9 min read

Wake Up To Politics - June 7, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, June 7, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 154 days away. Election Day 2024 is 882 days away.

Democrats wrestle with crime politics in California contests

Today is the most crowded day on the 2022 primary calendar, with voters in six states — California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota — headed to the polls to pick their general election nominees for November.

But the two most closely watched races of the day will both be in California. Without any major Senate or gubernatorial races on the ballot, they are a pair of local races that could nevertheless have national implications.

One is the Democratic primary for mayor of Los Angeles; the other is a recall campaign against the San Francisco district attorney. In both races, frustrations about crime and homelessness in Democratic-run cities threaten to set back the progressive wing of the party.

In the LA mayor’s race, the two leading candidates are Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and billionaire real estate tycoon Rick Caruso.

Bass is an avowed progressive who has served in Congress since 2011; before that, she was the speaker of the California state Assembly. Bass is also a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus who was on the short list to be President Biden’s running mate in 2020.

While she is a longtime Democratic leader, Caruso is newer to the party: he was a Republican as recently as three years ago, before switching his party registration to become an Independent in 2019 and then finally joining the Democratic fold in January of this year. He even sits on the board of the Ronald Reagan presidential library, an unlikely credential in a Democratic race.

Bass was the clear frontrunner for much of the year, but Caruso appears have closed the gap in the race’s final weeks: a UC Berkley-Los Angeles Times poll out this week showed Bass at 38% and Caruso at 32%. If neither candidate receives more than 50% of the vote today, as is expected, the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff election in November.

Karen Bass was the clear LA mayoral frontrunner, but the race has recently tightened. (Flickr)

Much of Caruso’s rise (he polled at just 8% in February) has been attributed to his self-funded barrage of advertising: he has poured nearly $40 million of his own money into the campaign. Bass, on the other hand, has spent about $3.2 million.

This being LA, the race has also seen a slew of celebrity endorsements, with Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian, and Katy Perry lining up behind Caruso, while Ariana Grande, Jennifer Aniston, and Donald Glover have backed Bass.

Meanwhile in San Francisco, district attorney Chesa Boudin could lose his job in a recall election that polls show he is a likely to lose.

The recall represents a fast change of fortunes for Boudin, who was elected to the post in 2019 as part of a wave of reform-minded DAs who gained prominence across the country. Indeed, Boudin has made several changes to the criminal justice system while in office: according to the Los Angeles Times, he has “refused to seek the death penalty or try juveniles as adults, significantly reduced the use of sentencing enhancements, and sought to push people accused of low-level crimes fueled by drug addiction into treatment instead of a jail cell.”

While those reforms once seemed to have the backing of San Francisco voters, anxiety about crime rates has sunk Boudin’s support; he’s also faced questions about his personal background, as a former translator for Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chávez and the son of members of the Weather Underground, a radical left-wing group.

San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin faces an uphill fight in a recall battle. (Boudin campaign)

Crime has figured prominently in both California races. Overall crime rates may not be as high as their 1990s-era levels in either San Francisco or Los Angeles, but the latter recorded recorded a 15-year high of homicides in 2021, with an increase of more than 50% since 2019, before the pandemic.

In San Francisco, homicides have not seen such a dramatic uptick, but Boudin opponents have seized on a “pervasive feeling that quality of life in San Francisco has deteriorated,” per the New York Times, citing a 45% increase in burglaries from 2019 to 2021. Homelessness has also reached crisis levels across California, further fueling voter frustrations.

Just as the crime and homelessness levels have been key issues in the recall campaign, Caruso has centered them in his race against Bass in LA: a former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, he has called for hiring 1,500 new police officers, while Bass has proposed moving 250 police officers from desk jobs onto the streets (a position that led to clashing with her progressive allies).

If the recall campaign in San Francisco and Caruso in Los Angeles both post strong showings tonight, it will be further evidence that Democratic leaders face unease about crime from within their base, a national trend also seen in Eric Adams’ mayoral victory in New York City last year.

Fueled by self-funding and celebrity endorsements, Rick Caruso has risen in the Democratic primary for LA mayor. (Caruso campaign)

Other primaries to watch today:

  • Two Republican House members from California, Young Kim and David Valadao, face primary challenges from the right flank that could complicate their party’s chances at holding their swing seats in November.
  • Ryan Zinke, who served as Interior Secretary in the Trump administration, is seeking to return to politics with a campaign for Montana’s new House seat.
  • Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has been promoting his son, Rob Menendez Jr., in a New Jersey congressional primary, leading to charges of nepotism.

More news you should know

President Biden announced a suite of new climate actions on Monday, including a two-year suspension of tariffs on solar panels from some countries in order to boost the solar industry. He also invoked the Defense Production Act to spur domestic production of clean energy.

  • What’s next: Per the Wall Street Journal, it’s now expected that Biden won’t announce his plans on forgiving student loan debt until July or August.

The Supreme Court issued three opinions on Monday, including siding with a Southwest Airlines employee seeking to avoid forced arbitration. The justices also declined to hear a case from the St. Louis couple who pointed their guns at Black Lives Matter protesters.

  • Mark your calendars: The next Supreme Court opinions are due out on Wednesday, with high-profile rulings on abortion, guns, and other key issues still to come.
British PM Boris Johnson survived a vote of no confidence — but political perils remain. (Andrew Parsons / No. 10 Downing Street)

Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, and four other members of the far-right group were charged with seditious conspiracy for actions related to the January 6 attack.

British prime minister Boris Johnson survived a vote of no confidence on Monday, although he remains badly bruised by reporters that he held a string of parties when the UK was supposed to be under Covid lockdown, a scandal that’s been dubbed “Partygate.”

Jessica Cisneros is seeking a recount in the Democratic primary for Texas’ 28th congressional district, with the latest count showing her trailing Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) — the last anti-abortion Democrat in the House — by 187 votes.

The U.S. military is investigating whether it was an American service member who set off explosives at a U.S. base in Syria, in an attack that injured four service members.

What’s going on in government today

All times Eastern.

President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10 a.m. Then, at 2:45 p.m., he’ll sign these nine bills into law. All of them are related to veterans, and they all passed with bipartisan support:

  • S. 2533 and S. 2102 will expand access to mammograms and breast cancer treatment for veterans.
  • S. 2687 gives subpoena power to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ inspector general.
  • S. 4089 will ensure veterans who spend their retraining assistance dollars at institutions that shut down (such as fraudulent for-profit colleges) are able to recoup the benefits to use at another institution.
  • S. 4119 extends a program that compensates Americans who developed cancer after exposure to radiation from atomic weapons testing or uranium mining
  • S. 1872 will award the Congressional Gold Medal to the U.S. Army Rangers Veterans of World War II.
  • S. 3527, S. 1760, and S. 2514 all deal with naming of VA facilities, including renaming a clinic in Hawaii for former Sen. Daniel Akaka.

Vice President Harris is in Los Angeles. She’ll host a roundtable at 5:15 p.m. with female business executives, entrepreneurs, and civil society leaders to discuss women’s economic empowerment in northern Central America, and then deliver remarks at 6:20 p.m. on the same topic.

Finally, she’ll host a roundtable with business executives at 7 p.m., during which she’ll announce new private sector investments in northern Central America. Harris has adopted the U.S. relationship with Central America as a key issue in her portfolio.

First Lady Biden will travel to Los Angeles to deliver the keynote address for the Los Angeles City College’s Class of 2022 commencement ceremony at 8 p.m.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing at 1:45 p.m.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will likely face tough questions on inflation as she testifies before a Senate panel today. (Office of Sen. Mark Warner)

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and then vote at 11:30 a.m. on confirmation of a nominee to be Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, followed by a procedural vote to advance H.R. 3967, which will extend VA health care and benefits to veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service.

After the vote, the chamber will recess until 2:15 p.m. while each party holds their weekly caucus lunches. Then, at 4 p.m., the Senate will vote to confirm nominees for the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Homeland Security.

The House will convene at 2 p.m. and vote under “suspension of the rules” later in the afternoon on 12 pieces of legislation, which cover topics including small businesses, water development, and drug policy.

Congressional committee hearings include a Senate Judiciary hearing on domestic terrorism, with testimony from the son of a Buffalo shooting victim, and a Senate Finance hearing with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Both hearings are set for 10 a.m.

Yellen is sure to face a slew of questions on inflation — especially in light of a new book that reports she urged Biden to shrink his Covid relief package to avoid a surge in prices, a warning he did not heed (and she denies having given).

The Supreme Court has nothing on tap today.

The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee will meet at 8:30 a.m. to discuss authorization of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Novavax, a more traditional shot which has been anxiously awaited by some Americans who can’t or won’t take the mRNA vaccines that have already been approved.

Links to watch for yourself: Biden bill signing ceremonyWH briefingSenate sessionHouse sessionDomestic terrorism hearingYellen hearingFDA meeting

Before I go...

Here’s something outside of the political realm that I found interesting:

The United Kingdom kicked off the world’s largest trial of a four-day work week on Monday.

The six-month trial involves 3,300 workers across 70 companies — who will receive 100% of their pay while only working 80% of their usual week. The test will be whether they maintain 100% of their productivity as well.

As the idea has picked up steam during the pandemic, a previous trial in Iceland found that employees who worked a four-day week showed consistent or even increased productivity — while also experiencing a dramatic increase in their well-being.

Here’s more via CNN.

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe