Surprises Surface in the California Primary Elections

June 6, 2018 Updated: June 6, 2018

Californians voted on several closely watched races in the primaries on June 5, including the election of two potential replacements for Gov. Jerry Brown.

Though not all the votes have been counted yet, the semi-official results are available.

Gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who served two terms as mayor of San Francisco, was the favorite in the race for governor and won 33 percent of the vote. However, John Cox, a Republican businessman who has never held office before, came in a close second, much closer than was expected by the Democratic establishment.

Cox gathered 26.2 percent of the vote, almost double the number of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, at 13.5 percent. Travis Allen, a Republican, came in fourth with 9.7 percent.

President Donald Trump endorsed Cox for California governor in several tweets during the last two weeks, and this gave the businessman a significant boost.

In a May 18 tweet, Trump wrote, “California finally deserves a great Governor, one who understands borders, crime and lowering taxes. John Cox is the man — he’ll be the best Governor you’ve ever had. I fully endorse John Cox for Governor and look forward to working with him to Make California Great Again!”

Trump’s endorsement of Cox fits in with the president’s wish to make changes in the political world by bringing in outsiders, as well as people with more business experience.

“I was endorsed because I’m a businessman who is interested in good policy,” Cox said at a press conference. “I am interested in results. I am running for governor to deliver a better quality of life to the people of California.”

In California’s “top-two system,” or “jungle primary,” all candidates are on the ballot for the primary election regardless of their political affiliation, but only the candidates who finish in first and second place will advance to the November general election.

Democrats had been concerned at the large number of candidates from their party that had entered some races. With the Democrat vote split among so many candidates, there was the danger that two Republicans might gain enough support to lock the Democrats out of the general election in particular races. This didn’t happen. But the results were encouraging for Republicans.

While Republican voters are generally outnumbered in California, Cox is currently within striking distance of Newsom. Since the Democratic candidates are running on a platform opposing the president, Trump’s popularity, which of late has been steadily increasing, will have a significant impact on the vote.

And having a Republican compete at the top of the ticket will make Republicans down ballot more competitive.

In the race for secretary of state, Democrat incumbent Alex Padilla came in first place with 51.5 percent of votes, while constitution and election-law attorney Mark Meuser, a Republican, came in at second place, with 32 percent.

The race for attorney general also ended up with one candidate selected from each major party. Democrat Xavier Becerra gathered 45.3 percent of the vote, while Republican Steven Bailey came in at second place with 25.3 percent.

Other races included lieutenant governor, in which Ed Hernandez and Eleni Kounalakis, both Democrats, will advance; controller, in which Betty Lee (D) and Konstantinos Roditis (R) will advance; treasurer, in which former San Francisco Supervisor Fiona Ma (D) had a 20-point advantage over Greg Conlon (R), but both will advance; and insurance commissioner, in which Steve Poizner (no party preference) edged over Ricardo Lara (D) by less than 1 percent, with both advancing to the November general election.

The U.S. Senate race saw Democrat Dianne Feinstein as the heavy favorite, with over 30 points more than the distant second, Kevin De Leon, also a Democrat.

The highly anticipated San Francisco mayoral race remains a virtual tie between Democrats former state Sen. Mark Leno and Supervisor London Breed. At press time, the race was too close to call.