Voters in six states—California, Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, New Jersey and South Dakota—go to the polls to cast ballots in primaries today. For the first time, California voters statewide will use the state's new "top-two" primary system, whereby all candidates from all parties appear together on a single ballot, and the top two vote-getters—regardless of party, and regardless of how many total votes they get—proceed to the November general election. This means that in some races, two Republicans or two Democrats might square off in the fall, or an independent could slip through in place of a major-party candidate.
It also means that a number of California contests which only feature two notable candidates will be re-fought again this fall, assuming there are no major upsets tonight. We've broken those races out in a separate list; we aren't providing write-ups for them, though, because generally speaking, there's no action to be had in this group. The only thing to look for will be tea leaves for the November ballot. But many other California races feature spots in the top-two which are up for grabs, and those are detailed below. And while strictly speaking there are no longer partisan primaries, in most cases, the fight for second place is on one side of the aisle, which we've identified in our headers.
P.S. You can find our own interactive, zoomable Google Maps versions of each state's new congressional map here.
• CA-02 (D): The new 2nd is the successor district to the current Marin County-based 6th, at 71 percent Obama one of the bluest mostly white, mostly suburban districts anywhere in the country. Long-time Rep. Lynn Woolsey is retiring, opening up the chance to get some new progressive blood in the House. Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman has been viewed as the de facto frontrunner here, and the main question has been which Democrat emerges from the top-two primary to face Huffman in November. Activist Norman Solomon seems the likeliest to survive, at least based on his own internal polling; that would set up a bit of a netroots-versus-establishment battle, although this may be more a matter of temperament than actual ideology. Other Democrats in the race are EMILY's List-backed businesswoman Stacey Lawson (who was in second in the only other poll we've seen, a Huffman internal), Marin Co. Supervisor Susan Adams and Petaluma City Councilor Tiffany Renee. One other possibility, given how fractured the Democratic field is, is that Republican Dan Roberts could grab the second spot, though he'd be doomed in November. (David Jarman)
• CA-08 (R): This newly crafted district centered in Southern California's High Desert region should serve as a nice case study for the new open primary system. The district has a definitive lean to the GOP, and with no prominent Democrats in the mix, could yield a Republican-on-Republican showdown in November. However, damned near anyone with some name recognition and an "R" besides their name filed for this seat, meaning that the top two here could come with 20 percent or less of the vote—and that could allow one of the Democratic Some Dudes to make it to an anticlimactic November election. The leading GOPers to watch tomorrow include state Assemblyman Paul Cook, San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt and Victorville Mayor Ryan McEachron. An interesting wildcard is the lone independent in the field: former GOP assemblyman Anthony Adams. His switch to indy status, unlike that of Linda Parks in CA-26, was probably not the result of political calculation: Adams was the target of a recall effort a few years back for supporting a Democratic budget proposal. (Steve Singiser)
• CA-10 (D versus I): Freshman GOP Rep. Jeff Denham took a bit of a hit in California's redistricting process, seeing his district absorb significant portions of territory previously represented by Democrats Dennis Cardoza and Jerry McNerney. The end result of the process moved the needle on Denham's district from being one that John McCain won by a 52-46 margin in 2008 to one that Barack Obama carried by 50-47. Democrats are excited about the candidacy of former NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez, whose profile received an unwitting boost by local Republicans who unsuccessfully tried to strip him of his "astronaut" designation on the primary ballot. The wildcard here is independent Chad Condit (son of Democratic ex-Rep. Gary Condit), who enjoys residual name recognition but has lagged badly behind Denham and Hernandez in fundraising. (James L)
Head below the fold for the rest of our writeups.
• CA-21 (D): While California's extraordinary redistricting reshuffle made it difficult to keep track of who owns what, by our math, this swingish open district actually represents a district Democrats have to defend. And they'll have to do so against Assemblyman David Valadao, who's had the GOP field to himself and has been running a strong campaign. Unfortunately, Team Blue's top recruits all declined to run, forcing Democrats to go outside the district to recruit Fresno City Councilor Blong Xiong. While Xiong was being wooed, though, another Democrat got in, Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hernandez. Though Hernandez has raised almost no money, his surname might confer an advantage in this heavily Latino district. Combined with the fact that Xiong isn't from the 21st and waited until the filing deadline to get in, Democrats could be at risk of having their weaker general election option nevertheless win the primary. (In fairness, though, Hernandez does not live in the district either.) (David Nir)
• CA-24 (R): Abel Maldonado—young, Hispanic, moderate enough to hold a swingy state Senate district that kept Democrats from a two-thirds majority in that chamber, and once-upon-a-time viewed a rising star in the California GOP—has seen better days. After having his tenure as lieutenant governor shortened by a worse-than-expected 11-point loss to Gavin Newsom in the 2010 race, Maldonado is attempting to reboot his political career against incumbent Democrat Lois Capps. Complicating this comeback effort, though, is a candidate on his right flank, conservative actor (and son of Robert) Chris Mitchum. Mitchum hasn't raised much, but Maldonado has felt compelled to buy six figures in ads regardless.
It isn't particularly likely, but Maldonado's failure to make the top-two against Mitchum (should it happen) would symbolize just how willing the California GOP is to kneecap itself and, recent campaign finance trickery notwithstanding, just how far Maldonado's star has fallen (his tax problems have been around for awhile). A weak win, of course, would also speak volumes about Maldonado's career and might give some insight into the November contest against Capps as well. At 56 percent Obama, the new 24th is substantially friendlier to Republicans than Capps' old 23rd, though she does have some connection the new parts of the district: Capps (and her late husband Walter) represented a similar district containing all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties prior to 2002. (jeffmd)
• CA-26 (D vs. I): If there's one House primary over which Democrats appear to be sweating serious bullets, it's this one. Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly wisely decided to close the book on his congressional career after the redistricting process turned his district's 51-48 Obama lean into one that the president carried by a full 15 percent in 2008. On paper, it's an excellent pick-up opportunity for a House Democratic caucus that desperately needs all the wins it can get this November. The only problem is that the Democratic front-runner, state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, may fall victim to the state's new top-two primary system. As the only Republican on the ballot, state Sen. Tony Strickland seems assured of landing one of the top two spots, but the fate of the other general election slot is far less certain.
Brownley's ability to finish in the top two is complicated not only by the presence of three other Democrats on the primary ballot (Oxnard Harbor District President Jess Herrera, businessman David Cruz Thayne and realtor Albert Maxwell Goldberg), but by the independent candidacy of longtime Ventura County Supervisor (and former Republican) Linda Parks. Brownley has out-hustled both Parks and the other Democrats in the field in terms of fundraising, but national Democratic groups have dropped over $900,000 on independent expenditures in an effort to push her candidacy over the top, suggesting a Parks victory is a very serious concern. Put an extra asterisk beside this race on your scorecards, because this will be one of the most important primaries to watch tonight. (James L)
• CA-31 (R): The 31st, a newly created Hispanic-plurality seat in San Bernardino and its environs, is one of the Democrats' best pickup shots in California in November (at 56 percent Obama). However, there's a major Republican battle underway in the top 2 primary; the nominee goes on to face Democratic Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar in November. The likeliest winner is Rep. Gary Miller, who was one of the Republicans who found himself without a seat in the game of musical chairs that happened in the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire. (Republican Reps. Jerry Lewis and David Dreier could have also run here, but both opted to retire instead.) Miller lives in the new 39th and in fact represents more of that district than does Rep. Ed Royce, another Republican who's also running there, but Royce's deep pockets and establishment support forced Miller to look elsewhere.
So instead, Miller landed in the next-door 31st, where he currently represents exactly zero percent of the constituents, but where he may be able to nevertheless defeat the other major Republican candidate (and a guy who already represents 53 percent of this turf), state Sen. Bob Dutton. Without any leaked polling at all, it's hard to draw conclusions, but Miller's combination of self-funding, mega-backing from the National Association of Realtors, and the support of the state GOP seems to give him the edge. Meanwhile, Dutton seems to have barely engaged the fundraising process and may simply be coasting on name rec. (David Jarman)
• CA-47 (R): The new 47th district, which combines Long Beach with parts of Orange County, is a Democratic-leaning seat (58 percent Obama), though one that could turn into a headache if the presumed first-place finisher in the top-two primary, Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, snoozes his way through the general. The question in the primary, though, will be which of two Republicans will face Lowenthal in November. One contender is ex-Rep. Steve Kuykendall, who spent two years representing old CA-36 further west. You'd think his "former congressman" status would give him pole position, but between the fact that he served more than a decade ago in a completely different district, that he's very moderate by today's GOP standards, and that he's had little luck at the fundraising process, he instead seems to be the underdog here. Long Beach City Councilor Gary DeLong seems to have the advantage, both monetary and in terms of the endorsement of the state GOP (though there's no polling to quantify that). (David Jarman)
• CA-52 (D): Redistricting turned Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray's San Diego-area district from lean-Republican to sortakinda Democratic-ish; the new district went 55-43 for Obama over John McCain, but Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer both lost it by about seven points. Two Democrats hope to unseat him in November. Former Democratic state Assemblywoman Lori Saldana has the support of EMILY's List, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, DFA, and a few labor organizations, but has raised just $306,000 as of May 16 in this San Diego-area district. Self-funding Democrat Scott Peters, a former San Diego City Council President, has plenty of money of his own, as well as a lot of labor support including the AFL-CIO, CTA, IBEW, longshoremen and several others. Still, there is a sizable Hispanic population in the district, which should help Saldana and might be enough to get her into the top-two general election. Incidentally, there is one well-heeled Republican challenger to Bilbray—tea partier John Stahl, who loaned himself $600,000 for the bid, but hasn't seemed to spend much of it (certainly not on his website, anyway). (Arjun Jaikumar)
• November: As we noted above, a large number of California House races are expected to be competitive this fall, but their primaries will only serve as table-setters since the top two finishers in each case are all but certain. Surprises can always happen, though, and each candidate's vote share today may offer hints about what will happen in the general election in these races:
CA-01: Sam Aanestad (R) vs. Doug LaMalfa (R) (OPEN)• CA-Inits: In addition to the flood of competitive primary races on tap today, Golden State voters will also weigh policy with two closely watched initiatives. There is a ton of uncertainty about Proposition 29, the $1-per-pack increase in taxes on tobacco products. Initial polls showed 29 easily leading, but a $40 million-plus deluge of advertising from the tobacco lobby has moved the polls dramatically, with a SurveyUSA poll last week showing a 42-38 lead for the ballot measure. Meanwhile, Proposition 28 would alter the state's term limits law, allowing state legislators to build up 12 years of seniority in any one House, as opposed to current limits of six years (Assembly) and eight years (Senate). (Steve Singiser)
CA-03: Rep. John Garamendi (D) vs. Kim Dolbow Vann (R)
CA-07: Rep. Dan Lungren (R) vs. Ami Bera (D)
CA-09: Rep. Jerry McNerney vs. Ricky Gill (R)
CA-15: Rep. Pete Stark (D) vs. Eric Swalwell (D)
CA-16: Rep. Jim Costa (D) vs. Brian Whelan (R)
CA-30: Rep. Howard Berman (D) vs. Rep. Brad Sherman (D)
CA-35: Rep. Joe Baca (D) vs. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D)
CA-36: Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) vs. Raul Ruiz (D)
CA-39: Rep. Ed Royce vs. Jay Chen (D)
CA-41: Mark Takano (D) vs. John Tavaglione (R) (OPEN)
CA-44: Rep. Janice Hahn (D) vs. Rep. Laura Richardson (D)
CA-45: Rep. John Campbell (R) vs. Sukhee Kang (D)
CA-51: Denise Moreno-Ducheny (D) vs. Juan Vargas (D) (OPEN)
• San Diego Mayor: The San Diego mayoral race, despite its officially nonpartisan status, has a clearly ideological component to it: On the one side is Democratic Rep. Bob Filner, one of the House's most progressive members, looking to return to San Diego local politics as a career valedictory. On the other side is Republican City Councilor Carl De Maio, who's openly gay but running on a strongly fiscal-conservative agenda. Maybe most interestingly, somewhere in the middle, is state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who until recently was touted as one of the state GOP's rising stars but who then publicly broke ranks with the Republicans and recast himself as a moderate independent. (There's a fourth major candidate, county DA Bonnie Dumanis, who hasn't registered much in the polls.) Fletcher's gambit may not have been ideological so much as an attempt to differentiate himself from De Maio and break out from the clutter; while the move did seem to raise Fletcher's profile, most polling of the race has still shown De Maio leading and Filner likely to advance to November as well. (David Jarman)
• IA-02 (D & R): Primaries will play themselves out on both sides of the partisan divide in this Democratic-leaning district, though one contest portends to be more competitive than the other. Democratic incumbent Rep. Dave Loebsack is getting challenged from the right by state Sen. Joe Seng. On paper, a congressman getting challenged by a state senator would seem like a marquee event, but Seng has apparently failed to raise even enough cash to file an FEC report, so it would seem that getting his message out was a challenge. (Though the Humane Society did feel the need to spend some money beating Seng up.)
On the GOP side, developer Dan Dolan has a modest cash edge over John Archer, an attorney for John Deere. But Dolan arguably made the biggest headlines of the primary when he had memorable a scheduling error that led him to deliver his stump speech at a local Democratic convention, which was being held at the same venue and on the same day (but not, as it happened, the same time) as the GOP convention. (Steve Singiser)
• MT-Gov (R): Montana Democrats long ago rallied around state AG Steve Bullock as their nominee, so they've been able to sit back and watch the enormous GOP field tear itself apart. The Republican frontrunner is ex-Rep. Rick Hill, and so predictably, he's come under fire for his insider-ish past, mostly at the hands of former state Sen. Corey Stapleton. Another former state senator, Ken Miller, actually came in second in a late April PPP poll of the primary (with 12 percent), but Hill was at 33 percent, though over a third of voters were still undecided as of that time. One memorable bit player is "security consultant" Neil Livingstone, who tried to offer his services to Qadaffi during the bombing of Libya and bragged on his own campaign website about spending time "on a yacht full of hookers in Monte Carlo." (David Nir)
• MT-AL (D): Incumbent Republican Dennis Rehberg is retiring to mount a neck-and-neck bid for the Senate against freshman Democrat Jon Tester. In Rehberg's wake, seven Democrats are vying for the right to take on well-funded Republican businessman Steve Daines. Four of them have at least some chance at winning the primary—state Sen. Kim Gillan and state Rep. Franke Wilmer, Missoula councilman Dave Strohmaier and businesswoman Diane Smith. Gillan and Wilmer have led the fundraising race so far, while PPP's last poll showed Gillan leading the primary field with 21 percent, with Smith, Wilmer and Strohmaier all garnering between 9 percent and 13 percent. PPP also shows Gillan polling the strongest of the tested candidates in the general election, trailing Daines 33-27 compared to Wilmer's 11-point deficit at 36-25. Of course, that's a lot of undecideds, both for the primary and the general. Democrats can certainly win statewide in Montana with a little luck (President Obama got 47 percent of the vote here in 2008), but Daines has more than a 3-1 cash advantage over Democratic frontrunner Gillan, and doesn't have to waste it on a primary. (Arjun Jaikumar)
• NJ-09 (D): Plenty has been said about this race on Daily Kos Elections, which features incumbents Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman and results from New Jersey's
"bipartisan" commission functional Republican gerrymander. On paper, Rothman has the numerical advantage, as 54 percent of this district comes from his old 9th and 43 percent from Pascrell's old 8th. Rothman is also backed by the Bergen machine (49.8 percent of the district), with Pascrell having the Passaic machine (45.4 percent) in his corner. This slight advantage has been borne out in recent polling, with Pascrell releasing an internal showing him trailing Rothman by one and rumors floating of a Rothman internal showing Rothman up by four. Pascrell has plenty of institutional support, though, including that of another Bill—Clinton. The winner will almost certainly cruise in this 64 percent Obama district.
Below is a map of the new 9th, showing which parts (shaded in bold colors) are represented by which congressman. (The lightly shaded areas represent portions of their old seats which are now part of other districts.)
• NJ-10 (D): The Newark-based 10th is about as blue a district as you can find, so the Democratic primary is for all the marbles. With the passing of long-time Rep. Donald Payne, Sr., several months ago, it's also open for the first time in decades. The two frontrunners seem to be two colleagues on the Newark city council, each of whom has their own legacy: Donald Payne, Jr., and Ron Rice, Jr. (Rice had been planning to run a primary against the elder Payne prior to his death.) They're joined by state Senator Nia Gill, and Irvington mayor Wayne Smith. Rice has some key labor endorsements as well as DFA's backing, while Payne has the support of Sen. Bob Menendez and state Assembly speaker Sheila Oliver. (David Jarman)
• NM-Sen (D & R): There was a time when both ends of the Senate primary in the Land of Enchantment held some intrigue. That time has surely passed, however, as it is a virtual certainty that Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich and Republican ex-Rep. Heather Wilson will vie for the honor of replacing Jeff Bingaman in the U.S. Senate. Polls have shown that Heinrich has a commanding lead over state Auditor Hector Balderas on the Democratic side, aided by his overwhelming edge in the Albuquerque area he has repped since 2008. On the GOP side, any hope for Democrats that Wilson might get teabagged by GOP activist Greg Sowards simply never materialized—she had a three-to-one edge over him in the latest poll of the race. (Steve Singiser)
• NM-01 (D): Redistricting had a minimal impact on this Bernalillo County/Albuquerque-centered district left open by incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich, who is running for Senate. Three Democrats—Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham (who scored 25 percent in the 2008 primary, losing to Heinrich), state Sen. Eric Griego (who represents a swath of Albuquerque and areas south) and former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez (who considered running for Senate in 2008)—are running to succeed him in this 60 percent Obama seat. Lujan Grisham and Griego are the neck-in-neck front-runners according to recent polling—fortunate news for progressives, who have every reason to loathe the conservaDem Chavez. Unfortunately, the race has taken a negative tack as of late, with Lujan Grisham and Griego (and their respective allies) taking to the airwaves to bash each other, though hopefully not enough to allow Chavez to sneak through. Whoever emerges from this three-way contest, hopefully not weakened, faces former Republican state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones. (jeffmd)
• SD-AL (D): Two Democrats are vying for the chance to take on frosh GOP Rep. Kristi Noem: Matt Varilek, a former staffer for Sen. Tim Johnson, and two-term Minnehaha County commissioner Jeff Barth. Varilek has led the way in terms of fundraising and endorsements—he's earned the support of Johnson, as well as ex-Sens. Tim Daschle and George McGovern. Barth's underdog campaign, meanwhile, is riding some recent notoriety it earned through a somewhat bizarre web ad touting Barth's globetrotting life experience ("I've ridden an ostrich ... I've done lots of stuff") that went semi-viral on YouTube. (James L)