This post has been updated.
Unlike many of the states that had primaries Tuesday, California is huge. That means dozens of races to watch and make sense of the day following a primary. The state's new "top two" primary system had its debut in statewide elections and made for some fascinating races. Here are some of the most interesting results.
... was lousy. Like, "embarrassingly low." The Los Angeles Times tried to diagnose the problem: "the cause of California’s embarrassingly low voter turnout Tuesday can be easily summarized by a simple equation: Relative contentment + a sense of predestined outcome = little incentive to vote."
The low turnout, coupled with the number of Democrats battling in a few key races, likely boosted Republican candidates. During midterm elections, Republican voters are more likely to turn out — especially during primary season — even in California. Republicans only make up 28 percent of the electorate in the state, but the Field poll predicted they would make up 37 percent of primary voters. And although non-Latino whites are only 39 percent of California's population, it's likely that around three-quarters of Tuesday's voters were white.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee favorite Michael Eggman made the runoff, and will campaign against Republican incumbent Jeff Denham in the fall. The DCCC has already bought up more than $1 million in ad time in the district. This one could get expensive.
After 40 years, Democratic Rep. George Miller decided to call it quits in 2014. Many assumed that state senator Mark DeSaulnier was the heir apparent. They seem to be right so far, as he was far ahead of his opponents in Tuesday's primary. Republican Tue Phan, a retired immigration judge, came in second. President Obama won 71 percent of the vote in this district in 2012, so DeSaulnier will likely keep his lead over Phan through November.
The congressional race in Silicon Valley has been framed as the Democratic alternative to the establishment v. tea party trend playing out in Republican primaries. Here, it's establishment v. the techies. Democratic incumbent Rep. Mike Honda came out in the lead, leaving fellow Democrat and friend of the app-happy Ro Khanna 21.5 percentage points behind. They'll try again in November, after their allies spend millions more on the race. Khanna already challenged Honda to five debates last night. This race is going to stay interesting for the next five months.
In 2012, two Republicans won the "top two" primary in this Democratic majority district, after Democrats couldn't decide which candidate they wanted to support and split the vote. The same thing looked like it might happen, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emily's List and some "honest government" group that hasn't reported its activity to the FEC all supporting different Democratic candidates.
Republican businessman and military vet Paul Chabot is in the lead, and will advance to November. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, who has the support of the DCCC, is in second place with 100 percent of the vote counted, and looks set to advance, although the race has not yet been called.
Another GOP candidate, Lesli Gooch, is 1 percentage point behind Aguilar, and Emily's List's choice Eloise Reyes is only 232 votes behind her.
The dozen candidates who had no chance of making the runoff, but put in an A for effort anyway, helped vault Republican Elan Carr to the top two in the race to replace Rep. Henry Waxman, with 21.5 percent of the vote. State Sen. Ted Lieu came in second, beating the other nine Democratic candidates in the race. Wendy Greuel just missed the runoff, coming in third. Between 2012's mayoral election and this, she's just not having any luck lately. Marianne Williamson, a New Age author who captivated the national media, came in third. Radio host Matt Miller, who won the Los Angeles Times' endorsement, was fourth.
In Santa Monica, it has always seemed a given that Democrats would win easy elections in the district. But Waxman won re-election in 2012 by less than 10 percentage points in a race against a former Republican turned Independent.
There was no question that incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown (D) was going to make the runoff. But who was going to join him in the general? There were many Republicans who came close, but Neel Kashkari, who had the support of the party establishment — including 2014 miracle endorser Mitt Romney (see Ernst, Tillis) — and lots of money, eventually beat Tim Donnelly, a tea party assemblyman from Twin Peaks who did surprisingly well in the Bay Area. Who could have predicted that the establishment v. tea party primary narrative would play out in a California gubernatorial race?
A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll from Monday had Brown defeating Kashkari 55 to 27 percent in a match-up.
Secretary of State
The secretary of state race in California got a bit of national buzz when state senator Leland Yee, the race's frontrunner, was charged with allegedly trafficking firearms for the Chinese mafia — including one gangster known as "Shrimp Boy" -- and for trading favors for campaign cash.
Yee was still on the ballot Tuesday, and got 9.8 percent of the vote. As Larry Gerston, a political scientist from San Jose State University, told the Los Angeles Times, “There will be some people who will vote for Yee because they do not know what is going on."
Republican Pete Peterson and Democrat Alex Padilla made the runoff, with vote tallies close enough to keep the race interesting.
Odds and ends
- That name looks familiar. Oh wait, it's former labor secretary Hilda Solis! She left the Cabinet in order to run for the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, and ended the primary with an impressive lead and 70 percent of the vote.
- Orly Taitz, who Esquire once called "queen of the 'birthers,'" got 3.1 percent in the state attorney general race.
- Proposition 42, which puts the financial burden on local governments to comply with California's government transparency laws, passed with 61.5 percent of the vote. Journalists and other members of the public who file requests for government information were having trouble getting timely responses to their inquiries, because many local governments -- waiting for state government reimbursement -- weren't fulfilling requests.
- A proposition to ensure that VA land was used to build new housing for vets — and not a new park — also passed resoundingly.
- In January, Sandra Fluke was thinking of running in the 33rd congressional district. After seeing that everyone in Los Angeles was thinking about the same thing, she decided to set her sights lower and aim for the state senate seat vacated by Ted Lieu, who made the runoff to replace Henry Waxman in the 33rd District. She will face off in the fall with Ben Allen, a Democrat on the Santa Monica-Malibu school board who came in first in the polls.
- Nancy Pelosi will be facing off against Republican John Dennis for the third time. Let the weird ads begin!