National attention has focused on many of California’s congressional races this election cycle, because the Democratic Party needs to pick up 23 seats to take control of the U.S. House, and California is one of the main battlefields.
None of those key races is occurring in the local district, and many of the state and local races Topanga voters will be voting on are not expected to involve dramatic upsets, but that doesn’t mean that the November 6 election isn’t critically important.
A U.S. Senate seat and nine state executive offices, including governor, are in play in California this year. Voters will also chose U.S. House, State Supreme Court, Appellate Court, and a host of municipal and county-level officials.
U.S. Senate—In the senate race, incumbent Dianne Feinstein continues to maintain a double-digit lead in recent polling over her challenger, California State Senator Kevin de León (District 24, Los Angeles). Both candidates are Democrats, but De Leon, a progressive, has been sharply critical of the senior senator’s more moderate politics.
U.S. Congress—Topanga area Congressman Ted Lieu continues to retain a strong lead over his challenger, Republican candidate Kenneth Wright. The November 6 election is a rematch between the two men: Wright ran against Lieu in 2016, losing by more than 30 points. Lieu, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, has become a leading figure in the resistance on cable news and social media, where he seems to delight in trolling the president on Twitter.
Wright, a pediatric eye surgeon, is diametrically opposed to Lieu on a range of issues, embracing the Trump Administration’s hardline approach to immigration and world affairs.
California Governor—Republican John Cox has gained ground on Democratic candidate Gavin Newsom, the current Lieutenant Governor. In its most recent survey, the non-profit, non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California found that Newsom’s lead had dropped from 44 points in July, to 12 points. Betting odds continue to favor Newsom to replace Jerry Brown, California’s longest serving governor, but this is expected to be the closest race in the executive office races this year, and Cox may be getting a boost from Proposition 6, an initiative to eliminate Governor Brown’s 20-cent gas tax.
Lieutenant Governor—Eleni Kounalakis remains ahead of fellow Democratic candidate Ed Hernandez in the race for lieutenant governor. Kounalakis, the former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary under President Barak Obama, was the top vote-getter in the primary, but has received criticism for lacking political experience. She has also raised concerns in the environmental community because of her connections to development interests. She spent 18 years in the housing industry, and her father, an influential Sacramento-area developer, has donated $5 million to her campaign. Her opponent also lacks sterling environmental credentials. Hernandez has received a respectable but less than stellar lifetime score of 83 percent from the California League of Conservation Voters. In comparison, State Senator Kevin de León, running for U.S. Senate, and current Topanga-area State Senator Henry Stern, have a 94-percent and 95-percent rating, respectively.
Secretary of State—Incumbent Alex Padilla, a Democrat, is expected to easily retain his seat in the race against Republican challenger Mark P. Meuser. Padilla won the Primary with 51.5 percent of the vote, while Meuser, one of three challengers, received 32 percent. Meuser has used recent headlines about errors in the DMV voter registration process to highlight his campaign promise to focus on the voter rolls, but Padilla continues to get high marks for his time in office.
State Controller—This race is also expected to be won by a comfortable margin by the incumbent, Democratic candidate, Betty T. Yee, who has received praise for her role as a watchdog while serving on the State Board of Equalization before being elected controller. Yee’s challenger, Republican Konstantinos Roditis, has served as the CEO of several companies, and has been on the city commission in Anaheim, but has reportedly struggled to build name recognition and raise funds in what has been described as a largely self-funded campaign.
California Treasurer—Fiona Ma is another incumbent who is expected to easily retain her seat, against her opponent, Republican Greg Conlon. Ma, like Yee, made a name for herself as a whistleblower on the State Board of Equalization before running for treasurer. Conlon, a businessman, has run unsuccessfully for Treasurer in two previous elections, and also had an unsuccessful run for U.S Senate in 2016. He received three percent of the vote.
Incumbent California Attorney General— Xavier Becerra is also expected to be reelected by a wide margin. Becerra, who replaced Kamala Harris when she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, has become one of President Donald Trump’s fiercest opponents, filing more than 30 lawsuits in an effort to block policies that range from immigration to the environment. His opponent, retired Judge Steven C. Bailey, a Republican, is currently facing ethics charges in the state Commission on Judicial Performance.
Insurance Commissioner—Steve Poizner, who served as Insurance Commissioner from 2007-2011, is hoping to return to the office for a second, non-consecutive term. The Silicon Valley entrepreneur ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for governor in 2010. He is no longer affiliated with the Republican party, and is running with no party preference in the November election, where he currently seems to be maintaining the lead. His opponent is Democratic Party candidate Ricardo Lara, a state senator who represents the Long Beach area. Lara is a passionate supporter of single payer health care, but has been criticized for his lack of experience with insurance related issues.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction—This battle is arguably one of the most hotly contested and brutal races on the November 6 ballot. Assemblymember Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive, are expected to break spending records for the race. The 2014 race, which Tuck narrowly lost to Tom Torlakson, was the costliest on that year’s ballot, at $22.6 million. Although the position is not supposed to be political, and both candidates are Democratic, Tuck has been criticized for his support for charter schools, while Thurmond is viewed by his detractors as too closely aligned with school union interests.
State Board of Equalization, District 3—Closer to home, the race pits Tony Vazquez, Democratic candidate, against G. Rick Marshall, Republican.
Third District Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl is expected to easily win reelection. In the June Primary, she had a 60 point lead over her opponent, arts advocate Eric Preven, in the Primary.
Los Angeles County Assessor—Incumbent Jeffrey Prang is also expected to win big on November 6. He won first place in the primary with more than 20 points over his challenger, Republican John Loew.
Los Angeles County Sheriff—Jim McDonnell may not be faring as well as the other L.A. County incumbent officials. McDonnell has received the endorsement of the Professional Peace Officers Association, but the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs announced their support for his opposition, retired sheriff’s Lieutenant Alex Villanueva instead, and Villaneuva has the support of many influential groups in the Hispanic community. This race remains closely watched.
State Assembly—member Richard Bloom is the one candidate who can sleep in on election day. The District 50 representative is running unopposed for reelection.
The deadline to register to vote in the November 6 election is Monday, October 22. The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot is Tuesday, October 30.
For related voting information and more reasons to vote, see Joel Bellman’s column. Seriously.
November 2: We’ll present the judges who are up for election even though, for the most part, voters don’t have a clue about who they’re voting for or why. We don’t understand why this is such a mystery. When we ask, the response is, “Because it is,” usually with a semi-apologetic smile. What we will tell you is if they are “well qualified,” “qualified,” or “unqualified.” And that’s the truth, so help me, God.