Caveats aside that there are more VBM and provisional ballots yet to be counted, here are some initial thoughts on what happened this past Tuesday (all numbers are from 8:41 AM June 8 Secretary of State update).

Presidential Race – Ending with a whimper

While the Republican contest was supposed to be a barnburner only for Ted Cruz and John Kasich to drop out and then the Democratic primary looked to be moving to toss-up territory, both races ended up being rather uneventful.  Hillary Clinton enjoys a 13-point lead and Donald Trump currently has around 75% of the GOP vote. With 25% of Republicans voting against Trump, it is interesting, though, to think what the Republican contest could have been if either (or both) Cruz or Kasich remained in the race.

Kudos to my fellow Hoover Institution Golden State Poll team members.  Our California primary poll was among the most accurate of the bunch.  We had Clinton up by 13 points, nailing her current lead.  And while our survey did underestimate Trump’s percentage, we nailed the anti-Trump vote. It would appear that the undecided Republican voters broke heavily toward Trump, resigning themselves to the fact that he was the presumptive nominee.

U.S. Senate Race – Testing the Top Two

Despite a last minute push to consolidate Republicans around Duf Sundheim, the GOP math problem was just too daunting to overcome. With the Republican vote splintered too much, Loretta Sanchez will face off against Kamala Harris in California’s first intra-party statewide November election. The aggregate Democrat vote was 64% compared to 29% for a Republican, a net shift of D+17 compared to the June 2012 Senate top two primary. It doesn’t appear Republicans got the turnout boost they normally do in primaries.

Two questions remain: 1) Is this the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Prop 14’s opponents to push for repeal and 2) Will Sanchez be able to put together a grand coalition of Independents, moderate Democrats, Latinos, and willing Republicans?

Lessons for Republicans moving forward under Prop 14: The party better figure out a way to limit the number of Republican running in statewide contests to a maximum of 2; otherwise more D vs. D statewide contests will be in our future.

Congressional Races – Status Quo Prevails

Since redistricting, picking up seats in California has been elusive for Republicans.  On the flip side, two seats in particular, have confounded Democrats time and again. And neither looks to change this election year. Democrats Jim Costa (CA 16), Julia Brownley (CA 26), Raul Ruiz (CA 36), and Scott Peters (CA 52) are all cruising to solid primary wins. Given that Democrats usually improve upon their primary results in the general election, it is hard to see how Republicans make any of these seats competitive. While Ami Bera is embroiled in a campaign finance controversy and is having issues locking down union support, as long as he can maintain his current lead over Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones it’s hard to see this district flipping in November either. The best shot ss had was sneaking both Katcho Achadjian and Justin Fareed through the top two in CA 24, but Santa Barbara Supervisor Salud Carbajal has a commanding lead while Achadjian and Fareed are battling it out for second.

Fortunately for Republicans, Democrats shouldn’t be too hopeful in expanding their ranks in California’s Congressional delegation. In CA 10 (Jeff Denham) the total Republican vote share is currently 57% – a daunting performance to overcome. In CA 21, David Valadao not only has 58% of the primary vote, but it looks like he’ll get the weaker Democratic challenger (Daniel Parra) over the DCCC’s favorite (Emilio Huerta). And while Steve Knight would have preferred to go up against Lou Vince over Bryan Caforio, Knight has almost half of the primary votes and the total Republican vote share is 56%.

The State Legislature – Democrats Vying for the Super-Majority & The Heart of Their Party

After losing the two-thirds super-majority in 2014, Democrats have been preparing for the 2016 cycle to take it back.  In the State Assembly, Democrats need to net just 2 seats to win the bare super-majority and in the State Senate, they need just a net of 1 seat.  But under the Top Two, battles are not just partisan any more; there is also a battle within the Democratic Party for its heart and soul: moderates (relatively speaking, of course) versus liberals.

State Senate

Democrats really only have one seat to try to flip to gain the super-majority this year (SD 29) and right now it’s a mixed bag. Republican Ling Ling Chang is under 50%, but the weaker Democrat, Josh Newman, is beating out highly touted Democratic recruit Sukhee Kang. In the battle for the heart and soul, despite millions spent by IE campaigns in hope of preventing D vs. D November contests, in SD 3 moderate Bill Dold will face off against liberal Mariko Yamada, in SD 15, environmentalist Jim Beall will face off against oil company backed Nora Campos, and in SD 11, pragmatic liberal Scott Wiener will face off against idealistic liberal Jane Kim.

Republicans really don’t have many targets in the odd-numbered batch of State Senate districts, but if they are looking to pad their ranks North Los Angeles County SD 25 and Los Angeles-Ventura county SD 27 are their best bets (SD 5 would have been the best, but they punted on that one). While SD 25 is more heavily Democratic-leaning (D+9 vs. D+4 for SD 27), popular Republican Los Angeles Supervisor Michael Antonovich will face former Assemblymember Anthony Portantino, whose last election was in 2010. While it’s a gamble, it may be worth the investment.

State Assembly

Democrats, unlike their Senate colleagues, have more options in reclaiming the super-majority.  They are targeting Catharine Baker in the East Bay AD 16, Marc Steinorth in the Rancho Cucamonga-centered AD 40, Eric Linder in the Riverside’s AD 60, Orange County’s Young Kim in AD 65, and Los Angeles South Bay’s David Hadley in AD 66.

While Catharine Baker sits in the most Democratic of the target seats, she’s in the strongest position, leading her Democratic opponent 54% to 46%. Marc Steinorth is in the next best position, but is looking more vulnerable than expected (50.3% to 49.7%).  Meanwhile Eric Linder, Young Kim, and David Hadley all have under 50% and are trailing the total Democratic vote share.  Democrats only need 2 of these 5 seats and with the primary results, I’m sure Assembly Speaker Rendon is pleased.

Democrats have a few heart and soul battles in the Assembly that will continue to November.  In the East Bay’s AD 14, Silicon Valley’s AD 24, San Jose-based AD 27, Monterey County-centered AD 30, and San Bernardino’s AD 47, more business-friendly Democrats will all face union-supported or more idealistic liberal opponents.

Primary turnout will be significantly below that of the November general election, so be careful trying to predict too much what these results mean for November.  That said, primaries do lay the foundation for November making them just as important as the general election.