GOVERNOR’S RACE: Davis Wins Top Job
"Putting a definitive end to 16 years of GOP rule in Sacramento, Democrat Gray Davis won a decisive victory Tuesday over Republican Dan Lungren in the race for California governor, while Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer unexpectedly romped to reelection," the Los Angeles Times reports. The former lieutenant governor becomes "the fourth Democratic governor elected in California this century." Davis said his victory was "a clear indication the voters want to take a moderate path for California." The Times reports that Davis "quickly seized the middle ground, where most statewide California races are decided, by taking control of the campaign agenda -- turning the race largely into a referendum on abortion, gun control, support for public education and the environment." In addition, he managed to portray "himself as a centrist" while depicting Lungren as "off to the far right" (Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 11/4). The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "Davis carried the state's most-populous counties, including such traditional Republican bastions as San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino." In "choosing Davis, voters sided with an experienced political moderate who supports" abortion rights, and rejected Lungren's platform that included opposition to abortion. Democratic political consultant Joe Cerrell said, "Davis was able to grab onto and stress moderation, while painting Lungren as an extremist" (Gunnison/Marinucci, 11/4).
In exit polls, USA Today reports, "Lungren was favored by white Protestants and Catholics," while Davis lead "among women, independents and moderates" (Kasindorf, USA Today, 11/4). A Times exit poll showed that 21% of Davis voters cited health care as the definitive issue in their choice for governor, while 8% of Lungren voters said it was the most important issue. Twelve percent of Davis voters and 13% of Lungren voters said abortion was the most important issue to them in deciding who to vote for. The poll surveyed 3,693 voters and has a margin of error of +/-2% (11/3). In an analysis piece, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that when Davis was recently asked how he would run the state, he said, "My natural caution and incremental approach to problem solving will serve me well." While outgoing Gov. Pete Wilson (R) was criticized for blocking health care reform, prompting speculation that Davis would be more accommodating, the Chronicle reports that "Davis is unlikely to yield so much that he antagonizes business interests that can be a formidable and well-financed enemy." Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said, "The question is: Does the Legislature exercise self-discipline to do things incrementally or do they give the governor an avalanche of everything that's been vetoed for the last 16 years?" State Sen. Ken Maddy (R-Fresno) predicted, "Gray will sign some bills that Wilson did not. But with the trial lawyers and the unions, who have been unable to get most bills signed during the last 16 years, he is going to be very cautious about letting them run wild, which might be the quickest way to ensure he doesn't get elected a second term" (Gunnison/Lucas, 11/4). Click here for previous coverage of this race.