Early returns are in from yesterday’s primary election here in California. Below is a recap of some key statewide races and some of the key Legislative and Congressional races with my thoughts on what last night’s results mean for the election in November. Unless otherwise noted, all the numbers referenced are courtesy of the hard work of the team at the Los Angeles Times (as of 10:00am) which has a running tracker of election results in California.
Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (D) and businessman John Cox (R) advance to the General Election. While Cox has the support of President Trump and can self-fund his campaign. Newsom, who has been running for the job since 2015, has a sizeable war chest and California’s demographics on his side. Democrats outnumber Republicans in California by nearly 2 to 1 (closer to 1.77 to 1), and as of May 21, there are more No Party Preference voters in California than Republicans. Newsom is currently ahead of Cox by a little under 300,000 votes, despite sharing the ballot with three other major Democratic candidates. Despite what President Trump thinks, I’d expect Newsom to strike Lieutenant from his job title and become California’s next Governor in November.
2018’s U.S. Senate race will be a repeat of 2016 as two Democrats will face off in November. Incumbent U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has a sizeable advantage in terms of campaign cash and name ID over former State Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, as evidenced by Senator Feinstein garnering 3.89 times as many votes as De Leon. This looks to be a replay of the Hillary/Bernie fight in 2016. I’d expect Senator Feinstein to keep her job.
Steve Poizner looks to be the first major No Party Preference candidate to make it to the General Election under California’s Top Two rules. Granted Poizner has previously held the Insurance Commissioner post and was formerly a Republican. Should Poizner be successful in his bid for Insurance Commissioner, he may be paving the way forward for more moderate Republicans looking to make an impact at the statewide level. He’ll face off against Democratic State Senator Ricardo Lara in November. Less than 25,000 votes currently separate the two, but Lara did have competition from fellow Democrat Asif Mahmood. This will be an interesting race to watch come November.
Gas Tax Proxy Fight
State Senator Josh Newman faced a recall election for voting in favor of the gas tax increase last year, and it appears that his yes vote will cost him his job. Voters favored the recall to the tune of 59% and will send former Assembly Member (and opponent of Josh Newman in the 2016 State Senate race) Ling Ling Chang to the State Senate to replace him.
The recall was viewed by many as a proxy fight for the upcoming repeal of the gas tax that will be on the ballot in November. Results here indicate that the new taxes and fees that are guaranteed to go to fixing California’s roads and bridges are in jeopardy with momentum currently favoring the repeal effort.
#MeToo at the Ballot Box
SD 32 Special Election – In the Special Election to fill out the rest of former State Senator Tony Mendoza’s term (he resigned earlier this year just before his colleagues were going to vote to expel him) came in third. In the primary election to determine who will take the seat for the new term, Mendoza is in fourth and more than 6,400 votes behind second-place finisher Bob Archuleta.
Special Elections in AD 39 and AD 45 – Democrat Luz Rivas came out ahead in the special election to replace Raul Bocanegra, who resigned last year. Rivas also came in first in the primary election for the next term. Similarly, Jesse Gabriel (D) came in first in the special election and primary election to take over for Matt Dababneh, who also resigned.
AD 58 – Asm. Cristina Garcia (D) came in first in her primary, with Republican Mike Simpfenderfer close behind her in second. Garcia just returned to the job after taking an unpaid leave of absence from her position while allegations of sexual harassment against her were investigated. The investigation determined those allegations to be unfounded, although that result is being appealed.
The Fight to Flip the House
CD 10 – Democrats have been eyeing Rep. Jeff Denham’s seat as one to flip for as long as he’s held it, and an overabundance of Democratic candidates in the district could lead to them being shut out of the general election. Democrat Josh Harder currently sits in second, but leads Republican Ted Howze by 850 votes. The combined vote total for Democratic candidates was 31,308 – 6,600 more than Denham received. Had Democrats coalesced around just Harder instead of fielding six candidates, Denham would be biting his nails instead of Harder.
CD 22 and 25 – Incumbent Reps. Devin Nunes (R – CA 22) Steve Knight (R – CA 25) look to be safe. Both pulled in over 50% of the votes last night. Although Katie Hill, currently in second against Rep. Steve Knight, can coalesce the party support and get a boost from voters looking to put more women into office, she could give the incumbent a run for his money.
CD 39, 45, 48, 49, and 50 – These races in Orange and San Diego counties were where Democrats faced the serious possibility of having no candidates in the General Election, despite these districts going for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016. That’s because a glut of Democratic candidates nearly created a circular firing squad situation. Instead, it appears Democrats will have candidates on the ballot in November in each of these races. CD 39 and 49 are open seats and will be very competitive. The races in CD 48 and 50 feature embattled incumbents and should also be competitive. Of these five races, Rep. Mimi Walters (R) in CS 45 seems the safest, but all of these will be closely contested races and could be key in determining control of the U.S. House of Representatives.