Six years after voters passed Proposition 14, creating a top-two primary system, Californians are increasingly being asked to choose between two members of the same party for legislative seats.
There are 23 state legislative and congressional races this year that pit Democrats against Democrats or Republicans against Republicans -- 13 of them in the state Assembly.
And in a state where Democrats have an 18-point voter advantage over Republicans, the vast majority of these races are between Democrats. Additionally, voters for the first time in state history are being asked to decide between two members of the same party in the race to fill U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer's seat -- leading some likely voters to tell pollsters they plan to sit out that race entirely.
Proposition 14 was billed by its authors and supporters as a way to bring more moderate, pragmatic lawmakers to Sacramento and end some of the partisan bickering that had stalled many budget deals and other key legislation throughout the 2000s. Its full effects may still not yet be known, but it doesn't appear to have worked exactly the way its architects intended.
"What has happened during the open primary is that the races have become longer in calendar length, and much more expensive -- even though the number of races that are competitive, hotly contested, still remains relatively small," said David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University.
McCuan said Proposition 14 was aimed at giving voters better choices -- but it didn't take into account the way the major parties would react. Democrats, for example, don't always support candidates that hew to party leaders' ideological framework.
He noted that Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon -- who, by virtue of his position, has a hold on the party's pursestrings -- is part of the Democratic Party's liberal wing.
"But that doesn't mean he will support just liberals," McCuan said. "He wants to support winners. ... He will back people with philosophical differences if he thinks they can win and he can live with them."
This has given rise to a Legislature dominated by Democrats -- they are hoping to reclaim a two-thirds majority in each house on Tuesday -- but a Democratic caucus that splits on issues like business regulation and climate change policy.
"Democrats can afford to be polarized," McCuan said, and marginalized Republicans "can afford to act like the (right-wing) Freedom Caucus in Washington, D.C."
Besides setting up some awkward situations -- all of the candidates running for state Senate have served alongside one another as colleagues in the past -- it also sets up a choice some voters don't like.
In a September Field Poll looking at the U.S. Senate race between Democrats Loretta Sanchez, an Orange County congresswoman, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris, 12 percent of likely voters said they would vote for neither candidate or not vote at all.
But that figure hides a stark divide between voters from the major parties, with 30 percent of Republicans in the survey saying they'd stay on the sidelines compared with just 1 percent of Democrats.
Here's a list of the legislative races among members of the same party. The candidates are Democrats unless noted:
- District 10: Marc Levine vs. Veronica Jacobi
- District 14: Tim Grayson vs. Mae Torlakson
- District 23: Gwen L. Morris vs. Jim Patterson (Republicans)
- District 24: Marc Berman vs. Vicki Veenker
- District 27: Ash Kalra vs. Madison Nguyen
- District 30: Anna Caballero vs. Karina Cervantez Alejo
- District 39: Raul Bocanegra vs. Patty Lopez (incumbent)
- District 43: Laura Friedman vs. Ardy Kassakhian
- District 46: Adrin Nazarian (incumbent) vs. Angela Rupert
- District 47: Cheryl Brown (incumbent) vs. Eloise Reyes
- District 52: Freddie Rodriguez (incumbent) vs. Paul Avila
- District 53: Sandra Mendoza vs. Miguel Santiago (incumbent)
- District 71: Leo Hamel vs. Randy Voepel (Republicans)
- District 76: Rocky Chavez (incumbent) vs. Thomas Krouse (Republicans)