Capitol Alert

Keep your eyes on these California races tonight

Newsom and Cox will face off for California governor

Watch Election Night highlights of John Cox and Gavin Newsom in California governor's race.
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Watch Election Night highlights of John Cox and Gavin Newsom in California governor's race.

Since President Donald Trump took office, California has placed itself at the center of the “resistance.” With vulnerable Republicans seeking re-election, hotly debated ballot measures up in the air and contested local, statewide and national races, today is kind of a big deal.

For all the discussion leading up to the midterm elections, there is still so much we don’t know. Will there be a blue wave? Will young people show up to vote? Will polling be right this time?

Despite the uncertainties that lie ahead, one thing is clear: Election Day has finally arrived! Grab your coffee, keep your eyes glued on election results, and prepare yourself for what could be a long night.

We’re here to make the day a bit easier for you. With that in mind, here are some of the most important issues, races, and topics you should be following:

What’s at stake?

  • CHECK ON TRUMP: Democrats are looking to regain control of the U.S. House of Representative. To do so, they’ll likely need to pick up a few seats in California. If Democrats flip the House, they’ll be able to curb some of Trump’s agenda and end the GOP’s grip in Washington, D.C. Taking back the Senate will be a tall order, but if Democrats can do it, Trump will have a hard time securing any legislative victories.
  • DEMOCRATIC DOMINATION: In California, Democrats will undoubtedly keep their majorities in the Assembly and Senate. But will they get a supermajorities in both houses and with them, the ability to raise taxes and place constitutional amendments on the ballot? If so, Republicans could slide into further irrelevance, losing what little power they already have in Sacramento.
  • CALIFORNIA ISSUES: Will gas tax increases be repealed? Will California cities get the power to enact broader rent control? Is it the beginning of the end for daylight saving time? Voters will decide the fate of 11 ballot measures today, not to mention the fate of several local and statewide candidates. It’s easy to get lost in the seemingly endless discussions about Trump and Congress. But it’s important to remember local and state government is what will affect you most directly.

How to keep up with all the news

For all the screaming and shouting you might hear on cable news, it’s important to remember there are other ways to get valuable information.

  • SACRAMENTO BEE: For the first time ever, The Sacramento Bee will host a live election night show on Expect to see some familiar faces and live cutaways to victory parties in Sacramento and Los Angeles. You can also follow along online for live coverage of election results. If you sign up for the Capitol Alert newsletter, Adam Ashton will send you an email Wednesday morning with what you missed. It’s going to be a late night, so if you’ve got to be up early, the newsletter will probably be your best source for an Election Night rewind.

  • POLITICAL DATA: If you want to dig below the surface of the results, Paul Mitchell’s nonpartisan absentee tracker is incredibly helpful. You can sort through individual races, find out which party is turning out in higher numbers and see the makeup of voters by age, race and gender.

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What races should I watch in California?

This is not an exhaustive list, but these could be some of the closest contests:


  • District 10 (Modesto): Josh Harder (D) v. Rep. Jeff Denham (R)
  • District 25 (LA, Ventura counties): Katie Hill (D) v. Rep. Steve Knight (R)
  • District 39 (Orange County) Gil Cisneros (D) v. Young Kim (R)
  • District 45 (Orange County): Katie Porter (D) v. Rep. Mimi Walters (R)
  • District 48 (Orange County): Harley Rouda (D) v. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R)

Across the United States, Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to capture a majority in the House.


  • Board of Equalization District 4: Mike Schaefer (D) v. Joel Anderson (R)
  • Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara (D) v. Steve Poizner (No Party Preference)
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond (NPP) v. Marshall Tuck (NPP)


  • Senate District 12 (Merced): Anna Caballero (D) v. Rob Poythress (R)
  • Assembly District 32 (Bakersfield): Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D) v. Justin Mendes (R)
  • Assembly District 40 (Inland Southern California) : James Ramos (D) v. Henry Nickel R)
  • Assembly District 60 (Riverside): Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes (D) v. Bill Essayli (R)

  • Assembly District 65 (Orange County): Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D) v. Alex Coronado (R)

What should I watch for outside of California?

There will be 36 governor’s races, 35 Senate races, and 435 House races, for a whopping total of 506 elections.

If you’re watching returns from the East Coast, these House contests could indicate whether there will be a Blue Wave or Red Wall:

  • FL-26: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) v. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R)
  • NC-09: Dan McCready (D) v. Mark Harris (R)

  • PA-10: George Scott (D) v. Rep. Scott Perry (R)
  • TX-07: Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D) v. Rep. John Culberson (R)
  • VA-05: Leslie Cockburn (D) v. Denver Riggleman (R)

These out-of-state statewide contests could be close:


  • Georgia: Stacey Abrams (D) v. Brian Kemp (R)
  • Iowa: Fred Hubbell (D) v. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R)
  • Kansas: Laura Kelly (D) v. Kris Kobach (R)
  • Nevada: Steve Sisolak (D) v. Adam Laxalt (R)
  • Ohio: Richard Cordray (D) v. Mike DeWine (R)
  • Wisconsin: Tony Evers (D) v. Scott Walker (R)


  • Arizona: Kyrsten Sinema (D) v. Martha McSally (R)
  • Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) v. Rick Scott (R)
  • Indiana: Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) v. Mike Braun (R)
  • Missouri: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) v. Josh Hawley (R)
  • Nevada: Jacky Rosen (D) v. Sen. Dean Heller (R)

What do the experts have to say?

  • Paul Mitchell, political consultant: “With the early vote that we have, we have a lot of data on who’s already voted. When the polls close and those first returns come in, the one thing I’m going to be looking at are early numbers. … If any of those Republicans are losing (in early voting), that’s it.”
  • Fred Whitaker, Orange County GOP Chair: “Throughout the day, you should be looking for what are the voter trends in the absentees and the people coming out to the polls. If we’re starting to see a climb in middle class homeowners, we’ll be fine. … Our absentee numbers are looking very strong in Orange County.”

What should I do after Election Day?

Get some coffee. Regardless of the outcome, odds are it’s been a long couple of days (or maybe even months) for you. But after that, you should join The Sacramento Bee Friday for the “California Priorities Summit.” The event is bringing political leaders together to provide advice for the new governor and discuss what happened in the election, what we still don’t know, and what the future of the state might look like. The summit, which is being held from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Sacramento’s Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts, is free and open to the public. Make sure to RSVP here.

Anything else to check out?

Final reminder