Anthony York’s conjecture in his Grizzly Bear Project column that the 2016 U.S. Senate primary could deliver two Democrats in the general election begs the question, in such a circumstance, which Democrat would most likely pick up Republican and business support?
As York notes, two Democrats dueling for the senate seat in the November election could “give the business establishment and other traditionally Republican constituencies a meaningful voice in a top-of-the-ticket race for the first time since the recall of Gray Davis.”
Of course, at this stage we do not know what the field for the senate seat will look like, whether a Republican with name ID and stature will enter the race, and certainly who the two finalists would be if Democrats go one-two on primary Election Day. Such uncertainties have not stopped pundits, including yours truly, from filling up a notebook full of horserace possibilities for the contest.
Take the potential Democratic Party candidates mentioned in the Anthony York piece, Attorney General Kamala Harris, the only announced candidate, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Probably safe to say none of the three would receive a warm embrace from Republicans and many in the business community. However, if the senate race comes down to two of these three candidates, choices will be made.
Steyer could claim contacts in certain segments of the business world and clear opposition from other business entities – yes, I’m talking about you, oil companies. His desire to regulate featured in his environmental positions scare off business generally fearing more regulations.
The former Los Angeles mayor could play up his battles with some of the unions in trying to reach out to Republicans. He would also argue he made some tough budget decisions running Los Angeles during dark fiscal days. But he also has been a champion of tax increases and there are other issues of concern Republicans and the business community would raise.
Harris has not been popular with the business people and Republicans when she titled certain ballot measures that benefited a liberal interpretation of the proposed initiatives. Soon after announcing she would seek the senate seat, Harris received the endorsement of prominent liberals including Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren. Probably not the best calling card when seeking Republican and business votes.
However, Harris has one thing going for her that could scare away business support for an opponent. She will be the attorney general when she runs for office and will continue to be the attorney general if she loses the race.
Of course, there are other potential candidates on the Democratic side including a number of members of congress and state Treasurer John Chiang that could make things interesting if they run and make the final election requiring business interests and Republicans to figure out which candidate to support.
All this early conjecture could become moot because the top two primary is being challenged in court. Last week the California State Appeals Court in San Francisco heard arguments in Rubin vs. Bowen. Minor parties have challenged the nonpartisan, top-two open primary in the state, claiming that the system violates the association rights of political parties and disenfranchises third-party voters in the general election.
Admittedly, it is certainly early to partake in this exercise of weighing candidate support; but the point of such a discussion is clear — the top-two primary can drastically change political calculations in the state.
Follow Joel Fox on Twitter @1JoelFox1