Last Call For Primary 2010

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LOS ANGELES -- Well, that's all, folks. The long, bruising, and historically expensive 2010 primary election is now history. For all the bluster, it looks as though only a small portion of California's voters decided it was worth it to participate. And now, prepare for the general election contest to begin almost immediately.

A few late night bite-size bits on the campaign that has now drawn to a close.

Whitman's Triumph: The preliminary data shows that Meg Whitman cleaned Steve Poizner's clock in every single part of the state. The unofficial returns show that she bested every single poll that was out there, a fact no doubt leading every one of her advisers this morning to thumb their nose at us in the press.

There will be plenty of time for soul searching in the Poizner camp, a candidate who had the good fortune of having the GOP gubernatorial field all to himself for most of the last four years, only to be walloped by the newcomer from eBay. Did the commish wait too late to respond in kind with a massive TV ad buy? Did the apparent 'evolution' of his position on issues since first running for office in 2004 undermine his credibility as a conservative? Did he focus too much on illegal immigration -- a hot button issue for GOP voters but not one they thought was crucial in deciding how to fill out their ballot? Poizner's concession speech, while brief, was also a little on the lukewarm side when it came to congratulatory sentiments for his opponent. "If Meg Whitman runs on conservative principles, she deserves our full support," he said.

Translation: lemme get back to you on that one.

John MyersDouble Entendre? It was the line that, for now, stuck out the most to me in Meg Whitman's acceptance speech. "This gal is on a mission," she said to the adoring crowd. "I'm all in." Last time I checked, that phrase -- all in -- is best known as the ultimate gamble in poker; heck, it's even the name of the magazine for the game's lovers. And so, for the candidate who's now spent more than $80 million to win a statewide primary -- an apparent national record -- doesn't "all in" draw an image of someone who's willing to spend a gazillion more to win?

Boxer's Rebellion Against Orthodoxy: Rule #1 of politics. If you're an incumbent who's confident in victory, pretend your opponent doesn't exist. Don't call said opponent by name. And never, never, ever debate your opponent. So what's 18 year incumbent Barbara Boxer's first message after winning the Democratic primary? Why, challenging GOP nominee Carly Fiorina to "publicly debating the many important issues facing California and our nation," of course. To be fair, the surprising gambit may not quite be actual fear in the Boxer camp, but it's clearly an effort to try and open up some new narrative, to shake up the race from day one. The real question: will the debates actually happen? Or will the "negotiations" over debate rules drag on... and on?

Speaking of Boxer: The junior senator from California ended up winning (as of this writing) about 80% of the Democratic vote in her primary, a primary in which she was generally considered unopposed. The guy who got some national ink for his quixotic challenge to Boxer, blogger Mickey Kaus, wasn't the one who siphoned off the votes. The surprise runner-up: Hollywood producer Brian Quintana, who snatched almost 15% of the vote. Were those protest votes against Boxer from inside her own ranks? A small storyline, but kind of interesting. And if you've never heard of Quintana, you're not alone.

The LA/SF Smackdown: A fascinating race to watch this fall will be the battle of the big city prosecutors who want to be the next attorney general of California. Republican Steve Cooley, the DA of Los Angeles County, cruised to victory Tuesday while San Francisco DA Kamala Harris not only cruised past a crowded Dem field of six challengers, she obliterated them -- not the outcome many predicted in the case of her closest challenger. And so now it's Cooley v. Harris, and a lot more than the job of AG may be on the line. Remember that the job of top cop is often thought of as the second most important statewide office. And keep in mind that Harris and Cooley are both politicians who could easily have their eye on the #1 job sometime in the future. Cooley has a reputation as a mod Republican of sorts (national attention for his criticism of the three strikes law helps fuel that image), but is surely going to attack Harris on liberal issues like her opposition to the death penalty. But Harris, as the primary made clear, is no shrinking violet. This is a great down-ticket race to watch.

The Message of Oil: It's still true that all politics is local, and so one should be careful when trying to apply big news stories to the fight on the ground in a local race. But when the two storylines collide? In the 35th Assembly district, based in Santa Barbara but stretching outward along the coast, oil was a big deal in the Democratic primary pitting Santa Barbara city councilman Das Williams against longtime environmental advocate Susan Jordan. Williams got into the race largely to support the locally crafted Tranquillon Ridge drilling deal, a proposal seen by some core SB enviros as a 'win-win' on a subject that strikes deep chords along their shoreline. Jordan was a vocal critic of the deal, as is her husband -- the termed-out incumbent in the race, Pedro Nava (who lost the Dem AG's race last night). Williams' position on T-Ridge would have, to an outsider, seemed to be problematic after the Gulf disaster led to the dismantling of support for the drilling-for-future-drilling-ban proposal. And yet last night, Williams crushed Jordan 62%-38%. He now faces Republican Mike Stoker.

Stay tuned for more on today's election news later today and this week. For now, a short nap before radio reports at sunrise...

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • Yeggo

    I think the issue is that for all the media’s attempts to attribute all the individual results from all across the country to some grand, overall story line, where everything will fit into preconceived notions of who candidates are and what voters want.

    Just about every attempt at setting a theme for this year’s elections has been repudiated by results: the year of the Republican, the year of the outsider, the year of the Tea Party, the year of the angry voter…

    Midterm elections are what they are – hundreds of miniature vignettes that aren’t necessarily part of any main story.