Will Top-Two Primary Provide Typical Wacky Results?

VotingWith less than a week to go before voting closes in California’s June primary, political insiders’ attention is riveted on the endless range of possible outcomes that are a function of the three-dimensional political chess game we call the Open Primary.

Big Bang’s Sheldon Cooper, while likely considering all this child’s play, might be amused, if not fascinated, by developments in the closing days of the campaign that include, but are by no means limited to, the following.

In the race for governor, ads for the Democratic frontrunner are aimed at driving Republican voters into the arms of the Republican frontrunner, with the hope of avoiding a Democrat versus Democrat fall face off.  Ads for the Democratic runner up in current polling are aimed at driving Republican voters in the opposite direction, with the hope of achieving a Democrat versus Democrat general election match-up.

In the battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Democrats assert that a few pick-ups in California are essential to regain a majority.  Toward that end they have unloaded on the order of four million dollars on Republican contenders in three Congressional districts that the Democrats have consistently tagged as toss ups, ignoring the vote history in both.  Having boasted that they could win these historically Republican seats, they will suffer an embarrassing setback if one or more of them wind up with Republicans taking the top two spots for the fall.

To the pols in Washington who have no real understanding of California, the tumult of our top two primary season has undoubtedly confirmed their view that this is a certifiably wacky place.  But, irrespective of how wacky the outcomes will be next Tuesday compared with what a traditional closed primary would have produced, good old Will Rogers must be laughing in his resting place.

More than a year ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced with some fanfare that it was deploying a platoon of at least eight staffers from Washington to Irvine to help capture the five southern California House seats where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump for President. This notwithstanding the fact that no Democrat other than Clinton has ever carried any of those districts.

That high profile effort clearly inflamed the passions of would-be Democratic Members of Congress and produced a bounty of candidates who, it became evident at some point, could wind up splitting the collective Democratic vote into so many pieces that the top two vote getters turn out to be Republicans.

Whether the Democrats’ effort also inflamed the passions of voters in those districts we will know next week. If it did, the Party’s strategy will be proved brilliant. If it didn’t, we come back to Will Rogers and his confession more than 80 years ago that “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

The California Target Book will host a comprehensive Post Primary Analysis and Look Ahead to November the afternoon of Monday, June 11 in Sacramento. For details and to register please visit CaliforniaTargetBook.com.

ublisher of the California Target Book and USC professor.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily