November 4, 2020 at 10:04 pm PST | by Brody Levesque
California U.S. House seats realign as they flip & ballot props take center stage
Screenshot via KABC7 Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Along with most of the United States Wednesday, California woke up to an undetermined outcome in the race for the White House, which as of Wednesday evening showed President Donald Trump trailing his Democratic challenger, former Vice-President Joe Biden, with an electoral count of 264 – 214 as of 6 PM Pacific.

California, as was the case in nearly every jurisdiction across the nation, had record setting mail-in balloting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In the 2020 Election cycle more than 11.2 million Californians voted early with nearly half of that total number voting by mail. According to a spokesperson for California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office, it will take several weeks for all of the state’s 58 counties to process and count all of the ballots. County Elections officials will have approximately one month to complete their extensive tallying, auditing, and certification work.

Because of this, the statistics in each of these races reported Wednesday, November 4 by the Los Angeles Blade are expressly preliminary results. State law requires county elections officials to report their final results for presidential electors to the Secretary of State by December 1, 2020, and all other state contests by December 4, 2020. The Secretary of State has until December 11, 2020, to certify the results of the election.

California voters statewide rejected seven of the twelve ballot measures know as propositions. In Los Angeles County voters approved the sole measure brought about by a summer of massive protests and anger directed at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office as well as other law enforcement agencies over the deaths of young Black males at the hands of those agencies. Southern California’s burgeoning homeless problems also contributed to voter angst.

L.A. County voters approved Measure J, which requires that 10% of locally generated, unrestricted county money estimated to be at around $400 million by County officials – be spent on housing, mental health programs, jail diversion, employment opportunities and social services. LA County will be prohibited from using the money on prisons, jails or law enforcement agencies.

For residents of Southern California, there were five closely watched U.S. House races that were hotly contested by the parties.

In San Diego, the fight over the seat vacated by disgraced former Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, who was convicted of a federal corruption charge last Spring, was a match-up pitting former GOP Congressman Darrell Issa, the onetime chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2011 to January 2015. (Issa was well-known for his harsh partisan attacks on then President Barack Obama.) and 31-year-old Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar. Campa-Najjar nearly ousted Hunter in 2018 in a bitter race that saw Hunter “ridiculously and offensively stated that Campa-Najjar is part of an effort by radical Muslims to infiltrate the U.S. government and suggested that electing Campa-Najjar may lead to the implementation of Sharia law and Islamism in America,” The Times of San Diego reported at the time. Campa-Najjar in a 2018 interview with the Los Angeles Blade noted that he has an LGBTQ stepsister and is a strong LGBTQ ally.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune; “As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, Issa led Campa-Najjar by 4.4 percentage points — or nearly 11,700 votes. However there are still hundreds of thousands of outstanding, uncounted ballots throughout San Diego and Riverside counties, and neither candidate claimed victory on Election Night. The San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said additional vote totals would be released after 5 p.m. Thursday”

Another closely watched race was California’s 25th U.S. House District, which for years was reliably Republican, was won by Democrat Katie Hill, who identifies as bi-sexual, in a 2018 mid-term election upset. However, Hill resigned amid a House ethics probe involving sexual misconduct less than a year into her term.

Hill was replaced in the House seat by Republican Mike Garcia, a former U.S. Navy aviator and executive for defense contractor Raytheon Technologies last May in a special election. Garcia is running against California State Assemblywoman Christy Smith. (D-38th district).

The race is a rematch of this past May’s special election and early results show Smith, a Trump supporter, with a slim lead at 131, 218 to Garcia’s 128, 462- a 50.5% to 49.5% plurality.

In Orange County’s House District 39, Democrat Rep. Gil Cisneros, who had voted for passage of the Equality Act in 2019 and in 2018 had rousted anti-LGBTQ extremist Republican Rep. Ed Royce, is trailing his Republican challenger, Young Kim. Kim has garnered 134,556 (50.2%) to Cisneros’ 133,263. (49.8%)

Another hotly contested race, also in Orange County, has Democrat Harley Rouda matched against Republican challenger Michelle Steel, chair of the county’s Board of Supervisors. House District 48 was occupied by virulently anti-LGBTQ former Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher who had served in the seat for decades before losing in 2018 to Rouda. This race is also close with Rouda trailing Steel at 167,229 (49.7%) to her 169,179 (50.3%).

In the California State Senate Races, Stonewall Democrats endorsed newcomer, Santa Clarita resident and worker/civil rights Attorney Kipp Mueller, (D) matched against incumbent Republican State Sen. Scott Wilk in State Senate District 21. Mueller is trailing Wilk with 135,743 (49.9%) to Wilk’s 136,296 (50.1%).

In District 23, another newcomer Abigail Medina, currently an an at-large member of the San Bernardino City Unified School District Board of Education is the Democratic Party Candidate running against Republican candidate Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh. The seat is currently held by Republican State Sen. Mike Morrell who termed out in 2020 and was therefore ineligible to run for the district seat again. Both candidates are in a statistical tie with Medina at 112,940 (50%) and Bogh at 112,799 (50%).

California ballot measures included three hotly fought over measures out of the twelve listed.

Voters rejected Prop 16 which would have repealed the decades-old ban on affirmative action policies at public colleges and other government agencies based on race, ethnicity or sex. Californians also rejected Proposition 21, which was endorsed by the Los Angeles Blade.

Prop 21 would have allowed cities and counties to apply rent controls to housing more than 15 years old. The measure’s defeat marks the second time since 2018 that the state’s voters have opted against expanding rent control. The campaign against the measure had the backing of California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom who was accused by supporters of the initiative of bending to the will of big developers and real estate holding companies. Some argued that California’s chronic homeless issues would be exacerbated by Newsom’s failure to identify rent control as a necessary measure especially during the economic downturn resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Voters did approve Prop 22 which pitted Ride-Sharing App giants Uber and Lyft against an array of drivers, rideshare users, and union supporters who saw the measure as a way for the to companies to deny benefits to their contract workers. The prop defined the app-based drivers as independent contractors and not employees or agents.

The battle over Prop 22 was a result of the deeply unpopular Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), signed by Gov. Newsom in September 2019, which had tried to define the question of whether app-based drivers are employees or independent contractors.

The problem with AB 5 as it was first passed was that it also ensnared a host of other careers and jobs in California’s robust ‘gig’ economy as well as brought about a court battle with ongoing litigation that was brought by California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra to force the rideshare giants to comply with AB5.

Examples of companies that hire app-based drivers included Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash. The ballot measure did not affect how AB 5 was applied to other types of workers.

Voters said no to Prop 15, a property tax to fund schools, and government services, also rejected Prop 16, which would have repealed the decades-old ban on affirmative action policies at public colleges and other government agencies based on race, ethnicity or sex. Voters also said thumbs down to Prop 25, which would have overturned a 2018 law abolishing cash bail in California. The legislative fight over the law pitted the multibillion-dollar bail industry, criminal defense attorneys and some civil liberties advocates against Democratic leaders.

Also being voted down was Prop 18 which would have given 17-year-old residents ‘Primary Voting Rights’ if their 18th birthday occurred before the next November election Prop 20, which would have implemented parole restrictions for certain offenses and Prop 23 changing state requirements for Kidney Dialysis Clinics.

Another set of races in Southern California of note was in Palm Springs where City Councilmembers Christy Holstege and Lisa Middleton have won their re-election bids in Council Districts 4 and 5, respectively.

Holstege, who is bisexual, beat two opponents after facing sexist, biphobic attacks during the campaign. She is expected to succeed Mayor Geoff Kors next year and become the first woman and first bisexual person to serve as mayor of Palm Springs.

Middleton, who became the first transgender Californian elected to a nonjudicial office after winning a highly competitive citywide race alongside Holstege in 2017, was unopposed in 2020.

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