Election results were updated after 8pm June 8.
After Gov. Gavin Newsom overwhelmingly defeated a recall attempt last September by nearly the same margin that he won his first term in 2018, momentum dissipated for a serious challenge to the Democrat’s re-election.
Facing a field of candidates with little statewide name recognition and barely any money to change that, Newsom received 56.2% of the early returns Tuesday night, positioning himself to cruise to victory again in November. He was declared one of the top two by the Associated Press within 15 minutes of the polls closing.
Newsom said on Twitter that California would be the “antidote” to Republican attacks on fundamental rights, “leading with compassion, common-sense and science. Treasuring diversity, defending democracy, and protecting our planet. Here’s to continuing that fight.”
He will face Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle of rural Lassen County, who was running a distant second with 17% of the vote. An unapologetic conservative, Dahle also pitched himself as someone who could get more done at the state Capitol than the “dictator” Newsom because of his close relationships with fellow legislators.
“Gavin Newsom, he’s an elitist Democrat. He’s not even well-liked in his own party,” Dahle told Nexstar Media after the race was called for him. “We’re going to be talking about things that are affecting Californians’ everyday life, and we’ll see what happens in November.”
Author and nuclear energy activist Michael Shellenberger, who shed his party affiliation and tried appealing to the ideological center of the electorate, was far behind in fourth with 3.7%, the same total as Republican management consultant Jenny Rae Le Roux.
There was very little doubt that Attorney General Rob Bonta would come first in this primary. The big question was always which of his three right-of-center challengers would come in second, earning the right to challenge him in November.
Alas, we still don’t know.
Sure enough, the early returns put Bonta far ahead of the pack, with 54.4% of the vote. Vying for second place were Republican Nathan Hochman with 18.5% and Republican Eric Early with 16.9%. Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert was trailing with 7.5%.
The slim gap between Hochman and Early represents a familiar rift within the GOP. Hochman’s blue-chip resume, his seemingly moderate politics and his endorsement from the state GOP appeal to the pragmatically center-right. California voters haven’t elected a Republican statewide since 2006. If ever there was a GOP candidate who could appeal to independents and tired-as-hell Democrats to break that losing streak, the argument goes, it’s a guy like Hochman.
Early is well-known to red-meat Republican voters for his past electoral gambits. In 2018, he ran for attorney general; in 2020, he ran for Congress; and in 2021, he was one of the organizers behind the recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom. None of those efforts were successful, except that they helped the Los Angeles lawyer endear himself to the base. The question that still remains unanswered as the ballot tally continues: Is the base enough?
It’s clear what Bonta thinks. His campaign and his backers spent more than $1 million to “oppose” Early, presumably their preferred candidate, while also elevating his profile with voters. That’s a familiar electoral ploy in California.
What seems clear is that Schubert probably won’t be getting a promotion to statewide prosecutor. Not this year, anyway. A former Republican who became a political independent in 2018, her campaign embodied the idea that center-right politics can still play in California — so long as it’s divorced from the deeply unpopular Republican brand. She isn’t the first “no party preference” candidate to try. Now, she appears likely to join the ranks of those who failed.
Chen, the sole Republican in the race, earned widespread support from the GOP, as well as endorsements from several major newspaper editorial boards.
That left four Democrats vying for the other spot: State Board of Equalization Chairperson Malia Cohen, state Sen. Steve Glazer, Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin and Monterey Park City Councilmember Yvonne Yiu.
With about half of the expected vote counted, Chen led with 37.1%, Cohen had 21.2%, Yiu had 15.9% and Steve Glazer had 11.5%.
Yiu, a former financial advisor, raised the most funds by far – but only because she put nearly $6 million of her own money into the campaign. The California Chamber of Commerce backed Glazer, while labor groups spent big for Cohen, who is seeking to become only the second Black woman elected statewide.
An already nasty fight between incumbent Ricardo Lara and state Assemblymember Marc Levine to be insurance commissioner appears likely to continue into the November general election.
With about half of the expected vote counted, Lara had 37% and Levine had 16.8%, followed by Republican candidate Greg Conlon at 16.5%.
Lara came under fire during his term for accepting campaign donations from the insurance industry after pledging the opposite, and for renting a second residence in Sacramento at taxpayers’ expense. Levine, who has the support of major newspaper editorial boards, also accused Lara of not doing enough to protect homeowners in wildfire areas from losing their coverage.
Despite all that, Lara, California’s first openly gay statewide elected official, has the endorsements of the state Democratic Party, its elected statewide leaders and Democratic-friendly groups, including firefighters, nurses and teachers. Lara’s campaign has criticized Levine’s voting record on labor issues. Their two campaigns raised far more than the other candidates.
Democratic incumbents in four other statewide offices remain well-positioned coming out of the primary:
- U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, who was appointed by Newsom in 2020 after Kamala Harris was elected vice president, is simultaneously running in a special election to finish her term and for a full six-year term. He was far ahead of the competition in both races as early returns were reported Tuesday night — approximately 54% of the vote in each — and will face Republican constitutional attorney Mark Meuser in runoffs for each in November. Meuser had 14.4% of the primary vote
- Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis won 52% of early returns and is expected to face Republican Angela Underwood Jacobs, a bank executive and Lancaster City Council member, who received 20%.
- Secretary of State Shirley Weber earned more than 58.7% of early returns and will likely face Republican tech consulting firm executive Robert Bernosky, who won about 19.5%.
- Treasurer Fiona Ma received 57.5% of early returns. Republican certified public accountant Jack Guerrero posted 21.4% and Republican Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do collected 18% of the vote.