Top of the 9th

What will Proposition 14—the “top two primary” law that voters just approved on June 8—really mean for California elections? Who knows? We’re funny about initiatives that way. Vote first, ask questions later.

But we do have an interesting case study happening right here in Sacramento’s 9th Assembly District.

Here, two progressive democrats, Kevin McCarty and Roger Dickinson remain neck and neck for the Democratic nomination.

The latest reports Bites saw showed Dickinson with 11,572 and McCarty with 11,354 votes. Each got about 35 percent of the Democratic vote, while runners-up Lauren Hammond, Chris Garland and Adam Sartain gathered about 10,000 votes collectively. The presumptive Republican nominee, Rick Redding, got 99 percent of the GOP vote in his primary, but garnered just 9,835 votes. The numbers are still changing, but you get the idea—this district belongs to the Democrats.

At press time, the race was still too close to call. But if Prop. 14 were in effect—it will kick in next year if it survives legal challenges—we would have known the outcome of this contest more than a week ago.

Both McCarty and Dickinson would be going on to the general election and Redding, along with other minority party candidates like Peace and Freedom Party’s Daniel Costa, would have to stay home.

Pretty unfair, right? In fact, Secretary of State Debra Bowen noted before the voting was over that an “army of lawyers” from the major and minor parties are ready to sue to stop implementation of Prop. 14. A similar law in Washington state was tied up in the courts for four years.

But Bites talked to Kim Alexander with the California Voter Foundation about the measure, and she has a somewhat counterintuitive take.

“I think it’s going to be better for all parties, actually,” she said. In fact, Alexander thinks Prop. 14 could actually invigorate the third parties, boost their registration numbers and give them more influence over all.

Consider: Bites used to register Green, and still would, but the Democratic primaries are where all the action is. How many more people would register Green or Peace and Freedom or Libertarian if they didn’t have to sit out of some of the most competitive races every election year? Prop. 14 opens party primaries to all voters. “Most minor parties aren’t competing in the election in any way right now. I think this will help them recruit more members,” Alexander explained.

Back to the Assembly 9th: Whoever wins the democratic primary is going to win the general in November.

If you’re one of those 9,835 people who voted for Rick Redding, the sad fact is that Dickinson and McCarty aren’t too worried about your vote or your weird ideas about limited government and tort reform and illegal immigration. Sure, your candidate will be on the ballot. But at this point, you are pretty much irrelevant to the process. Thanks for playing.

Ironically, dear Republican voter, you’d be better off without Redding on the ballot in November. Because those 10,000 Republican votes would suddenly be in play, and the two liberal Democrats would be looking for ways to appeal to at least some of those more conservative voters.

Bites supposes this is part of that “moderating influence” Prop. 14 supporters talked about. Frankly, for Bites, it would be pretty sad if Prop. 14 somehow ended the progressive streak in District 9. Some good things have come out of that tradition—like Deborah Ortiz, Darrell Steinberg and Dave Jones. Too much moderation can be a bad thing. But the people have spoken. Now we just have to figure out what they said.