In 2018's midterm election, California voters will be choosing between a Republican and another Republican or a Democrat and another Democrat in ten California midterm election races, including three statewide races: for U.S. Senate, Lt. Governor, and Superintendent of Public Instruction.
This is an odd and interesting result of the revolutionary election reform California voters adopted in 2010, the top two open primary system. Unlike traditional elections, in which the winners of partisan primaries advance to the general election ballot, a top two open primary is an open, non-partisan primary in which every registered voter picks from among the entire field of candidates, and the candidates with the top two vote totals square off for elected office on the general election ballot in November.
This reform is helping to break the spell of the two party system, and beginning to sort out some of the political dysfunctions that arise from the two party system.
For one, the all-or-nothing march in lockstep with party power players and ideologies that was once a requirement for advancing in politics, is already becoming a thing of the past, and well-credentialed candidates with substantive policy platforms who don't want to play that game can no longer be written off as spoilers in California's elections.
The fact that an independent candidate may win a statewide office in California this year is proof.
But even the ten California Republican vs. Republican and Democrat vs. Democrat races that are listed below (with a brief summary and update) are not merely an odd side effect of a parochial election process. These are good for California voters and California politics, because they are happening in districts that lean far to one side.
The old process allowed the primary voters (usually the most partisan) of one party to ultimately pick the office holder.
Now the entire registered electorate can weigh in on which of two Republicans or Democrats should hold office.
And without party brand distinctions to act as proxies for diligent research and critical thought, voters might actually have to make a decision based on the candidates and issues.
U.S. Senate: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) vs. Kevin De Leon (D)
In a race which could see many Republicans in California voting for a Democratic candidate who's left of Sen. Dianne Feinstein just to get some turnover in Washington, De Leon has an uphill battle against the incumbent, but one IVN commentator called his recent debate performance strangely subdued.
Lt. Governor: Edward Hernandez (D) vs. Eleni Kounalakis (D)
A recent op ed in Mercury News bluntly states the significance of this race: "The winner of the race between Hernandez and Kounalakis will be positioned to run for governor."
Kounalakis and Hernandez are both Democrats who disagree with tuition hikes and want to increase CAL Grant funding, but whose campaign funding differs dramatically.
Take 7 minutes and learn all about them here.
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Marshall Tuck (D) vs. Tony Thurmond (D)
A Democrat candidate is running against another Democrat candidate for the office of California Superintendent of Public Instruction. This elected office is an executive position in the state government of California overseeing the Department of Education and all California public schools.
California District 6, U.S. House of Representatives: Rep. Doris Matsui (D) vs. Jrmar Jefferson (D)
In California's 6th District, the incumbent, Rep. Doris Matsui, faces an intraparty challenge from Jrmar Jefferson. He's raised $0 according to FEC records, while Matsui has raised just shy of a million.
California District 8, U.S. House of Representatives: Rep. Paul Cook (R) vs. Tim Donnelly (R)
In this Republican vs. Republican race for the CA-08 District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, incumbent Rep. Paul Cook, who was first elected in 2012 (unseating another Republican incumbent) faces an intra-party challenge from small business owner Tim Donnelly. Cook has the support of Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association, while his challenger has the endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul (KY).
California District 27, U.S. House of Representatives: Rep. Judy Chu (D) vs. Bryan Witt (D)
In CA-27 for the U.S. House, incumbent Rep. Judy Chu, who's held office since 2008 faces a challenge from Bryan Witt, who was a very distant second in the primary with 17,186 votes to Chu's 86,932. So far Witt has been able to come up with a little over $10,000 in campaign cash to deploy against Chu's $1.2M warchest.
California District 44, U.S. House of Representatives: Rep. Nanette Barragán (D) vs. Aja Brown (D)
In the 44th District, incumbent Rep. Nanette Barragán is running her first reelection campaign against Democratic Party challenger Aja Brown, the mayor of Compton who has reduced gang violence in the city by facilitating inter-gang diplomacy rather than through police action.
California Senate District 2: Sen. Mike McGuire (D) vs. Veronica Jacobi (D)
State Senator Mike McGuire is running for a second term in California's Senate this year, with a steep uphill battle from his Democratic Party challenger, Veronica Jacobi, who took less than 25% of the votes in the lopsided top two primary.
California Senate District 22: Mike Eng (D) vs. Susan Rubio (D)
California Senate District 22 is an open seat this year, vacated by Sen. Edward Hernandez as he makes his bid for Lt. Governor of the Republic of California. Although both are Democrats, Eng has the support of the Democratic Party machinery in this race, including the official party itself and several establishment Democratic politicians, while Rubio hopes to unite a coalition of independent voters, independent Democrats, and Republicans.
California Senate District 24: Peter Choi (D) vs. Maria Elena Durazo (D)
You may have heard that State Sen. Kevin de León is vacating his seat to run in California's Senate race this year, leaving Senate District 24 to a contest between small business owner Peter Choi and labor union organizer Maria Elena Durazo. Choi fights an uphill battle against Durazo after taking 30% of the votes in the top two primary to her nearly 70%.