Tuesday, June 3, 2014

New 'Jungle Primary' System Shakes up California Election

By Professor Jessica Levinson

In what will be a low-turn out, but high-impact election, voters will head to the polls to weigh in on a variety of state and local races. In the race for governor, the main question is which of two Republicans will lose to Gov. Jerry Brown in November. The party establishment is pulling for moderate Neel Kashkari while conservatives and tea party members have demonstrated grassroots support for Assemblyman Tim Donnelly.

This is the first set of statewide elections run under California's new top two, open primary law. Under the so-called "jungle primary" law, any voter can vote for any candidate in the primary election, regardless of party affiliation. Then a runoff is held between the top two vote getters, who are sometimes members of the same party. The law could shake up a number of races, including the Secretary of State's race. On the federal level, many eyes are on the race to replace long-serving Congressman Henry Waxman. In a race with over a dozen candidates, and a number of familiar faces, it is very difficult to predict who will live to fight another day in the November runoff.

In Los Angeles voters will weigh in on a number of low visibility, but powerful offices. For the first time in almost 100 years there is an election for LA County Sheriff in which an incumbent is not on the ballot and an outsider may be victorious. Each candidate is running as a reformer who can clean up the scandal-plagued department.

Thanks to term limits two of the five Los Angeles County Supervisors seats are now open. One of these race brings three competitive candidates vying for this powerful position with control over vast sums of country resources.

Despite all of this, few registered voters, let alone eligible voters, will show up to the polls. Those who do show up will have a significant say in determining the makeup of federal, state and local government.

Follow Professor Levinson on Twitter @LevinsonJessica or via her blog, PoLawTics.

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