In California’s 31st Congressional District, the state’s new open primary system did not serve Democrats well Tuesday.
Two Republican candidates will square off in November for the district’s U.S. House seat, even though it has more registered Democrats than Republicans, Ballot Access News reported.
California voters approved a new “top two” primary system in June 2011 in an attempt to encourage less partisanship in statewide elections. The system produces a runoff election between the top two candidates in the primary — regardless of party — instead of letting each party hold a primary to select a candidate for the general election.
The four Democratic candidates in the 31st District split Democrats’ votes on Tuesday, giving the two Republican candidates the top two spots.
Republican candidates Gary Miller and Bob Dutton took first and second place, respectively, with 26.9 percent and 25.1 percent of the vote. Democratic candidate Pete Aguilar trailed closely behind with 22.5 percent. Had fewer Democratic candidates run, Augilar would have likely closed that gap. Now, the Republican Party is guaranteed a House seat after the November election.
Republicans are clearly relishing the irony, since the House Minority Leader hails from California.
“It’s a real disaster for them, if you believed Nancy Pelosi back when she said that the road to the majority for the Democrats goes through California,” Republican Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Daniel Scarpinato told The Daily Caller.
“Democrats drove off the cliff on Tuesday night.”
Since California courts upheld Proposition 14’s ban on write-in candidates, registered Democrats will not be able to vote for write-in candidates in an attempt to take the House seat back from Republicans.
The Los Angeles Times reported that this unusual sort of primary piggybacking also occurred in eight other congressional districts nationwide.
“[District 31] was the most dramatic example of problems for them but, generally, they had a lot of issues in California on Tuesday,” Scarpinato told TheDC. “And when you’re looking at their recruits in California and other states, they’re falling short.”
He added that close races elsewhere in the state, like the Democrats’ expensive defense of Julia Brownley in the 26th District, drew time and financial resources away from the 31st District.
“So many candidates were so weak that they needed to be pulled across the finish line,” he told TheDC.
This article was updated after publication