California primary election: races to watch

The June 7 primary election is here. Bay Area voters will make important decisions for who represents them at the local, state, and national level. Here are just a few of the races we’re keeping our eyes on.


Governor Gavin Newsom is running for a second four-year term. Newsom is riding the momentum of soundly defeating a recall attempt and another state budget surplus. But, recent polls show a majority of voters believe he’s doing a poor job when it comes to crime and homelessness.

 Newsom faces a field of 25 challengers who hope to make their way into the November general election.  The top two vote-getters in the primary advance. Among the list: Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle who has earned the endorsement of the state party; Bay Area environmentalist and author Michael Shellenberger, who’s running as an independent; management consultant Jenny Rae Le Roux, who ran during the recall attempt.

Newsom’s campaign has outraised his opponents by millions of dollars.


In this quiet race, incumbent Eleni Kounalakis is running for a second term as the governor’s second-in-command. Among her challengers: plane mechanic David Hillberg, running as no-party-preference; Republican David Fennell; and GOP endorsed candidate Angela Underwood Jacobs.  Kounalakis became the first woman in state history to sign a bill into law while Newsom was out of town.


This race will be a key indicator of where California voters stand on crime and criminal justice.  Governor Newsom appointed democratic incumbent Rob Bonta to the position last year. Before he took the position as "top cop," Bonta served in the state Assembly for 8 years. The progressive lawmaker led efforts to end cash bail and a law that requires the AG to investigate deadly police shootings of unarmed civilians.  He’s received the endorsement of the CA Democratic party and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

Bonta’s challengers include two Republicans, a Green party candidate and the Sacramento County DA who is running as an independent. Again, the top two vote-getters will move on to the general election in November.

Anne Marie Schubert is a career prosecutor, with a lot of name recognition from her time as the Sacramento county DA, including her prosecution of the Golden State Killer. Schubert said "public safety is not an ‘R’ or ‘D’ issue." She has said she wants to "get control" of crime.  She has earned the endorsement of dozens of law enforcement associations.

Nathan Hochman is a former U.S. assistant attorney general, assistant U.S. attorney and criminal defense attorney. He’s focused on the fentanyl and homelessness crises. He’s supporting the recall effort of San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin. Hochman said he’s running to "the hard middle, which is the common sense, pragmatic approach to criminal justice." He’s been endorsed by the state Republican party.

Republican Eric Early says he is "uniquely qualified to protect all Californians from a failed government that has turned California into a Criminals' Paradise."  He is running a campaign further to the right than the other candidates, saying "we need to be tough and not politically correct." In 2020, Early ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in Southern California and also ran for AG in 2018.

Green party candidate Dan Kapelovitz also ran in the recall election against Governor Newsom. The criminal defense attorney says he will "fight to end mass-incarceration, reform the criminal justice system, take on corporate polluters, and aggressively enforce laws meant to protect animals, the environment and civil rights."


Current state controller Betty Yee is termed out, leaving a field of four Democrats, one Republican and a Green party candidate to fight for her spot as the state's top accountant to oversee government spending and borrowing.

The state Democratic party has endorsed Malia Cohen, current chairperson of the California Board of Equalization and former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

She faces fellow Democrats, Ron Galperin, controller of the city of LA; state Sen. Steve Glazer and Monterey city councilmember Yvonne Yiu.

Policy expert and Stanford lecturer Lanhee Chen is trying to become the first Republican to win statewide office since 2006. He has the endorsement of the state GOP as well as the LA Times editorial board.

Financial analyst Laura Wells is running as a member of the Green party.


An alert to voters: you will vote twice for U.S. Senate in the primary election. Here’s the reason: Governor Newsom appointed Senator Alex Padilla to fill Vice President Kamala Harris’ seat. That appointment was only temporary, and Padilla will face seven other candidates to fill the remainder of the term, which ends January 3, 2023. The incumbent is the heavy favorite, but it's possible that voters could choose different candidates as the winners.

 Here’s who’s running against Padilla for the partial term:

  • Mark Meuser, Republican
  • Dan O’Down, Democratic
  • Timothy Ursich Jr., Democratic
  • James P. Bradley, Republican
  • Jon Elist, Republican
  • Myron L. Hall, Republican
  • Daphne Bradford, No Party Preference

There are 23 candidates running for the full six-year term, including the eight above. This will appear as a separate question on the ballot. 

The top two from each race advance to the general election. The winner of the special election in November will serve out the final two months of the term. The winner of the six-year term would assume the role on January 3, 2023. 


All 435 House seats are up for grabs in this year’s election.  This includes the 11th congressional district, covering San Francisco, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will run for her 19th term in office.

Her challengers are:

  • Shahid Buttar, Democrat
  • Jeffrey Phillips, Democrat
  • Bianca Von Krieg, Democrat
  • Eve Del Castello, Republican
  • John Dennis, Republican


Longtime U.S. Representative Jackie Speier announced her retirement, leaving her seat open in the newly drawn 15th congressional district. The race is attracting a lot of attention and money. 

Speier and the state Democratic party endorsed Assembly Member Kevin Mullin to replace her. He faces strong competition from two other Democrats: San Mateo County supervisor David Canepa and Burlingame city council member Emily Beach.  

 Other candidates include:

  • Jim Garrity, Independent
  • Gus Mattammal, Republicam
  • Ferenc Pataki, Independent
  • Andrew Watters, Democrat


Current Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley is retiring, leaving the race wide open. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, they can win the sit outright. If not, the top two vote getters will face each other in November.

Here are the candidates:

  • Pamela Price, longtime civil rights attorney
  • Terry Wiley, longtime Alameda County chief assistant district attorney
  • Seth Steward, former San Francisco prosecutor, chief-of-staff for Oakland councilmember Dan Kalb
  • Jimmie Wilson, Alameda County deputy district attorney


Incumbent Diana Becton is facing a challenge from a former senior deputy district attorney and longtime prosecutor Mary Knox.


The recall effort of San Francisco’s District Attorney Chesa Boudin is perhaps the most closely watched race in the Bay Area and is garnering national attention. San Francisco voters will decide whether the former public defender and progressive prosecutor should keep his job. On the ballot, the issue is labeled "Proposition H." If a majority of voters decide to remove Boudin, Mayor London Breed would appoint his replacement.


Incumbent Jeff Rosen is facing challengers in a re-election campaign for the first time. He ran unopposed in 2014 and 2018. Here are his challengers:

  • Sajid Khan, longtime public defender, civil rights advocate
  • Daniel Chung, former Santa Clara county deputy district attorney


Current San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo is terming out and seven people are running to lead the city. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, they can win the sit outright. If not, the top two vote getters will face each other in November. Here are the candidates:

  • Cindy Chavez, Santa Clara County supervisor
  • Raul Peralez, San Jose councilmember
  • Matt Mahan, San Jose councilmember
  • Dev Davis, San Jose councilmember
  • Jim Spence, retired San Jose police sergeant
  • Marshall Woodmansee, San Jose State student
  • Travis Hill, student

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