Some Bright Spots in California’s Election Returns
Despite the outcome nationally, there are reasons to celebrate election results in California, especially around environmental issues. The big one, of course, was the statewide plastic bag ban, which voters approved resoundingly, while defeating a measure that tried to distract voters from the main question.
There were other big wins as well, especially in the state legislative races. The most exciting one was the ouster of incumbent Cheryl Brown in Assembly District 47, in the Inland Empire. Brown has been called “Chevron Brown” for her staunch support of big oil’s interests over those of her constituents. A large coalition of environmental justice organizations backed Eloise Reyes, who handily defeated Brown despite the large amounts of money the oil industry poured into the race.
“The Inland Empire has some of the worst air quality in the country,” said Andy Kelley of the California League of Conservation Voters. “Brown consistently voted against every attempt to clean it up.” The CLCV is excited about incoming Assemblymember Reyes, an attorney that they expect will be a strong community advocate.
Another important seat picked up in the Assembly by environmental advocates is Ash Kalra, who was on the San Jose City Council and ran for the seat vacated by Nora Campos. Kalra is a big advocate for public transit. “His first TV ad was about buses!” said Kelley. “He recognizes that we can’t just build our way out of congestion.”
The termed-out Campos, meanwhile, turned her attention to unseating Senator Jim Beall in Senate District 15 in Santa Clara. She did not succeed; incumbent Beall soundly defeated her in a race that Kelley said CLCV is “ecstatic” about. Beall has been a strong ally on environmental issues in the Senate. And as head of the Senate Transportation Committee, he has made sure that bicycle and pedestrian issues are not ignored in the bill that is still being discussed in the Transportation Special Session.
Another bright spot is the election of Henry Stern, who will replace outgoing Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). Stern worked for Pavley and helped create the recent bill S.B. 32, which extended California’s climate change goals beyond 2020. His election will ensure continuity in this strong pro-environment seat.
This is good news, especially since term limits are removing some long-standing Senate champions, including Pavley, Loni Hancock (D-Oakland), and Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). Hancock’s seat was filled by Nancy Skinner, former Assemblymember representing the East Bay and another staunch environmental ally. The race for Leno’s seat was between two San Francisco supervisors, Scott Wiener and Jane Kim. CLCV had endorsed Wiener, who won the race, because of his strong advocacy on environmental issues.
Senator Carol Liu declined to run for reelection in district 25, and her seat was won by former Assemblymember Anthony Portantino. He defeated L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich in a race of name recognition. Portantino has been a strong environmental advocate.
Assemblymember David Hadley lost his seat in in L.A.’s South Bay cities in a race against former Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi. Hadley had financial support from the oil industry, but oddly enough during the campaign he accused Muratsuchi—who has authored pro-environmental bills—of taking money from the oil industry.
Overall Democrats gained seats in the Assembly, but one race is still too close to call: Former Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, a Democrat, is trying to regain her old seat against Republican incumbent Young Kim, who unseated her in the last election. Kim is currently trailing Quirk-Silva.
Another close, ongoing race is for termed-out Senator Bob Huff’s seat in district 29, which includes parts of L.A., Orange, and San Bernardino counties. The race to replace him is between Democrat Josh Newman, an environmental ally, who currently trails Republican Assemblymember Ling Ling Chang.
Many Californians, and indeed a slim majority of U.S. voters, are still disappointed and dismayed with the outcome of the presidential election. California can take some comfort in their legislative leaders, Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), releasing this statement:
Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land, because yesterday Americans expressed their views on a pluralistic and democratic society that are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California.
We have never been more proud to be Californians.
By a margin in the millions, Californians overwhelmingly rejected politics fueled by resentment, bigotry, and misogyny.
The largest state of the union and the strongest driver of our nation’s economy has shown it has its surest conscience as well.
California is – and must always be – a refuge of justice and opportunity for people of all walks, talks, ages and aspirations – regardless of how you look, where you live, what language you speak, or who you love.
California has long set an example for other states to follow. And California will defend its people and our progress. We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and sense of global responsibility.
We will be reaching out to federal, state and local officials to evaluate how a Trump Presidency will potentially impact federal funding of ongoing state programs, job-creating investments reliant on foreign trade, and federal enforcement of laws affecting the rights of people living in our state. We will maximize the time during the presidential transition to defend our accomplishments using every tool at our disposal.
While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values. America is greater than any one man or party. We will not be dragged back into the past. We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.
California was not a part of this nation when its history began, but we are clearly now the keeper of its future.