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Top Two Changing How Some Candidates Campaign


California’s primary system means the top two vote getters in the primary move on to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. Allan Hoffenblum publishes the California Target Book, which tracks state and federal legislative races. He says the system was designed to benefit candidates who can attract the most cross-over votes.

"And the hope was that we’d end up with electing legislators that are more representing the district as a whole," he says. "If it’s a conservative district they will still have a conservative, if it’s up in the Bay Area they will still be a liberal. But they might not necessarily be as ideological as they were under the old system."

Hoffenblum says there are currently same-party races in California for three state Senate seats, nine Assembly seats and three congressional seats. The candidates for state Superintendent of Public Instruction are also both democrats.

Sacramento is feeling the effects of California’s new top-two primary system. There are a couple races in the area where members of one political party are facing each other in next week’s general election. Hoffenblum says the state Senate race between democratic Assembly members, Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan is a good example of how interests can split in same-party races.

"Dickinson is getting almost all of his money from public employee unions and progressive groups," he says. "Whereas Richard Pan is getting most of his money from more centrist groups and more pro-business groups."

Hoffenblum says the state Assembly race between Sacramento City Council members Kevin McCarty and Steve Cohn is another good example of people in the same party getting money and support from different sources.

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