Cal Farmers Look to Have Bigger Say with Open Primary

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The state’s largest farm organization is optimistic that recent electoral reforms in California will spell victories for their endorsed candidates in November. Casey Gudel, California Farm Bureau Federation’s Manager of Political Affairs, makes the case in a recent commentary, ‘Top-two’ system makes primary a whole new ballgame‘.

“A number of candidates, who would have been receptive to issues important to family farmers and ranchers, lost by just a few votes in the last primary election,” writes Gudel.

“Had the top-two primary system been in place, Farm Bureau and allied organizations could have worked on behalf of those business-friendly candidates in the general election.”

Passed by voters in 2010 and supported by the CFBF, Proposition 14 instituted a new open primary system for statewide elections where every candidate for office, regardless of party affiliation, is listed on the primary ballot. The top-two vote getters advance to the general election. This streamlined representative election process will have its first true test on June 5th.

Since there is a good chance that the new open primary will lead to races where two members of the same party could go head-to-head in the general election, the Farm Bureau sees this as an opportunity to preempt partisanship in political debates. This would allow voters to choose candidates who will best represent their district, a choice that the Farm Bureau says was not always afforded under the old system. The top-two system is ultimately a way to alter the face of government in Sacramento and in D.C; its a way to “jumpstart the economy and get our fiscal house in order,” says Gudel.

Opportunity to change the old guard (many of whom have “little knowledge or concern for agriculture,” according to the Farm Bureau) certainly exists. Presently, there are 35 races for U.S. representative, state Assembly and state Senate that have a high likelihood of creating inter-party runoff contests this November. As Gudel further points out, when you combine changes made to the district maps by the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission, a number of incumbencies were prevented. Over a third of the state’s legislative seats have been opened because of redistricting and a number of incumbents now face real primary competition in those races. Furthermore, nine of California’s 53 congressional district seats are now open.

The result has been an abundance of candidates. The Farm Bureau believes the new system will offer more chances for family farmers and ranchers to have their interests represented in statewide elections this year. That is why the organization is urging its members not to take the upcoming primary elections for granted and is calling their votes more influential than ever.