Thanks to California's new top-two primary system, where the two highest vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation, we have a number of hotly contested, same-party elections on tap for November. Louisiana, which uses a similar "jungle primary" system, also has one such race. Even though party control of these seats isn't at stake, we wanted to rate these contests in the same way we do classic D-vs.-R affairs. But these intra-party battles don't fit neatly on to our big board, so we've decided to write up our assessments as a stand-alone. As with our regular race ratings, though, we'll keep these updated throughout the fall as events warrant.
Here are our initial takes (note that for California, we've put each candidate's share in the primary in parentheses after their names):
• CA-08 (R): Gregg Imus (16%) vs. Paul Cook (15%). Likely Cook. Imus actually edged Cook as both men limped into the second round in this decidedly red open seat with tiny pluralities (thanks to a 13-person candidate field), but Cook, a state Assemblyman, is definitely the establishment favorite. His fundraising has been pretty lackluster, though (just $255K), but Imus, an anti-immigration activist and one-time Assembly staffer, is raising Some Dude-level money (only $62K). Still, an upset can't be ruled out, if Imus can motivate the conservative base.
• CA-15 (D): Rep. Pete Stark (42%) vs. Eric Swalwell (36%). Tossup. Perhaps the most interesting race on this list, the octogenarian Stark has made himself vulnerable after a very long career thanks to a recent explosion in unhinged outbursts. Earlier this year, Stark made insane accusations that Swalwell, a Dublin city councilor, had taken bribes from developers, and things have gone downhill for him ever since, with a number of longtime allies abandoning him. Swalwell's actually outraised the incumbent, but Stark is still regarded as a liberal lion and old sentiments can die hard. But the redrawn 15th, while still very blue, is less so than Stark's old 13th, and he only represents 47% of the new seat's constituents, so this race is very much up for grabs.
• CA-30 (D): Rep. Brad Sherman (42%) vs. Rep. Howard Berman (32%). Lean Sherman. Redistricting set up a clash between two titanic figures with very similar records in this dark blue district, though on paper, things have always looked bad for Berman. He represents a mere 20% of the new 30th versus 58% for Sherman, and that disparity was reflected in the primary results. That said, Berman is a lot more popular among the political classes, with endorsements from almost the entire California delegation and nearly all of Hollywood lining up to help him. And he's outraised Sherman, too, an eye-popping $3.5 mil to $2.7 mil. But Berman had to spend almost all his cash ensuring he'd earn the second spot in the top-two while Sherman was able to husband his resources. That's left Sherman with a huge money edge, $3 mil to just $447K. Berman's also been trolling pretty hard for Republican support lately, making him look a bit desperate. All this adds up to a Sherman edge.
• CA-31 (R): Rep. Gary Miller (27%) vs. Bob Dutton (25%). Lean Miller. Thanks to an epic Democratic screwup, two Republicans advanced to the second round in this swingish seat that gave Obama 56% of the vote. Even weirder, Miller's carpetbagged into the new 31st, meaning he's not a normal incumbent with a natural base of support. And because this is a general election, someone is going to have to make a play for the huge pool of Democratic voters who might hold their noses in disgust and cast a vote for the "least bad" Republican. It seems like it's Dutton, a state senator, who's been dipping his toe in those waters more than Miller—he's announced a few endorsements from local Democrats, including a state senator. Miller naturally has the support of the national GOP and probably wants to just go with what he knows. Dutton has very little money, but this race is so bizarre it's hard to predict what'll happen.
• CA-35 (D): Rep. Joe Baca (45%) vs. Gloria Negrete McLeod (36%). Likely Baca. While Baca didn't quite dominate in the first round in this blue district, he doesn't bring nearly as much baggage to the race as someone like, say, Pete Stark. Negrete McLeod, a state senator, hasn't raised much, but Baca only has about twice as much cash on hand ($191K to $82K). Baca's record is not exactly spotless, though: You may recall an incident several years ago where Rep. Loretta Sanchez and several other lawmakers quit the Congressional Hispanic Caucus after Baca reportedly called Sanchez a "whore." (Baca denied doing so.) If Sanchez and her allies decide they want some payback, Negrete McLeod could provide them with an opportunity.
• CA-44 (D): Rep. Janice Hahn (60%) vs. Rep. Laura Richardson (40%). Likely Hahn. The top-two primary results in this dark blue seat really say it all, and no one will be sorry to see the ethically-embattled Richardson go. Her one prayer is that, with Obama on the top of the ticket, black voters turn out in force. But the district's voters are only 28% African-American, so this really seems like a bridge too far. You could call this seat "Safe Hahn" and we probably wouldn't really argue with you.
• LA-03 (R): Rep. Charles Boustany vs. Rep. Jeff Landry. Lean Boustany. Landry, a tea party outsider, was never supposed to win the primary for the LA-03 open seat in 2010, but he did so—and in convincing fashion. But that just gave the GOP-held legislature the perfect target when it came time to eliminate a seat during redistricting. So they created a mashup in which Boustany, a veteran who currently serves the about-to-disappear 7th District, represents over three-quarters of the population; Landry only represents the balance. Boustany has double the cash (about $2 mil to $1 mil), but Landry has conservative enthusiasm powering him, which his establishment-backed opponent lacks. Boustany appears to be the favorite, but given Landry's history of unlikely victories, you can't write him off. Note that if neither man clears 50% on November 6, the top two finishers (regardless of party) will head to a Dec. 1 runoff.