While most of the blogosphere's attention was focused on the unfolding heartbreak in Arkansas, primary contests across the nation provided their own drama. And as the most populous state in the nation, California provided some intrigue of its own, even beyond the high-profile Republican primary contests for Governor and Senate. In this highly non-traditional Sunday piece, here are some of the hidden gems from California.
- One of the stories we had been been following on the site was the tale of an unfortunately named candidate named Brad Goehring, who happened to be running in the Republican primary to win the right to attempt to unseat Congressman Jerry McNerney in CA-11. Goehring, if you remember, called for "open season" on liberals with no bag limits because he wanted to "thin the herd." And then he blamed this site for taking the remarks out of context. Unfortunately, we won't have Brad Goehring to kick around for the rest of the election season: he was ambushed in his hunting blind by primary opponent David Harmer.
- Those of you who have been following the fight for marriage equality in California may recognize the name Andy Pugno--he was the general counsel for Protect Marriage, the official campaign for Yes on 8. Unfortunately, Pugno won his primary in California's Assembly District 5 in the Sacramento area. He will be opposed by Democrat Richard Pan.
- Did you know that Orly Taitz, queen of the birthers, ran for statewide office in California? Yes she did! She ran for the Republican nomination for Secretary of State--hoping presumably to attain the office to be able to deny Obama certification as a candidate for re-election. Unfortunately for her, she was crushed by a margin of 3-to-1 by her opponent, Damon Dunn--a formal NFL player with no political experience and a spotty record of actually caring enough about the process to cast a vote, much less manage our state's voting systems. Dunn will face off against incumbent Democrat--and progressive hero--Debra Bowen in the general election.
- And speaking of Damon Dunn...in a shocker, the GOP statewide ticket is actually matching the Democrats in terms of diversity. California's Republican voters not only nominated Dunn, an African-American, but also nominated Abel Maldonado for Lieutenant Governor. Democratic voters, meanwhile, nominated Kamala Harris as the nominee for Attorney General, and nominated John Chiang for reelection as State Controller. Republicans also nominated more women to statewide office.
- The LGBT community is about to see a significant increase in its representation in the California Legislature. As John Perez, the first openly gay Speaker in California history, noted:
“In 2008, we back-slid in the number of openly gay elected officials in the state Legislature. We had two in the Senate and two in the Assembly. Going into next year, we still have Mark Leno and Chris Kehoe in the Senate and in the Assembly, we’ve gone from two to five, which is our highest number ever: me, Tom Ammiano, Toni Atkins (AD 76), Ricardo Lara, and Richard Gordon. That’s five out 51 Democrats in the Assembly- so 10% of the Democratic Caucus will be LGBT.”
- Remember how Slate blogger Mickey Kaus decided to mount a primary challenge to Barbara Boxer for the Democratic nomination to Senate? Well, he managed to claim over five percent of the vote! At some point, I'm looking forward to meeting all the 90,000 people who voted for him, just so I can see what makes them tick.
These little factoids are interesting, but the returns from California are also very instructive about the current political climate:
- Money can't buy everything...yet. Two corporations--utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric, as well as Mercury Insurance--bought their way way onto the ballot with initiatives designed to increase their profits at the expense of the average Californian. But despite spending tens of millions (PG&E dumped a whopping $46 million into its campaign to prevent local governments from aggregating to save costs on utilities), these corporations were not able to finish the job. And while that is leading some in the media to question the widely held cynicism behind California's initiative process, it actually shouldn't. These horrible initiatives--16 and 17--barely failed, even despite opposition campaigns that were outspent by a literal thousandfold. But a good-government initiative like Proposition 15, which would have allowed public financing of elections, failed miserably when the deep pockets went in against it. So we may not be able to do anything good, but the voters are barely cynical enough to prevent the passage of something horrible. Color me unimpressed.
- Lastly, Robert Cruickshank at Calitics makes a crucial point: Despite the oft-repeated myth that we have an anti-tax electorate, a whopping 73% of tax measures on the California ballot succeeded. And keep in mind something else: included on the list of the failing measures are situations like Measure E, a parcel tax assessment in Los Angeles County, which garnered support from a majority but will not be implemented due to the stipulation imposed by Proposition 13 that such measures require two-thirds approval.
All in all, California's returns offered much intrigue and many fun facts. But they also offer some valuable lessons heading into November--just, not the lessons you'll read about in the paper or see from the talking heads.