CA’s 52nd Congressional District Will Be Decided By Independent Voters

Everybody loves a good competition. The upcoming election in California’s 52nd congressional district is likely to be a close one. With the candidate filing deadline only a month away, Democratic incumbent Scott Peters is preparing to defend his position from Republican challenger Carl Demaio. Many will recognize Demaio as the candidate who lost the San Diego mayoral election to Bob Filner just over a year ago.

A first-term congressman, Peters won the 2012 election by appealing to California’s growing independent voter population. His politically moderate approach was crucial in California’s changing political climate. This November, we can expect similar strategies from both parties.

Highly competitive elections are new to many California districts, including the 52nd. This is largely because in 2010, California adopted its current nonpartisan top-two primary system. The new primary allows all voters and candidates, regardless of political affiliation, to participate on a single ballot, and voters get to decide who ends up on the general election ballot.

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Also in 2010, the U.S. Census determined that the 52nd district was to be redrawn and moved west to account for population growth before the next election cycle. These changes greatly altered the political environment in the San Diego-based district.

In 2012, Scott Peters narrowly defeated Republican incumbent Brian Bilbray in a race that ended a week after the polls closed. Peters eked out a 51.2 percent victory, becoming the first Democratic representative for the district in over a decade.

Since being elected, Peters has maintained a nonpartisan approach, which has been criticized by members of his own party. He has worked tirelessly to reduce partisan gridlock and was even named the fourth most independent Democrat in the House by the National Journal.

Unfortunately, he is also a member of an unpopular Congress. A recent poll found that 60 percent of Americans would support firing every member of Congress(NBC/WSJ poll), which may hurt Peters in the 2014 election.

Carl Demaio is also a self-claimed moderate. Demaio is pro-choice, openly gay, and has supported bipartisan solutions in the San Diego City Council, making him a worthy rival in a battle for independent voters.

The 52nd district election may have huge implications, not just for Californians, but for the rest of the nation as well. California has demonstrated that nonpartisan primaries often result in more competitive elections. For the rising number of independents who are ready to escape the two-party system, this could be a refreshing solution.

Photo Credit: Sam Hodgson / Voice of San Diego