In The Year’s Biggest Primaries, Women Gained, While California Democrats Likely Avoided Shutouts

California’s “top two” primary system means a party with multiple primary candidates runs the risk of being shut out of the general election.

By Rhonda Fanning & Jill AmentJune 6, 2018 11:15 am

Tuesday was the biggest primary day yet this election season, with voters in eight states going to the polls.

Elizabeth Simas, assistant professor of political science at the University of Houston, says the California primary drew a lot of attention, because the state’s “top two” system sends the highest voter-getters, regardless of party, to the November general election ballot. A large number of Democrats in competitive congressional races meant it was possible Republicans could earn one or both places in the general election, if Democrats didn’t coalesce around one favorite.

“It looks like that’s not going to happen, but there are still two districts that are a little too close to call,” Simas says. “But it’s looking like there will be a Democrat in each of those districts.”

Simas says that in the races for governor and senator in California, Republicans were in danger of being shut out by the primary. A Republican did manage to win a spot in the gubernatorial race, but two Democrats will face off in the senate contest.

Simas says women running for office across the country, and in both parties, did well in Tuesday’s primaries.

“I think in a couple places – Iowa, New Mexico – we saw some women winning races and moving forward to November,” she says.

In November, success for candidates, especially in a time of relative economic prosperity, will depend on whether voters feel motivated to go to the polls.

“There’s a lot of debate about why Trump was able to win in 2016,” Simas says. “And more and more we’re finding that it really wasn’t economic anxiety. There were some other factors that came into play that his campaign was able to capitalize on, and so I think it’s going to come to setting on something that’s going to motivate people to get out. And right now, it looks like on the Democratic side, it’s just anti-Trump.”

Written by Shelly Brisbin.