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California Republican Party maneuvering to counter effects of top two open primary

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

With the top two open primary initiative soon to be implemented in the state's first election, the California Republican Party continues to move forward with an effort to offset its effects. 

The Sun reports that the California GOP is seeking to influence which candidates enter the top two open primaries through a concerted mail endorsement campaign strategy.   Displeased with the top two open primary legislation, this isn't the first time the state GOP has come out against it. Approximately one year ago, they took to the Sacramento Bee to voice their opposition, viewing the initiative as a reduction of their influence in California politics and a limiting of voter choice.

Contrary to the Republican view, Dianne Hardisty, a former page editor for the Barkersfield Californian who is now on the board of the non-partisan Maddy Institute, suggests that the top two open primary could produce more moderate Republican candidates who could appeal to Independents, particularly on issues related to taxes and public pensions. She pointed to an interesting comment from Tom Del Beccaro, incoming state Republican Party chairman, on the issue of reaching out to voters outside their base.

     "Quite frankly, we have trapped ourselves into talking to the converted, instead of inspiring a new generation of voters," he said in Hardisty's column.

This is one perspective that's sure to generate interest from supporters of the new election format, which they contend is the whole point of the measure.

As Republicans seek to deal with these new challenges, their Democratic colleagues haven't yet decided on how to deal with the top two open primary. With the party's convention coming up at the end of this month in Sacramento, it's possible for state Democrats to use a contrasting approach that embraces more of California's Independent voters. This could prove crucial in reaching and retaining the increasingly relevant decline-to-state demographic. 

As my colleague Damon Eris has noted in a recent post, a new poll now shows that Independents are the fastest growing demographic and could outnumber Republicans by 2022 if current trends continue. As these particular voters become more relevant in the golden state, they will be more difficult to ignore.

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