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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Brown Wins Fourth Term as CA Governor

(CN) - Just hours after the polls closed in California, Democrats appeared to be coasting to a lockdown of most of the state's major offices.

Gov. Jerry Brown made state history by winning a fourth term as the Golden State's governor, after Republican challenger Neel Kashkari called it a night - and a campaign - within 90 minutes after the polls closed.

Kashkari, a banker and former Treasury Department official behind the 2008 bank bailouts, ran an attention-grabbing campaign - living as a homeless man in Fresno for a week and running an odd commercial that featured him saving a drowning child. But Kashkari, 41, also made points as a pro-choice, LGBT-supporting, pro-business moderate who advocated a 10-year tax credit for companies that move to California.

He also decried Brown's $68 billion high-speed rail pet project as a boondoggle and money drain on taxpayers, often referring to the project as the "crazy train."

In muted contrast, the 76-year-old Brown ran on his record and experience, pointing to the state's budget surplus and steady progress toward paying down debt. While he did virtually no campaigning for his re-election bid, he championed two ballot measures: Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion water bond that supporters from both parties hope will combat the state's devastating drought, and Proposition 2, a rainy-day-fund measure that requires legislators to set aside a portion of surpluses during years of plenty.

But the race for Secretary of State, between Democrat Alex Padilla and Republican Pete Peterson ran neck and neck early on. Peterson had the advantage in early returns, but Padilla broke into the lead by over 100,000 votes later in the evening.

Prior to Election Day, political pundits expected one of the evening's hottest battles would be the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction, given that teachers' unions and independent donors had dumped $30 million into the campaigns of incumbent Tom Torlakson and newcomer Marshall Tuck.

But Torlakson led by six points with 53 percent of precincts partially reporting, a lead that continued to dip slightly as the evening wore on.

The race between Torlakson and Tuck - besides expensive - was also one of the most contentious. Tuck ripped Torklakson for California's dismal education ranking of 45th out of 50 states, while the incumbent criticized Tuck's lack of experience and his backing by well-heeled donors.

Tuck garnered the support of nearly all of California's major newspapers, as well as San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also threw his support behind Tuck for the nonpartisan office.

The race for state controller had been close early on, but Democrat Betty Yee had widened her lead over Ashley Swearengin - a Republican who is currently the mayor of Fresno - later in the evening.

Although Propositions 1 and 2 won handily, most of the other initiatives on the statewide ballot did not fare as well.

The health insurance industry poured $100 million into Propositions 45 and 46, according to Consumer Watchdog, and both were overwhelmingly rejected by voters.

Prop. 45 called for the state's Insurance Commissioner to approve all insurance rate hikes, with prior public notice, disclosure and hearings also required beforehand.

Meanwhile, Prop. 46 appealed to voter pathos by requiring random doctor drug testing. But opponents argued that the law would only benefit trial lawyers looking to cash in on medical malpractice lawsuits, since it raised the cap on pain and suffering awards from $250,000 to $1.1 million.

Both 45 and 46 went down in flames, rejected by over 60 percent of Golden State voters.

Californians also decided against ratifying tribal gaming compacts between the state, the Wiyot Tribe and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. This initiative, Proposition 48, would have allowed the North Fork tribe to build a casino on non-reservation land in Madera County, with the Wiyot tribe getting a portion of the gambling revenue.

Continuing a statewide trend of softening on illicit drugs, voters agreed to reclassify some drug offenses as misdemeanors in Proposition 47. Although law enforcement and prosecutors vociferously opposed the initiative - which will not apply to sex offenders or violent felons - most voters saw otherwise.

One of the most expensive Congressional races in the country - the battle between incumbent Democrat Ami Bera and Republican Doug Ose for the 7th District seat in eastern Sacramento County - will likely not be decided any time soon.

With nearly half of the precincts reporting, only 420 votes separated the two men, who saw more than $20 million dumped into their campaign coffers by supporters and outside interests.

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