Democrats Nearly Sweep State Offices

R. Tyler Hillman is a staff writer and Amelia Heagerty is a contributing writer for The Daily Californian. Bonnie Chan, Kim-Mai Cutler and Stephanie Lee contributed to this report.

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In a blaze of apathy, California voters heaved Gov. Gray Davis back into the governor's mansion for another four years yesterday.

After what at first appeared to be a close race, Davis managed to pull ahead and trounce his Republican opponent Bill Simon.

Early returns had Simon leading Davis by a 2 percent margin with 21 percent of precincts reporting.

The tables were turned by 11:30 p.m. when Davis took the lead with 47.3 percent of the vote against Simon's dwindling 42.6 percent.

"With all our challenges and all our problems (California) is still the greatest place to live on the planet Earth," Davis said during his victory speech in Los Angeles, prior to thanking the Republicans and independent voters who crossed party lines to re-elect him.

Other statewide races followed a

similar pattern, beginning close and ending in a Democratic victory when the party swept California's major offices.

Democrat Cruz Bustamante was elected Lt. Governor and Bill Lockyer became California's choice for Attorney General.

"I'm extremely pleased that the state of California has re-elected Democratic leadership and rejected the reactionary politics of Simon," said Berkeley resident Nancy Carleton. "I hope we see more movement toward environmental protections such as the stricter emissions standards that Davis has passed and more forward movement on expanding domestic partnership rights."

Green Party candidate Peter Camejo, though receiving only 5.2 percent of the vote statewide, polled nearly double that in Alameda County.

Similarly, the split between Davis and Simon was considerably more lopsided in Davis' favor in Alameda County than the neck and neck returns statewide.

Simon's camp had been beset in the last weeks of the campaign by a flap over erroneous accusations of Davis' fundraising practices-leaving many doubtful of a Simon victory.

"All of the models we have to predict elections say that Gray Davis should lose-the economy is not doing well, and Davis is unpopular," said UC Berkeley political science graduate student Justin Buchler, who attended an election night event at the Institute for Governmental Studies. "People assume those models to be wrong because Bill Simon has been running a terrible campaign."

Incumbent Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Berkeley), most famous for her lone vote against the use of force following Sept. 11, was re-elected to her seat.

Her progressive views appeared to speak to Berkeley residents, who elected her by a margin greater than 80 percent.

Despite Lee's galloping success, the Democrats failed to make overall headway in the Congress.

The House of Representatives party makeup includes 225 Republican, 202 Democrats, one independent and seven undeclared at the time of printing.

In the Senate, Republicans secured a slim majority of 50 seats. With three seats undeclared, Democrats had notched three seats with one going to an independent.

Though neither of the state's senators faced re-election this year, concern arose among California residents over the Democratic loss in the Senate.

"I'm sad to hear it," said Berkeley resident Gerry Robinson, referring to the new Republican senate majority. "If the Republicans get in and make a mess of it, they deserve to sit in their own crap."

Berkeley residents last night were already envisioning a government dominated by Republicans.

"I think it's a tragedy for the nation," Carleton said. "We'll have horrible judicial appointments and (President) Bush will have been given a blank check to go to war and destroy the environment, and all of us in Berkeley need to fight back."

Despite the shift in the Senate, politics in Washington D.C. may return to partisan bickering.

"Whichever way it goes, it's only one or two votes," said political scientist Paul Eykamp. "For the most important issues like judges, because of the filibuster, it's not going to matter much anyway."

Statewide Proposition 52, which would allow same-day voter registration, appeared set to pass early this morning.

Heavily promoted by UC, Proposition 47 also seemed likely to become law.

This proposition would target $13 billion to improve education facilities throughout the state.

The only proposition on yesterday's ballot in danger of failing last night was Proposition 51, which would allocate tax receipts to highway safety.

"Voters in 2004 (were) faced with a clear retrospective decision," said Matt Jarvis, a UC Berkeley political science graduate student who also attended an election night event at the Institute for Governmental studies. "Do they like what happened since 2000 or not?"


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