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Newsletter: Reading the Super Tuesday tea leaves

Sen. Bernie Sanders  in Richmond, Calif.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign event on Feb. 17 in Richmond, Calif.
(Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Feb. 28, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

To the victor go the spoils, and in the case of the California Democratic primary, the bounty is large. At stake: 415 delegates in the state.

But the question of who will conquer California is starting to look less like a question and more like a foregone conclusion.

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According to the final UC Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies poll of the contest, which was released Friday morning by The Times, Sen. Bernie Sanders has taken a commanding lead in the state’s Democratic presidential race, and is ahead of his nearest rival by 2 to 1.

[Read the story: “Bernie Sanders holds 2-1 lead in California” in the Los Angeles Times]

As my colleague Washington bureau chief David Lauter writes in his story, that Sanders lead helps explain why his rivals have done most of their recent campaigning elsewhere among the 14 states that vote in the March 3 Super Tuesday contests.

“Their schedules tacitly admit that they don’t expect to catch Sanders here, in a state with one of the nation’s most liberal Democratic primary electorates,” Lauter writes.

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What else can we learn from this final poll?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who led the state just a few months ago, has fallen to a far second place, with 17% to Sanders’ 34% share of support in the poll. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now pulling up third in the California horse race, with 12% . After he spent tens of millions on advertising here, his support has doubled since the last Berkeley poll in January, but it remains below a critical threshold to win delegates statewide. Bloomberg is closely followed by former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 11%.

And what of former Vice President Joe Biden, who was once a frontrunner in the state and beyond? After sacrificing significant support among older, moderate voters to Bloomberg, Biden has fallen to fifth place in the state, with 8%.

Lauter attributes Sanders’ big lead to three overlapping constituencies: the most liberal wing of the party, Latino voters and younger voters. As the story notes, Latinos make up a quarter of the likely electorate for the primary, and Sanders now commands half the Latino vote in the state.

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

The latest on the coronavirus:

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom said there are no plans to declare a statewide emergency, despite several California communities having declared local emergencies. He also said that California is working with federal officials to expand the testing of possible coronavirus patients. Los Angeles Times
  • In Washington, lawmakers pressed health officials about preparations for a potential public health crisis. Senior Trump administration officials told Congress on Thursday they are speeding distribution of testing kits to better assess the risk of a widespread outbreak in the United States, but assurances from the secretary of Health and Human Services did not quell lawmakers’ criticisms. Los Angeles Times
  • Three UC Davis students are under 14-day isolation as one awaits test results related to the new strain of coronavirus after showing mild symptoms, officials said Thursday. Los Angeles Times

Regulators slammed USC’s handling of sex abuse allegations as “shocking and reprehensible.” The U.S. Department of Education ordered changes to operations and three years of federal monitoring after it said the university failed to protect students. Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

Meet Anne Litt: KCRW’s new music director is the first woman in the influential job. Los Angeles Times

Big spending from outside groups bolsters L.A. City Hall incumbents and favorites. Independent expenditure committees are not allowed to coordinate with the candidates or their campaigns, but can raise and spend unlimited amounts to support their chosen candidates, making them a muscular force in local elections. Los Angeles Times

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At the edge of the red carpet, an encounter with an angry ex, weeks of fear and then death: What led to Hollywood sex therapist Amie Harwick’s death? Her ex-boyfriend Gareth Pursehouse now stands accused of killing her. Los Angeles Times

How Northgate became L.A.’s best Mexican supermarket — and how it plans to stay on top. Los Angeles Times

A variety of ceviche is available at the raw bar inside Northgate.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The eyebrow is no longer just a thing to be maintained. It is the latest big beauty focus, a blank canvas for creativity and fuel for a global billion-dollar industry. Los Angeles Times

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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

The Justice Department has created a “denaturalization” section in its immigration office to strip citizenship rights from naturalized immigrants. The move “gives more heft to the Trump administration’s broad efforts to remove from the country immigrants who have committed crimes.” New York Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Police have repeatedly been called for late-night protests led by Bernie Sanders supporters outside the homes of Democratic Party officials and California lawmakers, including Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s home. The Sanders campaign has condemned the protests, with a senior advisor saying, “This conduct is completely unacceptable.” Politico

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It turns out that repeatedly hauling a giant stuffed rodent down to the House floor is a surprisingly effective tactic for moving legislation through Congress. A measure to help eradicate invasive swamp rats known as nutria from California passed the U.S. House — and on the day of the vote, Rep. Josh Harder (D-Turlock) once again brought a taxidermied nutria he calls Nellie to the House floor. Los Angeles Times

[Previously: “Swamp rats have invaded California. A Central Valley Democrat is declaring war” in the Los Angeles Times]

San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia has been accused of creating a hostile workplace environment by a third former employee. Valdivia has called the women’s allegations “false” and “politically driven.” San Bernardino Sun

Efforts to establish a public bank for the Central Coast are underway. A state bill signed in October by Gov. Newsom allows California cities and counties to establish public banks, making California only the second U.S. state to allow such institutions. Monterey County Weekly

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CRIME AND COURTS

Thursday made for an eventful day in the college admissions scandal that has riveted the nation: A judge set an Oct. 5 start date for a blockbuster trial featuring Lori Loughlin and other parents charged with defrauding USC, and notes emerged showing Singer had written that his FBI handlers wanted him “to bend the truth” and tell his clients that payments they made to his charity were bribes, not donations to university athletic programs. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The heat wave in Southern California could rewrite record books, forecasters say. But Friday should be a few degrees cooler than Thursday, and by Saturday, the mercury is expected to drop by about 10 degrees — into the low 70s — for much of the Southland. Los Angeles Times

The Carson refinery where an explosive fire broke out Tuesday was recently cited for workplace safety violations. The location is the West Coast’s largest oil refinery. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Where should an immigrant spend eternity? Some Mexicans who immigrate to the U.S. and make their lives in California still choose to be returned to Mexico as their final resting place. Los Angeles Times

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Before “American Dirt,” a 1980s literary hoax tested the limits of authenticity. “Famous All Over Town,” a novel set on the streets of L.A.'s Eastside, gripped readers with its depiction of barrio life. But it turns out reclusive Latino author “Danny Santiago” didn’t exist. The book had actually been written by a 70-year-old Yale-educated non-Mexican. Los Angeles Times

For first-rate Filipino food, try this grocery store in the Inland Empire. The cooking usually starts around sunrise at Greenhills Market & Fast Food in the city of Ontario. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: cloudy, 78. San Diego: cloudy, 66. San Francisco: partly cloudy, 66. San Jose: cloudy, 76. Fresno: partly sunny, 81. Sacramento: cloudy, 74. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Amber Kong:

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When I was growing up, my family crossed the Bay Bridge to Colma for Ching Ming. We paid respect to our ancestors with fruits, flowers, tea and wine. The smell of incense and sound of firecrackers surrounded the hills. After the ceremony, we headed to Chinatown to shop for fresh seafood and vegetables (our weekly ritual). My siblings and I would wait for our parents at Fah Yuen Benevolent Assn. There, we spotted relatives and neighbors from the old village. Nowadays, I miss the clacking sounds of mahjong tiles interspersed with Cantonese opera on the TV.

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.


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