California election updates: Prop. 1 passes, sports betting fails, incumbents win

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California is entering the final stage of its fourth major election in two years. And while recent votes have helped pick a new president (Joe Biden in 2020), rejected a bid to recall the state's governor (Gavin Newsom in 2021), and narrowed the field (2022 California primary) for the Nov. 8 midterm general election, there is still much at stake.

Newsom is again on the ballot, looking to win a full second term. The California Legislature has 26 openings between the Senate and Assembly. And dozens of seats will be filled in the U.S. Congress, which includes some high-profile races in California.

Californians are also being asked to weigh in on several propositions, which deal with everything from abortion-access to online gambling to funding for the arts in public schools.

Check back here for election results, reactions and analysis of the 2022 midterm election in California.

Sports betting Propositions 26, 27 go down to defeat

Competing measures to allow sports gambling in California looked like losing bets Tuesday after the most expensive ballot initiative campaign in U.S. history.

A proposition that would allow online and mobile sports betting was failing by nearly a 3-to-1 margin in early returns and another measure that would allow sports wagering at Native American casinos and horse tracks was trailing by about 30 percentage points.

The gaming industry and Native American tribes raised nearly $600 million to capture a piece of a potential billion-dollar market in the nation’s most populous state.

Californians were inundated with a blast of advertisements — much of it from backers of the two measures attacking the competing one.

The money raised and spent more than doubled the record amount spent in 2020 by Uber, Lyft and other app-based ride-hailing and delivery services to prevent drivers from becoming employees eligible for benefits and job protection.

Still, preelection polls showed both ballot measures faced an uphill fight to win a majority.

More than 30 other states allow sports betting, but gambling in California is currently limited to Native American casinos, horse tracks, card rooms and the state lottery.

Proponents of the two initiatives proposed different ways to offer sports gambling and each touted other benefits they said would come to the state if their measure was approved.

Proposition 26 would have allowed casinos and the state's four horse tracks to offer sports betting in person. The initiative bankrolled by a coalition of tribes would also allow roulette and dice games at casinos.

A 10% tax would help pay for enforcement of gambling laws and programs to help gambling addicts.

Proposition 27 would have allowed online and mobile sports betting for adults. Large gaming companies would have to partner with a tribe involved in gambling or tribes could enter the market on their own.

That measure was backed by DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel — the latter is the official odds provider for The Associated Press — as well as other national sports betting operators and a few tribes.

— Associated Press 

Voters ok Proposition 1, enshrining right to abortion, contraception in constitution

Voters in California on Tuesday resoundingly approved a ballot measure to enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in the state constitution.

Other states were also considering measures to regulate reproductive health after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June and ruled that states could decide whether to allow abortion.

Partial returns showed California's Proposition 1 leading with 68% of precincts partially reporting. Ballots for the Nov. 8 election will be counted so long as they are postmarked by Tuesday and received by county elections offices within seven days.

The measure was expected to pass, with polling showing at least two-thirds of those surveyed in support. But supporters wanted a decisive win, to send a clear message that abortion is legal and accessible in California and to encourage other states to do the same.

"This overwhelming victory once again shows California's leadership in moments of national crisis and that our values will not be compromised by a handful of conservative extremists on the U.S. Supreme Court," said Jodi Hicks, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, in a statement.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who coasted to re-election Tuesday, cut campaign ads to back the measure and appeared at Tuesday's celebration with proposition supporters. The Democrat said he was proud that voters enshrined the right of women and girls to reproductive care and rights.

Catherine Hadro, spokesperson for opponents, said in a statement they were "incredibly disappointed" and that the coalition would fight any attempts to expand abortions beyond that currently allowed by state law.

California law currently restricts abortion to only before a fetus is viable, which is usually defined as around 24 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions in the third trimester are rare, and in California, permitted only if the mother's life or heath is at risk.

 — Associated Press

Democrats looked to be cruising to victory in statewide office

— Julie Makinen

Thurmond takes strong lead in state superintendent race

California's incumbent superintendent of public instruction, Tony Thurmond, held a commanding lead over challenger Lance Ray Christensen in Tuesday's election. With 17.3% of precincts partially reporting, Thurmond had 66.4% of the vote to Christensen's 33.6%.

Tony Thurmond, California Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tony Thurmond, California Superintendent of Public Instruction

California's superintendent of public instruction oversees a public education system serving more than 6 million K-12 students.

Christensen served as vice president of education policy and government affairs at the California Policy Center and worked 15 years in the California State Senate as a consultant, legislative director, and chief of staff.

He was runner-up in the June primary, with only 12% of the vote to Thurmond’s 46%, but, with more than half of the total votes, he and other candidates forced a runoff by denying Thurmond a majority of the vote. Christensen had been counting on a surprise showing at the polls by disgruntled parents who sharedd his frustration over extended school closings during the pandemic, support his ideas for parent empowerment and oppose what they describe as activist teachings on race and gender.

Christensen was outraised about 30-to-1, between the $615,000 Thurmond raised and $2.8 million in independent expenditures for Thurmond from public employee unions, mainly the California Teachers Association.

— Julie Makinen

Republicans pin hopes on controller race, but Democrat opens early lead

Voters on Tuesday were deciding who should serve as California's next chief fiscal watchdog, with Republicans hopeful the race for controller offers the GOP one of its best chances to win in the deep-blue state.

Republican Lanhee Chen, a policy fellow on leave from the conservative think tank the Hoover Institution, was vying to end his party's 16-year losing streak in statewide races. His opponent was Malia Cohen, a Democrat who serves on a state tax board.

Lanhee Chen is a candidate for California State Controller.
Lanhee Chen is a candidate for California State Controller.

Early returns indicated that the losing streak may continue as Cohen was ahead in initial results. With 32.5% of precincts reporting, Cohen had grabbed 57.0% of the vote.

The state controller, a post held since 2015 by Democrat Betty Yee, has the power to disburse state funds and audit government agencies. The controller also serves on more than 70 boards and commissions, including one that incentivizes renewable energy production and another that gives bonds to nonprofit colleges.

Chen, a former policy adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, won the June primary, but the four Democrats running against him collectively won more votes. He's marketed himself as someone who would be an independent watchdog of the state's finances.

Malia Cohen listens to speakers during a news conference in San Francisco, May 12, 2016. Democrat Cohen, a former San Francisco supervisor, faces Lanhee Chen, who gives Republicans their best chance to win a statewide election since 2006 when Arnold Schwarzenegger was re-elected governor, for the open seat for California Controller.
Malia Cohen listens to speakers during a news conference in San Francisco, May 12, 2016. Democrat Cohen, a former San Francisco supervisor, faces Lanhee Chen, who gives Republicans their best chance to win a statewide election since 2006 when Arnold Schwarzenegger was re-elected governor, for the open seat for California Controller.

Cohen, a former chair of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' budget and finance committee, hopes to make it easier for people to report fraud after more than $20 billion of fraudulent unemployment benefits were paid out during the pandemic. She wants to use her auditing power to identify problems within agencies and push for solutions to prevent them from happening again.

— Associated Press

Bonta looks to secure full term as state attorney general

Democrat Rob Bonta, who was appointed state attorney general in 2021, was heavily favored over Republican challenger Nathan Hochman, given Democrats' predominance in the deep blue state.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta, left, fist bumps his wife Assemblymember Mia Bonta after the couple dropped off their ballots at a voting center on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Alameda, Calif.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, left, fist bumps his wife Assemblymember Mia Bonta after the couple dropped off their ballots at a voting center on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Alameda, Calif.

The first wave of voting results showed no surprise as Bonta opened up a considerable lead. With 8.9% of precincts reporting, Bonta had captured 63.2% of the vote.

Bonta was running to retain the office after fellow Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom picked him to fill the vacancy in March 2021. Because Bonta, 50, was appointed more than midway through his predecessor's four-year term, he's eligible to run for two additional full terms, which could allow him to serve nearly 10 years in an office that already has given him a national stage on issues as diverse as abortion, climate change, gay rights and gun control.

The job has launched the careers of many of those who have held it.

Bonta took over when Xavier Becerra left to become the Biden administration's health secretary, and Becerra succeeded Kamala Harris, who went on to the U.S. Senate and now is vice president. Edmund "Pat" Brown became governor, and his son, Jerry, won the post and then became governor again more than three decades after first holding the job. Earl Warren went on to become the U.S. Supreme Court's chief justice.

— Associated Press

3 propositions passing in early returns

Early results showed three ballot propositions passing in California. As of 8:40 p.m., with partial results in from just a few counties, the following propositions were passing:

Four other propositions were losing by large margins in early returns:

  • Propositions 26 and 27 (legalizing sports betting) failing LATEST RESULTS

  • Proposition 29 (changes to dialysis clinics) failing LATEST RESULTS

  • Proposition 30 (taxing the rich for electric car programs) failing LATEST RESULTS

— Shad Powers, Janet Wilson, Julie Makinen

AP calls the U.S Senate race for Alex Padilla

Just minutes after polls closed — and before any results were even posted on the secretary of state's website — Associated Press called the U.S. Senate race in California for Alex Padilla.

Padilla, a Democrat, was appointed senator by California Gov. Gavin Newsom when Kamala Harris became vice president.

Padilla was elected Tuesday to his first full term as U.S. senator for California, solidifying his position as one of the country’s top elected Latinos and a leading Democratic voice in Congress for more expansive immigration laws.

In a show of how comfortable he felt as a strong favorite, Padilla worked hard in the run-up to the election for fellow Democrats in tight races instead of focusing on his Republican opponent, constitutional lawyer Mark Meuser. Padilla even traveled to Arizona in the campaign’s final weeks for embattled Senate incumbent Mark Kelly.

Padilla, a son of Mexican immigrants who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was 26 when he joined the Los Angeles City Council. He became its president two years later, having set aside his engineering career.

Padilla served two terms in the state Senate and was then twice elected secretary of state. He resigned during his second term to become senator.

Padilla ties much of his Senate work and priorities to earlier experiences: how his engineering background means infrastructure will always be “a big deal;” how immigration comes up every chance he gets in discussions with other senators. He chairs a Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, citizenship and border safety.

Finances were one measure of the lopsided Senate contest. Padilla raised $11.8 million as of Oct. 19, and had $7.6 million left. Meuser raised $949,000 and had $136,000 remaining.

On the June primary ballot, Padilla captured 54.1% of the vote among 23 contestants. Meuser finished second with 14.9%.

Meuser, a 48-year-old lawyer at the firm of top Republican political operative Harmeet Dhillon, said he had no plans for a rematch with Padilla until pandemic health restrictions that he found overbearing were put in place. His campaign site says he was involved in 22 lawsuits against Newsom for “his unconstitutional usurpation of power.”

— Associated Press

Polls close

Polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and initial results were expected to start trickling in within 15 to 30 minutes.

As of Monday, nearly 5.5 million of the 22.2 million ballots mailed had been returned. California’s election results will be certified in early December, and the secretary of state will publish the official vote counts by mid-December.

— Julie Makinen

A low-key governor's race comes to an end

State Sen. Brian Dahle entered the governor's race late. But that didn't stop him from earning a right to take on Democratic incumbent Gavin Newsom.

Dahle, a Republican from Bieber in Lassen County, fended off a field of 25 challengers in the June primary to get to Tuesday's showdown with Newsom.

Polls showed Newsom had a huge lead on his challenger. FiveThirtyEight, for example, had Newsom up 59.6% to 38.7% in its latest poll. And just two minutes after polls closed at 8 p.m., Associated Press called the race for Newsom. Early returns showed Newsom with 61% of the votes in a state where there are nearly twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans.

Newsom survived a recall attempt last year driven by critics of his handling of the pandemic. More than 60% voted to keep him in office and that strong showing scared away any well-known Republican candidates from this year's election.

Dahle campaigned on, among other things, what he says is Newsom's mishandling of the state's homeless crisis. Newsom hardly campaigned, instead using some of the tens of millions of dollars in his campaign account to pay for ads in other states on gun control, abortion rights and other issues as part of his attempt to reshape the national Democratic Party's message. — David Benda, Jessica Skropanic

Unusual things on the ballot

Sure, voters statewide were being asked to weigh in on whether to legalize sports gambling, protect abortion access, and who should be governor. But around the Golden State, there were a number of unusual questions facing local voters.

For example, in Ventura County's Port Hueneme, voters were being asked whether to change the name of their city to Hueneme Beach. Proponents of the change said it could boost tourism.

Some locals weren't convinced. Kevin Brannon, 43, said he voted to keep the name Port Hueneme, saying there are more important things the city can do to boost tourism, such as cleaning up the beach.

“I don’t think the juice is worth the squeeze,” said Brannon, a fourth-generation Port Hueneme resident.

Voters in San Bernardino County will decide if they want their elected representatives to study whether the county is receiving a “fair share” of state funding and possibly explore breaking off or seceding from California.

In San Francisco, voters faced dueling propositions about whether to keep JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park car-free. In Santa Cruz, voters will decide whether to impose a tax on homes that largely sit empty during the year.  Voters in Berkeley are also considering a similar measure. — Brian Varela and Julie Makinen

What is turnout looking like in California?

Like in most states, voter turnout in midterm election years in California is lower than in presidential election years. For example, in the November 2020 election, when Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump, voter turnout in California was 80.67%. Two years earlier, in 2018, when Gavin Newsom was elected governor, turnout was 64.54%

In June's primary election, about a third of the almost 22 million registered voters in California cast ballots, mostly by mail. Those 7,285,230 votes — 33% of registered voters — marked a new high for a Golden State gubernatorial primary, just above the 7,141,947 votes cast in June 2018.

But turnout in the 2022 primary was far below the 2021 gubernatorial recall election, when 12,892,578 — 58% of registered voters —  cast ballots and Newsom saved his own job.

One thing is for sure: Even though ballots typically arrive at voters' homes weeks in advance, many voters wait until the last minute to send them in. For example, in Riverside County, as of Election Day, only about 22.3% of the more than 1.3 million ballots mailed out had been returned.

The Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters said Monday that between ballots returned by mail and early voting, the turnout was already at 20.4%.

The San Diego County registrar said Sunday that more than 500,000 of 1.9 million ballots had already been returned, a turnout rate of 26.3%.

In Ventura County as of Monday, elections officials reported more than 143,000 of the county's nearly 506,000 registered voters had cast ballots in the midterm. By comparison, almost 225,000 voters had cast ballots one day before the governor's recall election in 2021. Nearly 325,000 had returned ballots one day before the November 2020 presidential election, which had record high 85.9% voter turnout.  — Julie Makinen

How many people were registered to vote?

More than 81% of California's 26.8 million eligible voters had registered to vote in Tuesday's election as of 15 days before Election Day. That's up from 78.16% in 2018, 73.30% in 2014, 73.40% in 2010, and 69.91% in 2006, according to the secretary of state's office.

Of those voters, 46.87% are registered as Democrats, 23.85% are registered as Republicans, and 6.75% are registered as members of other parties, like the Green Party. But 22.53% are registered as "no party preference" voters. The percentage of "no party preference" voters is down from 27.52% in the 2018 election.

San Francisco had the highest percentage of registered Democrats, with 63.07% of voters there aligning with that party. Lassen County in Northern California had the highest percentage of registered Republicans of any county, with 55.82%.

Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco, had the highest percentage of "no party preference voters,' at 27.86%. San Francisco was second, with 25.21%. — Julie Makinen

When will results be known?

Polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday in California, but the outcome of every race won't be known right away. Why?

All registered voters were sent mail-in ballots. Although ballots can be processed as early as seven days before Election Day, they can’t actually be counted until polls close. Meanwhile, mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted through Nov. 15. And more time is needed to process ballots cast by those who registered to vote Tuesday.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber said in a statement: “By law, county election officials have 30 days to count every valid ballot and conduct a post-election audit. … We have a process that by law ensures both voting rights and the integrity of elections, so I would call on all Californians to be patient.”

She added: “This process includes the verification of signatures on every vote-by-mail ballot envelope, the processing of same-day voter registrations, the processing of provisional ballots, and reaching out to voters to provide opportunities for voters to cure missing or mismatched signatures.”

But while California’s final election results won’t be certified until mid-December, the outcome of most races — apart from particularly close ones — should be clear Tuesday night, Weber said.

Political consultant Michael Trujillo told the Los Angeles Times: “If your race is within 10 points at the end of election night, it’s probably premature to call it a win. If you’re up 20 (points), you’re probably safe.” — Cal Matters

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Live California election results: Governor, Congress, Legislature, other top races