New Calif. Primary System Fuels a Moderate Renaissance

Thursday, 07 Jun 2012 11:23 AM

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Moderate lawmakers, considered a dying breed on Capitol Hill, may soon see their ranks swell due to a change in California’s primary system, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The new system, in which the top two primary vote recipients advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation, has sent a host of moderate Republicans and Democrats to compete in November.

The state’s old, closed primary system incentivized candidates to invest more energy in stoking the base than reaching across the aisle.

Lawmakers in heavily gerrymandered districts were more likely to face a credible primary challenger than a general election threat.

Under the new open primary system, candidates may be encouraged to place pragmatism above purity. Some general election races feature two competitors from the same party. Other, bipartisan general election contests will pit a moderate challenger against a more doctrinaire incumbent. Both trends have spurred predictions that candidates’ platforms will have to reach beyond the base and speak to the middle of the electorate to secure victory.

"For their entire careers, many of these candidates have been elected by targeting the ideological base of their respective parties. For the first time, they will be forced to talk to independent voters and voters from across the aisle," Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said.


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