The upcoming primary in San Diego Assembly District 77 highlights the big changes in this year’s open primary season. It’s no longer just Republican vs. Democrat anymore, but candidates of the same party against each other as well as against the opposition party candidate and independents. AD-77 encompasses northern San Diego and Poway. It went for Obama in 2008 by three points but Jerry Brown got stomped by fifteen points in 2010. Basically, it leans Republican.
The race is mainly between between moderate Republican Brian Maienschein, conservative Republican Dustin Steiner. RJ Hernandez running a spirited campaign as the sole Democrat with Greg Laskaris campaigning as an independent. Maienschein served eight years on the San Diego City Council and was supported, surprisingly enough, by labor unions. Steiner worked as a staffer in the House of Representatives for five years and is currently Deputy Chief of Staff to the chair of the San Diego Board of Supervisors. Hernandez is a former town councilmember from Rancho Penasquitos. Laskaris has several big name labor endorsements as well as from former Assembly member Lori Saldaña.
Their respective websites clearly show their differences and their campaign strategies in the open primary, where a candidate can draw votes from anyone, not just from fellow party members. Maienschein (who wisely calls his website brianforassembly.com rather than risk people misspelling his last name) highlights his community roots and big name endorsements. His platform is a bit vaguely worded and emphasizes getting Californians back to work.
Steiner, by contrast, is clearly conservative leading with “When I was a child, my father gave me a bumper sticker that said ‘Government Philosophy: If it ain’t broke, fix it till it is.' Sacramento is broken.”
Hernandez titles his home page “Fresh smarts for the state, not a puppet of special interests,” and that, coupled with his slightly spiky hair and youthful appearance, makes for a website seemingly aimed at younger voters. My guess is his race is a placeholder to get name recognition for future runs at elected office.
Laskaris is currently is a teacher. His website focuses on education and says he is "a teacher for jobs and education in California."
The big change in the California 2012 June primary is that voters can vote for anyone and are not bound by party affiliation. This means Republicans like Maienschein and Steiner are effectively running against each other and will probably repeat the process in the general election. That’s right, for the first time ever in California, the general election for state candidates could be races between members of the same party.