You are here

California Politics

California Politics
A Primer

Sixth Edition

January 2021 | 256 pages | CQ Press
Help students to understand how California's political system works with this concise text, thoroughly revised for the Sixth Edition. Author Renée Van Vechten presses students to think about how history, political culture, rules, and institutions conspire to shape politics today, and how they will determine the state of affairs tomorrow. From the structure of the state's government to its local representatives, policies, and voter participation, California Politics: A Primer provides the concepts and details students need.

Instructors! The Instructor Resource Site gives you access to all of the resources included with this text. Learn more

About the Author
Chapter 1: Introduction
Principles for Understanding California Politics

Chapter 2: Critical Junctures
Early California

The Rise of the Southern Pacific Railroad


The Power of Organized Interests

Growth and Industrialization in the Golden State

Unleashing the Initiative

Hyperdiversity in a Modern State

Recalling and Replacing a Governor

The Return of Jerry Brown

Governor Newsom and the Season of Unrest

Conclusion: Political Earthquakes and Evolving Institutions

Chapter 3: Direct Democracy
The Statewide Initiative Process



Direct Democracy at the Local Level

Conclusion: The Perils and Promises of Hybrid Democracy

Chapter 4: The State Legislature
Design, Purpose, and Function of the Legislature

California Representatives at Work


Conclusion: Of the People, for the People

Chapter 5: The Executive Branch
California’s Plural Executive

California’s Governor

The Constitutional Executive Officers

Administrators and Regulators

Conclusion: Leading State Government

Chapter 6: The Court System
The Three-Tiered Court System

On and Off the Court

Court Administration


Criminal Justice and Its Costs

Conclusion: Access to Justice

Chapter 7: Other Governments
County Governments

Municipal Governments

Special Districts

School Districts

Regional Governments


Tribal Governments

Conclusion: The State’s Interlocking Systems

Chapter 8: The California Budget Process
California Budgeting 101

Mechanics of Budgeting: Revenue

Mechanics of Budgeting: Expenditures, Deficits, and Debt

Political Constraints on Budgeting

Tax Burden: Highest in the Nation?

Conclusion: Budgeting Under Variable Conditions

Chapter 9: Political Parties, Elections, and Campaigns
Democratic Stronghold, but Weakly Partisan

Party in the California Electorate

Party in Government

Party Organizations

Elections: Continuity and Change

California Campaigns

Conclusion: A Complex Electorate

Chapter 10: Political Engagement
Citizens and Politics

Predictors of Political Participation and Disengagement

The Five Californias

News and Media Habits

Types of Political Action

Major Voting Trends

Special Interest Groups: Indirectly Connecting Citizens to Government

Conclusion: An Evolving Political Community

Chapter 11: Concluding Thoughts


Instructor Resources
Online resources included with this text

The online resources for your text are available via the password-protected Instructor Resource Site, which offers access to all text-specific resources, including a test bank and editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides.

For additional information, custom options, or to request a personalized walkthrough of these resources, please contact your sales representative.

"This text does an excellent job providing a broad based understanding of the California governance. It is easy to read and the publisher
provides resources to assist in teaching."

Dr. Roger Lang

"I feel the text covers the basics of state government in California and provides a solid foundation from which to expand an examination
of the system of government in the golden state...One of the better texts covering the California government."

Steven Marin
Victor Valley College
Key features
  • Updated coverage on California’s racial and ethnic politics, its situation in a federal system, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the relationship between tribal governments and the state.
  • An emphasis on California’s place in the federal system provides students with context around the state leadership's resistance to Trump administration policies on topics like California’s sanctuary state status, immigration policies, the environment, and more.
  • Increased coverage of policy topics throughout the book helps students see how recent policy has impacted issues such as greenhouse gas emission regulations, attempted “fixes” for water- and drought-related issues, new transportation projects, and prison reform.   
  • Extended discussions of elections-related innovations introduce students to recent elections-related topics such as the Top-Two Primary, efforts to increase voter registration, all vote-by-mail elections, and redistricting.
  • Updated coverage of the “Five Californias” gives students a better understanding of California’s political geography, racial and ethnic divides, and how distinct segments of the population are primed for political engagement or disaffection.
  • New lists of key terms with clear definitions at the end of each chapter enable students to review the content more effectively.  
  • New and updated maps, charts, and graphs depicting party control of state government, the scale of protest activity, and other important data released by the secretary of state, public affairs research organizations, and state agencies.
  • Fast Facts boxes provide data and a snapshot of information on topics such as the legislature and plural executive.
  • Charts, graphs, and tables illustrate campaign and election trends, demographic patterns, and budgeting trends.
  • Photos, maps, and cartograms illustrate California’s diversity, government in action, and citizen engagement.

For instructors

Select a Purchasing Option

Rent or Buy eBook
ISBN: 9781544388694

ISBN: 9781544388670