Beverly Hills found itself at the center of the political crosscurrents in 2020. After civil unrest erupted across the country in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police, the City saw its vaunted commercial thoroughfares and storefronts vandalized and looted by rioters. Then, its tranquil residential streets became the site of civil disobedience by Black Lives Matter protesters. Additionally, the City’s iconic Beverly Gardens Park played host to what became one of Los Angeles’ largest weekly pro-Trump rallies of the political season. At its peak, the “Freedom Rallies” drew an estimated 4,000 attendees. While it’s difficult to ascribe support for any of these events to a percentage of Beverly Hills residents, the Nov. 3 election did provide interesting statistics about the City’s electorate.
The City, as the Courier announced in its Nov. 6 front page, did break for Joe Biden in the Presidential election. The former Vice President garnered 8,668 votes while
6, 329 ballots were cast for President Trump. The election returns for Beverly Hills do, however, reveal a more complicated picture than a binary choice between Democrat or Republican.
In line with trends across the country, Beverly Hills saw an increase in voter registration from 2016, with nearly 23,000 registered voters in 2020–up from more than 21,000 in 2016. But unlike the country as a whole, which saw its greatest turnout since 1900, Beverly Hills experienced a dip in voter participation. According to current County data, about 68 percent of registered voters went to the polls this year, down from about 76 percent in 2016. This number, along with the others presented here, can still change. Some votes remain to be counted and the County Registrar-Recorder has not certified the vote.
Unsurprising for an area of high commercial success and wealth, Beverly Hills residents voted in line with business interests. The City overwhelmingly rejected Prop. 15, which would have taxed large commercial properties by their market value instead of their purchase price. Similarly, a landslide of Beverly Hills voters approved Prop. 22, classifying gig economy workers as independent contractors rather than employees.
Beverly Hills voters returned decidedly disparate results when it came to criminal justice. Indicating a preference for her “tough on crime” approach, the City voted to reelect incumbent District Attorney Jackie Lacey over progressive challenger George Gascón. The County as a whole denied Lacey a third term, with currently about 54 percent of voters choosing Gascón. Nearly the mirror image of the County, 53 percent of Beverly Hills voters filled in the circle next to Lacey’s name.
In that same vein, Beverly Hills rejected Measure J, which diverts County money to social services as opposed to law enforcement and was placed on the ballot in response to the national reckoning with race and criminal justice. The County passed Measure J with about 57 percent of the vote, while 53 percent of Beverly Hills voted against the measure.
Indicating a more complicated stance on criminal justice, the City also voted to give parolees the right to vote with Prop. 17. A strong majority of the City, about 59 percent, flatly opposed Prop. 20, an initiative that would have reclassified some misdemeanors as felonies. Proposition 20 was the only state ballot measure endorsed by the Beverly Hills City Council.
Two out of the 15 precincts in the City supported President Trump’s reelection. These precincts include Trousdale Estates and lie just north of the Business Triangle. National Editor for The Forward, Rob Eshman, told the Courier that the Persian community was a factor in the Trump support.
“The Persian community has always been more conservative,” he told the Courier, though he is careful to note that the community is not monolithic. “There’s been this deep-seated antipathy in the Persian community towards the Democrats because of the way Jimmy Carter handled the downfall of the Shah.”
Eshman explained that, for the Jewish Persian community in particular, Trump’s support of Israel, his bellicosity toward Iran, and his diplomatic success in the region have earned him high praise.
Shiva Bahgeri, a Beverly Hills resident and organizer of the weekly pro-Trump Freedom Rally in Beverly Gardens Park, was herself born in Iran–a background that informs her support of President Trump. “We saw the same type of thing happen in our country before the revolution, where people were taking down statues and pushing for regime change,” she told the Courier.
Although he lost overall, Trump did make some gains in the City. In 2016, about 64 percent of voters cast ballots for Hillary Clinton, compared to roughly 58 percent who voted for Joe Biden this year.
While many in the City hoped the election would bring a close to the unrest of the last six months, that may not be the case. Even after major media outlets had called the race in Biden’s favor, hundreds of discontented Trump supporters reconvened in Beverly Gardens Park on Nov. 7. Carrying signs that read “Stop the Steal” and “Recount,” the election results remain in question for many of them. According to Bagheri, the rallies are onging.
“We will continue until we get our freedoms back,” she said.