Politics, government and public life for Southern California

California voters keep the death penalty, reject Proposition 34

Rina Palta / KPCC

Bethany Webb, whose sister was killed in a massacre at a Seal Beach hair salon, was part of a large coalition formed in an effort to end California's death penalty.

Proposition 34, the initiative that would have replaced the death penalty with life without parole in California, failed by almost 6 points. 

The vote marked the first time in decades that the voting public has been asked to consider the efficacy and ethics of capital punishment. In 1978, voters passed Proposition 7, which engraved the death penalty into the state's penal code, with polls showing solid popular support for the punishment ever since.

But Proposition 34's backers put on a strong campaign, raising over $7 million, airing television ads, and forging a coalition of former prison officials, crime victims, and judges to tour the state and lend law enforcement credibility to the cause. 

And the timing, to organizers, seemed right: a budget crisis, a public less willing to spend money on prisons, and a stalled death penalty system that's been mired in litigation for years, effectively halting executions in the state. 


An historic loss: Howard Berman falls to Brad Sherman

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Democrats Howard Berman and Brad Sherman.

Tuesday’s election marked the end of a career for an icon of southern California Democratic Party politics.  After a race marked by intense attacks from both sides, fifteen-term Congressman Howard Berman lost to fellow Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman in the newly drawn 30th District in the western San Fernando Valley.

“Brad Sherman will be the next Congressman from the 30th Congressional District. I congratulate Brad,” Berman said in a concession statement issued in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. “I will do whatever I can to ensure a cooperative and orderly transition.”

At an election night party at a Mediterranean restaurant in Encino, Sherman acknowledged he toppled a once unbeatable politician who was a prominent voice on U.S.-Israel relations and a go-to representative for the entertainment industry.


UPDATE: Quest for a supermajority: Southern California State Senate election results

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A view of the California State Capitol in Sacramento.

The great quest for Democrats in the general election was to capture a supermajority in the state Senate.

Going into the election, Democrats had 25 state Senate seats, Republicans 15. The Democrats needed two more to get a supermajority, which is the number of votes that would enable them to pass a state budget over Republican objections.

Two of the state's potential turnover seats were in Southern California's 31st and 27th Senate districts. Below are the latest results as of early Wednesday morning.

--Senate District 31: Riverside: Jeff Miller (R) / Richard Roth (D)
Republican incumbent Miller received the endorsement of Democrat Steve Clute. Republicans and Democrats were nearly equal in number as the general election neared. Republicans had mounted a big registration drive that was tainted by allegations that Democrats had unwillingly been re-registered as members of the opposition party. 
MILLER: 46%; ROTH: 54%

--Senate District 27: Agoura Hills: Todd Zink (R) / Fran Pavley (D)
Democratic incumbent Pavley had the money edge going into the race in this newly-drawn district in the western San Fernando Valley, with parts of Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks. She may have been too far left a candidate for this new territory, previously represented by Republican Tony Strickland, who is running for Congress. Prosecutor Zink, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, has spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan.
ZINK: 47%; PAVLEY: 53%


Jackie Lacey defeats Alan Jackson to become LA's first female District Attorney

Los Angeles County District Attorney race, Jackie Lacey, Alan Jackson

Mae Ryan/KPCC; votealanjackson.com

Chief Deputy DA Jackie Lacey (R) and Deputy DA Alan Jackson.

Long time prosecutor Jackie Lacey became Los Angeles County's first female and first African American district attorney when she defeated Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson.

Early Wednesday morning Jackson conceded in a statement first published by the Los Angeles Times.

"Ms. Lacey ran a dignified campaign and has earned our respect,'' Jackson said in the statement. "While she and I have serious disagreements, we share a commitment to making Los Angeles County a safer place to live. I look forward to working with Jackie and her administration to take on the dangerous criminals who threaten our community, fight for the vulnerable and for victims of crime, and work to keep children out of crime in the first place."

Lacey, 55, an L.A. native, is a 26-year veteran of the L.A. County District Attorney's Office who rose up through the ranks to reach the top spot.  She will oversee about 1,000 attorneys, 300 peace officers and 800 support staff members.


California Propositions: An Election Night roundup

General Election - Grant

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A vote-counting machine and voting stickers.

The results for the 11 propositions on Tuesday's ballot reinforced one thing: California voters remain unpredictable. They softened the Three Strikes law, but kept the death penalty intact; our supposedly health-conscious denizens don't care to know if their food is genetically modified; and they voted for a tax hike, even as the state economy continues to struggle. Go figure.

Prop 30 — Temporary taxes to fund education: The Governor’s initiative rebounded after a precipitous drop late in the polls (54%-46%). The threat of $6 billion in cuts to public schools and universities was the motivation for a majority of voters. (For more, click here.)

Prop 31 —Establishes two-year state budget cycle: This cornucopia of government reforms fell flat with voters, who rejected it by a wide margin (60%-40%). While Californians consistently give state lawmakers low approval ratings, they were not convinced the proposed changes would make much of a difference.  Some politicos think the measure was too confusing for voters.