Live Blog: June Primary Election Night

11:00 pm: Calling It a Night

Well folks, with 28.4% of the precincts reporting in, we’re calling it a night. We need our sleep so we can bring you final results and analysis bright and early on The California Report and KQED News. Until then, enjoy some of the choice quotes from the evening.

10:40 pm: Incumbents Advance in Low Turnout Calif. Primary

(AP) — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein easily advanced to the November ballot in California’s statewide primary Tuesday and voters overwhelmingly approved a change to the state’s 22-year-old legislative term limits law. Early returns showed voters split on adding a $1-a-pack tax on cigarettes to fund cancer research in an election that tested sweeping new political reforms.

The primary was the first statewide use of a top-two voting system and newly redrawn legislative and congressional districts. Voters also weighed two ballot initiatives: one to alter legislative term limits and the tobacco tax.

Proposition 28, which would cut the total time lawmakers could serve in the state Legislature, passed easily, with 65 percent of the vote in early returns Tuesday night.

Feinstein, the 78-year-old incumbent Democrat, easily advanced to the general election, where she will face the next highest vote-getter. Elizabeth Emken, an autism activist who won the GOP’s endorsement, had a healthy lead in a crowded field of 23 challengers, 14 of them Republicans.

Some voters were hopeful that the new top-two system will deliver more competitive contests and more moderate candidates even as they were confronted with a longer, more complicated ballot. In some cases, candidates of the same party are vying to meet again in November, but early returns showed independent candidates not faring well.

“I think it helps to level the playing field,” said attorney Susan Hyman after casting her Democratic ballot at a skilled nursing facility in Long Beach. “The districts have been too entrenched by party.”

Two long-serving Democrats, Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, advanced to a November showdown in a bitterly contested San Fernando Valley area House district that was a marquee matchup among California’s congressional races.

Two Democrats also appeared headed for a same-party showdown in the Central Coast’s 13th Senate District, where Assemblyman Jerry Hill of San Mateo faced former Assemblywoman Sally Lieber of Redwood.

Election officials reported few problems at the polls and traffic was slow throughout the day, with some pundits predicting voter turnout could be as low as 25 percent, which would be a record low for a presidential primary.

“It looks abysmal,” Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir. “It looks like this could be an almost all mail-in ballot elections. It’s seemingly that bad.”

Weir estimated that about 20 percent of ballots might not be processed Tuesday, which could mean candidates could wait to find out if they make the November runoff.

In San Diego, four well-known candidates were running for a spot in the fall runoff which will feature the top two finishers.

Republicans Carl DeMaio, a city councilman, and Bonnie Dumanis, a three-term San Diego County district attorney, ran against U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, the lone Democrat, and state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who switched his affiliation from GOP to independent.

DeMaio led with 33 percent of the vote in early returns, with Filner in second place.

The top-two primary has triggered a new phenomenon where some of the hottest contests are those in which candidates of the same party are likely to meet again in November.

Democrats hope to pick up as many as six seats in California’s 53 congressional districts and have been working to register more voters in traditionally Republican-leaning areas of the Central Valley and the Inland Empire region of Southern California.

9:36 pm: Photo Dispatch: Huffman Campaign Party Sticks to Enviro Roots

Good eye, Mina Kim.

9:20 pm: City Pension Reform on Path to Approval in San Jose, San Diego

(AP) — Early returns show voters overwhelmingly approving measures to cut benefits for government workers in two major California cities.

In San Diego, 69 percent are in favor of Proposition B while 31 percent are opposed. Nearly 16 percent of precincts are reporting.

The margin in San Jose is even wider, with 71 percent in favor of Measure B and 29 percent opposed. More than 13 percent of precincts are reporting.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed issued a statement thanking voters for commitment to fiscal reform.

9:06 pm: Early Returns Show Prop. 28 Leaning Toward Passage, 29 in Dead Heat

With 10% of the precincts counted, Yes on Proposition 28, a measure that would revise California legislator term limits, is earning 65% of the vote.

Proposition 29, the proposed cigarette tax, is coming in at 51% Yes, 49% No. What do you think about these kinds of taxes? Tell us in our little “quiz.”

8:04 pm: Polls Close, Results Trickle In

You can find statewide results at the Secretary of State’s site.

Local returns can be tracked by going to individual county sites.

8:00 pm: Live Election Special, Tweets From the Studio

Listen live to the program now.

7:12pm: Recall Effort Falls Short As Walker Survives In Wisconsin

via NPR and AP:

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has survived his recall election, the AP projects.

The AP adds: “Walker becomes the first governor in American history to stay in
office after a recall challenge. The Republican governor rose to national prominence last year after taking on public-sector unions shortly after being sworn in. That fight also triggered the recall and set up a rematch with Tom Barrett, who was defeated by Walker in 2010.”

Read the full article at NPR.org

6:00pm: Races to Watch Tonight

The statewide ballot

Prop. 28 – The term-limit measure. “Prop 28 would tweak our term limits law,” Hendricks explains. “Currently somebody can serve in the State Legislature for 14 years, six in the Assembly and eight in the Senate. Under this new law, you would only be able to stay in the legislature for a maximum of 12 years, but with no limit to serving in either house.”

As for Prop. 29, the proposed $1.00 per pack extra tax tacked onto a pack of cigarettes, Hendricks says:

Twenty percent of the money would go to prevention and smoking cessation programs. The bulk would go to cancer research and research into other tobacco-related illnesses. Proponents argue that California’s tobacco tax is now below the national average. They also say the higher the tax on cigarettes, the less likely people they are to take up smoking, especially teens. Tobacco industry funding against the measure has been quite heavy, but there are anti-tax Republican groups against it as well. California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro has been outspoken in opposing the measure on anti-tax grounds. Others say it’s a regressive tax that hits poorer people hardest.”

Local elections and measures

Locally, there are two congressional races of particular interest. Longtime Democratic congressman Pete Stark of Alameda County is in trouble for a number of reasons. His district has moved further East and is now more conservative, for one. He’s also getting a serious challenge from fellow Democrat Eric Swallwell, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor.

“If we didn’t have the top-two primary,” says Hendricks, “they would go head to head in June and one would emerge to face a token Republican in November, since it’s a Democratic district. But now Stark will probably have to face another Democrat in the general election.”

The 80-year-old Stark has also suffered a string of self-inflicted embarrassments, though he did recently land an endorsement from President Obama.

The other House race drawing attention locally is the battle for retiring congresswoman Lynn Woolsey’s seat in a newly drawn district that runs from Marin all the way up to the Oregon border. Of the large field running to replace Woolsey, political analysts are predicting the top two vote-getters will both be Democrats. The four candidates considered to be at the front of the pack: State Assemblyman Jared Huffman, author and progressive activist Norman Solomon, Marin County supervisor Susan Adams, and co-founder of UC Berkeley’s Center for Entrepeneurship & Technology Stacey Lawson. The leading Republican is Marine Corps veteran Dan Roberts.

Pension reform

In San Jose, Measure B is drawing a lot of attention as a belwether of voters’ willingness to allow municipalities to cope with shortfalls in pension funding by cutting benefits for public employees. KQED’s Peter Jon Shuler reports:

Measure B would require employees to make additional contributions to their plans — up to 16 percent of their pay — to help cover projected shortfalls.

The measure allows employees to avoid the extra fees by opting into a less generous plan with smaller payouts and later retirement ages [and] would provide new employees with a stripped-down retirement plan, but leaves the details for the city council to decide later. Councilman Pete Constant, who supports the measure, notes that it would leave existing pension commitments intact.

Public workers say it’s unfair to expect them to bear the brunt of a problem they didn’t create. And they say most retirement pensions are not luxurious. The average for San Jose is about $40,000 a year with a cost of living allowance of three percent…

Even opponents of Measure B agree the city needs to overhaul the terms of employee retirement benefits. But they say putting it on the ballot has turned the conversation over pension costs in San Jose into an ugly feud. Read full article

Around the country:

It’s Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin. We’re no strangers to a recall election here in California, and this one is a doozy. Will controversial Governor Scott Walker hold on to his seat? Our colleagues at NPR are all over this one. (As of this update, the race in a dead heat.)

4:30pm: Election Night Coverage Begins … Now

Greetings. We’re gearing up for an evening of live coverage, including a one-hour California Report special broadcast at 7pm.

We’ll hear from reporters across the state, and talk to guests about what’s at stake, and what the results might mean for California.

If you haven’t already, you’ve got just over three hours left to get to your polling place. Don’t know where it is? Smart Voter has you covered.