CALIFORNIA (AP) – Highlights from California’s general election on Tuesday.
TOP OF THE TICKET
Gov. Jerry Brown won an unprecedented fourth term as California governor over Republican Neel Kashkari. Brown’s first turn in the governor’s office was from 1975-83, before California voters imposed term limits.
Exit polls on Election Day showed him with a commanding lead over Kashkari. The two have had just one debate, and Brown has spent most of his time and campaign money pushing for two measures on the ballot: Proposition 1, which would spend $7.5 billion on water projects; and Proposition 2, which would modify the state’s rainy day fund.
Lacking money and widespread grassroots support, Kashkari has had a difficult time gaining traction with voters. To connect with working class and middle-income voters, he has had to overcome his resume, which includes stints as a Goldman Sachs investment banker, a U.S. Treasury official and head of the federal bank bailout. Part of that strategy is a focus on the gap between the rich and everyone else and substandard education for poor and minority students, issues that typically are not part of the Republican playbook.
Even in defeat, Kashkari said he hoped to introduce a new type of Republican to California voters. He is moderate on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
Brown says he will focus on such issues as water, education, criminal justice, budget stability and high-speed rail in his final four years.
TORLAKSON LEADS FOR SCHOOLS CHIEF, OTHER DEMOCRATS COAST
Incumbent Tom Torlakson led fellow Democrat Marshall Tuck for the job of California’s K-12 schools chief, a nonpartisan and largely ministerial post that was one of the most hotly contested races in California this year. Tuck is a former charter schools executive and first-time candidate who campaigned to change the state’s generous tenure laws and other job protections for teachers.
Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, both Democrats, led against lesser-known Republicans in their bids for second terms.
Democrats were faring well in other races, too. State Controller John Chiang led by a wide margin in his bid for treasurer. Incumbent Dave Jones took an early lead for state insurance commissioner, and Betty Yee held a narrow lead in the controller’s race.
First-time candidate Pete Peterson staked an early lead to become California’s next secretary of state, potentially giving Republicans a rare win.
CONGRESSIONAL RACES ROIL LOCAL BALLOTS
The independent citizens redistricting process and new top-two primary system have upended California’s congressional landscape, creating numerous competitive races and several hard-fought same-party contests heading into Tuesday’s general election.
Three congressional races, all involving Democratic incumbents against Republican challengers, stand out: Rep. Ami Bera versus former congressman Doug Ose in a Sacramento suburb; Rep. Scott Peters versus Republican Carl DeMaio in San Diego; and Rep. Julia Brownley versus state Assemblyman Jeff Gorell in Ventura County.
The Sacramento and San Diego races are among the closest and most expensive in the country, while the Ventura County seat has attracted millions of dollars in outside spending on Gorell’s behalf in recent weeks.
A Democrat versus Democrat race in Silicon Valley is another of California’s most intriguing House races, in which veteran Rep. Mike Honda finds himself in a tight battle against patent lawyer Ro Khanna. Republican Rep. Tom McClintock is expected to dispatch fellow Republican Art Moore in a district that stretches from the Sacramento suburbs to Yosemite National Park.
Overall, Republicans are expected to retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, but flipping seats held by Democrats in California would be seen as a symbolic victory.
THE ELECTION WITHIN THE ELECTION
Republicans have slipped to just 28 percent of the California electorate and have been on a losing streak for statewide constitutional offices and state legislative seats. While they have only dim hopes for winning a statewide seat on Tuesday, the state GOP is working hard to thwart Democratic supermajorities in the Assembly and Senate.
A two-thirds supermajority would allow Democratic lawmakers to unilaterally raise taxes and override gubernatorial vetoes if they chose. Republicans are focusing on a handful of legislative races, primarily in Orange County.
The party has competitive candidates for controller and secretary of state, but the Democratic voter registration edge is difficult to overcome.
WATER, RAINY DAY FUND MEASURES PASS
Voters approved a $7.5-billion measure to revamp California’s outdated water system amid the state’s historic drought. Proposition 1 will invest $2.7 billion in additional water storage, including two new reservoirs, along with billions more for conservation, water recycling and groundwater cleanup.
Californians also voted to overhaul the state’s rainy day fund to pay down more debt and provide a bigger buffer against future state budget shortfalls.
Voters approved a ballot initiative that will reduce penalties for low-level drug and property crimes. Under Proposition 47, shoplifting, forgery, fraud and petty theft are among the crimes that will be treated as misdemeanors rather than felonies.
Voters soundly defeated an attempt to raise California’s cap on medical malpractice damage awards, after physician and insurance groups poured tens of millions of dollars into the opposition campaign.
Early results showed voters heavily favoring a special tax on soda and other sugary drinks in Berkeley, with the aim of curbing consumption. Berkeley would become the first city in the nation with such a tax.
VOTERS TUNED OUT AND TURNED OFF
Turnout in June was just 25 percent, the lowest on record for a California primary. Analysts predicted tepid turnout again on Tuesday, blaming it on a coarse political climate and too few big-ticket races on the ballot. Most project turnout at 50 percent or less. Polling places could be desolate because of another factor — the rise in the proportion of voters casting vote-by-mail ballots. Nearly 70 percent of voters did so in June, and analysts expected that number to be well over 50 percent on Tuesday.
If many of those absentee ballots are turned in at precincts on Election Day, it could mean outcomes in close races may not be known for days