SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Joe Biden won California and its 55 electoral votes Tuesday, tightening the Democrats’ grip on the nation’s most populous state.
Biden had more than 68% of the vote, with more than 10 million ballots counted so far. California has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in every election since 1992. Hillary Clinton trounced Trump by more than 4 million votes in 2016, and a similar result this year is expected to inflate Biden’s numbers in the popular vote.
It was a strong rebuke of Trump by a state that has prided itself on being a bulwark against his policies, including filing more than 100 legal actions against his administration since he took office.
“If we continue under this administration, America will be a lost cause. We will lose hope,” said Harry Rochester, 40, a home care nurse from San Francisco who voted for Biden.
California Republicans were more focused on reclaiming some U.S. House seats after a string of losses two years ago. But early returns showed the party was struggling to defend a seat in a heavily GOP district in the San Joaquin Valley, where U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes had a miniscule lead over Democrat Phil Arballo.
And in San Diego, former longtime U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican, was trailing Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar by about 1,000 votes. The seat was left open when GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to a corruption charge and resigned.
The election came under the pall of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 17,600 people in California so far, including Alameda County sheriff’s Deputy Oscar Rocha in July. His widow, Maureen Ennor-Rocha, cast her ballot for Trump on Tuesday.
“This is my first voting day without him, so I think that might be part of my anxiety,” she said. “We fly the blue line flag, we believe in protecting our police.”
Biden’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, made history as the first Black woman to be a vice presidential nominee for a major political party. She’s also the first Democrat from California to appear on a major party presidential ticket.
It’s been decades since the Republicans were the dominant party in California. Starting in 1952, the GOP won nine of 10 presidential elections and the state helped send Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to the White House.
But when Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush in 1992, it started a streak that has now reached eight straight victories for the Democrats, including Biden.
Republicans now hold just seven of the state’s 53 U.S. House seats after losing four districts two years ago that contain either all or parts of Orange County, a one-time Republican stronghold.
Among the tightest contests on Tuesday: The 25th District north of Los Angeles, where Democrat Christy Smith had 51% of the vote in a race against GOP Rep. Mike Garcia, who defeated her in a May special election for a seat left open by Democrat Katie Hill’s resignation amid a House ethics probe involving sexual misconduct. Also, the 21st District in the Central Valley, where Democratic Rep. TJ Cox led led former republican Rep. David Valadao by a few hundred votes. Cox defeated Valadao by 862 votes in 2018.
Meanwhile, voters were weighing a dozen statewide ballot measures that could overhaul property tax formulas, overturn a prohibition on affirmative action and redefine the billion-dollar business models of ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft.
The most expensive campaign involved an intense struggle between business and labor groups over the future of app-based ride-hailing and delivery companies.
At stake is a 2019 law that requires companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to treat their drivers as employees, guaranteeing them benefits like overtime, sick leave and expense reimbursement. The companies underwrote Proposition 22 to try to keep their business model that treats drivers as independent contractors.
A state appeals court has ruled Uber and Lyft must comply with the law - unless the measure passes. Approval for Proposition 22, which was backed by more than $200 million in campaign spending by Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, led with 57% of the vote, with more than 9 million votes counted.
Elsewhere, voters were evenly split on Proposition 15, which would raise some commercial property taxes by up to $12.5 billion per year. Each side claimed 50% of the vote, with about 9.2 million ballots counted.
Supporters have framed the debate around increasing funding for schools and local governments, who rely primarily on property taxes to pay for their services. Opponents have decried the proposition as a job-killing tax hike in the middle of a pandemic-induced economic downturn.
One of the more emotional measures on the ballot is Proposition 16, which would end the state’s ban on affirmative action programs for government hiring and contracting and admissions to public colleges and universities. The state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature put it on the ballot this year, believing the racial justice protests since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis made it the right time to end the ban.
But “no” votes had 54% of about 9 million ballots counted.
Associated Press writers Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles, and Olga R. Rodriguez and Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco contributed.
Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.
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