Obama, Capps, Marx re-elected, and a 51st state on the way?

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama embrace on hearing the news that the president’s victory. Image from President Obama’s Facebook page.

To the chant of “Four More Years!” and the tune of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”, President Obama gave a speech to his supporters in Chicago in celebration of his victory last night. The president won 303 electoral votes to challenger and former Gov. Mitt Romney’s 206, with Florida’s votes still being counted and too close to call as of press time. To win, a presidential candidate needs 270 electoral votes.

President Obama isn’t the only candidate who will get to keep his job. Voters on the Central Coast re-elected U.S. Representative Lois Capps (D) in a tight race against former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado (R). As of press time, with all precincts reporting, Capps won 51.53% of the vote in the 24th Congressional District, to Maldonado’s 48.47%. Maldonado congratulated Capps on her victory, before giving a short speech thanking his campaign workers. “It wasn’t easy, but nothing ever worth fighting for ever is,”he said. Capps told Bob Cuddy of The Tribune “It’s about what works for people… making a difference in people’s lives.”

And all three incumbent candidates in San Luis Obispo’s City Council election won their racesMayor Jan Marx by 62.87%, Dan Carpenter with 31.97% of the vote, and John Ashbaugh with 31.07% of the vote. (The top two candidates win seats in the city council.) Ashbaugh told AnnMarie Cornejo of The Tribune that the fact all three incumbents were re-elected is a vote of approval for the job they have been doing and the agenda they have for the coming term.

In other local elections, Roberta Fonzi and Bob Kelleywon their races for Atascadero City Council; Debbie Peterson won the race for mayor of Grover Beach with 74.92% of the vote in that city, and with Karen Bright and Jeff Lee joining her on the city council; Steven W. Martin and Fred Strong won their races for the Paso Robles City Council; and Ed Waage and Erik Howell won their races for the Pismo Beach City Council.

Interestingly, the people who will represent California’s Central Coast in the State Legislature include a Democrat and a Republican, and both won by landslides. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) will represent the 17th District in the state Senate, and Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) will be representing the 35th District in the Assembly.

Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) smiles as he learns he won the seat for the 35thDistrict in the California State Assembly. Image by David Middlecamp for The Tribune.

In California’s ballot initiatives, Propositions 30, 35, 36, 39, and 40 passed. Proposition 30 creates temporary taxes on Californians who earn more than $250,000 and a 1/4 cent increase in sales tax to fund education and local public safety officials. Prop 35 strengthens California’s human trafficking laws, Prop 36 amends the “Three-Strikes Law” so that it doesn’t apply to nonviolent offenses, and Prop 39 raises taxes on multi-state business who operate in California in order to fund green energy projects and research. Prop 40 is a simple referendum to approve a redistricting plan drawn up by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

California voters rejected Proposition 31, which would have given California a two-year budget cycle and given the Governor stronger powers in a fiscal emergency; Prop 32, which would have banned labor unions from supporting candidates with union dues; Prop 33, which would have allowed insurance companies to base a customer’s rates on their driving history regardless of who their prior insurance provider was; Prop 34, which would have banned the death penalty in California; Prop 37, which would have required foods that use artificially-genetically-modified crops be labeled as such; and Prop 38, an alternative to Prop 30 that would have raised income taxes across the board and guaranteed that the taxes go to the state’s schools.

Far away from California, another referendum is receiving the attention of the national media for its surprising result. Puerto Rico, the “Commonwealth in Free Association with the United States” in the Caribbean, has voted to become America’s 51st state. Sort of.

First of all, the ballot was non-binding. Any change to Puerto Rico’s status would have to be approved by Congress, although President Obama has said he will respect the island’s decision. Second, the referendum had two parts. Voters were first asked if they wanted to maintain Puerto Rico’s current relationship with the U.S., where they aren’t a state but are represented by the U.S. government in foreign policy and protected by our military, and where they have no vote for the presidency and only a nonvoting “delegate” in Congress but also don’t have to pay federal income taxes. After answering that question, they were then asked which of three futures they wanted for their island if it were to change its status: statehood, independence, or something called “sovereign free association” that would give them more control over their local affairs without full independence. The voters could vote for the second question however they wanted, even if they voted in favor of maintaining the status quo for the first one.

The results showed that 54% of voters were unsatisfied with the current arrangement, and 61% preferred statehood as the best alternative. Add to this the fact that many blank ballots were turned in – up to a third according to CNN – and the picture becomes far more complicated.

Still, the vote will put pressure on Congress to discuss Puerto Rico’s status. Hypothetically, if it did become a state, Puerto Rico would become the 29th most populous state and get two senators and five representatives in Congress. Its four million residents would start paying income taxes, while their government would be eligible for federal subsidies and grants of up to $20 billion. Supporters of Puerto Rican statehood also point out that Hawaii’s economy grew substantially after it joined the Union in 1959.

In the meantime, news analysts are already trying to piece together why President Obama won and why Mitt Romney lost. According to exit polls, Mitt Romney performed poorly among young voters and minority voters – according to CNN, Romney lost the Hispanic vote by a 44% margin. This article from Fox News says Obama won 93% of the African-American voteMore than a few voices argue that the Republicans are perceived far too much as the “white guys” party, in a country that is becoming less white demographically. This pundit says Mitt Romney failed to be anything more than “the acceptable alternative”, while this one said Romney was defeated by his opposition to the auto industry bailouts in 2009. This BBC reporter says Romney lost, at least in part, because he was seen as “not caring” about the middle class.

Whatever the reasons, President Obama now has to tackle the upcoming “fiscal cliff”, a set of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that will take effect on January 1 if the President and Congress don’t hammer out an alternative. The public demand for its leaders to find a solution will be high. It looks like the president will have to get right back to work.