On the minds of Left Coast voters are some major concerns, which happened to be revealed in California’s recent primary elections.
It’s been said, “As California goes, so goes the nation,” so it may be that California’s primaries are also a foreshadowing of things to come in November’s general midterm elections.
Democratic Party turnout in the Golden State was dismal this time around. It may be an indication that liberal and even moderate Dems are experiencing a lack of enthusiasm.
At the same time, the primary election results showed that Republicans and Independents are deeply concerned over rising crime rates, exorbitant gas prices, and soaring food and housing costs.
Two of the Left Coast’s largest cities let their electoral voices be heard loud and clear.
In San Francisco, a far-left prosecutor was actually recalled. The electoral earthquake occurred when voters overwhelmingly chose to terminate District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s job right in the middle of his first term.
Boudin, a public defender-turned-district attorney was fired via a recall election, primarily for his policies of non-prosecution of criminal activity, lenient sentencing of criminals, and abolishment of cash bail, all of which resulted in a horrific spike in violent crime.
The ousting of Boudin should serve as a warning signal for politicians and government officials, apart from political affiliations. Those who promote, pursue, and implement policies that de-fund law enforcement agencies, reduce sentences of convicted felons, release back into society those who have not yet completed their prison time, eliminate cash bail, and abuse prosecutorial discretion may be in for a day of reckoning.
Boudin’s removal may also be a predictor for another elected official, one in Los Angeles County. A campaign is underway to recall District Attorney George Gascón, who appears to be cut from the same left-leaning political cloth as the aforementioned San Francisco prosecutor.
Before Gascón set his sights on destroying the criminal justice system in Los Angeles, he was Boudin’s predecessor as the district attorney of San Francisco.
The primary elections in Los Angeles were illuminating, particularly when it came to the mayoral race. Real estate developer Rick Caruso, a former Republican, came in first, with Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass finishing second. The two are set to face one another in November, and right now Caruso appears to have an edge in the upcoming race.
Caruso left the Republican Party in 2019 and registered as a Democrat in 2022. He ran a campaign that emphasized a tough on crime position and a determination to address the homeless crisis.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, who survived a recall vote in 2021, was able to avoid any serious competition in the recent primary election, partially due to the unusual manner in which the state currently conducts its primaries. This November, Newsom will face the second-place primary election finisher, GOP state lawmaker Brian Dahle.
A whole lot of voters who participated in the Golden State’s primary were understandably confused by the ballot. What they saw, in addition to the incumbent Newsom’s name, was a dizzying array of 27 gubernatorial candidates, 14 of which were labeled as Republicans. Those who, prior to casting their votes, researched the candidates’ qualifications and positions on issues had quite a difficult and time-consuming challenge.
It wasn’t always like this. Years ago, via a ballot initiative, voters eliminated conventional closed primaries and replaced them with a so-called blanket primary system. Consequently, all candidates appeared on the same ballot in the form of a list. The top vote-getter from each party advanced to the general election.
The Supreme Court actually struck down this system, saying that it violated a political party’s First Amendment right of association. However, with a push from then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California voters passed a new electoral initiative for something called the “top-two” open primary system.
In this system, all candidates on the list from all political parties, along with non-affiliated candidates, appear on the same ballot, with the top two finishers, regardless of party, advancing to the November general election.
This system and other types of open primaries frequently have unintended consequences that seriously undermine the main purpose of primary elections – to afford political parties the opportunity to pick their own candidates.
The conventional closed primary limits participation strictly to those who are designated party members. This concept relates to the previously mentioned right of free association contained in the Constitution.
Open primary laws violate the freedom of association of a political party, because they force a party to allow outsiders to select its candidates, a patently unfair and non-representative construct. Such primaries enable members of opposing political parties to subvert the nominating process.
Additionally, the California top-two primary system and similar designs oftentimes create circumstances that are disturbingly disenfranchising to voters.
In 2016, listed on the primary ballot in a run for U.S. Senate were 34 candidates. The top two finishers ended up being members of the same Democratic Party.
The top two vote-getters happened to be Loretta Sanchez and the now-Vice President Kamala Harris. Both emerged from the Senate primary as the lone candidates listed on the general election ballot. Their political parties, ideological positions, and policy proposals were, for the most part, identical.
This left voters with no real choice. However, Harris had the party backing, and she ended up winning the senate seat in a low turnout election.
The top-two primary system hasn’t delivered the increase in voter turnout that its proponents promised either. Since 2012, when the top-two rules took effect, turnout in primaries has averaged just 37.6% of registered voters.
In the recent primary, only 16% of the roughly 22 million mail-in ballots sent to voters were cast, and based on the count thus far experts believe the final turnout will be a record low.
Conversely, in a conventional closed primary system the top vote-getter from each partymoves on to the general election, thereby giving voters a bona fide choice.
This is what a functioning republic looks like.
Maybe it’s time for another visit to the Supreme Court.