The midterm election of 2014 turned out to be a great year for Republicans, winners in several critical national races. Republicans won the six so-called battleground states, wresting control of the Senate from Democrats.
The GOP (Grand Old Party) also beefed up its majority in the House and won some key governorships as well. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) becomes the new Senate majority leader.
Kevin McCarthy (R-23rd District) of Bakersfield easily won reelection in the district that includes Three Rivers. McCarthy has served in Congress since 2007 and is the House majority leader since replacing Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) earlier this year.
Voter turnout in Tulare County and the state of California was 29 percent.
TRUS board of trustees
In the election of trustees for the Three Rivers Union School board, the three incumbents were reelected. Sue Winters, George Kulick, and Scott Sherwood were elected from a field of four that included challenger Brad Barclay.
Woodlake City Council
In the race for Woodlake City Council it appears that Chuck Ray will join incumbents Frances Ortiz and Greg Gonzalez as winners among a field of nine candidates. Gonzalez and Ortiz were within three votes of each other at last count so Woodlake voters endorsed the job the incumbents are doing.
In other races of national note, voters in Colorado and Oregon rejected the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). On the island of Maui, Hawaii, voters narrowly approved a moratorium on GMO crop cultivation.
Vermont remains the only state to pass a GMO labeling measure though it will not take effect until 2016. In order to become state law, the measure must withstand a stiff court challenge that’s heavily funded by GMO corporates dubbed in the media as “Big Food.”
In Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, voters approved referendums to raise state minimum wages above the $7.25 an hour stipulated by the federal government.
Illinois voters approved a non-binding resolution calling upon their Legislature to approve a $10 minimum wage. The federal minimum has been unchanged since July 2009. Democrats have proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10; Republicans have blocked all the previous legislation.
Since Congress has been unwilling to act on the minimum wage, a growing number of states and cities have placed local measures on the ballot. Minimum wage hikes have proved enormously popular with voters.
Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved a one-cent-per-ounce tax to distributors on soda in an effort to cut the consumption of the sugary drinks. A similar soda tax in San Francisco garnered a majority of the votes but failed to win the two-thirds necessary for passage leaving the soda industry with a split decision in two high profile elections.
Marijuana usage was taken to a higher level in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. Oregon and Alaska voters approved the recreational use of pot; in D.C. possession of up to two ounces was legalized.
In California, Proposition 1, the water bond expected to safeguard water quality and add more storage, was passed by a two-to-one margin. Prop. 2, budget stabilization, was also passed by a similar margin. Voters said no to Propositions 45, 46, and 48, but yes to Prop. 47, reducing some nonviolent criminal sentences from felonies to misdemeanors.
Although state election officials have until December 6 to certify the totals, it appears that Democrats will be elected to all the state offices. Incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown won reelection as did Gavin Newsom, lieutenant governor; Betty Yee, controller; John Chiang, treasurer; Kamala Harris, attorney general; Dave Jones, insurance commissioner, and Tom Torlakson, superintendent of public instruction. Newcomer Alex Padilla won the race for Secretary of State, an office formerly held by Debra Bowen who is stepping down due to health reasons.
In the race for State Assembly, the 23rd District that includes Three Rivers, incumbent Republican Jim Patterson ran unopposed. In the 26th District, Devon Mathis was leading Rudy Mendoza, the mayor of Woodlake, but the results are not finalized.
Both candidates are Republicans and Mendoza had a sizable margin of victory in the June primary. It’s conceivable but not likely that Mendoza can overcome a deficit of over 4,000 votes.
State Senate – 8th District
California’s newly created 8th District includes Three Rivers and all or parts of 10 counties. To call it sprawling, according to the Merced Sun-Star, is an understatement.
The Merced newspaper endorsed Tom Berryhill, a Republican who formerly was a state assembly member. The Sun-Star cited Berryhill’s diligence in getting the California water bond (Prop. 1) on the ballot as a member of the bipartisan Northern San Joaquin Valley caucus a good reason to support Berryhill who won the seat in Tuesday’s election.
Berryhill lives in Twain Harte in Tuolumne County close to the heart of the 8th District that stretches from Sacramento to Yosemite, through Sequoia-Kings Canyon country to Death Valley, reaching the Nevada border on the east and encompassing much of the San Joaquin Valley on the west.
Most voters have probably never heard of them, but nonetheless may have cast a yes or no vote on whether to keep eight judges on the bench. This retention procedure has been in place in California since 1934.
The retention elections occur every four years. Justices of the California Supreme Court and California Courts of Appeal must run for retention in the first gubernatorial election after they are appointed and then every 12 years, when their terms expire, in November.
Three high court justices were on the mid-term ballot. All were retained with the required majority vote: Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, 42, a Mexican-born Stanford law professor who was nominated and confirmed this year; Goodwin Liu, 43, who previously was a professor at U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall law school; and Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, 78, who has served on the state’s Supreme Court since 1994.
The Fifth District Court of Appeal, which serves Three Rivers and surrounding areas, retained Judges Dennis Cornell, Gene Gomes, Stephen Kane, Donald R. Franson Jr., and Rosendo Pena.