California’s 2024 Primary Highlights: Prop. 1 Too Close to Call; Schiff, Garvey to Face Off in November

California’s 2024 Primary Highlights: Prop. 1 Too Close to Call; Schiff, Garvey to Face Off in November

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announces a proposed 2024 ballot initiative to treat people at risk of homelessness and with mental illness and drug addiction across the state at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego on March 19, 2023. (Courtesy of Office of Governor Gavin Newsom)

Beige Luciano-Adams

Beige Luciano-Adams

3/6/2024

Updated: 3/7/2024

California’s primary elections coincided with the largest contest so far in the 2024 presidential race on Super Tuesday, giving observers a first glimpse of the contentious national election year ahead.
Key race results as of Tuesday night included U.S. Representative Adam Schiff and former Los Angeles Dodgers star Steve Garvey heading to the general election in November to fight for Diane Feinstein’s old Senate seat.
Based on preliminary results as of 4:29 p.m. Thursday, Californians are torn on Proposition 1, as 50.5 percent of voters approved Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mental health funding overhaul. Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon will face former U.S. Attorney Nathan Hochman in the general election. Additionally, it appears LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger will retain her seat, and Supervisor Janice Hahn was able to fend off former Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
Los Angeles County has more than 5.6 million voters, but historically low turnout was expected throughout the state, and polls forecasted an older and more conservative turnout than usual in deep-blue California. As of Thursday afternoon, Los Angeles County reported 1,104,935 ballots had been processed.
In a crowded race for the highly coveted U.S. Senate seat held by Dianne Feinstein from 1992 until her death last year, Mr. Schiff, who represents California’s 30th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Mr. Garvey, a Republican, will face off in November.
Though Mr. Schiff is leading with 33.8 percent, as of 1:12 a.m. Wednesday, for the full term—which starts in January 2025—Mr. Garvey prevails with the same percentage for the partial term.
Leading up to the primary election, Mr. Schiff consistently outspent and out-polled his challengers. According to media reports, the race is the most expensive U.S. Senate contest in the state’s history, with more than $65 million, led by Mr. Schiff’s $38 million in spending.
Fellow Democrat Katie Porter and late-comer GOP candidate Mr. Garvey, were vying for second place. But by Friday, a poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies had Mr. Garvey leading Mr. Schiff 27 percent to 25 percent. Mr. Garvey’s campaign offered what he called a “commonsense” alternative, attacking Congressional Democrats on immigration, law enforcement, housing, and economic issues and appealing to California’s Latino and working-class constituents.
“Welcome to the California Comeback,” Mr. Garvey told reporters after the polls had closed Tuesday night.
“What you are all feeling tonight is what it’s like to hit a walk-off home run, kind of like San Diego in ‘84,” he said, referring to his iconic, game-winning home run for the Padres in the National League Championship Series.
Mr. Garvey’s relative momentum was a highlight in a state where GOP candidates have not won a U.S. senate race since the 1980s, and where Democrat voters outnumber their Republican counterparts nearly 2 to 1.
Californian Republican senate candidate Steve Garvey, a former baseball all-star, speaks to press at a watch party in Palm Desert, Calif., on March 5, 2024. (The Epoch Times)

Californian Republican senate candidate Steve Garvey, a former baseball all-star, speaks to press at a watch party in Palm Desert, Calif., on March 5, 2024. (The Epoch Times)

Meanwhile, several high-profile Democrats—including state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, State Sen. Anthony Portantino, and former Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer—were among 10 candidates vying for Mr. Schiff’s House seat, which is based in Burbank, in a district that stretches from Pasadena and the Angeles National Forest to Echo Park and West Hollywood.
And while Ms. Friedman led with 28.6 percent Thursday afternoon, surprise came in the form of Republican candidate Alex Balekian, an intensive care physician from Glendale who garnered 19 percent, putting him in second place.
“I am proud to spearhead a grassroots movement that has escaped the attention of the mainstream media but has summarized the universal malaise that represents the person on the ground in our district,” Mr. Balekian told The Epoch Times in a statement Tuesday night. “We do not like the career politicians who have dominated the discourse, and we look forward to electing citizen-legislators who espouse term limits and common-sense laws that encourage the small-business culture of immigrants in this district.”
Mr. Balekian campaigned on parental rights, fiscal conservatism, immigration, and public safety and took a strong line on homelessness in a recent debate, saying, “As a physician in Congress, I will solve this crisis by treating it as the mental health and drug addiction crisis that it is.”
March 5 was also a chance for voters to decide on Mr. Newsom’s signature mental health reform initiative, Proposition 1—a two-part bill authorizing $6.4 billion in bonds and reallocating existing wealth tax revenue for treatment beds and supportive housing. Prop. 1 was the only statewide measure on the primary ballot this year.
The campaign’s tagline, “Treatment not Tents,” appealed to voters’ feelings about the state’s homelessness problem, which continues to swell despite the spending of $20 billion to solve the crisis over the past several years.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks about mental health crisis before signing off on two major pieces of legislation to transform the state's mental health system and to address the state's worsening homelessness crisis in Los Angeles on Oct. 12, 2023. (Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks about mental health crisis before signing off on two major pieces of legislation to transform the state's mental health system and to address the state's worsening homelessness crisis in Los Angeles on Oct. 12, 2023. (Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo)

Supporters framed Prop. 1 as an urgent pivot toward prioritizing the “sickest of the sick” and finally putting a dent in the gaping need for housing and treatment. Opponents, including mental health professionals and county leaders, argued it would raid existing services that keep vulnerable residents from falling into homelessness, addiction, and severe mental illness and give the state a blank check to double down on failed policy.
The governor and his allies raised more than $26 million to promote the measure, crushing the opposition, which raised only $1,000.
It also appears incumbent Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón will face off in November against Mr. Hochman. Mr. Gascon was leading in that race with 22 percent of the vote, compared to the former U.S. attorney’s 18 percent.
Eleven challengers in the race attacked Mr. Gascón for being “soft on crime” and sparred over his representation of crime statistics, with the incumbent maintaining crime is decreasing and his reforms are working.
Mr. Gascón was quoted by the Los Angeles Times before the election day saying the primary has been “arduous” and “very heavily contested.”
While violent crime was down slightly in 2023 over the previous year, according to LAPD, violent crime was significantly higher in 2023 than in 2020—Mr. Gascón was sworn in on Dec. 7, 2020—and property crimes have increased every year of his term, by a total of 24 percent, and shoplifting is up 81 percent over the past year alone, opponents argued.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón speaks at a press conference in Los Angeles on Dec. 8, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón speaks at a press conference in Los Angeles on Dec. 8, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

“Tonight, three-quarters of Angelenos rejected George Gascón and said ‘enough is enough’ of playing politics with our communities’ safety,” Mr. Hochman, who placed second as of Tuesday midnight, said in a statement, calling it an end to ‘the Golden Age of Criminals.’”
“I look forward to restoring trust with prosecutors, a partnership with law enforcement, and credibility with victims and the public,” Mr. Hochman said.
Voters also approved Measure HLA, a citizen-drafted road safety initiative, by about 63.7 percent, as of Thursday midnight. Proponents had pointed to rising vehicular violence and pedestrian deaths and the need for roadway upgrades, expanded bike lanes, and pedestrian safety features. The union that represents Los Angeles firefighters came out against the measure, arguing its removal of traffic lanes would impede access during emergencies. Critics also argued pegging critical infrastructure repairs to equity and environmental justice would be impractical and costly.
“This is a momentous win for safer roads,” Damian Kevitt, Executive Director of Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE), an advocacy group that supported the measure, told The Epoch Times in an email March 5.
“What’s amazing is this is an example of how democracy actually works. Measure HLA was not won by big corporations or vested interests. It was won by parents who were concerned about the safety of their children… It was won by pedestrians knocking on doors and cyclists delivering campaign signs. And it was won by family members who have personally lost a loved one due to traffic violence,” Mr. Kevitt said.
Incumbents in LA County Supervisor Districts 2, 4, and 5 outspent and defeated their challengers.
Vying for her third and final term, incumbent Ms. Barger faced four opponents for District 5, led by Assemblyman Chris Holden from Pasadena. A moderate Republican, Ms. Barger aligns with her more progressive counterparts on many issues.
Mr. Holden’s campaign highlighted Ms. Barger’s connections to former President Donald Trump donors and painted her as a MAGA Republican on abortion, immigration, and gun control, but Ms. Barger racked up endorsements from Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, law enforcement, and unions.
By Tuesday midnight, Ms. Barger had garnered 60 percent of the vote, with Mr. Holden a distant 22 percent.
In District 4, incumbent Ms. Hahn also had more than 60 percent, fending off challenges from former LA County Sheriff Mr. Villanueva and Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor John Cruikshank.
And incumbent Holly Mitchell far outpaced challengers with more than 67 percent in the 2nd District.
Former President Donald Trump received 77.8 percent of the California Republican vote, as of Tuesday midnight, and trounced former governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley in more than a dozen key GOP primaries, including Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas, among others.
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Beige Luciano-Adams

Beige Luciano-Adams

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Beige Luciano-Adams is an investigative reporter covering Los Angeles and statewide issues in California. She has covered politics, arts, culture, and social issues for a variety of outlets, including LA Weekly and MediaNews Group publications. Reach her at beige.luciano@epochtimesca.com and follow her on X: https://twitter.com/LucianoBeige

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