Updates: Harris elected to US Senate; California votes for recreational pot

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Donald Trump will become the next president of the United States, after one of the most contentious presidential races in modern memory.

Meanwhile, California has chosen Kamala Harris as its new U.S. senator and voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Less clear is the fate of the state's decision on whether to do away with the death penalty, which appeared to be headed toward defeat Tuesday night. In Los Angeles, supervisor candidate Kathryn Barger claimed victory in the sprawling 5th district. The other L.A. supervisorial race between candidates Janice Hahn and Steve Napolitano remained close.   

Also up in the air are two local ballot initiatives that could transform public transportation and enact a property tax that would aim to raise $1.2 billion to house the city's homeless population.

Updates: State and local | National from NPR


Update 11:40 p.m. Donald Trump claims victory, calls for unity

Donald Trump claimed his place Wednesday as America's 45th president, an astonishing victory for the celebrity businessman and political novice who capitalized on voters' economic anxieties, took advantage of racial tensions and overcame a string of sexual assault allegations on his way to the White House.

His triumph over Hillary Clinton, not declared until well after midnight, will end eight years of Democratic dominance of the White House and threatens to undo major achievements of President Barack Obama. Trump has pledged to act quickly to repeal Obama's landmark health care law, revoke America's nuclear agreement with Iran and rewrite important trade deals with other countries, particularly Mexico and Canada.

You can watch his full speech below: 

Watch: Donald Trump declares victory

As he claimed victory, Trump urged Americans to "come together as one united people" after a deeply divisive campaign.

He said he had spoken by phone with Clinton and they had exchanged congratulations on a hard-fought race. Trump, who spent much of the campaign urging his supporters on as they chanted "lock her up," said the nation owed her "a major debt of gratitude" for her years of public service.

Update 11:24 p.m. Expanded gun regulations approved by voters

Proposition 63 has passed, according to the Associated Press. It adds new gun regulations including regulating ammunition sales, requiring lost and stolen guns be reported and makes gun theft a felony. California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation — several of Prop 63's key provisions were even already signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year.

The measure, along with the laws signed by Brown, means that ammunition will be treated similarly to how the state treats guns, including background checks for ammo purchases. The NRA argued against the proposition, saying that it chips away at Second Amendment rights while not doing anything to keep guns and ammo from criminals since they can still be bought under less strict gun control in neighboring states.

KPCC staff

Update 11:12 p.m. 2 dollar increase on cigarette taxes appears to be passing

Yes on Proposition 56, which raises taxes on tobacco from one of the lowest in the country to one of the highest, is in the lead and appears to be on its way to victory, according to the Associated Press. The No on 56 campaign released a statement.

"Since day one, we ran our campaign on the issues and substance of the measure, and urged voters to evaluate the content, intent and flaws of Prop. 56. While we believe Proposition 56 is bad public policy, the voters have spoken and we respect their decision," the statement reads.

The prop adds two dollars a pack to the price of cigarettes, with taxes going from 87 cents a pack to $2.87. It's been hailed by supporters as a way to combat youth smoking and fund cancer treatment, but critics have said it's a special interest tax grab. Most of the $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion expected to be raised in the law's first year will go to fund state insurance program Medi-Cal, but opponents, including the tobacco industry, argue that the money benefits insurance companies.

One unintended effect: The tax could be a boon to black market cigarettes, which already make up 31.5 percent of the cigarettes consumed in the state. A state proposition to raise the tobacco tax in 2012 failed, but the measure was a success on its second time around.

KPCC staff

Update 10:50 p.m. LA Supe candidate Barger claims victory 

District 5 supervisor Kathryn Barger has claimed victory in the race for Los Angeles supervisor District 5, stretching from Santa Clarita to Covina. 

"My goal is to nurture our next generation so when we do that we actually have solid quality candidates who actually make a difference," she said, pointing to children in the audience. "Right there is our future. Right there," she said.

The Associated Press has not yet called the race.

Should she win, Barger will succeed her boss, Michael Antonovich, who is termed out. Barger, who is a Republican, works as his chief of staff.

You can see live updates from the race here: 

Her competitor, Darrell Park, had criticized her for what he described as the far right policies of her boss, Mike Antonovich, the current district supervisor.

Update 10:47 p.m. Propositions approved to extend tax on the rich, fee on private hospitals

California voters have approved a ballot measure to keep taxing the rich to raise billions of dollars for public schools and health care.

Proposition 55 will extend until 2030 higher income taxes that voters first approved in 2012 in response to deep education cuts during the Great Recession.

Voters approved it by 62 percent Tuesday.

Supporters included unions that spent millions of dollars. Organized opposition was minimal.

The proposition extends what were supposed to be short-term tax increases on residents who annually earn more than $263,000 for single filers and $526,000 for families. At that level, taxes bump up 1 percent, while millionaires pay an extra 3 percent.

Analysts calculated that extending the taxes past 2018 would generate between $4 billion and $9 billion annually for the state budget.

California approves hospital fee measure

California voters have approved a ballot measure that makes permanent a fee on hospitals that helps fund Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance plan for people with low incomes.

Proposition 52 is winning with 70 percent of more than 4 million votes cast. The measure was proposed by hospitals, which spent more than $60 million to promote it.

The fee currently draws $3.5 billion a year in federal matching funds and forms a major source of funding for Medi-Cal.

It is routinely renewed by the Legislature but requires support from a two-thirds supermajority of lawmakers. Hospitals say permanently extending it ensures the funding source is protected from politics.

A union representing health care workers opposed the measure, saying it benefits wealthy hospital executives.


Update 10:33 p.m. Proposition to repeal California's death penalty losing in early returns

Proposition 62, which would have banned the death penalty and replaced it with life in prison, appears on its way to defeat by voters.

Read more about what happens next with the death penalty from California Counts.

Both supporters and opponents of capital punishment have agreed that something needs to be done about the current system, with only 13 inmates being executed since the death penalty was reinstated by voters in 1978. No inmates have been put to death since 2006, after a federal judge put California executions on hold over the state's lethal injection process.

Supporters of the proposition had argued that the death penalty is "an empty promise," as well as being expensive and wasteful due to the length of the appeals process. Many death penalty opponents also argued that executions are inhumane or immoral, particularly when it comes to the possibility of an innocent person being executed — though there are no documented cases of that happening so far in California.

The competing Proposition 66 appears set to pass. It would speed up appeals and let officials begin single-drug executions. The state submitted new proposed death penalty regulations on Friday, with four different drugs offered as options, along with the gas chamber.

KPCC Staff

Update 9:51 p.m. Kamala Harris: 'We must do everything in our power to heal and bring this county together' 

California Attorney General Kamala Harris declared victory in her U.S. Senate race Tuesday night.

"We know that we have a task in front of us. We must do everything in our power to heal and bring this country together," Harris said. "We are collectively being called on to look in the mirror with furrowed brow and ask: Who are we? I believe the answer is a good one."

Harris said that she is proud to represent "this beautiful and diverse state."

Her opponent, fellow Democrat Rep. Loretta Sanchez, said Tuesday night that she doesn't believe the Associated Press's projections and was not conceding.

U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez speaks Tuesday evening to supporters at the campaign's election headquarters in Santa Ana. To the right is Sanchez's husband, Jack Einwechter.
U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez speaks Tuesday evening to supporters at the campaign's election headquarters in Santa Ana. To the right is Sanchez's husband, Jack Einwechter. Stuart Palley for KPCC

"Even if we don't make it over the line tonight, never underestimate Loretta Sanchez," Sanchez said. "We cannot achieve the best for California if we don't enter the ring."

Update 9:25 p.m. California repeals law that limited bilingual education with Prop 58

California voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly repealed a nearly two-decade-old law that limited bilingual education in public schools.

Proposition 58 had about 73 percent support with 3.2 million votes counted.

The measure undoes a 1998 law requiring schools to use English immersion for most students not fluent in the language.

Supporters said the old law was tinged with racism and that letting English learners study in two languages alongside English speakers helps both groups better prepare for work in a global economy.

Opponents said forcing students to learn English quickly is beneficial and that the state's 1.4 million English learners had fared better in school since Proposition 227 was passed nearly 20 years ago.

Proponents say the new measure will help expand so-called dual language immersion programs that mix English speakers and learners in the classroom and teach both groups two languages.

There are already a few hundred of these programs in the state. But parents of English learners must sign a waiver every year for their children to participate, which educators say makes it hard to get programs started even as interest in learning Spanish, Mandarin and other languages has soared in California and elsewhere.

Proposition 58 was proposed in the Legislature by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a fellow Democrat. It required voter approval because it alters a previous ballot measure approved by voters.

The state Democratic Party, California Teachers Association and California Chamber of Commerce supported the measure. Opponents included the state Republican Party and businessman Ron Unz, who sponsored the 1998 initiative amid a backlash to a rise in immigration in California.

Before 1998, about 30 percent of English learners were taught in bilingual programs, which varied in structure and were often comprised solely of English learners.

Since then, the state's demographics have changed and Latinos now comprise 39 percent of the population, more than any other group. California is among more than 20 states that offer a seal of biliteracy to high school graduates who master more than one language.

Amy Taxin/AP

Prop 57 approved, making it easier for nonviolent offenders to be released

Proposition 57, which makes it easier for California inmates to be released from prison if they demonstrate rehabilitation, has passed, the Associated Press projects. Gov. Jerry Brown campaigned for the law, which he said was a response to the "tough on crime" law he signed while a governor decades ago and, according to Brown, was ultimately a failure.

The proposition is an effort by Brown to fix problems created when inmates don't have incentive to improve themselves, as well as aiming to reduce prison overcrowding. The measure was strongly opposed by law enforcement officials and district attorneys, who argued the law would also apply to some violent felons who just aren't covered by the state's official violent criminal definitions.

The measure allows parole boards to release nonviolent inmates after they've served the full term for their "primary" offense, rather than forcing them to continue to serve time for additional sentencing enhancements. State Attorney General Kamala Harris, also running for Senate, was attacked by opponent Rep. Loretta Sanchez over Prop 57, as Harris crafted the ballot summary for the law as part of her job as AG and has supported efforts to reduce incarceration, though being attorney general also means she has declined to take an official position on the measure.

KPCC staff with AP

9:07 p.m.: Center for Study of LA projects victory for measures HHH, M, JJJ and A

Fernando Guerra speaking at Loyola Marymount University’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles's Election Central watch party on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.
Fernando Guerra speaking at Loyola Marymount University’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles's Election Central watch party on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Quincy Surasmith/KPCC

The Center for the Study of Los Angeles has projected that L.A. County measures HHH, JJJ and M will pass, based on exit polling. 

The preliminary results were announced at a nonpartisan event downtown attended by KPCC. 

Measure M, the county's transportation initiative, would add a half-cent sales tax and extend the existing Measure R half-cent increase passed by voters in 2008. Both increases would be permanent unless voters act to repeal them.The initiative would fund massive rail expansions, highway improvements, biking and walking infrastructure and local street repairs.

Among the biggest projects proposed are a subway under the Sepulveda Pass connecting the San Fernando Valley to West Los Angeles, an extension of the Gold Line to Claremont, a northern spur of the Crenshaw line, possibly into West Hollywood, a light rail connecting Artesia to downtown L.A. and acceleration of construction of the Purple Line subway to Westwood to be finished 10 years earlier than scheduled.

HHH would attempt to raise $1.2 billion for housing the city's homeless population and JJJ — billed the city's 'slow growth measure' — would force developers of some residntial buildings to set aside units for low income residents and hire local, unionized workers

The center's exit poll also found Measure A would likely pass, but found RRR and SSS too close to call. 

You can follow incoming results for all those measures here

Editor's note: The Center for the Study of Los Angeles' directory, Fernando Guerra, is a member of Southern California Public Radio's board of trustees.

Update 8:24 p.m. Clinton wins California; Trump leads nationwide

Hillary Clinton has won California, according to the Associated Press. California was expected to go for Hillary Clinton by a significant margin, based on pre-election polling, as she continues to face tight races in key states. You can follow NPR's live blog for more on the national picture.

The results were not surprising. California, with 55 electoral votes, has voted for Democrats beginning in 1992. However, much of the state votes more conservatively, particularly outside of major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Clinton's appearances in Southern California throughout the campaign were largely for fundraisers rather than campaign rallies. While California's Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Clinton shortly before California's primary, his endorsement was described by many as lukewarm. Still, Brown went on to support Clinton in the general election.

Watch here for further updates about the California election results up and down the ballot.

AP with KPCC staff

Update 8:16 p.m. California votes to legalize recreational marijuana with Prop 64

Early counts indicate California voters have approved Proposition 64, legalizing recreational use of marijuana in the nation’s most populous state and along the entire West Coast.

KPCC's "Take Two" explains more of what happens now that marijuana has been legalized.

The vote marks a change in drug policy decades in the making and indicates growing momentum for other states to legalize marijuana for either recreational or medical use. Though California was first in the U.S. to allow medical use, it follows Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Washington, D.C. in legalizing recreational marijuana.

Californians got their first chance to vote on whether to legalize marijuana in 1972, and they overwhelmingly said no. The state came close in 2010, when the final vote was 53.5 percent for and 46.5 percent against. Since California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, more than two dozen states have followed suit.

The donations for Proposition 64 have been lopsided. The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission calculates that over $20 million has been spent by those who want to see the measure passed. Meanwhile, opponents have kicked in only $2 million. The campaign to legalize appeared much more organized this go-round, and it has been ahead in the polls for months.

Proponents of Proposition 64 say the measure would finally bring the marijuana industry out into the open. They have been pitching the proposition as a thoughtful measure that takes lessons from other states that have legalized. Supporters stress that there are protections to prevent monopolies from forming in the marijuana business, and that legalizing would bring a windfall of new tax revenue for the state. The California Department of Finance estimates that the measure could bring in $1 billion a year through taxes on the cultivation and sale of cannabis.

Opponents have raised concerns that range from public safety impacts to moral qualms. On the public safety side, the No on 64 campaign has sounded alarms about the possibility of increased teen drug use, the corporatization of marijuana, secondhand smoke and DUIs. The determination of what constitutes “drugged driving” has become a big issue. How high is too high to drive? There’s currently no answer to that question.

Cannabis growers in places like Humboldt and Mendocino counties are divided on the issue. Some are happy to finally be able to go legit after decades of friction with law enforcement. But there is a lot of concern. Many worry that large corporations are going to get into the business — players from Big Ag, tobacco and alcohol — and that the cultivator culture in the Emerald Triangle will be snuffed out. At the very least, many are afraid legalization would cause the price of marijuana to continue to drop, making it impossible for small growers to earn a living. Some are dubbing the potential change as the “Wal-Martization of weed.”

Proposition 64 leaves a lot of questions about the marijuana industry on the table. It is still a Schedule 1 narcotic federally. Those in the marijuana business will have difficulties when it comes to banking and can’t transport the drug across state lines. Many of the regulatory decisions about the cultivation and sale of marijuana will be left up to local authorities. Some locations may, in fact, choose to ban the sale of marijuana entirely.

KQED/California Counts

Update 8:11 p.m. Kamala Harris wins US Senate seat

Kamala Harris supporter Reza Ghavami watches coverage of the presidential race during California U.S. Senate candidate and California Attorney General Kamala Harris' election night watch party at The Exchange LA on Tuesday night, Nov. 8, 2016. "I was hoping to celebrate Hillary's triumph," he said. "But I'll call [Trump] my president, because that's democracy."
Kamala Harris supporter Reza Ghavami watches coverage of the presidential race during California U.S. Senate candidate and California Attorney General Kamala Harris' election night watch party at The Exchange LA on Tuesday night, Nov. 8, 2016. "I was hoping to celebrate Hillary's triumph," he said. "But I'll call [Trump] my president, because that's democracy." Maya Sugarman/KPCC

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has seized the state’s open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.

A preliminary exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research found Harris easily defeated her fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

Sanchez faced an uphill battle ever since the June primary, when Harris won 53 out of California’s 58 counties. Sanchez barely edged out Harris in her own Orange County.

The attorney general was boosted by her close ties to President Obama, the state Democratic Party, labor unions and other key constituencies. In the final weeks, she won endorsements from Gov. Jerry Brown and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Sean Clegg, a key Harris campaign strategist, says her quick decision to jump into the race less than a week after Boxer announced her retirement in 2015 framed the contest from the beginning.

“Getting into the ring early and standing up as the most formidable candidate forced every potential candidate to analyze the race through the lens of: ‘Can I beat Kamala Harris?'” Clegg said.

“Tom Steyer, the billion-dollar man, Antonio Villaraigosa (former Los Angeles mayor) and leading members of Congress all concluded they couldn’t,” Clegg added.

Indeed, Democrats like Los Angeles Rep. Xavier Becerra or Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti might have given Harris a stronger race than Sanchez did.

Having twice run and won statewide, Harris benefited from higher name recognition than Sanchez. And Sanchez, who stressed her immigrant roots and middle-class upbringing, was never able to make serious inroads into key Democratic constituencies. Her reckless comments about Muslims and Native Americans didn’t help.

Although Sanchez was running to become the first Latina senator in the United States, Harris outmaneuvered her in the Latino community, winning an endorsement from La Opinion newspaper in the primary and from farm labor leader Dolores Huerta.

Sanchez was left trying to win over Republicans who found themselves without a candidate in the general election. Even there, Harris exceeded expectations in pre-election polls.

It’s a remarkable rise for Harris, whose first statewide race for attorney general in 2010 was so close that it took more than three weeks to determine that the San Francisco district attorney had defeated Republican Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, an upset few predicted.

In January Harris heads to Washington with a national profile and rising expectations, not unlike Barack Obama or Elizabeth Warren did. Job one might be convincing her new colleagues that she’s not a showboat, but rather a substantive legislator they can do business with in the U.S. Senate.

KQED/California Counts

This story has been updated.

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