California was one of eight states that held elections yesterday in what was the largest day of voting so far this midterm election cycle.
Like Washington, California operates under a chaotic, highly problematic Top Two system, where only the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election in November.
In the race to replace Jerry Brown as Governor of California, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom cruised to a first place victory, securing 33.4% of the vote in a field littered with a whopping twenty-seven candidates. (Brown, who remains popular, cannot seek reelection to a third term due to term limits.)
Newsom, also the former mayor of San Francisco, was heavily favored to claim the top spot. The more interesting race, however, was not who would place first, but who would prevail for second place to compete against Newsom.
Prior to the election, the primary contenders for that second spot were thought to be Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, a former mayor of Los Angeles, and Republican businessman John Cox, whom Donald Trump endorsed last month.
Due to California’s Top Two system, there was a possibility that Republicans could be completely shut out of the governor’s race altogether.
However, much to the Republican Party’s and Newsom’s relief, Antonio Villaraigosa did not secure enough votes Tuesday to make it to the general election. Instead, John Cox won the second spot with 26.2% of the statewide vote.
It is now very likely that Newsom will win the governor’s race with ease because California is overwhelmingly Democratic.
In the state’s other marquee race, however, Democrats are assured of victory. That’s because two Democrats are currently in the lead for the office of United States Senator, a position currently held by Dianne Feinstein.
Feinstein, who is serving her fifth term, had no trouble scoring a decisive first place finish on Tuesday, as most observers expected she would.
Feinstein will face fellow Democrat Kevin de León, the Democratic Leader in the California State Senate, who secured the number two spot.
They did, however, come close to backing de León. He received fifty-four percent of the delegate vote compared to Feinstein’s thirty-seven percent.
Activists in California may be fired up about de Leon, but he’s still facing an uphill battle. With high name recognition, a loyal California Democratic following, and with Barack Obama’s endorsement, it will be hard for any Democrat — even one as progressive and well-liked as de León — to unseat Feinstein in November.
That said, Feinstein is running well under fifty percent in this preliminary round, which is a worrying sign for any incumbent. (Feinstein currently has 43.8% of the vote statewide, while De León has 11.3%.) De Leon will definitely benefit in November from being Feinstein’s only opponent.
“I’m running for the United States Senate to protect California in what are difficult and contentious times,” Feinstein said in a video message released following the closing of the polls.”This means standing up for our values as your United States Senator as well as working to pass legislation important to us in California.”
“This include a commitment to universal health care, to economic opportunity for all, to the protection and preservation of our environment, to raising the federal minimum wage to $15, to solving the water problem which is tough, to civil rights, voting rights, LGBT rights and to a woman’s right to choose.”
“It also means protecting our Dreamers from Donald Trump’s immigration policies, ending the forced separation of immigrant children from their families. The enactment of common-sense gun law is also long overdue.”
“Together, in this election, we must dedicate ourselves to those values, because they have made California a great state, ending the one-party control of our federal government and moving our nation away from division and polarization.”
“Again, thanks so much for your support and for your faith in me. I’m not going to let you down. Now it’s on to November!”
De León, meanwhile, sent out an email thanking his supporters for helping propel him to a second place finish, allowing him to advance to the second round.
“I’m humbled, proud, and so thankful to let you know that because of your efforts, I’ll be advancing to the general election to challenge Senator Dianne Feinstein,” his campaign wrote. “In yesterday’s [Top Two] elections, the overwhelming majority of voters called for a referendum on a broken establishment in Washington D.C. that has stopped working for the people of California.”
“It’s time for a new approach. This nation was built on the promise that anyone willing to risk it all to come here – regardless of who they are or where they came from – could have a fair shot at a hard day’s work, afford a roof over their head, affordable healthcare, and an equal opportunity to succeed.”
“It’s time Californians had a United States Senator committed to making good on that promise. Voters deserve a spirited debate in the coming months on the issues they care about most and the challenges facing our state. I look forward to engaging my opponent on the debate stage as we face-off in November.”
“And most importantly, I look forward to continuing this fight with you. It’s this team that made our win last night possible. And it’s this team that will advance our progressive vision forward in November. Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we get back to work on bringing our California values to Washington, D.C.”