes’ home state newspaper says Republican ‘has betrayed the truth and, quite possibly, betrayed our country.’ ”

The headline was not inaccurate. A day prior, the Sacramento Bee had released a blistering editorial about Rep. Nunes (R-Tulare) and his involvement in the Ukraine scandal. And the Sacramento Bee is, of course, located in the same state as the Central Valley district that Nunes represents in Congress.


But the absurdity was in the framing, and the meaningless designation of the Bee as Nunes’ “home state” newspaper. That absurdity — and how well it illustrates the way California differs from so many other states — is what makes the headline worth discussing.

There are plenty of places where an editorial board whipping from the newspaper of record in a state’s capital city would indicate deep trouble, or at least brewing discontent, at home for a congressman. But California isn’t one of them. (For confirmation, look no further than the pages of the Visalia Times Delta in Nunes’ home county of Tulare, where the headline of a recent story declared that “As Nunes’ Ukraine scandal grows, Tulare congressman still has strong local support” and a guest column about how Nunes “deserves an apology from the news media” was trending Tuesday in the opinion section.)

This is a state so big that there have been at least 220 recorded attempts to break it up. There are nearly 40 million people here, sprawled across distinct geographic regions that are home to often discordant values and beliefs. Northern California is a very different place from Southern California, and the coastal regions of both can feel like a universe away from parts of the Central Valley.

To put it simply, California is a place where the idea of “home state” anything is hard to comprehend, and even harder to sell.

We’ve seen this play out in myriad ways over the years, but one interesting and recent example is Sen. Kamala Harris’ failed presidential bid. In an astute piece published a few months before Harris dropped out of the race, my colleague Mark Z. Barabak looked at why Harris was flailing in California, and what it meant for her campaign.

Sure, there were plenty of broader issues with her campaign, but part of the problem was California itself.

Barabak wrote that “as other presidential hopefuls have painfully learned, there is no such thing in California as a home-state advantage.” Not in a place this vast and varied, with so much competing for attention at all times. (Contrast that with a state like Vermont, where former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean won the 2004 Democratic primary even after dropping out of the race, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders carried every county in the state during the 2016 primary.)

And the Harris example is, of course, just limited to the state’s Democratic wing. But as California grows increasingly blue, the state’s few conservative strongholds remain culturally and politically distinct. Tulare is a very different place from Sacramento, and one that doesn’t necessarily care what Sacramento thinks.

Not too long ago, I was talking to an elected official in a California city far from the coast (or, for that matter, the state Capitol). With a laugh, he told me that he didn’t worry about a paper like The Los Angeles Times taking a critical eye toward his policies. In fact, he said he hoped it would — that would play great for him at home.

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

California could become America’s sports betting capital as rival groups eye the November ballot: Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court removed legal barriers to sports betting, California voters could be asked in November to join 14 other states in allowing legal wagers on athletic contests, creating a lucrative industry worth billions of dollars and intense competition among rival gambling interests in the state. Los Angeles Times

In an overtly partisan start to the third presidential impeachment trial in American history, Senate Republicans on Tuesday repeatedly brushed aside Democratic proposals to subpoena witnesses and documents. Los Angeles Times


The latest example of change for Hollywood’s talent representation industry: Creative Artists Agency has created a new leadership structure with an 11-person board to chart the company’s future. Six of the 11 members are women. Los Angeles Times

Former Grammys boss Deborah Dugan accused the Recording Academy of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and financial misconduct in a complaint filed to EEOC. In the complaint, she also revealed an allegation she claims was known to the academy’s Board of Trustees that her predecessor, Neil Portnow, allegedly raped an unidentified “foreign” female recording artist. Los Angeles Times

Hollywood is again bracing for a writers’ strike. Here’s what’s different. (The last strike began in fall of 2007 and lasted 100 days.) Los Angeles Times

The all-time leading scorer of the Mexican national soccer team has joined the Galaxy. Welcome to L.A., Javier “Chicharito” Hernández. Los Angeles Times

Javier "Chicharito" Hernández has joined the L.A. Galaxy.

This architect built his 20-foot-wide house over a secret brook in the middle of L.A. Nearly a third of the home is suspended over the brook. Los Angeles Times


President Trump is considering an expansion of his 2017 travel ban: While at Davos, the president said that he planned to expand the current travel ban, although he did not specify which countries would be added. New York Times

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A fifth Calderon or a third Rubio sister? An inter-dynastic family feud takes shape in a working class corner of southeast Los Angeles. Politico

Cal State eyes postponing a vote to raise its math requirement: Chancellor Timothy White has delayed a vote on his proposal to require a fourth year of high school math for admission to the Cal State universities and will instead ask trustees this month to approve a year-long study of the initiative. Los Angeles Times

Want to join our journalists in a live chat during the an upcoming Democratic presidential debate? We’re selecting Times subscribers to join our politics reporters in a live chat that will be published online during an upcoming debate. Los Angeles Times


One person was killed in a stabbing near a Bakersfield high school. Two others were injured. Los Angeles Times


The “new normal” of fires and blackouts: The Napa Valley school district will build emergency closure days into its calendar starting with the 2020-21 academic year. Napa Valley Register

California considers declaring Tylenol’s key ingredient a carcinogen. Acetaminophen is one of the world’s most common over-the-counter drugs. Los Angeles Times


Salinas farmworkers make a home amid California’s housing crisis: Low wages and a stagnant housing market have pushed Salinas families to the margins. Advocates say the city’s low-income farmworker community bears the heaviest burden. Salinas Californian

Gustavo Arellano discovers a long-forgotten grave in Orange County — and the secrets it keeps. Alta

A viral clip of a Fresno State marching band member’s joyful cymbals performance is bringing national attention. Fresno Bee

Homeless but not friendless: How a Facebook group supports people on the streets. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles: partly sunny, 68. San Diego: partly sunny, 65. San Francisco: partly sunny, 58. San Jose: partly sunny, 61. Sacramento: partly sunny, 58. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Karen, who did not share her last name:

“In 1981, my dad and I picked up relatives from LAX and they wanted to see Hollywood. They were from the Arkansas and had not been to California before. As we drove down Hollywood Boulevard, they were very quiet and taking in everything. As we left Hollywood, one spoke up and said, ‘It wasn’t what I expected.’ My dad asked why and they said they imagined it to be cleaner. In those days, there was decay and dirty sex shops everywhere.”

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.