In the Republican gubernatorial primary, California Attorney General Evelle Younger (who was the only Republican elected to a statewide office in the post-Watergate Democratic onslaught in the 1974 California general election) defeated Ed Davis (State Senator and former Los Angeles Police Chief), Ken Maddy (State Senate Minority Leader from Fresno), and Pete Wilson (Mayor of San Diego). Incumbent Jerry Brown had only minor opposition in the Democratic Primary. The most newsworthy battle in this primary election was Proposition 13, the initiative authored by Howard Jarvis which sought to drastically reduce property taxes and change the way property taxes were calculated. Younger and most Republicans supported Proposition 13 while Brown and most Democrats opposed it. The initiative passed with 64.8% of the vote; it is still in effect, and many other states passed similar laws.
What followed in the general election was one of the most remarkable turnarounds in California election history. Younger attempted to seize the momentum from his support and passage of Proposition 13, but was a drab speaker, dull campaigner, and lacked an effective organization. In addition, the tough primary battle left him short of money. On the other hand, Brown, who opposed Proposition 13, used the power of incumbency and announced "the people have spoken, and as Governor I will diligently enforce their will." Thus Brown turned a negative into a positive. In addition, since he was relatively unchallenged in the primary, he had a much bigger campaign war chest. Brown ultimately won reelection in a landslide.
Brown is the most recent Democratic California gubernatorial nominee to have won Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Kern, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Tehama, Tuolumne, and Yuba Counties. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate would not win Amador, Alpine, Kings, Merced, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus, and Trinity Counties again until 1998, Nevada County again until 2014, and Orange County again until 2018.