Padilla's Weak Showing Provides Window for GOP in Secretary of State Race

Padilla's Weak Showing Provides Window for GOP in Secretary of State Race

While there are still hundreds of thousands of late absentee and provisional ballots left to be counted before the final certification of last Tuesday’s primary election, there aren’t enough votes left to change the fact that Democrat state Senator Alex Padilla has every reason to be worried about his November runoff with Republican Pete Peterson. 

Despite considerable campaign spending, Padilla turned in an unimpressive performance, capturing a mere 30% of the vote after reportedly spending nearly $2 million.

Padilla has to be wondering why, despite all of his voter contact, over 320,000 Californians cast their votes for indicted State Senator Leland Yee. While some of those Yee votes are no doubt due to voter ignorance of Yee’s criminal indictment – and maybe some confused him for Betty Yee, who is a candidate in another office – you can be sure many were an affirmative “protest vote” from Democrats unhappy with their options.

Derek Cressman, another Democrat candidate and a former official with California Common Cause, despite having a relatively obscure profile, pulled over 7% of the vote from Padilla.

Senator Padilla’s “signature” legislation this cycle has absolutely no nexus whatsoever to overseeing California’s election process. Rather, it is legislation to implement a statewide ban on plastic grocery bags. Yes, you read that right. The guy who wants to be Secretary of State is busy embracing the extreme ideological agenda of the environmental left. 

Recently Padilla has come under direct public assault for his bag ban proposal in the form of television commercials from opponents to the measure, which highlight among other issues with the legislation that California grocers stand to make a mint from pocketing the legislation’s mandated $.10 per paper bag fee (is it any wonder that the California Grocers Association PAC made a donation to Padilla’s Secretary of State campaign?).

Standing out in sharp contrast to the left-wing Padilla is his Republican rival, Pete Peterson. If you spend time with Peterson, you quickly realize that while he is quite moderate in his bearing, he is extremely passionate about doing the actual job of the Secretary of State. Peterson has made a career out of aggressively pursuing public engagement in the affairs of government at every level and has a robust and thorough plan for the office starting on day one. Padilla devotes more space on his website to talking about clean water and air, safer neighborhoods, and better schools than he does to the tasks under the purview of the Secretary of State.

It is worth noting that the lackluster performance of Dan Schnur, a former Republican who re-registered as a “no party preference” candidate, is an indicator that in a down ticket race for partisan office, having a partisan label matters. His personal campaign spending and independent spending on his behalf resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of voter contact on behalf of Schnur’s candidacy, yielding fewer than 10% of the votes cast. 

There is no doubt that in the runoff between Padilla and Peterson that the former will be able to raise more funds – especially from public employee unions. But it significant to note that Peterson nearly bested Padilla for top vote-getter last Tuesday while spending roughly $150,000, a relatively tiny sum of money. 

Senator Padilla may find that all of the popularity that he has and continues to garner with left as he champions their causes in the State Capitol may come back to haunt him on election day, when he may find out that voters want a Secretary of State, not a Secretary of Statism.