Kamala Harris is your new U.S. senator-elect, congressional incumbents look likely to hold on, recreational marijuana won and legislative Democrats’ ambition of recapturing two-thirds super-majorities hinged on the outcomes in a handful of close Southern California races.
Those are some of the top-line results from Tuesday’s contests. And while you may have spent the night glued to the electoral college map, we also saw California voters on track to swap out a pair of Democratic incumbents in the Assembly, approve new tobacco taxes, and nix a state drug price cap.
The contest affecting the most Californians turned out to be a snoozer. Attorney General Kamala Harris coasted to an expected victory over Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Orange, in the quest to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. Now attention turns to whom Gov. Jerry Brown will appoint to replace Harris as California’s top cop.
In the perennially tight race for Sacramento County’s 7th Congressional District, Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, maintained a narrow edge over Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones with all precincts reporting. If Bera holds on it would mark the second straight cycle that Bera has fended off a Republican challenger, after topping Republican Doug Ose in a close 2014 contest.
A number of GOP House members looked vulnerable with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, prompting big spending by hopeful Democrats. But the most endangered California Republicans seem headed for re-election,. Representatives Darrell Issa, Steve Knight, Jeff Denham and David Valadao all led their races.
In some intra-Democratic contests, challenger Ro Khanna toppled long-serving Rep. Mike Honda, in a rematch of a 2014 race for the South Bay’s 17th Congressional District that functioned as a gauge of Bay Area politics in the tech age. Attorney Nanette Barragán held a narrow lead over state Sen. Isadore Hall, D-Compton, as they vied for a Los Angeles-area seat.
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em: California became the latest state to join the green wave, passing Proposition 64 and thus approving recreational marijuana use (as did Massachusetts). Using tobacco products will be more expensive, though: Proposition 56’s $2-a-pack tobacco tax passed. Both ideas failed the last times they were on the ballot.
Voters also gave the okay to Proposition 55, which extends the higher income tax rate for top earners approved back in 2012. In other school funding-related measures, voters approved Proposition 51’s $9 billion school bond and locked in a hospital funding fee via Proposition 52.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to champion legal marijuana paid off with Proposition 64’s approval. He also ended up on the right side of gun control, with his ammunition-regulating Proposition 63 succeeding. He’ll have both of those wins to tout as he gears up for a 2018 gubernatorial run.
It shaped up to be a great night for the governor. His Proposition 57, which seeks to allow more early releases of non-violent offenders, passed by a wide margin. Voters also were on track to reject a constitutional amendment, Proposition 53, to require voter approval for large revenue bonds, vindicating Brown’s public campaigning against the measure and rebuking the quest of Stockton farmer Dean Cortopassi.
Speaking of pet projects: voters approved Proposition 54, a legislative transparency measure bankrolled by Republican benefactor Charles Munger, Jr. That means bills will need to be in print 72 hours before final floor votes in either house, which could alter how the deal-heavy final hours of legislative sessions unfold and will please Republicans who decry that kind of policymaking.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation head Michael Weinstein had a worse night. His organization championed two measures and both trailed all night: Proposition 60, which would require condoms in adult films, and Proposition 61, which sought to control drug prices and earned the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders while triggering more than $100 million in pharmaceutical industry spending to defeat it.
Voters rejected the idea of repealing the death penalty and see poised to approve Proposition 66 to speed it up . Voters also were poised to uphold a 2014 law and rejected a plastics industry-funded measure to redirect bag revenue.
Voters also disavowed the 1996 electorate’s embrace of English-only education by passing Proposition 58, which restores bilingual instruction, and signaled their disapproval of the Citizens United decision via Proposition 59’s call to overturn it.
With a fundraising advantage, favorable demographics in several districts and a historically divisive Republican nominee leading the ticket, legislative Democrats came into Tuesday hoping to regain the super-majority status that allows a unified caucus to pass tax measures and certain other types of legislation without any Republican votes.
Five Republican incumbents were central to the Assembly count, and it looks like Democrats could knock out the two they need for the minimum two-thirds margin. Democrats led in a pair of rematches: former Democratic Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi over Assemblyman David Hadley, R-Manhattan Beach, and former Democratic Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva over Assemblywoman Young Kim, R-Fullerton.
In two others, Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, dispatched Democrat Cheryl Cook-Kallio; Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, R-Rancho Cucamonga, was well ahead of Democrat Abigail Medina. In another seat, though, Democrat Sabrina Cervantes held a small lead over Assemblyman Eric Linder, R-Corona.
Democrats had also hoped to move two open Assembly GOP seats into their column, but they will likely lost both. In the 35th district Republican Jordan Cunninhgam defeated Democrat Dawn Ortiz-Legg, while in the 38th, Republican Dante Acosta topped Democrat Christy Smith with all precincts reporting.
In the Senate, Democrats needed to hold three seats to have a shot. They seemed headed for victory in all them: Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, won re-election; Henry Stern, D-Los Angeles, was well ahead in the race to succeed his former boss Fran Pavley, and former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino had a comfortable lead over longtime Los Angeles County supervisor Mike Antonovich, a Republican.
But Democrats needed to pick up one of two contested GOP-held seats, with that possibility still up in the air. Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, claimed the seat formerly held by deceased former Sen. Sharon Runner. So it comes down to the race to fill the seat seat now held by former Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, and it’s a nail-biter: Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, R-Diamond Bar, was slightly ahead of Democrat Josh Newman early this morning, with all precincts reporting.
Of course, Democrats still wield comfortable majorities. So the internal caucus dynamics assume greater importance, which is not lost on the outside interests that have spent heavily in Democrat-on-Democrat races.
Some returns from those intraparty struggles: in a closely watched race that has served as a referendum for liberal discontent with moderate Democrats, Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, trailed fellow Democrat Eloise Reyes. Former Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, meanwhile, was poised to knock out Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando and reclaim the seat he lost in an upset last time.
In the Senate contests, Assemblyman Bill Dodd, D-Napa, has a big lead over former Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada; former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner defeated former Assemblyman Sandré Swanson; in San Francisco, Scott Wiener beat Jane Kim; Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, fended off an oil-backed challenge from Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose; and former Assemblyman Steven Bradford defeated former Assemblyman Warren Furutani.
Elsewhere around the state, Tim Grayson defeated Mae Torlakson, and in the south Bay Marc Berman won over Vicki Veenker. In the San Jose area, Madison Nguyen was locked in a tight race with fellow San Jose CityCouncil member Ash Kalra. Over on the central coast, voters chose former Assemblywoman Anna Caballero over Karina Alejo, the wife of Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas.
Also in the Los Angeles area, Laura Friedman overcame Ardy Kassakhian. In a race that has drawn accusations of meddling, Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Burbank, defeated write-in challenger Angela Rupert. Two other incumbents were fending off fellow Democrats: Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, snuffed a challenge from Paul Avila, while Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, defeated Sandra Mendoza.