When 818,000 voters in Los Angeles County fill out their ballots this election, they will find themselves in strange political territory: The only Republican names they’ll see will be presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence.
In this GOP “dead zone” — spanning parts of five congressional districts, five state Assembly districts and one state Senate district — not a single Republican candidate made it on to the November ballot.
Excluding the U.S. Senate race, 27 of 153 down-ballot contests across California will have candidates from the same political party. During state elections in 2012 and 2014, there were 28 and 25 same-party contests, respectively, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan election guide California Target Book.
But during those years, at least seven of the intraparty contests were between Republicans. This year there are only four Republican-on-Republican battles — all Assembly races.
“This is new territory for us,” said Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.
The idea behind Proposition 14, the voter-approved measure that created the top-two primary, was to elevate moderate candidates in districts where a single party dominated, Sonenshein said.At CalMatters, Matt Levin reports that the GOP is losing Vietnamese Americans:
But research on the moderating effects of the top-two system has been mixed. And the Harris-Sanchez contest has shone a bright light on the issue, with critics saying California is approaching one-party rule.
The generational split among Vietnamese voters is stark. About 4 in 10 Vietnamese voters over age 55 are registered Republicans. That number drops to 1 in 10 among 18 to 34 year-olds. And perhaps more troublingly for the GOP, those younger Vietnamese voters appear more inclined to register Democrat than your average Californian of the same age.
“Vietnamese Millennial voters in some ways are similar to other Millennials with issues like racial justice and social justice,” says Ramakrishan. “You also have this dynamic, similar to the Cuban community, where anti-communism and U.S. foreign policy have been the dominant issue for the first generation…but for the younger generation, it’s not as big a draw.”
The GOP’s “tough on communism” reputation may have less allure for younger U.S.-born Vietnamese with no memory of the Cold War, but that’s not all that’s motivating the shift away from the right.
Janet Nguyen, the Republican state senator from Orange County, also faults past GOP missteps in failing to show enough empathy for low-income Vietnamese households, many of which receive some form of government assistance. Children in those households are now of voting age.
“Going back to the 90’s, if you came to me and said those on welfare milk the system, that’s offensive to me,” said Nguyen. “That’s what you might see a lot for the younger generation, knowing their family came here extremely poor.”David Siders reports at Politico:
Yet the party had taken steps to revive itself before Trump left the GOP nationally in disarray.
It installed a highly regarded tactician, Jim Brulte, as chairman, shifting the party’s focus from ideology to fundraising and voter registration. It removed the term “illegal alien” from its platform and recruited moderate Republican candidates to run for office. In the mid-term elections in 2014, Republicans picked up seats in the state Legislature.
Two years later, once-safe Republicans are facing a barrage of Democrats attempting to yoke them to a highly unpopular nominee. Trump is running at a historically low 28 percent in California, according to the most recent Public Policy Institute of California poll. Meanwhile, Republican Party registration has fallen below 27 percent statewide, down from 30 percent in 2012.
“Right as we’re righting the ship in California, Trump comes on the scene and blows the whole thing up,” said Mike Madrid, a Republican consultant who specializes in Latino politics in California. “It gets harder and harder for Republicans to hold on to what were Republican seats.”