California Midterm Election Results in Some Surprises

June 8, 2018 – -The June 5th primary was the first test for many statewide and district politicians.  While the statewide races provided little surprise and drama, a few of the Assembly and Senate races exposed some challenges for each party come November.

State-wide Offices

This year Gov. Jerry Brown is termed out after four terms in office. Brown is not only the longest serving Governor in California’s history, but perhaps more notably he has also governed California for 10% of its history. While many candidates fought to replace Brown in June, only two advance to the November ballot – –  Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox. Cox’s second-place finish in Tuesday’s primary ensures Republicans won’t be shut out of the race. But the San Diego businessman faces long odds against Democrat Gavin Newsom in a state where Democrats dominate.

As for Lt. Governor, Former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Kounalakis finished with a hold on first in a tight three-way race to qualify for the November general election. State Sen. Ed Hernandez, a Democrat from LA County and a practicing optometrist, is the second-place finisher with 20.8%.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra won his primary fight Tuesday to defend the job he was appointed to last year. The Democrat had an almost 20% lead over retired Republican judge Steven Bailey in second place. Current Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones ended up in last place, behind two Republicans.

Republican-turned-independent Steve Poizner and Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara were the top vote-getters for Insurance Commissioner, advancing to the November election. Poizner, the former Insurance Commissioner, would be the first independent to win such an election and Lara would be the first openly gay statewide officer holder. It will be a tight race in November with Poizner holding only a 2% lead.

Marshall Tuck and Tony Thurmond will face each other in November for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in what will be a closely contested and very expensive race funded by wealthy individuals who back charter schools and labor unions that want to restrict their growth. Tuck received 37.1% of the vote while Thurmond received 34.3%.

State Senate 

In the state Senate, Democrats suffered the biggest loss with the successful recall of Fullerton Senator Josh Newman. The Republican-led recall came after Newman’s vote in support of increasing gas taxes and vehicle registration fees. Newman is replaced by Former Assemblywoman Republican Ling Ling Chang. More importantly, the success of this recall means that the California Democrats have lost their supermajority in the state Senate which is needed to pass tax and fee increases.

The special election in district 32 (Artesia) came after Senator Tony Mendoza’s resignation following a sexual harassment investigation and inevitable expulsion from the Senate. Mendoza’s attempt to go from resignation to re-election was rejected when he finished third behind Republican Rita Topalian and Democrat Vanessa Delgado. With this being a strong Democratic district Delgado is favored to win in November.

There will be an interesting contest in District 12 (Monterey) in November to replace termed out state Senator Anthony Cannella. Current Democratic Assembly Member and Assembly Ag Committee Chair Anna Caballero leads the race heading into November after receiving 41.2% of the votes. Republican Rob Poythress – a farm business owner – received 26.8% of the vote and will advance to the November election as well.

In another noteworthy race in District 22, former Assembly Member Mike Eng will face Baldwin Park Councilwoman Susan Rubio in November. The race has divided Democrats. Rubio has been endorsed by the Democratic Legislative Women’s Caucus, but legislative leaders — including Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon — are supporting Eng for the seat. Additionally, Rubio shook up the Capitol last year when she obtained a domestic violence restraining order against her estranged husband, then-Democratic Assemblyman Roger Hernández. Eng holds a safe 16% lead over Rubio but nevertheless this race will be one to watch in November.

State Assembly

In the Assembly all incumbents made it to the November ballot. The biggest surprise came from district 76, a conservative region in San Diego, which has been lost to Democrats. The district’s current Assembly Member Rocky Chavez had hopes of becoming the next Representative from the 49th Congressional District so he did not seek reelection. Despite the district being historically held by Republicans, two Democrats – with each receiving approximately 25% of the vote – will progress to the November ballot.

In the central valley, San Benito County Supervisor Robert Rivas is in the lead to replace termed out Assembly Member Anna Caballero in district 30, which includes Watsonville and Salinas. Rivas will face conservative Republican businessman Neil Kitchens in November. Rivas received 44.1% of the votes and Kitchens received 31.4%.

Current Democratic Assembly Member Rudy Salas faces a tough reelection in November to hold on to his seat in district 32. In a split Dem/Rep district, Salas came in second with 48.2% of the vote and his Republican challenger Justin Mendes received 51.8%.

Meanwhile 58th district Assembly Member Cristina Garcia, who was under fire after reports of sexual harassment but ultimately cleared by an Assembly investigation, came in first place with 28.7% of the vote. While her Republican challenger Mike Simpfenderfer received a close 27%, the race won’t be so close in November since six other Democrats running split the vote this time around.

To see the election results from the Secretary of State you can go to https://vote.sos.ca.gov/  .