California might ruin Democrats Bluewave
By Pawan Naidu
Oh, California, you love to be unique, don’t you? All your colleagues decide their primaries the traditional way by choosing the top vote-getters of the respective parties to run in the general election. But you California had to be different. You had to create a jungle primary where every candidate is on the primary ballot and the top two, regardless of party affiliation, move on to the general election. And now it might ruin everyone’s midterms predictions.
There has been almost uniform consensus that a Bluewave is coming during the midterm elections. With Democrats winning special elections in districts traditionally held by Republicans and unrest over President Trump, liberals are very optimistic about their prospects. While the Senate will be tough, since Democrats are defending ten seats in states the president won in 2016, they are really confident in gaining control over the house for the first time since 2010.
Democrats need to flip 23 Republican seats in the house and a big part of their strategy is to take half of the 14 Republican House seats in California. However, California’s jungle primary system might shut out Democrat candidates from being on the general election ballot.
Proposition 14, also known as the jungle primary, created an open primary system in California when it was enacted in 2010. It was designed to give more candidates the opportunity to move on to the general elections.
Before this California had a closed primary, where a resident of California would only be allowed to vote in the primary election of the party they are registered for. An open primary allows residents to vote for whichever candidate they like during the primaries, regardless of party.
“The open primary system was designed to get moderate folks elected and give a third party a real chance or opportunity because the last primary system made things really partisan,” said Couper Condit, district director for Assemblyman Heath Flora (R-12) and member of the Ceres Planning commission. “It’s a good step for a more moderate, more middle ground type of party.”
Democrats could be shut out of houses races in Southern California because in some ways that is what the jungle primary was intended to do and Condit agrees that this is a possibility.
“It’s like a shark tank now and it’s a trend we’re seeing throughout California, even in our house district in Modesto,” Condit said. “We have a Republican congressman with a Republican challenger, and there are six Democratic challengers.”
According to Condit, the Democrats could “split the vote so much” that the election could turn into a “republican-republican” one.
“I’m fine with that because you’ll get the more moderate guy in the general election, who will appeal to a broader base,” he said.
“When you have top-two and a lot of candidates, it splits the vote and you end up with some surprising results,” Fred Smoller, an associate professor of political science at Chapman University in Orange, California, said to Bloomberg News.
The national Democratic party has taken notice and now is trying to intervene in these California House races. The National Democratic Party spent more than $1.6 million into crowded House races in vulnerable Republican districts they hope to flip this fall.
“Although the law was passed to keep the major parties from exerting control over the races, national Democrats are now performing a rescue operation to save several Southern California districts between Orange County and La Jolla from remaining in Republican hands,” Jeremy Fassler, political columnist, wrote for the Daily Banter.
However, there are flaws with the jungle primary system, and it doesn’t always achieve what it was intended to do.
“Is it perfect? No, and that goes back to campaign finance issues. Moderates and independents don’t have the money,” Condit said. “No democrat or republican wants that solved, because they have the money and independents don’t.”
Some people also have concerns that an open primary would allow people to try to manipulate the primary elections.
“The problem with an open primary/caucus is that, when there is an incumbent running, members of that party can try to influence who the person will be running against by voting in the opposition’s election,” James Spurgeon, an American historian, said.
Therefore, the hopes by Democrats of taking over the house in Congress could be in jeopardy. Even if they don’t take over the House, they will still have opportunities to pass legislation.
“I think they’ll make it closer and a lot more interesting, which will be a really a great opportunity for some guys who really want to get some things done, if they have the willpower,” said Condit who doesn’t believe the Democrats will be successful in taking control of the House of Representatives. “ Moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats could really pass meaningful legislation to get some things done because we really haven’t gotten anything done in the last eight years.”
Democrats still have reason to be optimistic, because California has taken a stance against President Trump and this anger could lead them to victories all across California.
“We’ve [California] made it clear we don’t agree with the Trump agenda, and the President has made it clear he doesn’t agree with California’s agenda,” Condit said. “I think he’s going to have a major impact on the “Get Out the Vote” effort for Democrats.”
When California enacted this law, the people knew having two candidates from the same party in the general election was a possibility. In 2016, Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez, both Democrats, ran against each other for Senate in the general election. While it might have been beneficial for the Democrats back then, the jungle primary system might come back to haunt them in November.