Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections.
Nate Moore, Ruy Teixeira, & Karlyn Bowman at AEI:
Newsom failed to match Biden’s 2020 margin in every one of California’s 58 counties. The pro-Republican swing exceeded 10 points in 44 counties and 15 points in 17 counties. Nine counties that supported Biden in 2022 voted for Republican Brian Dahle this year. Though apparent across the state, Newsom’s struggles were primarily concentrated in the majority Hispanic areas of the Central Valley. Of the 15 counties with the largest rightward shifts, nine are majority Hispanic. The heart of the Central Valley—Tulare, Kings, Kern, Madera, and Merced Counties—swung 18 points towards Republicans.
These Central Valley counties are also well below the state average in educational attainment. Though 34.7 percent of Californians have college degrees, fewer than 15 percent of Kings, Merced, and Tulare residents do. As education polarization continues to grow, the large Republican gains in these counties is not surprising. Highly educated counties, like Marin and San Mateo Counties in the San Francisco suburbs, shifted right by far less and remain safely in Democratic hands.
California Democrats’ struggles, especially in the aforementioned counties, can be ascribed to poor mobilization and failed persuasion. Newsom, who was a surefire bet for reelection, declined to campaign. His website did not include a platform and the sole debate with his Republican opponent came on a Sunday afternoon chock full of primetime football. His considerable campaign war chest went towards running ads in Texas and Florida—thousands of miles from his own constituents. This top-of-the-ticket complacency likely tanked Democratic turnout. Newsom, of course, still comfortably won reelection, but down-ballot Democrats suffered.
Democrats came up short in six competitive House seats across California. Each seat was eminently winnable: Biden carried five of six, including three by double digits. In the 22nd District (Biden +13), Republican David Valadao survived by four points. Though Valadao’s vote to impeach Trump certainly helped him in the blue-leaning district, astoundingly low Democratic turnout in majority-Hispanic counties carried him to victory. While California hit 61.5 percent of 2020 turnout, the 22nd District cast only 53.6 percent of its 2020 total. In the 13th District (Biden +11), turnout reached just 57.6 percent of 2020. Republican John Duarte is poised to win by less than half a point. In northern Los Angeles County, Republican Mike Garcia defeated Democrat Christy Smith (for the third time)—again aided by low turnout.