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California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom holding his son. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Brian Goldsmith, a journalist and entrepreneur who lives in L.A. and co-hosts a podcast with Katie Couric, sends Axios this cheat sheet as California voters today take the first step in electing a new governor.

The big picture: If the winners are Gavin Newsom, the liberal lieutenant governor and longtime frontrunner, and John Cox, the Trump-endorsed perennial candidate (who didn’t even vote for Trump), the general election ends before it began. The state Republican Party that Arnold Schwarzenegger said was “dying at the box office” is now third behind Democrats and independents.

  • For the first time in 20 years, a current or former governor is not on the ballot.
  • Under the “top two” system, the pair who win the most votes, regardless of party, go on to November.

State of play ... California is far worse off than it appears:

  • On the surface, four-term Gov. Jerry Brown, 80, seems to have fixed the state: a $6 billion budget surplus, 3 million new jobs, and real action against climate change.
  • But dig deeper and problems abound: The highest income tax rates in the country. ... A system so dependent on capital gains that when the inevitable next recession hits, we’ll plunge into fiscal catastrophe. ... If the nation catches a cold, California’s budget gets typhoid fever. ... A nearly $1 trillion gap between the retirement promises politicians made to public workers and the funding available to cover them.

Be smart ... The biggest problem of all is an affordability crisis that drives people out:

  • Despite the good times, more people are leaving than moving in.
  • McKinsey recently ranked California as having the worst quality of life in America.
  • What’s missing is a candidate of ideas who can drive a sharp contrast with the status quo.

Go deeper

Wall Street braces for more turbulence ahead of Election Day

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Wall Street is digging in for a potentially rocky period as Election Day gets closer.

Why it matters: Investors are facing a "three-headed monster," Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets, tells Axios — a worsening pandemic, an economic stimulus package in limbo, and an imminent election.

Dave Lawler, author of World
4 hours ago - World

How Biden might tackle the Iran deal

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Four more years of President Trump would almost certainly kill the Iran nuclear deal — but the election of Joe Biden wouldn’t necessarily save it.

The big picture: Rescuing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is near the top of Biden's foreign policy priority list. He says he'd re-enter the deal once Iran returns to compliance, and use it as the basis on which to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting deal with Iran.

Kamala Harris, the new left's insider

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images     

Progressive leaders see Sen. Kamala Harris, if she's elected vice president, as their conduit to a post-Biden Democratic Party where the power will be in younger, more diverse and more liberal hands.

  • Why it matters: The party's rising left sees Harris as the best hope for penetrating Joe Biden's older, largely white inner circle.

If Biden wins, Harris will become the first woman, first Black American and first Indian American to serve as a U.S. vice president — and would instantly be seen as the first in line for the presidency should Biden decide against seeking a second term.