California Government Update

2016 California Election Preview: What We’ll Be Watching in Tuesday’s Election Returns

By Thomas McMorrow | Steve Coony

California Voter Turnout  

A record number of Californians, more than 19.4 million, are registered and eligible to vote on Tuesday. That’s 1.2 million more eligible voters since the last presidential election in 2012, when 72.36% of the electorate cast ballots. The 2012 turnout was about at historic average for California in presidential election years. Just who and how many Californians ultimately cast a vote by this Tuesday will be the decisive factor. At stake are scores of district-level legislative and congressional races, 17 statewide ballot measures and hundreds of local candidates for judicial, school board, and municipal offices, and more than 400 local funding measures, including school bonds, transportation funding and affordable housing proposals, among many issues—not to mention the outcome of the statewide election for a U.S. Senate seat.

Manatt's government relations team will be watching returns closely to see if more than 75% of California voters cast a ballot in Tuesday's election. If that happens, we expect overall results to generally favor district-level Democrats as well as success for many tax, spending and social reform measures on state and local ballots. Voter preference in the presidential race could also result in a strong coattail effect on down-ballot races. Accordingly, recent polls show Hillary Clinton with an overwhelming lead of more than 20 points over Donald Trump in California. The coattail effect is more likely to help Democratic candidates in close legislative and congressional races for seats that typically favor Republicans.

Even if the state’s turnout percentage is only average, there will likely be over 2 million more votes left to count after election day, many of them from late absentee voters. As a result, it is likely that a number of close state and local campaigns may not be determined for days or even weeks after election night.     

National Election Results—The California Impact

Like most folks, we will be glued to the presidential election results, and also determining which party will control the 115th U.S. Congress, especially the U.S. Senate. California has an extraordinary stake in some of the early issues that will confront a new Administration no matter who wins, including federal immigration policy, changes in the Affordable Care Act, economic stimulus, federal tax reforms and a trade agreement that affects the state’s huge interest in Pacific imports and exports, among others.

California U.S. Senate and congressional races

It has been nearly a quarter century since Californians last voted to fill a vacancy in either of its two U.S. Senate seats, but with the announced retirement of Senator Barbara Boxer, voters will choose between two Democrats on Tuesday. Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez took the top two slots in the June primary, and Harris has maintained a strong lead in the polls ever since. If Harris wins Tuesday’s election, Governor Jerry Brown will appoint her successor for the two years remaining in her term when she vacates her Attorney General office to join the Senate. The Governor’s appointment must be approved by majorities in the State Assembly and State Senate, likely early in 2017 after the Legislature returns to the Capitol.

All of California’s 53 congressional seats, the nation’s largest state delegation, are on the ballot this year. Below are the battleground districts we will be watching (* = Incumbent):

California US Senate and Congressional Races:

CD 7 (Sacramento County) Ami Bera (D)* vs. Scott Jones (R)
CD 10 (Stanislaus County) Jeff Denham (R)* vs. Michael Eggman (D)
CD 17 (Santa Clara County) Mike Honda (D)* vs. Ro Khanna (D)
CD 21 (Kings County) David Valadao (R)* vs. Emilio Huerta (D)
CD 24 (Santa Barbara County) Salud Carbajal (D) vs. Justin Fareed (R)
CD 25 (LA County) Scott Wilk (R) vs. Bryan Caforio (D)
CD 29 (LA County) Tony Cardenas (D)* vs. Richard Alarcon (D)
CD 31 (San Bernardino Co.) Pete Aguilar (D)* vs. Paul Chabot (R)
CD 36 (Riverside County) Raul Ruiz (D)* vs. Senator Jeff Stone (R)
CD 44 (LA County) Nanette Barragan (D) vs. Senator Isadore Hall, III (D)
CD 46 (Orange County) Lou Correa (D) vs. Bao Nguyen (R)
CD 49 (San Diego County) Darrell Issa (R)* vs. Doug Applegate (D)

California State Legislature

Democrats already hold powerful majorities in both houses of the California Legislature, with 52 Democrats and 28 Republicans in the State Assembly and 26 Democrats and 13 Republicans (plus 1 vacancy to be filled) in the State Senate. All 80 seats in the State Assembly are on the ballot this year, and 20 State Senate seats are up. There are enough vulnerable incumbents and open seats in 2016 to put the possibility of Democratic supermajorities on the table in both houses. Democrats need to net at least two seats in the Assembly and one seat in the Senate to obtain two-thirds majorities. Supermajorities would provide the ability to pass tax increases, place constitutional changes on the state ballot, and generally control the rules that determine the agenda and the flow of legislation in each house. Below is the list of the Senate and Assembly races we will be watching (* = Incumbent):

2016 Assembly Battleground Districts

AD16 (Contra Costa) Catharine Baker (R)* vs. Cheryl Cook-Kallio (D)
AD35 (San Luis Obispo) Jordan Cunningham (R) vs. Dawn Ortiz-Legg (D)
AD36 (Los Angeles) Tom Lackey (R)* vs. Steve Fox (D)
AD38 (Los Angeles) Dante Acosta (R) vs. Christy Smith (D)
AD40 (San Bernardino) Marc Steinorth (R)* vs. Abigail Medina (D)
AD60 (San Bernardino) Eric Linder  (R)* vs. Sabrina Cervantes (D)
AD65 (Orange) Young Kim (R)* vs. Sharon Quirk-Silva (D)
AD66 (Los Angeles) David Hadley (R)* vs. Al Muratsuchi (D)

2016 Senate Battleground Districts

SD 5 (San Joaquin) Cathleen Galgiani (D)* vs. Alan Nakanishi
SD 25 (Los Angeles) Anthony Portantino (D) vs. Mike Antonovich (R)
SD 29 (Los Angeles) Henry Stern (D) vs. Steve Fazio (R)
SD 21 (Los Angeles) Johnathon Ervin (D) vs. Scott Wilk (R)
SD 29 (LA/Orange) Josh Newman (D) vs. Ling Ling Chang (R)

State And Local Ballot Measures

On Tuesday, California voters will decide 17 statewide ballot measures—not even close to the state record of 48 ballot measures in the election of 1912, the first state election after voters changed the California Constitution to allow them to place measures on the ballot by signing petitions. Voters will decide on measures ranging from the death penalty to taxes, from legalizing pot to prohibiting plastic bags, from condoms for porn actors to caps on drug prices. Many cities and counties will also consider important local ballot measures, including school bonds, soda taxes, housing for homeless and low-income residents, land use and local tax increases to fund transportation and transit improvements. Indeed, for voters in San Francisco, there will be an additional 25 city and county measures to decide.   

Here are the state measures and a sample of the key local measures we will be following on Tuesday (includes links to for more information):

Statewide Ballot Measures

Proposition 51 $9 billion in bonds for schools
Proposition 52 Extend hospital fee program for federal matching funds
Proposition 53 Voter approval requirement for revenue bonds of more than $2 billion
Proposition 54 Conditions under which legislative bills can be passed
Proposition 55 Extension of personal income tax on incomes over $250,000
Proposition 56 Increase the cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack
Proposition 57 Parole for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and juvenile trials
Proposition 58 Bilingual education in public schools
Proposition 59 Advisory vote declaring California's position on Citizens United v. FEC
Proposition 60 Require the use of condoms in pornographic films
Proposition 61 Prescription drug pricing
Proposition 62 Repeal the death penalty
Proposition 63 Background checks for ammunition purchases
Proposition 64 Legalization of recreational use of marijuana
Proposition 65 Redirects grocery and retail carry-out bag fees
Proposition 66 Death penalty procedures
Proposition 67 Prohibition on plastic single-use carry-out bags

Selected Local Ballot Measures—Local Transportation, Housing, Soda Tax

Los Angeles County
Measure M
Half-cent sales tax for transportation projects. (Requires 2/3 vote.)
Los Angeles City
Measure MMM
$1.2 billion bond to provide housing for homeless
Los Angeles City
Measure JJ
Requires developers to provide affordable units to new housing projects
San Francisco
Proposition V
1-cent/ounce soda distribution tax
Measure HH
1-cent/ounce soda distribution tax

On Wednesday the Manatt government relations team will provide preliminary statewide results and commentary. If you would like to monitor statewide, congressional and legislative district races in real time yourself, the Secretary of State’s website is the place to be: This site also includes links to each county’s election results.



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