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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

Biden administration makes first move on data privacy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Biden administration is launching its first big effort on privacy policy by looking at how data privacy issues affect civil rights.

Why it matters: An administration perspective on privacy policy could be key in developing a long-awaited national privacy law by putting the White House stamp on how to regulate privacy.

Axios Investigates

Exclusive: Airbnb hosts Xinjiang rentals on land owned by sanctioned group

Data: Axios research, Airbnb, Australia Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre; Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Airbnb has more than a dozen homes available for rent in China's Xinjiang region on land owned by an organization sanctioned by the U.S. government for complicity in genocide and forced labor, an Axios investigation has found.

Why it matters: The listings expose Airbnb to regulatory risk under U.S. law. They also land yet another American tech company in the crossfire between the U.S. and China.

For CEOs, social media has lost its fun

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

CEO Jack Dorsey's departure from Twitter shows that, in Silicon Valley today, social media is becoming a field to flee.

Why it matters: Coming on the heels of Facebook's name change and new metaverse focus, Dorsey's resignation is another sign that the industry now views the massive social networks it built over the last two decades as buggy "legacy applications" mired in annoying social problems.