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California Primary Preview

Voters in seven states will complete their nomination contests on Tuesday, but we start our previews with a look at the Golden State of California.

The nation’s most populous entity is one of four states to feature a jungle primary system, meaning all of the candidates are placed on one ballot and the top two finishers irrespective of political party affiliation or vote percentage attained advance into the general election.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) was virtually elected to a second term when he won a landslide victory, 61.9%, in the 2021 recall campaign. After Newsom exceeded expectations in that contest, no one of statewide political prominence came forward to challenge him in the regular election. A total of 28 challengers are on Tuesday’s ballot, however, and one of them will advance into the general election with the Governor.

A similar situation exists in the Senate race as appointed incumbent Alex Padilla (D) runs for a full six-year term. Twenty-three other candidates are on the ballot, and the Senator is expected to have an easy ride on Tuesday and in the general election.

Though the Governor and Senate races are non-competitive, there is a lot of campaign action occurring within the state’s 52 congressional districts. Below is a recap of the hotspots:

California’s new 3rd Congressional District is an open seat created through redistricting. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) represents a majority of this new district but he chose to seek re-election in the more Republican 5th CD. State Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Granite Bay), Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones (R), and physician Kermit Jones (D) are the leading contenders. Two of these three will advance from the jungle primary.

Rep. McClintock has drawn opposition in the new 5th that stretches from Sacramento to Fresno. It’s possible that another Republican advances into the general with the Congressman who has a 41% constituent carryover figure from his current 4th CD to the new 5th. Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig (R) is the most likely candidate to qualify for the general election. This would set-up a double Republican general election.

Rep. John Garamendi* (D-Walnut Grove) has only a carryover factor of 21% from his current 3rd District. The new 8th CD anchors closer to the Bay Area than the area the Congressman currently represents and the new constituency is 73% minority, but few credible candidates came forward. It appeared that Rep. Garamendi could be vulnerable against a strong Bay Area Democrat, but no such person emerged. The Congressman should now have an easy run for re-election.

If any northern California Democrat fared poorly under the commission redistricting plan, it was Rep. Josh Harder (D-Turlock). He was displaced from his current 10th CD and didn’t have a clear place to run. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) deciding to retire opened the 9th District, however, to which Rep. Harder immediately claimed. The move looks to have worked, and he is now a heavy favorite for re-election.

The open 13th District, a created seat that stretches from the south Sacramento area to northern Fresno County down State Freeway 99, could have been a competitive partisan seat, but Republican candidate recruiting missed the mark. A likely scenario is Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) and 2020 candidate Phil Arballo (D) advancing to a double Democratic general election.

Rep. Jackie Speier’s (D-Hillsborough) retirement opens the new South San Francisco area 15th CD. The most likely result Tuesday is Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) and San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa (D) qualifying for a double Democratic general election.

Rep. David Valadao* (R-Hanford), who already represents the most Democratic district in the nation that sends a Republican to the US House now faces an even more Democratic seat post-redistricting. It is likely that the Congressman and state Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) will advance into a highly competitive general election in the state’s new 22nd District.

In the current 22nd, which was eliminated in redistricting, a special election to serve the balance of resigned Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-Tulare) term will also be held. Former state Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway (R) is expected to defeat Water Board executive Lourin Hubbard (D). The winner serves only until the end of the year because neither candidate filed to run in another seat.

Rep. Mike Garcia* (R-Santa Clarita) won his 2020 election by just 333 votes. He is likely to again face former state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D) who Mr. Garcia has twice defeated. The new 27th District is now three points more Democratic, so the general election will host another intense campaign in the Simi Valley.

Turning to the Los Angeles city 34th District, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D) defeated movie executive David Kim (D) by only a 53-47% margin in the 2020 election, despite the challenger spending less than $100,000 on his campaign. Mr. Kim is back for a re-match and this time pledges to run a real campaign. Both should easily advance from Tuesday’s qualifying election.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Culver City) running for Mayor of Los Angeles leaves the new 37th District as an open seat. State Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) is a lock for one of the general election slots, so the competition among six others is for the second qualifying position. It is likely another Democrat will accompany Sen. Kamlager to the general election.

Freshman Rep. Young Kim* (R-La Habra) is moving to a 40th District of which she sees only a 20% carryover from her current 39th CD, but the new seat is considerably more Republican and Orange County anchored. The most likely conclusion is Rep. Kim and physician Asif Mahmood (D) advancing into the general election. The Democrats, however, are advertising on behalf of Mission Viejo Councilman and frequent congressional candidate Greg Raths (R), hoping that he can clip Rep. Kim for one of the general election positions and instead advance with Dr. Mahmood.

The open 42nd District that stretches from the Long Beach port into LA proper, is safely Democratic. It wouldn’t be surprising to see two Democratic Garcias advance into the general election: Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and state Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia.

Rep. Michelle Steel* (R-Orange County) is moving from the coastal seat into an interior Orange County district that includes more of the Asian community and an area that she formerly represented on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. It is most likely that she and Community College Trustee Jay Chen (D) move into the general election. As a D+5 seat according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization, this 45th District campaign will be highly competitive in November.

While Rep. Steel is moving from the coast inland, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) is taking the opposite trek. She will move to the coastal seat that Rep. Steel could have chosen. This general election, almost assuredly to feature Rep. Porter and former state Assemblyman and ex-Orange County Republican Party chairman Scott Baugh, will also become expensive and intense. Rep. Porter is one of the most prolific fundraisers in the House, already having more than $10 million in the bank for the 2022 general.

Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) will face a difficult 49th District general election in another D+5 district that stretches from the south Orange County coastal region deep into San Diego County. The question for Tuesday will be who secures the second general election ballot position. Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, San Juan Capistrano Councilman and two-time congressional candidate Brian Maryott, and Oceanside City Councilman Christopher Rodriguez are all viable Republican candidates, one of whom will become Rep. Levin’s serious general election competitor.

* denotes the candidate has received an AGC PAC contribution during the 2021-2022 election cycle. 


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