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Brown-Whitman contest drew highest voter turnout in five gubernatorial elections

December 10, 2010 |  6:35 pm

Last month’s political contest between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman mobilized California voters like they haven’t been in years in a governor’s race, according to the final election results certified Friday by Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

The Nov. 2 election, in which Democrat Jerry Brown was elected governor, featured a voter turnout of 59.6%, the highest participation rate in a gubernatorial election since 1994, Bowen said.

"The race for governor and some controversial propositions drew the highest number of people to the polls in five gubernatorial elections," Bowen said.

Just as a sweep of statewide offices by Democrats in California ran counter to GOP gains nationally, the Golden State’s voter turnout showed there was not the "enthusiasm gap" here that dampened turnout elsewhere in the country.

A statewide exit poll and a Times postelection poll both indicated that Latinos were very interested in the election and that the Latino share of the electorate was up, which probably boosted overall turnout.

Bowen said 48.4% of the votes cast were ballots cast by mail. In comparison, during the last gubernatorial election in 2006, 41.6% of all participating voters cast ballots by mail. 

"Vote-by-mail voting has steadily increased in popularity over the last 32 years since the law was changed to allow any registered voter to vote by mail," the secretary said.

The final certified results show Brown won the contest for governor with 53.8% of the vote to Whitman’s 40.9%, even though the Republican businesswoman broke campaign spending records in the race.

Democratic U.S Sen. Barbara Boxer was reelected after receiving 52.2% of the vote, beating Republican challenger Carly Fiorina, who was favored by 42.2% of voters, the final results show.

In one of the closest races on the ballot, Democrat Kamala D. Harris received 46.1% of the vote to be elected state attorney general over Republican Steve Cooley, who was supported by 45.3% of voters.

Democrat Gavin Newsom won the lieutenant governor’s race with 50.2% of the vote to the 39% received by Republican Abel Maldonado.

Among statewide ballot measures, the final certified results show Proposition 19, which would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, was defeated after it garnered support from only 46.5% of the voters.

The full, certified elections results are available at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/sov/2010-general.

-- Patrick McGreevy