Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Tuesday’s California Special Election is Just a Beginning

In House on July 8, 2011 at 11:09 am

The special election to replace Rep. Jane Harman (D), who resigned her seat earlier this year to accept a position with a foreign affairs think tank, will be held this coming Tuesday. Early voting is currently underway and the preliminary numbers surprisingly show Republican ballots almost equaling Democratic absentees according to the first tabulation. It is, of course, unknown for whom each person actually voted, but does provide an indication about the total turnout trend. With a 45-28 percent advantage in voter registration over Republicans, Democrats should easily win this seat. The candidates are Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) and businessman Craig Huey (R).

Mr. Huey is even a surprise to have advanced into the run-off. In California’s new top-two primary system, political party is irrelevant in terms of qualifying for the general election. In a district such as this, it was originally believed that two Democrats would be squaring off on Tuesday but Huey pulled the upset.

Hahn’s campaign strategy suggests the race is close. She is running attack ads while emphasizing that she serves on the “non-partisan” LA City Council. This is a surprising approach for a candidate running in a district that so favors her own party.

Even if Huey loses but comes close on Tuesday, this race should be a key target in the regular election, assuming the proposed redistricting map is enacted. Under the re-draw, what will be the new 36th district becomes much more Republican than under the current boundaries, suggesting a high degree of competition for next year. So, as in the upcoming NV-2 special election slated for Sept. 13, whoever wins this CA-36 vote on Tuesday will effectively mark the beginning of their campaign season and not the end. We will have much more on this race in our Monday update.
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