Gov. Gavin Newsom was well ahead of his Republican challenger in his race for a second term, but the battle for state Controller was unexpectedly close.

Newsom easily won reelection Tuesday night, leading a wave of expected victories by incumbent Democrats in statewide posts.

Newsom was challenged Tuesday by Republican Brian Dahle, a state Senator representing the 1st District, which includes portions of 11 Northern California counties.

But Dahle is fighting an admittedly uphill battle — a Republican has not won a statewide office in California since Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor.

And Tuesday’s election went as expected, with Dahle putting up very little challenge to the incumbent.

Speaking to reporters after initial returns were released, Newsom reiterated his recent attacks on what he called bitter Republican rhetoric.

“We’re living in a society where not everybody is being treated fairly — that zest for demonization coming from the other side, the red states where there’s a cruelty, talking down to people, bullying people, making them feel lesser,” Newsom said. “That cruelty is extended by flying migrants to an island and celebrating that as a fleeting victory at others’ expense. We are mindful of the moment we are in, in our politics. So we have a responsibility as Californians to do more about what we did tonight, to continue to assert our values that we hold dear.”

Newsom, who has been governor since 2019, did not actively campaign for re-election, focusing his efforts instead on supporting Democrats up and down the state, along with rallying voters in support of Proposition 1, the ballot measure to codify the right to an abortion in the state constitution.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Secretary of State and former San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and Treasurer Fiona Ma all had successful nights with solid leads over their Republican opponents.

Democrat Malia Cohen, chair of the State Board of Equalization, leads Republican Lanhee Chen, a Stanford University lecturer and financial policy expert, by 57.0% to 43% in a tighter race for Controller.

Chen positioned himself as a liberal Republican focused on financial issues, claiming he didn’t vote for Donald Trump. Cohen stressed her leadership experience in state and local finances, including management of San Francisco’s $22 billion public employee retirement fund.

Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, a Democrat appointed by Newsom, is on track to victory with 61.1% of the vote over his Republican challenger, attorney Nathan Hochman, at 38.9%.

Incumbent Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, a Democrat, is also looking like the winner with 61.8% of voter support over Robert Howell, a self-described “Regan Republican” who owns an electronics firm in Silicon Valley.


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Ellen Bullock