It’ll be Newsom vs. Cox and Feinstein vs. de León in November, though most voters sat this one out

By Joe Piasecki and Gary Walker

L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer rallied the troops on Election Night at Westside Democratic Headquarters in Westwood Village
Photo by Maria Martin

All the energy, anguish and consternation surrounding politics in the era of Trump didn’t move the needle in terms of voter turnout.

As of Wednesday morning, the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder’s Office was reporting 275,331 vote-by-mail ballots and 677,302 ballots cast at the polls — 952,633 in total out of 5,134,122 registered voters, a turnout of about 18.5%.

The California Secretary of State’s Office reported slightly better statewide turnout — about 21% — but that pales in comparison to the nearly 48% turnout for the November 2016 presidential contest and trails the 25% turnout for the June 2014 midterm primary.

As a result, Westside voters can look forward to mostly traditional two-party races come November despite the new jungle primary system promoting the top two finishers regardless of party. Democrat Gavin Newsom will face Trump-backed Republican John Cox in the gubernatorial runoff, with Cox receiving nearly double the statewide support of distant third-place finisher former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. In L.A. County, however, Villaraigosa finished second to Newsom, above Cox.

One might argue voter apathy, or that candidates failed to give mainstream voters all that much to rally around, or that media coverage portrayed most contests as low-stakes or a foregone conclusion.

But to the hardcore Democratic faithful of West Los Angeles, Election Night offered plenty of reasons to get stoked about November — even if the hottest tickets in town were a handful of “blue wave” congressional races in competitive districts currently held by Republicans. In each of those cases, a Democrat made the top-two.

The mood inside West L.A. Democratic Headquarters in Westwood Village was upbeat and even festive throughout the evening, with 300 or so party faithful chanting “take back the House! Take back the House!” whenever election results were shown on the room’s multiple televisions.

“We’ve worked so hard to try and flip the House since January. We’ve been making phone calls and even been walking precincts in the San Gabriel Valley and in Orange County,” said West Los Angeles Democratic Club President Cara Robin. “This time it seems like it’s within our grasp.”

The only palpable division was between supporters of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and state Sen. Kevin de León, who will now square off in a November battle of the old-school vs. outspoken progressive wings of the Democratic Party. Feinstein took first by a landslide, while de León barely squeaked past a Republican challenger.

L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer kept the energy high, and the room united, against a common adversary: continued Republican domination at the federal level.

“I’m hoping tonight that the united Republican government is a thing of the past, and as we make our way toward November that we take back the House, that we take back the Senate and we take back America,” Feuer said to an eruption of cheers and applause.

Among local congressional races, Republican challengers posted second-place finishes against strong Democratic incumbents: Rep. Ted Lieu vs. West L.A. pediatric eye surgeon Kenneth Weston Wright; Rep. Maxine Waters against Roger Stone-backed small business owner Omar Navarro; and Rep. Karen Bass vs. graphic novelist Ron J. Bassilian.

Marina del Rey real estate agent Baron Bruno, running without affiliation to a political party, finished second to Democratic incumbent state Sen. Ben Allen. Westchester small business owner Al Hernandez, a Republican, finished behind state Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, and Democrat Tepring Michelle Piquado finished second to incumbent Democratic state Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager.

UCI Medical Center IT specialist G. Rick Marshall, the only avowed Republican running for the L.A., Ventura and Orange County seat on the Board of Equalization, finished on top of a field of eight candidates, setting up a runoff with second-place finisher Tony Vasquez, a member of the Santa Monica City Council and graduate of Venice High School. Vasquez, one of six candidates splitting the Democratic vote (former Culver City Councilman Micheál O’Leary running without party affiliation), posted 20.8% support to Marshall’s 27.3% finish.