ALAMEDA, Calif. — California voters signed off on most of the local bond measures they faced Tuesday, while also approving a major shakeup to the state’s primary election process and rejecting a measure that would have made it harder to establish and expand municipal electric utilities.
The state’s Republicans nominated former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman as their candidate for governor. She will face former governor and current Attorney General Jerry Brown, who had no serious opposition in the Democratic primary.
In neighboring Nevada, GOP voters tossed out incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons.
In California there were 22 local bond measures around the state, and voters approved 16, authorizing $1.73 billion in debt. They turned down six local measures that would have authorized $121 million in bonds.
The largest bond measure to fail came from Lynwood Unified School District in Los Angeles County, which got less than 51% of the vote, failing to meet the 55% threshold needed to pass its $37.4 million general obligation request.
San Francisco voters handily approved Tuesday’s largest bond measure, $412 million in GO debt for public safety projects. In San Francisco’s eastern suburbs, voters in the West Contra Costa Unified School District approved a $380 million bond authorization. That makes the district five-for-five in bond elections since 1998, for more than $1.27 billion.
Also in Contra Costa County, Mount Diablo Unified School District voters approved a $348 million measure.
Most of the other local tax measures around the state also were approved, according to data compiled by Michael Coleman, an expert on California government finance who works with the League of California Cities.
Voters approved parcel taxes in 16 cities, special districts and school districts, while rejecting six, according to a report Coleman released Wednesday. Parcel taxes on properties require two-thirds supermajorities to pass. Among the parcel tax losers was the Los Angeles Unified School District, which only garnered 53% approval.
“The continuing success of most local fiscal measures indicates that voters are willing to approve additional local taxes and bonds even in difficult times,” Coleman concluded. “In fact, the overall passage rates this election were better overall than historic approval levels.”
In the Nevada GOP primary for governor, Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge and state attorney general, trounced the incumbent Gibbons, whose single term was marred by a continuing state budget crisis as well as a turbulent personal life, which included a contentious divorce.
Sandoval will face Democratic nominee Rory Reid, son of the state’s embattled Democratic senator, Harry Reid.
California voters handily approved Proposition 14, which replaces partisan primaries with an open primary system modeled on Washington state’s “top two” primary. Starting in 2012, in races for statewide office, the Legislature, and Congress, voters will have one primary ballot, regardless of party. The top two finishers in each race, regardless of party, will face off in the November general election.
Supporters say the top-two primary will lead to more moderate voices, by forcing candidates to answer to a broad general election audience instead of the relatively small number of partisans who tend to vote in primaries.
“Californian voters were fighting for the middle,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who supported the measure, said at a news conference Wednesday. “We need to make politicians servants of the people, not servants of the parties.”
Voters rejected Proposition 16, which would have imposed a requirement for public utilities to secure a two-thirds vote in a ballot measure to provide electricity to new customers. The measure lost despite a campaign that cost at least $46 million, almost entirely financed by investor-owned utility Pacific Gas & Electric.