Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

California Primary Results Still Unfolding

In Election Analysis, House on June 8, 2012 at 11:55 am

The California primary vote occurred Tuesday, but as many as eight congressional races are still unresolved. Because the California election law allows mail votes, which now normally comprise more than half of the cast ballots, the counting process drags on for days. The Secretary of State estimates that the counties are now sorting, counting, and reporting hundreds of thousands of additional primary votes.

For example, Los Angeles County indicates that it is handling 162,108 mailed, delivered, and provisional ballots. A “delivered” ballot is one where the voter actually returns his mail ballot to the polling place. San Diego County estimates 135,000+ votes remain to be counted. San Bernardino, the site of the two of the eight undeclared elections, has only 13,911 ballots remaining.

The biggest surprise race in the undeclared category is right in San Bernardino County’s 31st Congressional District, the place where Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-42) is attempting to seek re-election. Under a rudimentary calculation formula based upon only publicly available information, it appears that just 5-10,000 votes remain to be counted. If true, this means Mr. Miller will qualify for the general election because he placed first with 27 percent in the jungle primary. As you will remember, California now has a top-two finisher law, meaning that the top two vote-getters, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to the November general election.

In second place, at 25 percent, is Miller’s fellow Republican Bob Dutton, the state Senate Minority Leader. Posting 23 percent, some 1,500 votes behind Dutton, is Redlands Democratic Mayor Paul Aguilar. If there are less than 10,000 votes remaining, then it would be extremely difficult for Aguilar to make up the difference between he and Dutton. Failing to do so means the Republicans would qualify both candidates for the general election here, guaranteeing the party will win this very marginal seat. Such a result will be a huge boon to the Republicans and certainly Rep. Miller.

Also partially in San Bernardino, the new 8th District that should elect a Republican in the general election, is in a virtual four-way tie, though the later numbers suggest that GOP Assemblyman Paul Cook and businessman Gregg Imus (R) will qualify for the general election. The other very close competitors are Democratic businesswoman Jackie Conaway, and Republican accountant Phil Liberatore. If Cook and Imus qualify for the general election, a second double Republican campaign will evolve.

In northern California’s 2nd District, the seat from which Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) is retiring, state Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D) has secured a general election position. The open question is whether Republican Dan Roberts, currently second, or liberal author Norman Solomon will qualify for November. Huffman becomes the clear general election winner should Roberts hold onto second place because the seat is so heavily Democratic in general elections.

In San Diego, Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA-50), who scored an underwhelming 41 percent in the new 52nd CD, has qualified for the general election. He waits to see whether San Diego Port Commission chairman and former city councilman Scott Peters will be his opponent or ex-assemblywoman Lori Saldana. The two are only separated by 645 votes (meaning less than one percentage point), and the order could easily change when the estimated 35,000+ uncounted ballots are added to the total. Whatever the final result, Bilbray will have a highly competitive race on his hands in November.

In the new Central Valley 21st District, anchored in and between the cities of Bakersfield and Fresno, GOP state Assemblyman David Valadao easily captured the first position with 57 percent of the vote and waits to see if former Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president John Hernandez or Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong will qualify to challenge him later this year. Hernandez leads Xiong by 1,046 votes with an unknown number of ballots remaining to be counted. Against either man, Valadao becomes the prohibitive favorite for the open seat win in November, which would neutralize the Republican loss of retiring Rep. David Dreier’s (R-CA-26) seat in Los Angeles County, from a delegation count perspective.

Though the following elections will not be competitive in the general election because all of the succeeding incumbents will cruise in the November vote, Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA-6), Judy Chu (D-CA-27), and Linda Sanchez (D-CA-38) all await a determination as to who they will face in the general election.

California House races will be heavily discussed throughout the remaining cycle because of the large number of competitive races that are on tap. Right now, it appears Democrats are secure in 27 of the state’s 53 congressional districts, Republicans’ 13, with five Democratic-held seats and four Republican-held seats headed for strong general election competition.

Four new open seats, including the aforementioned CA-21, are up for grabs. Three of the four (Districts 26, 41, and 47) appear to be headed to the toss-up or “tilt” categories. Republicans Tony Strickland and John Tavaglione appear to have the early advantage in Districts 26 (Ventura) and 41 (Riverside), respectively. State Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) has a slight edge in new District 47 (Long Beach area), but his primary performance (34 percent) was clearly unimpressive. His GOP opponent is Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong who ran stronger than expected, scoring 29 percent, and eliminated former one-term Rep. Steve Kuykendall (R-CA-36).

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