Democrat Josh Newman has declared victory in his 29th Senate District rematch with GOP State Sen. Ling Ling Chang, flipping the seat back to blue and further shrinking Republicans’ presence in the California legislature.
“I’m immensely grateful, as well as humbled, that the voters of my district have once again granted me the honor and privilege of representing them in the California State Senate,” Newman said Thursday night.
The win is vindication for Newman. He won the SD-29 seat over Chang by just 2,498 votes in 2016 but then was recalled two years later, after Republicans targeted him for being one of 81 legislators to vote in favor of the state gas tax. Chang then handily won the seat in a special election to replace him.
Newman took a solid early lead this election night. That lead has narrowed as more ballots were tallied, but as of Thursday night Newman was up by 10,723 votes, with 51.3% of the vote and a small enough number of ballots left to be counted in the three counties that touch SD-29 that he and Chang both see the lead as insurmountable.
“It’s obviously been a long and arduous journey to this point,” Newman said, “and I believe that the results in my race can be viewed as proof that integrity still matters; that commitment still matters; and that public service still matters — today, more than ever, as California works its way through the current crisis and out of the recession which it has caused.”
Chang had said heading into the election that she hoped her experience and record of passing bills even with Democrats holding a legislative supermajority would keep her in office.
As results started to come in on election night she was optimistic, but was unable to make up significant ground as vote counting continued.
“These are not the results we hoped for but the margin shows there is still a great deal of support for our efforts to ease the tax burden on Californians, bolster public health, and move toward economic recovery,” Chang said. “I am so proud of all that my team and I have accomplished and serving as your Senator has been the greatest honor of my life.”
The win will give Democrats four out of five State Senate seats that touch Orange County.
Several factors gave Newman the advantage, and leading into the vote pundits were narrowly calling the race in his favor. Democrats hold a 7.4 point voter registration advantage in the district. And Newman — in part with money he’s picked up from the Democratic Party and support from outside groups — also had a substantial financial edge heading into Election Day.
When he was in Sacramento, Newman championed mental health resources, public education, job creation and infrastructure improvement. He said he’s most proud of securing funding for veterans resource centers in community colleges, creating a pilot program to address root causes of homelessness, and preserving Coyote Hills as a natural open space park.
Newman also has become known for connecting with voters in creative ways, using a bear suit in 2016 and an ice cream truck this cycle.
During her two-year term in the State Senate, Chang worked on legislation touching public safety, veterans, animal welfare and technology. She introduced a bill that makes it a crime to send unsolicited nude photos online. She also pushed for an audit of the California Lottery that showed payments to schools weren’t increasing in tandem with revenues, and then introduced a bill that would mandate back payments and more regulation going forward.
Chang said she’ll ensure a smooth transition as Newman steps into the role. And she said she hopes her tenure will inspire other young women, and particularly Asian American and Pacific Islander women, to consider running for office.
“I started my career unseating a 20-year incumbent on a local water board and later had the honor of serving in the State Senate. After serving I can tell you having female voices in the halls of power is crucial for our state.”
Newman will take over the seat when the State Senate reconvenes Jan. 4.
“I look forward to serving the residents of the 16 cities across Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties that make up California’s 29th District,” Newman said, “and I extend a heartfelt thank you to all of the many wonderful people who’ve supported me in the effort.”