June 2018 CA Primary Election Report

Provided by Edelstein, Gilbert, Robson & Smith, June 8, 2018

The California June 5 primary election is over and the results are in…mostly. There are still approximately 2 million late and provisional ballots to be counted, including 500,000 in Los Angeles County. However, there are only a handful of races where the unprocessed ballots will decide the difference between the second and third place finisher and join the top vote-getter on the November ballot. This was a low-voter turnout election, once all ballots are counted it will be around 30 percent.

There were relatively few surprises and California’s unique top-two primary election only yielded a couple of races where two people from same party will face-off in November. Below are some election highlights and notable results with a slight preview of the November election. We will provide a more thorough General Election preview in the Fall.

As expected, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom was the top vote getter in the primary and will be favored in the General Election having garnered 33.4 percent of the total vote that was split between 27 total candidates. The surprise in this race is how strong the relatively unknown Republican John Cox ran to come in second and soundly push former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to third place by nearly doubling Villaraigosa with 26.1 percent of the vote and running ahead of his party’s voter registration.

Mr. Cox welcomed late support from President Trump, which helped in energizing the Republican base of voters to turnout for him in June. But the President’s overall unpopularity in California may energize those who did not initially support Newsom in June to line up in support for him in November. To win the General Election, Mr. Cox will have to win over at least some percentage of Democratic voters to make up for his party’s voter registration numbers and/or hope for an even worse turnout in November.

US Senator
Senator Diane Feinstein easily came in first in this election with 44 percent of the vote. State Senator Kevin De Leon placed a distant second with 11.3 percent of the vote. As noted in our pre-election report, we speculated that if De Leon came in a strong second, it would be possible that De Leon could generate interest in his campaign from progressive grass roots activists and moneyed special interests, then this could be an interesting race in November. But he did not. We expect that Senator Feinstein will appeal to the vast middle of California voters and will easily win re-election in November.

Legislative Races
Senate District 29 – Recall of Senator Josh Newman
As noted in our election preview, the key race was the recall election of Democrat Senator Josh Newman who represents parts of Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Counties. This recall election was triggered by Senator Newman’s vote to increase vehicle fuel taxes in 2017 and Senator Newman was actually recalled by voters. He will be replaced immediately by the Republican he defeated in 2016, former Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang. Interestingly, the vehicle fuel tax itself will be subject to possible voter rejection in November and is discussed in more detail below.

Senate District 32 – Special Election/Primary Election to Replace Senator Tony Mendoza
As we noted in our election preview, this is a very complicated election and it is really the most interesting result of the June 5 election. The June 5 election was both a special election primary and a regular primary election with all candidates on both ballots. The voters in this Los Angeles County district, amazingly, did not vote for the same person in the special election as they did in the regular primary. In the special election, Republican Rita Topalian will face off against Democrat Vanessa Delgado in August to decide who will fill out the remaining time in this open seat. However, the General Election will not feature Vanessa Delgado. The voters, instead, nominated Democrat Bob Archuleta to be on the November ballot against Rita Topalian. Because this is a seat normally occupied by a Democrat, it is highly likely that Ms. Delgado could be elected in August, work the remaining 3 weeks of the Legislative Session, voting on bills in Sacramento, and then go home and wait for the winner in November to be sworn into office in December.

Assembly District 76 – Republicans Locked Out
In our election preview, we speculated that six Republicans could split the June vote so evenly that the party risked getting locked out of the General Election in what is normally a Republican seat in North San Diego County. It happened. The two Democrats in the race were the top vote getters in the primary and will face off in the General election. This political malpractice by the Republican party, means the Assembly Democrats will automatically strengthen and add to their majority, while focusing electoral resources on other races.

Early General Election Preview
It is too early to begin highlighting the elections to watch for in November. It is expected that the November ballot will be loaded with highly controversial ballot initiatives, including a measure to repeal the gas tax, which as evidenced by the recall of Senator Newman discussed earlier, may impact election results in legislative races. At the same time, there will be initiatives on rent control and internet privacy that will also generate tens of millions of dollars in political spending and presumably incentivize voters to go to the polls.

We will issue a General Election preview as the November election draws closer.