Thursday, June 7, 2018

California Primary Election Results Fuel Democrats' Hope For a Congressional "Blue Wave"

A few years ago, California, via referendum, adopted a "jungle" primary system.  Basically the way it works is that all primary candidates are lumped onto one ballot for the voters and the top two candidates move on to the general election, regardless of party.

It was a reform supported by then Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  However, like most election reforms, there have been unintended consequences.  One of those "unintended consequences" is that in a multi-candidate field, the primary vote could be so splintered that candidates from one of the
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Russia)
major parties could be closed out of competing in the fall despite the fact that party could prevail in the general election.  California is particularly ripe for such an outcome because the state has easy access ballot law leading to primary races featuring a lengthy list of candidates.  In several races on Tuesday, candidates finished second, and advanced to the general election round, with as little as 15% of the vote.

On election night 2018, the Democratic takeover of the House, if it happens, may come down to late-reporting California.  There are a number of takeover targets in California in which Republican congressional candidates but are vulnerable due to Trump's unpopularity in their district  But the jungle primary presented the very real possibility that the Democratic primary vote would be so splintered that the GOP candidates would take the top two positions, leaving the Democratic opponent closed out of a very winnable general election race.

A review of Tuesday nights election results reveals that with the exception of one congressional contest, California Democratic candidates avoided being shut out of the general election.  Here are the election results in a few of the most prominent such districts:

California 10
Denham (R)  24,640  37.7%
Harder (D)  10,244  15.7%'
Howze (R) 9,394  14.4%

Calilfornia 39
Kim (R) 18,851  22.0%
Cisneros (D) 16,623  19.4%
Liberatore (R) 11,990  14.0%

California 48
Rohrbacher (R) 33,198  30.4%
Keirstead (D) 18,827  17.2%
Rouda (D) 18,782  17.2%
Baugh (R) 17,601  16.1%

California 50
Hunter (R) 43,233 48.7%
Campa-Najjar (D) 14,445  16.3%
Wells (R) 11,626  13.1%

A notable exception is California 8, a district based in San Bernandino County that is currently represented by Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican.   That district though was always a long-shot for Democrats to win.

California 8
Cook (R) 29,403 41.5%
Donnelly (R) 16,024 22.6%
Doyle (D) 15,264 21.4%

By any objective measure, the Democrats should be happy with the California election results which set up the party to win several California congressional districts in the Fall.  But over at Fox News Trump TV, analysts don't deal in objectivity.  They deal in propaganda as well as the proverbial whistling while walking by the graveyard..  Fox News analysts are celebrating the second place primary finish of GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox who had the enthusiastic backing of President Trump.  While the importance of having a major GOP statewide candidate on the general election ballot (top ballot races spur turnout and the Republicans were shut out in the CA Senate race) cannot be underestimated, the notion that a Republican, much less one closely tied to Trump, is going to win the California governorship this Fall is absurd. 

Equally absurd is one Fox analyst who extrapolated the party primary vote in key races to what is likely to happen in the general election.    As any political analyst knows, the voters who go to the polls in a low-turnout primary do not equate, in any way, those who vote in a general election.  I know that from personal experience.  As an Indiana house candidate for a district on the northwest side of Indianapolis, I won the GOP primary in 2000.  My primary vote and that of my GOP rival totaled more than twice the Democratic vote in the district.  So did I win the general election, much less 2-1?  Nope, I received about 40% (I always round up) of the vote that Fall.  Voters in my district did not like George W. Bush and Democratic-leaning voters turned out heavily to vote against him.

There was certainly nothing in Tuesday's California election results that indicates the possibility of a blue wave this fall has diminished.

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