Two well-known Democrats prevailed in marquee California races on the year’s biggest day of primary elections, while the outcomes of other key contests in the state were up in the air on Wednesday and could remain that way for days.
Dianne Feinstein, at 84 making another bid for the Senate seat she has held since 1992, was projected the winner as several candidates vied for the second slot. Gavin Newsom, the state’s lieutenant governor, was projected the winner of the race to succeed the term-limited Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and will face Republican John Cox in November’s election.
Voters chose nominees in seven other states in congressional, statewide and local contests on Tuesday.
Newsom’s primary victory insures that the general election will focus largely on how the next California governor will relate to President Trump and his policies, which remain unpopular in the nation’s most populous state. The president’s endorsement of Cox was widely seen as providing the Republican candidate with a bounce late in the primary.
“We’re engaged in an epic battle, and it looks like voters will have a real choice this November between a governor who’s going to stand up to Donald Trump and a foot soldier in his war on California,” Newsom said.
The Democrat offered a new slogan for his candidacy: “Resistance with results.”
Cox, an accountant who did not support Trump in 2016 but has embraced the president’s backing this year, used his election night speech to blast Newsom for criticizing Trump.
“It wasn’t Donald Trump who made California the highest tax state in the country,” Cox said. “It was Gavin Newsom and the Democrats.”
Both Newsom and Feinstein, representing different generations and clashing styles of the party’s politics, will enter November’s election as clear favorites. But perhaps more attention was directed down the ballot, where Tuesday’s results are expected to provide new insight into Democrats’ chances for retaking congressional majorities in November.
In California, Democratic Party officials targeted at least a half-dozen House seats now held by Republicans, which could put them well on the way to flipping the 23 House seats they need to claim the majority.
Democrats appeared poised to overcome the obstacles of the state’s unorthodox primary system — where the top two vote-getters advance regardless of party — and claim slots on the November ballot in key districts.
Scores of Democrats are running across the state, and party committees spent millions in recent weeks and scrambled over the course of months to thin the crowded fields of candidates to avoid being locked out of the ballot in some districts.
The effort appeared to have made an impression on voters. As of early Wednesday, early returns from California seemed to show that Democrats were running in the top two in these key districts — lessening fears of a lockout.
In interviews at polling places in California on Tuesday, numerous voters said that they had cast their votes strategically rather than based solely on their personal views.
James Woeber, a 48-year-old leadership consultant voting in the San Diego-area 49th congressional District, said that he voted for Doug Applegate — a well-known candidate with a military background — over two more liberal Democratic challengers he also liked.
“I think he’s got the best chance in November,” Woeber said. “We need that seat.”