Monday, January 30, 2023

'FRUIT STOPS' SHOULD SCREEN OUT EXPANDED-MAGAZINE GUNS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2023 OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “'FRUIT STOPS' SHOULD SCREEN OUT EXPANDED-MAGAZINE GUNS”

     Many Californians feel perplexed in the wake of several mass shootings this state endured in January, two by senior citizens who targeted dozens of innocents and killed at least 18. Only the bravery of an Alhambra dance hall manager prevented the carnage from becoming much worse.

 

        At least one gun used in the mass murders was illegal in California, the Cobray automatic repeating pistol with an expanded ammunition magazine and an apparently homemade sound suppresser wielded by Monterey Park shooter Huu Can Tran, 72, before he killed himself when cornered by police in Torrance, more than 28 miles from his crime scene.

.

        Guns and magazines like Tran’s often go undetected until they’re used in serious crimes. In part, this may be the result of a longstanding, misplaced state priority: the extreme underuse of border protection stations California built decades ago to shield agriculture from pests and diseases.

 

        Tran’s weapon cannot now be sold legally in California, but authorities reported he bought it in 1999, before expanded handgun magazines were outlawed here. No one knows when it entered the state.

 

        But the arrival and later misuse of many similar weapons in California very possibly could be prevented if state lawmakers cared enough. Most such guns enter the state in cars, trucks or RVs. It’s almost impossible for them to come here by air, as virtually all types of firearms are quickly detected by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wherever commercial planes take off.

 

        They could enter by train, but that is at least deterred by Amtrak’s random baggage inspections, even if they’re not as frequent and obtrusive as screening of airline  passengers.

 

        Gov. Gavin Newsom was clearly correct when he lamented that no matter how strong California gun laws become, they can be thwarted by folks who visit other states to buy weapons not available here.

 

        For sure, no background check anywhere would have ruled out a purchase by Tran, who had a clean record before spraying a dance hall with 42 fast-fired bullets.

 

        But there’s already that network of examining stations where vehicles could be inspected and illegal guns very possibly found and neutralized.

 

        So far, no one in power has thought to use the agricultural protection stations unique to California entry points for seeking out illegal weaponry. Rather, they exclusively examine fruits and vegetables before any are allowed into the state. Some vehicles are searched more thoroughly than others, but not for weapons. Without much controversy, inspectors look for weevils and other bugs that can decimate forests and fields.

 

        The stations sit on or beside inbound lanes near every major California entry point – along Interstate 80 at Truckee, on I-15 at Mountain Pass, on U.S. 101 near the Smith River, on State Route 139 at Tulelake, on I-5 at Hornbrook near the Oregon line, at Meyers on U.S. 50 and along interstates at Blythe and Needles near the Arizona border.

 

        Sure, anyone who’s determined can circumvent these points, but only with significant inconvenience. There are no stations (many call them “fruit stops’) along State Route 374 where cars from Nevada can enter California through Death Valley, nor on U.S. 95 south of Las Vegas or on State Route 167, where cars from Nevada can begin to cross over the Tioga Pass entry to Yosemite National Park, to name a few.

 

        The 16 current stations sometimes go unstaffed. But those wide open times are irregular and unpredictable for folks wanting to smuggle in weapons banned by California.

 

        These stations could quickly gear up to scan or screen vehicles for guns. Starting this would take no more than training up a few dozen Highway Patrol officers to supplement the Food and Agriculture workers already at the fruit stops. Deploying some new CHIPs for this kind of duty around the clock could close the wide loophole through which unknown quantities of guns like Tran’s enter the state.

 

        The fact this doesn’t happen and has never been seriously proposed as a state budget item demonstrates a flawed sense of priorities. Essentially, it says protecting plants is more important than protecting people. The dead and wounded on the bloody floor of that Monterey Park dance hall were just one possible consequence.

 

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    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

THE FANTASY WORLD OF CALIFORNIA HOUSING POLICY

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2023, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

“THE FANTASY WORLD OF CALIFORNIA HOUSING POLICY”


     If you’re looking for sure things among bills under consideration in the state Legislature, think of one word: housing.

 

        It's not yet certain just which new housing measures will be proposed this year, but if the recent past is prologue, almost anything that includes new housing – permanent homes, tiny homes or temporary hotel and motel rooms for the homeless and new construction for other folks – will pass easily.

 

        Some of that housing is needed, but there’s no hard evidence backing the state’s claims that 1.8 million new units must be built by the end of 2030 both to avert a disastrous rise in homelessness and fill the needs of first-time home buyers looking for something they can afford.

 

        In fact, the state auditor last April reported that estimates of need from the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) are unreliable because they’re based on information inputted to state computers by workers who never vetted it at all. Devastating as this report should have been, it was completely ignored by both lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom; no one in any office that deals with housing said a single public word about it.

 

        Instead, they keep leaning on the unproven assumption that HCD estimates are correct. Never mind that HCD’s current estimate of housing need is about 1.2 million units lower than five years ago, but only a fraction that many units have actually been built or converted from commercial space emptied by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

        So the same legislators who in 2021 passed bills known as SB 9 and SB10, which essentially ended single family zoning statewide and allow apartment building in many currently spacious neighborhoods, in 2022 passed a couple more densifying laws.

 

        Newsom signed all these measure into law with no hesitance. He shares all the assumptions pushed by HCD’s so-called experts, despite their being found derelict by the auditor.

 

        One of last year’s new bills is already useful. That’s a measure allowing conversion of empty office or big box space and some parking lots into housing without local approvals. It was high time folks in high places recognized the reality that many white collar workers sent home to work at the pandemic’s outset will only be back in their old offices once in awhile, if that often.

 

        That’s why companies that still believe workers accomplish more when they’re crowded together are setting up gyms and private eateries to entice staffers to return.

 

        Okay, one of four major new housing laws makes sense.

 

        But last year’s other new law, allowing dense new housing to be built without parking spaces so long as it’s near mass transit, does not.

 

        This one is based on the assumption that all residents of such new buildings will use the available mass transit and not keep or use their own cars and pickups.

 

        Said Newsom while signing the measure, “Reducing housing costs (by omitting parking spaces) for everyday Californians and eliminating emissions from cars: That’s what we call a win-win.”

 

        But this assumption has never panned out. Because light rail and express buses don’t reach every corner of California’s cities, folks without cars often are left to hoof it for miles when they get as close to their destinations as mass transit can take them.

 

        Knowing this, most still drive. That’s borne out by the reality that transit use has not risen significantly even as thousands of new apartments and condominiums went up in cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento and Fresno.

 

        Eliminating parking spaces in new buildings has already led to bidding wars for off-street parking in some areas around new buildings. There will be more of this, in addition to the ongoing frequent competition for on-street parking in and near those places.

 

        That’s because everyone wants mobility. Newsom has not given up his, often riding in chauffeured vehicles escorted by local police and highway patrol motorcycles.

 

        In short, this state’s housing policy operates in a kind of fantasy world first pushed by Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, whose plans to densify the state languished for years in legislative committees before Newsom began supporting and signing them.


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    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Monday, January 23, 2023

UTILITY EXECS WARNED: THEY MIGHT PAY FOR IRRESPONSIBLE, NEGLIGENT DECISIONS

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 1923, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
        “UTILITY EXECS WARNED: THEY MIGHT PAY FOR IRRESPONSIBLE, NEGLIGENT DECISIONS”

 

        Until a short time ago, top executives of California’s privately owned utility companies had nothing personal to fear from any decision they made, even if it cost dozens of human lives.

 

        That’s how it went when Pacific Gas & Electric Co. officials neglected to maintain gas pipelines adequately in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno, which led to an explosion that killed eight persons in 2010. And when PG&E executives neglected to trim vegetation near power lines, causing a manslaughter conviction for the company when almost 100 died in fires during 2017 and 2018. And when negligent corporate decisions caused billions of dollars in damage over the last 15 years in areas served by Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.

 

        But notice has now been served: Corporate utility executives whose decisions cost lives and burn homes and other buildings may eventually be forced to pay, and not mere nickels and dimes.

 

        The hope is this will lead to more responsible decision making by the companies, but that remains to be seen. For sure, the new climate may become much more cautious, causing inconvenient public safety power shutoffs in fire-prone areas when weather turns hot and extremely dry.

 

        Those are some implications of a $117 million settlement reached in a lawsuit late last fall against 20 former PG&E officers and directors. The suit was filed by the Fire Victims Trust, which received $13.5 billion from PG&E and its bankers when the utility evaded bankruptcy after the North Bay, Camp and other fires burned thousands of acres in Northern California between 2015 and 2018. All were ignited by arcing power lines that set ablaze untrimmed, dry plants and trees.

 

        The deliberate pace of the victims’ trust in distributing funds has drawn criticism from many fire victims forced to fend for themselves after losing their homes, often moving in with relatives or being otherwise compelled to leave their blackened home areas. As of last Sept. 30, the trust says, it had passed out more than $5 billion to victims, including more than $300 million each in August and September.

 

        Because of a ruling by the federal bankruptcy court that helped set up the trust, the newest cash from utility decision-makers must be used to pay off federal government agencies with outstanding claims against PG&E, a pittance compared with the trust’s total funding. But lawyer Frank Pitre, a trust board member who led the lawsuit, said the “vast majority” of federal claims are now satisfied, so the trust “is close” to being able to use proceeds from future lawsuits against other utility officials to benefit fire victims.

 

        This represents a huge change in lines of responsibility. Over the last 10 years, utility companies have been convicted of or “taken responsibility” for many billions of dollars  in wildfire damage, but even now, not one of their executives has served a day in jail – even when their choices caused multiple deaths. Now, at least, some executives have actually had to pay for their misdeeds. Also until recently, utilities charged customers for maintenance, but actually used for that purpose only a tiny part of the $65 billion they’d collected since the mid-1950s for that purpose. Most went toward executive bonuses and other optional expenses.

 

        Utilities have long paid fines when they caused fires, but recouped the money soon after in their next round of rate increases granted by the ever utility-friendly state Public Utilities Commission.

 

        The new lawsuit settlement does not make way for others to sue right now. It was based on a claim by PG&E against its own highest former officials (including two former CEOs and its top electric managers). A bankruptcy judge handed that claim to the trust, which quickly sued the individuals. Most fire victims not involved in the trust probably won’t be able to sue, said Pitre, the Burlingame-based lead lawyer for the trust, because of an expired three-year statute of limitations from the dates of fatal decisions.

 

        But the climate of the utility world has changed. From now on, utility executives will know they are watched and that their corporations won’t protect them, may in fact sue them. This could lead to improved decisions. For potential financial ruin figures to become a major motivator among utility executives.

 

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Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is tdelias@aol.com 

THE INEVITABLE CONVERSIONS BEGIN MULTIPLYING

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2023, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “THE INEVITABLE CONVERSIONS BEGIN MULTIPLYING”

 

        It’s a phenomenon from New York to Dallas to Fresno and Los Angeles, one that seemed inevitable to some from the moment millions of Californians became the first Americans ordered to work from home as a way to fight the spread of COVID-19.

 

        That pandemic is not yet over despite the public being fed up with it. Covid’s viral variants still dog the world as their third winter of plaguing humans begins to wane.

 

        But millions of white collar workers who got a taste of setting their own hours and creating their own work environments still resist going back to the office more than once or twice a week. As a result, office building vacancies now cover hundreds of millions of square feet in California alone.

 

        The empty offices made it obvious from the pandemic’s first onslaught that apartment conversions would become a major part of the solution to California’s housing shortage, if not its dominant answer.

 

        Now that is becoming reality, the only inexplicable thing about it being the fact it has taken three full years to morph from obvious concept to major reality.

 

        This is how real the conversions of office buildings have become:

 

        The rentcafe.com website reports that more than 4,130 apartments and condominiums will be created through conversions of office space this year in Los Angeles alone. Another 1,000-plus new units are planned this year in Fresno, with more than 500 more coming in San Francisco, 450 in Sacramento and about 200 in Oakland. Even cities that have never gotten into this game are now active in conversions: 372 converted units are due to open in Alameda this year, 250 in San Clemente and 250 in the San Pedro section of Los Angeles, not counted in the city’s announced total.

 

        Altogether, at least 10,000 new units will open for residential use in former office space before the end of this year.

 

        None of these conversions will be very controversial, as they take up no new ground space, do not alter existing neighborhood views and profiles and therefore don’t provoke the environmental lawsuits that hold up so many California building projects, including a major annex to the state Capitol.

 

        For sure, many more units will follow, especially when this year’s already-permitted crop begins drawing significant rents and purchase prices. That is a virtual certainty, as the new units vary from street-level apartments with significant exterior noise to ocean -view penthouses.

 

        The number of units underway debunks naysayers who claimed when the idea first arose just after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the nation’s first stay-at-home orders in early 2020 that conversions would be more difficult to get permitted and built than new construction.

 

        That's been untrue, especially since the state passed a law last fall making such permits virtually automatic when applied for.

 

        Objections that office floor plans are completely different from residential ones have been quickly overcome, as necessary plumbing and electrical changes, plus moving drywall barriers around within existing indoor spaces, proved less complex than some expected.

 

        What’s more, the conversions are already becoming fiscal godsends for beleaguered local governments whose property taxes were beginning to fall as office building vacancy rates stayed up. So long as office rental revenues dropped, so too could assessed valuations which control the amounts of property tax money coming to local schools, sewer and water districts and other local governments.

 

        But when the converted units are sold, they become subject to Proposition 13’s 1 percent tax on the most recent purchase price of any property. While commercial property tax rates usually remain relatively stable for decades, residential taxes can rise rapidly when units change hands.

 

        At the same time, the conversions are starting to rescue real estate investment trusts, whose office rental income was dwindling, as were the dividends they pay investors. That’s all happening as onetime office space finds new, productive use.

 

        The bottom line: Office conversions, first recommended by this column in April 2020, are now the wave of the future in California and elsewhere, and they are a boon to everyone from first-time home-buyers to renters to property owners and local governments.


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    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Friday, January 13, 2023

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION BAN WON’T CHANGE MUCH IN CALIFORNIA

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2023, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “AFFIRMATIVE ACTION BAN WON’T CHANGE MUCH IN CALIFORNIA”

 

        From the moment Asian-Americans and other students brought lawsuits against affirmative action admission policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, it was clear that even if they prevailed, not much would change in California.

 

        For this state’s mostly-liberal electorate has been anything but liberal when voting on affirmative action, the practice of favoring some minority groups over whites and Asians in college admissions and contracting, giving them a boost to make up for past discrimination.

 

        Every sign in the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing on the combined Harvard/North Carolina cases was that the conservative-oriented court would vote at least 6-3 against affirmative action.

 

        California voters were decades ahead of them on this. Already in 1996, voters here disapproved affirmative action, passing Proposition 209 by a 54-46 percent margin. They doubled down on it four years later, when state legislators offered a ballot measure to repeal Prop. 209. This one, known as Prop. 16, lost by 57-43 percent and the issue was supposedly settled here.

 

        But things have never really been settled. No sooner was race removed as a potential factor in admissions to both University of California and California State University campuses than university officials substituted other factors like income and parental education levels as proxies for race and ethnicity. For without doubt lower family economic status and parental education levels puts students at a disadvantage in both earning top high school grades and performing well on standardized tests.

 

        The minority groups best known for stressing their children’s education over other investments always have objected to affirmative action, steadily arguing academic merit should be the sole consideration in admissions. Those groups include Asian Americans and Jewish Americans. Many Jews in particular have long favored merit as the sole admission criterion because for most of American history, they were systematically discriminated against in employment practices, housing and university admissions.

 

Such bigotry also was long a factor in private club memberships, including beach clubs and country clubs. But over the last 50 years, new laws have banned that kind of discrimination when it can be proved.

 

But the effects of California’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action were immediate, obvious and have been continuous since passage of Prop. 209.

 

The measure drastically reduced diversity at the most competitive UC campuses. In 1998, the first admissions year affected by the ban, the number of Black and Latino first-year students plunged by nearly half at UCLA and UC Berkeley. At Berkeley Law School, Black admits were down three-quarters from their pre-209 levels.

 

While minority admissions at Cal State campuses were not as heavily impacted as at UC, they are still far lower than population proportions at the CSU campus with the most competitive admissions.

 

That’s Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where only 31% of applicants were admitted in fall 2021. On that campus, 53% of undergraduates are white, 19% Latino, 14% Asian and just 1% Black. By contrast, at Cal State Los Angeles — with an 80% admission rate — 72% of students are Latino, 11% Asian, 4% Black and 4% white.

 

At Cal Poly SLO, only 0.7 percent of undergraduates are currently Black. And the word has gotten around – since 2011, that campus has had the lowest rate of Black applicants of any California public university. It also educates the smallest proportion of students from low-income families and has since 2008.

 

No matter what the Supreme Court rules, UC and the most competitive Cal State campuses will continue seeing far fewer Black students than population figures appear to merit – about 1 percent of UC students, compared with 4 percent of population. But the same impact will not be felt among Latinos, as they apply in large numbers to campuses in areas with strongly Latino population.

 

        All this means that if the Supreme Court rules as expected, banning affirmative action at universities that receive federal funds, very little will change in California.

 

        But hundreds of universities in other states where affirmative action has long been a legal practice will likely to adopt practices like UC’s, making family wealth and education negative factors in admissions. Essentially, the harder parents work and the more successful they are, the more roadblocks their children will face.

 


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    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

STORMS EXPOSE FAILURES OF HOMELESSNESS PROGRAMS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, JANUARY 31, 2023, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

“STORMS EXPOSE FAILURES OF HOMELESSNESS PROGRAMS”

 

The spate of heavy rainstorms that swept across California during the early weeks of January exposed a lot of problems: weak bridges, inadequate reservoir capacity, poor drainage on many city streets and helplessness in the face of inevitable mudslides, to name just a few.

 

        But the rains revealed nothing more starkly than the failure so far of California’s many programs to help most of the homeless, a failure that exposed how useless has been the bulk of the $11 billion-plus allocated for homeless aid over the last year.

 

        One video, shot in the stormy early morning hours of Jan. 5, says a lot about this. You can see it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBuOZExJZ8Y. The tape shows homeless individuals huddled in sleeping bags with water lapping at them. It shows people huddled under soaked blankets and in barely covered alcoves leading to building entrances. Most of all, it shows that in one city with a budget of tens of millioins for “homeless services,” no one served the unhoused when they needed it most. The official death toll among California’s more than 172,000 homeless was just two, both felled by branches the storm knocked off trees and into their tents.

 

        No one knows how many more might perish from aftereffects of extreme exposure to cold and wet. Many Californians write off the state’s homeless as some kind of human detritus because many are mentally ill or suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and are often not very functional. No matter, no one deserves the misery inflicted on the homeless this winter.

 

        Some of California’s most prominent and powerful politicians often say they recognize this. New Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, whose city contains more than 56,000 homeless, declared a state of emergency over their situation on her first day in office last month. She wants to humanely eliminate some tent cities, but so far has moved only a few dozen persons indoors. Gov. Gavin Newsom put more than $10 billion for homeless services into the current state budget and billions more into his next planned budget. California has more homeless today than when the 2022-23 budget passed, and far fewer shelter beds than before the coronavirus pandemic.

 

        One thing you can safely bet: No executive heading any of the more than 50 state and local government programs for which big money is ticketed slept in the rain Jan. 5.

 

        One state report indicates this year’s $10 billion allocation is a pittance beside what it will cost to house all the currently homeless. That assessment held it will take more than 30 times as much, or $300 billion

 

        This sum could house many thousands, but there is no sign even that much money can end the problem. At today’s reported average cost of $830,000-plus per one-bedroom apartment, it would pay for less than 3,600 new one-bedroom units, far from enough to permanently shelter even most of today’s homeless.

 

        Yet, use of hotels and motels bought up by state and local governments as both temporary and permanent quarters for the unhoused did not solve the problem.

 

        Here’s an idea not yet in the anti-homelessness portfolio: Use part of the huge government allocations to buy or lease some of the hundreds of millions of square feet of vacant office and commercial space that now dogs many California property owners, the result of changes in working conditions for white collar workers. Studies indicate about one-third of them will likely operate permanently from their homes.

 

        So far, California has seen only about 11,000 conversions to residential units permitted out of that vast space, makeovers state law now says can go forward without zoning changes. How about using some of the billions allocated to homelessness for this? It would allow far more units and take much less time than new construction.

 

        Just as it’s time for a complete rethink of the overall housing crisis, where state officials announce new and different need estimates every few months, it’s also time for this kind of fresh thinking about housing the homeless.

 

        For while no one knows when or where the next big chain of storms may strike hardest, it’s impossible to overstate the misery they will cause if California continues hosting as many unhoused individuals as it now does.

 

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    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

 

Monday, January 9, 2023

SENATE FIELD CLARIFIED BY KHANNA, PORTER

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 1923, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
        “SENATE FIELD CLARIFIED BY KHANNA, PORTER”

 

        It’s still very early in this year of political positioning for some key California politicians, but already the field is clarifying for the upcoming contest to replace longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 89.

 

        Feinstein has not formally indicated she won’t seek a sixth full term next year, which would see her sworn in at age 91, but that is the presumption among her fellow pols.

 

        Right now, the presumed race for her seat figures to devolve down to two Democrats in California’s “top two” system, given that no Republican yet appears to have any credibility in the race.

 

        The new clarity arose first in an interview the other day with Ro Khanna, a four-term Democrat who now represents the Silicon Valley congressional district centered on San Jose, and days later, with Orange County Rep. Katie Porter’s announcement that she will definitely run.

 

        Without explicitly pulling out, Khanna allowed that “Being the congressman for Silicon Valley is just as important a job as being senator from California. My district has the most powerful and influential constituency in the country. I’m very happy with what I am doing now.”

 

        He also predicted that fellow House members Adam Schiff of Burbank and Barbara Lee of Oakland will make the race.

 

        Perhaps Khanna was somewhat dissuaded from running by a private poll he recently saw that gave Schiff the early lead in this presumed contest, with support from 40 percent of likely voters. Khanna and Porter were tied for second at 20 percent each, while Lee attracted 10 percent.

 

        The poll did not include Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has reportedly promised both President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris he will not run against either in 2024, despite many rumors pegging him as a presidential hopeful.

 

        “If he ran, Newsom would win the Senate race,” Khanna said. But he expressed doubts Newsom would be happy in the Senate, relegated to back-bench status with no seniority after six years of exercising strong executive power.

 

        Yet, Newsom, reveling now in a role as a leader among national Democrats,  will need a perch after 2026 on which to await the 2028 presidential vote if he really doesn’t run next year, and the Senate would position him well, with plenty of time and flexibility to campaign around the country.

 

        So he might opt for the Senate, in which case Schiff, Lee and Porter might have to re-think their ambitions.

 

        Meanwhile, Khanna has acted in recent months more like a potential presidential candidate than someone seeking the Senate.

 

        He’s traveled much of the country, pushing the cause of bringing American manufacturing jobs back from places like China and Mexico. He’s reached across the aisle to co-sponsor a bill promoting such moves with Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. That led the national political news service Politico to speculate about Khanna as a future presidential hopeful. Khanna did not object to this, even volunteering to provide a reporter with links to that article and another he wrote for Foreign Affairs.

 

        “I’ve been going to factory towns for years now,” he said. “We cannot let China take the lead from us in productivity.”

 

        So for now, the race to take Feinstein’s place has at least a little more clarity than it did a few weeks ago, with Newsom still able to control it if he chooses, after drawing about 61 percent of the vote in three straight statewide elections (2018, 2022 and the 2021 recall drive against him).

 

        Schiff, with prominence gained in leading two impeachments of ex-President Donald Trump, is today’s clear early leader, not counting Newsom. Porter, a prolific fund-raiser who has gotten elected three times from an Orange County district without a Democratic voter registration majority, might pose a significant challenge. But Lee, whose main claim to fame is her long-ago vote against going to war in Iraq, seems a distant third at the moment, despite some public sentiment that one of California’s Senate seats ought to go to a Black woman.

 

        Now they all know they won’t have to contend with Khanna, a favorite among Bernie Sanders-style Democrats. Still, none of the remaining three is likely to defeat Newsom, if he enters this race.

 

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Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is tdelias@aol.com