We use California’s 31st congressional district as an example a lot here. This is mainly for two reasons:
- CA-31 is the bluest district (D+5) represented by a Republican (Gary Miller); and
- It perfectly displays the problems with a ‘top-two‘ or ‘blanket’ primary system.
Representative Miller won CA-31 in the general election of 2012 with 55.2% of the vote — against another Republican. Thanks to the top-two primary system in California, the two candidates who get the highest margins of votes cross-party move on to the general election.
Due to the left-leaning nature of this seat, four Democrats ran — splitting up the Democratic vote four ways — and two Republicans ran. For those of you who remember elementary school math, that meant the two Republicans, Miller and Dutton, moved on to face each other in the general election.
This forced CA-31 residents in 2012 to choose their representative solely between the two Republicans — despite the 13th having a Democratic registration advantage of 15.4% and Barack Obama beating Mitt Romney, 57-41.
Knowing the likelihood of lightning striking twice in this new district, Mr. Miller is smartly retiring at the end of this term as he has represented this Democratic district horribly and would have almost certainly lost come November.
Until recently, the lightning storm was growing over California’s 31st as there were again four Democrats and two Republicans vying for this seat — the exact same scenario as 2012.
Enter Ryan Downing to save the day. Mr. Downing is a political consultant who will now officially take on his Republican opponents: Lesli Gooch, an aide to retiring Rep. Gary Miller, and Paul Chabot, an unsuccessful candidate for California’s 63rd state assembly seat in 2010.
Though it would have been unlikely for the four Democrats to split the Democratic vote evenly enough to have a repeat of 2012 with two Republican primary opponents, having three Republicans on the ballot likely takes that scary possibility completely off the table.
California’s 31st primary election is June 3rd.