Six people made The Bee's 2012 Californians to Watch list a year ago. Before we embark on our 2013 list on Wednesday, it's time to look back at how things went for those we spotlighted last year.
PRESIDENT, HOWARD JARVIS TAXPAYERS ASSOCIATION
A year ago, Coupal was preparing for "nuclear war" in his crusade against higher taxes. He lost the battle on almost every front. "We got nuked," he acknowledged this month.
As president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Coupal was one of the most visible and vocal opponents of Proposition 30, the November tax increase backed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
But Californians ended their eight-year streak of rejecting statewide tax increases on Nov. 6, approving the $6 billion annual tax hike with 55 percent of the vote.
Democrats also secured a supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature, giving the majority party power to approve tax increases or place measures on the ballot without any GOP votes. All but one of the candidates HJTA endorsed in races featuring two Republicans lost.
"We (were) horribly outdone," he said of the campaign run by Brown and public employee unions. "That was a very pro-Obama machinery in full effect nationwide, and I think the results speak for themselves." -Torey Van Oot
Rev. James Butler
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA COALITION AGAINST GAMBLING EXPANSION
Butler entered 2012 vowing to fight what appeared to be an uphill battle - keeping California from approving legal online gambling. Indian tribes and card rooms were lobbying for an Internet poker bill.
He was successful, though more because of fumbles by his opponents than because of the force of his anti-gambling lobby.
Infighting among gambling interests, who disagreed on which games should be sanctioned and which entities would be allowed to profit from them, kept an Internet gambling bill from advancing at all in 2012. The California Online Poker Association - consisting of two casino-owning tribes and several card rooms - spent $1.2 million pushing for a bill to legalize Internet poker. Several other tribes opposed it, saying more games should be sanctioned and more tribes should have permission to run them. The association disbanded at the end of October, citing lack of progress on a bill.
But a new Internet gambling bill has already been introduced for the 2013 session, and there are rumblings of more to come. Butler says he plans to keep his fight going in the new year. -Laurel Rosenhall
Harris started 2012 entangled in a national foreclosure crisis that had rocked California homeowners - and her efforts paid big dividends.
In February, Harris announced that California had secured $18 billion in a 49-state settlement over wrongful foreclosures and other mortgage-related misbehavior by five key lenders.
Harris also garnered separate, enforceable guarantees that the lenders would make more than $12 billion in principal reductions or shortsale offers to about 250,000 distressed California homeowners.
Legislatively, the attorney general sponsored a package of mortgage protection bills that will take effect Jan. 1. Key measures were signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July, with final provisions signed in late September.
A pivotal element of the new mortgage laws bans "dual tracking," in which lenders pursue foreclosure even while negotiating possible loan modifications with a homeowner behind on payments.
By year's end, Harris' success fueled speculation that she could be a future California governor or U.S. Supreme Court justice. -Jim Sanders
Gale KaufmanDEMOCRATIC POLITICAL CONSULTANT
Kaufman had two huge priorities at the dawn of 2012 - defeat an initiative to restrict union dues collection and help Gov. Jerry Brown win his tax measure.
On both counts, the Democratic political consultant and California Teachers Association strategist succeeded.
Kaufman's labor coalition defeated Proposition 32 by 13 percentage points after mobilizing union members and spending more than $60 million. Her side outspent its opposition, though her foes had more money than expected.
Wealthy GOP activist Charles Munger Jr. gave $35 million to support Proposition 32 and oppose Brown's Proposition 30 tax initiative. A network of conservative nonprofits gave a surprise $11 million contribution in the final month, also to back Prop. 32 and oppose Prop. 30.
The governor won Proposition 30 in the end with help from unions, an outcome that remained in doubt up until the election. The union push also helped Democrats win supermajorities in both houses of the state Legislature for the first time since the 1880s. -Kevin Yamamura
Roelof van Ark
FORMER CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, CALIFORNIA HIGH-SPEED RAIL AUTHORITY
Van Ark, who came to the High-Speed Rail Authority in 2010, was preparing a year ago to push California's controversial bullet train project through the Legislature.
The Legislature would eventually approve the $68 billion project - but without him.
Van Ark announced his resignation from the authority in January, as Gov. Jerry Brown moved to recast the project's administration. Though van Ark benefited from his experience on massive infrastructure projects worldwide, he proved less effective in the political environment at the Capitol.
Lawmakers grew frustrated with changing cost estimates and other questions about the project's management. By the time he announced his resignation, his relationship with the Legislature had significantly soured. Following van Ark's departure, Brown relied heavily on Dan Richard, an adviser he appointed to the rail board, to lobby lawmakers for the project.
In May, the rail authority hired a former Caltrans director, Jeff Morales, to be its new chief executive, replacing van Ark. -David Siders
FORMER SECRETARY, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION
Cate, a holdover appointee from Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration, entered 2012 with orders to drastically cut California's state inmate population and slash prison costs.
Prompted by a court order to reduce prison overcrowding, Cate's new boss, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature launched prison "realignment" in 2011. Cate's focus became managing the penal system's downsizing as more criminals were sentenced to local jails instead of state prisons.
Cate resigned his state post in October to become executive director of the California State Association of Counties. In November, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the state likely won't reach the court-ordered prison population reduction from 173,000 in 2006 to 110,000 inmates by next June.
Cate thinks the department will fall 6,000 to 7,000 inmates short of its goal, but he sees realignment and his part in it as a success.
"We basically addressed the worst prison overcrowding in the country," Cate said in a recent interview. "We made amazing progress." -Jon Ortiz