Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Steve Hansen

May best win new 'jungle primaries'


California calls it a “jungle primary.”

There, you don’t declare a party, you just come out and vote.

So the law of the jungle applies. You get the most votes or the second-most, or you’re out. Party makes no difference.

It makes the general election a runoff contest between the two top vote-getters in the primary, whether they’re Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, or members of the Green Party, Peace and Freedom Party or no party at all.

Independent voters aren’t sidelined for the California primaries, as they are in New Mexico.

I think Californians — crazed as they are by idealized climates, spectacular scenery, beaches, mountains, traffic and smog — are again doing something first that other states may want to emulate.

Not the traffic and smog, of course, but the wide-open primary shows some promise.

It could lead to a situation in which a single election decides who gets the position, eliminating the middle-man primaries that cost taxpayers millions of dollars and cost contributors even more donated millions to campaign twice, not to mention the exhaustion of political capital that primaries cause within parties.

As it turned out, the top two contestants in the California governor’s races are establishment Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox, who is backed by President Donald Trump.

Despite Trump’s backing, however, Cox has been careful not to align himself too closely to the president in his campaign.

The winning candidate will have a Democratic lieutenant governor, either Eleni Kounalakis or Ed Hernandez.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, however, will face off against another Democrat, Kevin DeLeon, who is considered to be more liberal than the moderate incumbent.

Among Congressional districts that had recorded results as of Friday, it appears incumbents dominated in most of the races by wide margins, making the much-anticipated “flipping” of California Republican seats to Democrats look less than promising.

California Democrats do not seem poised to lose any seats, though, based on margins of victory.

In only two Congressional districts that had reported results as of Friday will candidates face opponents of the same party. That’s a Compton district, where Democratic incumbent Nanette Barragan will face fellow Democrat Aja Brown in November, and an eastern desert district, where Republican incumbent Paul Cook and fellow Republican Tim Donnelly will oppose each other.

Compton is urban and heavily African American. California’s eastern deserts tend to be sparsely populated and rural, including Death Valley, the vast, empty Mojave Desert and sparsely populated counties east of the Sierra Madre mountains. Rural equals Republican these days.

The jungle created by California’s all-but-nonpartisan primary seems to look very much like the jungle that was in place before this experiment, but it seems it could be a step toward eliminating primaries, which would be a worthy goal.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:




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