California voters went to the polls on Tuesday, June 3, to decide which top two candidates would advance to the general election in several races. Initial results show a promising trend for candidates supporting individual voter rights.
California's nonpartisan, top-two open primary allows all voters and candidates to participate on a single ballot, protecting the right all voters have to equal access to elections. Across the state, candidates who have declared their support for nonpartisan primaries have secured a spot on the November ballot.
Because nonpartisan primaries do not discriminate against voters based on their political preferences, candidates in elections across California are forced to expand their outreach to appeal to a broader segment of the voting population. The results of Tuesday's elections show that voters are more receptive to the candidates willing to expand their message beyond party lines.
The secretary of state's race is arguably the most important race when it comes to the future of elections in California. Republican Pete Peterson almost led the race with 29.6 percent of the vote. He will face Democratic state Senator Alex Padilla, who received 30.1 percent of the vote in the general election.
Peterson has gone on the record in favor of California's nonpartisan primary though he would like to see a more robust “write-in” system added. Padilla has given conflicting statements regarding California's top-two primary.
Incumbent U.S. Representative Scott Peters (D) will face Carl DeMaio (R) in what will likely turn out to be a very close race come November. Peters led DeMaio in the primary election with 42.2 percent of the vote, but the two other GOP candidates, Kirk Jorgensen and Fred Simon, only received 17.9 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
Peters is no stranger to close races. In 2012, he defeated Republican Brian Billbray by less than 2 percent. Peters has advocated for nonpartisan elections like California's top-two open primary, saying it can help reduce the kind of partisanship that led to the government shutdown in 2013.
Similarly, DeMaio is in favor of letting independent voters participate and has spoken out against party labels, saying they “lead to more division and less unity.”
While both candidates appeal to voters across the political spectrum, it is very possible that independents will make all the difference in November.
Congressional District 15 was one of a number of hotly contested races in the primary election season. U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell managed to unseat long-time congressman Pete Stark after placing second in the 2012 primary election. Now, Swalwell will face a new challenger, Hugh Bussell (R), after Bussell received 25.9 percent of the vote on Tuesday. Swalwell took first place with 49.2 percent of the vote.
The 26th Senate District went from one of the least competitive state Senate races in California to one of the most competitive after the implementation of the top-two primary. Ben Allen (D), who advanced to the general election with 21.8 percent of the vote, has been openly supportive of the right all voters have to participate in primary elections. He will be challenged by fellow Democrat, Sandra Fluke, who took 19.7 percent of the vote on Tuesday.
Assemblymember Richard Pan (D) placed second to fellow Democrat Assemblymember Roger Dickinson in the race for state Senate District 6. Pan took second with 31.2 percent to Dickinson's 40.2 percent. Pan and Dickinson will be vying to replace the termed-out Senate president pro tem, Darrell Steinberg.
As an independent-minded Democrat, Pan has geared his campaign to more than traditional Democrats. Consequently, Dickinson has rested on establishment support in the form of the California Democratic Party, as well as an endorsement from Steinberg.
The two GOP candidates, James Axelgard and Jonathan Zachariou, turned out nearly a combined 30 percent of voters who may find Pan a preferable candidate in the November general election.
Second place in the multimillion dollar race for Assembly District 16 came down to Democrats Steve Glazer, 22.5 percent, and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, 29.6 percent. Sbranti made a point in his campaign to reach out to more than only traditional Democrats and it appears to have paid off.
When asked how Sbranti intended to appeal to independent voters, he responded:
"My volunteers and I have spent countless hours reaching out to non-partisan voters on the phones, at the doors and in the community... Voters, regardless of party, care about educating our youth, boosting our local economy and job creation – all of which are the foundation principals of my campaign."
Sbranti will challenge Republican Catharine Baker in the November election. She received 36.5 percent of the vote on Tuesday.
Photo: JoshMC / CaliforniaThroughMyLens