Jerry Brown is projected to win the California gubernatorial race, joining his fellow Democrat, Sen. Barbara Boxer, in the apparent winners' circle.
On the other hand, the state's Proposition 19, which would have legalized recreational marijuana use, is projected to be defeated.
Outgoing Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a tweet congratulating Brown, who apparently defeated Republican candidate Meg Whitman to return to the governor's post he held in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
"Just called to congratulate @JerryBrown2010. Looking forward to Maria & me getting together w/ him & Anne to talk abt a smooth transition," Schwarzenegger wrote.
Boxer's projected win gave her a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.
White House drug policy director Gil Kerlikowske released a statement on Proposition 19's projected defeat.
"Today, Californians recognized that legalizing marijuana will not make our citizens healthier, solve California's budget crisis, or reduce drug related violence in Mexico," read the statement. "The Obama administration has been clear in its opposition to marijuana legalization because research shows that marijuana use is associated with voluntary treatment admissions for addiction, fatal drugged driving accidents, mental illness and emergency room admissions."
Boxer won decisively among women, pulling an estimated 56 percent compared to 39 percent for her opponent, Carly Fiorina, according to exit poll data. The senator also was helped by voters who had a favorable view of the Democratic Party. Only 39 percent viewed the Republicans favorably.
The gubernatorial race had been seen as a toss-up between the former CEO of eBay, Whitman, and the state Attorney General Brown.
Whitman made headlines for the money she spent -- more than $141 million -- making her campaign the most expensive self-financed campaign ever. Whitman said she'd be willing to spend as much as $160 million.
Brown, who polled slightly ahead of Whitman going into Election Day, found himself in hot water after one of his campaign staffers was caught on tape suggesting that they call Whitman a "whore" in a campaign ad.
Whitman spoke to ABC News just days before the election about the ugliness of the campaign.
"I've been called a Nazi. I've been called a whore. I've been called a liar," Whitman said. "And I think the reason is that Jerry Brown can't run on his record. His record as governor was terrible. His record in Oakland was terrible."
Boxer had been vying to keep her seat her Republican challenger, Fiorina, another former corporate CEO.
Fiorina was hospitalized last week after developing an infection related to her breast reconstruction, which she underwent as she battled breast cancer.
But just hours after she was released from the hospital, Fiorina, 56, criticized Boxer for having a record of voting against military appropriations on "many, many occasions." Calling Boxer a "career politician," Fiorina said her opponent needed to be held accountable for her legacy.
Fiorina was endorsed by a number of prominent Republican politicians, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin also endorsed Fiorina.
President Barack Obama and the first lady both made a last-minute push in support of Boxer, traveling to several campaign events in California.
The economy was a key issue in the California races, with the state suffering enormously from the economic downtown.
Preliminary exit poll results showed that 88 percent of voters believed the national economy is in bad shape, nearly as many as the record 92 percent that said so two years ago. Only 14 percent said their own family's financial situation has improved since 2008.
Few saw much respite: Compounding the political impact of the long downturn, 86 percent remained worried about the economy's direction in the next year, including half who were "very" worried.
The economy deeply has affected the broader public mood. Sixty-two percent said the country is seriously headed in the wrong direction (a record 74 percent said so in 2008, as the economy fell into the abyss). More broadly, 39 percent expected life for the next generation of Americans to be worse than it is today, compared with 32 percent who said it would be better.
Also on the ballot in California was Proposition 19, which sought to legalize recreational marijuana.
For supporters, legalization would have ended what they described as a hypocritical ban on a drug they said is less harmful than alcohol. They claimed legalization would cut law enforcement costs, raise tax revenue and make it harder for children to get marijuana.
Supporters included the California branch of the NAACP; the state chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union; the California Young Democrats; the Republican Liberty Caucus; the California Council of Churches; and several big labor unions.
For opponents, Prop. 19 represented a threat to public safety, violated federal law and drug-free workplace rules and wouldn't have generated much tax revenue at all.
Critics included Mothers Against Drunk Driving; most law enforcement groups; all major-party candidates for governor, state attorney general and U.S. Senate; the California League of Cities; the California State Association of Counties; and business groups.
With a last-minute $1 million contribution last week from billionaire financier George Soros, proponents managed to raise about $3.4 million to bankroll the controversial measure.
ABC News' Huma Khan and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.