Last week Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) announced his candidacy for Governor of California.
Allen, a firebrand conservative, will no doubt be popular with grassroots conservative activists around the state. The irony is that Allen’s candidacy may end up being a reason why California voters may be choosing between two Democrats on their general election ballots.
There are two factors that, together, augur bad news for Allen, and other would-be GOP governors of the Golden State.
The first was the passage of Proposition 14, the so-called “Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act,” which went into effect in 2012. That measure changed the manner of voting in all partisan primaries in California, except for President of the United States, so that any voter could cast his or her vote for any candidate, from any party, – and the two candidates receiving the most votes advance to the general election. No longer does the top voter from each political party have a guaranteed spot on the November ballot.
The other factor is the decisive and overwhelming voter registration advantage that Democrats have over Republicans in California. As of February 10 there were 8,600,440 registered Democrats in California, and only 5,027,714 Republicans. (In addition, there are 4,762,212 voters with no party preference).
Then it is a simple matter of math. With three and half million more Democrats than Republicans eligible to vote in the next gubernatorial election, it is extraordinarily likely that two Democrats will be the top vote winners. In fact, the optimal path for the Republican Party to have a candidate make the runoff is for there to be just one serious GOP candidate on the ballot.
Prior to Allen’s entry into the race, the Republican hoping to be that lone candidate was wealthy businessman John Cox. Cox has dropped millions of dollars of his own money into the race in a clear effort to establish himself as a front-runner, with the likely purpose of trying to scare another Republican who has flirted with running, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, out of announcing his own candidacy. As if having two legitimate candidates in the race wasn’t problematic enough, besides the potential Faulconer candidacy, former NFL football player Rosey Grier, a Republican, has said that he is running. And former GOP Assemblyman David Hadley has also been telling people that he is considering a bid.
Right now there are four major Democrats already in the race: Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, State Treasurer John Chiang, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. Hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer is also openly flirting with a candidacy.
But Democrats do not face the same challenge as Republican with greater numbers of candidate. Because California has become a solidly blue state over time, the fundraising base for GOP candidates for governor has whithered to virtually nothing. It will be like pulling teeth for all of them to raise a piddling amount. Cox may put in a million or two more, but that is a drop in the bucket compared to the many tens of millions that will be collectively raised and spent by the Democrats. And that is not counting the large multi-million dollar independent expenditure campaigns that the public employee unions in California will spend to support their favorite Democrats.
This isn’t rocket science. There is no serious money to help push a Republican into the runoff because, frankly, the run-off, if between a Republican and a Democrat, will not be competitive. The massive voter registration advantage held by the Democrats ensures the outcome.
Look to the race for the United States Senate last year to see how this “shut out of the general election” scenario plays out for the California GOP. Three anemically funded Republicans duked it out against each other and against two prominent, and well funded, Democrat partisan officeholders. The result was a top two runoff featuring Attorney General Kamala Harris (D-San Francisco) and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) – with Harris ending up the ultimate winner.
Ironically, the when the primary sponsors of the open primary measure, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado, were promoting it to the voters, one of their biggest pitches was that its passage would result in greater voter choice in California.
But in fact voters now have less choice, forced to choose between two Democrats in runoff elections in statewide elections.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor for Breitbart California. His columns appears on this page. You can follow him on Twitter here.