Brown Claims Gubernatorial Victory

Meg Whitman spent a record $160m plus of her own money on an unsuccessful campaign

Move over Governator, Governor Moonbeam is back in town.

Winning by a 13% lead (920,774 votes), Democrat Jerry Brown defeated Republican candidate and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, regaining the governorship he held in the 1970’s.  Voter anxiety and disenchantment over high unemployment rates fueled Brown’s success.

In this race, Brown’s strongest support in the polls came from women and Latinos. Whitman won the majority in San Diego and many other Southern California counties, in addition to rural Northern California counties such as Humboldt, but Brown received strong support from counties in and close to the Bay Area such as Contra Costa, Sacramento, and San Jose.

The 72-year-old Attorney General pushed his experience in the statehouse, and convinced voters that he could fix California’s fiscal crises starting immediately in Sacramento.  Brown has also served as California’s Secretary of State, the Mayor of Oakland, and he has run for President and U.S. Senator.

Although she spent over $160 million of her personal fortune on her political campaign and heavily criticized Brown’s record as governor in the 1970’s, Whitman failed to consolidate the Republican vote in California. She only received 84% of the Republican vote, compared to 91% of Democrats who voted for Jerry Brown. She also failed to secure blocs of significant voters in the state.  She received only 39% of women voters, and an even smaller percentage of Latino voters.

However, the October surprise came when Whitman fired her maid, who turned out to be an illegal immigrant.  Up until Oct. 2 when the scandal was revealed, polls showed a contentious race between the two candidates.  After the scandal, Brown led in the polls.

Clearly, she made enemies in her race for governor.  Whitman drew a line in the sand between herself and the unions supporting Jerry Brown.

Whitman campaigned on initiatives that appeal to many conservative voters.  She vowed to cut startup costs for small businesses, lower the capital gains and income taxes, as well as lower factory taxes to ensure businesses don’t ship operations overseas.

Whitman also campaigned to cut pay for state legislators and make their positions part time.  She wanted to institute a spending cap based on the state’s GDP, and reform the state’s categorical grant system to prevent government waste.  She says these fiscal measures would allow for the targeted tax cuts that she proposed in her campaign.

Whitman joined eBay in March of 1998 and retired in 2008.  For the duration of this period, the company added 15,000 employees, and revenue grew from $4 million to $8 billion.

Insisting that the polls were wrong, Whitman stressed the significance of absentee ballots. The fact that she had not voted since 1984, and outspent Brown by millions, fed the perception that she tried to buy the governorship in a time of economic strife.  In the end, she didn’t secure enough votes to counter Brown’s lead.

Although a Democrat won the governorship in California, the story is far different for governor races across the country. California and Hawaii were the only states where a party changed in favor of the Democrats; so far Republicans have taken a number of governor positions across the country, from Maine to Oregon.

Governor elections have a huge impact on state redistricting.  Redrawing district lines in order to secure more party electors in national elections gives an advantage to the governor’s party.  These district lines are normally redrawn every ten years after the census. However, due to Proposition 20, California district redrawing will be decided by a 14-person committee. Possible redistricting by other Republican state legislatures could make Obama’s presidential run in 2012 more difficult.