This year’s California statewide primary election has no hot-button initiatives on the ballot to capture voters’ attention. What it does have is a wealth of seriously contested local races and a new twist that gives voters more choice in key contests. For the first time since California voters swapped partisan primaries for the “top-two” system, statewide constitutional officers will be on the June 3 ballot. That means voters will have a chance to select from a list that includes candidates with a wide range of political leanings in races from governor to secretary of state, as well as for the Legislature and Congress. As we help you navigate the ballot, here are four of the more intriguing races:
Gov. Jerry Brown’s high public approval rating, coupled with the Democratic-leaning makeup of California’s electorate, virtually guarantees that Brown will finish first in the June primary election.
The jockeying is for second place.
From a small field of Republicans bidding to unseat Brown, only one will advance to the Nov. 4 runoff election. Who that is will speak volumes about the party’s ideological direction.
Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount, still on the ballot, has dropped out of the race. The GOP field also includes Glenn Champ, a registered sex offender who describes himself as “a new breed of Christian soldier.”
The frontrunner for most of the year, Tim Donnelly, is a state assemblyman from Twin Peaks and a tea party favorite. The best-funded candidate is Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official whose social views – he supports same-sex marriage – are more moderate.
Donnelly has rallied the party’s base and earned the endorsement of the conservative California Republican Assembly. Kashkari has the support of prominent Republican politicians, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Secretary of state
Debra Bowen’s impending departure as secretary of state marks the first time since 2002 that no incumbent is running for California’s top elections post.
Eight candidates are on the ballot. But one of those, indicted state Sen. Leland Yee, ended his candidacy within days of his March 26 arrest on corruption and conspiracy charges.
The corruption cases against Yee and state Sen. Ron Calderon, as well as the conviction of state Sen. Rod Wright on charges that he lied about where he lived when he ran for office in 2008, have injected political ethics into the secretary of state’s race more than any contest on the June ballot.
Candidates actively campaigning for the job include Republican Pete Peterson, director of the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University; state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles and independent Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.
The leading candidates have touted goals to reduce the role of money in the political process. Candidates also say they will encourage more people to register to vote. California has at least 6.4 million residents eligible to vote who are not registered.
U.S. House 7
Nearly all incumbent congressional candidates win re-election. If there is a time to knock them off their perch, it’s immediately after they’ve served their first term.
That’s the calculation contemplated by Republicans Igor Birman, Elizabeth Emken and Doug Ose in their challenge of Rep. Ami Bera. The Elk Grove Democrat won the suburban Sacramento County seat in 2012 in a rematch with Dan Lungren.
The 7th District – including Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights and Folsom – has been on the national chessboard since it was redrawn to comprise a nearly even number of Democratic and Republican voters.
Birman, on leave as an aide to Rep. Tom McClintock, and Ose, who served three terms representing the former 3rd district, have commanded much of the attention.
Birman, who has support from tea party organizations and gun owners groups, characterizes Ose’s voting record on taxes, spending and immigration as too moderate for area voters. Ose trumpets his votes to slash taxes and spending and promises to repeal and replace the new health care law.
Emken, who moved with her family to Fair Oaks from Danville to run for the seat, is a veteran autism advocate who says she wants to fight in Washington for families and children.
Jan Scully had some nominal opposition four years ago, but it’s been 20 years since Sacramento has had a real contest in the race for district attorney.
Such is not the case this year. Scully is set to leave the office she won in 1994.
She has endorsed an inside candidate to replace her in Deputy District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, 50, a career prosecutor with nearly a quarter-century of experience. In Sacramento, Schubert has worked homicides, supervised the child abuse and sexual assault unit and made a national name for herself as a DNA expert.
State Deputy Attorney General Maggy Krell, 35, is presenting Schubert with her stiffest challenge. Krell has raised more than $280,000 to finance her campaign. She has promised to search for alternatives to the “incarceration-first” approach she says has marked the Scully years and would continue with Schubert.
Todd Leras, 50, is the third candidate in the race, the only one who has worked as a public defender and a county and federal prosecutor as well as in private practice.
– Andy Furillo