Both parties had high hopes for California in the midterms. Neither saw its dreams fully come true until the party’s grip was loosened by a series of events, including the resignation of San Francisco Mayor London Breed (a Democrat) who was facing questions from the new administration about her handling of homelessness, allegations of sexual misconduct by two members of her staff, a police raid on the offices of a political consultant, a recall effort against Breed, and reports of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
The final outcome would be a victory for control of the state House to a new Assemblyman, Democrat Doug LaMalfa. That victory came too late for other races. The governor’s office did not pick up the pieces to complete a Republican sweep from the state Board of Equalization to fill vacancies on the state Court of Appeals, which would have been a big blow to the governor and the Republican party.
Here is a timeline of the events, from January 2016 through November 2018, of California’s first and most intense midterm election with a Democratic base.
2016: The start of the race
California Governor Jerry Brown was not the only candidate running for governor in 2016, but he was on the ballot. Republicans ran a number of candidates as well—including, in addition to LaMalfa, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa—who came to represent the Republican base.
The Democrats made sure they had at least one candidate. They chose Brown because he was the incumbent and represented the state with a reputation for moderate positions on issues that didn’t always reflect the party platform.
He was an able campaigner, but the Democratic base was not as strong as it had been in previous elections, as the party lost six congressional seats (including the seat for which Brown held the governorship) to the House Republicans, and eight to other ballot measures and initiatives that were popular with voters, including some that benefited gay and lesbian issues.
Brown was popular with voters, particularly millennials, but not as much as he would have liked. He was elected governor in 2010 and then re-elected in 2014 by a margin that made him the most popular elected California governor in history. He won with 53.6 percent of the vote.
Candidates sought to differentiate themselves on the basis of their experience as politicians. Donnelly, who had run for a