But as Republicans woke up on Wednesday morning to survey the damage, in few places could it be considered more horrifying than it was in California. With but few exceptions, progressive candidates and ideologies dominated California races on election night and handed stunning defeats to conservative candidates and their billionaire backers.
Here are some of the headlines you might have missed, below the fold.
The "tax revolt" is over. Over a third of a century ago, during Jerry Brown's first stint in the Governor's Mansion, California voters passed Proposition 13. In addition to limiting the growth of property taxes on both residential and commercial property, Proposition 13 dictated that any bill to pass taxes must be approved by a two-thirds vote of both legislative bodies. The passage of Proposition 13 hailed the beginning of the so-called "tax revolt"—a voter rebellion against the fact that property taxes had doubled in a 10-year period as a result of rising property values. But on Tuesday night—with Jerry Brown once again serving as governor—the tax revolt ended. Voters approved Gov. Brown's tax measure, Proposition 30, by an eight-point margin, even though the most reliable polling indicated that the measure could well have been headed for defeat. The effects are already being felt. The measure will raise taxes on high income earners to fund education, and as a result of its passage, the California State University system has already rescinded the most recent tuition increase it passed for the fall semester. Elections have consequences. Additionally, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 39, which eliminates a tax loophole for big businesses and uses the revenue to fund green energy projects.
Billionaires were defeated at the ballot box. Two weeks ago, I wrote about all the California propositions, including the billionaire-funded ones: 32, 33 and 38. Of these, 32 was the most odious: It would have basically killed the ability of unions to participate in politics, while leaving billionaires and businesses untouched. Prop 33 was put on the ballot by insurance industry CEO George Joseph, and would have allowed car insurance companies to raise rates on those who have had a lapse in coverage. And 38 was a tax measure funded by Molly Munger, whose father is a partner in Berkshire-Hathaway. Unlike Proposition 30, it would have raised income taxes on lower- and middle-income families, while making the wealthy pay less of a burden. And all three were soundly defeated.
Legislative super-majorities. In addition to Gov. Brown, the biggest winners of the night were Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (who, incidentally, made history by becoming the first openly gay person to hold the position of speaker in a state legislative body), and Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg. As mentioned before, Proposition
32 13 required a two-thirds vote of both Houses to be able to pass a budget or raise taxes. While the budget passage requirement was recently done away with by California voters, the two-thirds requirement for taxation remained. But even as California's budget woes continued to grow, and even as they ax vital public services and education again and again, Republicans—who have always managed to hold on to just over one third of both houses, even if just barely—have been united in their opposition to any sort of tax increase. But when California's newly redistricted maps came out, there was hope that Democrats could achieve two thirds in the state Senate, though the Assembly was a longer shot. It would have required Democrats winning all the reasonably contested races, and scoring an upset along the way. In fact, a former consultant whose identity I will protect tweeted that anyone who thought we could take a two-thirds supermajority in the Assembly needed a welcome to "planet reality." Well, this is planet reality: We did what we needed to in the Senate, but that's not all. Under the leadership of Speaker Perez, we not only appear to have won all the contested races for Assembly, but we appear to have gotten the needed upset as well: As of this writing, Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva has a lead of one percent on incumbent Republican Chris Norby in Orange County. If these results hold (and given the fact that in one of these races, the lead is only 262 votes, there isn't no certainty yet), Democrats will finally be able to run California as they see fit, without having to bribe a Republican or two along the way.
Congressional gains: The NRCC expected to be able to mount a challenge to certain Democratic members of Congress, especially Jerry McNerney in the Sacramento area and Lois Capps along the Central Coast. Those efforts proved fruitless, as every Democratic incumbent facing a Republican challenger coasted to reelection. In addition, Democrats won most of the winnable open seats that were created in the recent redistricting process, including in historically Republican areas: Julia Brownley in Ventura County and Mark Takano in Riverside County, as well as Alan Lowenthal in a swingy area of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. But the big deal? If current results hold, three Republican incumbents may be on their way home. As of this writing, Dan Lungren trails his Democratic nemesis of three cycles, Dr. Ami Bera, in the Sacramento-area 7th CD, while after several close races, Mary Bono Mack finally seems to have joined her Florida-based husband Connie Mack in defeat, as she trails Raul Ruiz in her Palm Springs-based district in the Inland Empire. And to top it off, Brian Bilbray appears to have been defeated by Scott Peters in the 52nd District down in San Diego County.
San Diego is a Democratic town: Scott Peters isn't the only Democratic victory in San Diego. The city will have a Democratic mayor as well: Congressman Bob Filner won a hotly contested race against Log Cabin Republican Carl Dimaio.
The weird: Four Democratic members of Congress lost their reelection bids this past Tuesday, but it didn't diminish our constituency in the House. How is that possible? Because in California, we now have a top-two primary system where Democrats can and do face off against each other in general elections. Combine that with redistricting and, well, bloodbaths can ensue. In two races in Los Angeles County, two Democratic members of Congress faced off against each other, and in each case, the member with less seniority won. In the most anticipated showdown, Brad Sherman easily defeated Howard Berman in the clash of the titans in the San Fernando Valley, while in South Los Angeles, Janice Hahn bested the ethically challenged Laura Richardson. But Berman and Richardson aren't the only incumbents who won't be back: Congressman Pete Stark lost to his Democratic challenger in the 15th district, while in Eastern Los Angeles County, Joe Baca lost his reelection bid to Democratic state Sen. Gloria Negrete-McLeod. Local politicos were also observing a similar dynamic in the Assembly, where incumbents facing challengers from other Democrats did not fare well. In the North, Asm. Michael Allen appears to have been defeated by his challenger, while in my home district in Los Angeles, Betsy Butler is trailing her challenger by a razor-thin margin as of this writing.
The reason it was all possible: One of the reasons Democrats were able to score these wins? The presence of online voter registration, which was enacted by the legislature in time for the 2012 election. More than a million Californians took advantage of this additional convenience to either register for the first time or update their current registration. Of those, nearly 60 percent were under age 35. And nearly half of all online registrants registered as Democrats, while only around a fifth registered as Republicans.
The Bottom Line: Republicans should be terrified. What California looks like now is what the entire United States will look like in the future, and it is a world in which Republicans cannot win. California is done with the conservative ideology of tax revolts, and they are done with Republican politicians at the ballot box. Nov. 6 was a golden day for Democrats in the Golden State.
Update: yes, Prop 13 was passed 35 years ago, not 25 years ago. Karl Rove did my math for me. And yes, Prop 13 also gave the 2/3 requirement, not Prop 32. I was just so used to associating Prop 32 with everything evil in the world.