Political career dreams were built and crushed yesterday as seven states cast their primary votes, setting the stage for a Battle Royale in November. South Dakota, New Mexico, New Jersey, Montana, Mississippi, Iowa, and California all held races that had strategists adjusting their midterm modeling. While some contests were all but decided before the first vote was cast, there were many surprises that will have both parties digging deep for lessons not yet learned, especially where crime and punishment are concerned.
San Francisco’s ultra-progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin lost the city’s recall election in a 60%-40% result with more than half of the votes counted and now has just a few weeks to pack up his desk. Once the Board of Supervisors certifies the result, Mayor London Breed will appoint a replacement who will serve until November.
Boudin’s fall from grace was sparked by the rise in crime and his unwillingness to put offenders behind bars. Supporters of the recall effort said that his adverse approach to incarceration was putting the lives of residents “at risk.” When the outcome became clear, Boudin thanked his supporters and said, “We have two cities, we have two systems of justice. One for the wealthy and well-connected and one for everybody else. That’s exactly what we are fighting to change.” He concluded by saying, “We’ve made mistakes; we’ve learned a lot.” Boudin laid the blame for his loss squarely at the feet of corporate interests, which he says outspent him “three to one.” Naturally, the soon-to-be-ex DA made no mention of the George Soros dollars that put him in office in the first place.
However, this will almost certainly not be the last DA recall election in the Golden State. Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón is facing a similar situation after repeated criticism of light sentencing for dangerous criminals. Organizers say they already have more than half a million signatures and need roughly an additional 60,000 before July 6. Boudin’s ousting could well be the impetus Gascón’s detractors require.
The Golden State’s Big Day
With California’s “jungle primary” system, the top two contenders from each race advance to the November elections regardless of party affiliation. In the largest blue bastion in the Union, this has led to some big contests. Notoriously slow in counting ballots, the Golden State still has a long way to go in gathering the final tallies, but most of the big races have already been called by the Associated Press.
Governor Gavin Newsom has secured his spot for the November gubernatorial with almost two million votes (56%) and just under 50% of the vote counted. The field of 25 competitors failed to match Newsom’s vote share, signifying that he will undoubtedly win a second term. Facing Newsom will be Republican candidate Brian Dahle, who so far has just over half a million votes (16%). However, it will likely not be a competitive contest between the two. While the incumbent has an estimated $23 million in his campaign war chest, Dhale has just $400K. Donors may consider spending on the GOP candidate a waste of resources that could be better spent elsewhere on more competitive races.
Democrat Senator Alex Padilla sits on 53% of the vote, guaranteeing his name on the November ticket. He will face Republican constitutional attorney Mark P. Meuser. This was Padilla’s first US Senate victory after being appointed to fill now-Vice President Kamala Harris’ vacant seat. Before Harris took over this Senate seat in 2016, it had been occupied by Barbara Boxer, who served since 1993. It has not returned a Republican since Thomas Kuchel in 1962. Barring a seismic political shift or major political scandal, Padilla almost certainly has a lock.
The Los Angeles mayoral race has come down to two contenders; with neither getting 50% of the vote, this will head to a November run-off. Although candidates don’t run as party-affiliated, the two winners are Rick Caruso, a billionaire shopping mall developer who recently became a Democrat, and the former potential running mate of Joe Biden, US Representative Karen Bass. Caruso has 42% against Bass’ 37%. The second-place positioning of Bass will have “justice reformers” worried that their laissez-faire attitude to punishing criminals could prove an Achilles’ heel, as Caruso has run a tough-on-crime platform from day one.
Noem Set to Win
Incumbent South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem won her shot at re-election against challenger, state Representative Steven Haugaard, receiving more than 76% of the ballots cast. Noem will battle Democrat candidate Jamie Smith, who ran uncontested.
This deep red state hasn’t elected a Democrat governor since Harvey Wollman in 1978 and was won by Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020; Trump slightly increased his vote share in the latter race. Despite a close contest in the 2018 gubernatorial, it is widely expected that South Dakota will hand Noem a second term in November.
Scandal-ridden Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ran unopposed and will face GOP candidate Mark Ronchetti for the New Mexico governor’s mansion later this year. Ronchetti took a decisive victory in his primary against four contenders, winning almost 60% of the vote. The border state has a track record of switching parties in the gubernatorial contest. Since 1982, every governor has served the allowable two terms, and then the electorate has opted for the opposition. Should Grisham be unseated this November, it may mark a historic change.
Yet again, progressive challengers failed to break through in New Jersey, leaving the situation “business as usual” for the establishment Democrats. In both the 8th and 10th districts, the far left sought to oust the legacy politicos. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., who took over the congressional seat from his father ten years ago, earned a huge 83% against political activist and progressive darling Imani Oakley. Similarly, Robert Menendez Jr., son of Senator Bob Menendez, took 84% versus progressive stalwart David Ocampo Grajales’ 11%.
All About the Crime
A pattern has emerged from the primaries so far. Coming hot off the heels of the notoriously violent “Summer of Love,” the parties have sought to divide themselves among those who want “justice reform” and those who wish to punish criminals. But these divisions are not merely between the GOP and the Dems. Within the Democratic Party is a growing awareness that progressive solutions to violence and criminality have not only failed in efficacy but also in winning over the hearts and minds of voters.
California was the petri dish for this experiment in law and order. It seems the Golden State guinea pigs may have just had enough.