California Election 2018: Voters Head to Polls in Hotly Contested Primary

Thomas Alvarez casts his ballot at First Mexican Baptist Church in East Los Angeles on June 5, 2018. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Thomas Alvarez casts his ballot at First Mexican Baptist Church in East Los Angeles on June 5, 2018. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

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Californians are heading to the polls on Tuesday in a statewide primary election to narrow down a crowded field of candidates for this year’s midterms.

Tuesday’s results, from which the top two finishers in each race will advance to the Nov. 6 general election, will decide the final contenders for several high-ranking posts including the state’s next governor — a position 27 candidates are currently vying to hold — a hotly contested U.S. Senate seat and all 53 congressional representatives as Democrats seek to tip the balance of power in Washington D.C.

A number of statewide executive offices, all 80 state Assembly seats and half the seats in the state Senate are also up for grabs. Five propositions have qualified for the ballot as well.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. Click here for information on finding your polling location, obtaining a sample ballot and how to vote if you have not already registered.

Because the state’s so-called “jungle primary” is nonpartisan, two candidates from the same party can advance to the final race. Because neither the Republicans nor Democrats were able to agree on a gubernatorial or U.S. Senate candidate to endorse at their respective annual conventions, many are unsure what to expect.

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That’s led to lingering questions over whether some contests, including the governor’s race, will see one of the major parties failing to field a candidate. With current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom consistently notching a double-digit lead in polls, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is locked in a race for second place against businessman John Cox and Assemblyman Travis Allen, both Republicans.

Many California conservatives are concerned that, should the GOP be left without a finalist in the governor’s race, low voter turnout within the party will affect down-ballot races.

But on the Democrats’ side, the crowded competition has led battles between establishment and progressive Democrats, at a time when the party is trying to coalesce around the goal of regaining control of the House of Representatives.

Vote splitting among many different candidates of the same party is the big fear for Democrats in three Republican-held districts: 39 (where Ed Royce is retiring), 48 (where Dana Rohrabacher is running for re-election) and 49 (where Darrell Issa is retiring). These are all districts Hillary Clinton won, so they’re seen as big Democratic pickup opportunities.

In the U.S. Senate race, state Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León has emerged as a fierce opponent of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is running for her sixth term. But Democrat de León isn’t polling far ahead of Republican James P. Bradley.

The #MeToo era has ushered in a series of special elections after three state lawmakers resigned in the face of sexual misconduct allegations.

In Senate District 32, Sen. Tony Mendoza will face nine other candidates in a special primary, which he announced he would run in two days after resigning in February. The Artesia Democrat stepped down as his fellow legislators were set to decide whether to expel him following a Senate investigation that found pattern of unwanted sexually suggestive behavior.

And special general elections are being held in assembly districts 39 and 45 for the empty seats of former assemblymen Raul Bocanegra and Matt Dababneh, both San Fernando Valley Democrats who resigned at the end of last year amid legislative investigations into their allegedly inappropriate actions.

State Sen. John Newman could lose his seat after it was targeted with a recall election in District 29, centered on Fullerton, over his vote in favor of the gas tax increase enacted last year.

Numerous other senators voted for the tax, but Newman, a Democrat, was elected to a Republican-held seat in 2016. If he’s beat by a Republican, the Democrats would lose their two-thirds supermajority — and the incumbent he narrowly defeated in 2016 is running against him.

So far, more than 19 million Californians have registered for the election, a little more than three quarters of the state’s eligible voters, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Of those voters, about 44 percent are Democrats, while a quarter are Republicans, and another quarter have declared no party preference. There are about 83,500 more independent voters registered in the state than there are Republicans.

If you haven’t registered to vote, you’ll still be able to participate. A California law passed in 2015 allows anyone qualified to register to fill out a conditional voter registration form and cast a provisional ballot in the 14 days before an election and on Election Day.

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