The Top Two Primary is Coming: “Fasten Your Seatbelts … it’s going to be a bumpy night.” – Part 1

Allan Hoffenblum
Publisher of the California Target Book and owner of Allan Hoffenblum & Associates

When Bette Davis spoke the above line in the classic movie, All About Eve, I’m certain she did not have California politics in mind.

But it fittingly describes how many of California’s most powerful power brokers will feel the night of June 5 … the date of the state’s first Top-Two Open Primary Election.

In a Fox and Hounds article I wrote last October, I put a spotlight on the massive turnover that will occur in the Assembly this election cycle due to their being 35 open seats.

That by itself will guarantee a significant change in that body. But now let’s look at the new “Top Two Open Primary.”

The California Target Book, which I publish, just placed online our pre-Primary analyses of the 53 congressional, 80 state assembly and 20 odd-numbered state senate seats up for election (along with profiles on 555 candidates that will appear on the ballot).

And what we discovered is that as many as 34 of the contested races in the June Primary could lead to a same party runoff in November; 8 in Congress, 4 in the state Senate, and as many as 22 in the state Assembly.

Of the 22, 16 will be Democrat vs. Democrat, only 6 will be Republican vs. Republican.

The principal cause of the large number of D vs. D contests is the very low Republican registration in large portions of this state, particularly along the coast and areas with a large minority population; areas where the GOP registration numbers are so low, that their candidates can’t seriously compete for a top two spot.

Below is my take on the congressional races that will have, or are likely to have same party runoffs in November. I will do the same for the state Assembly and Senate in a separate post later this week.

SAME PARTY CONTESTS – CONGRESS

There are three congressional races where only two Democrats are on the June ballot, guaranteeing a Democrat vs. Democrat November runoff:

CD35: Incumbent Joe Baca will face off against state Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, long time bitter political enemies.

CD40: Democrat David Sanchez, a college professor and longtime political activist, is challenging incumbent Lucille Roybal-Allard. The incumbent should have little difficulty in being reelected, but the challenger’s showing in the June Primary will be an early sign if the incumbent is in any serious trouble.

CD43: Democrat Bob Flores, currently a political unknown from San Pedro, is challenging Maxine Waters. The cities of Gardena, Lawndale, Lomita and a large portion of Torrance are all new to Waters. And, there are those ethic charges still hanging over her. Again, how well her challenger does in the June Primary will be an early sign if Waters is in trouble come November.

CD44: Incumbent Democrats Janice Hahn and Laura Richardson are the only two names on the June ballot. The final outcome will be determined in November.

There are four races that are likely to lead to a same party runoffs, but because candidates from more than one party are on the ballot, there is no guarantee.

CD2: This is a north coast district looking for a successor to Lynn Woolsey, who is not seeking reelection. Seven Democrats are on the ballot, including Asm. Jared Huffman. But there are several strong Democrats in this race. There are two Republicans and two independents on the ballot and one of the Republicans is spending some serious dollars. But only 23% of the district’s voters are registered Republican. A Democrat vs. Democrat contest is very likely.

CD8: This is a solid GOP district anchored by San Bernardino County. It became an open seat when Jerry Lewis announced that he would not seek reelection. No fewer than 10 Republicans are on the ballot, including Asm. Paul Cook. This could be a Republican vs. Republican runoff, but two Democrats and an independent candidate (no party preference) are also on the ballot. The independent is former GOP Asm. Anthony Adams. Hard-core anti-tax activists attempted to qualify a recall election against Adams in 2010 due to his vote on a budget that including a tax increase. Though they were not successful, Adams decided to not seek reelection that year. If the two Democrats split the Democratic registration (33%), we could see a same party contest. Should Adams do well among the 17% who are registered NPP, we may see a runoff between a Republican and a former Republican.

CD15: Eric Swalwell, a Dublin City Councilmember and a prosecutor with the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, is seriously challenging Pete Stark, and Swalwell has raised over $241,000. There is also an independent on the ballot, but a Stark/Swalwell November runoff is very likely.

CD51: Former Asm./Sen. Denise Morino Ducheny will battle former Asm. Juan Vargas. There are two other Democrats and three Republicans on the ballot. But they appear to be running little more than token campaigns. The GOP registration is 22%.

CD30: Howard Berman vs. Brad Sherman. Everyone, except Berman, Sherman and three Republican candidates, hope this goes to the November election. But there are five other candidates on the ballot looking to make the runoff, the three Republicans, another Democrat (anti-war activist) and a Green. GOP registration is 25%; NPP is 21%. A Berman/Sherman November runoff is possible, but not guaranteed.

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