GOP Wave Stops at the Sierra

Most California fourth graders learned about the Island of California, a mythical place that early explorers believed was an island, not attached to North America. Tuesday's election results showed that in some ways, California really is an island, since our election results ran completely counter to the rest of the nation's. The Republican wave that swept across much of the country stopped at the Sierra Nevada.

When all of the votes are counted in California, it looks as if the Democratic Party may win every statewide office, from governor and lieutenant governor right down the list. Only one office, attorney general, is still in doubt. Even in the most favorable political climate nationally for Republicans, the California GOP managed to lose a seat in the state Assembly, bringing the Democrats' membership in that house to post-Watergate levels.

Jerry Brown, at 72, will become the oldest elected governor in California history. When he was first elected to that office in 1974, he was the state's youngest elected governor. Who said there are no second acts in politics?

Northern California was also a big winner in the elections. Candidates from the north swept most statewide offices. Only Debra Bowen, who was re-elected as secretary of state, and John Chiang, who won another term as state controller, hail from south of the Tehachapi Mountains. Antioch Assemblymember Tom Torklason was elected state Superintendent of Public Instruction, becoming the first Contra Costan to be elected to statewide office.

Miller Will Lose Education Committee Chairmanship

The Republic wave means all committee chairmanships in the House of Representatives will switch parties. East Bay Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) will no longer chair the House Committee on Education and Labor. A friend to higher education and Saint Mary's College, Miller will most likely turn the gavel over to Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the ranking member of the committee, when the House reorganizes in December.

Absentee Ballots Still Coming In

As more and more Californians vote by absentee ballot, the number of late, uncounted ballots has ballooned. Because of the high number of uncounted ballots, some close elections may take days to decide. Attorney general candidates Kamala Harris and Steve Cooley are seesawing back and forth as different counties post the latest count of absentee ballots. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) continues to widen his slim lead over challenger David Harmer (R-Danville) in the East Bay's 11th Congressional District. And Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) has taken the lead in his re-election contest in the Central Valley's 20th District. Both Costa and McNerney claimed victory one week after the election but many absentee ballots remain. Should McNerney and Costa survive, it will mean that not one of the California's 53 representatives of either party will have been defeated. Perhaps that's one more reason to enact redistricting reform.

SMC Alumnus Don Perata Loses Bid to Be Oakland Mayor

As the final absentee ballots were counted in Alameda County, Saint Mary's alumnus and former state Senator Don Perata '67, was defeated in his bid to become Oakland's mayor. In the first test of ranked-choice voting, Oakland Councilmember Jean Quan came from behind to defeat Perata. Ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff, allows voters to select their second- and third-choice candidate as well as their top pick. Perata led on Election Day but as the bottom-tier candidates were eliminated, second choice votes by their supporters were applied to the remaining field. As each round of balloting was counted, Quan crept up and overtook Perata by 51 to 49 percent.

Statewide Initiatives

Prop. 19, the controversial measure that would have legalized marijuana for personal consumption, was handily defeated by the voters. Moraga, mirroring the state, voted against it, but the marijuana measure passed in both Lafayette and Orinda.

Voters approved Prop. 25, which allows state budgets to be passed with a simple majority vote in both houses of the Legislature, rather than of the two-thirds vote now required. Simultaneously, the voters approved Prop. 26, which requires a two-thirds yes vote to enact tax and fee increases. It is hoped that this reform will avoid the protracted budget stalemates we have become familiar with in recent years.

Californians also voted on two competing redistricting measures. As a result of the vote, the 2011 redistricting process will be carried out by a citizens' commission. Prop. 20 extended the redrawing authority to include congressional districts as well as state legislative boundaries. Prop. 27, a measure to eliminate the commission altogether, was defeated in every county in the state.

Chew, Trotter Re-elected in Moraga

Moraga Councilmembers Ken Chew and David Trotter were both easily returned to office to serve second terms.

2012 Elections Around the Corner

Now that the midterm elections are in the history books, political attention will turn to the 2012 election cycle. Will the GOP hold their gains in the House? Will they capture the Senate?

As part of our focus on civic engagement, the College is exploring the possibility of hosting one of the presidential debates. On December 1, a representative from the Commission on Presidential Debates will visit Saint Mary's to do a preliminary review of our facilities to determine if we have the minimum capacity to submit a proposal to host a 2012 presidential debate.

Election Forecast Contest Winner

Congratulations to Bill Sullivan, director of scheduling and promotion, whose election predictions most closely reflected the winning outcomes of the elections. Bill won a bottle of wine and bragging rights for the next 24 months.

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