Politics

06.04.14

Order Restored In Wacky California Primary

After early confusion and chaos in California’s new jungle primary system, the same old establishment candidates have risen to the top.

A crowded, at times wacky race for a congressional seat representing the Botox Belt of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and the Southern California coast, ended last night in the way races all over the country ended: with a Democrat and a Republican, each with long careers in government, headed to a general election.

The race in California’s 33rd congressional district to replace retiring Rep. Henry Waxman attracted over a dozen candidates, including Marianne Williamson, a best-selling author and New Age guru; Matt Miller, a longtime public radio host, and Wendy Greuel, who was thought to have a glide path to win election as mayor of Los Angeles last year before her campaign flailed out.

But ultimately Elan Carr, a deputy district attorney and an Iraq War Vet, and Ted Lieu, a state lawmaker who was a favorite of progressives, were the top two vote getters. Under California’s new “jungle primary” system in place since 2012, the race was non-partisan, and so the outcome last night was unpredictable. The general election should be less so. Carr is a Republican in one of the most liberal districts in the country, and Lieu, a two-term State Senator from Torrance, should be comfortable.

The new voting system, designed to shake up the state’s political system and weaken the power of entrenched interests and political parties, does not seem to be having quite that effect yet.

The new voting system was designed to shake up the state’s political system and weaken the power of entrenched interests.

In the state’s other marquee race, Mike Honda, a longtime Democrat, easily defeated Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration official heavily backed by the state’s tech industry, and who had been arguing that Silicon Valley did not receive an equal hearing in the halls of Congress. Despite Honda’s twenty-point victory, Khanna’s campaign, which uses many of the same high-tech data and field operations of the Obama 2012 victory, thinks they can narrow the gap over the next five months before the November general election.

Elsewhere, incumbents romped across the state, even though many may face intra-party challenges in November.

In another marquee battle, Democrat Pete Aguilar appears headed to the runoff to face Republican incumbent Paul Chabot. Aguilar, a former Mayor of Redlands, appeared to have a slight lead over Republican Lesli Gooch. In 2012, California’s new primary system created chaos here, as a crowded Democratic field in the nonpartisan race led to two Republicans facing each other in the runoff. Aguilar had the support this time of much of the Democratic establishment while liberals favored Eloise Gomez Reyes, who finished in fourth place.