What Happened in the 2022 Election

[Updated 12/12]

That was interesting. An election season that roared by in that unique pandemic fashion that we’re still getting the hang of. Compared to the last cycle, the 2022 election appears to have brought far lower turnout than the 2020 election, and a significantly higher number of contests that remained unsettled past the first day or two of ballot-counting.

If you remember back to the age before the age before COVID, the last gubernatorial election (in 2018) resulted in the largest turnover of the Executive branch since 1911. Well, that influx resulted in a far lower turnover of state executive officers in 2022 than we’ve seen in quite a while. In fact, with only one constitutional officer departing (State Controller Betty T. Yee), Californians elected only one new constitutional officer (BOE Member Sally J. Lieber) in 2022. This is the lowest turnover of the state’s elected executive branch since 1962, when Superintendent of Public Instruction Max Rafferty was the sole new arrival.

When the new legislature convenes on December 5th, it will start with about 525 years of prior legislative experience. The youngest member of the Legislative Class of 2022 appears to be Assemblymember Greg Wallis at 32 (State Senator Caroline Menjivar is the youngest in the upper house). The oldest freshman member will be Diane Dixon who, at age 71, will be the second oldest female freshman in state history. The all-time record was set by Nell Soto who joined the Assembly at 72 in 1998.

With that information, it makes sense that least 17 members of the class are expected to be women, compared to 14 men. This means that this will the largest ever number of women in a class (the prior record was the 14 women in the class of 1992 AND that this will be only the second class in state history with more women than men (the class of 2018 included nine women and six men).

The class includes 22 native Californians, six born in other states, and three born outside the US (two in Mexico and one in Vietnam). Stephanie Nguyen will be our first Louisiana-born legislator since the mid-1990s and Angelique Ashby will be the first Oregon-born legislator since Tim Leslie in 2006 while Rick Zbur will be only our third New Mexico-born legislator.

Before the dust had even begun to settle after the election, the Assembly Democratic Caucus met to discuss their plans for the future. After several hours behind closed doors, it was announced that Speaker Anthony Rendon would retain the speakership through the start of the new session before transferring it to Robert Rivas on July 1st. These final seven months of “Speaker time” will bring Rendon to a total of 2,671 days while Speaker, making him the second longest serving after Willie Brown. The current holder of the #2 position, Jesse M. Unruh, left office after about 2,660 days.

It’s also worth noting that Rendon will be the longest serving Speaker since Leo T. McCarthy (in 1980) to hand off the Speakership to a member of his same party. Both Brown and Unruh outlived their majorities and were followed in office by Republicans.

The Democratic Caucuses are at an all-time high, and the 8 Republicans in the Senate are at the lowest point since 1883, while the 18 Republicans in the Assembly are the fewest in that house since 1876.

State Senator Janet Nguyen (elected in 2022) is the only Republican State Senator with a district touching the Pacific Ocean. In the Assembly, it’s Diane Dixon (AD72) and Laurie Davies (AD74) who have the distinction of being “coastal Republicans.” In fact, prior to the election of Dawn Addis, it had been just over a century since another Democrat from San Luis Obispo had represented that county in the State Assembly. It was back in 1922 that Alexander McMillan from Shandon was elected to his only term in the Assembly. Just for reference, only two other SLO County Democrats have served in the Assembly since 1900; Elmer Rigdon of Cambria (in 1915) and Oscar Gibbons of San Luis Obispo (in 1909).

Republican Assemblymembers Thurston “Smitty” Smith (AD34), Steven S. Choi (AD73) and Randy Voepel (AD75) each lost bids for reelection, with Smith and Voepel falling to fellow Republicans and Choi being defeated by Cottie Petrie-Norris. This marks the second time that Petrie-Norris and Tom Lackey have defeated incumbent legislators (Petrie-Norris having beat Matthew Harper in 2018 and Lackey having beat Steve Fox in 2014). In recent history, only Sharon Quirk-Silva has defeated two incumbent legislators (Chris Norby and Young Kim in 2016).

Assembly – The new districts with recently equalized populations, combined with mediocre turnout numbers, make it very unlikely that we’ll see any record-breaking high-vote victories in 2022. At the low end of the vote-getting spectrum, only one Assembly district is currently beneath the 21,388 votes that Isaac G. Bryan (D) was elected with in his 2021 special election.
Senate – No candidates appear likely to come anywhere near the high vote counts of the 2020 General Election. At the other end… although the candidates in SD16 will likely received the fewest votes of the election, the winner will almost certainly exceed the 48,483 votes received by Sydney Kamlager (D) in her 2021 special election.
Congress – The same as the Assembly and Senate, it’s unlikely that any candidates will break the high-vote records set in 2020. However, in Congress it appears that David Valadao (currently with about 53,000 votes) will have received far fewer than the current low for the decade (Connie Conway with 71,720 votes in a 2022 special election).