There was an election in California last night, and twenty-two percent of California’s voters bothered to turn out.  There may be a few absentee and provisional ballots out there yet to be counted and the turnout percentage may inch up a bit, but not by much.

Regardless of turnout, elections have consequences and there were some big winners and losers last night.

One of the big winners was state Senator Jeff Denham, who easily beat back the recall election with 76 percent of the district voters voting NO on the recall.

Another winner was state Senator Tom McClintock, who carpetbagged from Ventura County to run in the 4th Congressional District located northeast of Sacramento.  McClintock handily defeated former Congressman Doug Ose, 54 percent to 39 percent.  In San Diego County Duncan Hunter, the son of the retiring incumbent congressman of the same name, trounced his three Primary opponents by receiving 73 percent of the vote.

Also, former state Senator Jim Nielson will return to the Assembly, the top vote-getter in a four-candidate race with 45 percent of the vote.

But state Senator Carole Migden did not fare so well.  She faced Democratic Primary opposition from two candidates — the top vote-getter, with 43 percent of the vote, being San Francisco Assembly Member Mark Leno. Former Assembly Member Joe Nation came in second with 29 percent of the vote, with Migden trailing with 28 percent.

Another well-known political figure bit the dust, with Mervyn Dymally being soundly defeated in his bid to be elected to the state Senate, losing to former Assembly Member Rod Wright, 44 percent to 35 percent.  The outcome of this race was also a big win for the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Real Estate Association and other business interests who spent over $1 million in independent expenditure committees (IE’s) in support of Wright.

In a heated state senate race to fill a Los Angeles/Ventura County seat being vacated by termed out Senator Sheila Kuehl, former Assembly Member Fran Pavley easily defeated her Democratic opponent, Assembly Member Lloyd Levine, 66 percent to 34 percent. This was also a big win for EdVoice, an education advocacy group that is in part funded by developer Eli Broad, Gap founder Donald Fisher and Carrie Walton Penner of the Wal-Mart founding family. An independent expenditure committee (IE) formed by EdVoice spent $133,500 in support of Pavley.

But EdVoice did not fare so well in the 8th Assembly District, located west of Sacramento.  They spent over $370,000 in an IE in support of West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, who narrowly lost to Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada 52 percent to 48 percent.  An IE funded mostly by the California Teachers Association spent over $360,000 in support of Yamada.

Gina Papan, daughter of the late Assembly Member Lou Papan, made her second attempt at being elected to the Assembly.  Though heavily supported by IE’s funded by health care providers ($400,000), early returns have her trailing San Mateo County Supervisor Gerald Hill, a former Republican, by a margin of 312 votes.

Steve Knight, son of the late state Senator Pete Knight, easily won his race for the Assembly, capturing 53 percent of the vote in a 3-candidate race.

Becky Maze, wife of the incumbent assembly member who is termed out this year, did not do as well, coming in a distant third in a race won by Tulare County Supervisor Connie Conway.
The 78th and 80th assembly districts are expected to be top targets in the fall general election campaign.

In AD78, Democrat attorney Martin Block is holding a slim 397-vote lead over Democrat Maxine Sherard, who unsuccessfully ran for this seat in 2006. The Sherard campaign appears to have been the beneficiary of a $200,000 independent expenditure effort funded by a tort reform group called Californians for Balance and Fairness in Civil Justice. This same IE also spent over $40,000 in opposition to Block. On the Republican side is Chula Vista Councilmember John McCann, who was unopposed in the Primary.

In AD80, with very strong support from an IE funded by labor ($300,000 plus), Coachella Valley school board member Manuel Perez out-polled his three Democratic opponents with 35.5 percent of the vote.  In November he will face Republican Gary Jeandron, the former Police Chief of Palm Springs who ran unopposed in the Primary.

One of the night’s biggest surprises was on the Republican side in the 15th Assembly District being vacated by GOP Assembly Member Guy Houston due to term limits.

Though vastly outspent by his three Republican opponents, the top vote-getter was San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson, putting him in the position of being the first African American Republican elected to the state legislature in modern times.  But first he will have to get past Democrat Joan Buchanan in what is expected to be a highly competitive race come November.

For vote results in all the legislative races last night, go to the Secretary of State’s web page at