(California) – No one expected a race in California’s 33rd Congressional district. The area holds a demanding Democratic registration advantage and has been represented for 20 years by a well-known and prominent Democratic Congressman, Henry Waxman. And for the first time in two decades, Waxman faced a serious challenge from first-time independent candidate Bill Bloomfield.
Bloomfield’s campaign relied heavily on an anti-partisan message, reaching out to voters from all party affiliations. California passed the non-partisan open primary in 2010, and without it, like the 20 years before it, California’s 33rd district would not have even been a real race. But under the new “top-two” system, Bloomfield gave Waxman a run for his money, garnering 46.3% of the vote to Waxman’s 53.7%.
I caught up with Bloomfield as he awaited the results. He explained that he was cautiously optimistic about the result, but understood the enormous institutional hurdles that stood before an independent candidate like himself and victory. He credited California’s open primary with giving him the opportunity to bring a much needed non-partisan good government message of cooperation into a partisan political world. He also responded to claims from opponents of open primary who have insisted that the “top-two” system only benefits partisan Democrats and Republicans:
I think we have proven that totally wrong. There is no special interest embracing my candidacy. It’s simply people wanting representatives to go to DC and represent them.
In an era when congressional approval ratings hover at 10%, yet the re-election rate for incumbents is over 85%, Bloomfield’s close race is at the very least symbolic of the direction our country is headed. Without a party infrastructure; no voter lists, no long-time unions or special interest groups to campaign on his behalf, no PAC money, no institutional access to media, an no former and current Presidents to lend their endorsements, Bloomfield made more than a respectable showing.