Election Blog Fond Farewell — Until Next Time!

By Lisa Aliferis, Jon Brooks and Tyche Hendricks

With the 2012 election mostly put to bed, this blog is retiring — temporarily. This post features thoughts on elections in general from KQED Election Editor Tyche Hendricks, Election Blog editor Jon Brooks and contributor Lisa Aliferis.

Tyche Hendricks, KQED Election Editor

As the dust settles on this election — with its nail-biter races that ranged from the presidential contest to board of supervisors races and local parcel taxes — it’s a good time to note that our individual votes really can make a decisive difference. It’s true, given our electoral college system, that nobody campaigns too hard for California’s votes in the presidential race. But we did have some state and local races that were decided by razor thin margins.

In two California congressional races, long-time incumbents lost their seats by just a few thousand votes out of more than a quarter of a million votes cast. San Diego Rep. Brian Bilbray and Sacramento area Rep. Dan Lungren both lost by exceedingly narrow margins. And in Alameda County, a sales tax hike for transportation projects fell just about 700 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage. With more than half a million votes cast, that was a defeat by a margin of .14 percent. Continue reading

Too Close to Call! List of Still-Undecided Contests Across California

In this 2008 photo, workers sort California mail in ballots. (Justin Sullivan: Getty Images)

In this 2008 photo, workers sort California mail in ballots. (Justin Sullivan: Getty Images)

With estimates that for the first time vote-by-mail will exceed in-person voting in California, county voting officials are presumably working hard to get all votes counted. Counties are required to report their final results by December 7, and the secretary of state will certify the election by December 14.

In the meantime well over a million mail and provisional ballots are still being counted statewide.

Here are the races still too close to call:

Congressional Races

  • Bera v. Lungren (7th Congressional District): The political newsletter The Nooner reports that Bera is ahead by 182 votes with 193,000 uncounted ballots. Next update is Friday, 3pm.
  • Bilbray v. Peters (52nd Congressional District): Only a few hundred votes separate the San Diego candidates.
  • Ruiz v. Bono Mack (36th Congressional District): Ruiz is ahead, and local media have called the race for him. But Bono Mack has yet to concede.

Assembly Races

Continue reading

Turning ‘Purple’ — The Inland Empire’s Shifting Voter Demographics

By Steven Cuevas, KPCC Radio

Mark Takano (D), newly elected representative from the 41st Congressional District in the Inland Empire. (

Mark Takano (D), newly elected representative from the 41st Congressional District in the Inland Empire. (

California’s Congressional delegation will include about a dozen new faces next year. Redistricting and the state’s “Top Two” primary system led to an unusual number of competitive races, as well as a few upsets — and Democrats are the beneficiaries.

Of the state’s 53 Congressional districts, 34 are currently represented by Democrats. With Tuesday’s voting, at least one more seat will turn blue, while three other races still appear too close to call.

For starters, parts of the Inland Empire are looking a lot more purple — with areas once seen as Republican strongholds giving way to a wave of Democratic newcomers.

Early on election night, Mark Takano wasn’t yet ready to claim victory as returns showed him ahead of his Republican opponent in the newly drawn 41st Congressional District. “So let’s be patient,” he said, “luxuriate in the feeling we have now and be hopeful that change has come to Riverside.” Continue reading

The House: Berman on Sherman and More Political Fratricide in California

What's more awkward than two belles sharing the same stage in the same dress? Two political candidates from the same party in a knock-down, drag-out fight to the bitter finish in November!

What's more awkward than two belles sharing the same stage in the same dress? Two political candidates from the same party in a knock-down, drag-out fight to the bitter finish in November!

Granted, California was not a swing state in the presidential election. We’re so dominated by Democrats, it’s hard to imagine anybody so much as blinked when Barack Obama won here. And Dianne Feinstein’s next term in the U.S. Senate? Even loyal Republicans were calling that one for her before the ballots were published.

But even in a True Blue state like this one, there was plenty of blood spilled in the California delegation to the House of Representatives. Between the way Congressional districts were redrawn after the last US Census and the state’s new top-two primary system, the stage was set for some high-pitched theater in two Republican districts and six Democratic ones. You might think that Democratic Party leaders would gather in some smoke-filled room somewhere in California and make the decisions required to avoid one party member going up against another. That’s not how it played out.

Continue reading

Sandy’s Victims Head to Polls in Large Numbers

POINT PLEASANT, N.J. (AP) — Election Day turnout was heavy Tuesday in several storm-ravaged areas in New York and New Jersey, a welcome change from crisis to catharsis for many who saw exercising their civic duty as a sign of normalcy amid lingering devastation.

Lines were long in Point Pleasant, N.J., where residents from the Jersey Shore communities of Point Pleasant Beach and Mantoloking had to cast their ballots due to damage in their hometowns.

Many there still have no power eight days after Sandy pummeled the shore.

Fewer than 100 polling places around the state were without power compared with 800 just days ago.

Sarah Brewster of Long Beach, N.Y., was shaken when she entered a school to vote. She noticed that the clocks were all stopped at 7:27. That’s the time one week ago Monday when everyone in her community had lost power. Tears streamed down her face as she emerged from the school cafeteria. Brewster, who works at a nonprofit, said voting is “part of our civic responsibility in the midst of all this crisis.”

Retired customer service agent Joan Andrews, who fled her trailer in Moonachie by boat a week ago, said, “I always have to vote, especially now. Many friends of the 68-year-old woman were too overwhelmed to vote, but Andrews said she’d encouraged them to take the time. Continue reading

California Congressional Races Changed by Top Two Primaries

Congress (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

It may have seemed like this campaign season would never end, but we can now safely report that it will — on Tuesday night. And unlike past elections where voters chose between one Democrat and one Republican, eight congressional races in California are choices between two candidates of the same party. That’s because of California’s new top two primary system.

California Report host Scott Shafer looks at these races with reporters Tara Siler from KQED in San Francisco, Steven Cuevas who reports from the Inland Empire for KPCC and The California Report’s election editor Tyche Hendricks.

Scott Shafer, Host: One thing is certain for the first time in memory about a dozen Congressional races in California are actually, well, competitive, up in the air, or even toss ups. We’re going to take a look now at some of them, starting in Northern California and working our way south. Reporter Tara Siler is covering the 7th Congressional District, the suburbs of Sacramento and beyond. Incumbent Republican Dan Lungren fighting for his life there, it’s a rematch from the 2010 election against a Democrat physician Ami Bera. So Tara, tell us what makes this race so interesting.

Tara Siler: Well, what makes it interesting is you have a four-term Republican, conservative Republican, who is fighting for his life. And he’s up against Ami Bera for the second time. And this district has changed; it’s more Democratic under redistricting. And Democrats really see an opportunity here to pick off a conservative Republican, and an incumbent at that. It’s attracted a lot of money, $8 million dollars in outside money. It’s one of the most expensive races in the country. And a lot of it is being thrown at Lundgren by these outside groups.
Continue reading

San Francisco Propositions, Local Races

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Downtown San Francisco (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

Below is an edited transcript.

HOST CY MUSIKER: Over the next few weeks, we will be talking about local elections, including races in Oakland and Berkeley, plus partial taxes and school bonds around the Bay. Today we are looking at the most critical races in San Francisco and we are talking to Corey Cook. He directs the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at the University of San Francisco. And Corey, let’s start with a couple of propositions on the ballot, the highest profile involves the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite Park and no pun intended because it’s around 4,000 feet. Measure F requires the city to study how to drain Hetch Hetchy and replace it as a source of hydropower and water for more than two million people living in San Francisco, the Peninsula and the East Bay.

COREY COOK: Right. In sum, it is a fairly small initiative and it all it does is fund a $8 million study and on one hand, it is really a small scale. On the other hand, the plan is then put on the ballot in San Francisco, an initiative that would ultimately drain Hetch Hetchy, which as you know, it would affect 2.5 million people, it would be enormously costly and as a result you really see this. Every member of the Board of Supervisors and the mayor united in opposition to this measure.

MUSIKER: Mayor Ed Lee and others are backing a Measure E. That is the next measure we are going to talk about. That would convert the city’s chief business tax from one taxing payroll size to one taxing business receipts. And that’s getting a rare consensus again of everybody on the supervisors but also labor and business, progressives and conservatives, why is that?

COOK: Well, in this case, yes, everybody is basically on the “yes” side and for three reasons. One is that the existing payroll tax has been called a job killer because, effectively, it taxes hiring. It taxes payroll. So as the tax on payroll, it’s been unpopular for business, it’s been unpopular for supervisors and with the Mayor certainly for a long time. But it is revenue positive and so certainly, labor is in favor and some of the more progressive voices in the city are happy because it de-rate $28.5 million annually, and it exempts small businesses. So it serves something for everybody. This is this grand compromise that did unite these different fractions in San Francisco. Continue reading

Election 2012: Teachers Pony Up Against Prop 32; S. Bay Sales Taxes; Romneys Asked For Big Reduction on La Jolla Home Value

  • Primary Voters in California

    Flickr/Old Man Lee

    In San Francisco, odd-numbered district supervisors (as opposed to just odd supervisors) are up for election in November. The deadline to enter one of those races and “grab that City Hall office and that sweet $105,723 salary,” as the Chronicle puts it, is Friday. But the process can be perilous, the Chron reminds us:

    Benjamin Castaneda probably wasn’t going to be much of a challenge to Supervisor David Campos in District Nine, but he signed up to start raising campaign cash. Then the 24-year-old decided to use a Facebook post to threaten District Attorney George Gascón for charging him with violating a restraining order. Castaneda pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of making criminal threats, which to no one’s surprise took him out of the race.

    How do I get my donation back, I’d like to know…

  • The Chron also reports on the California Teachers Association ponying up $7.5 million for the campaign against Prop 32, the initiative that aims to limit both union and corporate donations to candidates through automatic payroll deductions, but which labor characterizes as a Trojan Horse due to an exemption for limited liability companies. Reporter Joe Garofoli runs through a brief history of recent attempts to hamper union funding of political activity:

    Prop. 32 is the third California ballot measure in 14 years designed to limit the ability of labor unions to fund their political activity through payroll deductions. In 2005, union-backed forces spent $54.1 million to defeat a similar “paycheck protection” measure that was the centerpiece of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to reform state government. The “Yes on Proposition 75″ side spent only $5.8 million. In 1998, the similarly worded Prop. 226 was also defeated by a wide margin as unions outspent the supporters 4-1.

    Which raises the question: by getting unions to expend this kind of money, are these initiatives a win for anti-union forces even when they fail?

  • On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the San Jose City Council will debate putting separate tax measures on the ballot. The county is looking at a 1/8 cent hike, San Jose at 1/2 cent, the San Jose Mercury News reports. That’s on top of the governor’s proposed 1/4 cent sales tax rise. One telling exchange from the Merc’s reporting:

    “I think we pay enough taxes as it is,” said [Shirley] Puentes, 49, who was shopping with three of her four children at the Costco store on Coleman Avenue last week. But what about the important priorities these tax increases would fund?

    “They always say that,” Puentes said, rolling her eyes.

  • Some of the chattering classes are chattering today about the Los Angeles Times report on Mitt and Ann Romney’s request for a 45 percent reduction in the assessment of a home they own in La Jolla. Initially assessed at $12 million, the San Diego County Assessment Appeals Board lowered the value to $8.7 million over three years, saving the Romneys about $109,000 in taxes.

Election 2012 Roundup, Monday Jul 23