Last night’s mid-term elections entailed a number of changes in California. Here are some of the implications:
A Republican Wave That Did Not Reach California
While Republicans did extremely well nationwide yesterday, California Republicans had reason to be disappointed. Republican campaigns in the senatorial and gubernatorial races, seemingly competitive, ended up falling far short of victory. Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman lost by double-digits, while Republican senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina barely cracked the single digits.
There were other signs that the Republican national wave failed to break the West Coast: Republicans may have lost every statewide office for the eighth consecutive time (the results for the extremely close Attorney General race are still pending), while losing a seat in the State Assembly. This came as they flipped about nineteen legislative chambers to their side nationally. On the congressional level, Republicans may also have failed to pick up a single congressional district (two extremely close districts are undecided pending the count of all absentee ballots, but they seem to favor Democrats at the moment). This came as Republicans won over 60 congressional seats nationally.
California has thus proved itself once more as a Democratic bastion. That a competitive Republican senatorial candidate, running against an unpopular incumbent, could barely crack the single-digits in a wave election like this indicates that the Republican Party still has trouble winning over the increasingly diverse California electorate.
Positive Changes in Propositions
California also voted on a number of propositions. For the most part, the results were quite positive. On five out of the seven propositions, Californians followed the endorsements put out by this blog.
Of greatest importance was Proposition 25, which required a majority vote to pass the budget. Californians voted yes on this proposition, thus taking a major step towards more stable budgets. Voters also came strongly out against gerrymandering, approving Proposition 20 and defeating Proposition 27.
Unfortunately, Californians also approved two propositions which make passing budgets much more difficult. By approving Proposition 22 and Proposition 26, Californians took billions of potential revenue sources away from an already revenue-starved state. Proposition 22 prohibits the state from borrowing money from local governments, while Proposition 26 sets a two-thirds supermajority requirement for some fees to be passed.
The approval of Proposition 26 is particularly bizarre when one considers that Californians also voted for Proposition 25. Proposition 25 makes passing budgets much easier; Proposition 26 makes passing them much harder. The two do the exact opposite things, and they approach the budget in the exact opposite way. Voting yes on both propositions is kind of like being pro-life and pro-choice at the same time. Yet apparently half a million Californians, at the very least, did exactly that this Tuesday.
All in all, these results – especially the approval of Proposition 25 – leave California in a better state than it was before the election. While the approval of Proposition 21 and Proposition 26 do real damage to the budget, the benefit derived from Proposition 25 more than overcomes that.
A New Governor
Finally, there is the matter of the new governor of California: Jerry Brown. Both candidates for governor this election were fairly unimpressive: Republican Meg Whitman campaigned promising to change California as a businesswoman with experience. There have been some politicians with business backgrounds who have successfully done this, but many more who have failed to navigate the difference between business and politics – with California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger being just the latest example.
Former governor Jerry Brown, on the other hand, campaigned on a message conspicuous for its absence of new ideas and proposed reforms (at least Ms. Whitman had new ideas, even if they were the wrong ones). He won anyways, because Ms. Whitman was such a flawed candidate. Can a washed-out, 72-year-old life-time politician turn things around in California?
The next four years will show whether Mr. Brown is up to the job.