There is no question that California’s new open primary process has been a major cause for concern amongst both the Democratic and Republican Party. With Decline to State registration numbers on the rise in California and party affiliations weakening, both sides have had a struggle in adjusting their messaging and endorsement process to remain relevant under the new system. Although the top two primary doesn’t seem to be favored by many within either establishment, it may in fact give a boost to several partisan candidates running in key races this year.
Take Congressional District 26, for example. State Senator Tony Strickland will be running as the Republican favorite against several Democratic rivals who are likely to split the votes in his favor. Despite Democrats having a slight voter registration advantage, Senator Strickland appears confident and comfortable under the new open primary system.
“I can’t win an election without Independent and Democrat votes,” stated Strickland, who stresses the importance of connecting with voters across the spectrum based on key issues like job creation and education.
As an incumbent office holder and seasoned candidate used to running in swing districts, Strickland is a great example of someone who can benefit from the newly created electoral process.
“This process is working out to my advantage, but I do have concerns that this may create a situation where people are talked out of running,” added Strickland.
His latter sentiment is one shared by many, and for good reason. In a primary race where multiple candidates are from the same political party, there is a huge incentive for party leaders to pull support and resources behind one candidate which essentially puts all others at a disadvantage.
The primary race for CD 26 will feature an intense battle between Assemblywoman Julia Brownley and her fellow Democrats, Councilman David Pollock, Oxnard Harbor District Commissioner Jess Herrera, and businessman David Cruz Thayne as each candidate jockeys for needed Latino and environmentalist support. Even if a Democratic candidate emerges victorious from the infighting, he or she could be in a weaker position come time for the general election.
Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, who is also a candidate for the seat, started her bid as a registered Republican. She officially announced today that she will abandon her affiliation in order to run as an Independent. By changing her affiliation to “no party preference” she will in effect have cleared the field for Strickland to receive the pre-primary GOP endorsement under the party’s complicated local convention system.
Parks, a staunch advocate of environmental issues, will also play an active role in the Democratic battle to produce a frontrunner by siphoning off resources and votes from a similar support base. Her ability to woo Independent voters in the district will be crucial in determining the final outcome. Currently, nearly 20 percent of the district’s voters are registered as Decline to State, and almost 24 percent are not affiliated with either of the two major parties.