Here are five key takeaways from the June 7, 2022 primary election:
1) Quality of life issues matter. If voters, no matter how liberal, feel unsafe, they will vote for change.
The biggest national story coming out of Tuesday’s primary election is the landslide recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
A liberal reformer who sought to reduce incarceration rates, Boudin lost when Democrats decided they had had enough. Boudin was not just recalled in wealthy San Francisco neighborhoods like Pacific Heights and the Marina, but also in Chinatown, Bayview and the Tenderloin, where rampant drug sales, burglaries and homeless encampments have made life miserable for many.
His loss is a setback for progressive justice reform efforts across the nation and a reminder for Democrats heading into a very difficult November election that voters in many areas will support gun safety laws and police reforms, but if they perceive a breakdown in order and a risk to their own safety, they will draw a line.
2) It’s nearly impossible to win office as an independent
Two prominent independents had high hopes for statewide office going into Tuesday’s California primary election. Anne Marie Schubert, Sacramento County’s district attorney, had hoped to finish in the top two in the state attorney general’s race to take on incumbent Democrat Rob Bonta in November. But she finished a distant fourth.
So did Michael Shellenberger, a Berkeley environmentalist and author who raised $1 million. He hoped as an independent to edge out Republican nominee Brian Dahle in the governor’s race and challenge Gavin Newsom in November. He ended the night with 3%.
What’s the problem? The public may not love the Republican and Democratic parties. But the parties have hundreds of volunteers. They have voter lists, budgets, phone banks, pollsters, allies in non-profit groups and name recognition.
It’s nearly impossible to break through that and get noticed by voters in a state as big as California when you aren’t part of either tribe and don’t carry the familiar R or D label.
3) Not so fast on California’s hard turn to the right on law and order.
National pundits will say that Boudin’s resounding loss in San Francisco means that California voters are turning more conservative.
Perhaps, but probably not.
Republicans haven’t won any statewide office in California since 2006. Their standard-bearer, Donald Trump, lost in a 30-point landslide to Joe Biden two years ago. Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 in party registration. It’s a very blue state.
Polls show Republicans are on the opposite side of most major issues that California voters care about, from guns to immigration to climate change to taxes.
Rob Bonta, a liberal who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom as attorney general last year after Xavier Becerra left to join the Biden Administration, easily won the most votes in his race Tuesday.
In Alameda County, progressive reformer and civil rights attorney Pamela Price also won the most votes in the race for district attorney to succeed the retiring Nancy O’Malley.
In the Los Angeles mayor’s race, former Republican Rick Caruso, a billionaire developer and former Republican, edged Democratic congresswoman Karen Bass narrowly in the race for mayor with 40% to 38%.
But that may be a ceiling for him. In the November general election, the other candidates, most of whom were liberal Democrats, are likely to endorse Bass. Despite his success getting to the finals with lots of advertising and promises to add more cops and clean up homeless encampments, Caruso will have to find 10 more points in a largely blue city.
Nearly 20 years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger showed it can be done. But just like it’s hard for liberals to win in Utah, it’s not easy for conservatives to win in California’s coastal cities.
4) The next election won’t be as boring.
In five months, California voters will face some major ballot issues with tens of millions of dollars in campaigning and ads behind them, from legalizing sports betting to possibly an increase in the minimum wage to $18 to a crackdown on plastic pollution and a ban on flavored tobacco products.
Close congressional races in the Central Valley and Southern California could center on whether the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade.
Control of the House and Senate will be at stake. And if Gavin Newsom wins re-election easily to a second-term as governor, as expected, talk of a presidential run in 2028, or even 2024 will grow.
5) But turnout Tuesday was low and that’s not good for Democrats heading into the midterms in November.
When turnout is low, older, whiter, more conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate than younger, more diverse voters who tend to vote more Democratic.Even though California has passed numerous laws in recent years to make it easier to vote — mailing every registered voter a ballot, allowing same day registration, putting drop boxes all over the state — turnout in today’s election is likely to be so low that three out of four registered voters didn’t bother to participate.
For Republicans looking to take back Congress, that’s good news. Their voters are more loyal and show up more often. For Democrats looking to hold back a red wave in November, something has to change. Because storm clouds are on the horizon.
For a look back at Election Day June 7, 2022, scroll down to see the archive of our live updates on trends and the impact of voting in the Bay Area, California and the nation.
In addition, you can find all of our election coverage here, including results for all Bay Area counties and California’s statewide races. Click here if you can’t see the blog window below or have trouble reading it on your mobile device.
Contributed by local news sources