Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Round-Up: California's First "Top Two" Primary Yields Less Party Control, More Independent Participation

Media coverage of California's first "Top Two" primary last week was somewhat varied, most grumbling about how it didn't produce the results that was hoped for and locked out 3rd parties...

Notable exception from Jason Olson, an activist with IndependentVoice.org in IVN: "[Last Tuesday's] vote showed what removing party control over the elections can do. We had a primary process that was about selecting the best leader to move California forward, rather than who was the best partisan to fight for their party. [F]ive independent (“No Party Preference”) candidates running for the California Legislature placed in the “top two” of their respective races and will advance to the general election to face an incumbent. Top Two Open Primary champion Abel Maldonado (R) will also advance.

The Hankster is a strong backer of Top Two, Open Primaries and Nonpartisan Municipal Elections and has campaigned vigorously for all.

Here is a round-up of commentary on California's primary last Tuesday:
  • Independent Thoughts on CA’s Primary Results (By Jason Olson, IVN) Congratulations again to the voters who supported the Top Two Open Primary and Redistricting Reform measures in past elections. Yesterday’s vote showed what removing party control over the elections can do. We had a primary process that was about selecting the best leader to move California forward, rather than who was the best partisan to fight for their party.
  • Dems dismayed by Assembly shutout (Written by Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat) Democratic Party leaders throughout the State Assembly 5th District were in a sour mood Wednesday as their party will have no representative on the Nov. 6 ballot for the legislative seat. Though there had been a handful of special elections for vacant offices in the state since voters approved the Proposition 14 “top two” primary in November 2010, Tuesday’s primary marked the first regular statewide election using the system.
  • California’s Open Primary Costs Super-PAC $711,000 on Just One Race (By Ellen Uchimiya,
    Bloomberg/ Political Capital) That cash infusion seemed to help. Brownley and Strickland advanced after Tuesday’s primary. If this had been a closed primary, Brownley would have advanced anyway… and the House Majority PAC would have saved $711,000.
  • Herdt: An election to confound Will Rogers (By Timm Herdt, Ventura County Star) Parties have infrastructure. Independents, who have to build their campaigns from scratch, don't stand much of a chance of competing against that — unless, like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, they have bottomless personal wealth.
  • California's election reform flops (By Joe Mathews, LA Times) Oh, well, But give the reformers credit; they did make change. In place of our old system, we got something that preserves many of our worst political traditions — while making things a little bit worse.
  • California Dreaming: Why New Election Rules Won't Help Centrists (By Josh Kraushaar, National Journal/ Hotline On Call) Two national newspapers today reach dramatically different conclusions about the impact of California's new top-two election system, which was designed to help elect more centrists and undermine the party primary system that had long been in place. The New York Times concludes the open, non partisan primary served as a "splash of cold water" to those reformers who thought it would "bring a new wave of independent candidates and voters." The Wall Street Journal concluded the system worked, because finalists "now must search for support from independents and voters in other parties." Who's right?
  • California Centrists See Their Stock Rise Open-Primary Results Show That Finalists Now Must Search for Support From Independents and Voters in Other Parties (By JIM CARLTON and JUSTIN SCHECK, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal) The state still leans heavily Democratic, with 43% of voters registered as Democrats in April, compared with 30% as Republicans and 21% with no party preference—up from 14% who said they were impartial 12 years ago. Appealing to those in the middle now becomes more crucial for candidates like Lois Capps, a liberal-leaning Democratic congresswoman from the state's Central Coast. Before, she rarely needed to reach out to conservative Republicans, said Bill Carrick, her campaign strategist. But after a centrist Republican named Abel Maldonado challenged her in a runoff, Mr. Carrick said Ms. Capps would reach out to the GOP base.
  • Fletcher: No regrets after loss about leaving GOP (By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle) New York Times columnist David Brooks called his bid a nationwide test case on whether it's possible to succeed as an independent alternative. That didn't happen Tuesday.
  • California’s Nonpartisan Primary Shows Independents to Be in Short Supply (By JENNIFER MEDINA, New York Times) David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for The Cook Political Report, called the outcome in San Bernardino a “freak political accident,” particularly because President Obama is likely to win the area by as much as a double-digit margin.
  • California electoral reforms yield no big changes (By JULIET WILLIAMS, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle) Voters mostly rejected the independent and moderate candidates that the changes were intended to bolster to reduce partisanship, instead sending nearly every state legislative and congressional incumbent forward to runoffs in November, in some cases against opponents in their own party. A few races remained too close to call Wednesday.
  • How California’s Top-Two Open Primary Shrinks Voter Choice in Congressional Races in November (Ballot Access News) The San Francisco Chronicle’s story about the election returns is that the top-two system “shook up the system.” Actually, in every single congressional race in which one incumbent was running, that incumbent came in first. In the races with two incumbents running against each other due to redistricting, one of the incumbents always came in first and the other incumbent always came in second. As has been shown in Louisiana and Washington, top-two systems make it far easier for incumbents to be re-elected than normal systems do.
  • Shift in voting rules shakes up primary elections (Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle) Californians were also voting for the first time for candidates vying to represent legislative and congressional districts drawn up not by gerrymandering politicians or the courts, but by a citizens' commission - the result of a ballot measure that voters passed in 2008, Proposition 11. Stark was one of several incumbents once considered invincible and now thought to be in danger of losing their jobs in redrawn districts.
  • California voters mixed about new top-two primary (By Jim Sanders, Sac Bee) The new system also gives more clout to no-party-preference voters, whose ranks have jumped from 10.7 percent of California's electorate in 1996 to 21.3 percent today. Republican Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria, as a state senator, forced the top-two primary onto the 2010 ballot by making it one of several demands to Democratic legislative leaders in return for his pivotal vote to end an 81-day budget impasse in 2009.
  • Independent Overview: CA Primary Preliminary Results (By Damon Eris, IVN) With 100% of precincts now reporting, it appears that California’s first statewide test of its new top two open primary system did not result in higher levels of voter turnout, as had been predicted by supporters of the system. Indeed, this primary election may be noteworthy for its historically low voter turnout in a presidential election year. Preliminary reports indicate that voter turnout across the state hovered in the 30-35% range, with the vast majority of eligible voters opting to stay home rather than head to the polls.
  • California primary results: GOP catches a ‘top-two’ break (Posted by Aaron Blake, Washington Post/The Fix by Chris Cillizza) House Republicans got a big break under California’s new primary system Tuesday, after Democrats failed to get a candidate into the general election for Rep. Gary Miller’s (R-Calif.) swing district.
  • As We See It: The independent party's over (EDITORIAL Santa Cruz Sentinel) California voters sent a crushing message to minor parties in 2010 when they approved the open primary for Tuesday's election. Because the new system sends the top two finishers in state races, regardless of party affiliation, onto the November ballot, this effectively ends the chances of the Green, Libertarian, American Independent and Peace and Freedom parties in those elections… Third parties nationally and minor parties in California have a purpose: To bring independent ideas and candidates to public attention. Their presence has been severely diminished, and it's a loss.
  • Brad Breithaupt: Third parties left out of new 'top-two' primary (By Brad Breithaupt, Marin Independent Journal) With a dozen candidates running for Congress and seven vying for Assembly, voters hardly were denied a choice on the June 5 ballot. There was a variety of experience and politics to choose from, even though most of the candidates were Democrats.

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