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    Two Visions of America by Don Jans

    How California is dealing with 3 elections at once


    Emily Hoeven  EMILY HOEVEN

    Most of the remaining loose ends from California’s Nov. 8 election were tied up Monday — though at least one especially close race appears to remain unresolved and election battles from 2020 and 2024 continue to intensify.

    First, Democrat Christy Holstege conceded her bid for an open state Assembly seat stretching across Riverside and San Bernardino counties to Republican Greg Wallis, who was promptly sworn into office. A mere 87 votes separated the two candidates — making it one of the closest Assembly races in history — and although Holstege had previously said she was considering asking for a recount, she backed away from that Monday.

    • Holstege said in a statement: “It is clear that by the very thinnest of margins, we have fallen just short of victory, coming the closest this district has ever come to electing a Democrat to State Assembly. With slightly better turn out, we would have flipped this district blue. … If anybody ever tells you their vote doesn’t count, tell them about this Assembly race.”

    Theoretically, the contours of the state Legislature are now complete — and not much has changed, with Democrats still holding roughly 3 out of 4 seats in both the Assembly and Senate. But, even though Democratic incumbent Melissa Hurtado of Bakersfield was sworn into the state Senate over the weekend after coming out 20 votes ahead of Republican David Shepard, the race has yet to reach a full resolution.

    Shepard’s campaign over the weekend said it was assessing whether to ask for a recount, a stance that hadn’t changed Monday, according to campaign spokesperson Ryan Gardiner. But Gardiner said the campaign is first trying to address another issue: ballot curing, the process of allowing voters to fix their mail-in ballots if they made a mistake.

    • Shepard said in a Saturday statement“Several members of my team were personally told by employees of the Fresno Registrar of Voters that the deadline to cure ballots had been extended. Our team continued to cure ballots until the provided deadline and they were accepted by the Fresno ROV, therefore we fully expect the Fresno ROV to count those ballot cures. Until this matter is further clarified from Fresno County, my resolve will remain the same.”

    Even as next moves in that race remain murky, another election-related matter cleared up: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined a last-ditch bid from the tobacco industry to block California’s law banning the sale of certain flavored tobacco products, which is set to go into effect next week after voters upheld it by an overwhelming margin in November. The tobacco industry had already secured a two-year pause on the law by qualifying the referendum for the ballot, an increasingly common move among business groups.

    Meanwhile, other referendum battles loom on the horizon: I’ve learned that today, oil industry groups will announce having submitted 978,000 signatures to county elections officials to overturn a new state law banning new oil and gas wells near homes, schools and hospitals. They need 623,212 valid signatures to qualify a referendum for the 2024 ballot; some Californians have accused them of using illegal signature-gathering tactics.

    • Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association, the group leading the referendum effort, said in a statement: “California-produced oil is the most climate-compliant oil in the world. … But by strangling our domestic supply, Governor Newsom is promoting greater greenhouse gas emissions generated in other parts of the world and making our gasoline more expensive.”

    And California still isn’t done with the 2020 election. Today, a San Francisco state appeals court is set to hear arguments in a case appealing a ruling that declared unconstitutional Proposition 22, a voter-approved measure that exempts Uber, Lyft and other gig-economy companies from a controversial state labor law requiring them to classify their workers as employees rather than independent contractors. Gig workers are set to rally in front of the courthouse both in favor of and in opposition to the measure.


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