ACCORDING TO LIZ - Did you vote? If you didn’t, you may be responsible for some of the unexpected consequences from Tuesday’s California primary election.
Very few people are happy with the results so far and that includes both the idealists who hoped voters would see their light, and those who spent millions to buy people’s votes.
Turnout was historically low – percentage-wise, perhaps California’s lowest ever – currently at 19% and may not even reach 30% by the time all ballots are counted.
Votes, however, and that includes mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Election Day and received by June 14th are still being counted, and county elections officials have until July 7th to certify the results.
Most races will see the top two vote-getters returning in November – and many more millions spent.
At the State level, only candidates running for Superintendent of Public Instruction and candidates for voter-nominated offices in special elections can win outright by getting a majority of the vote in the primary election.
But here in Los Angeles, candidates who receive 50% plus one vote no longer have to worry about campaigning, fundraising… or keeping their peccadillos off the front pages of the paper (unless these are bad enough to land them in prison faster than one can say “Huizar”).
Everything else being equal, incumbents in a race will always have an edge. They already have an organization and contacts and name awareness. Which also gives them a big leg up on raising money.
And in many races it did come down to money. Although all of Rick Caruso’s millions couldn’t buy him enough votes to shake free of Karen Bass.
Incumbents had a good night.
Governor Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Treasurer Fiona Ma all received over 50% of the vote, even in races with multiple challengers. Barring any fiascos, they should go on to victory in November.
U.S. Senator Alex Padilla who was definitely not my first choice to replace Kamala Harris has found his feet in DC politics to become a strong voice for California and progressive states, was elected to fill out the existing term (through January 2023) and will easily be the front runner for the general election.
However, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara who made headlines for accepting campaign contributions from the very industry he is supposed to police and has not been very effective, will probably face Marc Levine who, in my mind, would make a fine replacement.
Although I feel the uncounted ballots may improve Ron Galperin’s position, it probably won’t be enough to get him into the November sweepstakes. Ron has done an amazing job for us here in Los Angeles but clearly doesn’t have the same name value further north. Yet.
Since neither of the California Senators I’ve come to hate – Toni Atkins and Scott Weiner - were up for election, let’s skip over the House, State Senate and State Assembly elections which are district specific and move on to Los Angeles.
Jumping over the judges – although you never know when one of the winners might make it to higher courts… On the other hand, almost every one running would be an improvement over the six Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices.
Some of the City races are shockers, others nail-biters.
Controller – yikes, Kenneth Mejia ahead and Paul Koretz solidly in second place – either is a recipe for disaster. Although I like both personally, one has too little experience and the other too little understanding of fiscal probity.
Now that Galperin is available, perhaps the eventual winner would consider hiring him back to help run the department to which he brought such luster when he was in office reply. There is some precedent for this with the hiring of Heather Holt, previous Executive Director, back by David Tristan who supplanted her.
In the race for City Attorney, four candidates are within three percentage points of each other with the top three separated by less than 1%.
Despite the New York Times calling it for Rick Caruso the day before the election, no amount of millions can keep a good woman down. Caruso spent $37.5 million of his own plus many more millions from the Los Angeles Police Protective League, from Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian and from conservative groups vs. $4.5 million spent by Karen Bass supporters.
Bass said she would have used the $50 million used against her to build affordable housing. How much more housing could be built from the millions wasted on lies in the months before November?
Hopefully Kevin de León will gracefully go back to taking care of his real constituents, those of us living in CD 14, and do a better job now he’s not reaching for the golden ring of the Getty House as a springboard for national office.
What this means for November:
Hopefully, Alex Villanueva will be thrown out as Sheriff and Robert Luna can begin to rebuild the discredited department.
Lindsay Horvath has a chance to beat termed-out California Senator Robert Hertzberg for the County Board of Supervisors District 3.
Rocío Rivas will need to draw in supporters of those who will not be on the ballot to beat Maria Brenes who has manipulated the charter school system for her own ends. And Marvin Rodriguez will need to attract almost all of Jess Arana’s supporters to topple Kelly Gonez.
At this point, CDs 1, 3, 7 and 9 will not be on the ballot.
Katy Young Yaroslavsky and Sam Yebri will face off in CD 5, Erin Darling and Traci Park in CD 11, Mitch O’Farrell (the only incumbent) and Hugo Soto-Martinez in CD 13, and Tim McOsker and Danielle Sandoval in CD 15.
But the real question is just how much more money will Caruso spend in pursuing the third floor suite at City Hall.
And how much Californians and Angelenos value their freedom.
Hundreds of millions was spent during this primary by wealthy partisan donors representing the tech, big oil, real estate, and timber industries, by interest groups such as the Police Protective League, and by companies such as Uber, Amazon, Disney, Sempra Energy, and Chevron. And all of these will want a return on their investment.
Only a few years ago the right of women to their own bodies, the right of all Americans to vote, the right of workers to organize, the right to be free from those trying to impose their religious beliefs on others, were givens. Now?
Mark November 8, 2022 on your calendar. Do your research and vote as if your life depended on it. It does.
(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)