Dan Morain

A dispiriting campaign mercifully stumbles to its bitter end


It’s never wise to predict an election’s winners and losers before votes are tallied. But blunder though it may be, I will get right to it.

Democrats in California will win, of course, with a caveat: The new breed of California Democrats, those who pass for moderates here but would be fringe lefties in most other places, will continue to rise. So will millennials, independents, and, I hope, Micah Grant.

Grant navigated his way around gangs on the rough streets of Los Angeles, made it to UC Davis, and got internships and jobs with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, and Republican Board of Equalization member George Runner.

Now 29, Grant is running for the Natomas Unified School District board of trustees. Grant has knocked on more than 7,000 doors. More often than not, the doors belong to Democrats, but he has “had the door slammed in my face more often by Republicans.”

He may be the best thing to happen to California Republicans this year. Grant is a Republican African American who voted for a third-party presidential candidate, rather than his party’s nominee, who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

“Growing up in South Central L.A., I know how powerful education can be. I don’t think Republicans spend enough time talking about that. Instead, we’re talking about building walls,” Grant said.

Donald Trump’s California campaign team claimed he would compete here. It was a lie. The latest Field Poll shows Trump with 33 percent of the vote; the Public Policy Institute of California places him at 28 percent.

Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney received 37 percent of the California presidential votes in 2008 and 2012, respectively, and George W. Bush received 44 percent in 2004. Trump, in other words, is one of California’s losers this year.

Liberal and progressive priorities: winners. The number of registered Democrats reached 8.7 million, pushing California further to the left.

The best example is Proposition 58, to restore bilingual education. The Field Poll showed it is ahead with 68 percent of the vote, a reflection of Californians’ tolerance and ethnic diversity. It would repeal a 1998 initiative that received 61 percent of the vote. We were a different state back then.

Higher taxes: winners. Proposition 55, which would extend higher income taxes on wealthy people, led by 58 percent of the vote, according to Field. The tax would generate as much as $9 billion a year. Teachers unions funding it will win, as will hospitals and health care workers who will get a slice of the money. Oh, yeah, and the kids will win, too.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Facebook, and billionaire Tom Steyer: winners. Padilla promised to add 1 million new voters in his first term. There were 17.7 million registered voters when he took office. Now, there are 19.4 million voters. Nice going.

Padilla spreads credit to Facebook, which urged its users to register. In a three-day period in September, 200,000 people became voters, almost a fourth of them 25 and younger.

Steyer has worked with labor and others, spending $17 million to help 800,000-plus voters register or re-register, and on ads urging people to vote, raising his profile ahead of a possible run for governor or U.S. Senate.

For the first time, millennials will make up the largest segment of voters, about 6 million, according to Paul Mitchell, vice president of the firm Political Data Inc. It also will be the first statewide election in which voters not aligned with either of the two major parties will outnumber Republicans. By a lot.

Mitchell defines nonaligned voters as people who list no party preference, or claim to be part of the American Independent Party, whether they know of its racist roots or not, or write on registration cards that they’re independent, or part of, say, the Beach Party. Whatever they call themselves, they number 5.3 million, to the GOP’s 5.039 million.

Lungs: Likely winner. After failing numerous times, organizations that represent body parts such as hearts and lungs seem likely to finally pass a cigarette tax hike, in the form of Proposition 56. Steyer appeared on many of the “Yes on 56” ads. Having a backer willing to spend $10 million on a measure tends to be good for its health.

Hospitals, doctors and labor: winners. The bulk of the tobacco tax money will flow into the health care system. California’s anti-tobacco program also will get its first infusion of new money in decades, $100 million-plus. We’ll all win if that happens.

Pharma: Loser. It has spent more than $105 million to defeat Proposition 61, which seeks to reduce drug prices. Drug companies might eke out a win, or not. But for all the millions that drug makers are spending, they have failed to calm the measure’s main side effect: stirred-up rage at exorbitant drug prices.

Gavin Newsom: winner, at least on Nov. 8. His Proposition 63 will require the registration of bullets and toughen some gun control laws, and is all but certain to pass. Whether it withstands court challenges from the NRA is another question.

His second measure, Proposition 64 to legalize and commercialize marijuana, probably will pass, too. That means Newsom will forever own legal weed.

Perhaps it will be “the gold standard” of legalization measures, as Newsom’s aide, lobbyist Jason Kinney, says. Maybe regulating its sale will make it harder for kids to get their hands on it, as Newsom promises.

And maybe venture capitalists and marijuana entrepreneurs, including Kinney’s lobby client, Weedmaps, a $1 million donor to the legalization effort, will be utterly socially responsible.

Then again, based on Colorado’s experience, kids in regulated states seem perfectly able to find all the marijuana they can smoke and eat, the law notwithstanding. And Weedmaps’ former chief executive told a Wall Street Journal reporter that he hoped to become the Philip Morris of marijuana. All of which will give new meaning to the term, gold standard.

You: This miserable, dispiriting campaign mercifully is stumbling to its bitter end, and you survived. By voting, you’ll win. You can get the satisfaction of showing how smart you are if things turn out well, or you’ll be able to say I told you so if it all goes awry.