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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Thoughts on the California Primary

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race


  • We don't know what the turnout is.  The election night numbers were incomplete.  
  • First, California has always been slow to tally the total number of voters.
  • Second, there are probably an unusually large number of provisional ballots this year,  The the LA County Registrar accidentally dropped 100,000 people from the list, so those people had to cast provisional ballots if they showed up at the polls.
  • Third, we just started using same-day registration.  Same-day registrants cast conditional ballots, which must be verified.
  • Fourth, under a law that went into effect in 2015, mail ballots, a ballot counts if it is postmarked by election day and received by officials by Friday.   Literally no one knows how many ballots will arrive today and tomorrow.
  • In short, we won't have a good handle on turnout until the weekend at least.


  • The top-two primary was supposed to serve as a moderating force in California politics.  But it does not always work that way.  In the crowded race against Rohrabacher, Harley Rouda pounded liberal themes:  He sought to stand out from the crowd by championing the party's rising progressive wing. (As of this writing, he is in a tight race for second place).
Senate Race

  • Feinstein had a huge lead over Kevin deLeon.  She has a reputation as a practical dealmaker, and he is a liberal champion.  So why idid he fare so poorly?  
  • First, she has a generally liberal record.  On one of the few issues where she's taken a more conservative position -- the death penalty -- she recently changed her mind. 
  • Second, it is tough for state legislative leaders to get attention in California, given ever-diminishing media coverage of state news.  He was a big shot in Sacramento and his home district, but totally unknown elsewhere.  
  • Third, an accused sexual harasser -- Tony Mendoza -- was his apartment-mate in Sacramento:  questions about "what did he know and when did he know it" dampened enthusiasm in the progressive community. (Mendoza failed to clear the top two in his bid to return to the Senate.)


  • Democratic consultant Steve Maviglio accurately describes the GOP's plight:
    • Things have gotten so bad that Republicans are popping champagne corks simply because they have a live body in the governors race. But GOP voters won’t have anyone to vote for in the U.S. Senate, LG or Insurance Commissioner (where they didn’t even field a candidate) races. The challengers in the AG, Treasurer and Controller races are unknown and underfunded. Sorry, folks, but John Cox is not going to the magnet that attracts Republicans to the polls.
  • The GOP has practically disappeared in large swatches of the state.  In the suburban Assembly district where I live -- a place that once leaned Republican -- Democrat Laura Friedman is running unopposed for reelection.  In other places, the absence of a real party structure has enabled kooks and bigots to get on the ballot as Republicans.