More from the series
The California Influencers Series
California Influencers for The Sacramento Bee and McClatchy addressed this question: What did we learn from the June primary election, and why?
Linda Ackerman, President of Marian Bergeson Excellence in Public Service Series
Could it be that this primary election showed us exactly what a "jungle" primary is? The supporters of the top two primary felt that the power would be given back to the people, and taken away from the influence of "special interests". This in turn would engage the voters and ultimately help with bipartisanship policy setting in the legislature. What I actually experienced was a barrage of excessively large campaign mailers, television and radio ads that lacked any substance, candidates avoiding honest discourse, millions of dollars spent by both parties, outside "special interest" groups spent even more. Both sides disparaging the other, and both sides beating up their own to make sure two of ours or two of theirs did not make it into the top two. I think we just experienced an "open .........err jungle primary.
Andrea Ambriz, Chief of Staff for Service Employees International Union Local 2015
There’s a strong paradox out of Tuesday’s results. Despite many Californians calling for political change over this past year, (turnout was low). Significant resources have already been invested in the outcome of these campaigns, and this lower rate of voter turnout guarantees that a substantial amount of additional capital and organizing will be needed to motivate voters to turnout for the general.
Matt Barreto, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Latino Decisions
According to election analysis conducted by the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA, the Latino vote played an important role in the June 2018 primary. In Orange County, ballots cast in majority-Latino precincts were up over 2014 numbers by as much as a 245% increase - without all the 2018 votes recorded yet. This increase was especially noticeable in CA39 where the Latino vote helped put Gil Cisneros into second place, giving him a real shot at picking up the district.
Kevin de León secured his second-place finish largely because he significantly outpaced the Republican James Bradley in high density Latino neighborhoods in L.A. and Orange County. In some of these areas de León actually received more votes than Feinstein. The same can be said for Ed Hernandez in the lieutenant governor race, with a strong Latino vote pushing him into second position.
Statewide, there was evidence of a Democratic surge as compared to 2014. In 2014 39% of all votes in Orange County were Democratic and in 2018 49% were Democratic – a 10 point gain. In Ventura, Democratic ballots rose by 9 points while in Merced a 12-point increase in Democratic vote from 2014 to 2018.
Eric Bauman, Chair of the California Democratic Party
The Blue Wave lives. The media narrative that Democrats would be locked out of key Congressional races utterly missed the energy and grassroots organizing that was going on in every targeted district in the state. California will play a big role in America’s future!
Kim Belshé, Executive Director of First 5 LA
This past Tuesday, strong majorities of voters supported a number of local budget measures to prioritize the well-being of young children. These local results reflect an electorate registering support for young kids and a hunger for solutions. Encouraging as these results may be, they’re not sufficient. California’s kids require statewide solutions. The strong support of these local measures is a call to action for state leaders and lawmakers to create thoughtful, statewide approaches to support the health, safety and school readiness of our youngest Californians.
Jim Boren, Executive Director of the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust; Former Executive Editor of The Fresno Bee
On Election Day, we got all worked up about how the top-two primary might hurt California’s two-party system, but we barely blinked an eye at another low-turnout election, writing the apathy off as typical for a primary election. The two-party system didn’t blow up, but our democracy continues to be in peril as the politicians and insiders made excuses for people not voting. This is a problem we can’t ignore. Our democracy cannot thrive to its fullest potential when two-thirds of voters have something better to do than vote. Election cynicism threatens our representative form of government, and contributes to the feeling by many that their interests are not being served by elected leaders. We have created a political system where the politicians don’t care about how many people voted, only that they got the most votes. But the “winners” will pay for that short-term thinking when they try to get a polarized constituency behind good public policy. It is time that we change the political debate from finger-pointing to a deep discussion on how to engage voters so that the majority actually votes on the biggest issues facing our state.
Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator, 1993-2017
Due to focus and effort, it looks like the road to flipping the House of Representatives could well lead through California. Predictions that we democrats would be shut out of several races due to the jungle primary were wrong and I think there may even be a couple of new targets, including the fourth district seat held by Congressman Tom McClintock. And I believe ,because Republican candidate for Governor John Cox, a strong trump loyalist, is in a runoff against democrat Gavin Newsom, the biggest news is that the California governors race could well become a shadow presidential race, leading to a huge turnout on all sides. That would be great news for democracy and those democrats in the swing districts that need that wind at their back.
Madeleine Brand, radio host with KCRW Los Angeles
The jungle primary was supposed to lessen the importance of political parties. That didn't happen. And the parties will be even more powerful as they pour tens of millions of dollars into the contested House races leading up to November.
Bill Burton, Managing Director of SKDKnickerbocker in Los Angeles
Democrats are in the best position since 2006 to win control of the House -- I couldn't be more proud that California is a big reason for that. And with so many women in a strong position to win competitive seats, we stand to help markedly improve the gender imbalance that has lately been getting worse in Washington.
Tom Campbell, Professor of Law and Professor of Economics at Chapman University
(Election night) gave no energy to opponents of the top 2 system. It might have if the primary had sent statewide races forward with both candidates from the same party, thus depriving voters of a chance to choose on national party lines in November. That did not happen, however — except for Lt. Governor and US Senate. The former gets little voter attention, and the latter is a foregone conclusion anyway.
The primary also dealt a blow to the national Democratic Party’s hopes to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker again. They had hoped to turn seven California Congressional Districts from Republican to Democratic. However, the votes cast for all Republican candidates in each targeted district exceeded those cast for all Democratic candidates in that district, except for the 49th (being vacated by Darrell Issa). November will bring greater Democratic turn-out than the primary did so the strategy could still work; but last night should dampen realistic Democrats’ expectations.
Bonnie Castillo, Executive Director of California Nurses Association
California’s primary offered real hope for millions of our neighbors who face crushing medical debt or who forgo needed care due to skyrocketing out of pocket health costs. The dominant showing by Gavin Newsom, who made the call for guaranteed healthcare through a single payer healthcare system a centerpiece of his campaign, was also a clear rebuke of Democrats who ran against transformative health reform. Achieving health security for all Californians is a matter of bold leadership and political will. We can look forward to making California a national leader and model after November.
Jon Coupal, President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
First, the intensity of the backlash against the car tax and gas tax increase can be measured, in part, by the margin by which Senator Newman was recalled. It was bigger than even the proponents anticipated. Second, the "jungle primary" system left many ordinary voters confused. This will only get worse in future elections as consultants learn new tricks -- like funding a less well-known opponent to elevate them into the top two -- and the level of gamesmanship becomes so complex that even Machiavelli would blush.
Gray Davis, Governor of California, 1999-2003
The big winner Tuesday was our next Governor, Gavin Newsom! He will run an aggressive general election campaign and motivate voters to support candidates up and down the ticket. Senator Dianne Feinstein also had a great night, and almost certainly will win. “The big surprise of the “Jungle Primary” is that turnout was lackluster, approximately the same as in 2010. “For months the media has hyped the prospect of a “Blue Wave,” changing control of the House of Representatives. But unless turnout in November goes from anemic to robust, there will be no change. “The “RESIST” movement must exist apart from press conferences, cable news, and outrage on social media. Change requires real people engaging real people, and most of all voting. Otherwise it’s all just noise. Motivating voters requires more than trashing Trump. Campaigning on better jobs, better schools, and healthcare is what matters to real people.
Harmeet Dhillon, Republican National Committee, California, and Partner in Dhillon Law Group
The promised Democratic "blue wave" was a mere low-tide ripple on Tuesday. Low voter enthusiasm and turnout for the Democratic candidates, coupled with a failure in anticipated Latino turnout to support certain candidates, and high voter dissatisfaction with the gas tax and quality of life concerns in California, led to a good day for Republicans, from John Cox on down. Democrats have taken California for granted, and what we learned Tuesday is that this was a mistake, and California will very much be in play in November.
Cesar Diaz, Legislative and Political Director of State Building and Construction Trades Council
The primary proved that our electorate is not made up merely of resistance or protest voters reacting to the Trump White House. Voters showed their willingness to vote out incumbents while simultaneously showing their strong support for the traditional principles of both parties. Down-ticket Democratic candidates will need to thread the needle between progressive ideology and main street substance with an electorate that will be heavily bombarded with anti-tax and anti-majority messaging from the GOP. Voters are searching for substance rather than the default of partisan rhetoric for their motivation.
Jon Fleischman, Publisher of the FlashReport
The “top two” election system, championed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010 and heralded as a way to increase voter participation and a way to elect more moderates to office, is a complete failure. As we saw in this election, this system has let to multi-million dollar game playing with partisan and special interests on both sides of the aisle, as well as the candidates themselves “gaming” the system. Examples are abundant. As a Republican I received mail boosting GOP right-winger Travis Allen from a PAC former to support liberal Antonio VIllaraigosa. In coastal Orange County the DCCC put six figures to boost the candidacy of an obscure GOP candidate for Congress who had spent no money on his own race, to siphon off votes. And I got multiple texts from the Newsom campaign contrasting himself with Cox, to get me to vote for Cox. If you look at the outcomes, the ideological contrasts between the final top two vote-getters are as stark as usual. It’s hard to objectively make the case that this system, as it has turned out, is better than the traditional primary it replaced.
Ron George, Former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court
I view judicial elections as critical, having served 38 years on every level of California's court system by appointment of four governors from both major parties. Despite reforms to our process, Californians face periodic threats to politicize their courts' independence. Three California Supreme Court justices were removed in 1986, based on death penalty decisions, and a Los Angeles judge was defeated after his school-desegregation ruling. This week's successful recall of a Santa Clara judge because of a rape sentence, and unsuccessful campaign to remove four San Francisco judges solely because they were appointed by a Republican governor, echo a past era in California and mirror the unfortunate processes of several other states. For example, in Texas where the judicial candidate's political affiliation appears on the ballot, Dallas County voted in 2016 for a straight ticket of Democrats for all 16 positions on the Supreme Court and lower courts. That year, the Ohio Supreme Court candidate endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce prevailed, despite the state bar's "not recommended" rating, over the AFL-CIO-endorsed candidate rated "highly recommended." In 2010, three Iowa Supreme Court justices were defeated after the court unanimously invalidated a same-sex marriage ban. As Californians, we can do better.
Aziza Hasan, Executive Director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership For Change
The (early) results on voter turnout in California was 22 percent of people registered to vote. This is a clear indication that, at this point, the vast majority of registered voters—not to mention those who are eligible and do not register to vote—will not come to the polls by themselves. The few continue to make decisions for the many. To get people out, there is no replacement for aggressive door to door campaigns, which is hard work. We need to knock on doors and talk to people. Listen to people. Just showing up says, “Your voice is important; your vote counts.” Otherwise, people who, historically, have not turned out, won’t turn out. People show up for relationships when they believe they have something at stake.
Antonia Hernandez, President and CEO of California Community Foundation
We still have a big problem with low voter turnout. Democrats have not learned the importance of discipline. We have too many similar candidates running for the same office.
Chet Hewitt, President and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation
California seems to be looking more periwinkle then true blue, as progressive candidates, issues and presumed anti-administration sentiment failed to compel the electorate to affirm its previous description.
Rosalind Hudnell, former Vice President of Human Resources at Intel Corp and former Chair & President of Intel Foundation
In the end a crowded field of Democratic contenders didn’t create a disaster. In fact, it might have served to align the strategy more intentionally to win. Issues still matter and change remains hard. Perhaps the most fascinating will in fact be what is now a classic race for governor. A slam dunk could become more interesting if Trump gets involved and we are still left to analyze the impact of Villaraigosa’s loss and voter turnout. What I’m really watching? Millennials. Over time their issues just might become the issues.
Adama Iwu, Vice President for State Government Relations & Community Outreach with Visa; Co-Founder of We Said Enough
There was a lot of conversation about what this primary election would mean for Republicans and Democrats in California, but to me the biggest takeaway is that yes, this is still the year of female and feminist candidates. Women are running in record numbers and on Tuesday we saw them win. For almost every constitutional office there were dynamic female candidates on the ballot. Where I live in San Francisco, most seats had multiple women running, and we may yet have our first African American female mayor. We are also seeing voters demand more of candidates. Men running for office had to have honest discussions about their past and their track record with women, and voters, especially women voters aren’t looking the other way any longer. Republican women are saying they don’t care if men are good on family values if they don’t actually value women and Democratic women are saying that they don’t care if a candidate is good on their issues if they are abusing women and their positions of power once they are in office. November is a long way away and it will be a long hot summer for all of these candidates, but women are in this for the long haul.
Jonathan Keller, President of California Family Council
Neither party is as competent as they think they are. Voters are still the ultimate decision makers, even in a state as near-monolithic as California. Plus, the collapse of candidates like Antonio Villaraigosa also shows that all the money in the world still can’t guarantee success at the polls.
Jessica Levinson, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School
Despite the fact that California has styled itself as the headquarters of the "Trump resistance," that we have marched in the streets, and that we have made and worn hats, that does not seem to have translated into enthusiasm to show up to the polls. While President Trump was not on the ballot on Tuesday, many people who could alter the political landscape in California were. And yet, turnout was still relatively dismal. Let's do better in November.
Catherine Lew, Principal and Co-Founder of The Lew Edwards Group
Where art thou, voter? Turnout, Turnout, Turnout! ... To a far greater extent than other states, major issues affecting all Californians are decided through statewide ballot propositions and local election measures — yet a very small number of people are making the critical decisions affecting our communities, our schools, public safety and other vital services. Tuesday’s election isn’t just about flipped seats, Newsom v. Trump (or rather, Cox) for Governor, or the incredible number of women nationally competing for elected office this year in the wake of #metoo and other movements. This election is a continued wake-up call that we all must do a better job in speaking directly to the hearts and minds of those we serve, and encouraging participation, not just registration and elected representation. Imagine how our State and communities would be transformed if everyone who was registered, participated. #Rockthevote in November
Monica Lozano, President and CEO of College Futures Foundation
The most powerful tool we have for dealing with the complex and interconnected issues of homelessness, poverty, and educational inequity is our vote. A 22% voter turnout is simply unacceptable. If Californians want to influence policies that impact our lives, we must participate in much higher numbers. Donna Lucas, CEO and President of Lucas Public Affairs While the role of political parties still played a role in the primary, no party preference voters are the second largest voting bloc in California. If trends of new voter preferences hold, they're on the way to becoming California's largest voting bloc. In November, the independents are the real decision-makers.
Mike Madrid, Principal of Grassroots Lab We learned that as much as voters say they want politicians to work together they really mean they want others to compromise their positions and agree with them. We also learned our voting systems and processes are a national embarrassment.
Maria Mejia, Los Angeles Director, Gen Next
The California experiment continues, and while the state’s growing Latino electorate remains largely dormant, this week’s primary election reminds us that their motivations are nuanced, and that their voting preferences will not be determined by ethnicity alone. Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California “It may be a state election, but make no mistake; California’s gubernatorial race will be a referendum on Donald Trump. The President’s lack of popularity provides an excellent target for Gavin Newsom, who should be a heavy favorite going into the fall.”
Eloy Oakley, Chancellor of California Community Colleges
Public higher education matters to voters. Leading up to the primary the major candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor all heard from parents and students expressing concern about college affordability and access. We also saw a lot of interest in the two top candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction which also reflects the voters concern about quality educational opportunities for all Californians. I expect that this theme will continue going into the November election.
Astrid Ochoa, Election administration and voting advocate
Voters in five California counties - Madera, Napa, Nevada, San Mateo and Sacramento - pioneered the new vote center model of elections. This new model of voting has the potential to increase turnout. Every voter received a ballot in the mail and could choose when, where and how to vote, including up to ten days before Election Day at any vote center in their county.
Kristin Olsen, former minority leader in the California Assembly, and Stanislaus County Supervisor
Republican candidates did much better than expected in this week's primary, demonstrating that there actually is hope for the Republican Party to become a powerful balancing force in California again. To do so, the Party must show that Republicans care about people and advance conservative, workable solutions to the State's pressing problems and burdensome cost of living. The Party also must choose to coalesce around a single candidate in an election instead of just leaving outcomes to chance among several or dozens of unknown candidates. Republicans could have advanced to the top two in the U.S. Senate race, the lieutenant governor race, and some state legislative races if it had endorsed and promoted a single Republican candidate. Californians need a healthy, viable two-party system.
Manuel Pastor, Director of Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California
We actually learned two things. The first is about the task ahead: to stir a real debate about how to restructure our economy to provide more opportunity. Because Newsom drew Cox — who will be a sacrificial lamb to draw out Republican voters to protect Congressional seats — he might be able to avoid serious back-and-forth about what we need to do to link innovation with inclusion (and how to pay for it). Meanwhile, Cox will celebrate the market, tout his ties with Trump, and claim that roads can be improved without increasing gas taxes; that’s hardly a serious other side at least in terms of California politics. So it will be up to civic actors, including community organizations, unions, and business groups, to force that discussion about our economic future. We also learned that out-of-state commentators are both fascinated and confused by our top-two system – and like to point to it as yet another oddity of the Golden State. They’re right – it is odd. But like citizen redistricting, this is us . . . and likely to persist.
John Peréz, former Speaker of the California Assembly
The fact that we have not seen an increase in voter participation really points to a need to rethink the way in which campaigns are approaching talking to voters. “All of the noise at the national level has not translated into enthusiasm in local and statewide contests. The apathy at the poll is indicative of candidates employing old tactics that might briefly benefit them in the short term but ultimately discourage participation in elections and other forms of civic engagement across the board.
Abby Porth, Executive Director of Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco
While the President and our national political atmosphere loomed large in California candidates' races, the propositions and local measures were intended to be about Californians. With 2/3 of registered voters opting out, we must ask how will our participatory democracy meet the significant challenges of our time when the majority of the people are not participating in setting the agenda and choosing a path for our future?
Cassandra Pye, President of California Women Lead, and Founder and CEO of 3.14 Communications
Having a Republican secure a top-of-ticket spot on the November ballot was certainly an important primary election result for the GOP, especially for our friend and fellow Californian (and, should political planets align, future Speaker of the House), Rep. Kevin McCarthy. That said, I was intrigued by Gavin Newsom’s Tuesday night victory speech – where he passionately reiterated a long and really expensive list of campaign promises: guaranteed healthcare for all, a ‘Marshall Plan’ for affordable housing, a master plan for aging with dignity, a workforce strategy, a cradle-to-college promise, new approaches to ending homelessness and child poverty. The price tag for universal healthcare alone is roughly $400 billion; imagine what the total outlay might look like. These are important priorities for sure, some critical even, but Newsom’s remarks left me wondering, first and foremost, who will pay? Will he steal a page from the Brown playbook and cut down or at least prioritize his wish-list? Or, is it Newsom’s intention to have the private sector foot most of the bill? Having a Republican in the race to force him to provide specifics around his wish-list and hopefully balance the debate was also an important Tuesday night outcome.
Mindy Romero, Founder and Director of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis
"The choices made in the primary, and that will show up on our November ballots, were made by a small and hugely unrepresentative number of Californians. The larger November electorate will vote on a set of choices that won’t fully reflect our state’s true values and needs – either in the race for governor, or the many local races across the state. Many Californians who did not vote likely feel that voting doesn’t matter for them and their families. They don’t see the difference voting makes for issues they care about in their communities. They don’t see how their elected representatives directly affect their lives. This is understandable. But it's wrong. Voting matters. It really does matter who is in power, and who shapes policy. Elected officials have a real and tangible impact, whether it be on housing, employment, or our children’s schools. Their policy choices can be harmful to many. Californians need elected officials to speak for their interests, and bring about needed change. Unless we all vote, the current power structure won’t hear and won’t act on the wishes of the majority of Californians."
Dorothy Rothrock, President of California Manufacturers & Technology Association
"The next Governor will have an enormous influence on the direction of the California economy. The top two primary winners, Newsom and Cox, have vastly different views, and businesses will be closely listening for honest assessments of our problems and sensible solutions. The stakes are high - decisions to invest in new facilities, expand and create new jobs in California depends on how businesses view the outcome in November."
Sal Russo, Co-founder of Tea Party Express
Two major political reforms combined to overwhelm the election by elevating dishonest campaign tactics over meaningful policy debate. The two reforms — campaign finance reform and the “top two” primary selection — created a near circus atmosphere in key races for Congress and Governor. Campaign finance reforms have led to a proliferation of political action committees and independent expenditure committees that have financially dwarfed the actual candidates' campaigns. Committees, fueled by special interests or wealthy individuals favoring one party or candidate, spent millions of dollars in particularly bizarre ways to game the system in hopes of getting a candidate into or out of the November run-off, disguising their true motivations. Instead, voters should be given the opportunity to hear where candidates stand on the issues and how they would address California’s major problems. Unfortunately, when dishonest campaigning is incentivized by political reform measures, we get a messy race to the bottom.
Roger Salazar, President of Alza Strategies I think we learned that no one likes this top-two primary system. It clearly is not generating the kind of voter participation one would expect and the tactics required to win don't serve the electorate well. It's time to scrap it.
Les Simmons, Pastor at South Sacramento Christian Center
More ways, more days give people access and more opportunity to participate. Sacramento County could possibly see its biggest voting turnout ever with the new system. It provides people a chance to make their voices heard on important issues and races like DA ,sheriff and policing. People are becoming more aware that real change to policies important to them like police reform happen at the local level and those candidates need and should expect continued questioning and pressure to be more active agents for improving life in all communities.
Michele Siquieros, President of Campaign for College Opportunity
"We’ve learned that voter turn out is still dismal … in LA County – the most populous region of the state. This is why political power will continue to be disproportionately held by politicos from Northern California. We’ve also learned that big political egos are not greater than the power of informed voters. Former disgraced State Senator Tony Mendoza was unable to recapture his seat -- that’s good news for working women across California. California voters gave a strong vote of confidence to Attorney General Xavier Becerra. He can proceed with lawsuits against President Trump’s administration. The races to watch in the fall will be Tuck and Thurmond for SPI, Lara and Poizner for Insurance Commissioner. This will be where all the special interest money pours in. The national news called it a “jungle primary”, as we waited to see which candidates ended up qualifying for the General Election. But at the end of the day we learned that Democrats earned the opportunity to contest several critical GOP held congressional seats and the GOP landed a spot in the Gubernatorial race. When all was said and done, the jungle set forward a straight two party choice for most voters in November."
Rob Stutzman, Founder & President of Stutzman Public Affairs
We won't know exact turnout percnetage for days, but safe to say it is typically low. Although the home of the resistance, Californians didn't turn out like other states have in '18. California enthusiasm gap.
Ashley Swearengin, President & CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation
“Despite frustration expressed from both sides of the political spectrum about hyper-partisanship in Sacramento and Washington DC and political reform like the top-two primary system, California remains a largely partisan state. At the statewide and district levels, for the most part, voters landed in their base camps. There was much speculation that a more centrist candidate like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would have a chance to punch through and land in second place in the governor's race by scooping up voters in the middle, but that path failed to materialize. In the weeks leading up to the primary election, we learned that Independent/No Party Preference became the second largest group of registered voters in the state, but we are not yet seeing the impact of that shift in election results. Moving to November, it will be interesting to see how and whether the independent vote flexes its muscle or if the partisan divide in California has to grow even bigger before voters react and push their elected leaders back to the middle.”
David Townsend, Founder of TCT Public Affairs
“California experienced the “Blue Wave” several years ago. Democrats control both houses of the legislature and all constitutional offices. The election demonstrates that this is unlikely to change with the Democrats firmly in control. So, the result was a low turnout, unexciting, status quo election. The Democratic candidates could have tossed their money in the same pot and produced one commercial because they were all saying the same thing. And Trump handed the Republican nomination to Cox with a tweet. The hand wringing over the “top two” system proved to be needless worry. The General Election will be the referendum on Trump focused solely in the contested Congressional campaigns.”
Timothy White, Chancellor of the California State University
I am struck by the disconnect between the passionate activism and informed debates on the critical matters of our time occurring daily on our campuses, and the disappointingly low turnout at the polls when voices also matter for the future. Consequently, we need more Californians – from every background and belief – invested in the process of engaged citizenship to further strengthen the Golden State.
Pete Wilson, Governor of California, 1991-1999
The good news for California Republicans the day after the 2018 primary is that the election failed to produce the “Blue Wave“ that had been so loudly predicted by California Democrats. The Democrats made a major effort in congressional races across the state — with a particular focus on Southern California — attempting to capture Republican seats that they believed to be vulnerable. While these races will be officially decided in November, the vote totals from Tuesday’s primary point to a sizable Republican advantage in almost every district the Democrats had targeted. If these seats are held by Republicans in the fall, Nancy Pelosi’s dream of recapturing the House becomes far more unlikely.
The presence of John Cox on the general election ballot makes Democratic prospects in these House races even more difficult. Cox came roaring out of the blue to grab a spot at the top of the general election ballot, which will energize Republican voters to turn out in support of their candidates.
Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of Bay Area Council
The June primary highlighted just how difficult it will be for California to address two of its biggest challenges: fixing its housing and transportation crises. It’s a good news, bad news story. The good news is that housing and affordability figured prominently among the top issues in the gubernatorial race. California needs strong, direct leadership from the top to move the dial on these issues. Some bold plans were announced to produce more housing, but there are few details and more emphasis on funding than the kind of systemic reforms that can really push local communities to open the spigot on new construction and bend the curve on affordability. Bay Area voters just approved Regional Measure 3 to invest $4.5 billion to ease traffic and improve transit. This was good news for showing how regions can step up on their own as state and federal funding declines. But a lot more will be needed here and elsewhere. And the recall of Assemblymember Josh Newman over his deciding vote to pass last year’s gas tax bill (SB 1) likely energizes supporters of a November ballot initiative to repeal SB 1 and the important funding it provides for our crumbling transportation infrastructure.
Kim Yamasaki, Executive Director of Center for Asians United for Self Empowerment
In this primary election, we learned, or perhaps reaffirmed that many minority communities have the biggest challenges with voter engagement. 118,000 voters were left off of Los Angeles County polling place rosters. In the months building up to the primary, many scrutinized California election code’s rules for counting absentee ballots. All registered voters are allowed to vote by mail. What many do not know, however, is that their votes are subject to handwriting analysis. If it is deemed that a voter’s ballot signature does not match their voter registration form signature, their ballot can go uncounted and they will not receive any notice of their voided vote. These issues disproportionately affect minority voters and especially non-English and ESL voters. In past elections, Asian Pacific Americans (APA) were 15 percent more likely to have their ballots tossed out. In many key races, the APA voting bloc could be the margin of victory for candidates. Each of us have a role to play in showing our communities that democracy can work and that its success is dependent on participation of the individual. But, we first need to start with making sure the voting rights of our diverse communities are protected.
Allan Zaremberg, President and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce
The primary affirmed much of what we already knew. In a low turnout primary, party preferences will dominate. There is an interesting experiment going on in the insurance commissioners race where a no- party preference candidate — without a Republican running for the office — received more votes than any other individual Republican running for statewide office. Time will tell whether a no-party preference candidate can win statewide office in California.
Daniel Zingale, Senior Vice President of The California Endowment
We need to hear from the millions who didn't vote. California needs a new voters' movement to match our marches.