Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

California Primary Highlights

In House on June 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm

The new California primary, as we knew it would with the new voting system that sends the top two finishers to the general election regardless of political party affiliation, produced some surprises.

We will provide in-depth coverage of these results when the large number of absentee ballots are finally added to last night’s totals, numbers that could change the order of some of the individual race standings. But, for now, the highlights:

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening, considering this is largely a Democratic seat, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-42), a major redistricting victim, appears to have qualified for the general election in the San Bernardino-based 31st District, very possibly against another Republican. With the election night votes counted, Miller led the jungle primary with 27 percent of the vote, no small feat in a new district where he has literally no carry over from his previous constituency, while state Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton (R) is currently placing second with 25 percent. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) is third with 23 percent, but the absentee ballots could alter this order. Should it stand, this result would be a boon for Republicans because it would guarantee the party’s victory in the fall, since the general election would be between two members of the GOP. This would be an extraordinary outcome in a district that likely will elect Democrats in most elections.

Absentee ballots will definitely decide the outcome of the new 8th District, also largely a San Bernardino County seat, just to the east and north of CA-31. There, a four-way split among three Republicans and a Democrat will be sorted out to determine which two individuals advance to the general election. Two Republicans, right now, lead, but all four candidates are showing a 15 percent total. The pair of leaders are Assemblyman Paul Cook and homebuilder Gregg Imus. Democrat Jackie Conaway, a law office manager, is third and businessman Phil Liberatore, another Republican, is fourth, but the order could change drastically once all of the ballots are finally tabulated. San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, originally thought to be a potential general election qualifier, is in fifth place with 11 percent and likely out of the competition.

In the 30th District mega-congressional race between Democratic incumbents Brad Sherman and Howard Berman, both will qualify for the double-Democratic general election. Sherman placed first, with 42 percent, over Berman (32 percent). This is likely to become the most expensive congressional race in the United States. Sherman currently represents 58 percent of this new district while Berman only has 20 percent, thus explaining the order of last night’s outcome.

In another Democratic incumbent pairing, freshman Rep. Janice Hahn claimed a 60-40 percent placement victory against Rep. Laura Richardson, meaning the two will again square-off in the general election. Only about 33,000 votes were cast in this election, not counting more absentee ballots to follow but, since this was already a two-way race, the two would have advanced to the general election regardless of last night’s outcome.

In one of the new seats that the California redistricting commission created, GOP state Assemblyman David Valadao scored 57 percent against two Democrats in his Bakersfield-anchored congressional seat. Unless the absentees change the order, Valadao will face businessman John Hernandez in the general election and not Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong, as many expected. The size of Valadao’s primary victory gives him a major advantage in the general election. Such an outcome would be another major score for the California GOP.

In the marginal 26th District, GOP state Sen. Tony Strickland will advance to the general election very likely against state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D). Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, a Republican who chose to run in this race as an Independent, is third, some eight percentage points behind Brownley so it is unlikely that the absentee count will change this order.

In the Oakland area, 20-term Rep. Pete Stark is headed for a double-Democratic general election against Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell, as expected. This could become, however, a very serious contest as Stark only finished first last night by a 42-36 percent margin. This is a campaign to watch in the fall because Stark is clearly in jeopardy of losing his seat, but the Democrats retain the district regardless of the final outcome.

In a race that avoided a double-Democrat general election, state Assemblyman Jared Huffman advanced to the November vote and will claim the seat at that time, as Republican Dan Roberts edged a split Democratic field for second place. The Democratic nature of the CD will yield an easy Huffman win later this year. Had another Democrat qualified, this contest would have become very interesting.

A dozen incumbents, including members such as Stark, Henry Waxman, Jeff Denham, Lois Capps, Grace Napolitano and Brian Bilbray to name a few, finished with less than 50 percent of the total vote, suggesting further potential competition in the general election.

Much more to come on the California races once the final vote tallies become known.

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