5 Things California: Primary Election Edition

I was joined by Kylie Walsh, Marjie High and Emily Boerger for some late night return watching and reporting last night following the big primary day.  You’ve gotten the headlines already, I’m sure, but we wanted to get you some of the implications for health policy from yesterday’s election for this special early morning edition.


1.  CNA wins gubernatorial primary

Gavin Newsom (D) and John Cox (R) will face each other on the November general election ballot.  Health policy was one of the differentiating factors in the Democratic primary and a prominent issue in the primary. It’s unlikely to be a nuanced issue this fall.   Newsom supports a single payer health policy. John Cox doesn’t, and told Fox and Friends that “our taxes keep going up and up and up and they (Democrats) keep handing out freebies.”

What will likely happen, however, is a coalescing around the idea of a single payer health policy in the 2019 legislature. In fact, I think the boost to a single payer model this provides is one of three takeaways from this election that may have implications for the national conversation in 2020. That represents a major win for the California Nurses Association (CNA) which has put its political capital behind a single payer policy.  The lesson from this election might be this:  Want to win a tough Democratic primary in 2020?  You better be for a single payer system.


2.  Democrats to face off in Lt. Gov. race

Eleni Kounalakis (D) and Sen. Ed Hernandez (D) came out on top of the Lieutenant Governor primary, followed closely behind by Republican candidate Cole Harris.  Leading up to the primary, campaign financing, education, the economy, and affordable housing were all key issues. Health care policy also played a role in the platforms of the candidates, particularly for Senator Hernandez.  If the gubernatorial race is a guide, health policy could well be a differentiator in the fall in the LG race.

Additional vote counts could elevate Harris into 2nd position over the coming weeks of final counts.  But with an unknown number of provisional ballots available in Los Angeles County, Hernandez’s base, it’s likely his position will remain solid.  As Chair of the Senate Health Committee, Sen. Hernandez has joined State of Reform at several of our health policy conferences.  You can view highlights from his remarks at our recent 2018 Northern California State of Reform Health Policy Conference here.


3.  Becerra, Bailey proceed to AG general election

Based on last night’s results, current AG Xavier Becerra will face Republican Steve Bailey in the general election.  During the campaign, Becerra highlighted his 35 lawsuits against the Trump Administration as protecting California values, including prominent health care suits. Bailey’s website does not address health care, focusing instead on his tough stance on crime and public safety.

With independent voters now outnumbering Republicans and Democrats making up more than 44% of registered voters, this race is Becerra’s to lose.  Surprisingly, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones came in fourth out of four candidates with 14% of the vote. Jones won races for Insurance Commissioner in 2010 with 50.6% and in 2014 with 57.5%.


4.  Video: Walter Zelman, CSU LA

Walter Zelman is the Department of Public Health Chair at California State University, Los Angeles. He is an expert on how California’s government and politics intersects with health policy and markets. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to talk about the concept of an unstable democracy.

“The danger point for democracy or the lack of stability in democracy might come when both sides feel like they can’t live with the other side winning. That they can’t in effect live with losing. I think Americans are reaching that point at this point, without saying which side is right or wrong. We’re getting to the point where you can’t live with losing.”



5.  Returns in other notable races

In San Francisco, Proposition E passed by 69% on Tuesday. The measure was a referendum on a city ban on selling flavored tobacco and vaping products. RJ Reynolds and tobacco interests contributed over $12 million for the No on Prop E campaign, which suggested the ban would create a black market for the products and higher crime.

Democratic State Sen. Ricardo Lara will face former Republican Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner for that office. Poizner represents perhaps the best chance for Republicans to take a statewide office in 2018, though that is still a tall order.

Speaking of returns, there weren’t many. At 17% returns as of this morning, this could be the lowest primary election turnout in recent history, below the underwhelming 25% in 2014.