Don’t Forget The Third Candidate in the U.S. Senate Race

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Kevin De Leon likes to make history, but not like this: he could finish third in the two-person U.S. Senate race.

The ballot says there are just two candidates—De Leon and incumbent Dianne Feinstein. But there is a third candidacy that’s likely to draw a lot of support. None of the above.

With a choice between two Democrats, Republicans may choose not to vote. They may do this in huge numbers. Perhaps a quarter or more of ballots could be left blank, judging by the experience of the Democrat-vs-Democrat U.S. Senate race between Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez.

In polls, Feinstein has a healthy lead. 40-29 was one poll margin. That leaves 30 percent undecided – or perhaps likely to leave that part of the ballot blank. In such a scenario, none of the above would out-point De Leon.

This would be an embarrassment for the candidate. But it also would be an embarrassment for supporters of top two—if they were capable of embarrassment. It’s just another way that top two discourages participation and democracy. Anything labeled a general election ought to have the candidates of every significant party on the ballot.

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