Liberals take Chico council

And Dems take the House, but lose in other key races in Butte County and beyond

Despite a loss, Audrey Denney promised on election night that, “I’m going to be working to protect our democracy and working to strengthen our communities with every fiber of my being from the rest of my life.”

Despite a loss, Audrey Denney promised on election night that, “I’m going to be working to protect our democracy and working to strengthen our communities with every fiber of my being from the rest of my life.”

Photo by Charles Finlay

At Chico’s Republican headquarters at the Ramada Plaza on Tuesday evening (Nov. 6), as area conservatives waited for the Butte County Elections Office to update results, spirits were high despite news that the Democratic Party had reclaimed the House of Representatives.

For one thing, the Senate was gaining more Republican seats. Also, and most relevant to those in attendance, the seats for state Assembly and Senate as well as Congress were predicted to go the way of the incumbents, all Republican.

Indeed, at about 10 p.m., Rep. Doug LaMalfa gave a victory speech—though rather than celebrating, he mostly made jabs at Democrats and the media. He commented that the party had “pounded out another strong victory in the face of a million-dollar threat,” a reference to the fundraising efforts of his Democratic challenger, Audrey Denney.

Taking the stage, LaMalfa said the House may have “gone a little upside down”; he called the “blue wave” more of a “blue belch” that likely will turn into a “blue barf bag.” LaMalfa continued to say that the press would be sure to love his comments, but newspapers are “failing” anyway, and that he was feeling a “little scrappy.”

“When you come after me, I get my teeth,” he added.

Meanwhile, at the El Rey Theater downtown, the mood was cheerful despite early indications that the lady of the night, Denney, would be defeated. With The Kelley Twins offering fun—and often funny—renditions of popular songs on stage, and beer and wine flowing, the packed theater hummed with excitement.

Denney gave an energized, hopeful speech to the crowd, despite the late hour and the likely loss headed her way. She recounted the values of her campaign when it came to social justice issues, and pointed out the diversity of the ages and political backgrounds of her supporters.

“We have been fighting to protect our democracy by … finding our shared common values in the middle,” she said. “We have to engage in our democracy every single day, that’s all of our jobs.

“I’m going to be right alongside you encouraging you when you feel hopeless and discouraged. I’m going to be poking you and reminding you to get off your butt and do something good for someone else. And I’m going to be working to protect our democracy and working to strengthen our communities with every fiber of my being from the rest of my life.”

Back at the Republican headquarters, state Sen. Jim Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher sailed to victory and offered celebratory speeches.

Nearby, attendees excitedly took pictures with Chico City Council candidate Kasey Reynolds, who took an early lead in the nine-candidate race for three open seats. As of press time, she sat in first place with 12,758 votes. Reynolds also spoke, and said that her team ran a solid, simple campaign. “We want to enjoy our parks, we want to have a place where we want to raise our families, we want to feel safe going to downtown and we want to enjoy going to downtown. That’s what people want,” she said.

In addition to the Democratic shift in Washington, one is being felt locally. Progressive Chico City Council candidate Alex Brown trailed Reynolds by about 600 votes—ensuring the panel will return to a liberal majority after four years of conservative policy-making. Reached by phone Wednesday morning, Brown said she’s excited about the work ahead and commented on the on the representation secured on a national level by young people, women, Native Americans and the LGBTQ community.

“We’re just seeing a younger and more diverse generation of leadership showing up, and that means a lot for representation,” she said. “I’m going to let that motivate me. I’m excited to collaborate with the other council members and get to work.”

The last seat is a toss-up between Scott Huber and incumbent Andrew Coolidge, with less than 150 votes separating them. With provisional ballots and late mail-in ballots yet to be tallied, the election may not be certified for weeks.

Chico voters overwhelmingly supported term limits for City Council, with 69.17 percent of the vote. For Chico Unified School District, the seats go to newcomer Tom M. Lando and incumbents Eileen Robinson and Kathy Kaiser.

There were a few other hotly contested local races with results worth noting:

Oroville mayor: Political newbie Chuck Reynolds handily won the mayorship with 66.35 percent of the vote, over Vice Mayor Janet Goodson (33.65 percent). As for the council, Art Hatley was the only incumbent re-elected. New to the panel will be retired fire Chief David Pittman and Oroville Area Chamber of Commerce President Eric Smith. Orovillians also voted in favor of a sales tax (55.88 percent) as well as a tax on cannabis businesses (59.89 percent).

Paradise residents voted in favor of extending the town’s sales tax (69.39 percent).

Nationally, one of the big stories is how women made strides—there will be more women in the House and in Congress as a whole than ever before. That’s not, of course, including Congressional District 1, where LaMalfa took home 56.1 percent of the vote over Denney’s 43.9 percent. (In Butte County, Denney was in the majority, earning 52.4 percent vs. LaMalfa’s 47.6 percent.) Here are some other notable races:

• Governor: Gavin Newsom handily beat John Cox, 59.4 percent to 40.6 percent. (In Butte County, 45.7 percent voted for Newsom, vs. 54.3 percent for Cox.)

• Lieutenant governor: Eleni Kounalakis (55.6 percent)

• Secretary of state: Alex Padilla (61.7 percent)

• U.S. Senate: Dianne Feinstein (54.3 percent; 43 percent in Butte County)

• Prop. 1 (bonds to fund veteran and affordable housing): Yes (54.1 percent)

• Prop. 2 (amend housing program for mentally ill): Yes (61.1 percent)

• Prop. 3 (bond for water and environmental projects): No (52.4 percent)

• Prop. 4 (bond for children’s hospitals): Yes (60.6 percent)

• Prop. 5 (property tax reduction for seniors): No (58.1 percent)

• Prop. 6 (repeal gas tax): No (55.3 percent)

• Prop. 7 (change daylight saving time): Yes (59.8 percent)

• Prop. 8 (regulate dialysis treatment charges): No (61.6 percent)

• Prop. 10 (rent control): No (61.7 percent)

• Prop. 11 (ambulance employees on-call pay): Yes (59.4 percent)

• Prop. 12 (farm animal confinement standards): Yes (61 percent)