Monday, June 4, 2018

(F)or California Democrats and progressives looking West for inspiration, the race has already taken on the scent of a missed opportunity

...election day will culminate a contest that has morphed into a bizarre exercise in gaming California’s unusual, top-two primary system. Confronted with a primary in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation, supporters of the leading Democrats in the race, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, focused their attention on elevating one of two lesser-known Republican candidates in an effort to manipulate the election’s outcome.

In a state where Republican registration has cratered — it now hovers at about 25 percent statewide — Newsom has a far greater chance of defeating the leading Republican, John Cox, than Villaraigosa. So the lieutenant governor has aired advertisements highlighting Cox’s conservative credentials for Republican voters to bolster his chances of finishing second.

Supporters of Villaraigosa, meanwhile, have promoted the candidacy of Republican Travis Allen in an effort to depress Cox’s share of the primary vote — and to help the former mayor’s chances of gaining a spot on the November ballot.

“Nobody even cares who wins,” said Steve Maviglio, a Democratic strategist in Sacramento. “It’s about who comes in second.”

State Treasurer John Chiang, lagging far behind in the race, released an ad recently with a more biting assessment.

“The race for governor,” he said, “has turned into a scam.”