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What California primary elections mean for Democrats in the midterms

Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman explains the results and political implications of the latest primary elections, including the San Francisco district attorney being recalled and the Los Angeles mayoral race heading to a runoff.

Video Transcript


BRAD SMITH: Welcome back, everyone. Last night, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and New Mexico, as well as South Dakota, all held primaries ahead of this year's midterm election. And here to discuss the results of those elections and what they mean for both parties is Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman. Rick, what did we see across the board?

RICK NEWMAN: I'm not sure about South Dakota. I didn't go that deep into the results, but the huge takeaways here, obviously, are the two races in California. This recall vote for the San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, this is remarkable. San Francisco voters put him into office in 2019. He is a so-called progressive prosecutor. He says we have two systems of justice, one for the wealthy and one for everybody else. He's trying to even that out. He favors things such as alternatives to prison for many people convicted of crimes, so you don't just put them into prison and forget about them for 25 years.

There are some other progressive prosecutors like this in cities such as Philadelphia. But voters in San Francisco said, enough of this. And it's important to point out, this was not a general election where somebody was running against him. This was a recall election, and voters fired him. They basically revoked their own vote from 2019. So he's out of a job. The mayor will appoint a new prosecutor, a district attorney, until there is an election in November.

And this is clearly a reaction to crime, homelessness, mental illness, drug use in San Francisco. And let's remember, these are-- San Francisco is not a law and order Republican city. This is not Dallas, Texas. This is one of the most liberal cities in the country. And these are Democratic voters kicking a progressive out of office.

Down in Los Angeles, we saw a new entrant, this developer, Rick Caruso. He used to be a Republican. He became a Democrat to try to get elected as mayor of LA. And he ran as a tough on crime candidate, saying, he's going to put more police on the streets. Again, rising crime and homelessness there. LA not quite as liberal as San Francisco, but a liberal city in a liberal state.

And these are Democrats saying, crime is out of control. So if these are Democrats saying this, this tells you that when we get to the midterms in November, general election voters are probably going to be even more strongly inclined to feel that way.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, that's what I want to ask you about, Rick, because it's interesting, too, when you look at that recall effort, now successful recall effort, in San Francisco. A lot of money was poured into that effort to recall Chesa Boudin. So that was an interesting aspect of it, too. And I wonder how that, then, is going to come to bear in the midterms. Are we really going to see a new tone from Democrats, more broadly, about being tough on crime?

RICK NEWMAN: I don't know. I mean, I think the lesson is, they need a better message on this. And of course, much of this stems from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party after the George Floyd murder a couple of years ago, this slogan, defund the police, which I think has turned out to be one of the worst political slogans in history.

Biden himself, President Biden in his State of the Union address this year, he caught on that nobody-- almost nobody thinks this is a good idea. And in his State of the Union address, he did say the answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police, provide more training and things like that. But I would ask our audience, does anybody remember that? I think the slogan, defund the police, sticks out a lot better in people's memory than Biden saying the opposite in his State of the Union speech earlier this year.

So I think money helps in politics, but it does not-- it's not always decisive. And if you're putting a lot of money behind a mushy message that doesn't resonate with voters, it's not going to change their minds. So this is yet another reason the midterm elections are shaping up as pretty terrible for Democrats.

JULIE HYMAN: We'll see if anything changes and if the tone changes and if that does, indeed, work. Thanks so much, Rick. Appreciate it.

RICK NEWMAN: Bye, guys.