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California Dreaming: Why New Election Rules Won't Help Centrists California Dreaming: Why New Election Rules Won't Help Centrists

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Politics

California Dreaming: Why New Election Rules Won't Help Centrists

The new rules will also have a dramatic effect in the general election pitting one of the most liberal members of Congress, Rep. Pete Stark, against newcomer Eric Swalwell. Republicans make up a small minority of the vote in the highly-Democratic district, but there's little doubt they'll use their opportunity to vote for his Democratic challenger Indeed, Stark will have a very difficult time convincing the moderate and Republican voters in the district to support him, given his record. Stark only received 42 percent of the vote against Swalwell and an independent candidate; the 20-term congressman now looks like the underdog in November. Republicans face their own member-member general election matchup in a San Bernardino-area seat where Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif, is running for re-election. The Democratic candidate, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, finished third in the first round of balloting. That means Miller and Republican Bob Dutton will be battling to win the support for a lot of the Democrat's supporters this November. They can't afford not to -- it's a Democratic-leaning district that President Obama carried in 2008. One of the major flaws with the top-two system is that it presumes that less-partisan voters will treat the primary like a general election, and show up in droves like they would in November. Instead, the same pattern of the past remained: The most partisan Republicans and Democrats turned out to vote this week, making it difficult for any independent candidate to gain much traction except in districts with unique circumstances (when one party fields many more candidates than the other, or when an independent has a political base, like in CA-26). But the rules also create the likelihood of some very unconventional campaigns with Republicans appealing to Democrats, and Democrats courting Republicans. That doesn't mean that, once candidates get elected, they'll become more moderate and change their voting behavior. It does mean they'll pander as much as possible to win.

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