Historic Primary Election Produces Tight Race in 24th District

Yesterday, Californians voted in the first ever primary held under new rules approved by voters over the past four years. Proposition 11, passed in 2008, created a bipartisan Citizen’s Redistricting Commission responsible for shaping the districts that California’s Congressmen and state legislators represent in order to eliminate gerrymandering, while Proposition 14, passed in 2010, eliminated partisan primaries and instead created a system where voters can pick from a  wide range of candidates of whatever party affiliation and the top two candidates run off in the general election. Both of these measures were put into practice for the first time yesterday, as voters took part in the new-style nonpartisan primary for the newly-minted districts drawn up by the commission.

One of these new districts is getting attention from across the United States. The new 24th Congressional District, which covers San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties as well as parts of Ventura County, will see Congressional veteran and Democrat Lois Capps pitted against the Republican former Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado in the general election. The unofficial results show Capps taking 44.91% of the vote, with Maldonado winning 33.39%. The other two candidates, Tea Party favorite Chris Mitchum and independent Matt Boutté, won 18.75% and 2.87%, respectively.

Lois Capps, incumbent Democratic Congresswoman

Abel Maldonado, Republican former Lieutenant Governor

The 24th district has neither a clear Democratic nor Republican majority, making the upcoming general election a hotly-contested fight. Maldonado, who was the author of Proposition 14, plans to run on the platform of creating more jobs and getting the economy back on track. Capps, meanwhile, will probably make much of an IRS investigation into Maldonado’s farming business for unpaid taxes.

This will be the first time in many years that Capps will have faced a serious challenge to her Congressional seat, as her district had long been solidly Democratic before the reforms.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein cruised to a 44.4% lead in her reelection bid, facing an extremely divided field of 23 candidates, with the second-place finisher, Elizabeth Emken, receiving a mere 12.37% of the vote. Emken will face Feinstein in November. Races for the State Senate and State Assembly, meanwhile, were mere formalities, as there were only two candidates and both will automatically move on to the general election. Still, the winners of these contests were Democrat Bill Monning for State Senate and Republican Katcho Achadjian for State Assembly.

Meanwhile, the vote on Proposition 29, a bill to create a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes to fund cancer research, was too close to call as of midnight last night, but appears to have been defeated with a 50.8% “No” vote as of this morning. Another ballot measure, Proposition 28, was approved by a wide margin, with 61.4% of the vote. Prop 28 will change the term limits of state legislators. Instead of a maximum of six years in the Senate and eight in the Assembly, legislators will be restricted to 12 years total which may be served in either house.

And in my hometown of Morro Bay, Jamie Irons, a former city planning commissioner, won the race for Mayor with 52.97% of the vote, defeating incumbent Bill Yates, City Councilmember Carla Borchard, and local businessman Joe Yukich. The race for Morro Bay City Council, like those for State Senate and State Assembly, was also a formality as all four candidates automatically qualify for the runoff in November. Still, the results show that incumbent Noah Smukler received 37.12% of the vote, Christine Johnson 31.71%, Joan Solu 17.43%, and James R. Hayes 13.53%.

You can see the full election results here.

Information from The Tribune, The Orange County Register, and Your Central Coast News.