United States Senate election in California, 1982

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United States Senate election in California, 1982
← 1976 November 2, 1982 1988 →
  170x170px Jerry Brown in 1978 crop.jpg
Nominee Pete Wilson Jerry Brown
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 4,022,565 3,494,968
Percentage 51.4% 44.8%

U.S. Senator before election

S. I. Hayakawa

Elected U.S. Senator

Pete Wilson

The 1982 United States Senate election in California took place on November 2, 1982. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator S. I. Hayakawa decided to retire after one term. Republican Pete Wilson won the open seat.

Major candidates




Wilson was known as a fiscal conservative who supported Proposition 13, although Wilson had opposed the measure while mayor of San Diego. However, Brown ran on his gubernatorial record of building the largest state budget surpluses in California history. Both Wilson and Brown were moderate-to-liberal on social issues, including support for abortion rights. The election was expected to be close, with Brown holding a slim lead in most of the polls leading up to Election Day. Wilson hammered away at Brown's appointment of California Chief Justice Rose Bird, using this to portray himself as tougher on crime than Brown was. Brown's late entry into the 1980 Democratic Presidential primary, after promising not to run, was also an issue. President Ronald Reagan made a number of visits to California late in the race to campaign for Wilson. Reagan quipped that the last thing he wanted to see was one of his home state's U.S. Senate seats falling into Democrats' hands, especially to be occupied by the man who succeeded him as Governor. Despite exit polls indicating a narrow Brown victory, Wilson edged him out to win the election. A major contributing factor may also have been a late influx of the Armenian vote in the California Governor's race between George Deukmejian and Tom Bradley.[citation needed] Many of these votes came from Fresno and Central Valley, which are heavily Republican districts. The Deukmejian voters likely also voted for Wilson for Senator.


General election results[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Pete Wilson 4,022,565 51.5
Democratic Jerry Brown 3,494,968 44.8
Libertarian Joseph Fuhrig 107,720 1.4
Peace and Freedom David Wald 96,388 1.2
American Independent Theresa Dietrich 83,809 1.1
Independent Thomas Kendall (Write In) 36 0.0
Independent Ben Leonik (Write In) 34 0.0