The California primary elections are less than two months away, June 3, and a tight race in the state's 52nd Congressional District (San Diego) is expected between the Democratic incumbent, Scott Peters, and Republican Carl DeMaio.
Other candidates in the race include Kirk Jorgensen, a Republican, and Fred Simon, also a Republican.Peters narrowly edged out his last competitor, Brian Bilbray, by
6,992 votes after advancing from California's new nonpartisan top-two primary in 2012.
Peters and DeMaio both commented on California's new primary system, which allows all voters and candidates to participate on a single ballot regardless of party affiliation, and agree that opening up the electoral process to all voters has been a positive change.
"More people are going independent, or declining to state, and I think that's the future of American politics," DeMaio said.
Peters directly benefited from this system when he edged out his democratic opponent, Lori Saldaña, during the 2012 primaries by 0.5 percent of the vote.
After one term in office, Peters was named the fourth most independent Democrat in Congress in 2013 by The National Journal, largely due to his record of reaching across the aisle (he voted against the majority opinion of his party 17 times).
San Diegans will likely remember DeMaio from the 2012 mayoral race, where he lost to Bob Filner by roughly 2 percentage points. Although he fell short in the overall election, DeMaio actually won the 52nd district by 16 points. Lately, DeMaio has fostered national attention for his moderate stances on social issues such as supporting medical marijuana, a woman’s right to choose, and marriage equality.
The constant partisan bickering enveloping Congress has led to a national and statewide increase in independent voters. Voters Independent of both major parties account for more than 42 percent of the electorate nationwide.
Both Peters and DeMaio's previous election results were decided by two or less percentage points – a margin independent voters have the ability to decide.DeMaio acknowledged that the 52nd district exemplifies the national trend, saying that “people are so disgusted with both political parties, they don’t even want the label attached to them."
When asked about his label as a “new wave republican,” DeMaio said he wanted to “push back against labels” because they “lead to more division and less unity.” He’d rather focus on “leading reform of government, and making government work.”
Peters is tapping into this sentiment as well. He wants to focus on “the ability to work together” and “moving beyond blind partisanship.” Peters commented that his record of reaching across the aisle shows how “you find solutions in the middle.”
Although DeMaio and Peters are both members of the two major parties, they recognize the importance of bridging the gap between their own parties and the growing number of independent-minded voters.
DeMaio remarked on his own success in reaching out to a broad base of voters in the congressional district:
"I won this district, the 52nd, by 16 points in 2012," said DeMaio. "We won a super majority of independents in the district and we also won roughly 1 out of 4 Democrats. I'm proud of the fact that I was able to provide a positive, solutions-oriented platform that resonated across the political spectrum, and that's exactly what I'm doing with this campaign.”
Most importantly, DeMaio explains, “there's nothing really different” from this race and his 2012 campaign. Given his success in the district during his mayoral race, the district's historical tendency to vote Republican, and Peters’ narrow victory in 2012, his confidence is understandable.
On the other hand, Peters believes that voters will look at his record and notice that he is following up on his work to make government functional as well as his promises to fight against partisan gridlock.For example, he
Similarly, Peters endorsed the “No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013” because “if we [Congress] don’t do our jobs, we shouldn't be paid.”
During his time in office, Peters voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, he co-sponsored the “Make Every Small Business Count Act” and the “Small Business Investment Act,” he supported the "Protect America’s Credit Rating Act," as well as the "Pay Down the Debt Act," and he has a record of implementing similar programs within San Diego while he was a city councilmen.
Being an incumbent in one of the least productive congresses ever in the United States certainly doesn’t play in Peters' favor, but his attitude is that "over time we'll cure the institution of this gridlock."
The 52nd district has been declared a must watch by POLITICO as well as a toss-up race in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Both DeMaio and Peters are distancing themselves from their traditional party platforms in hopes of appealing to independent-minded voters who are tired of dysfunctional government.
Featured Image Source: SDGLN