Political Notebook: Newsom, Lara glide to second terms

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday November 8, 2022
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Governor Gavin Newsom, left, and state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara easily secured second terms in Tuesday's election. Photos: Newsom, courtesy Governor's office; Lara, courtesy the candidate
Governor Gavin Newsom, left, and state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara easily secured second terms in Tuesday's election. Photos: Newsom, courtesy Governor's office; Lara, courtesy the candidate

California Governor Gavin Newsom and Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, a gay man who is the sole LGBTQ statewide elected official in the Golden State, both glided into second terms in Tuesday's election. Neither faced much of a reelection fight after Newsom defeated last year's recall attempt against him and Lara vanquished a fellow Democratic rival in the June primary.

Newsom trumped his Republican opponent, state Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber), with 65.3% of the vote, according to the unofficial returns. So assured of his winning their contest, Newsom largely avoided campaigning on his own behalf and instead used his advertising to promote or oppose several of this year's statewide ballot measures.

Lara also was largely a non-presence on the campaign trail in recent weeks, having been opposed by his little-known challenger, Republican Robert Howell. Based on the current vote tally, Lara took first place with 63% of the vote.

As there were no other out candidates that made it to the fall ballot, Lara remains the lone LGBTQ statewide leader in California. His election four years ago marked the first time an LGBTQ person had been elected to such a position.

It is a particularly sweet victory for Lara, who overcame ethical scandals dating back to 2019 to secure a second term. Lara's travails led the San Francisco Chronicle to refuse to endorse his reelection bid and had prompted Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Greenbrae) to try to oust him from office. But when the Bay Area legislator failed to survive the June primary, the race effectively was over.

The most competitive contest on Tuesday's ballot was between Republican Stanford University professor Lanhee Chen and Democratic state tax board member Malia Cohen to succeed Controller Betty Yee, who is termed out of office. Chen's share of the vote count so far is at 40.4%, while Cohen is at 59.6%.

She claimed victory Tuesday night, telling state residents in a tweet she is "proud and honored to serve as your next Controller."

Chen was the strongest GOP candidate to mount a run for statewide office in years. Cohen tagged him as a "Trump Republican" who would block women's access to abortion and reproductive health services. LGBTQ advocates questioned his embrace of religious liberty proponents, who use it as a legal argument to avoid anti-LGBTQ discrimination laws, as the Bay Area Reporter noted last month.

Other Dems easily secure wins

In the rest of the statewide races, the Democrats all appear headed to easy victories, preliminary returns show. None of the candidates mounted serious election efforts against their Republican opponents.

Democratic Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis took first place with 65.7% of the vote in her contest against Republican Angela E. Underwood Jacobs.

Attorney General Rob Bonta, whom Newsom had appointed to the position, was in first place with 62.6% of the vote against GOPer Nathan Hochman.

California Treasurer Fiona Ma, a former San Francisco supervisor, was leading with 64.9% of the vote against her GOP challenger Jack M. Guerrero.

Democratic state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony K. Thurmond is sailing to a second term with 66.3% of the vote in his race against GOPer Lance Christensen.

Democratic former state legislator Shirley Weber, appointed by Newsom as secretary of state, also was the first-place finisher in her contest Tuesday with 65.4% of the vote. She defeated GOPer Rob Bernosky.

After being appointed as the state's junior U.S. senator, Democrat Alex Padilla easily won his special election on the primary ballot to serve out the rest of the term through the end of 2022. He did so again on Tuesday's ballot with 64.4% of the vote.

He also secured a full six-year term with 64.5% of the vote. In both races, he ran against GOPer Mark P. Meuser, a lawyer who lost to Padilla in their 2014 race to be California's secretary of state.

This article will be updated as additional ballot counts are announced.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the return of Election Night parties as the COVID pandemic recedes.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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