California Politics: Winners and Losers in the Legislative Arena

California Politics: Winners and Losers in the Legislative Arena
Photo by fikry anshor / Unsplash


Los Angeles and the Bay Area dominate California’s legislative landscape, as do labor unions, social justice organizations, and defense attorneys. In contrast, anti-tax groups, police, and business organizations face more challenges.

Key Findings

A data analysis by the CalMatters Digital Democracy project highlights which groups have been most successful in passing their agendas during the current legislative session. The analysis considered all organizations that took a position on at least 25 bills since January 2023, tracking whether those bills advanced or failed according to the group’s stance.

Success of Progressive Groups

Labor Unions

  • Prominent Presence: Unions account for five of the 25 most successful organizations, winning on bills at least two-thirds of the time.
  • Major Wins: Recent legislation includes increased sick days, higher minimum wages for health care and fast food workers, and the right for legislative staff to unionize.
  • Political Influence: Union-backed legislators, such as former Assembly Speakers Fabian Núñez and John Pérez, have played significant roles in state politics. In 2022, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher left her Assembly position to lead the California Labor Federation, which saw a 67% success rate in the 2023-24 session.

Social Justice and Defense Attorneys

  • High Success Rates: Groups like ACLU California Action, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the San Francisco Public Defender were among the top 25 in success rates.
  • Legislative Impact: These groups often successfully opposed tough-on-crime bills proposed by moderate Democrats and Republicans.

Local Dominance

Los Angeles and Bay Area

  • Legislative Influence: Nearly one-third of legislators represent Los Angeles County, explaining why entities like the county’s District Attorney’s Office and Los Angeles Unified School District are highly successful.
  • Top Performer: The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, led by George Gascon, saw an 89% success rate on bills.
  • Bay Area Success: Organizations like the San Francisco Public Defender and the Bay Area Council also performed well, backing legislation to speed up the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units.

Struggles of Conservative and Business Groups

Police and Anti-Tax Organizations

  • Lower Success Rates: Groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Sheriffs Association had success rates of 44% and 42%, respectively.
  • Notable Losses: The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association had the lowest success rate, with just 29% of its supported bills advancing.


The legislative success in California reflects a liberal majority with strong ties to labor unions, social justice causes, and local interests from major urban areas. Despite significant lobbying efforts, conservative and business groups face more obstacles in passing their agendas. By understanding these dynamics, readers can better grasp the ideological landscape and key players shaping California’s legislative outcomes.

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