California’s “jungle primary” system, in which all candidates compete in a common primary, continues to befuddle the two major political parties. Just as in the 33rd congressional district, where a crowded field and strong campaigns by Republican and independent candidates could mean that no Democratic candidate emerges to succeed liberal stalwart Rep. Henry Waxman, the 31st district east of L.A. could see a similar fate.
That seat, currently held by retiring Rep. Gary Miller (R), was won by a Republican in 2012 despite the fact that 57% of the district’s voters backed President Barack Obama, notes Janet Hook in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. That is because four Democratic candidates split the primary vote, leaving two Republicans as the top finishers. Miller went on to win the general election and served a single term before declining to seek re-election in 2014.
The seat is seen as a potential pickup for Democrats, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has backed 34-year-old Pete Aguilar, the mayor of Redlands, who also ran in 2012. But the pro-choice group Emily’s List backed a rival, Eloise Gomez Reyes.
“The primary underscores how hard it can be for party leaders to clear the field for their anointed candidates–especially in today’s anti-Washington climate,” Hook observes.
In the 33rd district, the liberal independent candidacy of Marianne Williamson–who challenged Waxman even before he announced his retirement–captures the anti-incumbent mood of the district’s Democratic voters. The party’s establishment candidates, State Sen. Ted Lieu and former L.A. city controller Wendy Greuel, must face eight others. That gives Republican Elan Carr, who is mounting an aggressive effort, a narrow path to victory.
Photo: Gomez Reyes campaign