California Gov. Jerry Brown claimed a place in the history books Tuesday by decisively winning a record fourth term after a lopsided campaign in the state dominated by Democrats.
Brown dominated the race against Republican Neel Kashkari amid a tough national political environment for Democrats that stemmed from widespread voter discontent with President Barack Obama.
"Since I've done it three times, I am not under any illusions that this is some kind of picnic,'' Brown told reporters about his next term, citing the record drought and need to keep the state checkbook balanced.
The governor's race topped a state ballot in which battles over congressional and legislative seats, and a handful of state and local initiatives, garnered the most attention.
The major parties and their supporters focused most of their money on tight congressional races involving Democratic incumbents in Sacramento, San Diego and Ventura County, as well as a handful of state legislative races that would determine whether Democrats would win supermajorities in the Assembly and Senate.
Voters also will settle statewide initiative battles over medical malpractice damages and health insurance rate increases, while deciding whether to borrow $7.5 billion for water projects amid California's three-year drought.
High-dollar battles over taxing sugary drinks were being waged in San Francisco and Berkeley, while municipalities elsewhere were deciding local measures about fracking and marijuana growing. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, embattled over her handling of the Occupy protests and police department, was fighting to save her job.
Brown argued during his campaign that he led a comeback by the state after the recession cost California more than a million jobs.
"Where once they called us a failed state, we are now showing the way,'' he said Tuesday.
The 76-year-old Brown is already the state's longest-serving governor. He logged two terms in the office from 1975 to 1983.
Brown won re-election after a muted and sometimes invisible gubernatorial campaign in which he never appeared to be threatened by Kashkari, a Republican making his first run for elected office.
A former U.S. treasury official, Kashkari helped lead the federal bank bailout during the recession.
Brown, a career politician, also ran for president three times and has served as state attorney general, secretary of state and mayor of Oakland.
The nation's most populous state with more than 38 million people has long-term problems that include a looming government pension crisis and troubled public school and water-supply systems.
Brown, however, kept his campaign anchored to an optimistic narrative that featured the state's now-balanced budget and job growth since the recession. The Democratic-controlled Legislature approved Brown's plans to send more money to high-need schools and restructure sentencing laws to allow lower-level offenders to go to county jails instead of state lock-ups.
Brown spent most of the campaign promoting two ballot proposals that call for borrowing billions of dollars for a variety of water projects and for funneling more money into budget reserves.
Kashkari, 41, argued the governor was ignoring the plight of troubled schools and protecting the interests of powerful teacher unions that spent millions to elect him.
Yet Kashkari was unable to raise enough money to boost his name recognition or get his message across to a wide audience.
Turnout on Tuesday was projected to be just 46 percent, which would be the lowest on record for a California general election.