California’s Republican Party is counting on Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen to help break a potential two-thirds Democratic super-majority in the state legislature this November. She’s running against Democrat Jose Solorio (AD-69) to represent the 34th Senate District as a result of the June 3 nonpartisan, top-two open primary.The nonpartisan primary, also known as Proposition 14, was passed by a majority of voters in 2010. All voters and candidates, regardless of party affiliation, participate on a single ballot and the top two vote getters move on to the general election.
Nguyen received 52 percent of the primary vote, while Solorio came in second with 33 percent. Republican Long Pham placed third with 14 percent.
2014 will be the first state Senate election in the recently redrawn district. It now includes parts of Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Westminster, and surrounding areas.
As it is the first state Senate election, it was also the first time district voters chose candidates under California’s top-two primary. That being said, Nguyen's strong showing in the primary may be counteracted by the district's slight Democratic bend -- 53 percent of SD-34 voters voted to re-elect President Obama in 2012, according to Around the Capitol.
When asked about the new system, Solorio said he sees California's nonpartisan primary as an opportunity to reach out to all voters in the district:
"I think it’s still a little too early to tell what the lasting benefits of the measure will be, but I still believe that it appropriately empowers voters to have more choices at the ballot box and encourages candidates to campaign to everyone. I think it’s a healthy reform for our elections process in California and am always eager to hear what others think about this new primary system."
Supervisor Nguyen sees the new system as an opportunity for Republicans to attract non-affiliated voters, stating:
"We are still assessing the impact of Proposition 14 on voter participation, but I believe that any political party that ignores the growing ranks of independent voters is doomed."
Spending on the election is expected to reach seven figures before the final ballot is cast. The race has also drawn the attention of the California GOP.
While the strategy that leads to the California state Senate is not yet known, the contest to represent California's 34th Senate District will be hard-fought. Voter registration in the 34th district is closely split between the Republican and Democratic parties, 35.3 percent and 38.3 percent, respectively.
Consequently, the path to the California state Senate will be decided -- at least in part -- by the region's 80,000 independent voters.