Jun 8, 2022 - Podcasts

Crime drives primary voters in California

Yesterday was primary day in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. Two of the night’s most-watched results came out of California, where homelessness and crime have been top of mind for voters.

  • Plus, why scientists are calling summer the “danger season”
  • And, a temporary memorial for the 45,000 people lost to gun violence each year

Guests: Dan Walters, columnist at CalMatters, and Axios' Andrew Freedman

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, June 8th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today:summer becomes the “danger season.” Plus, a temporary memorial for the 45,000 people lost to gun violence each year.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: crime drives California voters in yesterday’s primary.

It was primary day again yesterday in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. Two of the night’s most watched results were in California where homelessness and crime have been top of mind for voters. So we wanted to hone in on two races there this morning - The race for LA mayor is now headed to a run-off between representative Karen Bass and billionaire developer, Rick Caruso, and in San Francisco, the progressive district attorney Chesa Boudin has been recalled. Dan Walters is a columnist for CalMatters based in Sacramento. Good morning, Dan.


NIALA: Dan, let's start with the DA's race in San Francisco. What does it say that in one of the most liberal cities in America, a progressive district attorney was recalled?

DAN: Well, it says that San Francisco's had a terrific crime problem lately, mostly petty crime, car break-ins, car burglars, smash and grabs in stores and everything. San Francisco is a liberal city. It's a progressive city, but you know, what's the old saying a conservative is a progressive who’s been mugged? Something like that. And this is kind of a bit of mugging for San Francisco in a sense. And Boudin probably isn't responsible for that in a sense, but he's a convenient target because he is the prosecutor and he is a self-declared criminal justice reformer, who wants to go easier on people. Don't send them to jail if you don't have to, don't prosecute heavily handed, go light. And so he's become a lightning rod.

And it's an interesting thing this issue of crime could resonate around the country, but that doesn't make California necessarily a bellwether because California is still a deeply blue state. This issue might be a bellwether, but not California as a whole.

NIALA: When we're thinking about LA, how much did crime and the homeless population play a role in that mayor's race?

DAN: Number one and number two, take your pick. They were the only issues virtually, Rick Caruso, who, the wealthy businessman, who is running for mayor made that his issue, spent millions of dollars on ads to drive home the idea that the crime was going, running amuck in Los Angeles, and they're having many of the same problems in Los Angeles that they have in San Francisco. A lot of smash and grab robberies, a lot of homicides, a lot of car burglaries, the same kind of things that have been plaguing San Francisco. And that's going to be the issue in Los Angeles, in the runoff - homelessness and crime. And the two are largely intertwined in the minds of the public.

NIALA: Now we didn't see particularly high turnout in either of these races, but what is your key takeaway about progressives and crime and where we might be going as we head into the fall midterms?

DAN: I wrote a column earlier this year saying that I thought crime would be the sleeper issue of this year's elections in California. And it’s been - The whole idea of this crime wave or concerned about crime has kind of been poo-pooed by the state's main politicians, but it was out there. It's been out there for the last about two years now and people are just getting kind of disgusted with it. That's something that Democrats should worry about because in close races, the Republicans will use the crime issue. They think that's a winning issue this year in some close congressional elections. And it could, you know, in a close congressional race, it could be this thing that tips the ballots.

NIALA: Dan Walters is a columnist for CalMatters based in Sacramento. Thanks, Dan.

DAN: You’re welcome.

NIALA: After the break, preparing for another summer of extreme weather.

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NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

From ferocious wildfires on the west coast to the busiest hurricane season on record in 2020, the past two summers have been especially devastating for Americans when it comes to natural disasters. And Axios’ climate and energy reporter Andrew Freedman says, this is becoming the status quo. As we head into another summer of climate disasters. He's here with details of what that could look like.

Andrew, we're certainly not trying to be alarmist, but groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists are now referring to the summer as the danger season. Can you explain why?

ANDREW FREEDMAN: Yeah. You know, summer is the time period when natural climate variability combines with the climate change signal to push things in one direction. So an ordinary heat wave with climate change becomes a much bigger threat.

When I was little, you know, summer was synonymous with fun and freedom and summer now for a lot of people in the U.S. and around the world is associated with natural disasters and threats. It's associated with huge floods and huge storms and wildfires. And, you know, we have to kind of adapt to our changing reality and see what we can do to better accommodate these new conditions because they're not exactly going away.

NIALA: So you mentioned wildfires, we're thinking about hurricane season, there's a wildfire in New Mexico. That's still burning. It's the largest on record this year. Can you just go through the signs of what we need to be watching for the summer?

ANDREW: Yeah, so right now we have a huge drought footprint in the West. we're going to see, uh, escalating heat waves in the Southwest, in Texas to Colorado, to California, Nevada. And we're looking at the wildfire risk in different parts of the West at different points this summer. So don't think just Southern California, think Northern California as well, especially at the beginning.

And then, we're looking at the hurricane season, which every sign that scientists look for water temperatures, air circulation patterns, all of these that set up a hurricane season in the Atlantic are pointing in the direction of a much above average season. That doesn't guarantee a record disaster, worst case scenario, but it does mean that there's a signal here that's kind of flashing red for elevated risk.

NIALA: What should all of us be thinking about across the country to be prepared for this?

ANDREW: So if you live along the coast, uh, if you live in a coastal region that is at all vulnerable or sees hurricanes on occasion, you should definitely be watching out for the season. Plan to try to bolster your property, but plan also, what you would do in the event of an evacuation and think about where you might go. In wildfire country, you know, people are urging people to try to take defensive action around their property and clear brush and clear vegetation. There's also efforts to educate people about evacuation routes, and get people to have to-go bags. It's interesting how this is becoming a routine, in planning for one season or another. Just like you'd plan for winter, you'd plan for fall, seasonal activities in the West now include HEPA filters for the wildfire smoke.

NIALA: Andrew Freedman covers climate and energy for Axios. Thanks, Andrew.

ANDREW: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: For the second year in a row, tens of thousands of flowers were placed in the shadow of the Washington Monument in our nation’s capitol in a temporary memorial for Americans who have died because of gun violence.

There are more than 45,000 white and orange flowers to represent the lives lost to guns each year. In 2020, 45,222 people died by guns – that includes mass shootings, homicides and suicide. That’s the largest yearly number in history.

Actor Matthew McConaughy - whose hometown is Uvalde, Texas - later spoke at the White House about why this moment could be different.

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHY: The American people will continue to drive forward the idea of keeping our children safe. Because it’s more than our right to do - it’s our responsibility.

NIALA: A bipartisan group of Senators is working to negotiate a deal on gun control before the end of the week.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! Text me your feedback and story ideas: I’m at (202) 918-4893.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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