Commentary

11/04/2010 by Ash Roughani

Down the ticket: Non-gubernatorial constitutional officer election results

An estimated 9.5 million Californians came out to vote in this week’s election, wading through two front-and-back pages of ballot choices, myriad local measures, and several tight races. We know Jerry Brown will begin his third term as governor in Jan. 2010, but there were several other hotly contested statewide races, one of which remains undecided.

Lieutenant Governor

In Nov. 2009, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi was elected to Congress, vacating the second ranking statewide office. After facing political hurdles to confirmation, State Senator Abel Maldonado, appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was finally sworn into office on April 27, 2010. A stark contrast to Schwarzenegger’s combative relationship with Garamendi, he and Maldonado worked as a team. This was particularly salient during the aftermath of the San Bruno explosion, when Maldonado led recovery efforts as acting governor, while Gov. Schwarzenegger promoted economic development on a trade mission to Asia.

Maldonado sought to keep his position as Lt. Governor, but voters preferred San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. If history is any clue, Californians should expect a cooperative relationship between Governor-elect Brown and Newsom. Unified party affiliation appears to be a key indicator of whether or not the governor will get along with his or her number two. Newsom originally ran against Brown in the gubernatorial primary, but chose to drop out of that race in Oct. 2009 and seek the Lt. Governor position, instead.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson defeated former school administrator Larry Aceves in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. California is at a critical moment in education, and reform efforts appear to be on the rise. Many critics have lamented the confusing relationship between the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of Education. Former Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rick Miller wrote a blog post encouraging the winner of this race to transform the office into “brokers of expertise,” instead of continuing to micromanage school districts across the state from Sacramento.

Secretary of State

Incumbent Secretary of State Debra Bowen easily won reelection against former NFL player Damon Dunn. Ironically, her office was blamed, when the public found it difficult to obtain election results from its website on election night. Her office’s delayed implementation of online voter registration has also been a source of frustration for Californians. She does deserve credit, however, for conducting a comprehensive top-to-bottom review of voting machines in the state early in her first term.

Attorney General

The results of the attorney general’s race are too close to call at the time of this writing, but San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris appears to have a slight edge over Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley. Absentee ballots will determine the final outcome of this race.

Insurance Commissioner, Controller and Treasurer

Assemblyman Dave Jones defeated Assemblyman Mike Villines for the position of Insurance Commissioner. This office has escalated in importance, as Jones will have substantial new authority to implement federal health care reform.

Democratic incumbents Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Controller John Chiang easily won reelection.

Ash Roughani is a project associate at California Forward.

Categories: Democracy, Civic Engagement, Elections, Civic Engagement, Elections

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