Calif. closely divided on hot-button initiatives

Associated Press Modified: November 7, 2012 at 8:01 am •  Published: November 7, 2012
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In the race for president and the Senate, it's fair to say the outcome was never in doubt in the nation's most populous state, home to one in eight Americans.

Feinstein, in a commanding position from the start, essentially ignored Republican Elizabeth Emken, a political neophyte who tried to parlay her experience as an autism advocate and unsuccessful congressional candidate into a campaign against one of the state's most enduring politicians. She had little name recognition or money, making it virtually impossible to run a statewide campaign.

An array of ballot proposals — 11 in all — touched on everything from taxes to food labeling, with many of the most contentions initiatives remaining too close to call hours after the polls closed. Voters rejected Proposition 32, an attempt to curb union clout at the statehouse, and Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of genetically modified foods. Proposition 34, a repeal of the infrequently enforced death penalty, was in play.

California has the nation's most populous death row, with 726 inmates, yet has carried out just 13 executions while spending $4 billion for housing Death Row inmates and paying for their appeals since capital punishment resumed in 1977.

At least $370 million has been spent on the 10 initiatives and one referendum on Tuesday's ballot.

While the presidential and U.S. Senate races had been a yawn in the state, California is a nationally watched battleground for the House of Representative as Democrats try to position themselves to regain the majority in 2014. About a dozen congressional races are considered competitive, thanks in large part to California's new independent redistricting process that redrew congressional and state legislative boundaries and a so-called open primary in which the top-two finishers advance to November, regardless of party affiliation.

The amount of money spent so far on House races by super PACs and other outside groups — $54 million, and rising — shows their importance to both major parties.

In the state Senate, Democrats are aiming at a supermajority — a grip on two-thirds of the seats — which would allow the party to punch through tax increases without Republican votes. The Assembly should remain firmly in Democratic control, but the party is expected to fall short of the two-thirds margin that would push Republicans to the sidelines.

In San Diego, the new mayor will represent a break from the past, regardless of who wins. Democratic hopes are riding with Rep. Bob Filner, who could capture an office that has eluded the party for most of four decades, but City Councilman Carl DeMaio could make San Diego the most populous U.S. city to choose an openly gay Republican leader.

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Associated Press writer Shaya Tayefe Mohajer contributed to this report.

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