SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — In a year when Democrats across the country braced for a medium-term election backlash, voters in California gave the party decisive victories during Tuesday’s primary, led by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the A wiped out a field of 25 other candidates less than a year after voters tried to remove him from office.
Newsom received about 59% of the vote and has more than $23 million in the bench for a November general election against Brian Dahle, a largely anonymous senator from the sparsely populated northeast corner of the state.
Dahle, best known for his efforts to have a massive new reservoir built in Northern California, had about 15% of the vote and finished second. In the California primary system, the top two voters advance to the general election.
Dahle now has five months and just $400,000 in campaign funds to introduce himself to voters in some of the country’s most expensive media markets.
His first task will be to raise the money needed to compete with Newsom nationally. It will not be easy. Many Republican donors will refuse to back a Longshot candidate when they could instead invest in a handful of congressional elections in the state that could determine control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Jessica Levinson, political commentator and professor of electoral law at Loyola Marymount University, was blunt about Dahle’s chances: “The proverbial snowball has a better chance in Hell,” she said.
“There’s basically nothing that can be done to change the momentum of this race,” Levinson said.
Dahle sees it differently, telling The Associated Press, “I think I can win this race.”
One of its main concerns will be state-leading gas prices in California, which hit a record $6.37 a gallon on Tuesday. Dahle has called on Newsom and Democrat lawmakers to temporarily suspend the state gas tax, which is the second-highest in the country at 51.1 cents a gallon. Newsom has rejected the idea.
“He’s an elite Democrat who doesn’t live in the same world as everyone else,” Dahle said of Newsom. “He just doesn’t focus on the pain that I hear from my constituents every day.”
Newsom has proposed using part of the nearly $100 billion budget surplus to send checks of up to $800 to people who own cars and another $750 million to help people for three months enable free travel on public transport.
Newsom will run on a progressive agenda that includes tougher gun laws and improved abortion services.
Since the US Supreme Court is likely to have Roe v. Wade, Newsom has vowed to make California a safe haven for women seeking abortions from other states where the procedure could be banned or severely restricted. He has also pushed for a new law that would allow people to sue gun manufacturers and sellers to enforce a ban on some assault weapons – much like Texas is doing to enforce its ban on most abortions.
“Across the country, Republicans are attacking our fundamental rights as Americans. Destroy democracy, disenfranchise a woman and stand by as gun violence claims too many lives,” Newsom said in a statement released after his first victory. “California is the antidote to their cynicism – leading with compassion, common sense and science.”
Outnumbering Republicans 2 to 1 in California, Democrats hold every statewide office and have large majorities in the Legislature and Congressional delegation. California has not had a Republican US Senator since 1992 — a trend likely to continue as Democratic incumbent Alex Padilla finished well ahead of his main Republican challengers.
Padilla was appointed to the Senate by Newsom last year after Kamala Harris resigned to become vice president. Padilla has been in the primary twice — once to wrap up the final months of Harris’ tenure and another time in a race for a full six-year term beginning in January.
Padilla had about 55% of the vote in each race, beating runner-up Republican attorney Mark Meuser, an attorney whose work with the right-wing Dhillon Law Group included 22 lawsuits against Newsom alleging he exercised his powers at the Enforcement exceeded Corona restrictions.
Dahle traces many of the state’s problems to decades of Democrat dominance in state government. Dahle has served in the Legislature for a decade and also runs a family farm in Bieber, a community of 145 people about an hour’s drive from Lassen Volcanic National Park.
A signature problem for him in the legislature was an attempt to build a new reservoir in Colusa County — a project he said would help the state survive droughts but has drawn the ire of environmental groups who say the project would draw too much water from the state’s rivers and streams.
“We’re going to focus on (Newsom’s) record,” Dahle said. “We have the highest gas prices, we have the highest electricity prices, we have water infrastructure that hasn’t been built — just tell me one thing that works in California.”
Just a year ago, it looked like Newsom might be on the way out when more than 1.7 million voters signed a petition to remove him from office. Dozens lined up to challenge him in the 2021 recall election to topple the Democratic governor of the nation’s most populous state ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
Instead, Newsom defeated the recall so decisively that none of last year’s main contenders moved to challenge him for re-election this year.
“I think this allows Newsom to run a national campaign in California knowing he’s going to win,” Levinson said. “While he claims it never crossed his mind to run for the presidency, he can basically run a national campaign talking about the big issues and try it on for size.”
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