Backers of California's new election system promised voters that the change would put more moderate politicians in elected office.
"Proposition 14 will result in elected representatives in Sacramento and Washington who are LESS PARTISAN and MORE PRACTICAL," supporters wrote in the official state voter guide for the 2010 primary, when voters approved the change.
California has now finished its first full run of the top-two primary, which sends the two candidates who win the most votes in the primary to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation.
While more moderate candidates certainly prevailed in a handful of November races, it's too early to tell whether the wins on Tuesday will translate to a less-partisan, more- practical Legislature and congressional delegation.
What is clear, observers say, is that the combination of the top-two primary and a new set of political district maps drawn by a voter-created citizen commission instead of state legislators made this year's elections more competitive than in years past.
Nearly a fifth of races between candidates from opposing parties were decided by a margin of 10 points or less more than double the average number of close races over the last decade, according to an analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California. The victory margin was 10 points or less in about one-third of the 28 races featuring two candidates of the same party, a direct result of the new primary.
"It definitely created more competition, mostly by creating these same-party races in districts that just would have been a cakewalk before," PPIC policy fellow Eric McGhee said. "No question."
Some observers said Election Day was also a good day for candidates closer to the middle. "The more moderate candidate in these same-party races, a surprising number tended to prevail," Republican political analyst Tony Quinn said.
Republican Rico Oller, a former lawmaker who sought to return to the Assembly, said before the election that he wouldn't sacrifice his conservative principles to win.
"If you'll give up what you believe in to win an election, you're exactly the wrong kind of person to have in politics," he said.
Oller was defeated by Frank Bigelow, a Madera County supervisor who declined to sign an anti-tax pledge. He was one of several Republicans who beat more conservative rivals in legislative or congressional races.
Several business-backed Democrats also won in some same-party fights, including Raul Bocanegra in the 39th Assembly District, while two Democrats who defeated Republicans in swing key Assembly districts did so in part by touting their pro-business records. In a number of races, a June win set up a moderate for victory in a noncompetitive general election contest.
McGhee, who studies both election changes for the PPIC, cautioned that the campaign isn't always an indication of how a candidate will perform in office.
"A lot more candidates position themselves as moderates when they're running than actually govern that way," he said, noting that elected officials face pressures from the party and other influences once they get to Sacramento or Washington.
Some consultants also question how far apart the candidates in the same-party races actually were.
"A lot of these Democrats are just two shades of vanilla, and the differences are minor," Democratic consultant Andrew Acosta said during a Capitol Weekly panel.
That, Acosta said, made many of the same-party races come down to "personality, not policy."
Personality, as well as roots in the newly drawn district, came into play in the 30th Congressional District, where Rep. Brad Sherman defeated fellow Democratic Rep. Howard Berman in one of the most high-profile same-party fights of the election.
That race wasn't the only one that caused an incumbent to lose to a rival of the same political leaning.
Democratic Rep. Pete Stark, 81, lost his bid for a 21st term for a East Bay congressional seat to Dublin councilman Eric Swalwell, his 31-year-old Democratic challenger. Sen. Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Chino, knocked out Democratic Rep. Joe Baca with the aid of a late spending blitz from a committee run by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Two Assembly incumbents Betsy Butler and Michael Allen are on the brink of losing to fellow Democrats as well.
While redistricting played a big factor in many of those losses, with incumbents fighting to win over voters they didn't previously represent, the result could keep current members and leadership on their toes.
"You're going to have incumbents feeling like maybe they could be challenged, and maybe they could be challenged from the left and maybe they could be challenged from the right," said Political Data Inc. Vice President Paul Mitchell, whose firm collects and analyzes voter data.
"And how much is the caucus in the Senate or the Assembly going to be able to do to protect them if four or five or six legitimate challenges happen around the state?"