Friday, August 03, 2018

California Governor- Race of the Day

95 Days Until Election Day

California Governor

Status: Democrat Open
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Safe Democrat

At the age of 80, Democrat Jerry Brown is term-limited as Governor of California.  Those who remembered or might have simply read about his time as Governor back in 1970's might have been surprised how politically stable he has been over the past eight years and how he has avoided much in the way of controversy.

Often, states will look to change parties in the Governorship after a long tenure, even if the outgoing Governor was popular, but California is so heavily Democrat, that the outcome this year is a foregone conclusion. Republicans exerted great resources and energy the last time this office was open and they still lost to Brown. If they were not going to win it then, they are not going to win it for a long time. That is not to say that there are not pockets in the state and many voters who are conservative leaning or looking for a change. They will simply be outvoted though by those in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area.

The Golden State is quite diverse racially and ethnically but the candidate representing the banner for the party this year is once again a white male. That is not to say that a plethora of minorities and women did not seek the office. Under California's "Jungle Primary" rules, all candidates, of every party run in the June primary, and the top two advance regardless of party. So, amid the over 20 total candidates, there was little chance for former Schools Superintendent Delanie Eastin to get enough votes to come close, even though she had some backing from progressive activists. Also unable to break double digits was State Treasurer John Chiang, despite his support in the state's growing Asian-American community and his having trying to positioned himself for the most equipped to be Governor.

All the focus on the June primary was if two Democrats would advance to fight it out until November, of it the state's beleaguered Republican Party could find a way to get a candidate in second place and at least make sure the overall GOP turnout was raised, in order to help the party's candidates down the ballot.

There was not much suspense that the first place finisher would be Gavin Newsom, the current Lt. Governor. Now over 50, Newsom still looks quite youthful and with slicked back hair more like he would be from the Southern California entertainment industry than the former Mayor of San Francisco. Of course, Newsom has a ton of Hollywood support, which is why he is so well-financed and became the Democrat front-runner to succeed Brown. As Mayor of San Francisco, Newsom received national attention for conducting same-sex marriages, at a time where not many Americans realized how quickly opinions on that social issue would soon change and how it would become legal nationally. At the time, Newsom was married to a glamorous young lawyer named Kimberly Guilfoyle and some even compared them to "The Kennedys" and spoke as if they might wind up in the White House one day.

Newsom and Guilfoyle would divorce though while he was Mayor, citing the difficulty of a long-distance relationship. She would marry and divorce again and along the way became a regular on Fox News Channel and her views became conservative. She recently was fired from the network under some mysterious circumstances, in which allegations have apparently been made against her, but she has another gig in politics now working in effect for the campaign of Donald Trump. She also just happens to be dating the currently divorcing Donald Trump Jr. She apparently has a thing for slicked back "Gordon Gekko" hair. This is just all interesting in the way that there is an outside possibility that the 2020 Presidential election could feature and incumbent President running against the Governor of the country's largest state who happens to also be his son's girlfriend's ex-husband. Most likely this will not come to pass though.

Newsom is now remarried himself but before that, faced negative headlines upon the revelation that he had been carrying on an extra-marital affair with the wife of one of his top staffers and closest friends. As Mayor, he also sought treatment for alcohol abuse.

The chief "jungle primary" opponent of Newsom would be former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaragoisa who has had his own national profile, ambitions, and extra-marital affair as Mayor with a television reporter, which in his case lead to a messy divorce. Even in the age of the "Me Too Movement" California Democrats seemed to give these past episodes little mind.

Villaragoisa, who was seeking to become California's first Latino Governor, was hoping to finish second in the primary and advance to the general election. There was some speculation that the former L.A. Mayor, while undeniably liberal, could possibly be at least a bit more palatable to conservatives or business interests that Newsom.

Of course, clinching the top two spots for the party would have been the best thing for Democrats in some ways, but Newsom did not want to take any chances and thus he was openly backing the efforts to allow a Republican to finish ahead of Newsom, in order to eliminate him, and keep the GOP alive until November, when they would be an easy mark. The Villaragoisa campaign made hay over this but there was actual evidence of motivation on behalf of California Republicans to vote in the primary and thus they managed to snag a spot. One can speculate as to what would be the case if there were two Democrats facing off for Governor this year (as there are in the state for both U.S. Senate and Lt. Governor.) Would both be competing to go even further to the left or would Villaragoisa be trying to subtly appeal to Republicans to join his Hispanic base? That tactic did not work when two Democrats faced off in 2016 for U.S. Senate. Would the intra-party fighting be hurtful to overall party unity? What can be seen for sure though is that in California Democrat politics, it is more helpful to come from Northern California than Southern California.

The Republicans have a pretty unlikely nominee for Governor, but one that should be applauded for successfully getting this far. The most well-known Republicans in the state declined to run as did someone like former Congressman Doug Ose, a moderate, who got into the race but quickly dropped out.

 Businessman John Cox is a native of the Chicago area and in the early part of this millennium ran or attempted to run several times for U.S. House or U.S. Senate or Governor. I used to run in to him along the campaign trail a good deal back in those days. I never did support him in any of his runs for the big races and he was seen as a bit of a gadfly, but of course I cast a ballot for him in 2004 when he as the Republican nominee for Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Never in a million years would I have assumed that he would be a statewide nominee, for any office, in any state. He even tried to run for President though back in the 2008 cycle, and then moved to the San Diego area where he was not heard from much for a while.

Cox started off his political life as a Democrat and then moved strongly to the right. The same could be said about another Illinois native, but Cox's chances are not exactly the same as Ronald Reagan, who would go on to be elected Governor of California (replacing a Brown.) In the 2016 Presidential election, Cox cited his background as a Jack Kemp acolyte in refusing to support Donald Trump for President. Instead, Cox backed the Libertarian candidacy of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. After Trump won though, and Cox started running for Governor of California, he claimed he made a mistake with that vote. As the June primary approached, and with Cox's money having him as the Republicans best positioned in the polls to possibly come in second place, Donald Trump Tweeted his endorsement of Cox. Nobody knows if Trump was aware that Cox had been so disloyal not long ago, but there was much speculation that Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican Majority Leader of California, pushed for Trump to help Cox advance, which would have the longer term affect of helping Republican House candidates in tough districts. All of this must have caused a great sense of discouragement to State Assemblyman Travis Allen, who had been running an unabashedly pro-Trump populist campaign, and of course cited the fact that he actually voted for the current President.

The results from the "Jungle" were that Newsom was first with just under 34 percent of the vote, effectively clinching the title of Governor-Elect with such a small plurality, while 25 percent of Californians voted for Cox. Villaragoisa finished with a disappointing 13 percent, while Allen edged out Chiang for fourth place. Then, there was everybody else..

All the numbers can be looked at and determined that Newsom is probably going to get a bit over 60 percent of the vote in November. This is not to say that Cox is a horrible candidate or an embarrassment for the party. Allen might have been far more polarizing. The GOP nominee comes across as low-key but confident and has tried to in some ways put some distance between himself and Trump, and emphasizing that the need for change in Sacramento is not related to the battles in Washington.

It will be interesting to see if Newsom agrees to debate Cox at all. There are clearly some issues involving the state budget, water resources, and illegal immigration, especially as it relates to the hot-button issue of sanctuary cities, where Cox can win some votes. As pointed out, some Republicans may survive in other races simply because he made the general election (with a political assist from the Newsom campaign.) Some early polls showed a surprisingly large amount of undecided voters. Nonetheless, Newsom and the Democrats will dominate Cox and the Republicans over the airwaves and in terms of organization and the voters are liberal. California is to Republicans in this Gubernatorial race what Alabama and Arkansas were to Democrats; not winnable.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

1 D,  (1 Safe) 4 R (2 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

8 D (7 holdovers, 1 Safe), 11 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)


At 9:28 AM, Blogger Democratic Socialist Dave said...

Some minor misspellings: it’s Delaine Eastin and not Delanie Eastin (she was an Assemblywoman from southern Alameda County when I was living in northern Alameda County), and Antonio Villaraigosa, not Villaragosia (easier to figure out if you break the name down into Villa + raigosa).

Also, in this sentence:

“All the focus on the June primary was if two Democrats would advance to fight it out until November, of it the state's beleaguered Republican Party could find a way..” I think you were thinking and meant to type in “... until November, or if the state’s ...” (The fingers faster than brain syndrome afflicts almost all of us.)

At 4:24 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Newsom wins with 64%!


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