Nearly four million voters went to the polls in California Tuesday, to help narrow a crowded field of office seekers ahead of the November general election. To help us break down that primary, KUNR’s Political Reporter Paul Boger joins us now to talk about the results.
Let’s talk about California’s primaries. Were there any big upsets?
Not really, no.
Starting with the governor’s race, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was the heavy favorite heading into Tuesday's primary. Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco and liberal darling, consistently had the most money and name recognition. That really carried the day for Newsom, helping him garner more than 33 percent of the vote.
On the flip side, little-known Republican businessman John Cox of San Diego finished second overall, getting 26 percent of the vote. Cox entered the race earlier this year with no political experience, and the real estate developer has, so far, largely coasted on his own money to fund his campaign. Cox has run on a platform criticizing Democrats for many of California's woes, including over-regulating and over-taxing. He also got a bump when President Trump endorsed him in a tweet a few weeks ago.
What was kind of surprising is that former L.A. Mayor and Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa finished a somewhat distant third at 13 percent. At one point, he had been polling second and it looked like he could face Newsom in the general, but Villaraigosa couldn’t seem to get enough support from moderates and Latinos – essentially his base while he was mayor.
There was some speculation that longtime Senator Dianne Feinstein was facing a tougher-than-usual primary challenge. Did that come to fruition at all?
If there were any concerns about that before last night, then they should be over now.
In a race that included 41 challengers, Feinstein walked away with more than 43 percent of the vote. Her closest challenger was state Senator and fellow Democrat Kevin De Leon, who was only able to get about 11 percent.
Now, that’s not saying nothing. De Leon has been Feinstein’s biggest critic in this election cycle. He is considered far more progressive than Feinstein and has knocked her for not being more resistant to the Trump administration. But over the course of this election so far, De Leon has had issues raising money or gaining the endorsements of key Democratic allies, who seem to prefer Feinstein.
What’s interesting in all of this is that this marks the second time in a row that Republicans have been shut out of a California U.S. Senate race because of the state’s unusual primary system where only the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party.
What about congressional races?
Yeah, most of Eastern California is broken up into the first, fourth and eighth Congressional Districts, and it was really no surprise there that the Republican incumbents took the top spots in all of those races.
To break that down a little further, in District 1 – which includes almost all of Northern California, including all of Lassen, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, and parts of Nevada, Glenn, and Placer counties – Chico Democrat Audrey Denney will face an uphill battle against Republican Doug LaMalfa who has basically won the last three general elections in a landslide.
In District 4, which runs from Truckee down almost to Fresno, and includes all of the California-side of Tahoe, incumbent Republican Tom McClintock will get a challenge from Democrat Jessica Morse. Now, others have listed this particular race as one to watch because they believe it could be one where Democrats can flip the seat, but I don’t see it right now. This is probably one of the reddest districts in California, and McClintock walked away with more than 50 percent of the vote. Morse was able to garner only 20 percent.
Finally, District 8 is a little different. [It] is this huge, sprawling behemoth of a district that spans just South of Carson City all the way to Joshua Tree National Park, and it’s predominately Republican. So much so that Republican Paul Cook will likely face another Republican, Tim Donnelly, in the general. That being said, third place finisher Democrat Marjorie Doyle was down by about 760 votes, and there are still some absentee and provisional ballots left to count, so that could change. Ultimately, though, it was a good night for Democrats in a state where Democrats dominate the political landscape.