1. Trump mattered
For months, the two top Republicans in the race, John Cox, a businessman from Rancho Santa Fe, and Huntington Beach Assemblyman Travis Allen, were within sniping distance of one another in most credible public opinion polls. Then, sometime between April and late May, something changed. Republican voters began to rally around the businessman from Rancho Santa Fe. Why? “The reason is this guy named Donald Trump decided to weigh in,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll. The president couldn’t agree more. An excerpt from his twitter feed this morning: “Congratulations to John Cox on a really big number in California. He can win. Even Fake News CNN said the Trump impact was really big, much bigger than they ever thought possible.”
2. Money can’t always buy you love
Charter school backers dumped millions into Antonio Villaraigosa’s gubernatorial campaign in the weeks just before the primary, but failed to carry him into the top two. Democratic Party leaders out-fundraised Republicans in the clash over recalling state Sen. Josh Newman, but discontent in the Fullerton Democrat’s district about the state’s gas tax prevailed, and Newman is out. On the other hand, sometimes cash helps: Former ambassador to Hungary Eleni Kounalakis and her developer father spent more than $9 million to net her the low-profile lieutenant governor’s position, helping land her in first place. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s intervention in a couple key Congressional races may have helped Democrats avoid being shut out of a runoff.
3. Despite all the Democratic angst about top-two, Republicans got hit
The GOP got shut out of the U.S. Senate and lieutenant governor races, and Dems also snared the top two slots in the bid to replace the northern San Diego County seat vacated by Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez. (The Republican who came in third, Philip “Phil” Graham, is former GOP Gov. Pete Wilson’s step-son.)
4. Lawmakers might think twice before casting unpopular votes
First Chad Mayes and now Josh Newman. These two politicians hail from different parts of the state and from different political parties, but they both know what rejection feels like. Both were ousted after casting votes seen as breaking promises—Mayes, by fellow Republicans, from his perch atop their Assembly caucus, and Newman, by voters, from the state Senate. Mayes worked with Democrats to pass legislation extending cap-and-trade, a program most other members of his party loathe. Newman voted to hike the gas tax after vowing not to. Mayes was ousted several months ago. Newman got his pink slip last night, when Orange County voters recalled him.
5. Tough housing votes just got tougher
Unless Cox pulls off the stunner of all stunners, Newsom will very likely be the next governor of deep blue California. He has an extremely ambitious (although not so specific) plan to combat the state’s housing crisis—500,000 new houses a year, a building pace California hasn’t seen since they started keeping records on this type of stuff. Reaching that number is going to require money, and money often requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature. The Newman recall will certainly grab the attention of moderate Democrats and Republicans in swing districts. Last year, a new tax on real estate transactions to fund affordable housing barely squeaked out of the Capitol.
6. The Democrats’ legislative supermajority is now toast
The successful recall of Newman means Democrats have no shot this year at winning back the supermajority they lost when three members of their party resigned following accusations of sexual harassment. Republican Ling Ling Chang will be sworn in to replace Newman, the result of a recall campaign focused on Newman’s vote last year to increase gas taxes to pay for billions of dollars in road repairs. Democrats could win the two-thirds majority back for next year’s legislative term if they flip at least one seat in November. A supermajority allows the ruling party to raise taxes, put measures on the ballot and change California’s political reform law with no bipartisan support. Democrats have rarely used their supermajority power in recent years, but it remains a potent symbol of their political dominance in California’s Capitol.
7. Two guys named Tuck and Thurmond will get more attention because of Antonio Villaraigosa’s loss
Leading up to Tuesday’s primary election, a coalition of billionaires who support charter schools directed their resources toward former Villaraigosa’s bid for governor. But all the money in the world couldn’t help him advance to November’s general election. That means the billionaires and their main political adversary, the California Teachers Association, will likely turn their attention and campaign cash toward the race for superintendent of public instruction, which was the most expensive race on the ballot four years ago. This year the teachers union is backing Democratic Assemblyman Tony Thurmond while charter school proponents are behind Marshall Tuck.
8. The Berniecrats will get another chance to unseat Dianne Feinstein
Come November, progressives who’ve been slowly taking over California’s Democratic party will have another chance to oust Democrat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. They’ll seek to propel Democratic state Sen. Kevin de Leon’s candidacy instead. Feinstein trounced de Leon in yesterday’s primary election, capturing 44 percent to his 11. She could face steeper odds in November as the state party’s progressive wing works overtime to elevate de Leon, a man they believe is more attuned to disadvantaged Californians’ plight. On the other hand, conservatives now without a Republican option might see her as the lesser of two evils.
9. Californians love spending money for parks and water projects
Might as well be a bumper sticker on every Prius in the state. You can talk about how much you love something, but it’s a heck of a lot more sincere when you reach into your own wallet and spend to protect it. That’s what Californians have done again and again when it comes to supporting ballot measures to upgrade state parks and water infrastructure. Tuesday’s passage of Proposition 68 added $4.1 billion to the $16 billion voters had already approved of borrowing since 2002, a mandate if there ever was one. Note to voters: There’s another $8.9 billion water bond on the November ballot.
10. Immigration and healthcare will be flashpoints for Newsom v Cox
Expect to hear more between now and November about two subjects that sharply divide gubernatorial finalists Cox and Newsom: California’s “sanctuary” laws and healthcare, from Obamacare to a single-payer system. Cox supports the Trump wall along the border with Mexico and opposes sanctuary policies, saying undocumented immigrants are “cutting in line.” And turning healthcare into a government-run program, he says, is simply a way to make it more expensive. Newsom faults Cox on both immigration and health care, applauding sanctuary laws (“We are an asylum state”), rejecting the wall as “a monument to idiocy” and standing firmly behind the idea of universal health coverage.
11. The polls were pretty accurate
The gubernatorial vote held no surprise for Californians who’d kept their eyes on the polls. Heading into the election, most credible polls predicted that the vote would break for Newsom and Cox, with their vote estimates averaging around 31 percent and 18 percent respectively. Although both candidates over-performed those estimates—perhaps due to the late decisions of voters who told pollsters they were undecided—the results aligned well enough with predictions that pollsters can probably keep their day jobs: With 99 percent of precincts reporting, it was 33 percent Newsom, 26 percent Cox.
12. Turnout seemed low, but we really don’t know yet
Voter turnout is historically on the low end during midterm primaries, with about a third of those registered casting a vote. California hit a historic low in 2014, when only about 25 percent of those registered actually voted. Experts this year expected about a third of voters to go to the polling place or mail in their ballots, but despite what some of the punditry would suggest, it’s still too soon to say how many people turned up. Four more types of ballots are still to be included, including mail-in ballots postmarked through election day. And the state is bracing for a higher number of provisional ballots—the result of a big snafu affecting voter rolls at more than a third of polling places in Los Angeles County.
CALmatters reporters Jessica Calefati, Julie Cart, Ben Christopher, David Gorn, Matt Levin, Felicia Mello, Dan Morain, Laurel Rosenhall, Antoinette Siu and Robbie Short contributed to this compilation.