In looking at the results from Tuesday’s California primary in Democratic open seats, we can say preliminarily that the outcomes look very positive for the employer community in terms of our goals for the primary election. But with 100% of the precincts reporting, why are the results still preliminary?
For the primary, it is a simple answer as people who held on to their absentee ballots had until Tuesday to either put them in the mail or drop them off at an election location like a polling place. Election experts estimate that there is in the range of 1.5 million votes left to count, so results in many close races are still in doubt and outcomes could change.
In addition, however, with the top two primary vote getters advancing to the November ballot, many more races will be contested in the fall, some pitting Democrats against Republicans, and others featuring members of the same party.
In the past, seats have changed party hands between a presidential election year and a nonpresidential one because turnout normally is greater when the presidency is in play. Due to presidential politics this year, turnout may be difficult to predict.
Open Democratic Seats
Still, based on what we know as Alert went to print, here’s what we can report on outcomes in the three major open Democratic Assembly seats.
• Assembly District 4—Davis/Napa. Democrat Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, mayor of Winters, appears to be in a runoff against Republican Charlie Schaupp, who ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2014. This safe Democratic seat saw more than $2 million in spending by the business community, including JobsPAC, to boost Aguiar-Curry’s candidacy.
Aguiar-Curry garnered 28.2% of the vote and Schaupp received 29.1%. Assuming these results hold, this is an outright win for supporters looking to expand the membership in the “Mod Dem” caucus.
There were five candidates in the field, but most of the union spending was for Davis Mayor Dan Wolk with more than $300,000 to oppose his candidacy from the pro-Aguiar-Curry forces.
• Assembly District 14—Concord/Vallejo. The November race in this East Bay district will be a matchup between two Democrats, Mae Torlakson and Tim Grayson, a Concord city councilman. This race became a proxy war between the teachers’ unions and the education reform proponents, led by EdVoice.
Education reformers spent more than $1.5 million to boost Grayson’s candidacy while spending close to $400,000 to oppose Torlakson. Similarly, a labor coalition including the California Teachers Association spent close to $400,000 to oppose Grayson.
Less than 500 votes separated Torlakson (32.5% of the vote) and Grayson (32.1% of the vote) the day after the election. The Republican in the race received more than 25% of the votes and finished third. The more moderate Grayson is in a good position to gain those GOP voters.
• Assembly District 27—San Jose. Democrat Madison Nguyen, former San Jose city councilmember and one-time mayoral candidate, is holding a strong lead with 35% of the vote over likely runner up labor-backed San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra, who captured less than 20%.
Spending from education reform groups led by the California Charter School Association and business groups heavily backed Nguyen with approximately $1.3 million, also spending more than $600,000 in opposition to Kalra. Labor stepped up to spend close to $500,000 for Kalra.
Other Assembly Seats
There are a few other Democratic seats worth noting:
• Assembly District 24—San Mateo/Sunnyvale. Palo Alto City Councilman Marc Berman will square off against fellow Democrat Vicki Veenker, an attorney. Berman was the recipient of more than $1.2 million in spending from allied business groups, which spent about $120,000 against Veenker. Berman won 28.2% of the votes, while Veenker came in on his heels with 21.8%.
• Assembly District 43. This will be an all-Glendale runoff between two Democrats, City Councilwoman Laura Friedman against City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian. Education reformers heavily backed Friedman while Kassakhian received the endorsement of the California Teachers Association. Friedman won nearly 32% of the votes to 24% for Kassakhian.
• Assembly District 48. Democrat Blanca Rubio, a Baldwin Park School Board member, will face Republican Cory Ellenson, a small business owner/tax attorney in this safe Democratic district to replace termed-out Democratic Assemblyman Roger Hernández (West Covina). Ellenson captured just under 27% of the vote to Rubio’s 25%.
In some of the key open Senate seats, the Tuesday night outcomes likely will hold up.
• Senate District 3—Yolo/Solano/Napa Counties. Democrats Bill Dodd and Mariko Yamada are the contestants for November. After serving one term representing Assembly District 4, Dodd stepped up to run for this vacant Senate seat. Dodd was the recipient of heavy spending by the business community in his first run for the Legislature in 2014 and benefited from close to $2.5 million in outside spending from the education reform coalition and business groups including CalChamber this year. He captured 37% of the vote to Yamada’s 29%, and is well positioned to win the quarter of the electorate that voted for the third-place Republican.
• Senate District 21—Part of Los Angeles/San Bernardino Counties. Republican Assemblyman Scott Wilk (Santa Clarita) is well positioned to hold this Republican seat in a runoff against Democrat Johnathon Ervin.
• Senate District 25— Part of Los Angeles/San Bernardino Counties. Storied Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a Republican, won 40% of the vote and will face second- place finisher Democrat Anthony Portantino in a competitive November matchup.
• Senate District 27. Democrat Henry Stern, a longtime aide to termed-out Senator Fran Pavley (Agoura Hills) benefited from late spending by labor to finish in the second spot and will face businessman and Republican Steve Fazio.
• Senate District 29. Ling Ling Chang, a freshman Republican member of the Assembly, received more than 40% of the vote and will likely face Democrat Josh Newman, a veterans advocate. This is a district where the outcome may change as Newman has less than a 4,000-vote margin over third-place finisher, Sukhee Kang (former mayor of Irvine), who was endorsed by the Democratic Party.
This is the last election cycle to replace members elected under the old term limits law that limited service to six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate. Following the last two election cycles, more than 80% of Assembly members now are eligible to serve until 2024/2026. And the class of 2016 will be eligible to remain in office until 2028, so the short-term nature of politics has long-term implications for California’s business community:
• There are 17 open Assembly districts; nine are Democratic and eight are Republican; and
• The Senate has nine open districts; seven are Democratic and two are Republican.
As the counting continues, CalChamber will continue to monitor Tuesday’s results to gain a more complete understanding of the results and what they portend for November. The composition of the electorate will be different in November so we should not rush to judgment about who wins and who doesn’t based only on June election results.