Although deemed a strongly Democratic district, the race for Assembly District 57 is turning into a toss up. Following the June nonpartisan, top-two open primary, small business owner Rita Topalian (R) gained significant support with 52.2 percent of the vote. Her opponent, incumbent Assemblymember Ian Calderon (D), came in second with 47.8 percent.
Does Calderon still have a fighting chance? If history is any indicator, the answer is definitely.
In 2014, Calderon will have to face numerous obstacles, including securing the Democratic vote. Although he is the incumbent and the only Democrat running in the district, external factors are working against him.
Calderon must appeal to the Democratic majority in addition to Republican and independent voters, who account for 52.5 percent of the vote. Gaining support outside the party has become increasingly important as Republican voter turnout has increased in recent years. The California GOP has attempted to bring its party back to life, making elections in districts like AD-57 more difficult to secure.
Calderon is no stranger to toss up elections. In 2012, he had to revitalize his campaign following the primaries in order to secure his first term in office.
This is the second election in AD-57 to use California’s nonpartisan, top-two open primary system. California’s primary allows all voters an opportunity to decide which candidate they want to see on the general election ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the November election.
In 2012, Calderon came in second following the June primary against Republican opponent Noel Jaimes. He and third place runner-up Rudy Bermudez (D) split the Democratic vote, allowing Jaimes to win a majority.
Unlike in 2014, Calderon’s loss in the 2012 primaries came from a split in support between Democratic candidates. In the general election, he was able to regain Democratic supporters in addition to successfully appealing to many Republicans. His inclusive strategies assured him victory.
This November, Calderon’s experience and ties to the community will make him a sure threat for Topalian. If Calderon is able to appeal to Topalian’s supporters, he may be able to revitalize the Democratic stronghold accustomed to the district and secure a second term.
Editor’s note: IVN reached out to Ian Calderon’s office for comment. We are expecting a response and will update the article as soon as we hear back from the incumbent.