Voters head to the polls in California on Tuesday in what could be one of the most closely watched primary days of the midterm season.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Kevin de León. Feinstein is one of the most powerful Democrats in the Senate, and at 84, she’s also the oldest member of the chamber. De León is banking on the hope that California might be ready to elect a younger, more progressive candidate, but political science experts say he’s facing long odds.
California is also a crucial state in the battle for the House of Representatives. If Democrats have any chance of retaking the House this November, they’ll have to make huge gains in California — where Republicans hold 14 of the state’s 53 seats. Republican incumbents are desperately trying to cling to their seats in a deep-blue state, but Trump’s agenda — hardline immigration policies, Obamacare repeal attempts, and a tax bill that hit Californians hard — has put them on the defensive.
In the 48th District, Democrats are battling to unseat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, one of the most vulnerable Republicans of 2018. Rohrabacher is one of the strongest pro-Russia voices in Congress and has become rather unpopular in his Orange County district. Democrats also see prime pickup opportunities in Republican-held districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and they’re even taking aim at California’s most conservative member of Congress.
But the state’s bizarre “top two” primary system could shut Democrats out of some of these key races altogether. California pits all candidates of all parties against one another in a “jungle primary” and lets the first- and second-place finishers move on to the general election. That means the top two candidates advancing to the general elections could be from the same party — locking in the seat as red or blue months in advance.