California Election 2018: Updates and Analysis
Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen has raised nearly $1.2 million in his race to become California’s next governor and sold himself as a Forever-Trumper who will “make California great again.”
With a 273-character, President Donald Trump may have just dashed Allen’s hopes—and complicated the path Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa has to become one of two finalists who will advance from the June primary onto the November ballot.
California finally deserves a great Governor, one who understands borders, crime and lowering taxes. John Cox is the man – he’ll be the best Governor you’ve ever had. I fully endorse John Cox for Governor and look forward to working with him to Make California Great Again!
President Trump’s endorsement of San Diego-area businessman John Cox is designed to help unite a fractured party base around a single candidate leading up to the June 5 primary, making a general election showdown with Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom much more likely. Trump and California’s congressional Republicans want to ensure that California Republicans have a top-of-the-ticket reason to turn out in November—if they don’t, it could cost the party some key congressional districts, and ultimately, hand over control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats.
Nonetheless, Republican unity wasn’t much in evidence as Allen and his conservatives backers railed against the endorsement—awarded despite the fact that Cox acknowledges he voted for a Libertarian candidate against Trump in the 2016 general election. (Cox now says he was wrong not to back Trump and praises his performance in the White House.) Speaking to reporters late Friday, Allen
Under California law, only the first and second place winners in the primary will advance to the general election ballot. Recent polls show Newsom well ahead of the rest of the pack, with Cox narrowly holding onto second place. Nearly one-in-five voters remain undecided.
At a debate earlier this month, Newsom was asked which candidate he would prefer to face in the general election. “A Republican would be ideal,” he said. It now looks a bit more likely that he’ll get his wish.
My opponent, @TheRealJohnHCox has been endorsed by his hero, Donald Trump. More important than ever that CA stands up for our values and stands against Trump, his protégé, and their attempts to drag our state backwards. Find out where and how to vote at: https://t.co/ERUeZPk9K0 https://t.co/20WyHpE7cV
Trump isn’t exactly known for rewarding people who haven’t been loyal to him, but his endorsement of Cox follows that of many Republican members of the Congress from California, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield—a Trump confidant the president refers to as “my Kevin.” Earlier this month, the California Republican Party failed to endorse either Cox or Allen at their annual convention in San Diego.
The question now is whether a presidential tweet can do what roughly 1,000 GOP delegates couldn’t. Despite low approval numbers statewide, 84 percent of Republican likely voters approve of the President, according to a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. If the majority follow the president’s endorsement, that is almost certain to propel Cox to one of the top two spots in the primary.
“I am honored and deeply grateful to my President and I am looking forward to working with him to make California great again,” Cox said in a statement.
On a conference call tonight, Allen told his supporters to “remember what God told Gideon”—evoking the Biblical story in which God helps Israelites defeat foes not “by the hand of man” but by divine intervention. “We do not have the hand of man with us,” he said. “We have the Republican establishment firmly against us!”
The new dynamic in the race is likely to prompt Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, and his backers develop a counter-strategy to undercut Cox. Thus far Villaraigosa has raised over $10 million in campaign dollars—but his mega-wealthy donors like Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Los Angeles developer Eli Broad have poured nearly $20 million to support his quest for a top-two spot.
Treasurer John Chiang, the former superintendent of public instruction, Delaine Eastin, and over 20 other candidates are all also hoping to become governor.
Many Allen supporters, including a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, took to Twitter to vent:
Learn more about John Cox in our CALmatters voter guide. Here’s a glimpse:
In 2014, Silicon Valley venture capitalist and noted political eccentric Tim Draper sponsored a ballot initiative to divide California into six states. The effort failed, considered by many to be politically impractical and legally untenable. So Draper has scaled back his ambitions.
Now he wants to divide California in three—and this week the Secretary of State announced that Draper had gathered the requisite number of signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.
Legal uncertainties aside (and, boy, are there are a lot of them), this invites the obvious question: How did California’s “three states” vote in last week’s primary election?
Well, it was obvious to us anyway.
Fortunately for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and John Cox, the two candidates running for governor this November, their top two spots are secure—no matter which California they choose to run in. Two of them gave more votes to the existing California’s top vote-getter, Newsom. But the third would-be state favored Cox.
Under Draper’s proposition, a newly minted “Northern California” would encompass everything from the base of Silicon Valley and Merced to the Oregon Coast. A shrunk-down “California” would hug the coast from San Benito County to Los Angeles. The remainder would become “Southern California,” including San Diego, Orange County, and—for some reason—Fresno and Tulare.
Though Cox has a lead in Southern California, registered Democrats still make up the largest bloc of voters in all three states.
In other statewide races, the three hypothetical states were largely in agreement. In his campaign to remain the state’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra got the top spot—“North,” “South,” and in-between. Likewise, all three Californias backed Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her fifth full term.
Of course, election results are still not final; there are still over one million ballots to count. Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa may have hope yet of securing a win in coastal “California.”
Ballots are still being counted, but last week’s election is already offering good news for Democrats hoping to take back the House of Representatives in November.
Not only did the party steer clear of its dreaded “shutout scenario,” in which an oversupply of candidates in some of the state’s most competitive races threatened to divide up the Democratic vote, leaving only Republicans to advance to the general election. The preliminary count also suggests that primary voters in certain high profile districts are much more inclined toward Democrats than they were in 2014.
That may or may not foretell a “blue wave” in California, but it does show that Republicans have their work cut out for them.
Why should the array of (mostly) leftward pointing arrows worry Republicans?
Comparing the June 2018 primary to the June primary in 2014, the share of the vote going towards Republican candidates has fallen dramatically in many of the very seats that Democrats are most hoping to flip this fall.
In the district along the border of Orange and San Diego counties represented by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, who is retiring this year, a majority of primary voters cast their ballots for a Democrat.
A few more of the districts national Democrats have targeted are within spitting distance of a partisan break-even. In GOP Rep. Jeff Denham’s district in the Central Valley, Republicans cobbled together 52 percent of the vote (down from 59 percent in 2014). Likewise, in both Laguna Niguel and Palmdale, Rep. Mimi Walters and Rep. Steve Knight, the only Republicans running in their districts, got 52 percent of the vote as well.
That represents a big shift since 2014, the only other non-presidential election year in which a primary was held under the state’s new top-two system.
In Issa’s district, 16 candidates were vying to replace him in the lead up to June 5. The top two winners, Republican Diane Harkey and Democrat Mike Levin, won around 26 percent and 18 percent of the vote, respectively.
What would a head-to-head Harkey-Levin match-up look like without the 15 other competitors?
One way to guess is to tally up the share of the vote that went to all Republican candidates and compare it to the Democratic share. Assuming that the various supporters of Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, San Diego Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, and the other five Republicans running in that district are likely to fall behind their party’s candidate in the general election, that ought to give us a pretty good idea of what to expect in November.
And the results don’t look good for Harkey.
So far (and again, ballot are still being counted), the Republican candidates in Issa’s seat have garnered 48 percent of the vote. That’s compared to 51 percent for all the Democrats.
That’s also a steep decline from the 2014 primary share when Issa, running as the only Republican, won 61.9 percent of the vote.
Even in districts like Denham’s, Walters’, Knight’s, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s, where Republicans won slim majorities of last week’s vote, those margins may be a little too close for comfort for the GOP. Republicans tend to be more reliable primary voters than Democrats and political independents, so the Republican share of the vote is likely to be lower in most districts come November.
In 2014, for example, Republican vote share between the primary and general elections declined by an average of 1.3 percentage points. That was true of all California congressional races, excluding those where one party was shut out or where a candidate ran unopposed. Looking only at the most competitive races (again, excluding shutouts), the average decline in Republican support was 3.3 percentage points between June and November.
We’ll update this graphic as more ballots are counted.
After years of research, months of planning and weeks of voting, the training wheels for the Voters Choice Act flew off, and county registrars and state experts are still trying to figure out what happened.
All over the state, election day is slowly morphing into election week, and counting ballots is taking longer. By tonight, some 2.5 million ballots across California had not yet been tabulated—a consequence of more voters opting to vote by mail.
But for the five California counties that implemented the state Voters Choice Act, it’s been vote-by-mail on steroids—and delayed final results.
In an effort to improve voter turnout, those counties got rid of traditional neighborhood local polling places. Instead they mailed ballots to every registered voter, who then had 11 days to cast ballots or do anything voter-related at mega-voting centers. They could place ballots in mailboxes or in an array of dropboxes scattered throughout the county.
Nonetheless many voters waited until election day on Tuesday to turn in or mail in their ballots—leaving counties overrun with ballots waiting to be processed. By state law, ballots postmarked on or before election day will be tabulated if received up to three days after the election.
The numbers suggest that voter turnout statewide will reach 36 percent—a big improvement over the record-low turnout of 25 percent statewide in the last primary midterms, in 2014.
Tuesday’s turnout was similarly higher in the five counties using the new vote-center model: Sacramento, San Mateo, Nevada, Napa and Madera. Sacramento County, the largest, had a 30 percent turnout in 2014 and appears headed for a 46 percent turnout in Tuesday’s primary.
“We had hamper after hamper of these pink bags stuffed to the brim (with ballot envelopes),” said Alice Jarboe, interim registrar of Sacramento County, adding that her staff is working 10-hour days to try to keep up. “It is a lot of work, and when we get these huge amounts back, we just throw more temps at it.”
Californians can expect later final election results.
“I was surprised at the number of people who waited to the last minute,” said Rebecca Martinez, registrar of voters for Madera County. “I thought more people would make use of the (extra days), but I found that you still have a lot of people who still like to go someplace to vote on Tuesday.”
Inevitably, there was some confusion as voters adjusted to a new system. Some voters said they had trouble figuring out where to go to vote and when they were open. By Tuesday afternoon, Nicole Jones, 24, said she was was on her third center in Sacramento after trying to vote in person at two others accepting drop-off ballots only.
Others welcomed the voting centers and dropboxes. “This is way easier,” Stephanie Bucknam, 33, who appreciated that she didn’t have to wait in line and could just drop off her ballot. Her old precinct had been converted to a voting center, so she didn’t have to make much of an adjustment.
“Flexibility can’t hurt when you’re trying to get more people to vote,” she said.
For voters, voting by mail is straightforward: fill out your ballot, sign it and return it.
For elections employees, it’s like an assembly line. Once they receive ballots, they scan them into the system. Someone has to verify that the signature on the ballot envelope matches the signature of the registered voter. Once the signature is verified, elections officials can separate the ballots by precinct and prepare to run them through a machine that counts the votes. There’s not one machine that does it all. With mail-in or vote-by-mail ballots, humans play a large role making sure ballots are verified, sorted and make it into the counting machine.They are also there to troubleshoot if the machine goes awry.
In Sacramento County, it takes about 80 employees to operate at capacity, and it will still take weeks to process the outstanding ballots.
Equipment can be a barrier for counties. In the state budget now being finalized, the secretary of state’s office is requesting $134 million to cover half the cost to update all counties’ voting equipment, assuming most counties switch to the vote center model.
“There’s probably a different solutions, depending on the county,” said James Schwab, planning guru for the secretary of state’s office. “Most counties need new voting equipment, and that will speed up the counting process.”