California

5 Independents, 2 Greens, and 1 Libertarian Advance in California Runoffs

Top-two open primary produces eight non-major-party finalists out of 166 electoral positions.

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Mimi Robson ||| Mimi Robson
Mimi Robson

When California's Proposition 14 was debated and passed in 2010, thereby creating primary elections open to all voters regardless of party registration, activists on the outside of mainstream politics worried that it would amount to a death sentence for third parties. By graduating only the top two primary finishers to the general election, they warned, the new system would lock in the advantage of Democrats and Republicans.

So how did the outsiders fare in yesterday's California primary? Just eight—five independents, two Greens, and one Libertarian—advanced to compete for one of the 166 electoral positions in November's general election. And of those, only one finished within 30 percentage points of the front-runner.

The top vote-getter of the group actually won the first round: Steve Poizner, California's insurance commissioner as a Republican from 2007-2011, ran for his old job this time as an independent, getting 41.3 percent of the vote to Democrat Ricardo Lara's 40.6 percent. But Poizner will have a fight on his hands given that the third place finisher (with 13 percent of the vote) was also a Democrat, Asif Mahmood. Rounding out the insurance commissioner vote was Nathalie Hrizi of the Peace and Freedom Party with 5.1 percent, which was higher than any other third-party candidate for California's eight statewide elected offices. (The best of the four Libertarian Party showings for those posts was Gail Lightfoot's 2.4 percent for secretary of state, good for fifth place.)

Three of California's country-topping 53 seats in the House of Representatives will be contested in November by candidates without a "D" or "R" next to their name. Independent Ronald Paul Kabat should be chum for Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Monterey), the Green Party's Rodolfo Cortes Barragan will tilt at the windmill of Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-East L.A.), and Green Kenneth Mejia beat out Libertarian Angela McArdle, 12.1 percent to 8.5, for the opportunity to get clobbered by Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles).

Jeff Hewitt ||| Jeff Hewitt
Jeff Hewitt

Two other Libertarians lost close races to non-major-party finalists for State Senate. In Sacramento, rising start L.P. activist Janine DeRose finished a close fourth, with 10.4 percent of the vote, while independent Eric Frame moved onto the gold medal round with 14.6. In the South Bay, Mark Herd fell just short of independent Baron Bruno, 11.4 percent to 13.2. In State Assembly contests, aerospace engineer Alan Reynolds, a self-described "independent moderate centrist," finished second with 28.4 percent in a race against two Pasadena Democrats.

So is all hope lost for the Libertarian Party this November? No! L.P. State Chair Secretary Honor "Mimi" Robson advanced to the knockout round for State Assembly representing the great city of Long Beach with 17.4 percent of the vote, elbowing out a Democrat (13.6 percent) and Green (10.1) for the right to go up against incumbent Democrat Patrick O'Donnell. And Calimesa Mayor Jeff Hewitt, arguably the most effective L.P. politician in the state, made it to the finals of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors election, running on a platform of reforming public-sector pensions.

Having 166 electoral slots contested by just eight non-traditional pols—seven of whom are massive underdogs—does not sound like much. And as the great Richard Winger of Ballot Access News points out, "It appears that in November 2018, there will be only four states with no third party candidates on the ballot for any statewide race: Alabama, California, Maine, and Washington." That latter state pioneered the top-two open primary back in 2004.

Still, I recall in many election years past looking at a map of California districts and being able to draw a path for hundreds of miles before arriving at a contested House election; yesterday, only three of 53 House races featured just one candidate, and 25 had at least some third-party or independent challenger. I still think (unlike my former colleagues at the L.A. Times) that the law is a bad deal for third parties, which face obstacles enough in a system whose rules are largely crafted by our two 19th-century holdovers. But the results are interesting to chew on.

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  1. Mimi is the CA LP Chair, not secretary.

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  2. “In the South Bay, Mark Herd fell just short of independent Baron Bruno, 11.4 percent to 13.2.”

    I happen to live in this district, and did my research before voting. Baron Bruno, the independent in the race, ran for State Assembly here two years ago as a Libertarian. Mark Herd, the Libertarian in the race, ran on a platform that included amending the Constitution to overturn Citizen’s United. Given that, I don’t think that this race should be considered a loss for libertarians (or Libertarians, for that matter).

    1. You can’t fool me. “Baron Bruno” isn’t a real dude, that’s the name of a badguy from an old Popeye cartoon.

      1. And is thus, a perfect example of a libertarian candidate.

  3. It’s all rigged. Stop re-electing people.

    1. ^^^ esta.

    2. It’s all rigged. Stop voting

    3. Trump should put CA under martial law.

      1. Trump should nurse his bone spurs while tweeting for the gullible, anti-social, and backward.

  4. Every second June in California I keep hoping we get closer to answering the question:

    Were the supporters of Top Two actively malicious or just very deluded?

    1. Why not both malicious AND very deluded? There are certainly some on the far left and far right who are both. The big difference is that the far left has a shot at setting policy in Calif.

  5. As a Californian we are Lucky anything with out a D in front of their names made it.

    1. Gavin Newsom did his part to attain this goal.

      All his commercials were about the most progressive accomplishments he had, with the goal of alienating anyone he could into voting Republican against him.

  6. Honor “Mimi” Robson

    I have the feeling that come November, there’ll be no place for Honor in CA politics.

    1. Judging from her website she seems like an actual libertarian and not a “Libertarian” *wink* *wink*

      Shame she has zero chance at winning

    2. would honor her efforts

  7. 5 independents, 2 greens, and 1 libertarian walk into a bar…

    1. The libertarian says – “I think we should each purchase our own drinks from our own earnings, since nobody should be forced to pay for someone else’s personal gain”…

      1. And then he goes home alone but with principles firmly intact?

        1. And flat broke after being rolled by the 2 greens who swear they’re pacifists.

          1. they were hot.

    2. Why always a bar? Why can’t they walk into a bakery or something.

      “5 independents, 2 Greens, and 1 Libertarian walk into a bakery and insist that the baker be forced by the State to produce the cake that they demand. Everyone rolls their eyes and feel better about voting Republican”

      1. 5 independents, 2 Greens, and 1 Libertarian walk into a taqueria. They are all disappointed because California Mexican food is garbage compared to Tucson.

        1. You people are not funny…

          5 independents, 2 greens, and 1 libertarian walk into a bar….

          The democrat ducks and registers the other 8 as democrats while they are knocked unconscious. The republican who witnesses it is outraged and then accidentally shoots himself in the back of the head

          1. Sorry you fucking Commiefornian. Sorry that your Mexican food is gay.

            1. I’m afraid I don’t know much about California Mexican food. I imagine it’s healthier than I would want it to be

            2. Mission area SF mexican food is legit.

              Tucson has fucking radishes and queso fresca.

          2. My version might be too dark. I guess the Republican could just fall into an open sewer

            1. I liked it, though the wording was initially a bit unclear

      2. Why would the libertarian use state force to get what he wants? Why not offer up a couple of orphans to reduce the baker’s labor costs, or start a bakery across the street and grind him to dust through competition?

    3. 5 independents, 2 greens, and 1 libertarian walk into a bar…and the 2 greens order organic, fair trade drinks for everyone. The bartender asks the libertarian if he would like a leppo in his drink.

      1. Now that’s funny!

  8. Gail Lightfoot’s 2.4 percent for secretary of state, good for fifth place.

    Biggest wreck for a Lightfoot since the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    1. I appreciate this stab at Gordon. Well played.

  9. Ds and Rs combined for just a little over 98% of the spots… they’re doomed!

    1. Check that – 95%… even better!

      1. Major party elimination inevitable now!

  10. Not a single win for Apathy Party candidates?

    1. If it’s any consolation, non-voters won by a margin of 2-1.

  11. I’d like to include ranked voting, so candidates moving to the general election have more broad based support.

  12. And you really don’t grasp that those 8 democrats aren’t thinking that they’re running unopposed now?

  13. Libertarian Chris Stare will also be on the Ballot in November for the 51st State Assembly Seat in California. Though still waiting certification, he was the only write-in candidate to run against the uncontested incumbent in a district that is probably one of the most immigrant heavy in Los Angeles if not the country – no wonder the GoP doesn’t bother to run anyone there eh? The immigrant communities, perversely tend to be VERY conservative – no wonder the GoP is dead (yet to be interred) in California.

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  15. To be clear, Councilman Jeff Hewitt came in second in a non-partisan race for County Supervisor—party labels were not on the ballot. And because they are non-partisan, those races have always been “top two” in format. He’s a really good guy, but he’s got a tough race in front of him.

  16. What is really exciting was how Jeff Hewitt’s campaign performed against the ground game they ran. Having heard his campaign manager speak at an activist conference I was impressed. This was no lark. They had precinct walkers, billboards, radio ads, and something like 200,000 mail pieces go out in the 6 weeks running up.

    The effects are shown in the vote totals. The chart he showed had Jeff Hewitt going from 7 points behind from the early absentee count to just 400 votes behind the “favorite” from all those who voted at the poll. Apparently the Republican they are up against is a dumptruck who couldn’t keep himself away from graft his first term as an California Assemblymember 10 years ago.

    Apparently the competition is VERY worried. The once “conservative” Republican that Jeff Hewitt is trouncing is now speaking at SEIU meetings and reaching out to CalPERS for donations. He should probably change his party registration to Democrat for the support he is pursuing. It is very interesting that the unions would turn to Republicans over Libertarians, ain’t it?

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