CSUN Professor Says June Primary Results give Democrats Reasons to Be Excited for November

There were some predictions of a “Blue Wave” washing over California, with Democrats — hoping to largely tap into any real or perceived resistance to the Donald Trump agenda — overrunning Republicans in the June 5 state primary elections.

That didn’t quite happen on Tuesday. But the results indicated that there might still be a political upheaval in the November general mid-term elections. And that California can and should have a major influence on how those state and national races shape up.

“California will be a huge player in the national elections,” said Lawrence Becker, professor of political science at Cal State University Northridge.

Becker, who said he watched the election results deep into Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, believes the mid-term congressional elections here in November could bring control of the House of Representatives back to the Democratic Party. There are 53 seats up for grabs. If the Democrats win 23 of them, that total alone would give the party control.

The party nationally needs to win a of total 23 seats. 

Not predictable — but not impossible.

“Republicans do not have a candidate in about 10 of 53 seats,” Becker said. “A few of them are where Democrats ran unopposed, but a few others are where Republican challengers failed to get into the runoff.”

Unless one candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters then oppose each other in the next general election. In California, the top two can be from the same party.

Those results — a Democrat in every Congressional race — may be the biggest takeaway from Tuesday, the professor said.

“One of the big stories going in was the top two primary system in California,” he said. “There was a concern by Democrats of getting shut out of in a number of districts because they had too many candidates running and would split up the vote. I don’t think we have every final result, but if this holds it looks like the Democrats avoided a true catastrophe.”

Becker said there are seven congressional races where Democrats are trying to replace a sitting Republican, and if that happens the ripple effect could be felt across the country. One of those is in the 25th District, covering Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley. Incumbent Steve Knight is seeking a third term, and will be challenged by Democrat Katie Hill.

“[Knight’s] district is one of those that (Democrat presidental candidate) Hillary Clinton won in 2016,” Becker said. “Knight had 53 percent of the vote. But, for an incumbent, as a rule of thumb you usually like to see 55 percent or more and he didn’t get that. And Hill (by herself instead of a crowded field) might give the Democrats a better shot. The electorate in the fall will be different, though don’t know yet which way. But…that tells me [Knight’s seat] is a prime target for the Democrats.”

The Governor’s race between Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and and John Cox, a Republican is fascinating in part by how soundly Cox beat former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for the second spot, Becker said.

Although he expects Newsom to win, Becker said Cox definitely has the kind of issues — the gas tax and the state of immigration (even though that is more a federal issue that state) — that could bring out Republican voters to support him.

“In the Governor’s race, the big issue is the gasoline tax,” Becker said. “Democratss no longer have a super majority in the legislature and this is a warning signal. Cox is gonna make this a central issue in his campaign, plus the cost of living in California and the gas tax also plays into that theme.”

But Cox could be hurt by those congressional races throughout the state where there are Republicans running, or the candidate is perceived to have no chance to win.

“[Republican] voters may be less inclined to vote on other issues in that election,” Becker said. “Cox is not likely to beat Newsom, but it doesn’t help him to have districts where no Republicans are running for congress. It’s an extra obstacle he does not need.”