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California election results: Who won? Which propositions passed?

After tens of millions of dollars in spending, thousands of door knocks and hundreds of attack ads, voting ends today in California — and we’ll soon know the verdict of voters.

Which of the seven ballot measures pass? Will a Republican win statewide office for the first time since 2006, or even come close? Will Democrats keep their stranglehold on the Legislature with super-majorities? Did either party flip any congressional seats, and will it matter for overall control of the U.S. House?  

Some answers will become clear sooner than others. In blowouts, projected winners will be called tonight, soon after the polls close at 8 p.m. and early voting results are announced. But very close contests may not be decided for days, if not weeks.

California now sends mail ballots to all registered voters, and any ballots postmarked by today will still be counted through Nov. 15, which can delay final results. As of Monday, nearly 5.5 million of the 22.2 million ballots mailed had been returned. California’s election results will be certified in early December, and the secretary of state will publish the official vote counts by mid-December.

Here’s a roundup of the key contests on the ballot:  

Click on the tabs below to see up-to-the-minute returns in the races for U.S. Senate, governor, attorney general and secretary of state. There’s more detail on these races below. And here’s the link to the secretary of state’s official results website.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom cast their ballots on election day at the California Museum in Sacramento on Nov. 8, 2022. Photo by MIguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

Results (polls close at 8 p.m.):
Gavin Newsom
Brian Dahle

You could be forgiven for forgetting that Gov. Gavin Newsom is on the ballot again this year.

After waltzing through the June primary, the Democratic incumbent barely acknowledged his campaign for a second and final term as California governor, outside of one low-key debate against Republican challenger Brian Dahle. With his focus turned to national fights — and perhaps higher office — Newsom spent more time and money helping supporters of the Proposition 1, the abortion rights ballot measure.

Public polling suggests the governor has nothing to worry about. He may be headed toward another victory in line with his first campaign in 2018 and his defeat of a recall attempt last year, both of which Newsom won by nearly 24 percentage points.

Even in a year where the electorate is expected to tilt toward Republicans, Dahle struggled to gain traction in heavily Democratic California. The state senator from Bieber raised less than $1 million since the summer — a fraction of the nearly $6 million Newsom pulled in during the same time period — make it difficult to share his campaign message sharply criticizing Democratic policies that he argues have made California unaffordable for most residents.

© 2022 CalMatters

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announces the creation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention within the California Department of Justice at a press event in San Francisco on Sept. 21, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters
California Attorney General Rob Bonta announces the creation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention within the California Department of Justice at a press event in San Francisco on Sept. 21, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

Results (polls close at 8 p.m.):
Rob Bonta
Nathan Hochman

Democrat Rob Bonta, appointed to the job in April 2021, faced Republican Nathan Hochman, a former federal prosecutor, in a race that focused on California’s crime rate, which has risen relative to recent years, but remains well below the rates of the early 1990s.  

Hochman’s focus on homelessness, fentanyl and the homicide rate in California’s largest cities played the foil to Bonta’s image as a progressive reformer who was unwinding the state’s punishment-heavy criminal justice policies of the 1980s and ’90s — first as a legislator and then as attorney general. 

Hochman, who defeated a Republican and former Republican in the June primary, also seized on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s response to California’s rising crime rate and voters’ doubts about his ability to control it. The year began with an ugly push-and-pull over railroad crime. Television stations aired images nightly of railyards strewn with the remains of pilfered goods stolen from rail cars. Hochman played that up in early ads, describing Bonta and Newsom as the “Let ‘Em Go Guys.” 

It was a hint of what was to come. Throughout the summer and fall, Hochman continued to play up the crime rate while Bonta remained relatively quiet, highlighting the work he’s doing on housing oversight, environmental justice and reproductive rights, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion. 

The candidates did not debate, though Hochman demanded one. The closest they came was a joint interview with McClatchy’s California newspapers’ editorial boards

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The usually low-key race for state controller — the state’s top accountant and bookkeeper — has been one of the most watched this election. That’s because hopes are riding high on Lanhee Chen, a former campaign and policy advisor, to finally break the GOP’s losing streak in California: Voters haven’t elected a Republican to statewide office since 2006.

With current controller Betty Yee termed out, the open seat has presented an opportunity for Chen to convince voters that someone outside the dominant party in California would be a more effective watchdog on state finances. A poll released Friday suggested he has the best chance of the GOP candidates, though it still showed him trailing by 16 percentage points.

Malia Cohen, the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, has been quick to point to Chen’s past record. Chen also waited until after the primary before he disclosed to CalMatters that he did not vote for President Trump in 2016 or 2020. Still, he swept the endorsements of major newspapers across California, and has outraised Cohen by $2 million. 

Cohen serves as chairperson of the state Board of Equalization. Before that, she served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Her platform involves using the controller’s office to address financial inequity, especially for women and people of color. 

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It has been a long four years since Tony Thurmond eked out a victory against Marshall Tuck in 2018. The race, which cost about $60 million total, was framed as an all-out battle between teachers unions and charter school advocates. But three years into the pandemic, parental fury over school closures has displaced both the issue of school choice and the big money behind it.

Thurmond’s fight for a second term comes after a rocky couple years for the former legislator and social worker. He played a secondary role to Gov. Gavin Newsom in announcing school closures at the onset of the pandemic. Most of his work was done behind the scenes

But his management of the Education Department entered the spotlight in 2021. Reports from Politico exposed a toxic workplace and a deputy superintendent living out of state. In recent months, he has been accused of trying to withhold standardized test scores until after the election.

HIs opponent, Lance Christensen, is in many ways a pandemic-era candidate, running a campaign based on parental rights. He said education officials and teachers unions have excluded parents from decisions on school closures and reopenings and now from conversations about how federal and state relief money will be used to help students recover from learning loss. 

Despite the tumult of his first term, Thurmond retained the support of the powerful teachers unions. In the June primary, Thurmond fell just short of winning outright, with 46% of the vote to only 12% for Christensen. Fundraising numbers also paint a grim picture for Christensen. So far, the challenger has raised $159,000 compared to the $4.9 million raised by Thurmond.

© 2022 CalMatters

This being California, there’s not much question about which party will hold onto a majority of the seats in the state Assembly after this election. Currently, Democrats hold 60 out of 80. Even with 21 open seats, there’s little chance the party will lose its supermajority, which gives them the power to pass any law they like, so long as they can all agree.

But Democrats rarely all agree. 

On taxation, environmental regulations, policing and housing, the split within the majority party’s caucus is the most important division in the chamber. That split is likely to yawn open as soon as the legislative session starts next month. Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for a special session to consider a new tax on the profits of oil and gas producers. In both purple seats and Democratic strongholds with two Democrats competing against one another, interest groups have been racing to help elect legislators of their choice. It’s certain to be a Democrat — but which kind? That’s the $40 million question.

And this year, there’s an added fissure to consider. Over the summer, Salinas Democrat Robert Rivas announced his intentions to become the next Assembly speaker. The current speaker, Anthony Rendon of Los Angeles, declined to go along with that plan, and so the two camps and their respective allies have been locked into a Cold War ever since, lobbying incumbents and wooing Democratic candidates with campaign cash.

The coming speakership contest could be a quiet behind-the-scenes negotiation, as in the past. But with intraparty tempers flaring, it could also spill out into the open. 

© 2022 CalMatters

Like the Assembly, Democrats occupy three-fourths of the seats in the state Senate. After the election, the party will still hold a commanding majority. It doesn’t help the GOP’s dim prospects that two Democrats managed to claim the two spots on the general election ballot in a conservative central Sierra district that, barring that fluke, likely would have gone Republican. 

But even if the Senate’s partisan balance remains roughly the same, the membership is in for a big change. Of the 40 members, seven longtime incumbents hit their term limits this year and three more called it quits early. That opened up a series of fiercely competitive races that will define the Senate’s ideological bent and demographic composition. In Sacramento and the East Bay, there are the typical standoffs between moderate and progressive Democrats. In the San Fernando Valley, it’s a race between an outgoing senator’s son and newcomer crying nepotism. And east of Sacramento and north of San Diego, there are some old-fashioned battles between Democrat and Republican.

© 2022 CalMatters

Which party will control the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate next year? Will President Biden have two more years to enact his agenda, or will his administration be condemned to relentless investigations and lame duck-itude?

Voters in California will help give us the answer. 

Democrats have a mere eight-seat majority in the House, and there are more than 60 competitive races across the country. Many of those nail-biters are in California. They include seven mostly suburban districts that Democrats flipped from Republicans in the 2018 “blue wave,” but a few that the GOP clawed back in 2020. They also include a handful of new ones, competitive because of the state redistricting commission’s new lines, demographic change and current political concerns.

Democrats had reason to be optimistic earlier this year. Even before the U.S. Supreme Court rescinded the constitutional right to an abortion in June, Democratic activists seized on the issue as a way to keep moderate and independents in their camp. In the late summer, polls and a blowout win for abortion rights in conservative Kansas, suggested that strategy might work.

But the pendulum has swung back. Driven by frustration with inflation and a predictable midterm dissatisfaction with the party in power, voters are increasingly turning to the GOP. Election predictors now forecast likely Republican wins in Orange County, Bakersfield, Santa Clarita and Palm Springs.

If those trends hold, the fate of California’s swing seats may only determine the size of the GOP’s majority, not if there is one. The next House speaker will be a Californian regardless of the results — either Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy, the current minority leader who has long had his eye on the gavel, or the current Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.

As for the 50-50 U.S. Senate, the majority is up for grabs, too. But in California, Alex Padilla, appointed to the position by Newsom in 2021, is expected to sail to an easy victory over his Republican challenger Mark Meuser.

© 2022 CalMatters

No matter what happens with Proposition 1, an initiative to add “reproductive freedom” to the state constitution, it won’t fundamentally change abortion access in California. State law and court rulings already ensure that the procedure is available here until fetal viability, at about 24 weeks of pregnancy, and after that, if necessary for the life or health of the mother.

But following the U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer overturning the constitutional right to abortion nationwide, Democratic leaders in California wanted a stronger guarantee that the procedure wouldn’t be threatened by future lawmakers and judges. They put Proposition 1 on the ballot to explicitly protect in the state constitution the right to have an abortion and the right to choose or refuse contraceptives — and also maybe to boost interest in a sleepy election among liberal voters.

Opponents, led by religious organizations such as the Catholic Church, raised concerns that the sweeping language of the measure, which does not mention the viability framework, would overturn all restrictions on abortion in California. Legal scholars say that is a highly unlikely outcome, since supporters of Proposition 1 have made clear elsewhere that their intent was to safeguard the current system rather than extend abortion access into the final months of pregnancy. Nevertheless, this measure appears headed for a court battle if it passes.

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Proposition 26, bankrolled by about a dozen Native American tribes, would allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and at the state’s four private horse race tracks. It would also allow tribal casinos to add roulette and dice games, and allow private citizens and lawyers to bring lawsuits to enforce gaming laws. 

Proposition 27 was paid for by a handful of large online gaming companies, including FanDuel and DraftKings. It would allow gaming companies and tribes to offer online sports betting.  

The campaign committees for and against the two measures raised more than $450 million combined. That’s nearly double the previous record of $226 million raised to support and oppose Proposition 22, which exempted gig companies like Uber and Lyft from a new state law requiring them to treat workers as employees.

Gaming companies see Prop. 27 as a massive business opportunity, unlocking potentially millions of new customers. Research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimated that if the proposition passed, California’s new online gaming industry would bring in $3 billion per year annually in gross gaming revenue (all bets, minus the amount paid out in winnings). 

The stakes are high for tribes as well. Prop. 26 puts a major expansion of their gaming rights on the table, while Prop. 27 represents a threat to their longstanding exclusivity over some forms of gambling.

Opposition to the two initiatives is relatively broad, according to an October poll from the Los Angeles Times and UC Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies. One interesting finding: people who had seen lots of ads for both propositions were much more likely to be opposed than people who had seen few or no ads. 

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Proposition 28 may have been the least controversial measure on the ballot: No official opposition was filed against the initiative to require the state to spend more money — likely around $1 billion annually — on arts and music education in public schools. 

Former Los Angeles Unified Schools Superintendent Austin Beutner, who spearheaded the campaign to place the measure on the ballot, said it will ensure arts and music programs — crucial to helping students recover from the pandemic — aren’t slashed during economic downturns. 

Some newspaper editorial boards, however, questioned the wisdom of determining state spending at the ballot box and warned allocating more funds to education could mean cuts elsewhere. 

© 2022 CalMatters

Proposition 30 has been one of the most confusing and contentious measures on this year’s ballot — and one of the clearest recent examples showing how politics makes strange bedfellows.

The rideshare company Lyft and a coalition of environmentalists, public health organizations and labor groups pumped millions into backing Proposition 30, which would impose a 1.75% personal income tax increase on California’s top earners — on income above $2 million per year — to fund a slew of climate initiatives to clean up the state’s dirty air. 

California recently enacted swift and ambitious deadlines to phase in new sales of electric cars. The expected increase in electric vehicle ownership over the next two decades has brought into focus the growing need for public charging stations and subsidies to make zero-emission cars more affordable. But the state, which prides itself on setting aggressive climate policies, now finds itself facing an uphill battle when it comes to achieving those goals. 

The measure would raise as much as $5 billion annually, with most of that money going towards those electric vehicle incentives and half set aside for low-income communities. The remainder would go to wildfire prevention efforts. 

Supporters said the tax would generate a much-needed revenue stream to accelerate the transition and reduce the disproportionate burden of air pollution in disadvantaged communities. But opponents argued the measure would slam the wealthy with yet another tax hike and contended that it was a corporate carve-out for Lyft, which faces a 2030 deadline to log 90% of its miles in electric cars. The driving forces behind the opposition included billionaires, business groups and most notably Gov. Newsom, who turned on Democrats to join forces with the Republican Party. 

Newsom bombarded Californians with a torrent of television ads in recent weeks — perhaps one reason why the measure lost voter support between a September survey and a poll from early October, which more voters opposed. More recent polls, however, showed a slight lead for the “yes” campaign. 

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Will the third time be the charm for Proposition 29, an initiative to tighten regulation of kidney dialysis clinics? Similar versions of the measure — championed by the powerful labor union Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West — were rejected by a large margin in both 2018 and 2020. But DaVita Inc. and Fresenius Medical Care, two private companies that own or operate three-fourths of California’s 650 dialysis clinics serving about 80,000 patients, didn’t want to take any chances: They raised more than $86 million to oppose the measure. 

Regardless of the outcome of Proposition 31, the mere fact that it was on the ballot represents a win for the tobacco industry. By gathering enough signatures to qualify a referendum on a 2020 law banning the sale of certain flavored tobacco products, the industry blocked it from taking effect until voters could decide whether to uphold or overturn it. That allowed tobacco companies to continue selling the products in question for another two years — likely earning them at least $1 billion in profits. Still, the tobacco industry was outspent on the ballot measure campaign: It raised about $24 million in opposition to the law, compared to nearly $36 million from those in support — much of which came from the pocket of Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and anti-tobacco crusader. 

© 2022 CalMatters

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., foreground, gestures while speaking to volunteers and supporters during a gathering to kick off the final stretch of her campaign for Los Angeles Mayor at her campaign headquarters in Los Angeles, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. Democrat Bass will face Republican-turned Democrat billionaire developer Rick Caruso in the race for Los Angeles mayor. Photo by Richard Vogel, AP Photo
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, foreground, gestures while speaking to volunteers and supporters of her bid for Los Angeles mayor at her campaign headquarters on Sept. 24, 2022. She faces billionaire developer Rick Caruso. Photo by Richard Vogel, AP Photo

Results (polls close at 8 p.m.): L.A. mayor
Karen Bass
Rick Caruso

Can more than $100 million make the difference? That’s the unprecedented sum that billionaire developer Rick Caruso spent on his campaign for Los Angeles mayor as he tries to overcome a 7-percentage-point deficit from the primary and beat U.S. Rep. Karen Bass for the top job in California’s biggest city. The race — which focused heavily on homelessness, policing and whether residents want an outsider or longtime civic leader in charge — was upended in recent weeks by the leak of a secret recording of several City Council members making racist comments. Voters in Los Angeles County will also decide whether to give a second term to controversial Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

Six years after California legalized recreational marijuana, cannabis businesses are still fighting for access in most cities and counties across the state, due to a provision that left the decision to local governments. A series of local initiatives, including several in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County, will test whether voters who supported legalization want weed sales in their own communities. The campaigns got contentious in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and El Segundo, where a profane and combative cannabis entrepreneur spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to qualify measures that would force the cities to license dispensaries and encountered tremendous resistance from elected officials. His strategy already failed last month in Redondo Beach, when the city put it before voters in a low-turnout special election — though it did increase pressure on the council to adopt its own ordinance.

Republicans hope that parent frustrations over school closures during the coronavirus pandemic and lessons on race and sexuality in the classroom can be their ticket back to power in California. With about 2,500 local school board seats up for grabs in this election, the GOP put major organizing power into a candidate recruitment and training program that is also a long-term investment on re-engaging its base of support. The party aims to use heated education debates to motivate Republican voters, attract independents and disaffected Democrats, and ultimately make itself competitive for more legislative and congressional seats.

© 2022 CalMatters