"Law and order was on the ballot," Cristine Soto DeBerry, executive director of the Prosecutors Alliance, a progressive criminal justice group in California, told KQED's Political Breakdown. "Schubert ran as that candidate. She said, 'I'm going to end the chaos in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I will take over those offices.' Her entire platform was a critique of those two cities. She didn't break double digits."
Early was Bonta’s biggest hope: An anti-abortion, pro-Trump Los Angeles attorney who subscribes to the unfounded belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Unions backing Bonta’s campaign poured more than $2 million into an independent committee that spent most of its cash running ads propping up Early — viewing him as an opponent who would be easy to steamroll in a deep blue state.
Meanwhile, Early raised only a little over $300,000 for his campaign — a sum that pales in comparison to the more than $7 million Bonta has amassed over the past year, $3 million of which he still has on hand.
But Hochman, a former U.S. attorney and defense lawyer who received the state GOP party endorsement, was leading Early Tuesday night. He's campaigned as a middle-of-the-road, reasonable Republican and is hoping his more moderate positions, including support for greater police funding and more investment in social services, can eat into Bonta’s strong Democratic base.
Hochman has already raised more than $2 million.
Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Bonta attorney general last year, after Xavier Becerra vacated the post to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As a longtime Oakland assemblymember, Bonta embraced the criminal justice reforms backed by voters over the past two decades, and even authored a bail reform law, which was ultimately overturned by voters in 2020.
Bonta has the backing of the Democratic Party and virtually every elected Democratic official in California. But in a year where voters are anxious about crime rates and Democrats have been on the defensive on criminal justice reform, he enters the general election campaign more vulnerable than he’d like. That’s one of the reasons his allies worked so hard to box Schubert out of the race, viewing her No Party Preference affiliation as a threat in the general election, in a state where there are nearly as many No Party Preference voters (5 million) as Republicans (5.2 million).
"I think the statewide results are really encouraging," Soto DeBerry said. "In San Francisco, on the same ballot where people said we're going to make a change in our district attorney, they voted overwhelmingly for the attorney general that has espoused very strong reform credentials."
And with the contest now set between the two major political parties, Bonta is likely breathing easier, as there are more than 10 million registered Democrats in the state, and no Republican has won statewide office since 2006.