In California primaries, Democrats could crowd themselves out in key House races

Jon Ward
Senior Political Correspondent
Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Tasos Katopodis/NBC via Getty Images, Shutterstock (6))

In Tuesday’s California congressional primaries, Democrats are energized, enthusiastic and eager to send Trump a message. That could work against them.

That’s because of the unique rules governing primary elections in California, in which the top two vote-getters in the primary make it to the general election, even if those two top finishers come from the same party.

And these rules were intended to increase participation and fairness. But these rules might result in no Democrats making it to the general election this fall.

“Welcome to reform,” said Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report and host of WNYC’s “The Takeaway.” “There are your unintended consequences right there.”

Walter spoke to Yahoo News’ podcast, “The Long Game,” about the impact of California’s primary rules, and about the forces that created the desire for such a system.

Anti-Trump sentiment has drawn a large field of Democrats into multiple primaries in California. But in three districts in particular (the 39th, the 48th and the 49th), where there are two viable Republican candidates, Democrats could split their votes among several candidates, leaving two Republicans as the top two vote-getters.

“What most humans do is say, Oh my God, there are way too many choices. I don’t know who all these people are and nobody has the time to go research 17 people. They want the party to help manage that for them. Just tell me who the Democrat is,” Walter said. “Politico quoted this woman who I’m sure when they opened this process said, ‘Yeah, what a great idea, the parties should get out of politics, let the people decide,’ and she’s quoted as saying, ‘If the party doesn’t help me, then how do I know? Isn’t that the job of the party to help me know what to do?’”

“You’re left in a situation now where you have Democrats — their No. 1 goal now is to win. They’re not really interested in ideology. They’re not really interested in some of the things that would have been important to them four years ago. It’s like, No, I want the candidate that’s going to beat the Republican, and we need to win this seat,” Walter said. “But it’s really hard to be pragmatic when … the party’s not stepping in.”

“It really is a can’t-win situation for the parties,” Walter said.

Download or subscribe on iTunes: “The Long Game” from Yahoo News


Read more from Yahoo News: