I hope all of you have exercised your most precious right to vote in this week’s California primary. I know we will all now be focusing time and energy analyzing the results and thinking about how to proceed for November.
Over 19 million Californians are registered to vote, which is more than three-quarters of our eligible voters. When reporting these statistics, Secretary of State Alex Padilla cites automatic registration through the DMV as well as a new mobile friendly voter registration website and updated paper registration forms. Democrats are still the largest bloc of voters at 44 percent. I was interested to read that Republicans at 25.1 percent of registered voters now trail those who show no party preference at 25.5 percent. Unfortunately, two-thirds of potential voters typically do not cast ballots in non-Presidential elections, and a higher percentage of Republicans vote than Democrats.
We have all seen a lot of commentary on last night’s results. A couple of things stood out to me. I agree with the Los Angeles Times that the results of the governor’s race indicate that the contest between Gavin Newsom and John Cox, who was backed by Trump, will inevitably draw focus to national themes. The third finisher, Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, quickly endorsed Newsom Tuesday night, so in our Democratic dominated state, most pundits are suggesting Newsom has an easy path to victory. Nevertheless, with a traditional donkey-elephant race at the top of the ticket, Republicans will remain motivated to turn out and vote for down-ballot candidates.
We will continue to argue about the merits and demerits of our unique “jungle primary” system where the first two candidates in the primary proceed to the November general election. Bearing in mind that the path to taking over control of the House this fall leads through California, Democrats have been focusing on seven races in districts where Hillary Clinton won in 2016 that had Republican Congressional incumbents. There had been concern that the proliferation of enthusiastic Democratic candidates (leading, for example, to 16 candidates on the ballot in the 49th Congressional district) motivated by anti-Trump sentiment would split Democratic votes in a number of key congressional races, leaving only Republican candidates competing in the fall. This appears not to have happened. It looks as though a Democratic candidate has placed second in all seven of the most competitive Congressional races, giving us opportunities for gain in November. The national Democrats spent over $7 million to support candidates in the 48th, 49th, and 39th districts (held by Republicans Rohrabacher, Issa, and Royce, respectively) in Orange County, to boost Democratic candidates they believed had a chance to move forward to the general election. In our nearby 25th district, incumbent Republican Steve Knight took first place, and among several Democratic candidates, Katie Hill narrowly edged out Brian Caforio for the right to compete in November.
We lost the Democratic supermajority in the California state legislature with the recall vote of Democratic State Senator Josh Newman in the 29th district, over his vote for Senate Bill 1, which increased the gas tax and vehicle fees to pay for road and bridge repairs and mass transit improvements. Overall, 81 legislators voted for the measure, but Republicans chose to target Newman’s district because he had won narrowly in 2016 (by 2,500 votes out of 320,000 over former Republican Assemblymember Ling Ling Chang), in a district that had previously been represented by termed-out Republican Senator Bob Huff and was long seen as a Republican bastion. Successful recalls are rare in California; before this primary, just five successful recalls have occurred since 1913. However, with a viable Republican candidate in the wings, money was spent to collect signatures and put the recall on the ballot. According to a recent Dornsife Los Angeles Times poll, 51% of California voters want to repeal the gas tax, but the numbers are even higher in Orange and San Diego counties at 64%, so the stratagem of using a recall worked in circumstances where public opinion/voter anger over a single issue could be tapped. The state Republican party invested more than $1.2 million into the recall election, including more than $490,000 in support of Chang. I think we should be very wary about recalls, pushed by narrow, well-funded interest groups, gaining currency in our political system.
Before we leave elections, I want to thank all of you who served as volunteer election staff under Marianne Slaughter and Rick Gardner’s Adopt-a-Poll leadership on Tuesday. By volunteering this service, we earn a little bit of income for our club, but this is also a vital contribution to our community and the fabric of our democracy!
Success on SB 54 at City Hall
I want to thank those of you who showed up in the recent Camarillo City Council meetings, which turned back a movement to get our city to sign on to joining a legal challenge to SB 54, aka, the California Values Act. According to the Camarillo Acorn, 59 speakers supported SB 54 or urged the city to do nothing, while 36 speakers demanded action at the third meeting on May 23 when the issue was on the City Council agenda. It appeared that quite a few of those who supported opposing SB 54 came from outside of Camarillo, pushing a divisive, Trumpist immigration agenda. This episode is just one more example, as if one were needed, of how important it is to keep informed and show up to participate in our democratic institutions. Our Council recognized the legal battle on immigration enforcement between the state and federal governments was being decided in the courts and outside the purview of the city council, and voted unanimously not to take a position for or against SB 54.
Our Club Meeting
This month’s meeting on Thursday, June 7, will feature Santa Barbara First District Supervisor Das Williams as our invited speaker. As you will remember in his past life in the State Assembly, he represented a number of Ventura County residents including some in Camarillo. Also, Kimberly Rivers of CFROG (Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas) will update us on efforts to oppose plans to greatly increase oil drilling near Sturgis Road. I look forward to seeing you there.