Monday, June 27, 2022






        While president, Donald Trump tried to punish Californians whenever he could for voting against him by the huge margins that meant he never won the legitimacy of a popular vote victory.


There were delays in federal grant money to cities and the state, there were slow responses to wildfires on federal lands, there was his hamstringing the Census to assure California would lose at least one seat in Congress.


But he imposed no more direct and pernicious punishment on individual Californians than his single-handed revocation of this state’s right – granted under the federal Clean Air Act of 1970 – to set tailpipe smog emission standards for cars and trucks sold here.


        From the start, opponents claimed this law would make cars more expensive, cut sales and cost jobs. That did not happen, as a look at any urban California freeway will make obvious.


        Even when population plateaued or declined slightly, traffic increased.


        But air pollution did not. The state has seen ever fewer smog alerts and warnings for children and seniors to stay inside on hot summer days since Republican President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act. Rates of emphysema and lung cancer have been down for decades in Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley and the San Francisco Bay area, the state’s three smoggiest regions.


        Trump sought to reverse that via an executive order. And if he’d been reelected, it would have happened, with the effects due to be felt starting about a year or two from now.


        But Trump did not win in 2020, despite his plaintive and lying claims to the contrary. Instead, Joe Biden became president and reinstated California’s tailpipe authority.


        Now come the attorneys general of 17 states, seeking to get California’s authority revoked again, this time by a federal appeals court. The list includes Missouri, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Texas, Utah and West Virginia, all led by Republicans who supported Trump. Only one appealing state did not go for Trump two years ago.


        Their claim is essentially the same as what critics of the Clean Air Act argued more than 50 years ago: Giving California authority other states do not will make cars more expensive everywhere and cost jobs.


        Of course, there are plenty of states that disagree. The 13-state Northeast Consortium, composed of the New England and Atlantic Seaboard states north of Virginia, opted years ago to adopt California standards automatically four years after they take effect here.


        The California rules essentially forced auto makers to build hybrid and electric cars, design catalytic converters and increase gasoline mileage greatly.


        All that probably validates one claim of the states seeking to end California’s authority for good. As voiced by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, it goes like this: Giving California the authority to set its own standards essentially forces the rest of the country to live by this state’s standards. That’s pretty much assured, because when you add up the car sales in California and the states that use its rules, you account for well over half the vehicle sales in America – and carmakers don’t want to make two types of vehicles, so the California rules set the pattern.


        “That leaves California with a slice of sovereign authority that Congress withdraws from every other state,” gripes Morrisey.


        Is he perhaps a tad envious?


        In any case, Democratic California Attorney General Rob Bonta had no trouble after the anti-California case was filed in rounding up 20 states and three big cities to oppose the suit by all those GOP-dominated states.


        Said Bonta, “The existing (policy) has been a massive success, driving down air pollution and growing the electric vehicle market…we’ve defended our clean car standards from these roadblocks before, and we can’t let this latest challenge take us the wrong way on clean cars.”


        Even if that means cars cost more today than a few years ago, it also means they last longer and kill fewer residents of areas once plagued by smog-related illnesses. And it means that in trying to impose a Trump-inspired punishment on California, the Republican attorneys general could be causing plenty of deaths not only here but also in their own states.



    Email Thomas Elias at 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 






        Calexit, the movement for California secession from the Union, has never gotten off the ground, despite the efforts of the so-called “California Freedom Coalition,” formerly “Yes, California!” which tried running separatist ballot initiative drives in 2017 and 2020, but never really got off the ground.


Its reasoning then was that California pays far more into the federal government in taxes than it gets back in federal spending, unlike much smaller states like West Virginia and Mississippi, which get far more back than they pay in. Secessionists also held this state is permanently underrepresented in the Senate and Electoral College compared with places like Alaska, Wyoming and Delaware.


If there are ever to be causes that might spur this state and perhaps some of its neighbors to go it alone, the twin U.S. Supreme Court decisions this spring to cancel out laws like California’s restrictions on carrying firearms and the federal right to female bodily privacy and, thus, abortion, might do it.


Right now, most voices opposing those decisions are exhorting their cohorts to “resist.” They don’t say how to do that effectively, even as the rulings are often compared to the Supreme Court’s infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision upholding the rights of slaveowners to pursue escaped slaves even in so-called “free” states. That 7-2 ruling, like the 5-4 anti-abortion decision, was voted in by justices with personal interests in the cause at hand, folks who under some standards ought to have recused themselves from voting.


In the Dred Scott case, the court majority were slaveowners or former high officials of slave states from Maryland to Georgia. In the new anti-abortion ruling, all five justices voting to end the right are Roman Catholics taught since early childhood in church and/or school to oppose all abortions.


Abortion and gun control adherents can resist all they like, but it’s not likely to change a thing. When that sinks in, it’s just possible some people might consider other courses of action.


For sure, California often acts like a semi-independent country, and the abortion decision immediately set the state into action.


        Within hours, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a compact with two other states, Oregon and Washington, to promote abortions in all three states to women in scores of Republican-controlled places where the procedures are now suddenly illegal or soon will be.


        No one now knows whether this will be the first step in a move toward secession by California and its neighbors, with like-minded places like Hawaii and the Canadian province of British Columbia possibly joining in. They might form a powerhouse country, perhaps called Pacifica, that could be a major world economic and military force.


        Already, in spring 2020, when ex-President Donald Trump first indicated he might try cheating to hold onto power, the nominal head of the Calexit movement, Marcus Ruiz Evans of Fresno, observed that, “People are saying, ‘Hey, I used to think Calexit is a fanciful idea and I still do, but I’m coming around; we need a government that works and I don’t believe America can anymore.’”


        That’s the same feeling a lot of Californians are voicing in the days after the Supreme Court’s two late-June decisions.


        Some lately have cited an 1860 editorial from the Dubuque, Iowa, Herald that argued “It does not follow that because a state cannot secede constitutionally, it is obliged under all circumstances to remain in the Union. There is a natural right, which is reserved by all men, and which cannot be given to any government…to form a government for their mutual protection...and for such other purposes as they may deem most conducive to their mutual happiness and prosperity.”


        Those would be the very grounds toward which California and two of its neighbors now might be moving. Ironically, rather than resisting, what's left of the Union might just say “good riddance,” since a California departure alone would all but assure indefinite Republican rule of the rest of America.


        So far, though, secession is a mere idea that has never had much support. Yet, history shows that borders, policies and governments are never permanent, no matter what any constitution may say.


    Email Thomas Elias at 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


Monday, June 20, 2022








        California voters legalized recreational marijuana via a ballot initiative in November 2016, almost six years ago. Since then, the weed has evolved into something like a normal business, complete with webcasts on operating efficiently, disputes about where stores can be located and gripes about underground operators siphoning off too much of the take.


        But there’s little normal about pot itself. First made semi-legal by the 1996 Proposition 15, which allowed medical marijuana use with a doctor’s “recommendation” (not a real prescription, since pharmacies never sold it), medipot operated in a kind of gray legal area for 20 years, but was nevertheless in common use.


        But this is no ordinary business. It involves selling a substance at least as debilitating to many as alcohol, but while legal standards govern the purity and strength of various liquors, there is nothing to assure marijuana’s consistent purity, especially on the black market where police say at least two-thirds of pot sales occur.


        Then there are the medical effects of the weed, both long-term and short-term. The immediate effects are well known: spaced-out behavior, impaired judgment, both clouded and heightened senses depending on your personal biology, a distorted sense of time, slower reactions and lowered motor skills, lowered inhibitions, less mental focus and memory – and more. On the positive side, there’s also pain reduction and better tolerance for some medications and their side effects.


        For those who make it past these frequent and fleeting issues, now there’s proof of long-term mental harm from prolonged pot use.


        This has been suspected for decades, but a report published this spring in a journal of the American Psychiatric Assn. makes it definite: If you want to be mentally sharp and capable in middle age or later, don’t use pot regularly.


        Concluded the report, “At age 45, people who (said they used) cannabis weekly or more frequently over the past year showed greater cognitive decline than those who never used cannabis.”


        This was based on a study of 938 persons in Dunedin, New Zealand, 93 percent of them Caucasian and all born in 1972 or 1973. Starting at age 18, all participants were interviewed at least once every six years about their use of marijuana, tobacco and alcohol. Cognitive tests were given at ages 7, 9 and 11 and again at age 45. Close relatives, spouses and friends also completed questionnaires about whether the participants experienced memory or attention problems over the past year.


        The 86 participants classed as long-term cannabis users had normal average IQ’s of 99.3 as children, but dropped to below-average as middle-aged adults with average IQs of 93.8. Meanwhile, participants who reported never using marijuana saw their IQs rise slightly (by 0.7 points) between childhood and middle age. At the same time, long-term tobacco and alcohol users also experienced IQ drops as they aged, but these averaged more than 4 points less than the IQ loss among users of the weed. Pot use is illegal in New Zealand.


        Their friends and relatives also described long-term marijuana users as having more attention, concentration and memory problems than non-users or those who smoked pot only occasionally.


        The test cohort, of course, is still too young to assess how pot use might affect their rates of dementia as they reach their 60s and 70s.


        The conclusion here is obvious: Anything that increases cannabis use or encourages regular or habitual usage should be discouraged.


        But that’s not happening in California, where more and more cities are making it easier and easier to open dispensaries within their boundaries.


        The long-term New Zealand study and other indicators from American sources make it clear that marijuana affects much more than highway safety, although it surely has a negative impact on that.


         Rather than encouraging pot dispensaries strictly because they are legal, sane policy would be the exact reverse. Plus, schools and colleges need to warn their students on a regular basis of the weed’s negative effects.


        Anything different invites a steady decline in the intellectual abilities of average Californians.



    Email Thomas Elias at 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






        The TV commercials and online ads are fast becoming ubiquitous: “We’ll buy your house as is,” they trumpet. “No need to spend any money fixing it up.”


        That’s commonly the message from housing speculators, often institutional investors including real estate investment trusts less interested in preserving or maintaining housing than cashing in as land values rise. It’s the land, not the houses, that interests them most.


        Says a Northern California citizens group called United Neighbors, “Non-wage capital, especially institutional and private equity, is entering the single-family market in unprecedented amounts.”


        That’s a big reason why, the group contends, “California housing costs have inflated at such a rate that housing costs have completely decoupled from their historical wage-based income basis.”


        That, they say, is the root cause of the affordability crisis. It is furthered by the fact that institutional investors, including pension funds like CalSTERS (the California State Teachers’ Retirement System) and CalPERS (the California Public Employees Retirement System) keep many purchases vacant while they await land value increases. This frees them from dealing with tenants and evictions when they decide to sell or to demolish existing homes and turn them into multi-unit properties.


        United Neighbors claims institutional buyers, including Wall Street investment banks, spent a record $77 billion on single-family California homes over the last six months of 2021.


        That makes them the ultimate house flippers, people or companies buying homes to hold for awhile before they resell at a hefty profit.


        It creates large vacancy rates in some places at a time when California supposedly has a housing shortage. The actual shortage is in affordable housing, as 73 percent of houses permitted in 2020, for just one recent year, were affordable only to households with incomes well over $100,000.


        All this has also seen vacancy rates rise among housing units built since 1970 – more than 50 years’ worth. Statewide, the vacancy rate on these “newer” units was 12.4 percent in late spring. In Los Angeles County, it was 16.3 percent, while San Francisco had an overall vacancy rate of 8.7 percent and more than 40,000 vacant units.


        All of which suggests none of the controversial housing bills passed with alacrity by the Legislature in recent years can be effective, including last year’s Senate Bills 9 and 10, which essentially did away with R-1 single-family zoning statewide and allow subdividing of almost all lots in those areas.


        The problem, it appears, is less a lack of housing – especially while California’s population is relatively stable and not growing fast, if at all – than the fact that wages and home prices have gotten out of the usual synch, partly because of institutional investments.


        This year, Democratic state assemblyman Chris Ward of San Diego, which recently “won” the ranking as America’s least affordable city, proposed a bill to tax the profits of house flipping, especially by corporations and pension funds. It died in committee, but deserves resurrection.


        His bill, known as AB 1771, aimed to place a 25 percent levy on after-capital-gains-tax profits from reselling any house within three years after it’s bought. After that, the rate would have dropped to 20 percent and then declined steadily before disappearing after seven years.


        Taxes collected would have gone to cities, counties and affordable housing funds, said Ward, whose purpose, he told a press conference, was to create a disincentive for equity investors, thus opening more opportunities for people who plan to live in homes they buy.


        This would especially help mid-priced housing availability, because institutional buyers are more likely to buy that type of housing than high-end homes, whose appreciation rates are far less steady and predictable, often selling for millions less than their asking prices.


        The bill was opposed by building trades unions, whose workers don’t much care whether or when the places they build are occupied, so long as paychecks arrive on schedule.


Those unions and the developers with whom they work have been the main drivers behind the Legislature’s recent spate of unwise, unneeded new housing laws.


The bottom line: Yes, there is a housing crisis, but it’s at least as much a matter of hoarding and waiting for profit as it is of supply.



    Email Thomas Elias at 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

Thursday, June 9, 2022






        Drive almost any road in the vast San Joaquin Valley and you’ll see irrigation pipes standing up several feet tall in the middle of fields and orchards, pipes that once were underground.


        These metallic artifacts are emblematic of the utter failure of a 2014 law once billed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown as a landmark achievement. The omnipresent pipes, often unnoticed by speeding motorists, are symptoms of subsidence, the result of decades of overpumping groundwater in all the frequent episodes when California endured drought conditions, right up to this moment.


        Pumping their ever-deeper wells has been about the only way the state’s huge and nationally vital agribusiness community could maintain production of everything from peaches to peas, broccoli to pistachios, tomatoes to citrus, cotton to cauliflower, when snowpack has been thin atop the high Sierra Nevada Mountains and the state’s two large aqueducts cut back their deliveries to mere drops – as they’ve had to do this summer.


        The 2014 law was actually a rather ho-hum, non-crisis approach to something that was already a big problem many years before the law passed. The timetable of the law has increased metering on wells tapping into groundwater, but leaves no limit on what anyone can pump until 2030, when it may be too late.


        For, as a new Stanford University study shows, not only are the state’s groundwater reserves disappearing, but it’s decreasingly likely they can ever be restored to historic previous levels, or that the land subsidence which leaves irrigation pipes standing high above the land they water can ever be completely reversed.


        The comforting thought behind making water wells ever deeper as farms chase new groundwater supplies has always been that recharging the natural storage basins below ground level will eventually replace whatever is used.


        The study, from Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences. suggests this isn’t so. In fact, the research suggests ground can continue to sink even if groundwater levels are stable or rising. That’s because when water is taken from the ground, the sheer weight of the land above the storage basin causes a partial collapse of sub-surface rocks around the storage spaces, known as aquifers.


        Even refilling those spaces above capacity – not a realistic possibility in the near future – cannot fully reverse this effect. The Stanford research indicated it’s unrealistic to expect ground levels ever to re-rise more than about one-third of the distance they have dropped.


        Subsidence levels vary a bit, but so far, they typically total about 20 feet over the last 65 years, gradual but now very visible. That only becomes disastrous when it affects things on the surface, like cracking roads and bridges and moving foundations of homes and other buildings.


        The 2014 law, called the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, forced local water districts to make plans for avoiding “significant and unreasonable” new subsidence. It did not require those agencies to figure out how to prevent disputes between farmers or cities when one well-owner drills deeper and siphons off supplies from others.


        This very phenomenon has caused at least two episodes where portions of Central Valley cities suddenly saw their faucets run dry, forcing them to import supplies from unaffected nearby areas. This can be both expensive and unfair, but there’s often little the owners of suddenly dry wells can do about it. For one thing, farmers and cities whose wells dry up can’t always tell where their water went or who took it. They can only be sure it flowed downhill and away from them.


        All of which makes it very obvious that the 2014 law was far too meek when it passed and that more serious action to regulate and reduce groundwater use is needed.


        But that is not a priority for the current Legislature, dominated by coastal, urban politicians whose constituents are untouched by what’s happening under the ground where their food supplies are grown. Nor have Central Valley lawmakers done much, not wishing to offend corporate farms that often donate big campaign dollars.


        Which means more fields will be fallowed in the next few years, more wells will run dry, more cities will take emergency steps to find water supplies and the ground will likely sink ever lower.


    Email Thomas Elias at 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







        California has long had a major role in national affairs, often defined by personalities as disparate as Earl Warren, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy. They’ve been chief justice, presidents, vice presidents, speaker of the House and a possible speaker-to-be.


        For sure, without California’s two Democratic senators and the huge Democratic majority in its delegation to the House of Representatives, plus its 55 electoral votes in 2020, Republicans today would have solid control of both Congress and the White House.


        And California state laws have often been precursors of major national trends, as befits the Union’s most populous state. There have been the Proposition 13 property tax limits, imitated in 26 other states at last count, and California’s path-breaking anti-smog rules, copied automatically by more than a dozen other states. Plus many more examples.


        Only rarely has this state acted in direct reaction to the politics of other locales, but that’s probably about to change within the next few months.


        As states big and small, from Texas and Florida to Mississippi and Arkansas, limit abortion rights and even discussion of eons-old realities like homosexuality and transgender life, California officials exhibit a new determination to counteract those moves.


        It’s yet to be determined whether this strategy will somehow reverse at least partially the pandemic induced half-percent drop in California’s population over the last two years.


        But the contrasts between California laws and the new ones elsewhere are already stirring rumblings in places like Austin, TX and Jacksonville, FL. Women seeking abortions have reportedly begun coming to California, a repeat of what began happening 55 years ago, after Reagan signed a liberal therapeutic abortion law in his first months as governor. This is partly in anticipation of a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Mississippi’s new and very restrictive law limiting women’s reproductive choices.


        Flights from Texas, Mississippi, Florida and other states are far cheaper than half a century ago, so even poor and lower-middle class women can likely get here for procedures if they feel desperate.


        What about the Texas law allowing citizens to sue doctors and others who help women get abortions or provide them, even in other states? That law has been upheld by the Supreme Court, but it’s doubtful any such lawsuit would survive dismissal motions in any California court. The same for New York or Illinois, two other likely abortion destinations.   


        But California politicians are not merely relying on longstanding state law to resist the trend toward taking away a variety of rights, from schoolteachers discussing sexual roles to parents aiding transgender children as they try to find their way.


        Where Florida has legally classed helping children deal with gender role confusion as a form of child abuse and other states attack rights like same sex marriage or gay couples adopting children, California’s Legislature now appears set to pass laws making this state a legal haven for anyone affected by some of the changes and planned changes in other states.


        No one knows how many of the affected might migrate here, but some teachers in Florida schools have said they might if their current state enforces its new elementary school “don’t say gay” law.


        Then there are guns, especially illegal “ghost guns” lacking serial numbers, like some apparently used in last month’s early morning massacre on a Sacramento street.


        Taking a flier on the Texas abortion law, legislators – with vocal support from Gov. Gavin Newsom – are advancing a plan letting citizens sue anyone who distributes illegal assault weapons or their parts. Unlike other lawsuits, where plaintiffs must prove they were harmed, no such showing will be needed if this law passes. It’s an open question whether this putative law will actually produce penalties, or merely further discussion of what one state senator calls “the absurdity of the Texas law.”


        It’s a brand-new phenomenon for California politicians to openly admit they are reacting to laws passed in other states. But it also promises to be a new, personal and perhaps permanent way for California to exert its influence on politicians elsewhere.



    Email Thomas Elias at 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

Tuesday, June 7, 2022







        It was a ploy, much like one first used in the modern era of California politics by the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston in his 1986 reelection bid. The tactic worked that time.


        But radio ads that hit California airwaves in large quantities in May, as the primary election approached, did not work this spring.


        The ads touted the state attorney general candidacy of previously little known Republican candidate Eric Early, the most conservative hopeful in the running and an unapologetic supporter of ex-President Donald Trump.


        They were funded primarily by a pro-labor political action committee whose desire was to create as easy a path to election as possible for the appointed Democratic incumbent Rob Bonta, by far the most liberal candidate in the field.



        Bonta backers did not want his November opponent to be the most credible Republican in the field, former prosecutor Nathan Hochman, a party-backed hopeful who pledges to be tougher on criminals than Bonta – a longtime supporter of the “no-cash-bail” system overwhelmingly nixed by voters in 2020.


Bonta has also threatened numerous cities with costly lawsuits if they don’t knuckle under by OKing large amounts of new housing construction as called for by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, whose figures have been labeled unreliable by the state’s nonpartisan auditor.


        The radio ad sponsors plain hope was that California’s top two “jungle primary” would give Bonta an opponent far less electable than Hochman might turn out to be. But Hochman holds a significant edge over Early with most votes counted. The final count might not be known for weeks, but Hochman is Bonta’s apparent November opponent.


        As an incumbent in a state where no Democratic statewide officeholder has lost a reelection bid since the 1980s, there was never much doubt Bonta would win the primary vote. But one nuance of top two is that even with a clear Bonta majority in the primary, he still would need to run again in November against the No. 2 finisher.


        Knowing this, Bonta’s supporters wanted to split the Republican vote between Early and Hochman and allow no-party-preference candidate Anne Marie Schubert, the Sacramento County district attorney, to sneak into the fall runoff. That didn’t happen, as Hochman took second place and  Early in third, both far ahead of Schubert.


           Bonta backers figured Hochman could be tougher for Bonta to beat because he had major-party backing, while Schubert was strictly on her own and Early would be hurt by strong anti-Trump feeling in California.


        The system is significantly different today than in the pre-top two days when Cranston, feeling threatened by the moderate Republican Silicon Valley Congressman Ed Zschau, encouraged backers to donate more than $100,000 to American Independent Party candidate Edward Vallen, who used it mostly for radio ads strikingly similar to this spring’s ads touting Early. They essentially said Zschau was dishonest, claiming Vallen and Cranston were the only candidates in the race with integrity.


Cranston eventually won reelection by just 104,000 votes, while Vallen pulled 109,000, including many that figured to go to Zschau if the ultra-conservative Vallen had not been a factor, albeit a minor one.


        The ploy infuriated Republicans at the time, but it worked for Cranston, very likely responsible for the last of the four terms he served before Democrat Barbara Boxer won his old seat in 1992.


        The odds are that even though this ploy did not work  for Bonta, he will nevertheless win election in his own right this fall. That’s because Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 2-1 on the rolls of registered California voters, and no statewide GOP candidate except the movie muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger has been able to overcome that deficit since it began to appear in the 1990s.


        No one else had used the “boost your opponent” playbook to a significant extent in a statewide race in the 36 years that passed since Cranston did it. But modern PACs and their sometimes hidden donors are well situated to repeat it, even if that displeases or offends some voters.


    Email Thomas Elias at 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


Suggested pullout quote: “The ploy worked for Cranston, but not for Bonta.”






        Gov. Gavin Newsom easily won this month’s California primary election. But no matter, he will still have to run this fall.


        After demonstrating overwhelming vote-getting power both in this balloting and last fall’s abortive, Republican-led recall election, is it possible he might somehow contrive to lose in November’s runoff election?


        The easy and very likely answer is no. For one thing, no candidate who so overwhelmingly whipped all the opposition since the state adopted its top two “jungle primary” system has ever lost, or even seen their springtime edge diminish much in the general election.


        But there is also evidence Californians are unhappy with the direction where Newsom has led the state since 2018, and there is no sign of any kind of course change from him. There have been some signs he may be a little bored with the job, too – blithely taking off on family vacations both last Thanksgiving week during the spate of smash-and-grab burglary/robberies and leaving again for two weeks in late March and early April as inflation began striking hard at the pocketbooks of almost all Californians.


        There is no evidence yet that many voters hold those absences against Newsom, but there’s ample evidence most voters think the state in general is on the wrong track. In a springtime survey by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, about 60 percent said they believe this.


        The survey’s director, Mark DiCamillo, told a reporter that “Californians are giving a negative rating of the direction of the state. That coincides with how voters are viewing their personal financial situation.”


        Could Newsom have done something about that? For sure, rather than take his family to Central and South America as inflation bit harder and more suddenly than it has anytime in the last 40 years, Newsom could have stayed home and done some serious jawboning, as governors often do in economic crises.


        No one knows if it would have been effective, but Newsom could have summoned the heads of California’s major gasoline refiners to Sacramento when they first raised prices more than $1.30 above last year’s levels. He could have threatened them with legislative actions including oil depletion taxes like those in other oil producing states like Texas, Oklahoma and Wyoming. He could have invited legislators in to discuss price controls with the executives.


        Even if it produced little result, meetings like that would have been good theater, creating the impression Newsom cares about inflation’s effects on individuals and that he’s determined to help. But he did nothing like that. Perhaps boredom with his job is the reason for such an abject lack of creative thinking.


        Or maybe he’s just taking his reelection completely for granted and figures he doesn’t have to do anything special to earn it.


        But the crises in this state that produce the “wrong direction” poll finding go far beyond gasoline prices. They also include realities like the fact found in other surveys that 64 percent of Californians feel their taxes are too high. It’s no coincidence that this number and the level of “wrong direction” discontent are virtually identical. Especially since fully 42 percent of voters also said in the polls they are worse off financially than one year ago.


        Then there are falling enrollments in both public schools and community colleges, by proportions far greater than the state’s population loss of less than half a percent over the last fiscal year. The enrollment figures indicate pessimism over the future, many Californians concluding it may not matter whether or not they try to better themselves.


        There’s also the continuing dilemma of homelessness, where no one offers a proven solution. Newsom has at least demonstrated caring and interest in this, devising a plan to force thousands of the unhoused into counseling and psychotherapy, like it or not. That’s condemned by some as too draconian and coercive, but no one else has much of an alternative.


        It adds up to a situation where Newsom remains the obviously huge favorite for reelection, but just might be ripe for ambush if rival Brian Dahle can quickly come up with tens of millions of dollars and overcome the Republican tag after his name.



    Email Thomas Elias at 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


Suggested pullout quote: “The crises…go far beyond gasoline prices.”