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As one of the biggest political battles in recent history played out on the national stage, Californians decided some key issues and seats on Tuesday, from a contentious Los Angeles City Council campaign that drew major Hollywood players on either side to a race for the 25th Congressional District, a seat once held by Katie Hill. Also on the ballot statewide, 12 propositions which stand, if passed, to affect everything from commercial property taxes and criminal justice policies to the use of affirmative action in universities. Spending on this year’s crop of ballots reached a record, with outlays both for and against this year’s crop of propositions reaching a record $740 million.
While some races — including the contentious battle for the L.A. City Council District 4 seat between Nithya Raman and David Ryu and for Hill’s former House seat — are still being counted, most key props have been called and on Friday, Jackie Lacey conceded in the D.A. race against George Gascón, continuing a progressive sweep started by the election of Holly Mitchell and passing of Measure J. This story will be updated as more results are announced.
Los Angeles County District Attorney — George Gascón
The race to become the next district attorney of Los Angeles County had gained national attention, a battle that has pitted incumbent Jackie Lacey against former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. Lacey, the first woman and first African American to be elected district attorney of L.A. County in 2012, brought high profile charges against Harvey Weinstein and Ron Jeremy, but faced extreme criticism this summer after declining to charge police officers in a number of use-of-force cases. Meanwhile, Gascón, a former police officer, is a progressive prosecutor who co-authored Prop 47, which reduced a number of felonies to misdemeanors, and was among the first to expunge marijuana convictions after California’s legalization of recreational cannabis. His supporters included Kerry Washington and John Legend.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Second District — Holly Mitchell
Democrats Sen. Holly Mitchell and L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson Jr. were in runoff to become L.A. County Supervisor in the county’s second district. Wesson Jr., the early frontrunner, was supported by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the L.A. County Democratic Party; Mitchell later was endorsed by Sanders and Gov. Newsom. The rare open seat on L.A. County’s governing board came to be after Mark Ridley-Thomas termed-out of his seat; the second district encompasses some major Los Angeles cities and neighborhoods including Carson, Compton, Culver City, Inglewood, Koreatown and Mar Vista, comprising nearly two million residents. Kendrick Sampson was a supporter of Mitchell, the more progressive candidate. With her victory, the Board of Supervisors will be all female for the first time in history.
Los Angeles City Councilmember District 4 — Nithya Raman
In a highly contentious city council race for LA’s District 4, Nithya Raman, the Bernie Sanders-supported progressive who left her position as executive director of Time’s Up Entertainment to run for the seat, has been seeking the seat occupied by moderate incumbent David Ryu. The two have battled for District 4, which stretches from the San Fernando Valley to Silver Lake, for months, forced into a runoff after neither received a majority of the vote in March’s local election. Since then, the race has gotten national attention (with major Democratic endorsements for Ryu from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi) and split the Hollywood vote, with many of the the town’s creatives — actors, actresses and writers — backing Raman, while studios, agencies and labor unions flocked to Ryu. Raman’s supporters included Jane Fonda, Natalie Portman, Kendrick Sampson and David Mandel, while Ryu’s included a number of executives from Endeavor, Walt Disney and Comcast NBCUniversal, with Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell and former HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo.
U.S. House of Representatives 25th Congressional District — Mike Garcia
In California’s 25th Congressional District, which spans portions of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties including Simi Valley, Santa Clarita and Palmdale, Republican Garcia and Democrat Christy Smith faced each other in a rematch for Katie Hill’s former seat. After Hill flipped the battleground district in the 2018 midterms and then resigned in late 2019, Garcia, a first-time candidate, won a May special election for the seat by nearly 10 points against former Assemblywoman Smith (whose supporters include Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff.)
Los Angeles County Measure J — Passed
The proposal will have L.A. County set aside 10 percent of the locally generated unrestricted funds in its annual budget to spend on alternatives to incarceration, such as job training, affordable housing, mental health services, counseling, substance abuse treatment and youth development programs. Opponents include the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, while Hollywood supporters have included Queen Sugar actress Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Doom Patrol actress Diane Guerrero, Rosario Dawson, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors and John Legend. Actor Kendrick Sampson’s racial-justice group is one of the steering committee members (along with BLM Los Angeles) behind Measure J. “Every year, the biggest chunk of the budget goes to the sheriff’s department, to judges, to probation officers, all of these oppressive institutions,” Sampson told THR recently. “Measure J would raise the floor so that a minimum would be required to go to these things that the community needs most.”
Proposition 15: Commercial Property Tax Reform — Failed
The proposition would have created a major change to how California taxes private commercial property, partially curtailing 1978’s Proposition 13 (which sets property taxes based on the most recent purchase price.) Prop. 15 have would regularly assessed and increased taxes on commercial properties (with an exemption for small businesses), while leaving residential property taxes unchanged. The increased tax funds would have raised billions of dollars for schools and communities. Some of the companies and people who could have expected to pay more are Disney (on Disneyland), Donald Trump (on the properties he owns in California), and Comcast (including on Universal Studios Hollywood). It was supported by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Retailers Association. Sampson, a supporter, recently told THR, “It closes a tax loophole for corporations and funnels that money into investing in schools and local services.”
Proposition 16: Affirmative Action — Failed
It would have reinstated affirmative action programs in California, allowing diversity to be used as a factor in public employment, education and contracting decisions, reversing Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in 1996. Patricia Quillin, wife of Netflix chairman Reed Hastings, donated $1 million in support of the proposition and producer Devon Franklin was a supporter — “We have a chance to fight gender & race discrimination in Cali this November by voting #YesOnProp16 to reinstate #Affirmative Action. It’s all up 2 us 2 dismantle #systemic and #structural racism,” he recently tweeted — while opponents included the California Republican Party and the Chinese American Civic Action Alliance (amid concerns that Asian students could suffer lower admission rates to California public universities.)
Proposition 17: Voting Rights for People on Parole — Passed
The initiative restores voting rights to people who have finished their prison sentences and are on parole. Among its supporters are Cullors and John Legend who recently tweeted, “Vote yes on Prop. 17 to restore the right to vote for returning citizens.” 16 other states already let people who are on parole vote.
Proposition 20: Increase Penalties for Some Property Crimes — Failed
The initiative — supported by sheriffs’ associations as well as retailers (including grocers) — would have increased penalties for certain property crimes, including shoplifting, and repeated parole violations. Patricia Quillin donated $2 million to fight Prop. 20 and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative donated $2.225 million also to oppose it, while a number of Hollywood names came out against it, including Ava DuVernay, Legend and Kendrick Sampson, who told THR, “It’s a very scary proposition that could beat back a lot of wins we’ve had in California to operate in a more equitable fashion.” Tweeted DuVernay, “Ralphs, Gelsons, Albertsons, Kroger + Safeway created Prop 20 with police to make SHOPLIFTING a FELONY. It also creates two all-new crime categories. Injustice is durable. It finds ways to grow. Unless we stop it. No on Prop 20. And shame on these stores.”
Proposition 22: Gig Worker Exemption — Passed
Companies such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates have spent tens of millions to pass this proposition, which exempts them from a state law requiring them to treat drivers as employees and instead allows companies to classify them as independent contractors. Among the celebrities who have tweeted in opposition to Prop. 22 are Rob Delaney, Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk and Debra Messing, who wrote, “Stop Exempting Uber & Lyft from Basic Labor Laws!”
Proposition 25: Replace Cash Bail With New Algorithm-Based System — Failed
The proposal would have replaced cash bail with a system that would evaluate public safety and flight risk with the use of an algorithm. Sampson was among opponents of the measure. “The wording is very confusing,” Sampson told THR. He supports eliminating cash bail but explains: “This is not the way to do it, especially by replacing it with a system that relies heavily on an algorithm. There are so many studies that algorithms have racial bias ingrained in them.” Governor Gavin Newsom was among supporters, while Human Rights Watch and the California State Conference of the NAACP were in opposition.
Also on the California ballot were: Proposition 14 (Passed), that will borrow up to $5.5 billion in bond money to fund stem-cell research, which was supported by Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller Rogen, founders of HFC, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting Alzheimer’s; Proposition 18 (Failed), which would allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary if they will be 18 by the time of the general election; Proposition 19 (Passed), which will afford new property tax breaks to people 55 and older when buying a newer, more expensive home, while upping property taxes on people inheriting property from their parents; Proposition 21 (Failed), which would expand the ability of cities to enact rent control; Proposition 23 (Failed), which would require at least one doctor be present at dialysis clinics; and Proposition 24 (Passed), which will create new protections for consumers’ data privacy.
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