California voters headed to the polls yesterday – in record low numbers – to decide the fate of two ballot initiatives and pick the top two in State Congressional and Legislative races, many of which won’t be resolved until November’s General election. Pundits will spend the coming weeks pouring over detailed returns to determine the impact of newly drawn district lines and a “top two” primary system on California’s governance. The night appears to have generated a few surprises and created some significant challenges for Democrats going into November.
Proposition 28 – Term Limits Modification – PASSED
Aye – 61.4%
No – 38.6%
Under the initiative, approved handily by voters, lawmakers will be limited to serving 12 years in the state house but will be able to serve all of those years in either house or in a combination of both houses. Current limits allow up to a total of 14 years of service but force lawmakers to leave the Assembly after 6 years and the Senate after 8. Proponents argued that the modification retains the best part of term limits while providing more stability.
Proposition 29 – Tobacco Tax (as of 4:43 AM on June 6) – TOO CLOSE TO CALL
Aye – 49.2%
No – 50.8%
Under the initiative, a new tobacco tax of $1 per pack of cigarettes (or an equivalent amount for other tobacco products) would be added to current taxes. Proceeds would be used to fund new research and health programs. Opponents had several vulnerabilities to exploit with the initiative, chief among them that the funds raised from the tax would not help California’s budget situation and in fact would not even necessarily be spent in California. It will likely be days before a final outcome is announced by the Secretary of State.
As expected, results from primary contests set up significant battles in November that could see Democrats gain a 2/3 super-majority in the State Senate but also could see more moderate Democrats join the Assembly in 2013. California’s new top two primary system will see nearly two dozen November contests feature two candidates of the same political party, and five will feature one independent candidate squaring off against a major party representative. As of Wednesday morning, the Secretary of State classified nearly a dozen legislative contests too close to call, meaning the full impact of the top two won’t be fully known for several days.
The make-up of California’s Congressional delegation could change come November with four incumbent Democrats pulling in fewer votes in the primary than Republican challengers and one rising Democrat star failing to make the top two in a District that will stay safe in Republican hands. On the flip side, at least one Democrat considered vulnerable far exceeded expectations with pundits speculating that Republicans will now shift focus elsewhere in November.