THE PRIMARY VOTE: For Statewide Offices, Some Familiar Faces

Times Staff Writer

Democrats sent a roster of political graybeards forward into the November general election, according to final results from Tuesday’s primary, while Republican voters picked a mix of moderates and conservatives who they hope will help the party extend its reach in the capital.

In the “down ballot” races -- those for statewide offices below the marquee job of governor -- Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown spotlighted a cast of victorious veteran Democrats with his decisive win in the attorney general’s race over Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo.

Other seasoned Democrats set to compete against Republicans for new offices this fall include Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer.

Eyeing the lineup, GOP strategist Dan Schnur dubbed it “the revenge of term limits.”

“We’re gradually heading toward a system where the statewide candidates just rotate from one constitutional office to another for the rest of their lives,” he said. “I predict that by the year 2020, Garamendi and Bustamante will have run for every statewide office.”

GOP consultant Kevin Spillane poured on some partisan spin, characterizing the Democratic ticket as “tired, old, liberal war horses.”

That brought a spirited response from Democratic strategist Darry Sragow:

“If they want to use that sort of outdated pejorative, then bring it on. The fact is, the Republican nominees for these down-ticket offices are way out of the California mainstream. This will be fun.”

Sragow added that Republicans will be campaigning in the shadow of an unpopular president and growing opposition to the war in Iraq.

However one chose to read the electoral tea leaves Wednesday, results from the primary revealed a few indisputable facts about the down-ticket races:

* The balloting was not kind to incumbent legislators. Five members of the state Senate -- Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana), Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) and Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) -- lost in their statewide bids, with only one, Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey), prevailing.

* Only one of five Latinos triumphed. Bustamante easily won the Democratic nomination for insurance commissioner and will face off in the fall with Republican Steve Poizner, a technology millionaire who ran unopposed.

* Just one woman was left standing after votes were tallied: Bowen, who will vie for secretary of state against incumbent Republican Bruce McPherson.

With polls showing voters only mildly interested in the down-ticket races, analysts say many people simply cast ballots in line with their choice for governor. That means the hard-core Democrats who turned out to vote for Phil Angelides also favored other established names.

Topping that list is Brown, a former governor who beat Delgadillo with 62.9% of the vote. Brown, one of the most familiar figures in state politics, will square off this fall against law-and-order state Sen. Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno), who ran unopposed.

The race is expected to be highly contentious, with Poochigian -- whose name recognition stood at just 9% in one poll -- expected to bash Brown for his death-penalty opposition and persistent pursuit of elective office.

Another political old-timer, Garamendi, fought off two Democratic women -- Speier and Figueroa -- to capture the party’s nomination for lieutenant governor. Garamendi, who served in the Legislature for 16 years, garnered 43.4% of the vote, while Speier collected 38.6%. Figueroa finished with 18%.

Garamendi, who was outspent nearly 2 to 1 by Speier, will face conservative Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks in November.

Fellow conservative Tony Strickland, a former assemblyman from Moorpark, got a green light for a fall match-up, edging out Maldonado in the race to replace Steve Westly as controller. Strickland, who won 40% of the vote, is an anti-tax crusader who appeals to the GOP’s right wing. Maldonado, who received 37%, is a moderate known to reach across party lines.

Strickland will face Democrat John Chiang, a member of the State Board of Equalization, who beat Dunn, the state senator from Santa Ana, 53% to 47%.

For treasurer, another GOP centrist, Assemblyman Keith Richman of Northridge, lost to Board of Equalization member Claude Parrish. Richman finished with 43.9%, while Parrish captured 56.1% and a shot at Lockyer, the outgoing attorney general and longtime Democratic officeholder.

In the contest for secretary of state, Bowen had one of the strongest showings of the primary candidates, winning 60.9% of the vote while campaigning against another sitting senator, Ortiz. Bowen, a member of the Legislature for 14 years, is challenging McPherson, a Republican and former senator from Santa Cruz who was appointed the state’s chief election officer by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year and has yet to face voters.

Finally, state schools Supt. Jack O’Connell easily won reelection to a second term.


Times staff writers Eric Bailey and Jordan Rau contributed to this report.