California Voters Elect Bike-Friendly Legislators in 2020
Californians biked the vote, and the California Bicycle Coalition helped with several strategic endorsements. CalBike chose 11 races where the bike-friendly candidate was in a tight contest. In each of those races, the other candidate was a likely opponent of the kinds of policy changes necessary to make our communities more bike-friendly. Those close elections can hinge on a few hundred or a few dozen votes. We sent emails, promoted candidates on social media, and sent text messages. In 8 of 11 tight races, our choice is leading or practically tied, with thousands of votes yet to count. We will update our Bike the Vote page as results from the Secretary of State roll in.
In nine other races, we supported champions who deserved recognition for being an exemplary supporter of bicycling. These candidates, who won easily, make up an informal bike caucus of legislators for whom biking for transportation is already routine. With these bike-friendly legislators, and with your support, we have the potential to do some amazing things for our movement.
Here is a full report on the election results.
Updated November 5, 10:00 a.m.
Democrat Joe Biden appears to be poised to win the presidency. Barring unprecedented interference in these unstable times, he will soon have control of the executive branch, including the Department of Transportation. He and his Vice President, Californian Kamala Harris, both take climate change seriously. That’s a victory for bicycling. It smooths the way for our national allies to implement a bold active transportation agenda.
Republicans will probably maintain control of the Senate while Democrats maintain control of the House of Representatives. The next national transportation bill that shapes transportation spending for at least five years is overdue. Increasing funding for bike infrastructure is the most important priority in that bill. It will be challenging to get a strong provision inserted into the House version and to defend that provision as the House negotiates with the Senate.
Here in California, CalBike engaged in four races that affect control of the House of Representatives.
Katie Porter has become famous in her first term in Congress for calling out corporate executives and administration officials with her whiteboard and marker. She flipped a Republican seat in Orange County in 2018 and her seat was not considered safe. She looks poised to win reelection, with more than 54% of the vote so far.
Phil Arballo, once a member of the Fresno Bike Advisory Committee, would make an excellent replacement for the Republican incumbent, Devin Nunes. Unfortunately, he trails Nunes 46.5% to 53.5% and it appears Nunes will get another term.
Christy Smith is challenging the incumbent Republican Mike Garcia and looks poised to flip this seat centered on Santa Clarita to the Democrats, although it is too close to call.
Harley Rouda, the incumbent Democrat representing Orange County coastal cities, is trailing challenger Michelle Steel by less than a percentage point.
California State Senate and Assembly
CalBike endorsed three strong bike champions for the State Senate who have easily won their races: Scott Wiener, Josh Becker, and John Laird. In the State Assembly, we are happy to see active transportation champions Phil Ting, David Chiu, Tasha Boerner Horvath, Richard Bloom, Laura Friedman, and Chris Holden win re-election. We are also thrilled that Steve Bennett, a member of the Channel Islands Cycling Club, won his race to join the Assembly. We look forward to working with them next year.
In the California Senate, Democrat Josh Newman is leading in his bid to reclaim his seat after being ousted by the Republican Party and the road builders. Newman was targetted for his support of SB1, the gas tax increase that has been so important for maintaining and improving our infrastructure. Defeating the oil-industry funded opponents of SB1 in the bid for this Senate seat is sweet for bike advocates who have endured years of vicious opposition to our Complete Streets efforts from that very contingent of stakeholders.
Three other Senate races are too close to call. Democrats Abigail Medina, Kipp Mueller, and Dave Min are each trying to win a seat from Republican incumbents. All three races were practically tied at press time.
In the Assembly, two candidates we endorsed are trailing in their bids to flip seats. Melissa Fox is behind by 4.6% and Dawn Addis is behind by 4%. Still, thousands of votes are yet to be counted and these races have not been called.
Nithya Raman for LA City Council District 4
The City of Los Angeles, with a population of almost 4 million, is more populous than 22 US states. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the LA City Council wields enormous power and council races are often hotly contested.
City council members in Los Angeles have a great deal of influence over whether streets in their districts get bike lanes or not. The incumbent in District 4, David Ryu, has been an obstacle to safe streets advocates in Los Angeles. His challenger, Nithya Raman, is an urban planner who will be an ally to bike advocates. CalBike endorsed Raman and helped get out the vote for her campaign.
The race hasn’t been called yet, but Raman is leading by about 5,000 votes as of this writing and is likely to come out on top. We expect her to be a strong progressive leader on the LA City Council.