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Commentary: Second ‘open’ primary lends weight to June election

Issue Date: May 14, 2014
By Casey Gudel
Mailboxes are filling with campaign mailers, as the June 3 primary election approaches.
Casey Gudel

By now, your mailboxes should be filling with campaign advertisements, your answering machine whirring with phone calls from candidates urging your support, and every other commercial on the television is politically charged. That's right—we are in the height of campaign season!

The June 3 Primary Election is fast approaching and you should have already received your sample ballot in the mail. This is the second California election cycle where the "top-two" open primary is in place, allowing the two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, to advance to the general election in November.

Proposition 14, a measure passed by voters in 2010, replaced the traditional ballot that listed candidates according to party with a new system that places every candidate on the primary ballot, regardless of party affiliation. As a result, the list of candidates to choose from, especially in the statewide races, can be long.

Farm Bureau supports the open primary as a way of changing the face of government. Under the previous primary system, we saw more legislators elected from the extreme ends of the political spectrum. That made it very difficult to make the productive, pragmatic decisions in Sacramento that are needed to grow our economy. The old system also impeded open dialogue on the many important issues that California needs to address.

The results from the 2012 election cycle have been promising: The inaugural class of legislators under this new system shows signs of being more independent and ideologically moderate than most of those elected before them.

There is no doubt that the open primary system creates races where two Democrats or two Republicans face off in the general election. The 2012 election cycle resulted in nearly 30 such races. This is where the greatest opportunity exists to create change—with candidates who will think for themselves, ask questions and consult experts on the issues with which they are unfamiliar.

But we need your help in the primary first! Help us ensure the best candidates advance to the general election.

Though the primary election turnout is expected to be low, voters—and especially Farm Bureau members—need to get out and vote. The statewide races at the top of the ticket may provide relatively little excitement this year, but there are a number of races further down the ballot that deserve your attention, for representatives in Congress or the state Legislature, for example.

In some cases, this means voting for a candidate who does not share the same party affiliation as you. If it is likely that a district is going to be represented by a certain party, due to a significant party registration imbalance, do not be afraid to vote for the best candidate from that party to help ensure that candidate advances to November. A candidate who may vote consistent with your interests at least some of the time is far better than one who will not do so under any conditions.

Family farmers and ranchers have a stake in the outcome of elections statewide, especially considering the changes to term limits. The candidates elected to the state Legislature in this cycle have the opportunity to stay in office for 12 years—making decisions on a daily basis that will impact the way you live your life and run your business. As current members term out, supporting business-friendly candidates becomes increasingly important in selecting their replacements.

So, while some voters take the primary elections for granted and think they will wait to weigh in during the general election instead, it is important to make sure the best candidates advance to the next stage. This means taking the time to vote in June, when your vote could be more influential than ever.

(Casey Gudel is political affairs manager for the California Farm Bureau Federation. She may be contacted at

Key Dates

May 19 Last day to register to vote
May 27 Last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot
June 3 Primary Election Day

For voter information, visit

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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