Voters’ brains in state general elections are programmed to choose between a Democrat and a Republican. Therefore, many Californians may be befuddled in November.
They may have to work harder at their decision — not just be guided by the party label.
There’ll be several races where only members of the same party are running — mostly the Democratic Party. So if you’re a Republican voter, the task will be to select the candidate who’s least offensive.
There may even be some races for statewide office that are contested only by Democrats. One example: controller, in which Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, and Democratic Board of Equalization member Betty Yee are competing, with no Republican in sight.
Where the one-party trend is most apparent, however, is in legislative races. Nearly a fifth of the 100 contests for the Legislature could wind up in highly competitive one-party runoffs.
“It’s the really big news of 2014” in California politics, says Tony Quinn, a veteran political analyst who closely follows legislative and congressional races. “I think we’re going to have a historic number of same-party runoffs.” It started in the 2012 elections with the inaugural “top-two” open primary. Under that system, the top-two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of their party. Also, a primary voter can choose any candidate.
No longer are there official party nominations, although the parties can influence the outcomes by endorsing and helping to finance candidates, even during the primaries.
The California GOP has become so weak it’s having serious trouble attracting strong candidates for statewide office. In legislative and congressional districts, the problem is that Republican voter registration has fallen into decline.
GOP candidates in Democratic-dominated districts can’t win enough votes to even finish second. But that’s also true for Democrats in a few solidly GOP districts.