Live From California: Post Primary Take Aways for Democrats By Nicky Riordan
While Democrats managed to hold a place in all of the necessary midterm races in California this week, the outcome of Tuesday's vote might have them on edge going into November.
Democratic contenders vied for spots in seven Republican-held Congressional seats being targeted in the effort to win back the House later this year. California’s “jungle” primary system had some party leaders and analysts worried that no Democrats would move to the general election in these key races, giving the party fewer opportunities to win the 20+ seats needed to take back the House.
In CA-45, 48, and 49, there were two or three viable and popular Democratic candidates on the ballot, all with key endorsements and constituencies on their side. Considered three of the most important of the districts up for grabs, the Democrats couldn’t afford any shutouts and will not see them in November.
In all three districts, the Democrats evenly split their votes Tuesday and could not beat the leading Republican candidates on their own, so it will be extremely important that they consolidate support before November if they wish to win the seats.
There is also optimism outside the key seven districts after Tuesday. In District 50, for instance, a Democratic candidate will move on to the general election despite the fact that registered Republicans in the district outnumber Democrats 42 to 27 percent and the Hunter family has not lost this seat in decades.
The 50th saw its own progressive uprising after the 2016 election, and local activists have managed to consolidate enough support to hang on to a spot in the general. If turnout is high, and they are able to register enough new voters, it could be an unprecedented upset and it is a race worth following.
Indeed, success for Democrats in November will still largely depend on overall turnout and coordination in the runup to the general. The challenge is that constituencies needed for such turnout tend to be unreliable. Moreover, a Republican will in fact be on the ballot in November in the statewide race for Governor, which means turnout for Republicans will be high.
Whether or not the different factions in key districts and across the state are able to reconcile and work together will be an important development to watch, as not only will this impact the makeup of Congress after November, but it will also signal the battle ahead for the party in winning back the White House in 2020.
Nicky Riordan, Political Analyst, Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research