LOS ANGELES _ In closely watched voting, Californians on Tuesday ended the state’s bilingual education programs and rejected an initiative that would curb unions’ political clout.
Despite primaries being held in eight states, California was the focus of the political world:
_The state’s lieutenant governor, Gray Davis, scored a stunning victory for the Democratic nomination for governor. His triumph set the stage for a classic liberal vs. conservative November showdown against Republican Dan Lungren, the state’s attorney general.
_Barbara Boxer easily won the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination.
_Voters approved a controversial proposition that dismantled bilingual
education programs in the ethnically diverse state. Parents can ask that their children get bilingual education but only under limited conditions.
_Unions narrowly succeeded in staving off an initiative on the use of members’ dues for political campaigns.
Davis, with 70 percent of precincts reporting, was far ahead in a Democratic gubernatorial race that set records for spending. His traditional campaign had been overshadowed by the self-financed efforts of former airline executive Al Checchi and Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., both multimillionaires.
Checchi and Harman both conceded.
Under the “blanket primary” balloting that pitted all candidates against each other regardless of party, Davis was drawing 35 percent of the vote, 1,377,630 ballots, Checchi 13 percent, 494,869 votes, and Harman 12 percent, 479,414 votes.
Lungren easily won the Republican nomination, with 34 percent, 1,328,343 votes. Two-term Republican Gov. Pete Wilson is barred by state law from running again.
Voters overwhelmingly passed a measure banning most bilingual education in the state. With 54 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 227 had 62 percent in favor, 1,921,051 votes, compared with 38 percent against, 1,179,234 votes.
Proposition 226 would have required union chiefs to get the rank-and-file’s permission before donating dues for political campaigns. With 54 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was rejected with 53 percent, 1,584,501, against it and 47 percent, 1,400,625, for it.
The returns in the marquee races for gubernatorial and Senate nominations suggested Californians had soured on big-money campaigning and were sticking to the status quo, as represented by candidates like Davis, in good economic times.
Davis, a veteran politician who had to rely on campaign donations, had to battle Checchi and Harman, who both tapped into family wealth to wage aggressive television-based campaigns.
Voter turnout was running slightly ahead of the 1994 primary, the last California primary in a nonpresidential year, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
In the race for the Democratic nominee for Senate, the one-term incumbent Boxer led at 44 percent, 1,298,873 votes, far ahead in her party. On the Republican side, little-known state Treasurer Matt Fong upset self-financed businessman Darrell Issa. With 52 percent of precincts reporting, Fong had 23 percent, 671,924 votes, and car alarm mogul Issa had 19 percent, 552,935 votes.
Two races had familiar political names seeking comebacks.
In Oakland, Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr., the former California governor and former presidential candidate made a triumphant return to politics by winning his bid to become mayor.
Brown, dubbed “Gov. Moonbeam” for his unconventional ways, led a crowded field with 41,390 votes, 59 percent of the vote, with 55 percent of precincts reporting. He needed a majority to avoid a November runoff.
Former Rep. Robert Dornan earned a rematch with Democrat Loretta Sanchez, who ousted the conservative firebrand two years ago in a narrow upset.
With 28 percent of precincts reporting, Dornan led Republican candidates with 5,001 votes, 26 percent.
Rep. Jay Kim became the first incumbent congressman to lose a primary this year. The Republican congressman from Diamond Bar east of Los Angeles, had to wage an absentee campaign from Washington because he was tethered to an electronic leash under order of the court.
Convicted of campaign contribution violations, Kim ran under an I-am-not-a-crook-now platform.
With 25 percent of precincts reporting, Kim had only 19 percent of the vote, well behind state Assemblyman Gary Miller, who had 33 percent.