Capitol Alert

Six California election races to watch on Tuesday night

‘It has to be tackled’: Top governor candidates on affordable housing

Some of California's top candidates for governor, including Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, Amanda Renteria and Travis Allen, talk about the need for affordable housing in California and their strategies for achieving the goal.
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Some of California's top candidates for governor, including Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, Amanda Renteria and Travis Allen, talk about the need for affordable housing in California and their strategies for achieving the goal.

If you're not a political junkie (and even if you are), Tuesday's primary election in California may seem a bit of a snooze. But the consequences for statewide and national politics are significant. Here's a guide to key races to watch and what the outcome could mean:

Will Democrats take back Congress in November?

The party could conceivably send competitive, well-funded Democrats to the general election contests for all 10 Republican-held House seats it is targeting.

But thanks to California's open primary system — in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party — Democrats could also end up shut out in three of the most competitive congressional districts, seriously denting the party's chances of taking back control of the House.

"We’re looking at a jump-ball scenario," said Dave Jacobson, a Los Angeles-based Democratic strategist who is advising candidates in two Southern California congressional races. "This is really going to be a razor-thin margin, and it’s largely going to come down to (get-out-the-vote operation) and who can mobilize their base vote while simultaneously peeling off those undecided, persuadable voters at the last minute."

One clue, in particular, could come in the 49th congressional district, where incumbent Darrell Issa is retiring. The sheer number of candidates from both parties has made it difficult to game out exactly how the vote will splinter.

In Issa's district, which features four competitive Democrats and three leading Republicans, GOP candidates could finish first and second, said Whalen, but "I could also make the case that two Democrats are going to advance."

Also keep an eye on which party secures general election spots in the 39th and 48th District races.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to the California Democratic party's annual convention on Feb. 24, 2018 in San Diego.

Could California essentially decide on Jerry Brown's replacement?

Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is likely to lead the pack, but the question of who will come in second and proceed with him to the general election really matters. Republican businessman John Cox has been edging former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for the number-two slot.

Because it is now exceedingly difficult for a Republican to win a statewide race in California, a Cox victory would mean Newsom could start thinking about moving to Sacramento.

The outcome also has significance for the congressional races. President Donald Trump wants Cox to win – he endorsed him even though Cox didn't vote for him – because a Republican at the top of the ticket will encourage members of that party to cast ballots in November.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would prefer that two Democrats head to November, energizing her party's voters statewide.

An ad funded by wealthy backers of charter schools on behalf of Antonio Villaraigosa's campaign for California governor attacks Republican John Cox for his history of unsuccessful political campaigns and his connections to Democrats.

Could an unknown Republican beat the former state Senate majority leader?

Longtime U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has a lock on first place in her run for re-election. But the most recent polling makes the race for the second spot in Tuesday's primary race for U.S. Senate a cliffhanger.

Sen. Kevin de León, who led the California Senate until he stepped down in March, is clinging narrowly to second place, which means a slot in the Nov. 6 runoff against Feinstein.

But little-known Republican James P. Bradley has a chance to pull through, as GOP voters look for one of their own with a respectable sounding ballot designation. Bradley, in his first-ever run for office, is listed as a "chief financial officer."

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein was in Sacramento on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at a roundtable discussion hosted by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.

Will a gas-tax vote send this state senator home?

Voters in the 29th Senate District will decide whether they are angry enough over Sen. Josh Newman's vote for a $52 billion gas tax and transportation fee increase to recall him from office.

Radio talk show hosts and Republicans have made Newman a poster child for the increase, which Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown sought in order to improve California roads. Polls have consistently shown voters still aren't happy about it.

Struggling with that California ballot? Here's what to know in key races

If the recall succeeds, Democrats will have a more difficult time regaining a two-thirds supermajority that allows them to pass tax increases and constitutional amendments without Republican help.

Statewide voters likely will have a chance to repeal it when they cast ballots again in November.

Sen. Josh Newman arrived on stage in a bear costume at the California Democratic Convention in May, then described how surprised he was to learn his vote for a gas tax increase had prompted a recall effort. Video courtesy of California Democratic

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