Bill Bloomfield probably won't win his congressional race in November, no matter how much he spends. But he has emerged as a poster politician for California's new political order.
It's easy to be glib about Tuesday's California primary and dismiss it as a flop. Voters stayed home in droves. Despite the new top-two primary system and district lines that were drawn by an independent commission rather than by politicians, no incumbent lost in any legislative or congressional race.
But before flipping the channel, take a look at Bloomfield.
At 61, he is a Southern California real estate man who also ran a family business that supplied laundry machines to apartment complexes and college dormitories. He used his wealth to spread money around politics, generally to Republicans, including $464,000 to Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaigns.
In 2008, he relocated for a time to Washington, D.C., to volunteer for Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, though he became disheartened when McCain moved to the right.
"I was not a fan of his vice presidential selection," Bloomfield said of Sarah Palin. "I wanted to broaden the party."
Intrigued by the prospect of overhauling the political system, Bloomfield donated $100,000 to the 2010 measure that created the open primary, and $633,000 to initiatives to strip politicians of the power to gerrymander.
More recently, Bloomfield renounced his Republican registration, and opened his wallet wide in a challenge to one of the lions of the Democratic Party, Rep. Henry Waxman. Odds are long that Bloomfield can win.
In the 33rd Congressional District, 44 percent of the voters are Democrats, compared to 28 percent who are Republican, and 22 percent who like Bloomfield decline to state a party preference. But without the open primary and newly drawn district lines, Bloomfield would not have a prayer against Waxman.
"I put a lot of time and money in on open primaries and on redistricting reform," Bloomfield told me Wednesday by phone from his Manhattan Beach home. "To be a part of taking advantage of these reforms, it is pretty cool."
Waxman, no slouch, made his name as the aggressive chairman of the House Oversight Committee, challenging the tobacco industry among others.
With his close friend, Rep. Howard Berman, Waxman built a formidable machine that for years dominated West Los Angeles politics. Waxman and Berman never had to worry about elections. Berman's brother, campaign consultant Michael Berman, drew congressional boundaries in ways that ensured their victories.
That was then. Berman, who is an expert on the Middle East, placed second in the primary in a new district against fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman, who is viewed as an expert on the San Fernando Valley.
At 72 and having served in Congress since 1975, Waxman is left to compete in a reconfigured district that runs from Malibu south along the Los Angeles County coast to Rancho Palos Verdes.
On Tuesday, 24 percent of the 17 million Californians who are registered to vote cast ballots, though that percentage will rise somewhat as uncounted votes are tallied. While turnout was dismal, people who cast their ballots had an impact.
Because of the top-two primary, as many as 13 Democrats will face fellow Democrats in Assembly races in the general election. Up to six Republicans running for the lower house will face one another.
In two state Senate contests, Democrats will run against one another. In congressional races, Republican will face Republican in two races, and there will be six Democrat vs. Democrat races.
That's a big deal.
In each race, candidates who are smart will try to attract voters from the opposite party. In the process, they will pull closer to the middle, away from the extremes of their parties.
For the most part, candidates who did not state a party preference stumbled. Most notably, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher quit the Republican Party and ran as an independent for San Diego mayor. He placed third.
Not so with Bloomfield. He came in second in a field of eight candidates with 25 percent of the vote, to Waxman's 46 percent.
Bloomfield hopes to occupy the middle and pointedly noted that he has not signed the no-tax pledge.
Waxman won't roll over. Like Berman, he is one of the most prolific fundraisers in Congress. Bloomfield will have to spend far more than the $1.1 million he has put in so far. But for the first time in decades, there will be competition in parts of Los Angeles and elsewhere around the state. That's not bad for democracy.