This is the first in a multi-part series looking at the California June 5 primary.
There are several districts (CA-13, 15, 29, 35, 37, 40, 43, 44) where no Republican is running. I'm going to focus on two of them, CA-15 and CA-35, since these are the most Republican of the districts. Jerry Brown won CA-15 59.3%-35.4% and CA-35 57.5%-32.7%. If a Republican were in the race, the Democrat would cruise to victory.
CA-15 has Democratic incumbent Pete Stark, Democratic Dublin City councilman Eric Swalwell, and independent Chris Pareja. Swalwell isn't regarded as a top level challenger, but he raised $140,666 through December 31, 2011 and that sum means he should be taken as a serious challenger. Pareja raised less than $1,000. He isn't expected to get much of the vote.
CA-35 matches Democratic congressman Joe Baca against a top tier challenger, Democratic state senator Gloria Negrete McLeod. McLeod declared for this district as soon as it was drawn, since no incumbent lived in the district. Months later Baca decided to run here. Negrete McLeod refused to step aside. Here, the third candidate is Green Party member Anthony Vieyra. Vieyra, like Pareja, should be eliminated in June.
The June primary will be a trial run in these two districts, as Stark, Swalwell, Baca, and Negrete McLeod will advance easily. What'll be important to watch, however, is how many votes they get.
How will Democrats vote? It wouldn't be unusual for an incumbent to win the Democratic vote 70%-30%, even to a challenger who didn't spend a lot of money. There are Democrats who will want a new congressman and vote against the incumbent. Republicans, on the other hand, have no allegiance. If asked to choose, I'd guess they'd vote against the incumbent, especially Stark, who many dislike. What if Swalwell got 90% of the Republican vote? That'd give Stark 46% of the vote but give Swalwell 50%. Losing in June might mean curtains for Stark in November. He can try to pick off the Democratic vote Swalwell gets, but the Republican vote will be difficult no matter how much money he has. Yet it's possible that one of these liberal Democrats could sell Republicans that they'll be a better vote. If they do that, however, they may sink themselves with their own party.
In CA-25 Buck McKeon is being challenged by 2 Republicans and a Democrat. McKeon will get the lion's share of the Republican vote. Democratic challenger Lee Rogers will get the Democratic vote. McKeon will win a one sided November election. The presence of a Democrat makes the district safe for McKeon. The lack of a Republican in CA-15 and CA-35 make these districts very different from CA-25.
While June won't determine anything in either of these districts, it'll be important to watch.I'm sure the candidates will do exit polls to see how they do with each party and determine their potential. After all, a 50%-46% result could be because all the Republicans swarm to one candidate or both Democrats and Republicans split their vote. I think that while Democrats are likely to stick with their candidate, Republicans will be up for grabs. They could go heavily for one candidate but then be convinced to go the other way in November.
Top two is going to make it difficult for these congressmen, who are used to easy races. To me, this June race is more interesting than the one in CA-10, which will see which Democrat takes on Republican Jeff Denham.