Voters Head to Polls as California Primary Election Tests Top-Two System

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Californians were heading to the polls Tuesday for the primary election, which was expected to generate low turnout despite closely watched local races in Southern California and the first statewide races subject to the top-two primary system.


File photo of a California polling place sign. (Credit: Ho John Lee/flickr via Creative Commons)

Five Democrats were up for reelection in state offices, including Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Two Republican challengers — investment banker and former assistant U.S. Treasury secretary Neel Kashkari and tea party favorite Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks — were duking it out for the right to face off with Brown in the general election.

An open seat for secretary of state created a race considered wide open, while the open-seat controller’s race was pitting two top Democrats against each other and the Republican mayor of Fresno, Ashley Swearengin, who was buoying the GOP’s hopes of reclaiming a statewide office.

This June marks the first time that statewide races will be subject to the top-two primary system, which was approved by voters via Proposition 14 in 2010. The new method pits all candidates against each other, regardless of party affiliation, with the two top finishers facing each other in the general election, this year on Nov. 4.

Two ballot measures — but no citizen initiatives — were also before California voters.

Proposition 41 would redirect $600 million in bonds previously approved by voters to fund rental housing for low-income veterans; Proposition 42 would require local governments to continue to comply with state open government and public records laws while eliminating a requirement that the state reimburse cities and other local agencies for related expenses.

Voters were also weighing who will represent them in Congress and the state legislature.

There was fierce competition in a House race to replace longtime Rep. Henry Waxman in a district that now stretches from Malibu to Palos Verdes, with 18 candidates in the Democratic stronghold. Top Democratic contenders include former Los Angeles controller and Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, state Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance, and radio host Matt Miller of KCRW’s “Left, Right & Center.” Marianne Williamson, an independent spiritual teacher and writer, had also drawn intense interest.

Meanwhile, in local races in Southern California, two seats on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors — who represent some 2 million constituents each and control the purse strings in the nation’s most populous county — were up for grabs.

Hilda Solis, the former Labor secretary who was first Latina in the Cabinet and in the state senate, was considered a lock to replace termed-out Gloria Molina in District 1, which stretches from L.A.’s Silver Lake to Claremont through the San Gabriel Valley. She faces two others: a former aide to Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Juventino “J” Gomez; and April Saucedo Hood, a school police officer.

The race to replace termed-out Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was vastly more competitive, with the three top contenders of eight candidates being Sheila Kuehl, a 14-year veteran of the state legislature, West Hollywood Councilman John Duran and former Santa Monica councilman and Kennedy family heir Bobby Shriver.

And in one of the most closely watched races, voters were weighing who will lead the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, a troubled agency with some 18,000 employees. The election comes after several years of scandal and a federal investigation over abuse in county jails leading to criminal indictments in the department; Sheriff Lee Baca announced in January that he would step down after 15 years in office.

Among the seven men hoping to replace Baca, the top contenders were though to be Jim McDonnell, Long Beach Police Chief and former assistant chief in the Los Angeles Police Department; Bob Olmstead, a retired Sheriff’s Department commander and jail-abuse whistleblower; and Paul Tanaka, a former undersheriff who retired in 2013 after becoming Baca’s heir apparent. Tanaka was implicated in a scathing 2012 report from a county commission on jail violence that included McDonnell among its panelists.

County voters were also expected to chose a new assessor to replace one-term John Noguez, who remained in office despite criminal charges against him.

And there was a competitive fight to replace the outgoing mayor of Long Beach, the state’s sixth-largest city.

In addition to offices in Los Angeles County, seats in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties were before voters Tuesday.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Find your polling place here.

Check back at for results.