It takes some time to identify winners in California elections, for two reasons. First, true victory is very difficult to achieve because of the state's un-governability, as successful ballot initiatives and winning politicians fail to make much impact. Second, the state's reliance on vote-by-mail for a majority of votes means that the counting of ballot goes far beyond elections night.
The losers, however, make themselves clear fairly quickly. Here are five electoral losers, on election night.
1. The California Republican Party: It's hard to overstate how much this party lost. The Democrats appeared to gain supermajorities in both houses of the legislature. Prop 40, a referendum the Republicans qualified and then abandoned to reverse state senate districts, failed (which, in the parlance of referendum, means the "yes" side won). This emphasized how the party wasted money it badly needs. The voters adopted two tax increase measures the party opposed, and voted down Prop 32, the limitation on union and corporate contributions that the party supported.
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2. Molly Munger: The wealthy civil rights lawyer spent tens of millions on a pet idea -- income tax increases to pay for schools. And her measure, Prop 38, was getting crushed, barely getting a quarter of the vote in early returns. Munger didn't just lose -- she lost in a way that discredited her idea, and created no movement for more direct-to-school districts local education funding. She might have been better off burning that money in the street.
3. Jerry Brown: The governor's Prop 30 measure won, which should also land him on the winner's list, but as your blogger has noted, a victory for Brown on 30 is full of political danger, since he now owns, at least politically, the state's thoroughly broken budget.
4. La Jolla hotels: If Mitt Romney, owner of a La Jolla beach house, had been elected president, he would attracted all sorts of folks -- media, White House staff, fans -- to La Jolla hotels. Now, local lodges won't get that bounce. The good news for those in La Jolla: no presidential traffic jams.
5. Voters who really care about the state budget: Yes, you think you want the budget balanced, but Californians proved again they couldn't care less. Prop 35, a measure that imposed costly new penalties and requirements related to human trafficking, passed overwhelmingly. And Prop 31, an overly complicated but sincere effort to rein in the budget, failed.