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Republicans and Democrats will face candidates from their own party on Tuesday's ballot thanks to California's new top-two primary system.
Voters heading to the polls on Tuesday may be surprised to look at their ballots and see races of Democrat versus Democrat and Republican versus Republican. It will be the first general election since California instituted the new top two primary system.
Two years ago, California voters approved Proposition 14, which mandates that the top two vote-getters in a primary – regardless of party affiliation – face off in the general election. The new rules apply to Congressional and state legislative races. Gone are the days when a candidate only had to beat members of his own party in the primary to advance.
“I think at the end of the day this was a continuation of California’s long tradition of fighting political parties,” said Raphe Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA.
Redistricting has opened the door to challengers in what used to be safe Congressional seats. One of those districts runs along the coast from Malibu to Manhattan Beach, where a veteran Democrat has been challenged by a political novice who isn't claiming any party affiliation.
Congressman Henry Waxman spent his Sunday meeting voters at local farmers markets, from Beverly Hills to Pacific Palisades. Most recognized him, one man calling out, "Good luck Henry!" as he walked past the produce.
That happens a lot. Waxman has served for nearly four decades in Congress. Gerald Ford was in the White House when he first arrived on Capitol Hill. But Waxman hasn't had a serious challenge in years. Until now.
Bill Bloomfield, whose father made a fortune with coin operated laundry machines, jumped into the race — funding most of his multi-million dollar campaign himself. He’s running as an independent, saying the two major parties are at a stalemate.
The California Supreme Court issued a rare Sunday ruling, ordering an Arizona non-profit group to submit to an audit that could result in revealing who donated $11 million to a campaign involved with two hot-button propositions on Tuesday's ballot.
The California justices voted 7-0 and ordered Americans for Responsible Leadership to immediately provide documents to the state's elections watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission.
However, attorneys for the Phoenix-based group are taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Matt Ross, spokesman for Americans for Responsible Leadership's legal team, issued this statement Sunday night: "We are disappointed by the California Supreme Court's ruling. We have been in contact with the FPPC in an attempt to comply with the order. While we are working to deliver the records we still believe that the FPPC does not have the authority to take such action and have filed a request for immediate stay with the United States Supreme Court."
There’s an open Congressional seat in Long Beach. A Republican businessman is running as a fiscal conservative against a longtime local Democratic lawmaker.
The 47th district, which straddles the line between L.A. and Orange Counties, is majority Democratic, but the GOP candidate has raised much more money. Both men say the race will be decided by the large block of voters who don’t claim either party.
On Saturday morning, State Senator Alan Lowenthal was going door to door, looking for Democrats, but targeting independents. His advantage is in Long Beach. Lowenthal says voters know him and his record. "They know who I stand for."
Telecom executive Gary DeLong has the edge in the Orange County/Republican part of the district, but he’s also going after that 26 percent of voters here who decline to pick a party. DeLong says he will join the “Problem Solving Block” if voters send him to Washington.
"They have 92 members of Congress that are signed up to work together, Republicans and Democrats," he says. DeLong also has ties to Long Beach: he's served on the city council there since 2006.
The presidential race has had a spillover effect on the race. There are lots of Romney signs on front lawns in Belmont Shore, fewer Obama signs. Lowenthal says after the first presidential debate, male voters in Orange County "who didn’t really know me, ‘cause I’m an L.A. County guy, kind of deserted the President and deserted me, too and moved to Romney at that moment."
Lowenthal says he was "shocked" at how quickly voters opinions could fluctuate. He says his race has stabilized.
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Nine Asian American organizations are partnering for a rally in downtown L.A. Saturday that is intended to demonstrate the community's growing political influence.
Clarissa Woo, Director of Policy Advocacy for the American Civil Liberties Union, says the purpose of the rally is “to highlight the importance of Asian American and Pacific Islanders to get out and vote.”
Woo notes the AAPI community will play an important role this year's election.
“The AAPI community is the fastest growing community group in California," she says. "Asian-American voters have jumped over 33 percent since 2000, and APIs make up over 15 percent of the state’s population. The AAPI population, therefore, is a key voting bloc that remains largely untapped in terms of political power."
However, Woo also says that turnout rates among the AAPI community are lower than the average voting population. “I think that there is a strong need for bilingual cultural access for the community. Things are a bit daunting so it’s just overcoming all of that information,” Woo says. She adds that the ballot propositions may be difficult for those with language barriers to understand.