How Jerry Brown Took Over Reagan Country

The San Fernando Valley voted solidly for Democratic candidates on Election Day, but by a smaller margin than the rest of Los Angeles, according to Loyola Marymount University’s exit poll of voters.

Jerry Brown won 55 percent of the Valley vote for governor and Sen. Barbara Boxer took 58 percent, beating their Republican opponents among all voter groups, according to the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount.

Jerry Brown and wife Anne Gust on Election Night

Citywide, both Brown and Boxer took two-thirds of the vote.

And by a 50-48 margin, the Valley also supported the legalization of marijuana, though Proposition 19 was rejected statewide.
The results show that the Valley has continued moving away from its historical conservative roots, but still remains less liberal than the rest of the city, analysts said.

“The San Fernando Valley was once Reagan country, but those days were a long time ago,” said Martin Saiz, professor of political science at California State University, Northridge.

“The Valley hasn’t been majority Republican for quite awhile. It’s a different Valley. It’s not the same Valley it was in the ’70s or ’80s or even the ’90s.”

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom also won the lion’s share of local votes in the lieutenant governor’s race. He beat Abel Maldonado, the Republican incumbent appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, by
a 52-39 margin in the Valley and 58-31 citywide.

One big reason for the city’s Democratic dominance was the large Latino vote which, according to exit polls, went better than 5 to 1 for both Brown and Boxer over their Republican opponents.

GOP billionaire Meg Whitman and former Hewlett-Packard exec Carly Fiorina each could garner only a fifth of the Latino vote in Los Angeles – an apparent repudiation for the Republican candidates’ staunch opposition to immigration reform leading to citizenship, according to analysts.

Fernando Guerra, who heads Loyola’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles, said he believes the gubernatorial election was decided by Whitman’s handling of the issue over her former housekeeper – an illegal immigrant who worked for her for nine years.

Whitman, who claimed not to have known of her housekeeper’s illegal immigration status during all that time, maintained she fired the woman when she finally learned she was in the country illegally.

“(Latinos) got a different narrative about Whitman,” said Guerra. “To me that is what changed the election then and there. It wasn’t just Latino voters, but especially Latino voters saw her challenged for the first time, and saw how she reacted.”

Brown, who was governor from 1975-83, won the election with almost 54 percent of the overall vote, while Boxer won re-election to a fourth term with 52 percent.

Statewide, Brown and Boxer also received lopsided support from Latinos, according to polls conducted by Latino Decisions and sponsored by the National Council of La Raza, Service Employees International Union and America’s Voice.
Those polls reported both Democratic candidates receiving 86 percent of the state’s Latino vote.

Although the Loyola exiting polling did not inquire about the state attorney general race, officials said the strong Democratic trend in other campaigns indicates that the Valley also helped Democrat Kamala Harris overtake Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley in his home stronghold.

As of Wednesday, Harris, the San Francisco D.A., was leading in Los Angeles by more than 13 percentage points but she was barely clinging to a small margin statewide.

The Harris campaign attributed her success in Los Angeles to an intensive effort in the homestretch of the race.
“She all but lived in Los Angeles the last month,” consultant Ace Smith said. “She spent every weekend in Los Angeles and made several trips during the week. It was old-fashioned hard work.”

Smith said Harris also provided a more positive message to voters on what she would do as attorney general – particularly on environmental issues – while Cooley’s campaign concentrated on attacks.

“He was using the death penalty and that is a decades-old battle that doesn’t work anymore,” Smith said.
Cooley’s campaign maintained that the results are far from over.

“With the counties completing their semi-official returns, Steve Cooley trails Kamala Harris by 14,838 votes – two-tenths of a percentage point,” Kevin Spillane, Cooley’s consultant said in a statement. “There are over 1 million provisional and absentee ballots yet to be counted.”

The voter turnout in Los Angeles County in Tuesday’s election was 43 percent, according to the county Registrar-Recorder’s Office.

The Loyola Marymount exit poll found that both Brown and Boxer were favored by upwards of 2-to-1 margins by men, women and white voters. Asian voters also heavily supported the two Democrats, and African American voters favored Brown and Boxer by more than a 9-to-1 margin.

The exit poll included surveys with 341 voters from the Valley, Loyola Marymount officials said, and had a margin of error on all questions of plus or minus 3 percentage points.