California Attorney General Xavier Becerra will face a Republican opponent in his re-election bid this fall, as retired judge Steven Bailey was coming in second with two-thirds of ballots counted in California’s top-two primary election.

Becerra, a Democrat who was appointed to the powerful post in 2016 by Gov. Jerry Brown, has become the face of California’s “resistance” to the Trump administration, filing more than 30 lawsuits against the federal government over the environment, health care and other issues. He soared to first place, likely benefiting from Brown’s support and frequent publicity over his clashes with Trump.

“What you see reflected in the vote today is that people are saying, ‘We love that you have our back.’ And I do, I’m going to have their back,” Becerra said Tuesday night at a Sacramento election party sponsored by Planned Parenthood.

It was a dismal night for Democratic Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who sought to unseat Becerra and was stuck in fourth place behind Becerra, Bailey and Republican attorney Eric Early. Jones said Becerra’s frequent lawsuits against Trump—and the ensuing news stories about them—gave him an advantage that was hard to overcome.

“It does underscore the power of incumbency in terms of driving the message, in the absence of much media attention on this race at all,” Jones said.

Bailey, a criminal defense attorney who spent eight years as a judge on the El Dorado County Superior Court, said he would campaign against California’s “sanctuary state” law that limits communication between law enforcement and federal immigration agents—a policy Becerra is defending in court. He criticized Becerra for filing what he called “frivolous and wasteful lawsuits” against Trump.

“Every tweet that comes out of Washington doesn’t require a lawsuit,” Bailey said.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Gary Reed with any commentary questions: gary@calmatters.org, (916) 234-3081.

Laurel covers California politics for CalMatters, with a focus on power and personalities in the statehouse. Her stories explain political dynamics in the Capitol and examine how money, advocacy and relationships...