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California Election 2018: Updates and Analysis

California Election 2018: Updates and Analysis

June 1, 2018

GOP now at number 3

Election 2018

April 9, 2018 11:34 am

In race for California governor, John Chiang is the anti-soundbite candidate

Election Reporter
John Chiang
John Chiang

Gubernatorial candidate John Chiang is known as the wonk in the race. The Democratic state treasurer, former state controller and high school “mathlete”  touts himself as the no-drama candidate—the guy who compensates for his lack of pizzazz by a willingness to dive into the details.

In a conversation with CALmatters, Chiang certainly lived up to his reputation as soundbite-averse. Ask the gubernatorial candidate for his stand on a particular topic and he might provide a program’s financial minutiae, an overview of the pros and cons of a political debate, or—more often than not—a call for more conversation, more study, more data, more deliberation.

On one of the most hotly contested primary issues, Chiang says that he supports moving to a single-payer system in California, just like the Democratic front-runner in the governor’s race, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. But he has reservations about how it would be funded and implemented, just like the other Democrat polling ahead of Chiang in the race, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. And while Villaraigosa has dismissed a legislative proposal for single payer as “snake oil,” Chiang said he supports the bill “if amended.” In the meantime, he advocates a public insurance option that Californians could buy into.

Nuanced, yes—but sometimes having a nuanced position can be hard to distinguish from failing to state a position at all.

For example: On rent control, state law currently bans cities from enacting new ordinances restricting how much landlords can charge their tenants. Does Chiang support repealing that ban, and are are there any restrictions he would keep in place? His response was to enumerate the costs and benefits of the policy—how it helps keep current tenants in their homes but discourages development.

“Is there something that we can do intermediately as part of a comprehensive plan to try to make housing more accessible and affordable in this and the next decade?” he said. “I want to have that conversation.”

The state’s latest method of trying to channel more public education dollars to school districts with needier students has been in place for four years, but so far under-performing schools haven’t shown much progress. What’s Chiang’s assessment? “We will continue to ask questions.”

Chiang also says he’s prepared to “ask questions,” hold “difficult conversations,” or otherwise  “look at” changes to state forest management to try to prevent wildfires, whether police personnel files should be kept confidential, if the pensions owed to current public employees should be renegotiated, and whether the state should make it easier for local authorities to compel the mentally ill to get psychiatric treatment.

Of course he is far from alone—most of his fellow contenders for governor also sometimes avoid staking out simple stands on issues that are complex, or controversial, or both.

For Chiang’s supporters, his wait-and-see approach to policy indicates a policymaker who does not jump to conclusions, and who respects the consensus-building process at the heart of California democracy.

What would he do to try to resolve the academic achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers in California? Chiang championed “evidence-based decisions making” but called for more research on the types of classroom interventions that have the biggest impact on student achievement.

On criminal justice reform, advocates want to replace cash bail with a system in which defendants would not be detained before trial if they pass a risk assessment. Not so fast. Chiang said that he is open to that change, but cautioned that “further deliberations” are still needed to make sure the replacement works as intended.

What changes would he like to see made to Proposition 13’s caps on property taxes for homeowners and businesses? Chiang offered a detailed description of the how commercial landowners can skirt tax reassessments by carefully structuring the sale of their properties, while also explaining the logistical challenges of finding a legal fix. So does he support simplifying the tax code or raising property taxes on commercial properties?

“I would look at the details before I make a final determination,” he said.

No one could accuse him of being hasty. Yet with the June 5 primary rapidly approaching, Chiang doesn’t have much time to convince voters that cautious deliberation and fiscal discipline are what California needs for the next four years. That approach ought to sound familiar to most Californians after two terms of Gov. Jerry Brown.

But John Chiang is not familiar to most Californians. Despite an early start on fundraising, he has yet to rise above the single digits in most polls, even as he tries to thread an ideological needle between the two Democratic frontrunners in the race, Newsom on the left, and Villaraigosa, whose positions are more centrist.

Whether you call Chiang’s approach sophisticated nuance or not, voters only have less than two months to size him up and cast their ballots.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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This week, with California’s 2018 midterm behind us, we’ll be offering insights into the results with five charts—one per day. Today, Friday, we published our final installment. About 416,000 ballots await tabulation, so we’ll update these posts as warranted.

Skim how California voted on various ballot propositions—”yes” to more borrowing for affordable housing, “no” to the gas tax repeal, “yay” for bigger chicken cages—and you might think people across the state feel pretty much the same way about these things.

Which, of course, they don’t.

Proposition 6, which sought to nix a gas tax increase and thereby cut transportation funding about $5 billion per year, failed. But not everywhere. A majority of voters in most of the state’s inland counties voted for the measure. They did so despite the fact that many of these large, sparsely-populated counties receive a disproportionate amount of state road funding per person. Chalk it up to a combination of car dependence, tax-aversion and support for the Republican Party backing the measure.

So looks can be deceiving. Prop. 6 won a majority of the state’s landmass, but elections aren’t won by acreage. Overwhelming opposition in the state’s big cities (83 percent of San Franciscans and 61 percent of Angelenos voted “no”) dragged the ballot measure to defeat.

Then again, sometimes looks say it all.

Prop. 10, the unsuccessful attempt to repeal statewide restrictions on rent control and another one of the most controversial propositions on the ballot, went down just about everywhere. The two exceptions were San Francisco and Alameda County. Those two counties were also alone in opposition Prop. 11, a  paramedic breaktime initiative.

For the record, those were not the most geographically lopsided outcomes among the 11 ballot measures. Tiny Alpine County was the only county that supported Prop. 8, the profit cap on dialysis clinics. But it was close: 283 people voted yes while 269 opposed.

No county carried Prop. 5, the measure to allow older homeowners to carry their Prop. 13 property tax benefits when they move.

But that’s where the unanimity ended. Looking at which propositions received the most “yes” votes in each locale, counties were split across six measures: Prop. 2 (housing/mental health bond), Prop. 4 (children’s hospital bond), Prop. 6 (gas tax repeal), Prop. 7 (to start the process of ditching the biannual switch from Daylight Saving to Standard time), Prop. 11 (paramedic breaks) and Prop. 12 (requiring larger cages for hens and other farm animals).

Sadly for the seven counties that loved the idea of repealing the gas take hike, that was the only measure on the list above to fail.

As for which propositions received the most “no” votes, counties split their disdain three ways.

The gas repeal measure, as noted, was largely rejected by the coast. Likewise, in nearly every county not touching the Pacific, the measure to allow more rent control was the proposition that received the highest number of “no” votes. That more than canceled out the support that the measure received in the Bay Area.

And Prop. 5? While no county much liked it, ell, Yolo, Sacramento, Humboldt and Mono were especially down on the property tax break.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Election 2018

Nov. 29, 2018 8:19 pm

One lesson from Bauman’s resignation? MeToo isn’t going away

Political Reporter
California Democratic Party chairman Eric Bauman speaks during a California Democratic Party executive board meeting at Oakland Convention Center in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday, July 14, 2018. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

The resignation of California Democratic Party chairman Eric Bauman comes at a particularly emotional moment in California politics—on the heels of historic wins for Democrats and after a year of bipartisan reckoning over the apparent culture of sexual bullying within the political class.

Bauman became the latest casualty of the #MeToo movement when he resigned Thursday, hours after Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom called on him to step down over allegations that he harassed staff members and party activists with numerous lewd comments and incidents of inappropriate physical contact. Bauman said he has a drinking problem and would seek treatment.

“I have made the realization that in order for those to whom I may have caused pain and who need to heal, for my own health, and in the best interest of the Party that I love and to which I have dedicated myself for more than 25 years, it is in everyone’s best interest for me to resign my position as chair of the California Democratic Party,” Bauman said.

That Bauman’s alleged behavior persisted even as the public gaze focused so heavily in the last year on rooting out sexual harassment may be a testament to the counterproductive role alcohol too often plays in Capitol culture. Or it may point to the declining significance of political parties—how important can a party leader be, after all, if he can decree “zero tolerance,” as Bauman did, for sexual harassment and then openly proceed to harass his staff?

But most of all, Bauman’s resignation is a sign that the #MeToo story is far from over.

“There are a lot of untold stories, and frankly, a lot of bad actors who haven’t been held accountable yet,” said Samantha Corbin, a lobbyist whose public letter last year kicked off the anti-harassment movement in the state Capitol.

During the past year of tumult and introspection, three legislators resigned, facing harassment allegations, and several others were publicly reprimanded for behavior ranging from using vulgar language to giving unwanted “noogies.” On the very day Bauman resigned, the Assembly released records saying Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia violated sexual harassment policy by acting “overly familiar” with a staffer when, in a drunken state, she grabbed him at a legislative softball game. Throughout this year, the Legislature passed dozens of laws to combat harassment in workplaces statewide, and formed a special committee that crafted a plan to improve the culture inside the Capitol.

Bauman, who is gay, spoke out last year in favor of legislation to give Capitol staffers whistleblower protection if they report misconduct. The Democratic convention he organized in February included new precautions to keep participants safe, such as extra security and a hotline for reporting harassment and assault.

Now Bauman himself will be the focus of an inquiry by a new Commission of Inquiry and Recognition being formed by a Democratic party activist in Los Angeles who says he’s been a victim of Bauman’s inappropriate advances.  The commission includes former state schools superintendent Delaine Eastin.

“There is going to be a lot of focus on who enabled this. There are still people in party leadership who enabled this to persist as long as it has,” said Hans Johnson, president of the East Area Progressive Democrats club.

“They are part of the breakdown in governance in the party that contributed to the worsening and widening of the hurt (Bauman) has been allowed to inflict.”

Johnson said Bauman doesn’t deserve credit for California Democrats’ electoral victories this month—which included flipping seven seats in the House, capturing every statewide office and gaining supermajorities (and then some) in both chambers of  the Legislature.

Political scientists and campaign strategists agreed that party leadership seemed to be only one factor among many in the blue wave this election. Democrats, they noted, also were buoyed by Californians’ deep dislike of Republican President Donald Trump, as well as a strong push from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and numerous labor and activist groups that raised huge sums of money and organized campaign volunteers.

“The state party did not have a major role in what happened in regards to Congress,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a retired political science professor at the University of Southern California.

“What the state party is, by and large, is a way for donors to launder money,” she said, because the law limits how much they can give to individual candidates but not how much they can give to the state party.

The party hired an employment lawyer to investigate the accusations against Bauman. That process will continue despite his resignation, said acting-Chair Alexandra Gallardo Rooker, and an executive summary of the findings will be made public.  

Rooker will continue to serve as the party chair until delegates elect a new leader, likely at their convention in May. What’s not clear, however, is how many more political figures will fall before the #MeToo story is over in California.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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This week, with California’s 2018 midterm behind us, we’ll be offering insights into the results with five charts—one per day. Today, Thursday, about 442,000 ballots are still waiting to be tabulated, so we’ll update these posts as warranted.

No doubt you’ve heard about the blue wave: the electoral tsunami of left-of-center enthusiasm that slammed into California on election day, flipping seven of 14 GOP-held congressional districts to the Democrats. But that was just the wave’s frothy cap.

For every single congressional district that featured a face-off between a Democrat and Republican in this midterm and the last, the California electorate shifted further blue. The average Democratic gain was 9 percentage points since 2014.

Last updated November 29, 2018.

As the sea of leftward pointing arrows above shows, Democrats amassed a larger share of the vote in all but five districts this year, including several that stayed in GOP hands. In 2014, for example, Central Valley Republican Rep. Devin Nunes won 72 percent of the vote. This year (at last count) he snagged a slim majority of 53 percent.

There was a leftward shift in most solidly blue districts this year too. Take Rep. Ted Lieu in Torrence. In 2014, he won his seat by a little less than 60 percent of the vote, leaving 41 percent of the vote for his Republican opponent. This year, he won by an even more resounding 70 percent.

The only districts that proved immune to the national wave of anti-Trump energy that swept the country—and swept Democrats back into the House majority—were districts where a Democrat and Republican did not square off against one another in one of the two election years (those districts are indicated by dashed lines above).

In California’s 8th congressional district, which covers much of the state’s eastern desert, two Republicans, Rep. Paul Cook and former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, made it into the top two. That sole GOP shutout in the primary allowed the Republicans to rack up 100 percent of the vote there this year.

The other exceptions are true blue enclaves such as Burbank or San Jose where Republicans were shutout in 2014. This year, Republican candidates in those districts were able to improve upon their party’s prior vote share of 0 percent—but only modestly.

Democratic districts such as the one based in San Pedro didn’t see a Republican compete in either year. Not much room for Democratic improvement there.

If the graphic above looks familiar, it’s because we’ve run a similar version before. In a post from earlier this summer, we showed how the share of the vote going towards Republican candidates in the June primary fell dramatically in most seats between 2014 and 2018. The title of that article was “California’s Blue Wave watch: Why this graphic should worry Republicans.”

In retrospect, that sounds about right.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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This week, with California’s 2018 midterm behind us, we’ll be offering insights into the results with five charts—one per day. Today, Wednesday, about 442,000 ballots are still waiting to be tabulated, so we’ll update these posts as warranted.

Some races are more popular than others.

Sure, even the least engaged voters pick one of the candidates running to fill the state’s chief executive. This year, some 12 million cast their vote for either Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom or Republican businessman John Cox. But as voters work their way down the state’s super-sized ballot, within which they were asked to weigh in on the more obscure positions of California governance, many had a habit of shrugging and moving on.

In fact, a closer look at the statewide races that received the fewest votes this year underscores how California’s electoral system is leaving Republican and GOP-leaning voters with few good options.

First, let’s start with the most popular races.

At last count, the governor’s race received the highest number of votes, followed by the contest for secretary of state and attorney general. Among the statewide ballot measures, voters were most likely to weigh in on Proposition 6 (which would have repealed an increase in the gas tax) and Prop. 10 (which would have nixed state restrictions on rent control).

At the bottom of the list are four races for statewide office: insurance commissioner, U.S. Senate and state schools superintendent and lieutenant governor. The race for the state’s second-ranking executive officer received just shy of 2 million votes—16 percent fewer votes than those cast for governor.

The lackluster enthusiasm for the school chief race may come as a surprise to the various donors and interest groups who poured more than $63 million into that race, making it the most expensive on the ballot. (That works out to a little over $6 per vote, for those counting at home).

What do all those least-popular races have in common? There wasn’t a Republican to be found competing in any of them.

That’s thanks in large part to California’s top-two election system, which allows only the first- and second-place candidates from the primary to compete in the general election, regardless of which party they belong to. In the contests for U.S. senator and lieutenant governor, only Democrats made the cut. In the insurance regulator race, Steve Poizner, a former Republican, ran as a political independent. And though the race to be California’s schools superintendent is nonpartisan by law, it so happens that both candidates were Democrats.

One argument in favor of the top two is that it strips political parties of power to pick and choose nominees. It also, in theory, drives candidates and voters to the ideological center. In a race with two Democrats, for example, centrist and right-leaning voters theoretically will be more likely to choose the moderate in the race.

But the numbers suggest that in the face of two blue choices, many Republican-leaning voters opted not to choose at all.

An analysis of county election data shows that the voters most likely to leave the double-D races for lieutenant governor and U.S. Senate blank on the ballot live in counties with more registered Republicans than Democrats.

For example, in San Francisco County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 50 percentage points, there was only a modest 2.6 percent drop off in votes between the race for governor and the race for U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, in Lassen County, one of the state’s most conservative, nearly one-quarter of voters who cast their ballots for governor skipped the U.S. choice.

Presumably, some Democratic voters were turned off by the partisan uniformity as well. The competing “D”s and “R”s on the ballots make the process of choosing a candidate relatively easy for most voters who already lean one way or another. Between two progressives like Eleni Kounalakis and Sen. Ed Hernandez, the two lieutenant governor candidates, it’s possible many Democrats were stumped.

But the results suggest that the drop-off mostly came from Republicans: Rather than choose a “lesser of two evils,” many right-leaning voters simply didn’t choose at all.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Election 2018

Nov. 27, 2018 6:18 pm

Whiter, poorer, Trumpier: the new Republican California

Election Reporter
An elephant sitting in a hammock on the beach and look at sea.
The midterm elections whittled away all the purple sections of the state now represented by the GOP, leaving only the bleeding-red core.

This week, with California’s 2018 midterm behind us, we’ll be offering insights into the results with five charts—one per day. Today, Tuesday, about 580,000 ballots are still waiting to be tabulated, so we’ll update these posts as warranted. 

After the shellacking that California Republicans took in this year’s midterm elections, many figures within the more pragmatic wing of the party establishment had hoped that the party would turn away from the divisive politics of President Donald Trump and seek to become a more diverse coalition.

But in the short term, the midterm election whittled away all the purple sections of the state now represented by the GOP, leaving only the scarlet-red core. With striking losses in Orange County and the Central Valley, the Republican Party’s diminished congressional delegation will now represent a less diverse and less well-off subset of Californians—and an electorate that was most enamored with the president. It will also be a much smaller portion of the state.

This year, 26 percent of Californians are represented in Congress by a Republican. Next year, it will be down to 13 percent.

Prior to the election, the average Californian living in a Republican-held district earned $65,634 per year. That’s slightly above the state average of $63,783. The average district was also slightly less educated than the state as whole (19 percent have bachelor’s degrees compared to 20 percent statewide) and significantly whiter (49 compared to 38 percent).

But in an election that cost them seven of their 14 seats, the party was driven inland, losing every seat that touches the Pacific Ocean and tossed out of its former stronghold in Orange County. It also lost the suburbs north of Los Angeles and (assuming Democrat T.J. Cox maintains his lead over Rep. David Valadao in Hanford) two seats in the Central Valley.

And so come January, when only half of the Republican delegation will return to Washington D.C., the average income of the new, diminished GOP-represented electorate will be nearly $5,000 lower. It will also be majority non-Latino white. Only 16 percent of the population will have a college degree. And notably, every district in which less than a majority of voters supported Trump in 2016 abandoned the Republican brand this year. Only Trump country remains.

This could make it all the more difficult for Republicans who want to rebuild the party. While the GOP’s broader electoral viability in California may depend on its willingness to disassociate itself from the politics of the president, the remaining Republican members of Congress, representing the most fiercely Trumpian corners of the state, may have little incentive to do that.

Check out yesterday’s post on how much each ballot measure campaign spent per vote here.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Election 2018

Nov. 26, 2018 7:41 pm

How much did interest groups pay per vote? The answer, as we break down the midterms with data

Election Reporter
Like a bullhorn, hundreds of millions of campaign dollars are amplifying the message from key industries to California voters.
Like a bullhorn, hundreds of millions of campaign dollars are amplifying the message from key industries to California voters.

This week, with California’s 2018 midterm behind us, we’ll be offering insights into the results with five charts—one per day.  Today, Monday, up to 700,000 ballots still need to be counted. We’ll update these posts as more votes are tallied.

Ballot propositions are an expensive business in California. In the lead-up to November’s election, advocates spent an eye-popping $409 million for or against 11 ballot measures. Among these were a mix of earnest policy initiatives of broad public interests (say, making daylight saving time permanent) and narrow proposals that sought to benefit a narrower interest or allowed unions and businesses to beat up on one another (in case you wondered why we were asked to vote on break times for paramedics).

So who got the best deal at the ballot box?

The award for priciest victory goes to the dialysis clinics that successfully opposed Proposition 8. Private medical companies such as DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care spent more than $111 million in defeating the union-backed initiative that would have placed a cap on their profits. That comes out to over $16 per vote.

Was it worth it? Perhaps it’s all relative: DaVita raked in $73 million last quarter alone.

The opponent of Prop. 8 (the Service Employees International Union) not only failed to shackle the profits of the state’s dialysis clinics as planned, they ended up spending more than any other losing campaign—$38 million or $8.49 per vote. Still it wasn’t a total bust for the union. Many saw Prop. 8 as an effort by the union, which has been trying to organize clinic employees for years, to bring the for-profit dialysis companies to the bargaining table. If this was all a pressure tactic, forcing the other side to spend $111 million is a lot of pressure.

The second most expensive victory goes to the opponents of the gas tax repeal effort, Proposition 6. A coalition of labor unions, business groups and Democratic Party allies spent nearly $51 million, or $7.81 per “no” vote. That success will guarantee that the state keeps spending an additional $5 billion of transportation projects each year.

Meanwhile, supporters of Proposition 5, which would have allowed older and disabled homeowners to take their low property taxes with them when they move, spent more than $13.2 million for the property tax break. Much of that funding came from the California Realtors. For that $2.88 per ballot investment, proponents came home with a grand total of nothing. That may be especially galling given that the opponents of the measure were able to convince over 6.7 million voters to swat it down for a mere $3.4 million. That’s just 50 cents per vote.

Still, nobody got a better deal than the opponents of Proposition 3. While supporters of the $8.9 billion water bond spent $6 billion arguing the case for canal upgrades, wetland restoration projects and water quality upgrades, opponents of the failed ballot measure spent nothing at all.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Election 2018

Nov. 20, 2018 8:52 pm

Record number of women candidates win in California’s 2018 election

Election Reporter
Crowds arrive at California's Capitol for the 2017 Sacramento Women's March. Photo by Jim Heaphy courtesy of Creative Commons
Crowds arrive at California’s Capitol for the 2017 Women’s March. Photo by Jim Heaphy courtesy of Creative Commons

On election night, Susannah Delano, executive director of Close the Gap CA, a group focused on increasing the share of women in the state legislature, made a prediction: “2018 will be the biggest single leap for women in state history.”

Now the numbers are in.

Sure enough, the 2018 midterm election in California was a high-water mark for women seeking elected office. But it was also a reminder of just how male-dominated our politics remain.

Though not every race has been called, it appears 54 women were elected at the state and federal level across California this year. That includes 29 members of the Legislature and 19 members of Congress, as well as three statewide constitutional officers—Lt. Gov.-elect Eleni Kounalakis, Treasurer-elect Fiona Ma and state Controller Betty Yee.

That’s a higher number than any other election this century. It’s also a record-high rate: one-in-three winning candidates this year were women. Or, to put it another way, men hit a record-low, winning a measly two-thirds of all state and federal races across the state.

Many saw this coming. Since our last federal last election, we’ve seen the inauguration of President Trump and two rounds of nation-spanning Woman’s Marches; we’ve seen the downfall and prosecution of Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein and the emergence of the #MeToo movement; we’ve seen the resignation of lawmakers in Washington D.C. and California in the face of sexual assault allegations and the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice despite them.

And while many have dubbed 2018 the second “year of the woman,” a redux of 1992 when a record number of women were elected to federal office including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, it might be more accurate to call 2018 the “year of the Democratic woman.”

Just 7 percent of the female candidates who won this year in California were Republicans—a total of four women. That isn’t simply because there are fewer Republican women candidates. Republicans in a blue state like California are less likely to win than Democrats, but male GOP candidates were much more likely to win than their female counterparts.

Of all the candidates who ran, including those in the primary, only 10 percent of Republican women went on to win in this year’s general election (compared to 17 percent of Republican men). Meanwhile, 40 percent of Democratic women won their races (compared to 35 percent of male candidates).

In concrete terms, the 2018 election results mean that many more of the state’s residents will now be represented by women. Or, at least, by one. The two maps below offer a before and after picture, with orange showing those regions with at least a female congressional representative, assemblywoman or state senator. Viewing the two maps side by side, you can see the large strides toward something approximating gender equity in our state politics. You can also see how much more work there is to be done.

Despite the unprecedented number of women elected this year, large sections of California are still represented by only men in the U.S. House of Representatives and the state legislature. (Corrected)

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post stated that 53 women won their state or federal elections this year. The number is actually 54. We have revised text and graphics to reflect the correction.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Election 2018

Nov. 19, 2018 5:18 pm

How President Trump helped Democrats flip California House seats

Political Reporter
President Donald Trump points at the crowd during a rally.
Democrats flipped six GOP-held House districts where President Trump had low approval ratings

President Donald Trump is largely to blame for the GOP wipeout in California’s midterm election, two of the state’s most prominent pollsters said Monday. He’s so widely disliked in California that his Republican presidency motivated voters to help Democrats flip at least six House seats, which appears to have had the ripple effect of flipping about seven GOP seats in the state Legislature.

“As one of the most polarizing figures in modern U.S. politics, Trump really did set the table for the potential blue wave that eventually swept the state. He gave Democrats and the Democratic Party here an historic opportunity and they exploited it to the fullest,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the UC Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies poll.

He offered some numeric evidence to back up his conclusion. Before the election, DiCamillo conducted polls for the Los Angeles Times in eight contested House races, all represented by Republicans. In six of those districts, Trump’s approval rating was below 50 percent. Democrats flipped all six. In two districts—held by GOP Reps. Duncan Hunter and Devin Nunes—Trump’s approval rating was, respectively, 54 percent and 56 percent. Both Republican incumbents won re-election.

“There was this extremely strong correlation between how voters were rating the job that President Trump was doing as president and who they were supporting in their district for Congress,” DiCamillo said.

He compared Democratic successes in the Trump era to Republican wins under Democratic President Barack Obama, and said the GOP strategy to boost Republican turnout with Proposition 6—a ballot measure to repeal the gas-tax increase—“really didn’t pan out.” Nearly 57 percent of voters rejected the repeal, and Democrats have won six of the seven GOP House seats they targeted. The seventh, held by GOP Rep. David Valadao of Hanford, is still too close to call, with Democratic challenger TJ Cox of Fresno pulling to within less than 1,000 votes by the end of today.

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, said Trump deserves “a lot, but not all” of the blame for Republican losses in California. The GOP has been in decline in the state for many years, and now makes up just one-quarter of registered voters. Republican House members also were hurt, Baldassare said, by votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pass the GOP tax bill, which raised taxes for many Californians by limiting the deductions they can take. Not to mention their party leader’s rhetoric on immigration.

“Almost any time that Donald Trump talks about immigration he’s offending a large number of people in California,” Baldassare said.

Altogether, he said, Trump created strong enthusiasm among Democrats that contributed to higher turnout and steep GOP losses.

The nonpartisan pollsters, who spoke today at the Sacramento Press Club, echoed conclusions similar to those expressed by Dave Gilliard, the Republican political consultant who was the strategist for several losing GOP candidates.

“I can say with complete certainty that Democrats would not have flipped a single GOP House seat in California this year if Trump was not in the White House,” Gilliard told CALmatters. “He was the reason the Dems were able to out-raise and outspend us by large margins and why they were able to blow past historical turnout averages.”

In a rare case of bipartisan agreement, a Democrat who worked on a campaign to flip several GOP House seats in California also pinned her success largely on the man in the White House. Nationwide, the president had low approval ratings in most districts that switched from red to blue, said Democratic consultant Katie Merrill.

“You’ve got a national political environment that is insane,” she said. “It was a vote against Trump.”

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Election 2018

Nov. 16, 2018 6:57 pm

Lara wins for state insurance commissioner—another loss for California right-of-center candidates

Election Reporter
Democrat Ricardo Lara was declared the victor in his bid to become California's next insurance commissioner. CALmatters photo
Democrat Ricardo Lara was declared the victor in his bid to become California’s next insurance commissioner. CALmatters photo

Adding insult to the debilitating injury California’s Republican Party sustained on Election Day, Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara has beaten Republican-turned-political independent Steve Poizner to become the the state’s next insurance commissioner.

Poizner, who served in the job between 2006 and 2010, dropped his Republican label before running again for his old job, arguing that the position should be nonpartisan.

“I really do want to be a pioneer for this because if I’m successful I’m hoping lots of people will run as an independent,” he told CALmatters before the election.

So much for that.

Poizner’s change of partisan heart was also widely seen as a savvy strategic move for a center-right candidate hoping to win in California. California voters haven’t elected a person with an “R” next to his or her name for statewide office since 2006 (the last two were former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Poizner himself).

But Lara’s victory may show just how deep the electorate’s antipathy towards the GOP runs—barring not only current Republicans from office but former members of the party as well. Poizner earned the endorsement of virtually every newspaper in the state and nearly twice as much money was spent on behalf of his campaign, which  blanketed California with ads touting his experience and political pragmatism. In contrast, one of the most prominent pro-Lara ads of the campaign season was simply a re-run of a Poizner campaign video from 2010, in which he touted his conservative credentials on immigration policy and announced that he was, in his words, representing the “Republican wing of the Republican Party.”

The Associated Press called the race for Lara today. With his victory, not a single Republican—current or former—will hold a statewide office in California.

And as California’s protracted count of close races rolls on, a growing number of GOP-held legislative and congressional seats have flipped to the Democrats. The latest tonight: Assemblywoman Catharine Baker of Dublin, who announced she had called her Democratic opponents, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, to congratulate her. Mindful of her purple district, Baker was known as a moderate who worked across the aisle.

Lara will replace the current insurance commissioner, Democrat Dave Jones, overseeing, among other things, the state’s residential, auto and casualty insurance markets as well as the bail bonds industry. Lara will be California’s first openly gay statewide office holder.

Learn more about Ricardo Lara and where he stands on key policy issues facing the state’s insurance markets here.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Election 2018

Nov. 9, 2018 5:06 pm

Vote by mail? Better double-check that your ballot wasn’t rejected

Editorial Intern
Voting stickers. Photo by Robbie Short for CALmatters
Oct. 22 is the last day to register to vote in California. | Photo by Robbie Short for CALmatters

Millions of Californians dropped off their ballots on Tuesday or mailed them in, but they might want to double-check online—because either a missing or a mismatched signature could void their vote.

Counties are contacting voters because they’re now  required by law to do outreach. Still, voters should confirm online that their ballots were tallied. If not, they should call their county election office to be sure their vote counts, said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation.

“Voters need to be alert and aware,” she said.

After this year’s June primary, California lawmakers passed the Every Vote Counts Act, which  gives voters time to correct a mismatched or missing signature. The law was enacted after a lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which argued that 45,000 ballots were rejected last year because of mismatching signatures.

Already county offices are contacting voters asking them to fix their signature issues, such as this instance detailed by a Shasta county voter.

But other voters found out on their own—by checking themselves—including well-connected Democratic communications guru Roger Salazar.

Roger Salazar on Twitter

So, do I vote again? File a protest with the League office? Hire a handwriting expert? Help me out here @jessemelgar.

Later he tweeted a follow-up:

Roger Salazar on Twitter

@jmschwab @jessemelgar Did it the old-fashioned way. Easier.

Voters who failed to sign their ballots have eight days after Election Day to make their ballots count.

Voters whose signatures don’t match have two days prior to the certification of an election to fix their ballots, Sam Mahood, press secretary for the Secretary of State Alex Padilla, confirmed in an email. This year, county officials have until Dec. 7 to certify election results. Alexander warned that some counties may certify their results sooner.

As of today, the state still has millions of unprocessed ballots. California’s massive size along with other measures the state takes to count and certify ballots mean the state takes much longer than other states to officially call some contests.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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