Democrats took over Sacramento’s top spots as Attorney General Jerry Brown won the California gubernatorial race and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom won the lieutenant governor’s race. Democrat Barbara Boxer retained her Senate seat in a tight race against former HP chief executive Carly Fiorina ’76, the Republican nominee.
Brown Wins Gubernatorial Race
As of midnight, with 52 percent of precincts reporting, Brown had won 52.2 percent of the vote to former eBay CEO Meg Whitman’s 42.9 percent.
Brown will take over from Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won a recall election with 1.3 million votes in 2003. Schwarzenegger’s approval rating had dropped below 30 percent by January of this year.
Brown, a former California governor, emphasized his political experience throughout his campaign, while Whitman focused on her business prowess.
Brown’s win “means that [California voters] are looking for experience and for someone who seems to be extraordinarily enthusiastic about winning the job,” said Joe Nation, professor of public policy at Stanford and former state assembly member.
While Whitman made more than 700 campaign appearances and reached out to minorities, Brown’s attempt to mobilize Democratic voters proved effective.
The California gubernatorial race marks the most expensive political campaign to date, with the bulk of the money poured into advertising. Whitman spent more than $160 million on her campaign, of which $141.5 million was her own, according to the Los Angeles Times. She exceeded New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s personal $109 million investment in his reelection as mayor in 2009, according to The New York Times.
Brown raised $32 million in addition to the $28 million labor groups spent on his behalf, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Brown will be sworn in on Jan. 3. He will then begin addressing the estimated $19 billion budget deficit, the state’s 12.4 percent unemployment rate and its stagnant economy.
Though Brown claims to be a proponent of education, his influence as governor is limited.
“Education is driven as much by the legislature as by the governor,” Nation said. “The governor is very important, but only one of 120 voices there” in Sacramento.
Newsom Is New Lieutenant Governor
With 52 percent of precincts reporting, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom won 58.9 percent of the vote over incumbent Abel Maldonado in the race for lieutenant governor.
Newsom spent $2.4 million in his campaign, while Maldonado spent $1.5 million, according to the California secretary of state.
Newsom’s success coupled with Brown’s can be seen as a shift in the political climate of California as voters favored the Democrats. Additionally, Nation said it could be reflective of people voting more for a party than for an individual.
Newsom will leave his mayoral post in San Francisco, where he was a major proponent of gay rights. As lieutenant governor, his ability to affect gay rights in California is limited as the issues are driven more now by the courts than the legislature or the governor, Nation said.
Boxer Beats Fiorina for Senate
Barbara Boxer, a three-term Democratic senator, was also the projected winner late Tuesday over her opponent, Republican businesswoman Carly Fiorina ’76.
With 52 percent of precincts reporting, Boxer won 50.2 percent of votes.
While Fiorina personally spent $6.5 million on her campaign, her total expenditure of $17 million was less than that of Boxer’s $26 million.
Kabir Sawhney contributed to this report.