Tag Archives: Doug Applegate

California Jungle Primary Intrigue

The California state flag

The California state flag

By Jim Ellis

June 4, 2018 — In 2010, Golden State voters adopted a ballot proposition that changed the state’s primary system. As we have often noted in articles about the state’s political campaigns, the primary is now a qualifying election with the top two vote-getting candidates advancing to the general election regardless of percentage or political party affiliation. Looking toward the California preliminary vote tomorrow, the top-two jungle primary system may produce some unintended consequences.

When the initiative was first floated eight years ago, many pro-enterprise organizations joined in support because they correctly saw that business coalition candidates, and Republicans in particular, were headed for further downturns in California elections. The top-two format, many believed, would produce more centrist victors from both political parties. In practice, when analyzing the three election cycles since the process began and going into a fourth on Tuesday, such has not quite been the case.

As we know, Democrats have heavily targeted California in their 2018 bid to regain the US House majority, believing that their chances of winning the seven Republican districts Hillary Clinton carried in the last presidential election are strong. But Tuesday’s vote is providing them a new obstacle to overcome, a complication that could actually shut them out of even having a general election candidate in some of their top targeted districts.

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Top-Two “Jungle Primary” Reverberations

By Jim Ellis

May 14, 2018 — Back in 2010, when initiators created the movement to change the California primary system to feature a jungle format — where the top two finishers advance to the general election regardless of the percentage of vote they attained or party affiliation — they had hoped their ultimately successful ballot initiative would favor candidates closer to the political center. Approaching the June 5, 2018 primary, however, we see that this top-two system might produce quite different and possibly unintended outcomes.

California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (CA-480

California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (CA-48)

In a pair of competitive Southern California Republican congressional districts, recent polling suggests that Democrats could find themselves on the outside looking in for the November election despite having high hopes of converting the two seats.

The districts are CA-48, where veteran 15-term US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) seeks to be part of another two-year congressional session, and CA-49, the open Orange/San Diego County seat from which Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is retiring.

The pair of early May polls, one from Change Research (CA-48) and the other Benenson Strategy Group (CA-49), reveals that two Republicans could potentially advance to the general election in both districts, thus preventing Democrats from competing in the general election. Though it’s mathematically possible that two Dems could also progress to November in both places, the latter scenario is less likely because the GOP holds a voter registration edge in each CD.

California Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49)

California Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49)

In the 48th, Republicans have a 10-point 40.7-30.1 percent registration advantage over Democrats with an additional 24.5 percent declaring No Party Preference, meaning the latter are Independents. In the 49th, the GOP advantage is a lesser 36.7–31.1 percent with 26.6 percent not stating a party preference. Therefore, without coalescing the Democratic vote in each district behind one strong candidate, the chance plainly exists that Republicans could potentially slip two contenders in through the proverbial backdoor. In both the 48th and 49th, too many Democratic candidates are strong enough so as to prevent such a base unification.

The Change Research survey (May 2-3; 590 likely CA-48 jungle primary voters) finds Rep. Rohrabacher leading the field of four tested candidates (though a total of 16 candidate names will appear on the primary ballot, including three Democrats and one Republican who have withdrawn, but too late to erase their ballot positions). Rohrbacher is in front in the poll with just 27 percent of the vote, followed by Democratic scientist Hans Keirstead, who has 19 percent, and ex-state assemblyman and former Orange County Republican Party chairman Scott Baugh, with 17 percent. Democrat Harley Rouda, a businessman and attorney, garners 11 percent support.

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Top Two Playing Havoc in California

California Congressional Districts

California Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

April 17, 2018 — When sponsors of the 2010 California ballot initiative that would change the state’s primary system from a closed one to a structure that sends the top two finishers to the general election regardless of political party affiliation, they believed such an alteration would result in more centrist candidates being elected. Thus, the theory was, a new voting procedure would put the extreme candidates from both parties at a disadvantage.

While it’s debatable that centrists have benefited since the “top-two” system went into effect beginning with the 2012 election, the “jungle primary” is clearly having an effect in the many crucial California congressional campaigns this year. While Golden State Democrats are optimistic they can convert competitive seats in Orange County, recent polling in at least one of these seats reveals no clear advantage even as they mount strong efforts in what have traditionally been Republican districts.

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Surprising California House
Non-Endorsements

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 28, 2018 — Yesterday, we reported that the California Democratic Party state convention delegates snubbed veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein by not officially endorsing her for re-election. The US House endorsements, or lack of them in many instances, also featured some unexpected results.

Looking at the 14 Golden State Republican incumbents, seven of whom Democratic leaders have publicly identified as targets for the upcoming election, the state delegates left four of these top conversion opportunities without an endorsed candidate.

california-39th-and-49th-congressional-districtsIn the campaigns against Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock/Modesto), Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), and in the open districts of the 39th (Rep. Ed Royce retiring) and 49th (Rep. Darrell Issa retiring), the Democratic candidate contingent in each contest will head into the June 5 jungle primary election with no one carrying the official party endorsement.

In the other two top-tier targeted districts, convention delegates officially endorsed Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/ Bakersfield) in the 21st and Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) in the 45th. The activists chose their 2016 nominee, attorney Emilio Huerta, to run against Rep. Valadao; Huerta actually performed poorly against the congressman in 2016, losing 57-43 percent, while Hillary Clinton carried the district 55-40 percent. However, Huerta is the only announced candidate in this race; therefore, he was easily able to exceed the 60 percent threshold needed to claim the state party endorsement.

In the Walters district, the party delegates chose law professor Dave Min as their endorsed candidate. This is a bit of a surprise because fellow law professor and consumer advocate Katie Porter seems to be attracting at least an equivalent level of campaign support. Both have outside endorsements, each has raised over $675,000 (Min: $679,000; Porter: $741,000), and the two each have more than $400,000 in the bank (Min: $411,000; Porter: $510,000). In addition to these two candidates, four other Democrats are also on the ballot. Min, however, is clearly the better inside political player since he was able to convince a super majority of convention delegates to publicly back his campaign.

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Democrats Maneuver in San Diego

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 27, 2018 — Two noteworthy Democrat events happened in San Diego over the past few days.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D)

First, the California Democratic Party state convention, meeting in San Diego over the weekend, actually denied veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) the party endorsement. Though the delegates came close to endorsing state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), he also fell short.

In the vote to award the party endorsement for the 2018 US Senate race, it was state Sen. de Leon capturing 54 percent of the delegate votes as compared to only 37 percent for incumbent Sen. Feinstein. A total of 60 percent was needed for endorsement. This is not the first time that the liberal grassroots delegates have turned away from Feinstein. According to an NPR account of the convention proceedings, the party delegates chose then-Attorney General John Van de Kamp over Feinstein in the 1990 governor’s race.

The lack of an endorsement will not hurt the senator’s campaign, however. A January Public Policy Institute of California poll (Jan. 21-30; 1,705 California adults) favored Sen. Feinstein over Mr. de Leon, 46-17 percent, when tested in the jungle primary format. She has an even more commanding lead in campaign resources. The year-end Federal Election Commission disclosure report finds her holding just under $10 million in her campaign account as compared to an embarrassingly low $359,000 for de Leon.
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