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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris cruised to victories in Tuesday's primary, while Republican hopes to break the Democrats' stranglehold on statewide offices got a boost with a strong showing in the secretary of state's race.
Democrats hold all eight statewide offices and five incumbents are running for re-election and favored to win. GOP hopes rest on the races for controller, treasurer and secretary of state.
The secretary of state is California's chief elections officer and oversees the campaign finance reporting system. From a diverse field of eight candidates, voters chose Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles and Republican Pete Peterson, who runs a Pepperdine University think tank dedicated to public engagement in politics.
With more than 1.7 million votes counted, Peterson had 30 percent to Padilla's 29 percent.
Peterson's priorities include more campaign finance transparency and less intrusion by government officials in the ballot initiative process. He acknowledged the challenge of taking on a prominent Democrat in a blue state.
"We're going to be outspent all the way straight through to November," he said.
Padilla's priorities include increasing voter turnout, which was dismal Tuesday.
"I think the low turnout today is Exhibit A in terms of why we must do better when it comes to civic engagement," Padilla said.
The race for superintendent of public instruction pitted two Democrats with different visions for public education. The incumbent, Tom Torlakson, is backed by unions while Marshall Tuck, a former charter school operator, wants changes to how teachers are evaluated and when they can be fired.
Torlakson had nearly 49 percent of the votes to Tuck's 28 percent.
Because the race for schools chief is nonpartisan, a candidate can win the seat outright if he gains more than 50 percent of the vote. In all the other primary races, the two candidates with the most votes advance to November's general election, even if they are from the same party.
In the race for controller, the state's chief fiscal officer, four candidates were bunched with between 20 percent and 24 percent of the votes. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin had a narrow lead over fellow Republican David Evans and two Democratic stalwarts who are termed out of their current offices — former Assembly Speaker John Perez of Los Angeles and Betty Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization.
The current controller, John Chiang, is termed out and is running for treasurer. He easily advanced to November, winning 55 percent of the votes and will face Republican Greg Conlon, who had 39 percent.
Also on the ballot for controller was state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco, who ended his campaign after being arrested on federal corruption charges earlier this year.
In the lieutenant governor's race, Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor, won about 50 percent of the votes. In November he will face former California Republican Chairman Ron Nehring, who had 23 percent.
Harris had about 53 percent of the votes in her quest for another term as attorney general and waited to see which of four Republican challengers would face her in the fall.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones took a step toward a second term, winning about 53 percent of the votes and will meet Republican state Sen. Ted Gaines in November. Gaines listed himself as an independent insurance agent rather than state lawmaker, a nod to the public's generally low opinion of the Legislature.
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