On 6/5/18, California had a primary election, and the takeaways for local Democrats are a mixed bag. Before relaying any information here, it is important to note a disclaimer: the data is not yet finalized. As of 6/14/18, the OC Registrar of Voters estimates that there are more than 45,000 votes which still need to be tabulated countywide. It is unknown how many of those ballots apply to particular races/districts, but it is fair to assume that the outcomes in close contests will not be definitively determined for several more days. However, there are some points which we can safely convey now…
TURNOUT IMPROVED, AND THAT IS A GOOD SIGN FOR DEMOCRATS
Historically, turnout is poor in midterm (non-presidential) elections, and low turnout is typically bad for Democrats. In our most recent midterm primary election (2014), turnout was atrocious. Only 24% of voters took the time to cast a ballot in 2014. Although exact numbers from 2018 are not yet finalized, tentative estimates indicate a profound improvement. Currently, turnout is expected to exceed 40%. If that figure holds true, it will be one of the best turnouts in a local midterm primary in a long time. If it can be maintained, that trend bodes well for Democrats going forward.
DEMOCRATS PERFORMED VERY WELL IN STATE-WIDE RACES
California is the bluest state in the nation. Therefore, it should come as little surprise that Democrats performed well in state-wide races. Because California has a “jungle primary” system, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election in November. In the races for Lt. Governor and U.S. Senate, the top-two vote-getters were both Democrats. Here is a list of the top-two vote-getters in the state-wide races:
|OFFICE||1st PLACE||%||2nd PLACE||%|
|Governor||Gavin Newsom (D)||34||John Cox (R)||26|
|Lt. Governor||Eleni Kounalakis (D)||24||Ed Hernandez (D)||21|
|Secretary of State||Alex Padilla (D)||52||Mark Meuser (R)||32|
|Controller||Betty Yee (D)||62||Konstantinos Roditis (R)||34|
|Treasurer||Fiona Ma (D)||44||Greg Conlon (R)||21|
|Attorney General||Xavier Becerra (D)||45||Steven Bailey (R)||25|
|Insurance Commissioner||Steve Poizner (NPP)||42||Ricardo Lara (D)||40|
|Superintendent of Schools||Marshall Tuck (R)||38||Tony Thurmond (D)||35|
|U.S. Senator||Dianne Feinstein (D)||44||Kevin DeLeon (D)||12|
The exact numbers in these races may slightly fluctuate as outstanding votes are counted. To see updated numbers, click here. Then, click on the specific race that you are interested in viewing.
DEMOCRATS PERFORMED WELL IN LOCAL DISTRICT RACES
The big fear leading in to the election was that California’s top-two system would operate to shut Democrats out of numerous OC congressional races. Thankfully, that did not happen. A Democrat was able to secure second place in each of the contentious races. Therefore, we still have an opportunity to take back the House of Representatives, and hold Trump accountable.
In our local race (CA-48), however, we do not yet know which Democrat will square off against Rohrabacher in November. As expected, Rohrabacher received the most votes (approximately 30%). The race for second place is too close to call. As of 6/14/18, Hans Keirstead (D) had 329 more votes than Harley Rouda (D). As of the same date, the Registrar estimates that more than 45,000 votes still need to be counted (countywide); it is unknown how many of those votes will apply to CA-48. It will likely take a few more days for the Registrar to finalize the count. Even after a final result is determined, the margin may be so thin, that the trailing candidate may pursue a recount. In other words, this race will take a while to figure out.
The good news is that a Democrat will be on the ballot in November. The potential problem is that Democrats will only have a few months to settle their intra-party grievances and unify behind a candidate who they may not have originally preferred. Hopefully, everybody can keep perspective about the shared goal of defeating Rohrabacher, and understand that there are not dramatic differences between the two Democratic options.
There were many candidates in this race. If all of the votes are consolidated along party lines, Republicans received 53.3% of the vote and Democrats received 45.8% of the vote. Therefore, Republicans had a 7.5% edge, in a district where Republicans have a 10.3% voter registration advantage. Democrats shaved 2.8 points off that margin, and they will have plenty of work left to do in order to get over the hump in November.
In our local race (AD-74), the incumbent, Matt Harper (R) received the most votes. Cottie Petrie-Norris (D) received the second most amount of votes. Therefore, the November general election will feature Harper vs. Petrie-Norris.
Republicans have a 6.7% voter registration advantage in this district. Currently, Republican candidates are on pace to only receive 5.9% more votes than the Democratic candidates. Similar to the congressional numbers above, gains were made, and that is a good thing, but there is still a lot of ground to make up.
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Orange County is in Board of Equalization district 4. State Senator Joel Anderson (R) appears to have a commanding lead in this race. Another Republican will likely land in second place. Because only the top two advance to the general election in November, a Republican will likely hold this seat.
DEMOCRATS STRUGGLED IN COUNTY RACES
Although California is a blue state, Orange County is not a blue county. Some districts in Orange County are less red than others, but it has always been difficult for Democrats to win county offices, and unfortunately, this year was no exception. Unlike Federal and State races, there is no guarantee of a November election for county offices. In fact, if any candidate for county office receives more than 50% of the vote in June, that candidate wins outright. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in June, then the top two vote-getters advance to the general election in November. In 2018, all races were decided in June, except for one, and no Democratic candidates won or will be advancing (update: a Democrat may advance in the Sheriff race…votes are still being counted, and it is close). Here is a list of the results from county races:
|OFFICE||1st PLACE||%||WIN||2nd PLACE||%|
|Supervisor (2nd District)||Michelle Steel (R)||64||Yes||Brendon Perkins (D)||24|
|District Attorney||Tony Rackaukas (R)||39||No||Todd Spitzer (R)||35|
|Sheriff||Don Barnes (R)||50||TBA||Duke Nguyen (D)||31|
|Assessor||Claude Parish (R)||70||Yes||Richard Ramirez (R)||17|
|Auditor||Eric Woolery (R)||75||Yes||Toni Smart (R)||25|
|Treasurer||Shari Freidenrich (R)||100||Yes||None||n/a|
|Clerk-Recorder||Hugh Nguyen (R)||80||Yes||Steve Rocco (R)||20|
|Board of Education (2nd District)||Mari Barke (R)||40||Yes||David Boyd (D)||35|
|Judge (District 13)||Ted Howard (R)||79||Yes||Franklin Dunn (R)||21|
This table only lists races that Costa Mesa residents could vote in. There were a few other races, in other districts, which are not reflected in the above chart. For example, a Supervisor district in the Anaheim-Fullerton area was not won outright. Therefore, the top two vote-getters will face off in November. In all likelihood, that race will feature a Republican vs. a Democrat. Democrats have a voter registration advantage in that district, and no incumbent is running, so it is a good opportunity for Democrats to pick up a much needed seat within the county government.
Also, Republicans won a Supervisor seat in South OC, as well as, a seat on the Board of Education. Because two, pro-charter school candidates won, and because there are only five seats on the County Board of Education, we are nearing a point where charter schools may begin to proliferate in OC. Elections have consequences.
Based on the above, there will only be one County race which Costa Mesa residents will have an opportunity to vote for in November: District Attorney. The long-time incumbent, Tony Rackaukas (R), will square off with his former protege and current Supervisor, Todd Spitzer (R). Those two options do not pose a easy choice for Democrats.
To view precise results from the primary election, click here. Keep in mind, however, that this link only provides information for Orange County. Therefore, if a district includes portions of other counties, the complete total will not be accurately reflected. For those types of races, you must consult the state web-site here.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Democrats are notorious for lackluster primary participation. Therefore, we can cautiously hope for greater engagement in the November general election. Also, this is a process that requires some patience. We will not be able to completely reverse longstanding local political trends overnight. However, we cannot afford to get disillusioned by a lack of immediate gratification. Progress will likely be incremental. 2020 is still the prime target, and it is right around the corner. We also need to focus on upcoming local elections in November (i.e., City Council, School Board, Water Board, etc.). So, we need to win what we can now, and we need to simultaneously keep working with an eye toward the future. Everybody must continue to stay engaged. If we work smart and together, we can do it!