With the growing number of independent voters, now accounting for 21 percent of registered voters in California, this year's election highlights the rise of the independent voter, with a handful of independent candidates running for office throughout the state of California.
Since the passage of Prop 14 in 2010, this election signifies California's first experience with the new open primary system. Former State Assemblyman, Senator and co-founder of the Independent Voter Project Steve Peace spoke on NBC 7's "Politically Speaking" last month and explained the nature of California's new open primary system and it's influence on independent voters:
"All the candidates and campaigns (except for president) will have independent candidates on the ballot in the June election. Everybody will be able to vote for any candidate; it doesn't matter what your party registration is, you vote for whoever you think the best candidate is and then the top two vote getters in June move on and go to the runoff in November."
With California elections around the corner, we want to highlight the top 5 Independent Congressional races to watch:
(1) Congressional District 10: Chad Condit (No Party Preference)
The Stanislaus County congressional race changed course on March 1 with an announcement from Chad Condit, son of former Congressman Gary Condit, of his campaign in California's 10th congressional district. As a native of Ceres, California, Condit is running against Jose Hernandez (Democrat), Mike Barkley (Democrat), Jeff Denham (Republican), and Troy Wayne McComack (No Party Preference). In an interview with IVN on the day of his campaign announcement, he stated, “I’ve always been independent, regardless of party. Vote for the person, not the party. I’ve always felt like an independent.” Condit's name recognition and the newly drawn district lines make him a credible candidate against the two party-backed out-of-towners, as the Modesto Bee points out.
(2) Congressional District 26: Linda Parks (No Party Preference)
In an already heated race, Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks dropped her party registration and declared she will be running as an independent with "No Party Preference" in her bid for Congress in California's 26th congressional district. The district encompasses Ventura County and Thousand Oaks and has been categorized as a swing state, making the entrance of a credible and experienced independent candidate an exciting turn in the race. With four Democrats running in the primary, it is possible that a split Democratic vote will amount to a face-off between Linda Parks and Republican Tony Strickland in the November election. With nearly 20 percent of the district’s voters registered as Decline to State, and almost 24 percent not affiliated with either of the two major parties, it will be interesting to watch how the new open primary system will influence this congressional race.
(3) Congressional District 33: Bill Bloomfield (No Party Preference)
With eight candidates running for Congress, Congressional District 33 is a highly contested race, with candidates from the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, and Green Party representing a wide spectrum of political ideology. Up against longtime Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, Bloomfield has chosen to appear on the ballot as "No Party Preference." IVN notes that "while Democrats hold a 16 point advantage over Republicans in district voter registration, Decline to State voter population comes in at over 22%." What makes this race interesting is the substantial amount of money independent Bloomfield has raised, with the Federal Elections Commission reporting him to have $104,980 in contributions, trailing only to Henry Waxman's funds.
(4) Congressional District 24: Matt Boutté (No Party Preference)
Frustrated with the lack of partisan compromise, 26-year-old law student Matt Boutté declared his independent run for Congress on February 24th, citing his number one priority as reducing the budget deficit. Up against incumbent Democrat Rep. Lois Capps and former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, Boutté has pledged to take no money from special interests or PACs, distinguishing himself from his opponents. The newly drawn district is seen as a swing district, capturing both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara county, regions with very different political tendencies. As reported by IVN, appealing to independent voters will be critical in this highly competitive race, making this district a must-watch race.
(5) Congressional District 52: Jack Doyle (No Party Preference)
In a race crowded with partisan candidates, California Congressional District 52 is also on our radar, not just because of the competitive nature of the San Diego district, but because of the findings of a recent IVN poll. In an earlier report, we found that, "numbers show that with an independent in the race, marginal leads held by current partisan candidates are reduced to statistical ties. The district becomes a toss-up for the June primary." This being said, independent candidate Jack Doyle stands a chance to compete against Lori Saldana (Democrat), Brian Bilbray (Republican), Wayne Iverson (Republican), and Scott Peters (Democrat).
What congressional races are you watching this election season?