Did California's Open primary make a difference? No question it did. Ballotpedia has credited the reform for taking California from last in the nation with competitive races to first. It will take three or four election cycles to really see the effects of open primary. But, three California Congressional races have special symbolic value that could turn the California reform into a national movement.
That these races are even happening is historic. If one or more of the three Open Primary advocates should win, it could dramatically accelerate the pace of change in California and the appetite for non-partisan reform throughout the country.
California's new Open Primary has created an opportunity for an independent thinking young Democrat to unseat one of the most partisan and controversial members of Congress. Pete Stark, despite years of "odd" behavior would have cruised to victory under the old system. But, fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell now gets to face him one on one in the November election after finishing in the top two in June.
Independent voters will likely decide the outcome of this one and Swalwell has credited the Nonpartisan Open Primary with creating the opportunity. By contrast, Stark opposed expanding independent voting rights and sports one of Congress' most intensely hostile personalities and partisan voting record.
Independent candidate Bill Bloomfield leads a pioneering effort to unseat one of California's most partisan Congressman in the 33rd Congressional District. Bloomfield walked away from the Republican Party after years of active involvement. He has historically differed with the Party on social issues, but ultimately chose to leave the Party after witnessing the intensification of partisan intransigence in the last Congressional term.
Bloomfield is a founding member of the bipartisan, national No Labels movement, supported California's Nonpartisan Open Primary, and has waged an independent campaign that has a very real chance to win in November.
The Santa Barbara Independent gives a very fair profile of both candidates. The race between Abel Maldonado and Lois Capps is one of those that simply could not have happen but for California's new Open Primary.
This is because the moderate Maldonado would have never survived a closed Republican primary. It is this fact that has made this seat, and many others in California, competitive in the general election. Maldonado, of course, also deserves credit for standing up to hard line Party leaders to help give California voters the right to change their electoral system to one less subject to manipulation by Party bosses.
Abel Maldonado has a track record of independence. He voted for the Open Primary, he took tough votes to break gridlock over the budget, and he stood his ground even when threatened by powerful interest groups backing his own Party.