What’s the story of last night’s CA election?

The Contra Costa Times’ home page headline this morning is “Red tide hits Blue wall,” and that’s undoubtedly true.

As Republicans elsewhere in the nation took 11 governor’s offices from Democrats, Jerry Brown overcame Meg Whitman’s $161.5 million blitz to become the nation’s only Democratic gubernatorial pickup. As Republicans elsewhere in the nation picked up six seats in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer turned away the toughest challenge of her career, from Carly Fiorina. Neither race was nearly as close as polls and pundits had projected.

In fact, neither were most of the down-ticket races; at this hour, with the attorney general’s race still too close to call, it’s possible that Democrats swept the statewide offices. And as a Republican tide undid the Democrats’ electoral victories of the past two cycles to retake the House of Representatives and end Nancy Pelosi’s reign as Speaker, here in the 11th Congressional District, Jerry McNerney – perhaps the state’s most endangered Democratic House member – holds a razor-thin margin over Republican challenger David Harmer as ballots continue to be counted.


Naturally, your opinion this morning seems to depend on where you’re standing.

“Feeling pessimistic, but bucking the national trend, California voters decided against a pair of untested Republicans in favor of old-school Democrats on Tuesday,” the New York Times reported.

From Robert Cruickshank at Calitics.com:

So. What all does this mean?

First, that Californians want to be governed by Democrats, and certainly not by wealthy CEOs. The Whitman bust is one of the most laughable and epic political failures we’ve ever seen. She spent $160 million to lose by double digits. Ultimately she and Fiorina could not overcome the basic contradiction of Republican politics: their base hates Latinos, but California’s elections are increasingly decided by Latinos.

More importantly, Californians rejected right-wing economics. They rejected Whitman and Fiorina’s attack on government and public spending to produce economic recovery.

From Steve Frank at California News & Views:

In my opinion, our losses were not due to lack of money (except for our registration effort). Nor was it because of a lack of personnel and smart people.

Two words for this massive lost [sic] in California, while the GOP was winning in a landslide–or just winning–in 49 other States.


Would you trust a political party that gave you $140 billion in defiicits? Would you trust a Party that gave you a Governor looking for ways to give amnesty to illegal aliens?

Would you trust a political party that has a Governor that supports choo-choo trains over economic stability and loves ObamaCare?

Arnold brought us to 12.4% unemployment and a Great Depression.

Arnold also bankrupted the California Republican Party–he caused divisions and disputes–kept donors from supporting the GOP.

With Arnold as the titular head of the California GOP–with a fiscal record that put us into a Depression, with policies like AB 32 that have caused massive unemployment and will devastate the Satte over the next few years, with his refusal to support his own political party–after seven years he has done the impossible.

He destroyed a political party and he has destroyed a whole State–Our slogan now is “Welcome to the Tarnished State”.

Any wonder the Republican Party of California lost most everything yesterday?

So, readers, what do you think? Latino outrage, class warfare, a wildly unpopular Republican incumbent governor, lousy candidates or campaigns, old habits dying hard, or something else entirely — why couldn’t the GOP seal the deal here in California?

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John W

    On CD 11, it was interesting to see that Harmer was razor thin ahead into the wee hours, with the few missing precincts all in Santa Clara County. I didn’t even realize the district dipped into a piece of that county, but apparently it was those pricincts that shifted the margin to McNerney. I assume the outcome depends on provisional and last minute mail in ballots, and possibly a recount.


  • Enrique

    I just think California is as blue as South Carolina is red…

    No matter what the Democrats do they will get their base to show up and vote for them Because we don’t trust Republicans no matter what.

    I myself vote Democratic it’s like tradition in my house, and I don’t see it it ever going red…

  • Enrique

    Also Harmer Barely eeked out a win in his home county Contra Costa, He should have hit a homer there and padded his winnings with San Joaquin County. But even San joaquin county only gave him a 3900 vote advantage, which was wiped out with the more Liberal Alameda and Santa Clara county portion going to McNerney…

    From My understanding Tracy now votes more in line with the bay area so a republican is going to continue to have trouble winning CA-11.

    Just my two cents…

  • hilltopper

    Josh and Lisa,

    Is there any information available as to how many absentees and provisional ballots are out there in CA-11, and where they are (e.g., the county)?

    When will they be counted?

  • hilltopper

    Redistricting is coming. The last round of drawing congressional districts was basically an “incumbent protection” map that well-served incumbents of each party. Yesterday could well have been worse for the R’s in California had more seats been competitive. I really hope the new maps are drawn so as to make as many seats competitive (45%-55%) as possible.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    I’m working on it but the short answer right now is that no one knows. I’ve been on the phone with the four county elections offices and they are furiously counting and sorting.

    Santa Clara County says they have roughly 135,000 uncounted vote-by-mail ballots and another 18,000 provisions, but they cannot tell me how many of those are in the 11th Congressional District.

    Alameda, Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties are working on it but have not yet released any numbers.

  • hilltopper

    Re #6.

    Thanks Lisa. It must be especially hard as CA-11 has little pieces of multiple counties and the number of uncounted votes from those counties will be very uncertain. Of note, the Alameda Co Registrar was quoted as saying there are “tens of thousands” to count there. http://www.eastbayexpress.com/92510/archives/2010/11/03/tens-of-thousands-of-ballots-still-to-be-counted

  • John W

    Re: #4

    My perspective as a Contra Costa County (San Ramon) resident is that the county is up for grabs, and it all depends on the candidates and the area. Even though his home base of Pleasanton in in Alameda County, McNerney is hardly seen as an outsider in Contra Costa. The Republican former mayor of Danville endorsed him. Northern and Western Contra Costa is Miller country. Much of Garamendi’s district is in Contra Costa. Whether he wins or not, I don’t think the publicity about Harmer’s past advocacy of K-12 school privatization played very well is some of the county’s high-achieving public school districts.

  • Construction Worker

    Cruickshank, this is the normal hate talk from the left. Hate Latino’s? Bullcrap. The Dems have run this State for 40 years. The Governor does spend money, make back room deals with the unions. This state has become a “what’s in it for me” state. The Dems keep the poor down for a reason, they need the votes. Yes they cow town the the illegals, they wont the vote’s. People around the country are tired of tax and spend and give me, give me attatude. This state better open there eye’s or businesses are going to leave this state faster than they already are.

  • John W

    Re #5

    Extending redistricting reform to Congressional offices is good in principle. But, from a raw political and Democratic standpoint, approval of that proposition constitutes unilateral disarmament on California’s part. It will obvioulsly work in the GOP’s favor in a state where more Dem than Repub seats have been protected by gerrymandering. The GOP won numerous governorships last night (including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida), and the GOP will leverage that to the max in redistricting. Dems won the governorship in CA but will not be able to match what happens in those other states. Texas, nearly equal to CA in population and number of Congressional seats, is ruthless about gerrymandering in the GOP’s favor, even going so far to redistrict between Census periods. The GOP picked up several seats in Texas doing that just a few years ago. I was all for redistricting reform for state legislative districts. But I voted against extending it to Congress. The way I see it, in the name of good government, CA is being the only virgin in the bordello of Congressional redistricting politics.

  • John W

    If Alameda County has the bulk of uncounted ballots, that will probably tilt in McNerney’s favor.

  • Construction Worker

    Mr.Frank, You sound just like every talking piont that comes out of the Dems mouth. Blame Bush, sorry Blame Arnold of everything. Ask the question, who votes for a party that gives the unions a 100 billion dollars in retirements we can’t pay. Who votes for a party that raised spending in the last 4 years 37%, creates regulations to stop housing accross the state and cost 35% of the work force, and 12% plus unemployment….california votes. Don’t blame the right wing agenda that has not been in power in the assembly or senate for 40 years. Remember, when you piont your finger, three fingers are pionting back at you.

  • hilltopper

    Re #9.

    I agree with you. In fact, much of the R gains last night were due to boundaries being heavily gerrymandered after the 2000 census (PA; MI; FL; TX; OH; GA). And after last night (although I have not seen the final results of control of state legislatures), it should be much worse. But recall that CA was not gerrymandered in 2000 so much to help Dems, but to help incumbents of both parties.

    Prop 20 should hurt Democrats due to “unilateral disarmament” as you say, but also because its guidelines for drawing lines is apt to concentrate Democrats. I think the Democrats would do just fine with districts drawn to be competitive, but I think the hope I expressed in #5 was ill-founded as competitiveness is not a factor to be considered under Prop 20.

  • Construction Worker

    Sorry, but these comment have got me going.
    Obamma Care… sound good on the surface, but have or anyone else read it? It would be great if everyone had health care without question,pre-conditions are OK. Feels good right? At what cost? Your premiums are going up next year, people have already started to get laid off at doctors office due to the medicare cuts. Now, did you know beside your taxes going up, when you sell your house, 3.8% of the sales price goes to Obamma care. Congressman Miller confirmed that. The buzz word, the rich should pay more. 1% already pay 25% of Cal taxes, raise that to what Dems want and it cover 10% of the cost, who’s going to pay the balance…you and me!
    It amazed me the number of the Congress did not read it before they voted for it.
    I hope you like the way it is, in Califonia it will be this way for a long time.

  • Construction Worker

    Hilltopper. The lines in Cal were changed in 2000. Congressman Miller’s district coveres West Contra Costa, Vallejo and up to Vacaville missing Benicia, Suisun, Fairfield. Why? The Dems have always moved the lines to help cover the area’s for re-election. You know Prop 20 will hurt the Dems, thay can’t draw there own lines anymore. Ask Dan Walters of the Sac Bee, he made comments on this issue this morning.

  • hilltopper

    Re #15:

    Have you examined the Republican districts in the southern part of the state? District lines are re-drawn every ten years to meet Constitutional mandate (one person-one vote). Districts must have equal population.

  • Construction Worker

    Hilltopper: I have not, I will check in the South
    Thank you

  • Speaking of turning victory into losses, I wonder whom Frank will say is responsible for the GOP defeats in Contra Costa? Certainly not his buddy Tom Del Beccaro.

  • steve weir

    O.K., I have about 12,500 uncounted vote by mail ballots that had arrived by October 30th for the 11th CD.

    In addition, we have vote by mail ballots (and provisional ballots that were turned in at the polls on election day.

    We have tried to do a raw count on how many vote by mail and provisional ballots were turned in at the polls on Tuesday. We’re still doing that tally. So, it looks like, Countywide, we have about 12,000 provisional ballots and about 25,000 vote by mail. I hope to have that identified by precinct on Thursday.

    Long story short, you have to stay tuned. I plan to post an update for all of Contra Costa on Friday. And again, next Wednesday.

    In Contra Costa, the Harmer folks did better in the early vote by mail ballots. However, McNerney did better on election day. So, the speculation battle is on as to which way the later arriving vote by mail ballots (and provisional ballots) will break).

  • Benito

    The Republicans are so funny, when the economy is good you say let’s all celebrate “Cinco de Mayo, my brothers” but when the economy is down “it’s all your fault, you damn immigrant”.

    The GOP has went on a nationwide rant in proposing and passing several anti-immigration legislation (that our US Courts continue to strike down) and have continue to blame the immigrant for the flat economy or worse.

    Plus the more radical of the GOP are now attacking our Constitution (with all Amendments), and the Declaration of Independence, in their crazy notion of wanting to take away rights that all of us take for granted in their misguided attempt to garner some much needed votes (how is that working), they really are fools, and leading the GOP towards obscurity because they are no longer a party of ideas, just of empty suits.

    When most Americans (of Latin America roots) went to the polls this November we all remembered who stood with us, our children, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, our parents and grandparents, in one word our families and who stood against us, so trying to make amends now is somewhat funny, but go ahead, you did not change our minds. Your hate made you do it, and you found out that you reap what you have sown. I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would say about todays GOP, he unlike the current GOP was a man of ideas.