It is well documented in the media that the two anti-establishment candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have boosted interest and turnout in the 2016 primary election. Look for this trend to continue in California.
Donald Trump’s candidacy, in particular, may have a major impact in California’s 52nd Congressional District, where incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D) is running against 5 Republicans in the nonpartisan, top-two primary.
Due to the near-perfect party division in the district -- one-third of registered voters are Democrats, one-third are Republicans, and one-third are independents -- the outcome of the June 7 primary will come down to who turns out to vote.
Just as he did in the 2014 race, Peters is once again working hard to appeal to independent voters, who will have a crucial say in who ends up winning the election. This has swayed the congressman to take up some policies that do not fall on traditional Democratic Party lines. This includes veterans' affairs and his recent public support for billionaire Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos.
Peters’ main opponents are also the most well-funded candidates on the Republican side: Denise Gitsham ($425,000 currently fundraised) and Jacquie Atkinson ($146,000 currently fundraised).
The Republican Party chose not to endorse any of the GOP candidates running before the primary, leaving the candidates on their own to match Peters’ $2.2 million war chest. Both women likely hope the GOP will endorse them once through the primary.
With Trump’s campaign getting established in California, the focus turns to what impact the presumptive Republican presidential nominee will have in races both in terms of turnout and endorsements.
Denise Gitsham worked for the Bush-Cheney administration, under Karl Rove, as a Hispanic coordinator. She also shares her campaign manager, Jason Roe, with Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who is up for re-election.
Faulconer has publicly stated that he will not endorse Trump. Gitsham, however, has not issued a statement on her support of Trump or any other presidential candidate.
Atkinson, a wounded Marine vet who is openly gay and was mentored by former City Councilman Carl DeMaio, stated in March that she would support Trump should he receive the nomination.
Because of varying support for Trump, Republicans have their own intra-party issues to contend with. Leaders of the GOP initially didn’t want their candidates affiliated with Trump in any way, though the party is beginning to talk about unifying around him.
The 52nd congressional district will likely draw more voters of its own accord due to it being one of the most competitive races in the country. Add a firebrand presidential candidate into the mix, and the fate of an incumbent congressman becomes even more uncertain.