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AD 8: GOP Candidates Look to Independents as Top Two Primary Shapes Contest

by Lucy Ma, published

The newly drawn Sacramento County seat, stretching south from Citrus Heights to include the Wilton area, will be a key California battleground between Democrats and Republicans this election cycle. Due to the state’s top two primary going into effect this year, the contest for AD 8 will certainly be an interesting one to watch and not in the traditional sense.

At the close of candidate filing, Rancho Cordova Councilman Ken Cooley became the lone Democrat facing not one, but four Republican candidates. Much to his favor, the original field of Democrats hoping to run in AD 8 quickly dissipated, leaving Cooley as his party’s standard-bearer. Some suspect that the sudden loss of Democratic challengers was anything but spontaneous, suggesting party leaders played a hand in narrowing the field.

Assembly District 8’s voter registration numbers indicate a slight two point edge for Democrats over Republicans- 40 percent to 38 percent. A target seat for both parties, the battle to make it through to the November general will be hard fought.

Candidates hoping to place in the top two this June must appeal to the large number of Decline to State voters residing in the district, in addition to their own base. This is especially true for the four Republican candidates, businesswoman Barbara Ortega, engineer Phillip Tufi, tech company president John Flynn and Peter Tateishi, who is currently chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren.

During interviews with IVN, both Barbara Ortega and Peter Tateishi have indicated a strong desire to connect with Independent voters in the district.

Peter Tateishi, who has officially received the California Republican Party’s endorsement, also cites a growing list of supporters which include elected officials and local leaders from both major parties. When asked about campaigning under the new primary system, he responded with confidence.

“In my case, the new open primary system has been very helpful- it enhances my candidacy,” stated Tateishi.

Although uncertain whether or not there will be a large DTS voter turnout the first time around, he points to his strong community ties and long standing involvement with local organizations, many of which are non-partisan and non-profit, as a major boost to his crossover appeal.

“I want to communicate on issues that resonate with all constituents,” said Tateishi.

Fellow Republican Barbara Ortega can also count on her longtime community involvement and position as a local business leader in appealing to voters. Ortega, a small businesswoman, will be campaigning on a platform of economic growth, job creation and fiscal accountability.

“There are a lot of voters dissatisfied and angry with both parties, and I hope to connect with them on their top issues- jobs and the economy,” said Ortega. “I have been in this arena helping small business owners for a long time; I have a plan for tangible solutions.”

In an effort to engage with a wide array of voters, especially Independents, she stresses the need for groundwork.

“I plan to work with a lot of local groups, and chambers of commerce to get my message across,” she said.

Both Tateishi and Ortega's ability to engage with DTS voters early on will be essential as both seek to identify themselves as the clear alternative choice to Democrat Ken Cooley. This is an ideal seat to showcase the significance of California’s new primary system, and growing DTS voter trends. Approximately 18% of the voting population in Assembly District 8 self identifies as “Other” or “No Party Preference”, a unique voting bloc that could truly make all the difference.

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