Democrats And Republicans Both Miss Golden Opportunities But Avoid Disaster In California Primary


Democrats Seem To Have Dodged Doomsday Scenario That Might’ve Shut Them Out Of Midterms In Some Districts; But Don’t Succeed In Longshot Bid To Shut Republicans Out Of Governor’s Race Altogether


Because of California’s unusual system for selecting candidates in primaries, the two top vote-getters in any district or state-wide race make it onto November’s ballot, regardless of what party they represent. So with numerous Democrats appearing on the scene this year, there was grave concern they’d cancel each other out, thus shutting Democrats out of some districts altogether, including ones that are considered flippable.

On the other hand, Democrats were hoping to place their candidates for Governor one and two on the ballot, since having no possible Republican to vote for might’ve kept Republican voters away from the polls altogether in November.

While it’s too early to definitively say (mail-in ballots are not fully counted yet), it appears neither of those things happened, at least not on a large scale.

Democratic Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, as expected, won the primary for Governor to replace Jerry Brown who has to leave because of term limits. Republican John Cox, whom Trump Tweeted in support of, was number two. This result was not without controversy that will linger. 118,000 registered voters in Los Angeles disappeared from the rolls, and no one at this point seems to know why. That undoubtedly hurt the 3rd place finisher: former L.A. Mayor and Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa. (However, even if all those people were unable to vote, and all those votes would’ve gone to Villaraigosa, it would not have been enough for him to catch the 2nd place finisher).

Two Democratic candidates did sweep the primary for Lieutenant Governor. Same with the Senate seat up for re-election in November where, according to the New York Times, it looks like incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein will face former Democratic State Senator Kevin de León, with Republican candidates locked out.

Meanwhile, in the districts considered most vulnerable to a Republican sweep, Democrats are hanging on to slots on the November ballot, although some by very slim margins that could be affected by mail-in votes that have yet to be counted. The 10th District, a Republican-held seat in a Central Valley area Hillary Clinton won, still looks too-close-to-call, and could end up with two Republican candidates. Democrats seem in better shape in some Orange County districts that were considered most vulnerable to shutouts,  clinging to spots in the 39th, 45th, 48th and 49th districts, although some by razor-thin margins. Only California’s 8th district, literally Death Valley, is leaning, at this point, toward shutting out Democrats.

Why does California have such a strange primary system? Here’s a good explainer from a California historian.

One question that remains to be answered: was voter turnout any more robust than it’s been in recent primaries, especially among Democrats? We were not able to find any firm data yet; only anecdotal evidence that it was not, especially among young voters. We’ll keep an eye on this because it could be key to Democrats’ chances in November.

One other result of note: as part of the voting, Judge Aaron Persky was recalled. That move was unprecedented: the first time a judge has been removed by a vote in nearly 90 years. Persky, if you remember, was widely criticized for giving an unusually light sentence–just 6-months–to a member of the Stanford swim team, Brock Turner, who was found guilty of sexual assault.




A Few Results Of Note In Other States In The Biggest Primary Night Of The Season


• Hubris seems to threaten a Democratic New Jersey Senate seat that party officials inexplicably portrayed as very safe. Shady incumbent Bob Menendez–he of the “severe admonishment” from the Senate ethics committee, and the hung jury in a federal criminal corruption trial in which he was accused of taking gifts from a donor in exchange for political favors–insisted on running again. His narrow skirting of the charges, and the Trump Administration’s decision not to retry him, seemed to pave the way for him to bow out gracefully. But he didn’t. And a Democratic primary opponent with almost no funding captured a way-larger-than-expected portion of the vote.

Menendez did prevail, and will face a Republican pharmaceutical executive in the fall. But that’s not really the issue: the real danger to having Menendez as the Democrat’s choice for Senate is he could dampen enthusiasm and hurt Democratic turnout state-wide in November. And in New Jersey especially, Democrats have a great opportunity to flip several Congressional districts, but only if people turn out and vote.

We did a quick survey of our friends in New Jersey, and they all say it’ll be very difficult for them to vote for Menedez in the general election without holding their noses, which means we’ll be holding our breath.

And an Alabama Republican who dropped her support of Trump in 2016 after his “pussy grabbing” comment came to light, paid for that. Martha Roby now faces a runoff to be renominated for the seat she already holds. Her challenger has an odd story too though, until recently, he once was a Democrat and committed the mortal sin of voting for Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker during that time.

Also in Alabama, Roy Moore’s wife, Kayla–remember Roy Moore?–lost her race for a spot on the Republican Executive Committee.

• Here’s a comprehensive look at the biggest primary night of the season from fivethirtyeight.