By Ken Jackson
After a seemingly endless and hostile campaign season, Legislative Democrats in California closed out Election Day on the cusp of a supermajority in both houses that would provide unilateral authority to raise taxes in the state. Such an outcome would mark the first time in over thirty years that either party has captured two-thirds of the seats in either house; if both houses reached the threshold, it would be the first time the Legislature was dominated at that level by one party since the 1930s. In the early hours following the close of polls, Senate President Pro Tem Steinberg fell short of claiming the victory only noting his optimism; whereas Assembly Speaker John Perez claimed the victory, despite a number of legislative races still too close to call. The cheering from Democrats sparked warnings from Republican leaders noting Californians could be eliminating the leverage they have used to oppose tax increases, extract spending reductions and institute regulatory reforms.
Currently, Democrats appear to be two seats away in both the Assembly and Senate from the supermajority threshold. While political insiders believed it was entirely possible the Senate would meet that threshold, the Assembly doing so seemed farther fetched.
Whatever the final outcome, the potential to gain such thresholds in either house may largely be attributed to some of the sweeping changes in California’s political system over the last few years – the adoption of new district lines and new primary election rules providing for the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, to advance to the general election. The top two system, in particular, contributed to some of the nastiest and most expensive intra-party battles across the state and in some cases resulted in incumbents losing to an opponent of the same party. Races for these state legislative seats realized record spending — more than $20 million — by outside groups alone.
Importantly, such rancor was not limited to state races. Congressional Democrats and Republicans battled – and in some cases are continuing to battle – for at least 10 of California's 53 congressional seats as part of their fight for control of the House of Representatives. The longest-serving congressman in the state, 80-year-old Democrat Pete Stark, was ousted by a rival from his own party, Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell. And in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, a bitter fight between Democratic Representatives Brad Sherman and Howard Berman ended with Sherman winning. All in all, the national parties and outside groups spent more than $53 million in congressional contests around the state, dwarfing what candidates were able to garner.
As if the legislative and congressional races weren’t enough, let’s not forget the multitude of ballot initiatives that also instigated record levels of spending.
Important for budget purposes, California voters have seemingly delivered a victory for Governor Brown's proposed tax initiative, Proposition 30. Should the measure continue to maintain support as absentee ballots are counted, its passage could stave off over $6 billion in budget trigger cuts that would be primarily targeted at the state’s education system. Recall, the measure – the first statewide tax increase since 2004 under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – would increase the sales tax by a quarter cent for four years and income taxes for people who make more than $250,000 a year for seven years. In contrast, voters overwhelmingly denied the competing tax plan, Proposition 38, sponsored by wealthy attorney Molly Munger who poured tens of millions of her own resources in to its passage and fighting the Governor’s Proposition 30.
Voters rejected initiatives aimed at thwarting the political influence of unions (Proposition 32), giving insurance companies leeway to set rates (Proposition 33) and labeling genetically engineered foods (Proposition 37). In contrast, measures to revise California’s Three-Strikes law (Proposition 36) and increase taxes on out-of-state companies (Proposition 39) were approved with decent margins. Proposition 34, a contentious measure to repeal the death penalty, however remains too close to call.
All in all, Democrats and Governor Brown appear to have achieved a landslide of victories in this election cycle. Not only did Governor Brown achieve what was seemingly an impossible feat – having voters pass a new, broad based tax on themselves – the Legislature is on the brink of Democratic supermajority control. And although some races remain too close to call and may not be final for days, the key question pending in Sacramento is what will they do with this new-found power in 2013?
To review and monitor close races, please see http://vote.sos.ca.gov/.STATEWIDE BALLOT PROPOSITIONS
Proposition 30: Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. PASS
Seeks to temporarily raise the sales tax rate (four years) and increase personal income taxes (seven years) and direct revenues to fund education. In addition to these tax increases, Prop 30 provides a permanent funding guarantee for realigned local government public safety programs.
Proposition 31: State Budget. State and Local Government. FAIL
Seeks to implement significant reforms to the state budget and legislative practices by enacting two-year budget cycles, requiring performance-based budgeting, providing more local government autonomy and requiring the Legislature identify funding sources when a tax cut or newly created program costs more than $25 million.
Proposition 32: Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. FAIL
Bans corporations and unions from contributing to state and local candidates and candidate-controlled committees outright. In addition, measure provisions prohibit unions and corporations from using automatic payroll deductions for political purposes; however, voluntary employee contributions to employer-sponsored committees are allowed upon written authorization.
Proposition 33: Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. FAIL
Amends current law so that insurance companies may offer a continuity discount to new customers that can prove they have continuously maintained an auto insurance policy, even if from another company.
Proposition 34: Death Penalty. FAIL
Repeals the death penalty and replaces the punishment with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In addition, Prop 34 would be applied retroactively to inmates sentenced to death and dedicates all in prison work wages earned by inmates convicted of murder to victim restitution efforts.
Proposition 35: Human Trafficking. Penalties. PASS
Seeks to expand how current law defines and punishes human trafficking offenses.
Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. PASS
Seeks to revise provisions of the landmark Three Strikes Law defining third strike offenses and related prison sentences. Measure provisions 1) only impose life sentences when new felony convictions are considered serious or violent, 2) allow resentencing of certain offenders already incarcerated on a third strike offense and 3) redefine what crimes are considered nonviolent or non-serious.
Proposition 37: Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. FAIL
Requires raw or processed retail food produced with genetic engineering to be labeled.
Proposition 38: Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. FAIL
Seeks to temporarily increase personal income taxes on a sliding scale and directs resulting revenues to school districts, preschools and early-childhood development services. The tax increases would expire in 12 years.
Proposition 39: Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. PASS
Eliminates the state Single Sales Factor (SSF) formula option for multistate businesses and directs the resulting revenue stream (~$1 billion) to fund clean energy programs and education.
Proposition 40: Redistricting. State Senate Districts. PASS
This measure seeks to overturn the new Senate district boundary lines drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s (CRC).
STATE SENATE RACE RESULTS
SD 5 (Open seat; highly competitive swing district) – CLOSE CONTEST
Cathleen Galgiani (D) vs. Bill Berryhill (R)
**Berryhill defeated Galgiani by a margin of 51% to 49% (or 3,988 votes)
SD 13 (Open; safe seat competitive amongst Democrats)
Jerry Hill (D) vs. Sally Lieber (D)
**Hill defeated Lieber by a margin of 66.9% to 33.1%
SD 15 (Open seat; safe seat competitive amongst Democrats)
Jim Beall (D) vs. Joe Coto (D)
**Beall defeated Coto by a margin of 57.9% to 42.1%
SD 19 (Open seat) – DEMOCRATS GAIN A SEAT
Hannah-Beth Jackson (D) vs. Mike Stoker (R)
**Jackson defeated Stoker by a margin of 54.7% to 45.3%
SD 27 (Democrat incumbent Pavley challenged; highly competitive swing district)
Fran Pavely (D) vs. Todd Zink (R)
**Pavely defeated Zink by a margin of 52.6% to 47.4%
SD 31 (Open seat; highly competitive swing district) – DEMOCRATS GAIN A SEAT
Richard Roth (D) vs. Jeff Miler (R)
**Roth defeated Miller by a margin of 53.9% to 46.1%
SD 39 (Open seat; highly competitive swing district)
Marty Block (D) vs. George Plescia (R)
**Block defeated Plescia by a margin of 57.4% to 42.6%
STATE ASSEMBLY RACE RESULTS
AD 6 (Same party challenge to incumbent Gaines; safe seat competitive amongst Republicans)
Beth Gaines (R) vs. Andy Pugno (R)
**Gaines defeated Pugno by a margin of 69.1% to 30.9%
AD 8 (Open seat; highly competitive swing district)
Ken Cooley (D) vs. Peter Tateishi (R)
**Cooley defeated Tateishi by a margin of 52.2% to 47.8%
AD 10 (Same party challenge to incumbent Allen; safe seat competitive amongst Democrats) - CLOSE CONTEST/INCUMBENT UNSEATED
Michael Allen (D) vs. Mark Levine (D)
**Levine defeated Allen by a margin of 50.6% to 49.4% (or 1,663 votes)
AD 18 (Open seat; safe seat competitive amongst Democrats)
Ron Bonta (D) vs. Abel Guillen (D)
**Bonta defeated Guillen by a margin of 50.8% to 49.2%
AD 20 (Open seat; safe seat competitive amongst Democrats)
Jennifer Ong (D) vs. Bill Quirk (D)
**Quirk defeated Ong by a margin of 51.3% to 48.7%
AD 21 (Open seat)
Adam Gray (D) vs. Jack Mobley (R)
**Gray defeated Mobley by a margin of 56.1% to 43.9%
AD 32 (Open seat; highly competitive swing district) – CLOSE CONTEST/PARTY CHANGE
Rudy Salas (D) vs. Pedro Rios (R)
**Salas defeated Rios by a margin of 50.2% to 49.8% (or 268 votes)
AD 39 (Open seat; safe seat competitive amongst Democrats)
Richard Alarcon (D) vs. Raul Bocanegra (D)
**Bocanegra defeated Alarcon by a margin of 58.5% to 41.5%
AD 40 (Incumbent challenge to Republican Morrell; highly competitive swing district) – CLOSE CONTEST
Mike Morrell (R) vs. Russ Warner (D)
**Morrell defeated Warner by a margin of 51.4% to 48.6% (or 2,850 votes)
AD 47 (Open seat; safe seat competitive amongst Democrats)
Joe Baca, Jr. (D) vs. Cheryl Brown (D)
**Brown defeated Baca by a margin of 56.2% to 43.8%
AD 49 (Open seat; competitive district)
Ed Chau (D) vs. Matthew Lin (R)
**Chau defeated Lin by a margin of 56.6% to 43.4%
AD 50 (Same party challenge to incumbent Butler; safe seat competitive amongst Democrats) – CLOSE CONTEST/INCUMBENT UNSEATED
Richard Bloom (D) vs. Betsy Butler (D)
**Bloom defeated Butler by a margin of 50.1% to 49.9% (or 218 votes)
AD 61 (Open seat, highly competitive swing district)
Jose Medina (D) vs. Bill Batey (R)
** Medina defeated Batey by a margin of 58.8% to 41.2%
AD 65 (Incumbent challenge to Republican Norby) – CLOSE CONTEST/INCUMBENT UNSEATED/PARTY CHANGE
Sharon Quirk-Silva (D) vs. Chris Norby (R)
**Quirk-Silva defeated Norby by a margin of 50.5% to 49.5% (or 1,004 votes)
AD 66 (Open seat; highly competitive swing district)
Al Muratsuchi (D) vs. Craig Huey (R)
** Marasutchi defeated Huey by a margin of 53.8% to 46.2%
AD 76 (Open seat; safe seat competitive amongst Republicans)
Rocky Chavez (R) vs. Sherry Hodges (R)
** Chavez defeated Hodges by a margin of 57.8% to 42.2%
CONGRESSIONAL RACE RESULTS
CD 1 (Open seat)
Jim Reed (D) vs. Doug La Malfa (R)
**La Malfa defeated Reed by a margin of 57.8% to 42.2%
CD 2 (Open seat)
Jarred Huffman (D) vs. Daniel Roberts (R)
**Huffman defeated Roberts by a margin of 70.1% to 29.9%
CD 7 (Incumbent challenge to Republican Lungren; highly competitive swing district) – CLOSE CONTEST/PARTY CHANGE
Ami Bera (D) vs. Dan Lungren (R)
**Bera defeated Lungren by a margin of 50.1% to 49.9% (or 184 votes)
CD 8 (Open seat)
Gregg Imus (R) vs. Paul Cook (R)
**Cook defeated Imus by a margin of 57.6% to 42.4%
CD 21 (Open seat)
John Hernandez (D) vs. David Valadao (R)
**Valadao defeated Hernandez by a margin of 59.9% to 40.1%
CD 26 (Open seat)
Julia Brownley (D) vs. Tony Strickland (R)
**Brownley defeated Strickland by a margin of 51.7% to 48.3%
CD 31 (Open seat)
Bob Dutton (R) vs. Gary Miller (R)
**Miller defeated Dutton by a margin of 55.2% to 44.8%
CD 51 (Open seat)
Juan Vargas (D) vs. Michael Crimmins (R)
**Vargas defeated Crimmins by a margin of 69.9% to 30.1%