California Government Update

California Election Results: The State Zigs While the Nation Zags

“The path that this country has taken has never been a straight line. We zig and zag and sometimes we move in ways that some people think is forward and others think is moving back, and that's OK.” President Obama

After watching the same long and painful presidential campaign and debating the same issues as the rest of the country, California voters came to far different conclusions than the nation as a whole on Election Day 2016. Not only did the state vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a landslide 29-point margin, it also maintained or added to already powerful Democratic majorities in its state Assembly, Senate, and congressional delegation. State voters also decided the fate of 17 statewide ballot measures involving controversial issues, including the death penalty, tax and bond spending, funding for state-provided healthcare, criminal sentencing, and environmental issues. Pending a final count of remaining ballots over the next few weeks, it looks as if voters have said YES to 12 measures and NO to 5, making choices that—with one big exception, the death penalty—look generally quite progressive compared to the positions taken by President-elect Trump and the voters in states that supported the Trump ticket and campaign message.

In another measure of voter interest and sentiment, California and national voters also seem far apart. Nationwide voter turnout is hovering at only 60% of the 200 million eligible voters while California turnout, after more than 4 million remaining absentee ballots are counted, will likely be close to the 72% of California registered voters who cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election. Early analysis of the presidential and U.S. Senate results suggests that in a number of key states where a Clinton vote seemed certain, a critical percentage of Democratic constituencies simply stayed home while more Republicans than usual voted. In California, voter participation was at about the historic average, though it’s noteworthy there were an unusually high number of California voters who cast a ballot but did not vote for any candidate in the presidential or U.S. Senate races. The number of ballots cast, compared with the actual votes counted for each office, suggests a considerable number of Republican and Decline to State or independent voters didn’t like any of the choices in either the presidential or U.S. Senate races. It is also notable that California experienced a big surge in voter registration in the weeks prior to the election, yet our voter participation rates overall for a national election remain essentially unchanged from 2012. This raises the question whether newly registered voters voted at the same rate as long-registered voters, and whether one group was more motivated to vote than the other in arriving at an overall just-about-average turnout.  It will be two or three months before data is available from counties to get the answer to that question.

Despite many California voters apparent apathy or antipathy respecting their choices for president, California has a lot at stake with the change in power in Washington, D.C. The new Administration has much different views than most Californians when it comes to providing and funding healthcare—including women’s health issues—dealing with climate change, immigration, and law enforcement. Federal funding for health and human services, public healthcare and emergency services has enormous impact on the California economy and state budget, which are only now finally recovering from painful reductions during the last recession. On the other hand, the health of California’s economy and its key industries, including high tech, green tech, entertainment, healthcare and agriculture, is essential to the nation’s prosperity. The new Administration and California’s leaders will need to look for common ground and shared priorities going forward.

California’s U.S. Senate and Congressional Races: Democrats Retain or Add to Big California Democratic Majorities

Pending a final count of late absentee ballots and provisional ballots, the unofficial results say California will continue to field a congressional delegation that includes two Democratic U.S. Senators, following a big win by Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris, who has defeated her Democratic opponent, Loretta Sanchez, by a margin of 62.5% to 37.5%. California’s Democrats in the House of Representatives will maintain their current big majority with 39 Democrats and 14 Republicans serving in the nation’s largest state delegation when the 115th Congress is sworn in.

Here are the results in the key contested California congressional races (* = incumbent):

California US Senate and Congressional Races:

CD 7 (Sacramento County) Ami Bera (D)* (50.6%) over Scott Jones (R) (49.4%)
CD 10 (Stanislaus County) Jeff Denham (R)* (52.4%) over Michael Eggman (D) (47.6%)
CD 17 (Santa Clara County) Ro Khanna (D) (59.8%) over Mike Honda (D)* (40.2%)
CD 21 (Kings County) David Valadao (R)* (58.6%) over Emilio Huerta (D) (41.4%)
CD 24 (Santa Barbara County) Salud Carbajal (D) (53.8%) over Justin Fareed (R) (46.2%)
CD 25 (LA County) Steve Knight (R)* (54.3%) over Bryan Caforio (D) (45.7%)
CD 29 (LA County) Tony Cardenas (D)* (75%) over. Richard Alarcon (D) (25%)
CD 31 (San Bernardino Co.) Pete Aguilar (D)* (54.9%) over Paul Chabot (R) (45.1%)
CD 36 (Riverside County) Raul Ruiz (D)* (60.4%) over Senator Jeff Stone (R) (39.6%)
CD 44 (LA County) Nanette Barragan (D) (51.2%) over Senator Isadore Hall, III (D) (48.8%)
CD 46 (Orange County) Lou Correa (D) (70.2%) over Bao Nguyen (R) (29.8%)
CD 49 (San Diego County) Darrell Issa (R)* (51.1%) over Doug Applegate (D) (48.9%)

California Legislative Races: Assembly Democrats Leading in Fight to Restore Supermajority. Senate Likely to Maintain Current Edge Over Republicans. Moderate Democrats Continue to Play Key Role.

Assembly Democrats, who held a supermajority of 55 seats in the 80-member house after the 2012 election (only to have it pared down to a mere big majority of 52 Democrats to 28 Republicans in 2014), targeted 7 Republican-held seats in Tuesday’s election for high-spending, hard-fought campaigns. If current returns hold up after late ballots are counted, Assembly Democrats will return to Sacramento next month with a net pickup of 3 seats, returning them to a 55-25 supermajority. When the party in power holds a 2/3 majority in its house, it can win passage of tax increases, pass votes to place constitutional amendments on the state ballot, and control the agenda and the flow of legislation. Senate Democrats have definitely held on to their current majority of 26 Democrats and 14 Republicans—one vote shy of 2/3—and still have a chance to add one more seat in a district that straddles portions of Los Angeles and Orange Counties if late absentee ballots allow the Democratic candidate to close the gap.

While Democrats in both houses maintain powerful majorities, not every Democrat is struck from the same mold. A number of moderate, more business-friendly Democrats in both houses—especially the Assembly—have tempered the social and environmental agenda of some of their more progressive colleagues, holding up some legislation and negotiating amendments on other measures. Several additional moderate Democrats will be among the newly elected legislators this year.

Legislative Democrats will join forces to fight deep budget- and service-level cuts expected from the newly elected Trump Administration and Republican controlled Congress, and will resist the imposition of a right-of-center social policy agenda such as potential rollbacks on women’s health, public education curriculum, immigration and attacks on public employees. Legislative Democrats will also continue to support environmental protection and business regulation enforcement, but may have intra-caucus debates about how to best move forward on these issues.

Assembly Battleground Seats—Democrats Leading in 3 of 7 Republican-Held Seats, Losing None of Their Own (* = incumbent)

AD 16 (Contra Costa) Catharine Baker (R)* (55.8%) over Cheryl Cook-Kallio (D) (44.2%)
AD 35 (San Luis Obispo) Jordan Cunningham (R) (54.6%) over Dawn Ortiz-Legg (D) (45.4%)
AD 38 (Los Angeles) Dante Acosta (R) (53.1%) over Christy Smith (D) (46.9%)
AD 40 (San Bernardino) Marc Steinorth (R)* (52.3%) over Abigail Medina (D) (47.7%)
AD 60 (San Bernardino) Sabrina Cervantes (D) (52.2%) over Eric Linder (R)* (47.8%)
AD 65 (Orange) Sharon Quirk-Silva (D) (50.8%)
AD65 is too close to call as late absentees could affect the outcome.
Young Kim (R)*(50.8%)
AD 66 (Los Angeles) Al Muratsuchi (D) (53%) over David Hadley (R)* (47%)

Senate Battleground Seats—Democrats Defend and Hold 3 Dem Seats but Trail in Fight to Win 2 Vacant Republican Seats. Likely No Net Gain but Maintain 26-14 Majority (* = incumbent)

SD 5 (San Joaquin) Cathleen Galgiani (D)* (55.6%) over Alan Nakanishi (44.4%)
SD 21 (Los Angeles) Scott Wilk (R) (54.8%) over Johnathon Ervin (D) (45.2%)
SD 25 (Los Angeles) Anthony Portantino (D) (57.5%) over Mike Antonovich (R) (42.5%)
SD 27 (Los Angeles) Henry Stern (D) (55%) over Steve Fazio (R) (45%)
SD 29 (LA/Orange) Ling Ling Chang (R) (50.9%)
SD29 is too close to call as late absentees could affect the outcome.
Josh Newman (D) (49.1%)

State and Local Ballot Measures: “While Republicans Celebrate Across the Nation, California Lurches Left,” Headline, POLITICO, November 9, 2016

While the headline in Politico is overstated (California voters DID reject repeal of the death penalty and may have approved a measure to speed up the death penalty appeals process), state voters did mark another milestone in a generational shift that is distinctly more left-of-center compared to the state that voted to ban gay marriage only eight years ago.

A younger and more diverse California electorate than ever before considered 17 statewide ballot measures, approving 12 of them (subject to changes that could result from the late absentee count) and rejecting 5.

Voters not only repealed their own previous voter-enacted ban on bilingual education (adopted at the height of the political attacks on immigrants of the mid-1990s), they embraced higher spending for school bond debt and locked in state healthcare programs using hospital fees and matching federal Medi-Cal funds (which now may be in jeopardy as national Republicans seek Medicaid changes). They voted to continue higher taxes on California’s high-income earners, enacted new taxes on all tobacco products and e-cigarettes, strongly supported criminal sentencing and parole reforms, required restrictions on firearms and ammunition sales, put the voter seal of approval on the Legislature’s statewide ban on carryout plastic bags, and topped it off by legalizing the recreational use of marijuana (only four years after rejecting legalization!). In addition to voting no on repealing the death penalty, California voters also rejected price restrictions for the state purchase of prescription drugs and a requirement for condom use by actors in adult films.

Statewide Ballot Measures





Proposition 51 K-12 and Community College Facilities 4,663,319 54.0% 3,976,364 46.0%
Proposition 52 Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program 5,950,642 69.6% 2,599,764 30.4%
Proposition 53 Voter Approval of Revenue Bonds 4,067,013 48.6% 4,309,664 51.4%
Proposition 54 Legislative Procedure Requirements 5,379,610 64.3% 2,987,230 35.7%
Proposition 55 Tax Extension for Education and Healthcare 5,350,614 62.1% 3,264,342 37.9%
Proposition 56 Cigarette Tax 5,551,236 62.9% 3,271,626 37.1%
Proposition 57 Criminal Sentences & Juvenile Crime Proceedings 5,501,627 63.6% 3,150,477 36.4%
Proposition 58 English Proficiency. Multilingual Education 6,245,618 72.4% 2,376,075 27.6%
Proposition 59 Corporate Political Spending Advisory Question 4,292,992 52.3% 3,911,588 47.7%
Proposition 60 Adult Film Condom Requirements 3,888,895 46.1% 4,553,833 53.9%
Proposition 61 State Prescription Drug Purchase Standards 3,933,084 46.3% 4,570,245 53.7%
Proposition 62 Repeal of Death Penalty 3,971,872 46.1% 4,650,097 53.9%
Proposition 63 Firearms and Ammunition Sales 5,451,811 62.6% 3,252,821 37.4%
Proposition 64 Marijuana Legalization 4,957,215 56.0% 3,889,080 44.0%
Proposition 65 Carryout Bag Charges 3,825,163 44.7% 4,739,312 55.3%
Proposition 66 Death Penalty Procedure Time Limits 4,210,163 50.9% 4,058,667 49.1%
Proposition 67 Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags 4,474,493 52.0% 4,136,044 48.0%

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

After completing the state and federal portion of the ballot, some local voters had to navigate as many as 25 additional city, county and district measures on their ballots. Across the state, local voters dealt with over 400 tax, bond and land use measures, plus hundreds of candidates for local office. Here are some of the local measures which will have statewide fiscal and policy significance in the coming year as the State Legislature grapples with some of the same issues:

Selected Local Ballot Measures



Los Angeles County
Measure M
Half-cent sales tax for transportation projects. (Requires 2/3 vote.) 69.8% 30.2%
Los Angeles City
Measure HHH
$1.2 billion bond to provide housing for homeless 76.1% 23.9%
Los Angeles City
Measure JJJ
Requires developers to provide affordable units to new housing projects 63.95% 36.05
San Francisco
Proposition V
1-cent/ounce Soda Distribution Tax 61.95% 38.05%
Measure HH
1-cent/ounce Soda Distribution Tax 60.75% 39.25%




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