Los Angeles County is home to more than 26 percent of all Californians. But when it comes to running for statewide office, being from Los Angeles may be more of an obstacle than a political advantage.
While the people may be in Los Angeles, the largest chunk of the state’s voters — those who actually cast ballots — come from nine counties in the Bay Area. The gap between Los Angeles and the Bay Area is even more pronounced in primary elections, and more so among Democrats.
Those nine counties are Sonoma, Solano, Napa, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara.
The Bay Area advantage can help explain why Board of Equalization member Betty Yee holds an early edge over Assembly Speaker John Perez in the race for state controller. It may also explain why seven of the nine Democrats who hold statewide office in California come from the Bay Area.
“There’s more of a Northern California bias in the overall electorate,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.
In contested Democratic primaries in 2010, former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom crushed Janice Hahn, a scion of a popular Los Angeles political family, in the race for lieutenant governor. Kamala Harris, who was serving as San Francisco District Attorney, bested a crowded Democratic field, two L.A.-based legislators and the city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo.
That same year, Northern Californian Dave Jones crushed Southgate’s Hector De La Torre in the Democratic contest for state insurance commissioner.
Of all nine statewide elected officials, including California’s two U.S. Senators, only Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Controller John Chiang are from Los Angeles.
Adding to the Bay Area advantage is the region’s higher number of voters who cast ballots by mail.
“What we’re seeing is the impact of the low numbers of permanent absentees in L.A. County,” said Paul Mitchell, vice president of the firm Political Data Inc.