While most eyes were on the House, Morena unseats O’Connor and bids for Rent Control Expansion and Gas Tax Repeal fail

By Gary Walker and Joe Piasecki

Tuesday’s nationwide midterm election results made for dramatic international headlines of Democrats winning the House of Representatives on the strength of a leftward swing in cities and suburbs, while Republicans made gains in the Senate as rural voters turned further to the right.

Widely seen as a referendum on the president, whether the results mean the nation is more divided than ever — or not as divided as we thought, with moderate Democrats winning in Trump states — remains to be seen.

Unofficial voter turnout figures for Los Angeles County as of Wednesday morning counted 1,292,403 ballots cast at the polls and 683,452 mail-in ballots — a total of 1,975,855 ballots cast among 5,200,514 registered voters. That would be close to 38% voter turnout, which is high for a midterm election.

Members of the Westchester-Playa Democratic Club focused their efforts on helping Democrat challenger Harley Rouda, who at press time held a narrow lead over entrenched, Trump-allied Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher in Orange County.

“With an ill-equipped xenophobe in the White House, it is encouraging to see Angelenos more engaged in politics. If Donald Trump’s presidency has brought us anything, it’s more civic engagement — and that’s the silver lining,” club President Duane Muller said.

Members of the activism group Venice Resistance volunteered for Rouda as well as Democratic challenger Katie Hill, who unseated Republican Steve Knight in Santa Clarita, and Democrat Jacky Rosen in Nevada, who also unseated a Republican incumbent.

“We’re all decompressing from midterm fatigue, but it’s exciting to have that momentum in the House,” said Venice Resistance founder Maria Casey. “But now that Democrats have the House, it’s important they stand up and take action.”

Westside Democratic incumbents cruised to re-election, with Rep. Ted Lieu tweeting: “No more stupid hearings in
@HouseJudiciary about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Instead, we are going to conduct real oversight over @realDonaldTrump and his administration.”

While contests close to home may not have fallen under the swing-seat microscope, many drew lots of voter interest and created plenty of drama on their own.


On election night in Santa Monica, political newcomer Greg Morena finished second in a field of seven to claim one of three available city council seats — thereby unseating 24-year veteran Councilwoman Pam O’Connor, the city’s longest-serving councilmember. Morena has served on the city’s audit committee, and his family owns The Albright restaurant on Santa Monica Pier.

Incumbents Sue Himmelrich and Kevin McKeown, who have been supportive of Morena, held onto their seats with first- and third-place finishes, respectively. Voters also passed all four city ballot propositions, including a council term limits measure, school facilities bond, and a McKeown-backed requirement for council supermajority approval of development projects exceeding height and density restrictions. At least 25,815 of the city’s 69,686 registered voters cast a ballot, about 37%.

Morena said Wednesday morning that his victory “doesn’t feel totally real” and that he looks forward to bridging strenuous disagreement among some Santa Monica residents about how to address crime and homelessness.

“I see this as a real opportunity to build bridges on the council and work together amicably and pragmatically,” Morena said. “We’ve come to a point in our nation where our political leaders can’t seem to find common ground or talk to each other respectfully. I’m hoping that — along with Sue [Himmelrich] and Kevin [McKeown], who supported me during the campaign, and the rest of the council — we will be able to do our best to begin to heal as a community.”

“Greg was a strong candidate who is going to be a great councilmember,” said McKeown. “Pam and I, as long-time incumbents, faced a stiff headwind being on the ballot with the popular term-limits measure.”


High-profile ballot propositions seeking to repeal both the state’s recent gasoline tax increase (Prop 6) and a 1995 law that prevents California cities from expanding rent control (Prop 10) both went down in flames. According to early returns, 47% of Los Angeles County voters supported possible expansion of rent control versus only 38% statewide.

Voters also approved a statewide affordable housing bond, use of mental health funds for supportive housing and increased welfare standards for farm animals, the latter receiving nearly 70% voter support in L.A.

L.A. County Measure W, a parcel tax to fund storm water capture and recycling that will divert urban runoff pollution from local beaches and waterways, appeared Wednesday to have narrowly met its two-thirds threshold for approval.