You could have missed it if you blinked, but California had an election on Tuesday.
It wasn’t much of an election. Turnout might reach 25 percent of the 17.7 million voters after mail-in and provisional ballots are counted, lackluster at best.
In a few races, the dreadfully low turnout was good for interests with lots of money to spend and the knowledge that the outcome matters. Sparse turnout also made for fluky results in some contests.
Most importantly, Californians wisely voted against giving one of the top two slots in the gubernatorial race to Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican who had been arrested for bringing a gun into Ontario Airport.
Gov. Jerry Brown easily won the top-two primary, and will face former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari, a Republican. Kashkari has little chance of defeating Brown in November but probably won’t embarrass the GOP; Donnelly would have.
Speaking of embarrassing, 287,590 Californians voted on election day for Sen. Leland Yee for secretary of state, the chief elections officer, even though he faces federal corruption charges including allegations of gun-running.
Maybe Yee’s voters were confused. Perhaps they were using their votes as a prank. Whatever.
Yee won’t make it into the runoff. But he led Dan Schnur, a USC teacher and former political operative, and Derek Cressman, former head of California Common Cause. Both ran on political reform platforms, not that many of us noticed.
Schnur ran as an independent, which shows that even though more than 20 percent of Californians decline to state a party preference, a candidate’s party affiliation counts. His defeat will be a cautionary tale for future candidates who don’t state a party preference.
California’s new top-two primary system, combined with low turnout, complicated matters for insiders and party leaders. They hate the jungle primary and seek to undermine it because they have a harder time scripting the outcome.
Republican Art Moore was close to winning the second slot and thus the right to challenge to Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, for congressional seat that includes Lincoln, Tahoe and Yosemite. The California GOP endorsed McClintock.
In the race for state controller, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin led three other candidates, who were separated by a few thousand votes for the second slot. The outcome won’t be known for days or weeks.
Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, a Democrat and the choice of most of organized labor, was in second place with 638,545 votes, after spending $2 million. Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, another Democrat, trailed Pérez by 5,643 votes, after spending about $600,000.
Sandwiched between Pérez and Betty Yee was David Evans, a Republican who lives in California City. He led Betty Yee and trailed Pérez, narrowly, after spending all of $600 on his race. Go figure.
Nonetheless, labor, the major power in California politics, did reasonably well Tuesday.
In an Assembly race in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, unions spent $2 million, and maybe more, to knock off Democrat Steve Glazer, a former political adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Labor’s choice, Democrat Tim Sbranti, a California Teachers Association officer, will face a Republican in November and likely win a seat he can hold for the next 12 years. Election day turnout in the Sbranti-Glazer contest was 18 percent.
Californians’ next date with the polls is on Nov. 4. There will be plenty to decide, including several initiatives and perhaps a water bond, plus a hot state Senate race in Sacramento between Democratic Assemblymen Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan. Let’s hope a few more of us show up. As insiders know, the outcome will matter.