When Rep. Gary Miller this week became the latest California congressman to throw in the towel, the Rancho Cucamonga Republican in effect delivered his district into Democrats’ hands. While Miller’s is the only one of the five open House seats in California that analysts say is likely to flip from one major party to the other in this year’s elections, the state’s relatively new “top two” primary system is helping to reshape all of them. Contests in districts dominated by one major party, once essentially settled in primaries, could now continue into the fall. With the candidate fields still taking shape, those might include the races to succeed Republicans Howard P. “Buck” McKeon in northeast Los Angeles County and John Campbell in Orange County, for example.
The battle to succeed Henry Waxman on the coastal side of L.A. County could open the door — at least in the primary — to an independent with enough money and backing to overcome the Democrats’ registration edge.
Jim Mayer, who heads a nonpartisan good-government group that pushed for the top-two primary, said the open congressional races could help show how well it is working two years after its inauguration. The top two finishers in the primary now advance to November, regardless of any party affiliation, and all voters can choose among all candidates.
“The thing to watch will be where do these candidates position themselves,” said Mayer, chief executive of California Forward.