california PLEASE count faster next time
It’s been a while, and we apologize for the delay in getting our recap out to you. California counts votes so unbelievably slowly that the winners of many of the contests in our preview remained unclear until the week of Thanksgiving; Sacramento County, the worst offender in the state, hosted two high-stakes Democrat-vs.-Democrat state legislative races where we weren’t confident in a winner until the final large batch of ballots was tabulated today.
However! In happier news: because recaps are shorter, we’re actually able to fit this in one email! It will proceed in (nearly) the same order as the three-part preview: first, congressional and state races; then, local elections outside of California; then, local elections in California; and finally, two cities, Austin and Phoenix, where the contests we previewed are headed to runoffs since no candidate got a majority.
CA-15 (San Mateo County, parts of San Francisco)
David Canepa vs. Kevin Mullin
Round 1: Mullin 41% - Canepa 24%
Final: Mullin 55.5% - Canepa 44.5%
The winner won’t surprise many here, but the final margin might. For the most part, it seemed like everything had lined up for establishment choice Kevin Mullin after more progressive San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa finished poorly in the first round, struggled to fundraise afterwards, and was ignored by outside groups. The one sign to the contrary was the late-game spending surge by AIPAC and crypto. We noted how odd that was at the time, and now we know why it happened. It makes you wonder what would have happened here if progressives had tried.
CA-16 (Silicon Valley)
Anna Eshoo (i) vs. Rishi Kumar
Round 1: Eshoo 49% - Kumar 16%
Final: Eshoo 58% - Kumar 42%
58%-42% is a closer margin of victory than the 63%-37% Anna Eshoo had against Rishi Kumar in 2020, but it’s still not particularly close. Eshoo has demonstrated vulnerability to future challenges, just not if they’re coming from Kumar.
CA-29 (Eastern San Fernando Valley)
Tony Cárdenas (i) vs. Angélica Dueñas
Round 1: Cárdenas 57% - Dueñas 23%
Final: Cárdenas 59% - Dueñas 41%
The margin for this one wound up being (nearly) the same as it was in 2020. Tony Cárdenas actually tried this this time, and nothing changed. A candidate (Dueñas or otherwise) who has not just the LA left behind them, but enough money for an actual campaign as well, could go far here.
CA-30 (Hollywood, Glendale, Burbank)
Adam Schiff (i) vs. Maebe A. Girl
Round 1: Schiff 62% - Maebe A. Girl 13%
Final: Schiff 71% - Maebe A. Girl 29%
CA-30 was the biggest blowout of all D vs. D contests, and that was just with Adam Schiff relying on his celebrity and not his endless money. Schiff has this seat on lockdown for now, but that could change if he goes through with his plans to run for Senate in 2024, which would force him to give up CA-30.
CA-34 (Downtown LA, Koreatown)
Jimmy Gomez (i) vs. David Kim
Round 1: Gomez 51% - Kim 39%
Final: Gomez 51% - Kim 49%
While the LA left had a good night, Rep. Jimmy Gomez was able to keep them from making it a great one by winning his rematch with 2020 challenger David Kim. However, his 51-49 victory is even weaker than his unexpectedly close 53-47 victory in 2020, despite Gomez taking Kim’s challenge more seriously this time. Gomez’s vulnerability in 2020 was no fluke.
CA-37 (Culver City, South Central LA)
Sydney Kamlager vs. Jan Perry
Round 1: Kamlager 44% - Perry 18%
Final: Kamlager 64% - Perry 36%
Establishment choice Sydney Kamlager won easily over former LA City Councilmember Jan Perry.
District 4 (Central Valley, Sierra Nevada, Death Valley)
Tim Robertson vs. Marie Alvarado-Gil
Round 1: Robertson 22% - Alvarado-Gil 19%
Final: Alvarado-Gil 53% - Robertson 47%
In this race between two Democrats for a sprawling, Trump-voting district, it appears as if enough Republicans realized that Marie Alvarado-Gil, who staked her campaign on opposition to taxes and criminal justice reform, was less of a Democrat than labor union official Tim Robertson. Alvarado-Gil gets at least a year to represent this state Senate district before she becomes eligible for a recall petition, which Republicans could pursue if they decide to trade a conservative, Republican-friendly Democrat for the real thing. Even though the worse of the two Democrats won, it remains extremely funny that Republicans lost themselves a light-red district in a fairly bad year for California Democrats by splitting the primary vote so many different ways that no individual Republican placed in the top two, even though 60% of ballots in the primary were cast for one of the Republican candidates.
District 8 (Sacramento)
Dave Jones vs. Angelique Ashby
Round 1: Jones 46% - Ashby 41%
Final: Ashby 51.5% - Jones 48.5%
California’s most expensive state legislative contest ended up going to the side with the money. Former state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a progressive and a veteran of California politics since the 90s, lost by a three-point margin after the fossil fuel lobby, the health insurance lobby, realtors, landlords, and the charter school lobby spent a combined total of nearly $4 million attacking Jones and promoting Sacramento City Councilor Angelique Ashby, who in addition to all the oil money was buoyed by a last-minute endorsement from the man, the myth, the haircut himself: Gavin Newsom. Ashby is practically certain to be terrible for a Democrat, so this result stings—but it’s also the only big win Newsom and his moderate allies got in the state Senate, more than canceled out by progressive victories in other districts. Speaking of those…
District 10 (East Bay)
Lily Mei vs. Aisha Wahab
Round 1: Mei 33% - Wahab 30%
Final: Wahab 54% - Mei 46%
Progressives scored a huge win in the East Bay’s hard-fought state Senate race. Fremont Mayor Lily Mei, the moderate candidate, should’ve had this one under control—she led progressive Hayward City Councilor Aisha Wahab in June, and Mei was a far more natural fit for Republicans who voted for neither Democrat in the first round than Wahab. But Wahab, not Mei, came out on top. We’re excited to see what Wahab does in the Senate, and we suspect we’ll be talking about her here again before too long.
District 20 (San Fernando Valley)
Daniel Hertzberg vs. Caroline Menjivar
Round 1: Hertzberg 31% - Menjivar 30%
Final: Menjivar 58% - Hertzberg 42%
The story of the night—well, one of the stories—in LA politics was the sudden destruction of the Hertzberg dynasty. Family patriarch Bob Hertzberg, a state senator and former speaker of the state Assembly, vacated this seat to run (unsuccessfully) for a seat on the LA County Board of Supervisors, and his son Daniel Hertzberg appeared to have an early lead running on the bold platform of “Do you know who my father is?” But progressive Marine veteran Caroline Menjivar thrashed him 58-42 in the second round. Bob Hertzberg was one of the coalition of moderate Democrats who helped prevent most progressive legislation from ever reaching Gavin Newsom’s desk so he didn’t have to veto it; instead of being replaced by his son, every bit as likely as the elder Hertzberg to give Newsom cover, he’ll be replaced by a progressive.
District 28 (Culver City, Mar Vista, South Central LA)
Lola Smallwood-Cuevas vs. Cheryl Turner
Round 1: Smallwood-Cuevas 45%, Turner 30%
Final: Smallwood-Cuevas 60%, Turner 40%
Unsurprisingly, establishment favorite Lola Smallwood-Cuevas trounced centrist landlord lobbyist Cheryl Turner in the second round just as she did in the first round.
District 10 (Southern Sacramento, Elk Grove)
Stephanie Nguyen vs. Eric Guerra
Round 1: Nguyen 29.9% - Guerra 29.5%
Final: Nguyen 53% - Guerra 47%
The flow of corporate cash into Sacramento elections helped get at least one other awful Democrat elected besides Angelique Ashby. Elk Grove City Councilor Stephanie Nguyen, a fairly conservative Democrat backed to the tune of over $1 million by business interests, police unions, and the fossil fuel industry, emerged victorious over Sacramento City Councilor Eric Guerra, a fairly normal Democrat who wasn’t backed by a torrent of spending from Big Oil.
District 12 (Marin County, southern Sonoma County)
Damon Connolly vs. Sara Aminzadeh
Round 1: Connolly 37% - Aminzadeh 36%
Final: Connolly 52% - Aminzadeh 48%
Progressive Sara Aminzadeh came surprisingly close to winning in Marin County, the affluent crunchy liberal suburbs north of San Francisco, but she was ultimately unable to overtake Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly.
District 13 (Stockton and Tracy)
Carlos Villapudua (i) vs. Veronica Vargas
Round 1: Villapudua 59% - Vargas 27%
Final: Villapudua 61% - Vargas 39%
Moderate Veronica Vargas consolidated the vast majority of voters who didn’t already back even-more-moderate Assemb. Carlos Villapudua, but since he already got a commanding 59% in the first round, he was able to comfortably withstand Vargas’s challenge. Progressives, mainstream liberals, and pro-vaccine voters more generally might take heart in Villapudua’s unimpressive showing—and, we hope, take note for 2024.
District 20 (Hayward area)
Liz Ortega vs. Shawn Kumagai
Round 1: Ortega 32% - Kumagai 24%
Final: Ortega 62% - Kumagai 38%
This supremely cursed contest ultimately went to Liz Ortega, the labor-backed progressive who wants to protect property values and preserve parking, over Shawn Kumagai, a vaguely pro-housing anti-tax tough-on-crime type, in a 20-point landslide.
District 35 (East Bakersfield, rural northern Kern County)
Leticia Perez vs. Jasmeet Bains
Round 1: Perez 51% - Bains 49%
Final: Bains 61% - Perez 39%
Well, we can’t really celebrate Dr. Jasmeet Bains’s victory, considering it was police unions and Republicans who probably elected her. But we can celebrate the crushing defeat of Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, a pro-oil conservative Democrat whose inability to win over Republicans was bewildering to us given how often she sides with them.
District 51 (Los Feliz, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, LA’s Westside)
Rick Chavez Zbur vs. Louis Abramson
Round 1: Chavez Zbur 62% - Abramson 38%
Final: Chavez Zbur 55% - Abramson 45%
Rick Chavez Zbur, the establishment favorite, wasn’t very different from his somewhat more progressive opponent, scientist Louis Abramson. The low stakes of this race allowed it to fly under the radar, and may have helped Abramson hold Chavez Zbur to a modest victory margin of just under ten percentage points.
District 52 (Silver Lake, Echo Park, Eagle Rock, East Los Angeles)
Wendy Carrillo (i) vs. Mia Livas Porter
Round 1: Carrillo 50% - Livas Porter 36%
Final: Carrillo 57% - Livas Porter 43%
Progressive-ish Assemb. Wendy Carrillo withstood a challenge from LA’s newly energized anti-establishment progressive faction, beating gun violence activist Mia Livas Porter 57-43.
District 61 (LA’s Westside, Inglewood, Lawndale)
Tina McKinnor (i) vs. Robert Pullen-Miles
Round 1: Pullen-Miles 39% - McKinnor 33%
Final: McKinnor 64% - Pullen-Miles 36%
Robert Pullen-Miles had effectively withdrawn from the race after the June primary despite leading Tina McKinnor—because McKinnor won a simultaneous special election for a mostly overlapping Assembly district, giving her the many advantages of incumbency. McKinnor’s resounding win was to be expected, given that.
District 62 (Southeast LA/Gateway Cities)
Anthony Rendon (i) vs. Maria Estrada
Round 1: Rendon 67% - Estrada 33%
Final: Rendon 64% - Estrada 36%
Once upon a time, Maria Estrada gave Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon a real scare. Then she got dumped by LA progressives over antisemitic comments she made—which didn’t stop her from running again, but did stop her from becoming anything more than a worn-out perennial candidate.
District 65 (Watts, San Pedro, Carson)
Mike Gipson (i) vs. Fatima Iqbal-Zubair
Round 1: Gipson 68% - Iqbal-Zubair 31%
Final: Gipson 62% - Iqbal-Zubair 38%
Like in 2020, Assemb. Mike Gipson did significantly worse in November than in June against democratic socialist activist Fatima Iqbal-Zubair. Like in 2020, Gipson did well enough in June that he could afford to underperform in November and still win comfortably. Gipson actually did better this year than he did in 2020, when the margin was 19%.
District 69 (Carson, Long Beach, Channel Islands)
Josh Lowenthal vs. Al Austin II
Round 1: Lowenthal 46% - Austin 27%
Final: Lowenthal 59% - Austin 41%
Nepotism case Josh Lowenthal, the son of retiring U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal and former Assemb. Bonnie Lowenthal, beat Long Beach City Councilor Al Austin II, who ran ever so slightly to Lowenthal’s right in a race with no good options.
CA Board of Equalization
District 4 (San Diego, greater LA Metro)
Mike Schaefer (i) vs. David Dodson
Round 1: Schaefer 36% - Dodson 15%
Final: Schaefer 59% - Dodson 41%
Unfortunately, spouse-abusing slumlord and former Republican politician Mike Schaefer was able to secure another four-year term on the Board of Equalization, coasting past underfunded but vastly preferable Some Guy David Dodson.
There were no surprises in the Senate. All incumbents won easily as expected: Jesse Salmon in LD-32 with 75%, Noel Frame in LD-36 with 84%, and Javier Valdez in LD-46 with 85%.
District 34 (West Seattle, Vashon Island)
Pos. 1: Emily Alvarado vs. Leah Griffin
Round 1: Alvarado 54% - Griffin 31%
Final: Alvarado 70% - Griffin 28%
With so much of the pre-election coverage focusing on how similar the candidates were, we’re not sure why voters were so decisively for housing-focused Emily Alvarado over sexual assault victims advocacy-focused Leah Griffin, but they were.
District 36 (Northwest Seattle)
Pos. 1: Julia Reed vs. Jeff Manson
Round 1: Reed 55% - Manson 14%
Final: Reed 76% - Manson 23%
Former Obama staffer Julia Reed absolutely blew the doors off in the general election, beating slightly-more-moderate party insider Jeff Manson by over 50%.
District 37 (Southeast Seattle)
Pos. 2: Chipalo Street vs. Emijah Smith
Round 1: Street 42% - Smith 35%
Final: Street 55% - Smith 44%
Unlike LD-34, where a race between two similar candidates ended in an absolute blowout, this Seattle district hosting a contest between two candidates with similar ideological leanings wound up pretty close. Pro-rent control landlord (seriously, what?) Chipalo Street finished ahead of labor-backed King County Equity Now activist Emijah Smith by just 11%.
District 40 (Bellingham, Samish Bay, and San Juan County)
Pos. 2: Alex Ramel (i) vs. Trevor Smith
Round 1: Ramel 73% - Smith 24%
Final: Ramel 74% - Smith 23%
Same as the primaries. Boring! Moving on.
District 46 (Northeast Seattle)
Pos. 1: Gerry Pollet (i) vs. Hadeel Jeanne
Round 1: Pollet 83% - Jeanne 16%
Final: Pollet 85% - Jeanne 14%
Again, same as the primaries, boring, moving on.
Pos. 2: Darya Farivar vs. Lelach Rave
Round 1: Farivar 32% - Rave 28%
Final: Farivar 59% - Rave 40%
Seattle moderates left physician Lelach Rave to fend for herself after all of the candidates eliminated in Round 1 endorsed progressive Darya Farivar, the director of public policy at Disability Rights Washington. This was the only clear left-vs.-center state legislative race in Seattle, and it was an anticlimactic easy win for the progressive camp.
District 47 (Southeastern Seattle suburbs)
Pos. 2: Chris Stearns vs. Shukri Olow
Round 1: Stearns 33% - Olow 20%
Final: Stearns 64% - Olow 31%
Auburn City Councilor Chris Stearns, a mainstream liberal, beat progressive Dr. Shukri Olow, who previously challenged a moderate county commissioner from the left in 2021. (Republicans had lofty hopes of making a play for this seat before the primary; instead, they got locked out of the general election because Olow outpaced the top Republican candidate in the primary.)
King County, WA (Seattle and suburbs)
Democratic Party-supported liberal Leesa Manion prevailed over Jim Ferrell, a former prosecutor who wanted to turn back the clock on the county’s many reforms of the last couple decades, by a margin of 58%-42%.
Seattle also had two municipal court judgeships with contested races. Public defender Pooja Vaddadi unseated punitive judge Adam Eisenberg from Position 3, 62%-38%, and reform-minded Position 7 incumbent judge Damon Hadid defeated prosecutor Nyjat Rose-Akins, who currently works in the Republican City Attorney’s office, 69%-30%.
Hennepin County, MN (Minneapolis and suburbs)
Mary Moriarty vs. Martha Holton Dimick
In a pleasant surprise (to us at least, after watching a couple rough election cycles in Minneapolis), one of the earliest results of the night was watching Hennepin County Public Defender Mary Moriarty prevailing after a nasty campaign between her and tough-on-crime former judge Martha Holton Dimick, 58%-42%. In the primary, Morarty was the unified choice of progressives, while a few explicitly carceral options presented themselves, making Moriarty’s 36%-18% lead over Holton Dimick in that round not particularly strong on either of their parts. Moriarty’s final margin of victory did shrink slightly, but she still won by a strong 16%, and was the majority choice in most of the county, even if she did do best in Minneapolis.
Multnomah County, OR
County Commission Chair
Jessica Vega Pederson vs. Sharon Meieran
Round 1: Vega Pederson 42% - Meieran 18%
Final: Vega Pederson 53% - Meieran 47%
Labor and establishment-backed progressive Jessica Vega Pederson finished just ahead of business-backed Sharon Meieran, 53%-47%. The results were disconcertingly close, given the advantages Vega Pederson had going in.
City Council At-Large
Jo Ann Hardesty (i) vs. Rene Gonzalez
Round 1: Hardesty 44% - Gonzalez 23%
Final: Gonzalez 53% - Hardesty 47%
The Portland City Council's last leftist, Jo Ann Hardesty, quite often the lone voice in support of the homeless and against the abuses of the police, has been defeated by business-backed developer Rene Gonzalez, 53%-47%. With her loss, the moderate faction assumes total control of city government, and the city's reactionary turn is complete, in a process that mirrors what's been going on in Portland's Pacific Northwest cousins, Seattle and San Francisco. What separates them from Portland is that they have district-based council elections, meaning the moderate factions in those cities couldn't take complete control with a narrow, but consistent, citywide majority.
St. Louis, MO
Board of Alders President
Megan Green vs. Jack Coatar
Round 1: Green 54% - Coatar 46%
Final: Green 55% - Coatar 44%
Megan Green, the de facto progressive leader on the St. Louis Board of Alders, has had two near misses running for a prominent office—first losing 36%-31% to incumbent Lewis Reed for Board President in 2019, then a similar 35%-32% loss to Steven Roberts for an open Senate seat the next year. Since then, Roberts ran for Congress and lost horribly after a history of sexual assault allegations was resurfaced, while Reed badly lost a mayoral election and then pled guilty to bribery charges. Green has stayed on the board, spearheading a successful effort to elect a progressive majority to the board in 2021; this year, after Lewis Reed’s sudden resignation from the aldermanic presidency due to the aforementioned bribery charges triggered a special election, Green jumped at the chance to flip the Board President’s office, the chief remaining obstacle to board progressives and Mayor Tishaura Jones. St. Louis’s new nonpartisan approval voting system called for a two-round election even though only one other candidate, moderate Ald. Jack Coatar, entered; Green won the low-turnout first round in September 54%-46%, and the high-turnout second round by a slightly wider margin. Like her prominent supporters Tishaura Jones and Rep. Cori Bush, Green won by assembling a coalition of Black North St. Louis voters and left-leaning white voters in the city’s downtown further south. Her victory finally gives progressives control of St. Louis city government, although the board majority is narrow and could be deadlocked if a moderate wins the special election for Green’s now-vacant ward-based seat. It’s also a coup for St. Louis DSA, which now has an endorsed member elected citywide to lead the city council, in addition to the endorsed member (Cori Bush) who just won a second term representing St. Louis’s congressional district.
The number-one issue in Trenton’s tumultuous mayoral election was the city government’s all-encompassing dysfunction. Fittingly, the election itself was an absolute disaster, with ballots and voting machines from across Mercer County getting lost and misplaced (though it did not result in any votes being altered, voters were just forced to vote on emergency paper ballots instead of voting machines.) While the exact margin is still in doubt, the final result is still clear: Mayor Reed Gusciora easily secured a second four-year term, defeating two anti-gay city councilors (Gusciora is Trenton’s first openly gay mayor) and government employee Cherie Garrette, who ran on a clean-government platform but was drowned out by Gusciora and his more established foes, Councilor Robin Vaughn and Council President Kathy McBride.
Anita Bonds (i) vs. Elissa Silverman (i) vs. Kenyan McDuffie (i [?]) vs. David Schwartzman vs. Frederick Hill III vs. Graham McLaughlin vs. Karim Marshall
Anita Bonds’s checked-out non-campaign was bad enough for her to get a meager 32% of the vote as the lone Democrat on the ballot, but 32% was still enough for first place and one of the two at-large council seats up in 2022. The second seat, reserved for a non-Democrat, was won by Ward 5 Councilor Kenyan McDuffie, who switched his party affiliation from Democratic to independent after being kicked off the ballot in the Democratic primary for DC Attorney General and jumped into the at-large race at the last minute. McDuffie got 22% of the vote, unseating progressive independent councilor Elissa Silverman, who got 19%. Silverman’s previous wins had relied on an awkward coalition of affluent older white voters in wealthy, suburban Ward 3 and younger, more progressive white voters in DC’s urban core; this time around, many of those affluent older voters abandoned her for a more moderate option in the form of McDuffie or Washington Post-endorsed centrist Graham McLaughlin.
Alameda County, CA (Oakland, Berkeley, Hayward, Fremont, East Bay suburbs)
While the recall of Chesa Boudin in San Francisco prompted a steady drumbeat of news stories about the decline of the so-called “progressive prosecutor” movement and voters’ rejection of decarceral politics, the election of progressive reformer Pamela Price in Alameda County has yet to draw a fraction of the attention from those same commentators. Price, a longtime Bay Area civic leader and civil rights attorney, promises to stop charging minors as adults, never seek the death penalty, prosecute dirty cops, seek non-carceral alternatives to imprisonment whenever possible, and much more. Her platform is bold enough—and her reputation solid enough—for her campaign to earn an endorsement from Angela Davis. And she defeated tough-on-crime career prosecutor Terry Wiley 53% to 47%. (We assume the opinion columnists who breathlessly declared that mass incarceration was back and better than ever after Boudin’s loss will be coming out with columns about the inevitable victory of prison abolitionism now that a Bay Area jurisdiction with twice the population of San Francisco has elected a DA in the same vein.)
Los Angeles County, CA
Nobody has particularly high expectations for Robert Luna, currently the police chief for the city of Long Beach. But he’s not incumbent Sheriff Alex Villanueva, which is the main reason 61% of Los Angeles County voters chose him. Villanueva was elected in 2018 promising reform—and even a pessimist might have figured that a Democrat would at least be better than the long line of de facto or actual Republicans who preceded Villanueva. Not so. Villanueva has deep ties to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s notorious deputy gangs and actively interfered with investigations into the gangs’ activities, even ordering a spurious raid on the home of a county supervisor who had been critical of his leadership and vocally supportive of investigating the LASD.
County Board of Supervisors District 3
Progressive West Hollywood Councilor Lindsey Horvath pulled off the upset, defeating state Sen. and former Assembly speaker Bob Hertzberg 53-47 for one of just five seats on the governing board overseeing Los Angeles County and its ten million residents. (Bob’s son Daniel simultaneously lost the race to succeed his father in the state Senate, though by a much wider margin.)
Santa Clara County, CA (Silicon Valley)
Former Palo Alto Police Chief Bob Jonsen and retired sheriff’s officer Kevin Jensen differed very little on substance. Jonsen wanted to temporarily pause construction of a new jail while Jensen doesn’t, but neither seemed too interested in changing conditions at the county’s very deadly jails or cleaning up the corrupt department they both sought to lead. However, police unions overwhelmingly preferred Jensen, a fact Jensen was eager to promote at every opportunity, so it’s probably for the best that he lost, getting 49% to Jonsen’s 51%.
County Board of Supervisors District 1
San Jose City Councilor Sylvia Arenas defeated former San Jose City Councilor Johnny Khamis 54.5%-45.5% for the seat held by Republican Mike Wasserman. (Local offices in California are nonpartisan.) Khamis, a Republican himself until he left the party and became an independent in 2018, would have preserved the status quo on the county commission, which has two progressives, two swing votes, and one conservative; Arenas’s victory gives progressives a third seat and a majority. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo succeeded in installing a like-minded successor in the mayor’s office and eliminating a rival on the city council, but his success didn’t extend to county government; he had backed Khamis.
Mayor, City Council At-Large
Irvine’s election was mostly a status quo affair. Moderate Mayor Farrah Khan held off a spirited challenge from progressive City Council member Branda Lin 38%-28%. However, while she prevailed against attempts to defeat her, she failed in her attempt to strike down the City Council’s resident leftist, Larry Agran, who not only prevailed, but was the top vote getter. On top of that, the Council’s only Republican was defeated for reelection, and the second slot instead went to Democratic Party-endorsed (though Khan-friendly) Kathleen Treseder.
Los Angeles, CA
Mayor, City Attorney, Controller, City Council Districts 5/11/13/15
While neither the left nor the center had an unblemished night, the left had more to celebrate in Los Angeles. Billionaire developer and recent Republican Rick Caruso spent more than $100 million of his own fortune trying to buy himself the mayor’s office; while he was able to buy a lot of celebrity endorsements and ad time, he wasn’t able to buy a majority of the vote. Rep. Karen Bass, a standard-issue liberal Democrat, defeated Caruso 55% to 45% and will take office as the first woman mayor of Los Angeles in January. Progressive Faisal Gill lost the City Attorney race to centrist financial attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto, also 55% to 45%, after more conventionally right-wing candidates were eliminated in the June primary. The highest vote-getter of the night was also the most solidly left-wing candidate running for citywide office: Kenneth Mejia, a CPA and activist, beat moderate City Councilor Paul Koretz 63% to 37% in the City Controller race after running a campaign that focused relentlessly on educating the public about the bloated size of the LAPD’s budget compared to the rest of LA’s city budget. The city council races rendered a split verdict. Districts 5 and 15 went to expected winners Katy Young Yaroslavsky, a vaguely progressive dynasty case, and Tim McOsker, a moderate/conservative police union official; the marquee races in Districts 11 and 13 diverged, with term-limited progressive Mike Bonin’s District 11 seat going to conservative attorney Traci Park by a narrow 52% to 48% margin, but with moderate/conservative District 13 incumbent Mitch O’Farrell losing to DSA-backed union organizer Hugo Soto-Martínez by a punishing 58% to 42%, thus making up for Bonin’s seat going to a conservative.
Mayor, City Council Districts 2/4/6
Oakland’s mayoral election was so close that it wasn’t until the final ballot drop, two weeks after election day, that the winner was clear. That would be Ward 4 councilor Sheng Thao, who defeated Ward 6 councilor Loren Taylor 50.3-49.7 in the ninth and final round of ranked-choice voting tabulations. Thao, a progressive who frequently butted heads with outgoing Mayor Libby Schaaf, was vaulted into first place upon the elimination of leftist candidate Allyssa Victory Villanueva and the reallocation of Victory’s voters. Taylor had been backed by Schaaf’s business-friendly, tough-on-crime faction in city politics. That pro-cop, pro-business faction also backed candidates in all of the city’s council elections, and lost by landslide margins in every one: Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas won reelection 68-32, progressive attorney Janani Ramachandran won Thao’s District 4 by an almost identical 68-32 margin, and community college trustee Kevin Jenkins beat Taylor’s endorsed successor in District 6, tech entrepreneur Yakpasua Zazaboi, by a brutal 84-16 margin.
Sacramento County, CA
County Board of Supervisors District 5
This officially nonpartisan contest will determine partisan control of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. It’s absurd that’s even in question given how Democratic Sacramento County is; even more absurd is that we still don’t know who won this one. Republican Pat Hume leads Democrat Jaclyn Moreno by 0.4%, a margin of just 372 votes—more than enough for the ~10,000 ballots which remain to be counted countywide to change the outcome. Hume’s lead will probably hold, and if it does Democrats will have outgoing District 5 Supervisor Don Nottoli to thank—despite ostensibly being a Democrat, though a shitty conservative one, Nottoli backed Hume in this race.
San Diego, CA
City Council Districts 2/4/6
San Diego didn’t have any surprises. Incumbents Jennifer Campbell (CD-2), Monica Montgomery Steppe (CD-4) and Vivian Moreno (CD-8) all won with double digit margins. Establishment choice Kent Lee wound up winning the only open seat (CD-6) by over 20% against populist-first, progressive-second Tommy Hough.
San Jose, CA
Mayor, City Council Districts 3/5/7
Tech CEO Matt Mahan ran a vague business-y tech-y fuck-the-homeless mayoral campaign with the backing of outgoing Mayor Sam Liccardo, and because this is the heart of Silicon Valley we’re talking about, enough voters liked it for him to win narrowly over Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chávez. Liccardo also succeeded in unseating liberal District 7 Councilor Maya Esparza; his preferred candidate, Bien Doan, won 54-46. However, progressive/establishment consensus pick Omar Torres beat conservative Irene Smith 66-34 in District 3 and progressive school board member Peter Ortiz beat former Assemb. Nora Campos 55-45 in District 5.
DA, Board of Supervisors Districts 4/6/8/10
The moderate faction had another good night in San Francisco. Expectedly, Brooke Jenkins, the DA proudly restarting the “war on drugs” won reelection against progressive challenger John Hamasaki by 7%. Council races were largely good for incumbents, with Rafael Mandelman and Shamann Walton getting over 70% in districts 8 and 10, respectively. In district 6, appointed, moderate incumbent Matt Dorsey managed a 7% victory over progressive/YIMBY fusion candidate (unremarkable elsewhere but a unicorn in San Francisco) Honey Mahogany. The one incumbent defeat came in District 4, where Gordon Mar, a member of the progressive faction, lost 51%-49%, to Boudin recall organizer and near-perennial reactionary candidate Joel Engardio.
San Francisco politics are bad right now, and not getting any better any time soon.
We’re separating two cities, Austin and Phoenix, from the rest of our recap because they require post-general election runoffs if no candidate gets a majority; unlike every other race in this recap, these are first-round results. (Trenton also requires runoffs, but the only race we previewed was decided by a first-round majority for incumbent Mayor Reed Gusciora.)
Mayor, City Council Districts 1/3/5/8/9
Runoff date: Dec. 13
Progressives wound up having an encouraging night in Austin, but ultimately most of the important races weren’t decided in the first round. The headline election of the night, for mayor, yielded a runoff between former mayor and state senator Kirk Watson and state Rep. Celia Israel after Celia Israel, in a surprise, finished first with 40.0% of the vote, while Watson took 34.9%. Republican-affiliated but nominally independent realtor Jennifer Virden took most of the remaining vote, 18%. Like most elections in Austin, there was a noticeable East-West divide in this contest, with Watson winning in wealthier, whiter West Austin, while Israel succeeded in majority nonwhite, working class East Austin. Virden basically took the normal Republican coalition in the city, which is to say its suburban fringes. Though Israel finished in first in this round, Watson now has access to Virden's voters. Even if many sit out a de facto D vs D runoff, the ones who don’t will still favor the moderate Watson over the liberal Israel. Additionally, if turnout falls in the runoff, it's likely to hit Israel's coalition harder.
In the third city council district, José Velásquez, who was seen as the presumptive frontrunner, only managed 33%, and will go into a runoff with Daniela Silva. Both have similarly progressive policy positions, but Velásquez is supported by Austin’s political establishment, while Silva isn’t. In the runoff, she’s tried to differentiate herself from Velásquez by coming out in support of fare-free buses. In District 5, the runoff will be between Stephanie Bazan, who took 29% in the first round, and Ryan Alter, who took 24%. Brazen is more moderate than Alter, but only by degrees. Both are urbanist YIMBY types, and overall fairly progressive. Finally, the top vote-getter in District 9, thanks to blowout margins in the UT Austin neighborhood, was progressive favorite Zohaib Qadri with 30%, ahead of Linda Guerrero, the choice of the moderate outgoing incumbent, who had 22% of the vote. A collection of defeated candidates have endorsed Qadri in the runoff, most notably Ben Leffler, who won 21% of the vote and narrowly missed second place. A pair of high-stakes races were decided on Election Night: progressive incumbents Natasha Harper-Madison (District 1) and Paige Ellis (District 8) both finished in the mid-50s, and by winning majorities were reelected without needing to go to the December runoff. A coalition of Republicans, anti-homeless groups, and other centrist and conservative groups had targeted these two for defeat, but they came up far short.
City Council Districts 6/8
Runoff date: Mar. 14, 2023
Kate Gallego appears to be getting her way in the Phoenix Council races. Her chosen moderate candidate in CD-06, Kevin Robinson, will be the de facto Democratic nominee against Republican Sam Stone, after Robinson won 20% of the vote, and Stone 17%. Progressive pick Kellen Wilson wound up in 5th with 12%. Carlos Garcia, the leftist representing working-class District 8, is in trouble. He finished ahead of Kesha Hodge Washington, the moderate/Gallego wing’s attempt to take him down, but only by 2%, 40% to 38%. The remaining 22% went to more conservative candidates, especially the 3rd place finisher Denise Ceballos-Viner, who ran on a platform of giving cops whatever they want—while Garcia is best known for not wanting to give police whatever they want.