By Kathleen Ronayne, Associated Press
(AP) — More than a quarter of California voters aren't registered in a political party, making independents the fastest growing share of voters in the state, according to state data released Thursday.
They're nipping closer at the heels of Republicans; that party now outpaces independents by just 30,000 voters.
"The Republicans aren't capturing the new California, and I think this is a result of especially the national party brand dragging down Republicans in California," Thad Kousser said, chair of the political science department at the University of California in San Diego.
Independent voters, who register as 'no party preference,' grew by about 1 million since April 2014 to roughly 4.73 million registered voters. Republicans, meanwhile, have 4.76 million voters, down by about 300,000 since 2014.
Democrats' 8.4 million voters make up the largest share of the California electorate, at 44 percent. The party's share of the vote has held steady, dipping on occasion. Between January and April of this year, for example, both Republicans and Democrats lost some voters as independents gained.
Even a slight slide is troubling news for Republicans, who risk coming out of the June 5 primary without a candidate on the ballot for U.S. Senate or governor, although their chances are better in the governor's race.
But the data does provide some good news for Republicans: They still outpace Democrats among registered voters in several key congressional districts. Democrats are targeting seven California U.S. House seats where Hillary Clinton won more votes than Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race.
In the 48th District, where incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is seeking re-election, Republicans make up 40 percent of registered voters compared to Democrats, at 30 percent. In the 49th District, the seat being vacated by Rep. Darrell Issa, Republicans hold a 5-point edge. It's tighter in the 39th District, where Rep. Ed Royce is retiring, but Republicans still edge Democrats.