Capitol Alert

'Trump bump' for California voter turnout was wishful thinking, experts say

Voters turn out to vote in the California primary election at the Fresno County Registrar of Voters office in downtown Fresno on Tuesday, June 5, 2018.
Voters turn out to vote in the California primary election at the Fresno County Registrar of Voters office in downtown Fresno on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Since President Donald Trump took office, California has tried to place itself as the center of the resistance to his administration. Some people viewed the primaries as a referendum on the president, indicative of Democrats' ability to mobilize voters.

But now that counties have fully reported their primary election results, experts doubt there was much of a "Trump bump" in June.

"If there was a huge Trump effect, we would have seen more votes cast in closely contested House races for Democrats than Republicans, and we just didn't see that," said Wesley Hussey, associate professor of political science at Sacramento State.

Turnout among registered voters jumped to 37 percent this year — California's highest rate in a non-presidential primary since 1998 — stoking excitement about a more enthused electorate in 2018.

Hussey said the numbers are impressive, because California previously saw a decrease in voter turnout in four consecutive non-presidential election year primaries, culminating in a historic low of 25 percent in 2014.

But political consultant Paul Mitchell worries people are overstating the importance of the 37 percent turnout rate and Trump's ability to drive voters to the polls.

Mitchell said the numbers belong in a larger historical context: The baseline turnout in a gubernatorial primary is 34 percent. He called this year's results "just slightly better than average."

"When you look at past primaries with open gubernatorial primaries, this is dead even," Mitchell said.

John Vigna, communications director for the California Democratic Party, said it's difficult to quantify Trump's impact on voting.

"The huge Trump effect, you're going to see that in the general election, not necessarily the primary," Vigna said. "Getting voters to the polls is a much more challenging thing for us (Democrats) than it is for them (Republicans)."

A CONVERSATION ON UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs is stopping by the Sacramento Press Club for a luncheon, and conversation with Dan Morain of CALmatters, at 11:45 a.m. at the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California headquarters on I Street. Tubbs is the city's first African-American mayor, and at 27, he is also the youngest mayor of a large city in the country. Since his election in November 2016, Tubbs has gained national attention for his proposals to launch a pilot universal basic income program — a program through which the government gives money directly to people with no strings attached.

BAY AREA RANKS AMONG WORLD'S TOP ECONOMIES

The Bay Area is among the 20 largest global economies, according to a new analysis being presented today by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. The institute will host a forum at 8:30 a.m. in San Francisco to unveil the profile and review the findings.

INFLUENCER OF THE DAY

When robots take California jobs, what happens next? Influencers have plenty to say.

“As we build and grow our tech, telecom, health care/biotech, entertainment and education sectors, we must be constantly creating new fields and opportunities for Californians. Additionally, we must invest and create access to career and technical education/training in fields ranging from computer technology, to automotive tech to the building trades, all of which offer a good future. And our K-12 schools must prepare students with a robust S.T.E.A.M curriculum.”

Eric Bauman, chair of the California Democratic Party

MUST READ: Doctors, nurses and insurers are spending big to determine how you'll get your health care

Editor's note: This post was updated at 12:40 p.m. to correct Wesley Hussey's name.

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