Rising concerns about crime and homelessness burst to the forefront Tuesday as San Francisco voters recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a progressive who had ended cash bail and sought to reduce the number of people sent to prison.
In the Los Angeles mayor's race, where public safety concerns have also taken center stage, billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso, a former Republican who vowed a tough-on-crime approach, is headed to a runoff against California Rep. Karen Bass.
Meanwhile, in House primaries across the country, Republicans largely opted to keep their incumbents, rejecting challenges from candidates who attempted to align themselves more closely with former President Donald Trump.
The largest state to vote Tuesday was California. But final results in many close races there won't be known for days or weeks, because mail-in ballots — the way most votes are cast in the state — postmarked by Election Day will be counted as long as they arrive by the end of the week, and voters whose ballots encounter signature matching problems are given time to "cure" those problems.
Here are key takeaways from the day's races:
Boudin's loss is a mark against the progressive prosecutor movement: The recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin may not have sweeping national implications —local issues and sentiments among voters differ from city to city — but the loss is a clear mark against the progressive prosecutor movement that Boudin's 2019 win helped propel.
And it could serve as a warning to national Democrats that the way voters in liberal bastions feel about their cities — especially the rise of homelessness — is far more instructive to how they will vote than actual crime rates and data.
Boudin's win three years ago, on the back of concerns over police misconduct, criminal justice reform and mass incarceration, signaled a high point for the movement to elect more progressive prosecutors to top jobs. But his tenure was defined by the coronavirus pandemic and an overwhelming sense among San Francisco residents that crime, especially property crime, was both not a priority for the district attorney and out of control.
Voters on Tuesday leveled swift judgment of Boudin, signaling that his laxer approach to certain kinds of crime was unacceptable.
Still, the loss is far from the end to liberal cities electing progressive prosecutors. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner won reelection and Alvin Bragg, a former New York state and federal prosecutor, became Manhattan district attorney in 2021 -- both wins for the progressive prosecutor movement.
Republican incumbents mostly survive challenges from right: House Republicans who had faced primaries from the right — largely from challengers who alleged the incumbents weren't supportive enough of Trump — either won or were positioned to survive Tuesday's contests.
South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson fended off a challenge from state Rep. Taffy Howard, who had criticized his vote to certify the 2020 election and had embraced Trump's lies about voter fraud. New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, a moderate Republican who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, held off a group of challengers that included conservative talk radio host Mike Crispi, who was backed by Trump allies including Roger Stone and Rudy Giuliani.
In California's open primaries, in which the top two finishers regardless of party move on to November's general election, Reps. David Valadao and Young Kim — two Republicans who have won tough races — were both in position to advance after challenges from Trump loyalists, though there are still more votes to count.
One race to watch is a House primary in Montana. Ryan Zinke, a former congressman who resigned for a scandal-plagued tenure as Trump's interior secretary and faced questions about his residency, narrowly led former state Sen. Al Olszewski as ballots were being counted early Wednesday morning.
Los Angeles mayoral race advances to runoff: The race to be Los Angeles' next mayor won't be decided until November, with neither businessman Rick Caruso nor Rep. Karen Bass able to win more than 50% of the vote on Tuesday night.
Caruso and Bass both ran on the need to tackle homelessness and crime, but they approached the issues with markedly different solutions and styles, distinctions that will likely define their campaigns through November.
Caruso, a real estate developer who has worked for years to accrue private power in Los Angeles, argued the city was in "a state of emergency," citing "rampant homelessness" and "people living in fear for their safety." Caruso promised to increase the size of the Los Angeles Police Department, running against the "defund the police" effort.
Bass, a longtime congresswoman and former member of the California State Assembly, ran more as a progressive, highlighting her ties to the city and her years of service representing it.
But Caruso's strong showing on Tuesday will provide a warning to more traditional Democrats running on their records, especially if the bulk of that time was spent in Congress, a body currently held in low regard by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Keep reading takeaways below: