Brown wins record 4th term, water measure passes

LOS ANGELES (AP) – California Gov. Jerry Brown claimed a place in the history books Tuesday by decisively winning a record fourth term after a lopsided campaign in the state dominated by Democrats.

Voters also endorsed two ballot proposals championed by Brown that call for spending $7.5 billion to improve the state’s water supply system and for the overhaul of a fund to pay down more debt and provide a buffer against future budget shortfalls.

An attempt to raise California’s cap on medical malpractice damage awards was soundly defeated.

In Berkeley, voters were heavily favoring a special tax on soda and other sugary drinks with the aim of curbing obesity and related diseases.

The governor’s race topped a state ballot in which battles over congressional and legislative seats, and a handful of state and local initiatives, garnered the most attention.

A Sacramento-area race featuring Democratic Rep. Ami Bera and Republican Doug Ose attracted about $13.5 million in spending by outside groups, making it the nation’s most expensive House race. Early returns showed Bera grabbing a narrow lead.

In San Diego, Republican Carl DeMaio jumped out to a narrow lead over Democratic Rep. Scott Peters.

While the state is strongly Democratic – the party holds every statewide office and controls both chambers of the Legislature – Republicans were running stronger than expected in some congressional and legislative contests.

Brown dominated the race against Republican Neel Kashkari amid a tough national political environment for Democrats that stemmed from widespread voter discontent with President Barack Obama.

“Since I’ve done it three times, I am not under any illusions that this is some kind of picnic,” Brown told reporters in Sacramento about his next term, citing the record drought and need to keep the state checkbook balanced.

The major parties and their supporters focused most of their money on tight congressional races as well as a handful of state legislative races that would determine whether Democrats would win supermajorities in the Assembly and Senate.

Elsewhere voters were deciding local measures about fracking and marijuana growing. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, embattled over her handling of the Occupy protests and police department, was fighting to save her job.

Brown argued during his campaign that he led a comeback by the state after the recession cost California more than a million jobs.

“Where once they called us a failed state, we are now showing the way,” he said Tuesday.

The 76-year-old Brown is already the state’s longest-serving governor. He logged two terms in the office from 1975 to 1983.

Brown won re-election after a muted and sometimes invisible gubernatorial campaign in which he never appeared to be threatened by Kashkari, a Republican making his first run for elected office.

A former U.S. treasury official, Kashkari helped lead the federal bank bailout during the recession. He told supporters in Orange County that he’d succeeded in “blazing a trail for … the future of the Republican Party,” which has seen voter registration dwindle to 28 percent in California.

Brown, a career politician first elected to the governor’s seat four decades ago, also ran for president three times and has served as state attorney general, secretary of state and mayor of Oakland.

The nation’s most populous state with more than 38 million people has long-term problems that include a looming government pension crisis and troubled public school and water-supply systems.

Brown, however, kept his campaign anchored to an optimistic narrative that featured the state’s now-balanced budget and job growth since the recession. The Democratic-controlled Legislature approved Brown’s plans to send more money to high-need schools and restructure sentencing laws to allow lower-level offenders to go to county jails instead of state lock-ups.

Brown’s depiction of California as a sunny success story doesn’t square with polling by the Public Policy Institute of California that shows 54 percent of likely voters believe the state is generally moving in the wrong direction, although those numbers have improved during Brown’s tenure.

Kashkari, 41, argued the governor was ignoring the plight of troubled schools and protecting the interests of powerful teacher unions that spent millions to elect him.

Yet Kashkari was unable to raise enough money to boost his name recognition or get his message across to a wide audience.

Turnout on Tuesday was projected to be just 46 percent, which would be the lowest on record for a California general election.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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