Some down-ballot races undecided in California primary
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Victors emerged in some down-ballot statewide races while other contests remained close Wednesday in California’s primary elections.
Winners still had not been declared in Tuesday’s races for superintendent of public instruction and lieutenant governor, where candidates spent big to get their names in front of voters.
In the contests for secretary of state and controller, both Democratic incumbents will advance to the November election against Republican opponents.
Early returns in the treasurer’s race indicated the general election will pit a Democrat against a Republican, an outcome that isn’t guaranteed under California’s primary rules that advance the top two vote getters regardless of party.
Roughly 2.5 million votes had been counted in each of those five races early Wednesday. Because so many ballots in California are cast by mail, a significant percentage of votes weren’t yet counted and the winners of close races might not be called for weeks.
Here’s a look at the early returns:
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
Early returns Tuesday night showed former Los Angeles schools executive Marshall Tuck and Assemblyman Tony Thurmond leading in the nonpartisan superintendent of public instruction race. Tuck was in first with 37 percent of early returns and Thurmond in second with 33 percent.
The race to become the state’s top education official 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, who are backing Thurmond. On the other are wealthy charter school and education reform proponents, who are supporting Tuck.
Thurmond has stressed opposing the Trump administration’s agenda, including proposals to transfer money from traditional public schools to charter schools. His top donors are teachers unions and labor groups.
Tuck has emphasized giving families choice in the schools their children attend, including nonprofit charter schools. His donors include charter school advocates such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and KB Home founder Eli Broad.
Tuck ran for the seat unsuccessfully in 2014. Incumbent Tom Torlakson beat him with union backing.
The race is the only statewide contest that could be decided Tuesday. Because the contest is nonpartisan, if any candidate wins more than 50 percent of the primary election vote he or she will win the race outright. Otherwise, the top two candidates advance to the November general election.
Early returns showed Democrats Eleni Kounalakis and Ed Hernandez leading a crowded pack of candidates in the race to become California’s next lieutenant governor. Republican Cole Harris was close behind in third place.
Although the lieutenant governor holds little real power, 11 candidates were vying to replace incumbent Gavin Newsom, who is running for governor.
Kounalakis, a former diplomat, and Hernandez, a state senator, are among the three Democrats who raised substantial money to run television ads and get their names in front of voters.
Harris, a businessman, funded his campaign almost entirely with his own money. Kounalakis also poured significant funds into her own campaign.
The lieutenant governor serves as a University of California regent, a California State University trustee and as a state lands commissioner overseeing conservation and public access. He or she also acts as governor when the top executive is away.
Democrat Fiona Ma finished first in the race to replace outgoing Treasurer John Chiang, guaranteeing she’ll advance to the November general election.
Republicans Greg Conlon and Jack Guerrero followed in second and third, respectively, in early returns.
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, has the most political experience and the biggest fundraising haul of all the candidates.
Conlon challenged Chiang in the last general election.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla won first place in his re-election bid, guaranteeing he’ll advance to the November election. He’ll face Republican attorney Mark Meuser, who came in second.
Padilla has emphasized his record of sparring with President Donald Trump. He often denounces the president’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in California. Padilla also refused to comply with the Trump administration’s requests to provide data on California voters, arguing it was politically motivated.
Meuser is running 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.
Democratic Controller Betty Yee won first place in her reelection bid with Republican entrepreneur Konstantinos Roditis taking second place. The two will face off in November.
The California controller serves as the state’s top accountant and audits various state programs. She sits on several state boards and the State Lands Commission.
Yee says she has promoted tax policies that are equitable for vulnerable populations, including supporting equal taxation for same-sex couples before gay marriage was legalized.
Roditis says he wants to lower government spending and audit high-speed rail, a project Republicans frequently criticize because of rising costs.