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Ami Bera with President Bill Clinton
The 2012 top-two primary indicated that Democrat Ami Bera was in trouble. He won anyway.
On June 3, California will hold its second ever-statewide top-two primary. All candidates will run on one ballot: The two candidates with the most votes advance to November regardless of party. The Golden State will host a number of competitive general elections for Congress and the state legislature, and the June primary gives voters their first chance to choose between the parties. It can be very tempting to look at the results of the top-two for clues on how the general election will unfold.

In 2012, several pundits did just that. It was widely understood at the time that the June primary electorate was whiter and more conservative than it would be in November. Still, the primary results looked troubling for Democrats. In the competitive suburban Sacramento Seventh District, Democrat Ami Bera trailed Republican Rep. Dan Lungren by a large 53 to 41 margin. In the Palm Springs area 36th District, Democrat Raul Ruiz lagged behind Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack 58 to 42. Perhaps worst of all was in the nearby 41st District, which until then was widely considered a likely Democratic pickup: Democrat Mark Takano trailed Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione 45 to 37. When minor Democratic and Republican candidates were included, Team Red held a nine-point lead over all the Democrats. Even factoring in bluer general election turnout, it looked like Democrats were in danger of forfeiting three critical seats.

As it turned out, the top-two didn't predict much. Bera, Ruiz, and Takano each won their seats: Takano notably turned the nine point primary deficit into an 18-point win. In all but one competitive House and state legislative seat Democrats improved their vote share from November, usually by at least 10 points. Still, it's a good bet that after California holds its June 3 top-two primary, the results will get spun. Republicans and some pundits will crow that GOP candidates held Democrats under fifty percent, or that they outpolled them by double digits and treat this like a harbinger for November. But if 2012 is any indication, the top-two results represent essentially the bare-minimum for what Democrats should expect to get in the general. Unfortunately, they don't tell us much about November beyond that.

Head below the fold for more.

Below is a look at the competitive House seats from 2012. To separate the competitive races from the ones that were safe for one party (and turnout was far less of an issue) I used a few criteria. To start with, I only included races where one Democrat and one Republican were on the general election ballot. I also included any race where one of the two candidates took at least 45 percent in the general, races that Daily Kos Elections ranked as anything but safe in their final House ratings, and races where the party that got more combined votes in June lost in November.

In all but one of these races, the Democratic performance in November was notably better than it was in June. The one exception is in the Central Valley-based 21st District, where local Democrats were stuck with the very weak John Hernandez as their nominee. Of the remaining districts, Democrats saw their smallest increase in the San Diego area 52nd District (though this didn't stop Democrat Scott Peters from unseating Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray). The largest increase was a nearly 31-point Democratic surge in the 25th, where Democrat Lee Rogers did unexpectedly well against Rep. Buck McKeon.

Based on Democratic improvement from June to November, the median district was in the coastal 47th District, where Democrats did 14.5 percent better in November than in June. The largest gap between Democrats and Republicans in June that Team Blue successfully overcame was in the 36th District, where Raul Ruiz turned a 16 point primary loss into a nearly 6 point general election win. The smallest primary gap that still resulted in a Democratic general election loss was in CA-21, home of the aforementioned John Hernandez.  

Below is a chart of California's competitive legislative races. As before, I included a seat if one candidate from each party took at least 45 percent in the general or if the party with more votes in June lost in November (Daily Kos Elections did not rate legislative races).

There was also a massive range on how much Democrats improved from June to November. The smallest improvement was in Senate District 27, and the largest was in Assembly District 36 north of Los Angeles. The median district was in the Central Valley's Senate District 5, where Democrats improved 19.6 percent from June to November. The largest primary gap that still led to a Democratic win in November was AD-36, where Steve Fox reversed a 34 point deficit and pulled off a shocking narrow win. The smallest primary gap that did not result in a Democratic November victory was in AD-44 where Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorrell (who is now running for Congress in CA-26) defeated an underfunded Democrat in a swing district.

It's difficult to understand why the Democratic general election increase was so much larger in some districts than it was in others. There are several possible factors to consider. To start with, there's the district's racial composition. The June primary electorate was far whiter than it was in November, and Democrats had a lot of room to grow in districts with significant minority populations.

It's also possible that one party could have turned out disproportionately in the primary if it wasn't clear which of their candidates would be in the general. For instance, in CA-52 there was a fierce contest between former Assemblymember Lori Saldana and Scott Peters to take on Brian Bilbray. Many Democrats who would have normally stayed home in June could have turned out to back Saldana or Peters. Of all the competitive House and legislative seats, CA-52 showed the smallest Democratic increase (aside from CA-21). Some other reasons that could account for why turnout surged more in some districts than others are presence of viable independent candidates in June, proportion of voters who vote by mail, individual candidates' strengths and weaknesses, and others.

However, it's tough to predict, even in retrospect, where turnout would increase from June to November of 2012. The sample size is too small, we have only one election's worth of data, and there are so many overlapping factors to sort out that it's difficult to pick up a pattern. We can usually assume that there will be some Democratic increase, assuming Team Blue does not run a disastrous candidate: However, when it can be anywhere from less than 5 percent to 34 percent we can't make any real conclusions about November at this point. It's also pretty likely that, because midterm general electorates tend to be whiter and more conservative than presidential voters, Democrats will see a smaller increase from June to November of 2014 than they did in 2012.

So what can we take from all this?

Probably the one thing we can count on is Democrats being very likely to win if the combined Democratic primary vote is at least 50 percent. Still, given that we only have one cycle's worth of experience with the top-two (and unexpected events can always happen during the general), no Democrat in a competitive seat should start measuring the drapes if the primary goes well.  

The most important thing to understand at this stage is how little the primary will tell us about November. The district's partisan composition, past electoral history, candidate fundraising, and outside spending are all better indicators of what seats are competitive and which ones aren't than the June top-two results. It's tempting to view the primary as a preview of the general, but 2012 shows us we should resist that temptation.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 04:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It was more or less snuck into effect (10+ / 0-)

    And no matter what it may mean for Dems at this time, I hate the idea.

    That is all.

    I must be dreaming... (3764 forever!)

    by murphy on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 04:44:47 PM PDT

  •  I'm not sure I like top 2. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozoozol

    I voted for safety this time. I didn't want CA-8 and CA-31 to happen here. Sometimes primaries are good to send a message. This might get stifled now.

  •  I voted against it (4+ / 0-)

    because primaries are where parties decide their candidates in CA - or how it used to be done.

    I would like to know why I'm getting emails from the GOP-T, since I'm registered D. (I'm in CA-30, and it should be safe D, even though we're stuck now with Ds who are about >this< far from being Blue Dogs.)

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 05:10:24 PM PDT

    •  Because when you registered to vote . . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify

      . . . you submitted your email address to the county election office. Thus every candidate has access to your email address. You need to re-register and omit your email address. That is what I did.

      Don't put up with intolerant people

      by Namekarb on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 06:56:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Didn't register that way (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Simplify

        My registration doesn't have an e-mail address, AFAIK. They'd have to get it from other places, like the various petitions here - and why the hell am I getting the recommendations for the GOP, when I'm registered as a Democrat?

        (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

        by PJEvans on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 08:57:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Top 2 is a direct attack (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wu ming

      on freedom of association.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 07:13:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Can you elaborate? (0+ / 0-)

        That's a pretty significant charge, with no obvious support.

        -7.75 -4.67

        "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

        There are no Christians in foxholes.

        by Odysseus on Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 06:20:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Take a group of people (0+ / 0-)

          who want to accomplish the same thing, broadly or narrowly, in politics. They want to get together and choose the best possible candidate to put before the voters.

          But then anyone who feels like it, whether a member of that group or not, can also get on the ballot and stick that group's title next to his or her name.

          Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

          by Simplify on Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 10:44:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  How? (0+ / 0-)
            But then anyone who feels like it, whether a member of that group or not, can also get on the ballot and stick that group's title next to his or her name.
            That's no different than a partisan primary.  Anyone who can get enough petition signatures can run as a member of any party they want.

            But the broader point is that parties themselves are just a method, not a goal.  

            Names will still appear on the ballot, candidates will still have to state what their platform is, and voters will still have to understand what is important to vote for and against.

            Your freedom of association is in no way affected if all political parties are banned.

            You seem to think that because parties are a useful shorthand that they are somehow required to exist.  They're not.

            -7.75 -4.67

            "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

            There are no Christians in foxholes.

            by Odysseus on Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 01:22:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Incorrect (0+ / 0-)

              "No different" is utterly false. In a partisan primary, the members of a party get to vote on who goes on the general election ballot under that party's aegis. In California's "primary," they don't.

              I could run as a Republican, which would be an utter lie about everything I would do in office, but it would get a bunch of votes from conservative people who aren't in on the con.

              Oh, sure, if only all the voters would just be perfectly informed about all the candidates and choose accordingly, that would be lovely. It's also not reality.

              A primary system like California's takes the collective effort of a self-associated chunk of the population and flushes it down the toilet. That's an attack on freedom of association.

              Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

              by Simplify on Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 02:27:33 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I hate the entire concept of the top two. But then (9+ / 0-)

    I always believed that I was voting in my party's primary. Not only do I not want non-members voting in my party's primary, I have never had any interest in voting in anyone else's primary.

    It is no longer a primary, it is just the preliminary to November's run-off election.

    It sucks.

    •  I feel the same way. I want Dems voting for (5+ / 0-)

      the best Dem while R's and Greens or whatever vote for the best person to represent them in the general.

      This whole top 2 was pushed by the Business wing of the GOP by their Golden Boy Able Maldanado after Arnie appointed him Lt Gov.

      In 2012 Able ran for Congress in the 24th and almost came in 3rd in the primary after a Bagger.  He then lost the general by 10 points because the TP stayed home or maybe even a few voted for Lois Capps.

      This year the R's have 3 candidates running ads.  The Bagger, Chris Mitchum, is back.  Then we have a 25 year old Koch trained plant whose going to bring back "freedumb" and is a VP of a company that is owned by Daddy a surgeon who pedals a tennis elbow bandage.  And last but not least we have Jacqueline Smith's husband, a heart surgeon who now runs her skin care company.  He's pledging to get rid of Ocare and replace with interstate policies and limits on malpractice.  Tuseday will be interesting.

      Congressional elections have consequences!

      by Cordyc on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 06:34:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great Analysis Jeff, a question (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LakeSuperior, Darth Jeff, Odysseus

    This is something I've wondered about these all-or-one setups.. I see this as a potential negative for fundraising in districts where the top two will be left-leaning candidates, while also providing (R)s more incentive to focus their money on potential races.

    Looking at the layout of the California map, it seems as though there will be more races where two democrats square off in the fall instead of races where we would see two republicans as the top contenders, unless I'm looking at this wrong.

    Does this division of races impact the fundraising element for the candidates in non-competitive districts for (R)s & (D)s?

    Just something I've been pondering

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 05:39:03 PM PDT

    •  Thanks! That's a good question (4+ / 0-)

      I do think that is a real possibility. Last cycle we had the Berman/ Sherman general election match in CA-30. Both candidates raised a ton of money in one of the nation's most expensive areas. If it weren't for the top-two, the race would have ended in June and neither candidate would have needed to raise much after.

      However, it's really impossible to know what effect this had in overall fundraising. A lot of wealthy donors gave to Berman or Sherman, and they could have afforded to donate to other Democratic candidates. I don't think it notably impacted other Democrats fundraising: nearby Democrats like Brownley and Ruiz still raised what they needed. It is definitely something to watch for this year though.  

      Contributing Editor, Daily Kos Elections. 24, male, CA-18 (home and voting there), LA-02 (resident).

      by Jeff Singer on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 05:51:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think I'm interested in wealthy Republican donor (0+ / 0-)

        base deciding to back out of democratic areas where the top two will be liberal, and just donating into targetted race they think they can win.

        Having even a 'bad' republican who will get trounced by large #s in an area still might absorb some of the donor base.

        It's just a thought because I know in many areas we are trying to put (D) on every ballot to help divide statewide resources.   I wonder if the same could be said in reverse, putting more money in races they think they can win.

        Anyway, thanks for the analysis.

        Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

        by Chris Reeves on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 05:58:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  what we are already seeing (5+ / 0-)

      is republicans running as business-friendly moderate democrats, with the usual right wing and corporate funding. that's how the interests that use the GOP will maintain some veto on taxes and bills that get in the way of their industry profit margins, now that the GOP can't even win the 34% of the legislature necessary to block everything.

      in the 4th assembly race, bill dodd is running this particular con.

      •  Ah hah! (0+ / 0-)

        This makes perfect sense.

        Thank you.

        Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

        by Chris Reeves on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 09:51:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  An excellent and comprehensive political briefing. (6+ / 0-)

    Thanks for this excellent DK workproduct.

  •  Top two eliminates spoilers (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jncca, Minnesota Mike, sacman701

    It's very possible that some close races could be spoiled third party candidates, and top two eliminates the possibility of that.

    28, Male, CA-26, DK Elections Black Caucus Chair.

    by DrPhillips on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 06:13:42 PM PDT

    •  3rd parties just spoil everything! (0+ / 0-)

      The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

      by Wolf10 on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 06:55:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Utterly incorrect (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      birdboy2000, wu ming, Odysseus

      Say you have 4 candidates from the majority party and 2 from the minority party. The 4 split the vote, and then the 2 advance.

      What it encourages is for the parties to clear the field behind the scenes, instead of letting the voters decide in a normal party primary. Less democratic.

      Ranked-choice voting would eliminate the spoiler effect.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 06:58:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Voters have a choice in the open primary (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jncca

        If they wanted a third party candidate in the general, they would send one there. If a third party doesn't advance to the top two, that doesn't mean the system is undemocratic, it just means they didn't get enough voters.

        It's better than having a situation where an extremist like Paul LePage wins with 38% of the vote.

        28, Male, CA-26, DK Elections Black Caucus Chair.

        by DrPhillips on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 07:05:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Non-responsive to my point (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Odysseus

          The spoiler effect is alive and strong, depending on how many candidates enter.

          Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

          by Simplify on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 07:11:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not entirely sure what your point was (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SuetheRedWA

            The bottom line is, I'm more concerned with Democrats being able to have a better shot at winning races, without third party spoilers playing a role. Republicans will put Green Party candidates up to running just to play spoiler and top two eliminates that.

            28, Male, CA-26, DK Elections Black Caucus Chair.

            by DrPhillips on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 07:45:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Interesting percentage there (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simplify

          Abraham Lincoln won the presidency in 1860 with 39.7% of the vote because the southern vote was split three ways.

          It's very similar to the kind of thing that happens with top-two. Sometimes it will go in our favor, sometimes it won't.

  •  I'm no fan of Top Two after Washington got (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus

    stuck with is as a result of a court decision and both parties' unwillingness to keep open primaries.

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 06:22:12 PM PDT

  •  Voters in WA also approved top two about the same (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, brunoboy, Zack from the SFV

    time as CA. The Grange pushed an initiative, I believe in the 1930's-40's to do away with registration by party, so we had open primaries in which all parties appeared on the same ballot but the top D and top R would face off in Nov. However, in the primary you could pick and choose, an R in this race, a D in that race, a Communist in that other race or perhaps a Libertarian.  The Dems and Reps sued finally to get that tossed out and they won. Then they decided they, the party organizations, would decide who could appear in the primary under the D or R label. That did not sit well with the public so we got another initiative, again from the Grange (very strange) mandating the top two and completely removing the parties from the primary process.

    Like many of you in Calif. I voted against the top two here in WA and don't like it.  Among other things it effectively eliminated third party candidates in the General and I find that undemocratic and kind of offensive. While I would never vote third party I don't approve of disenfranchising them the way the top two does.  Additionally, Eastern WA is very conservative so the top two will lead to general election races between Republicans and here is Seattle where I live, there will never be another Republican on the ballot in November. This is not healthy for democracy.

    Now commenting as Eric Eitreim aka ratcityreprobate.

    by ratcityreprobate on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 06:29:37 PM PDT

    •  Somebody forgot to tell (0+ / 0-)
      Among other things it effectively eliminated third party candidates in the General and I find that undemocratic and kind of offensive. While I would never vote third party I don't approve of disenfranchising them the way the top two does.
      Kshama Sawant.
      Additionally, Eastern WA is very conservative so the top two will lead to general election races between Republicans and here is Seattle where I live, there will never be another Republican on the ballot in November. This is not healthy for democracy.
      Conservative areas will choose between Repubs and Libertarians.  Liberal areas will choose between Dems and Socialists.  How is that unhealthy for democracy?  

      222 house republicans support the Ryan budget that would convert Medicare to a premium-support program. In other words, they want to repeal Medicare and replace it with a system that works just like Obamacare.

      by happymisanthropy on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 08:03:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Seattle has nonpartisan elections. (4+ / 0-)

        In reality, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing. - Rousseau, The Social Contract, note 5

        by James Allen on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 08:07:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Seattle City Council races are all non-partisan. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        brunoboy

        No party listing on the ballot. I voted for Sawant and would again but we have new districts coming into effect and she won't be in my district.

        You are right, there will be a Socialist Alternative on the Ballot in November. She is running against House Speaker Frank Chop in the 43rd District. The reason she will be on the November ballot is she and Chop are the only two in the primary.

        Watch the 4th Congressional District race in Eastern WA, eight R's and 1 D filed, don't believe any of the R's filed as Libertarians.

        As to your last question I just think it is better look at the November Ballot and see a dem, a rep, a socialist, a green, a libertarian. Third parties will wither up and disappear.

        Now commenting as Eric Eitreim aka ratcityreprobate.

        by ratcityreprobate on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 08:36:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  that's just as much chance (0+ / 0-)

          as third parties had under the old system.

          As to your last question I just think it is better look at the November Ballot and see a dem, a rep, a socialist, a green, a libertarian. Third parties will wither up and disappear.
          That's strictly your preference, its failure to appeal to your sense of symmetry does not make it bad for democracy.

          222 house republicans support the Ryan budget that would convert Medicare to a premium-support program. In other words, they want to repeal Medicare and replace it with a system that works just like Obamacare.

          by happymisanthropy on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 09:35:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I see a difference between losing an election and (0+ / 0-)

            being mathematically excluded from competing in the election, I guess you don't.  I prefer even playing fields but so be it.

            Now commenting as Eric Eitreim aka ratcityreprobate.

            by ratcityreprobate on Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 06:34:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  That's like saying (0+ / 0-)

              the Lions were excluded from the Superbowl.  You may not like it, but that doesn't make it bad for football.

              222 house republicans support the Ryan budget that would convert Medicare to a premium-support program. In other words, they want to repeal Medicare and replace it with a system that works just like Obamacare.

              by happymisanthropy on Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 09:38:04 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Council Elections are at-large (0+ / 0-)

          Unless they're switching to a district system, you'll still be able to vote for her in 2017.

          26, Practical Progressive Democratic Socialist (-9.38, -8.51), Gay, IN-02 - Defeat Wacky Jackie!

          by HoosierD42 on Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 12:47:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Without top-two I would still have a very (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        v2aggie2

        untrustworthy State Senator.  The appointed guy could have cared less about the citizens in his district.  It didn't matter, whether they were Republicans like him or Democrats.  He was focused on other things.  He advanced at the top choice in the primary last year, but was beaten by a fellow Republican in the general.  The guy that won is a much better politician.  I'm in favor of top-two, because without it, my vote doesn't mean a thing in Stevens County, WA.

  •  The Plus side of Top Two Primaries (0+ / 0-)

    Take a closer look at CA-04. A red district with a weak Democratic candidate. Tea Party incumbent Tom McClintock is worried that the other Republican who is running, Art (Afghan Veteran) Moore will share the general election ballot. McClintock is already sending out anti-Moore mailers.

    Without all the 3rd party candidates and any Democrat on the November ballot, Moore stands a decent chance to win the general election. So a lot of Democrats (and moderate Republicans) are voting for Moore in the primary hoping that he will be their moderate Republican congressman.

    If this succeeds, then the "Top Two" system may be the way to move all candidates more toward the center instead of the extremes.

    Don't put up with intolerant people

    by Namekarb on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 06:50:58 PM PDT

    •  that's good if you think only moderates should (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brunoboy, Zack from the SFV, bryduck

      have representation.

      In reality, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing. - Rousseau, The Social Contract, note 5

      by James Allen on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 07:31:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  In hyperpolarized California (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        v2aggie2

        moderates almost always had almost no representation at all, while left-wing Democrats and right-wing Republicans were overabundant. Yes, i think that moderates must have at least some representation too...

        •  almost no representation? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          brunoboy, Odysseus, Zack from the SFV

          like Feinstein, Schwarzenegger, and we could probably go through at least a dozen who are from the recent pre-top-2 era in the US House from California.

          In reality, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing. - Rousseau, The Social Contract, note 5

          by James Allen on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 08:01:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Almost no (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            DownstateDemocrat

            No more then 3-4 moderates in 53-member House Delegation. The percentage of moderates in the state is not simply higher, it's MUCH higherthen that. And Feinstein isn't a "pure" moderate, but normal "moderate liberal". In number of states she would be considered VERY liberal.

        •  how do you define moderation? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          brunoboy, Zack from the SFV

          that's where this bullshit comes apart.

          •  Depends on state and district (0+ / 0-)

            But generally for me it's a part of political spectrum from people like Susan Collins or Pre-2010 Lincoln Chafee to the above mentioned Dianne Feinstein and their like. Of course, say, in specific context of San Francisco politics Feinstein could be characterized even as "conservative", but only in that specific context...

            •  It shouldn't, unless "moderates" don't (0+ / 0-)

              believe in anything. And if you don't, then what is a "moderate"? This sounds suspiciously like triangulation/Third Way behavior (instead of a pol having identifiable principles), which has given rise to the Overton Window shifting-phenomena we've all been suffering under for the last 20 years+.

              "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

              by bryduck on Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 12:28:23 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  so no fixed principles, then? (0+ / 0-)

              just a middle point between two undefined poles? gotcha.

              •  No, i don't believe in "principles" (0+ / 0-)

                I believe in common sense and compromise. The only principle of moderate - "no radicalism and extremism!"

                P.S. I have nothing against "Third Way" too...

                •  what a stupid political philosophy (0+ / 0-)

                  your "common sense and compromise," without anything to anchor them in any policy reality, could mean literally anything, as long as someone came up with two poles to situate it between.

                  here's a protip: "third way" is an actual set of ideological and policy positions. the centrism talk is just a slogan for rubes like yourself.

  •  CA primary elections were established in 1909... (5+ / 0-)

    ...to stop the banks and railroads from choosing the candidates in smoke filled rooms. For 103 years, each party's nominees were chosen by their registered voters. It didn't take money out of the picture entirely, but it helped.

    There's no prize for third place, so now the candidates are pre-selected by party insiders, or they're self-selected, self-financed millionaires. Either way, the Big Dollar once again determines who appears on the ballot.

    Californians thought that the "open primary" would somehow give us "more democracy". I say we got less. There are no primary elections in California today. What we have is a general election in June with a mandatory runoff in November.

    Expect to see more and more incumbents sailing into 1st place in June, while the next two candidates spend boatloads of money and exhaust public goodwill fighting each other tooth and claw for 2nd place.

    Advantage: Incumbents.

    I don't see any way back. The only thing to do is keep pressing forward toward public campaign financing and/or ranked-choice voting.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 06:58:12 PM PDT

    •  CA constitution rewrite (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DownstateDemocrat

      Would help immensely to trim it down to a real constitution that describes governmental structure, powers, and rights and not policy. Also things like tripling or quadrupling the Assembly (districts are way to huge), making the state Senate into a regional representation body with multi-member districts to get proportional representation, or other ideas like that.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 07:18:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Even in some states with partisan primaries (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Simplify

      ...candidates are often selected by party insiders. The Democrats in Illinois and Nevada, for example, usually operate this way despite the presence of separate primaries for each of the major political parties.

      Washington state has a similar system to California, and, to be honest with you, I don't think that Patty Murray would have cut a budget deal with Paul Ryan if Murray had to face a primary electorate consisting only of Democrats come 2016.

      The only real way you're going to encourage real democracy is to enact some form of public financing for all elections.

      •  Money in Politics (0+ / 0-)

        "The only real way you're going to encourage real democracy is to enact some form of public financing for all elections."

        I totally agree with your sentiment, but given the reality of just how entrenched money is in our political system, not to mention all of human affairs, this is going to be a very steep climb, particularly in the present climate (post Citizens United).

        The only alternative is finding new ways to educate voters to resist the seduction of well-funded PR/BS campaigns.  I wish I could say I am optimistic about either possibility.  

        Perhaps in the short term a push for more required transparency would be a step in the right direction.  The only difference between where we are now and the suitcases full of cash being shuffled about by political operatives is that presently they use electronic funds transfers.  In neither case are the funds traceable by the public.

        If politics is speech, then at a minimum that speech has to be made clear by registering who is providing the cash and who is getting it, with it being illegal for any unregistered cash to enter the system.  If money is free speech, no one should have the right to privacy for political contributions.

    •  Ranked Choice (0+ / 0-)

      One would think that now that the system is in place, moving to ranked-choice voting would be an easier sell to get enacted rather than a return to the previous system, particularly as unease sets in with the new top two system.  It would have the good aspect of actually not requiring a primary vote and saving a lot of money.  It would also permit more issue-oriented voting as opposed to candidate oriented voting, since politicians would have to appeal to the broader electorate to actually get elected, rather than simply a small, but well-funded donor base.

      Some Dem research out to go into thinking about how Dems might benefit or lose by structuring such a system.  This would involve tracking voters shifts from various candidates between primary and final election on a fine-grain local basis to account for local variance as well as broader state-wide trends.  The attractiveness of having more competitive races and less gerrymandering would not be lost by pursuing ranked-choice voting, while further reducing the ability of special interests to influence the system overall.  

      Undoubtedly, a ranked choice voting system would likely have to stand legal challenge as there would be a small possibility that the greatest vote getter might not actually attain the greatest number of first place votes.  However, it would give the voters even more power relative to politicians  who are in it to game the system, at least on average.

  •  there's another important factor (0+ / 0-)

    that this doesn't address: turnout by Democrats during presidential elections, such as 2012, is generally significantly higher than non-presidential elections years, such as 2014.

    So...what happened in 2012 may...or may not...be representative of what can be expected this November, especially if Republicans do what they usually do during non-presidential election years, and get their supporters to turn out in larger numbers than Democrats.

    •  I do mention that at the end (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Zack from the SFV

      This will be our first midterm top-two, so there is a lot we don't know. Even so, while Democrats may not improve as much from June to November as we did in 2012, we should show a bit of an increase. Nov. 2014 turnout should still look more like Nov. 2012 turnout than June 2014 turnout.

      Contributing Editor, Daily Kos Elections. 24, male, CA-18 (home and voting there), LA-02 (resident).

      by Jeff Singer on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 08:00:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Could also depend on what happens (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Zack from the SFV

      in the Governor's race, and which Republican wins the honor of facing Jerry Brown in the general. Also could depend what's on the ballot in terms of propositions -- the ones that have qualified so far are mostly non-controversial (though I'll need to do some research to make sure there are no "poison pills"), but there are a bunch that are still in the process of qualifying, from splitting electoral vote distribution to legalized weed.

      There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 09:12:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good point (0+ / 0-)

        The GOP does a good job of disenfranchising and disheartening Democrats into either being unable to vote or being too depressed to bother to vote.  Dems need to develop some organized efforts to find ways to discourage GOP turnout  as well to counteract GOP efforts.  As disgusting as this tactic is to liberal democracy, Dems can't exactly go into battle by handing the GOP a weapon to defeat them.  

        A bit of push back might well engender calls among the GOP to do away with attempts to repress voting rights.  Certainly, the California referendum process is a good way to do this.  First by advancing progressive initiatives that will drive democratic voters to the polls.  Secondly, by coming down hard on efforts to put GOP friendly initiatives on the ballot by actively discouraging citizens to sign such petitions.

  •  the LA Times (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zack from the SFV

    is recommending Pete Peterson (ptui!) for secretary of state.

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 09:00:27 PM PDT

  •  we're seeing this in the 4th AD race (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brunoboy, Simplify, Zack from the SFV

    we've got 2 actual democrats:

    dan wolk (backed by labor, most elected dems, and endorsed by the CA democratic party; also a good friend of mine)

    joe krovoza (backed by the sierra club and other environmental groups)

    two republicans:

    charlie schaupp (a conservative rural republican)

    dustin call (a college republican and staffer)

    and a republican-turned-democrat:

    bill dodd, a republican county supervisor who suddenly discovered he was outraged by the GOP wingnuttery in 2012, and changed his registration right before running for assembly as a democrat (backed by the koch brothers and the usual assortment of right wing and corporate money)

    there hasn't been much polling out here, but the danger is that the 4th AD's reliably 64% democratic vote is divided between wolk, krovoza and dodd, but that dodd picks up enough republican votes to make it to the general, along with charlie schaupp (dustin call is a no-hoper and barely even has a campaign), and then we get a conservative republican and a moderate republican-turned-democrat running in the general in a very blue seat.

    in a primary system, this wouldn't happen. it strikes me as the game plan for corporate interests going forward, now that the GOP can't even reliably win 34% of the legislature to block taxes with anymore.

  •  Just wanted to add (3+ / 0-)

    that the top 2 system isn't all that knew to California as the state opted to test out a jungle primary system during the 1998 and 2000 election.

    They came up with similar conclusions as you did

    Turnout soars in California between primaries and general elections, as it does everywhere else. In 2000, over 10.4 million people voted in November after fewer than 7.9 million turned out for the primary. More than 12.3 million Californians voted in the 2008 general election, but fewer than 5 million turned out for the primary this June. The data points to one conclusion: A preponderance of the new general election voters each year favor Democrats, and that helps them improve margins from the primary
    http://www.nationaljournal.com/...
    emocratic general election candidates were far more likely to improve upon their primary showings (and to improve by a greater extent) than were Republicans. Of the 83 races in which one party clearly improved its fortunes between primary day and the general election, the net Democratic vote increased (and the net GOP vote fell) in 66 of them, while Republican vote totals improved in only 17.
    Also props for using the Clinton rally picture at my old undergrad UC Davis.

    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it" - Upton Sinclair

    by lordpet8 on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 10:34:31 PM PDT

    •  The big difference was that the 1998-2000 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lordpet8

        version of the blanket primary had the top votegetters from each party go on to November. You could have Dems, GOP, Greens and Libertarians on the general election ballot. I didn't support that version (which was struck down by the courts, IIRC), but it wasn't as bad as the current version with intraparty runoffs. Yes I do live in CA-30, where we had the ShBerman battle two years ago. We got the same result (Sherman winning) in November that we had in June. What a waste!!!

      Diehard Swingnut, disgruntled Democrat, age 55, CA-30

      by Zack from the SFV on Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 10:32:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  On the subject of GOPers running as Dems (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darth Jeff, Zack from the SFV, jncca

    People need to realize that the secretary of state openly publishes the party registration history of every candidate going back ten years. This isn't nebulous, conspiratorial stuff that people can hide from opposition researchers.

    The top-two primary also doesn't facilitate these Republicans-turned-Democrats from winning in Democratic primaries; this happened quite a lot under the closed primary system too. State senator Jerry Hill was a Republican until 2003, and this was a huge issue in the Democratic primary when he ran for state assembly in 2008. He won anyway with more than half the vote against Gina Papan, daughter of a former assemblyman.

    24, D, pragmatic progressive (-4.50, -5.18), CA-14. DKE folk culture curator.

    by kurykh on Sun Jun 01, 2014 at 11:31:02 PM PDT

  •  Sacramento (0+ / 0-)

    Ami Bera is the incumbant Democrat who feels like a miracle due to the rabid Tea Party we have that includes the horrible McClintock who is right of the Tea Party.  Bera is opposed by Doug Ose who is a party hack.  Ose was given an historical park of 650 acres, Gibson Ranch, to use for his personal profit for $1 by the right-wing Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.  A few of us were able to comment on the Sacramento BEE before they ended all comments due to the massive right-wing take-over and nastiness of the comment process. The terms of the park give-away were modified, but the GOP will do it again.   This top-two "primary" makes no sense to me.  It is like another GOP plot to mess up the rules and sneak in their loyal destroyers of all government.  Dems are not reliable voters.  The GOP is a fascist party with no moderates.  Look at the gains of the fascists in Europe.  The US is far too complacent.  I dislike the two-party monopoly controlled by billionaires thanks to the Robert's court, but this top-two election needs to go away.

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