California is the state of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and has a long history of Republican right-wing politics and politicians. However in today’s environment California Republicans are an endangered species. According to an article in the New York Times, “there may be no Republican candidate for governor or United States senator on the state’s ballot this November.”
The Times article goes on to say:
“That dispiriting possibility is beginning to sink in for California Republicans, against the backdrop of a divisive debate among its candidates and leaders on how the embattled party can become competitive again in the state.”
“If Republicans fall short in capturing one of those two November slots next month, which members of both parties say is a strong possibility, it would apparently be the first election where there was no major party candidate for both the Senate and governor races since 1914.”
The problem is that the Golden State has a top-two primary system in which the first- and second-place finishers proceed to the general election in November, even if they are in the same party. This happened in the most recent California race for the U.S. Senate which was won by Sen. Kamala Harris.
In some California congressional districts the top two finishers will be Republicans, and Democrats may be shut out of these. Four of them are districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, so this might hurt the Democrats chances of taking back the House of Representatives, if it happened.
But in the top two statewide races, which will get the most attention and drive voter turnout, there does not appear to be any GOP candidate with a chance to finish first or second. If this happens, and no Republican appears on the ballot for those offices, then there is a good chance that many voters will stay home, hurting Republicans.
Incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein is facing progressive challenger Kevin de Leon in the primary, and it appears that de Leon has enough support for him to be the runner-up, which will shut out the GOP senate candidates.
The race for governor has two high-profile Democrats squaring off: Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (the favorite to win) and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has started an expensive TV ad campaign.
The Republican candidates for governor are splitting a minority share of the vote. One candidate is strongly pro-Trump and the other one is not. By splitting the GOP vote neither candidate has much of a chance to finish second and appear on the November ballot.
It will be interesting to see how this drama unfolds in the fall, because if GOP turnout is down in congressional districts, and if Democrats pick up more House seats, this would help California Rep. Nancy Pelosi to become Speaker of the House again.