Did fed-up California voters really rebuke the left on election day? Not exactly

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Results from California’s primary election underscore how much the issues of crime, homelessness and affordable housing have become major concerns to voters.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Going into election night, a talking point in the national media was whether California voters would rebuke the left and move a bit more to the center.

Central to this conversation was a ballot measure to recall progressive prosecutor Chesa Boudin, who became a lightning rod for controversies over crime and homelessness in San Francisco. If the famously liberal city ousted Boudin, and billionaire businessman Rick Caruso had a strong showing in the Los Angeles mayoral race, would that represent a shift in blue California?

Boudin was recalled by a wide margin, and Caruso advanced to a mayoral runoff, finishing ahead of Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles).


Both results underscore how much the issues of crime and homelessness — as well as housing affordability — have become major concerns in both deep-blue cities, with voters demanding change. A UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, asked what two issues were most important in deciding whom to support for L.A. mayor. Among likely voters, these were the results: homelessness 49%; crime and public safety 40%; housing affordability 25%.

But the election results were far from a sweeping shift to the center. Leading Democrats like Gov. Gavin Newsom, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla and Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta had strong showings. And L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, whose politics have made a strong shift to the right, was struggling.

Progressive San Francisco Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin is recalled after a bitter and pricey campaign amid rising fears over crime and homelessness.

June 8, 2022

Here is a breakdown of the election results:

San Francisco

The recall decision of Boudin was not even close, with more than 60% of voters supporting it.

Critics painted the D.A. as a soft-on-crime prosecutor who doesn’t care about public safety. And they tied his criminal reform policies to a wave of high-profile crimes, including a fatal hit-and-run involving a man on parole, a series of smash-and-grab robberies from high-end Union Square stores and a wave of attacks against elderly Asian American residents.

“This election does not mean that San Francisco has drifted to the far right on our approach to criminal justice,” said Mary Jung, chair of the recall campaign. “In fact, San Francisco has been a national beacon for progressive criminal justice reform for decades and will continue to do so with new leadership.”

The overwhelming vote to recall three San Francisco school members was a forceful show of parents’ frustration with local circumstances. But the proponents think other politicians should take heed of families’ fury over long school closures due to COVID-19.

Feb. 17, 2022

Los Angeles

With voters in a sour mood after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a seemingly intractable homelessness crisis and increased gun violence, the mayoral race was viewed as a referendum on whether Los Angeles would stick with the liberal Democratic leadership that has been in charge for most of the last half-century.


Caruso massively outspent Bass, using his own fortune and hammering a message of solving the homeless crisis and cracking down on crime. While a poll Sunday showed Bass slightly ahead of Caruso, the primary election results were different. Caruso holds the lead, 42% to 37% as of Wednesday morning. They will face a runoff in November.

Four members of the Los Angeles City Council were leading in their contests for reelection, while a fifth was looking at a Nov. 8 runoff, according to partial returns. In the closely watched controller’s race, progressive activist Kenneth Mejia was the top voter and will face Paul Koretz in the November runoff.

Billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso holds a narrow lead over U.S. Rep. Karen Bass in the race to replace Mayor Eric Garcetti.

June 8, 2022

Attorney general

Progressives did better in the California attorney general’s race. Democratic incumbent Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta sailed to an easy victory on the Nov. 8 ballot and likely will face one of two Republicans instead of a high-profile independent prosecutor, Sacramento Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert.

Opponents attacked Bonta for his left-leaning legislative record and his support for criminal justice reform laws. Schubert had hoped her relatively centrist politics and experience prosecuting the Golden State Killer and other notorious serial murderers and rapists would convince voters that she could effectively lead the state Department of Justice.

Bonta’s strong showing provided a counterpoint to criticism of the criminal justice reform movement in California, concerns that helped oust Boudin.

Partisan labels were tested in several high-profile races on California’s primary ballot, including the bid for state attorney general.

June 8, 2022

L.A. County sheriff

Villanueva won the office four years ago as a reformer promising to limit the department’s cooperation in county jails with federal immigration authorities.


But he has made an increasingly hard turn to the right to refashion himself as a conservative law-and-order sheriff. On the campaign trail and on his frequent appearances on Fox News, he has railed against the policies of the “woke left,” whom he blames for the county’s homeless crisis and sharp rise in homicides and other crimes. A major initiative has been to dramatically increase the number of permits issued to allow people to carry concealed guns. His department also has been mired in a series of scandals and faced critics from his own overseers and the Board of Supervisors.

As of Wednesday morning, Villanueva had earned only 34% of the vote in a crowded field. He likely will face former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna in a November runoff.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva maintains a lead over retired Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, but not one big enough to win outright.

June 8, 2022

Statewide races

Newsom crushed a crowded field of scarcely known challengers in California’s statewide primary and will face off against a conservative Northern California Republican, state Sen. Brian Dahle.

Padilla, who was appointed by Newsom just over two years ago, is expected to coast through the November election.

Lanhee Chen, a candidate for state controller, was the GOP’s best chance at winning a statewide office. As the only Republican in the race, the fiscal advisor and educator was favored to come out on top against four Democrats and one independent.

Partisan labels were tested in several high-profile races on California’s primary ballot, including the bid for state attorney general.

June 8, 2022