Takeaways From the California Primary

Steven Maviglio
Principal of Forza Communications, a Sacramento-based public affairs/campaign firm

Lots already has been written about Tuesday’s California primary. But here are a few of quick takeaways from the morning after…

The Sad State of the GOP Got Even Sadder — Things have gotten so bad that Republicans are popping champagne corks simply because they have a live body in the governors race. But GOP voters won’t have anyone to vote for in the U.S. Senate, LG or Insurance Commissioner (where they didn’t even field a candidate) races. The challengers in the AG, Treasurer and Controller races are unknown and underfunded. Sorry, folks, but John Cox is not going to the magnet that attracts Republicans to the polls.

The Big Blue Wave was a Ripple – Apathy was the biggest winner Tuesday. With statewide turnout hovering in the 21% range, the massive anti-Trump turnout that Democrats were predicting just didn’t happen. Democrats dodged a bullet by narrowly winning the second place slots in a number of key Congressional races. Yet they can’t be encouraged by the underperformance among younger and Latino voters key to November victories. Sure, November turnout will be better for Democrats because of the nationalization of the election. But the lack of competitive races statewide is going to make it difficult to generate the kind of enthusiasm the Democrats need to win Congressional seats.

Top Two Fails Everybody – The hijinks deployed by campaigns to manipulate the results for second place in this primary are Exhibit A for why the Top Two needs to be repealed. It’s done nothing to help turnout, forced campaigns to raise and spend more, and is limiting the choice of voters of all parties. Democrats spent $91.5 million on same party races in 2016, a number that easily will be doubled this year and Republicans are chewing up what little resources they have eating their own. It needs to go.

Bad Night for the Berniecrats  — Remember last year’s headlines about how the California Democratic Party was split in half because of the “Bernie factor” and all the trash talk of the uber-left challenging the party establishment? Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman has a better shot at the Nobel than Donald Trump for his job in reconciling the warring parties within the California Democratic Party. Both Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Speaker Nancy Pelosi easily dispatched their Bernie-backed opponents without a sweat. The “Our Revolution” candidate for Light Gov, Gayle MacLaughlin pulled in 3.6 percent of the vote.

Thank Goodness for Ballot Initiatives – June ballot measures were even more boring than the candidate races. November will be different. There will be a number of hot-button issues that should help draw in voters, accompanied by multi-million dollar advertising campaigns.

What Happened to Dave Jones and Who Was Cole Harris Anyway? – The endorsed GOP candidate for LG was a mystery man. He didn’t give media interviews, avoided debates but spent a few million and barely finished out of the running for the number two spot. Meanwhile, Dave Jones – who held statewide office for eight years – spent at least that much and finished a distant fourth in the AG’s race, outpolled by an unknown Republican who spent less than $500,000 in the race. Go figure.

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