Gov. Gavin Newsom and Jennifer Siebel Newsom hamming and voting on Tuesday, at the downtown polling center at the California Museum.

Good morning after Election Day, California.

Democratic presidential primary: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders led with 33.2% of the vote to former Vice President Joe Biden’s 24.3%, Michael Bloomberg’s 14.7%, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 12.1%.

Proposition 13: The $15 billion school construction bond trailed 44%-56%.

Millions of uncounted votes

Sen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally at Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA on February 17, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Sen. Bernie Sanders in Richmond last month. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won California’s Democratic presidential primary, besting former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Associated Press reported

Perhaps. But Californians won’t know for sure for days, if not weeks.

More to the point, no one will know how candidates divide up California’s 415 pledged delegates until all the votes are counted, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher writes.

As of early Wednesday, the top four vote getters had a combined 2.4 million votes.

By way of comparison, more than 5 million people voted in the 2016 Democratic primary between Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

  • Then, there were 8 million registered Democrats and 4.1 million no-party preference candidates. 
  • Now, there are 9.3 million Democrats and 5.1 no-party preference candidates.

Best guess: 6 million Democrats cast votes.

To read Christopher’s take on California’s slow count, please click here.

To read CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano’s piece on the Proposition 13 school construction bond, please click here.

In other races

File photo. Assemblyman Todd Gloria.

In San Diego County:

  • Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria, running for San Diego mayor, was headed for a run-off against Republican Scott Sherman. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, is termed out.
  • Former Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican, led his GOP rivals in his quest to return to Congress.
  • The Republican will face Democrat is Ammar Camp- Naijar in the race to replace Duncan Hunter, who resigned after pleading guilty to using campaign money for personal expenses.

In Los Angeles:

  • Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell was headed for a runoff against L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson, a former Assembly Speaker, in a race for L.A. County supervisor.
  • District Attorney Jackie Lacey led by almost a 2-1 margin over “progressive” George Gascon, the former San Francisco district attorney who moved to Los Angeles to unseat Lacey. 
  • Patty Quillin, the wife of Netflix founder Reed Hastings, donated $1 million to an independent campaign to support Gascon. Quillin lives in Santa Cruz.
  • In a Whittier-area assembly race, Democrat Lisa Calderon, the stepmother of outgoing Assemblyman Ian Calderon, had a narrow lead over Democrat Sylvia Rubio, the sister of an Assemblywoman and a state senator her main Democratic rival.
  • Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith of Santa Clarita and Republican Mike Garcia appeared headed for a runoff to succeed Congresswoman Katie Hill, who resigned last year after details emerged of a sexual affair.

In Contra Costa County:

In Fresno:

In San Joaquin County:

  • Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman of Stockton, seeking a state senate seat with labor backing, led Modesto City Councilman Mani Grewal, a well-funded Democrat who had business backing. She likely will face a Republican, Jim Ridenour, in November.

Another Socialist candidate

Glass negative of a young Upton Sinclair. Photo by Bain News Service via U.S. Library of Congress
Glass negative of a young Upton Sinclair. Photo by Bain News Service via U.S. Library of Congress

Imagine a Socialist running statewide in California and catching the imagination of huge numbers of young people.

No, not Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist who is leading the Democratic presidential primary.

Think Upton Sinclair.

The muckraking author of The Jungle won the Democratic nomination for governor during the depths of the Depression in 1934, CalMatters Ben Christopher writes.

Sinclair described himself as Socialist, not a “Democratic” Socialist. But like Sanders, Sinclair led a political movement that existed outside the formal Democratic Party structure. 

He was too far left for some. President Franklin Roosevelt refused to endorse him.

But historians say his campaign offered a strong, leftward shove to the national policy agenda of the New Deal and to Democratic politics in California. 

A young Stanley Mosk cast his first vote for Sinclair, became a top aide Gov. Culbert Olson, himself quite a liberal, was elected attorney general, and became the longest serving justice of the California Supreme Court

One of the court’s great First Amendment advocates, Mosk recalled Sinclair’s campaign as being “the acorn from which evolved the tree of whatever liberalism we have in California.”

To read Christopher’s piece, please click here.

Photo of the Day

Gov. Gavin Newsom, hamming for the cameras, checks out First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s ballot on Tuesday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom stood in line for about 20 minutes Tuesday waiting to vote at a busy polling place in the California State Museum in downtown Sacramento.

No idea whether they cancelled one another.

She endorsed U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. He would not say who got his vote, though he did say former Vice President Joe Biden got a huge boost after the South Carolina primary.

  • Newsom: “We’re are a moment where I was hoping we could find some unity. And I think my voice is better served in that space than asserting myself on an endorsement that at the end of the day may not amount to much.”

Death penalty persists

San Quentin dismantled the execution chamber in 2019 at Gov. Newsom’s direction. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s death penalty moratorium notwithstanding, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin continues to seek death sentences, Christopher Damien of The Palm Springs Desert Sun reports.

Newsom’s order doesn’t have the force of law. So the death penalty remains on the books, though it will not be enforced so long as Newsom is governor. 

  • California has 728 condemned prisoners. 
  • No one has been executed in California since 2006. 
  • 130 condemned inmates have died of suicide, overdoses or natural causes, since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, including two in 2020.
  • Five inmates have been sent to San Quentin’s death row since Newsom’s order, including three from Riverside County.

Hestrin said this week he will seek the death penalty against Jose Larin-Garcia, accused of quadruple homicide in Palm Springs in 2019. 

Israel Ramirez Guardado of Utah was sentenced to death in January for the 2018 murder of his mother. He set her on fire in Indio.

Hestrin, on Newsom’s moratorium:

  • “It has zero effect on my decision to seek the death penalty. In those cases where it is warranted and justice cries out for that punishment, I will seek it.”

Courts continue to process death cases: 

  • On the day after Christmas, 2019, for example, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the death sentence of Dean P. Carter, 64. He has been on death row since 1990 for four murders in L.A. and San Diego committed in 1984.

Online sales tax windfall

Packages travel down a conveyor belt before being scanned and a shipping address is attached at the Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy, Calif., on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)
File photo: Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy.

A new California law aimed at collecting sales taxes from online retailers generated $474.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, nearly the total amount that tax experts expected to collect in the entire fiscal year of 2020-21.

Legislation by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke of Los Angeles implements the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision, South Dakota v. Wayfair, which permits states to collect taxes from online sellers such as Wayfair. 

Amazon, eBay, Etsy and other online platforms must now collect sales taxes owed by third party sellers that use their platforms and remit the revenue to the state.

  • The Marketplace Facilitator Act was supposed to generate $476 million in 2020-21. 
  • The act produced nearly that sum, $474.5 million, in the fourth quarter of 2019 on $5.5 billion in sales, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration reports.

Why: The economy was strong. Clearly, consumers’ habits are shifting to online purchases.

  • Sen. Mike McGuire, Healdsburg Democrat, coauthored the bill: “For far too long, multi-billion dollar online retailers have not been paying their fair share, while mom and pop retailers have been paying.”

Commentary at CalMatters

Pedro Nava, the Little Hoover Commission: Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to overhaul California’s mental health care system. The Little Hoover Commission has a plan for that.

Amy Everitt, Golden State Opportunity: California provides a way to give low-income workers a hand, not a hand-out. They should take advantage of the earned income tax credit.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: California has been a laggard in tracing how students progress through its educational systems but Gov. Gavin Newsom is pushing for a new data system that would do that.


A note: This is my last week writing and editing WhatMatters. Emily Hoeven will take over on Monday.

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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.