Columns
February 25, 2020
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California Focus

Thomas D. Elias
At all levels, primary about moderates, extremes
February 21, 2020

The California primary election officially went to the voters’ hands early this month, when many began receiving mail-in ballots shortly before early-voting centers started opening all around the state.

No registered voter should lose sight of what this election is about in both major parties: At several levels, the current vote will decide at least for a while whether moderates are in effect drummed out of the two major parties, leaving extremists on both sides to rule for the next two or four years.

For Democrats, this choice has been obvious on the presidential level since the party’s first televised debate last summer. The choice there for Democratic moderates is between former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and, possibly, late entrant Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire ex-mayor of New York City.

So-called progressives among Democrats will for the most part choose between Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Democratic Party rules mandating proportional representation likely will see to it that at least four of these folks each wins some California delegates to the national nominating convention, but their specific vote totals will be telling.

If any candidate fails to draw 15 percent of the statewide California Democratic vote, they can most likely kiss their presidential chances goodbye, even if they’ve done well in the primaries and caucuses of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – where results will be finalized while most Californians are still mulling their votes.

 Republican President Donald Trump, having just survived an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, will have only nominal opposition here, but if a significant number of moderate GOP voters cast protest ballots for former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld or one of several lesser-known candidates, it will signal big trouble ahead for Trump.

The same kind of moderate vs. extremist contest will also occur in a few much more local votes, even though California’s new 12-year legislative term limits give a huge advantage to incumbents both in the primary and the November runoff to follow.

At least three key contests will shape November runoffs. 

The perpetually challenged Steve Glazer, a state senator from Orinda in the 7th Senate District, faces the labor-backed ultra-liberal Marisol Rubio in one race. In Orange County’s 72nd Assembly District, incumbent and fairly moderate Republican Tyler Diep faces strong intra-party opposition from conservative Janet Nguyen, who lost her former nearby state Senate seat two years ago to Democrat Tom Umberg.

And in the 25th Congressional District, covering turf from the Simi Valley in Ventura County to Lancaster in Los Angeles County’s high desert area, multiple conservatives and moderates from both parties seek to replace liberal Democrat Katie Hill, forced to resign by a sex scandal after only a few months in office. This field includes conservative former Republican Rep. Steve Knight, unseated by Hill in 2018, and Democratic Assemblywoman Cathie Smith, the early-book favorites to make the runoff elections both for the fall election and the special election to fill the seat until then.

The two hardest fought of these races may come in the East Bay and Orange County. With former county GOP chairman Scott Baugh backing Nguyen in part because of Diep’s voting with Democrats on some housing measures, the ex-state senator has a good shot.

One mystery here is why Democrats, who saw Hillary Clinton carry this district in 2016 and then lost it to Diep by less than 3 percent two years later, have not run a well-funded candidate with deep local name recognition. The likelihood there is an all-GOP November runoff.

Rubio, meanwhile, has gotten donations from three large labor unions and endorsements from a few local Democratic clubs in her bid to oust Glazer. “My life represents everything that is wrong about his voting record,” Rubio says. Neither Rubio nor Glazer won support from the state party. All of which means that while the California vote will say a lot about the future of both major parties nationally, it may do the same for the two California parties, even if the moderate vs. extreme battlegrounds are less numerous this time than in some past primaries.      

 

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net.