Kounalakis and Becerra Prevail in Downballot State Races
SACRAMENTO — Eleni Kounalakis will be the first female lieutenant governor of California while Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Controller Betty Yee will all return to office. The four are among several statewide offices voters cast ballots for Tuesday. In the contest for insurance commissioner, Republican-turned-independent Steve Poizner had the edge over Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara.
Here’s a look at the down-ballot races:
Kounalakis defeated Ed Hernandez in a Democrat-on-Democrat matchup for Lt. Governor, winning with nearly 57 percent of the vote. She will replace Governor-elect Gavin Newsom in the office.
During the race, Kounalakis emphasized her background as a developer and former ambassador to Hungary.
She vows to fight sexual harassment in workplaces, hold perpetrators accountable, and ensure women receive equal pay for equal work.
Although the job holds little real power, it’s seen as a launching pad to higher office.
The lieutenant governor serves as a University of California regent, a Cal State trustee and as a state lands commissioner overseeing conservation and public access. The lieutenant also acts as governor when the top executive is away.
Kounalakis and Hernandez, a state senator, advanced after no Republican finished in the top two spots during June’s blanket primary.
Xavier Becerra, who was appointed California’s first Latino attorney general last year after Kamala Harris left for the U.S. Senate, was elected to stay on the job.
Becerra defeated Republican Steven Bailey, a former state court judge, with 58 percent of the vote on Tuesday.
“I’m honored and elated by the voters’ confidence to continue as Attorney General of our great state,” he said.
Becerra vowed to continue battling the Trump administration. Formerly a longtime Los Angeles congressman, Becerra regularly makes national headlines challenging the GOP president’s efforts to change environmental and immigration policies.
Bailey called the focus on Trump policies “a waste of taxpayer resources.”
In his short time as chief law enforcement officer, Becerra said he has secured more than 20 legal victories in federal court in cases involving health care, fraudulent college lenders and gun safety laws.
He also previously served as a state assemblyman and California deputy attorney general.
Bailey lagged in fundraising and ethics questions further complicated his efforts. He denied allegations he used his judgeship to aid his political campaign, improperly accepted gifts and steered business to a firm where his son worked.
A judicial ethics panel is reviewing the case and a decision is expected after the election.
Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara holds a slim lead over Republican-turned-independent Steve Poizner as they vie for state insurance commissioner.
With 96% of precincts reporting, Lara has a 51% – 49% lead as of Wednesday morning.
Either candidate will break ground for a California statewide office. Lara would be the first openly gay statewide officeholder while Poizner, a former insurance commissioner, would be the first independent to win such an election.
The Department of Insurance enforces insurance laws, licenses and regulates companies and investigates fraud.
Poizner, a wealthy Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur who lost a bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2010, ran as an independent because he said the office should be free of politics.
Lara, who authored a failed bill that would have provided state-run health insurance, said that remains a top priority.
Poizner has said he would focus on making sure homeowners have adequate protection against wildfires and other natural disasters.
Both have promised not to take insurance money, though Lara had to give back money he took from the political action committee of the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer.
SECRETARY OF STATE
California’s Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla was re-elected after campaigning on his record of sparring with President Donald Trump.
Padilla defeated Republican Mark Meuser Tuesday to keep his position as the top state official overseeing elections. He won with 62 percent of the vote.
Padilla often denounced the president’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in California.
He also refused to comply with the Trump administration’s requests to provide data on California voters, arguing it was politically motivated.
Padilla was elected to his first term in November 2014.
Meuser ran on a platform of purging voter rolls of people who have moved or died and conducting audits to ensure ineligible people aren’t registered to vote.
Democrat Fiona Ma is the voters’ choice to replace outgoing Treasurer John Chiang.
Ma defeated Republican Greg Conlon with 61 percent of the vote.
The treasurer manages the state’s money and sits on the boards of California’s public employee pension funds.
Ma, a State Board of Equalization member and former assemblywoman, vowed to build a “fiscal wall” against what she called harmful policies coming out of the White House.
She said her experience as a certified public accountant will help keep the state’s fiscal house in order.
California is on the right track, she said, outpacing the rest of the nation in job growth, economic development and record-low unemployment.
Conlon, also an accountant, challenged Chiang in the last general election. He served on the California Public Utilities Commission as president for two years and commissioner for four.
Democrat Betty Yee fended off a Republican challenger and won re-election as California controller.
Yee, a certified public accountant, defeated Konstantinos Roditis with nearly 63 percent of the vote.
The controller serves as the state’s top accountant and audits various state programs, and has seats on several state boards and the State Lands Commission.
Yee vowed to “build a fiscal wall against the harmful policies coming out of the White House.”
She said California is on the right track by outpacing the rest of the nation in job growth, economic development and record-low unemployment.
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Yee has promoted tax policies that are equitable for vulnerable populations, including people living in poverty and LGBT people.
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
Los Angeles schools executive Marshall Tuck is leading with 51 percent of the vote as he vies to be the state’s top public education official.
With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Tuck leads Assemblyman Tony Thurmond in the superintendent of public instruction race.
The race has become a proxy battle in a larger fight over how best to improve California schools. On one side of the debate are powerful teachers unions, which back Thurmond. On the other side are wealthy charter-school and education-reform proponents, which support Tuck.
Thurmond has stressed opposing the Trump administration’s agenda, including proposals to transfer money from traditional public schools to charters.
Tuck has emphasized giving families a choice in the schools their children attend, including nonprofit charter schools. His donors include charter school advocates such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Tuck ran for the seat unsuccessfully in 2014. Incumbent Tom Torlakson beat him with union backing.
Tuck and Thurmond both want to spend more on public schools and ban for-profit charter schools.
Thurmond and Tuck are Democrats, but the race is nonpartisan and their party affiliation won’t appear on the ballot.