Home General California Legislator Sandre Swanson Speaks Out Against "Top-Two Open Primary"
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California Legislator Sandre Swanson Speaks Out Against "Top-Two Open Primary"

Published on February 7, 2010, by in General.

On February 6, California Assemblyman Sandre Swanson (D-Alameda), speaking at a campaign rally, criticized California’s Proposition 14, the “top-two open primary”. Swanson, who is the only black state legislator from northern California, is in his second term. He said the measure would vastly increase the cost of campaigns, because it would require major party members to run two separate election campaigns in front of the entire electorate.

The rally was in Oakland, and was a fundraiser for Proposition 15, a measure that Swanson supports. Proposition 15 provides for public funding for campaigns for Secretary of State.

5 Responses

  1. Jim Riley

    In his AD 16, the Democratic party and the entire electorate are essentially the same. He was re-elected in 2008 with 88% of the vote against a Republican opponent, and was first elected in 2006 with 90% of the vote against only P&F opposition.

    About 1/6 of the district is in the city of Alameda, with the rest in Oakland (around 90% of that city).

    Swanson’s key race was in the 2006 Democratic primary where he advanced with 43% of the vote against 35% of the vote for John Russo, elected city attorney of Oakland. Prop 15, would in essence provide a runoff for the Democratic primary when there is an open seat.

    When there is a Democratic incumbent running for re-election, the Top 2 Open Primary would provide more of an opening for P&F, Green, or independent candidates to secure a place in the general election.

    Contested elections over the previous 20 years:

    1996 primary (Barbara Lee moves to California Senate). Don Perata is nominated by 58:42 margin in primary, and wins general election with 78% of vote.

    1999 special election as part of musical chairs sequence triggered by Ron Dellums resignation from Congress. Barbara Lee in April 1998, won special election for congressional seat.

    Don Perata in November 1998, simultaneously won the special election runoff for the remaining two years of the senate seat and re-election to the Assembly. Had the Top 2 format of special election been in place, Perata would have faced another Democrat in the runoff. In the September special election contested using the blanket primary format, Perata had 33% of the total vote vs. 31% for his nearest challenger. Perata advanced to the runoff against essentially token competition rather than his closest competitor.

    Perata’s resignation from the assembly triggered the 1999 special election for the assembly seat. Audie Bock won the Green Party nomination with under 9% of the vote under the blanket primary format, trailing Elihu Root who narrowly missed direct election with 48.8% of the vote and Frank Russo who finished as the 2nd Democrat with 36.5% of the total vote. Bock nonetheless won the runoff with 50.6% of the vote on extremely low turnout (about 1/3 of that cast November 1998, and 1/4 of that cast in November 2000). Under the Top 2 special election format, Root and Russo would have been matched up in the runoff.

    2000 general election Wilma Chan defeated Audie Bock, who ran as an independent by a 67% to 22% margin. Had the Top 2 Open Primary been in effect, Bock would have run in the primary, and presumably would have advanced to a 2-candidate general election, and perhaps would have been more competitive. She at minimum would have avoided the hassle of ballot qualification as an independent.

    2006 primary Chan was term-limited (she would later lose in her bid to move to the senate in 2008 to replace Perata who was term-limited). Swanson was nominated in 4-way primary with only 43% of the vote. to 35% for the runoff, but would win the general election with 90% of the vote against only P&F opposition.

    Summary In the 4 elections over the the past 10 where there has been a decisive change in who represented AD 16 in the California Assembly, the voters have been denied the final choice between the two candidates favored by the most voters.

    Is saving money for politicians worth the cost of denying the choice of representation to the voters?

  2. Oaktowm Willie

    The problem with Swanson is that every word out of his mouth is scripted by the Alameda Central Labor Council which owns him lock, stock and barrel. Translation: This cuts into the union’s local power, and is therefore perceived as bad. The fact that local government is on the verge of collapse doesn’t seem to come into play!

  3. Richard

    Many backers of top-two openly espouse non-partisan elections for state office and even Congress. But all California cities and counties already have non-partisan elections. If local government in California is on the verge of collapse, doesn’t that show that non-partisan elections are not the answer to California’s problems?

  4. Demo Rep

    # 3 The lack of P.R. (i.e. lack of REAL Democracy) is the source of ALL of the problems in ALL of the rotted suicidal regimes in the U.S.A. — i.e. the at large and gerrymander district party hacks taking ALL regimes to social – economic – political DESTRUCTION.

    Such EVIL party hacks do NOT give a damn about the EVIL they are doing — giant government debts and welfare spending (using most of the borrowed money) — with the borrowed money also cutting private capital investment.

    See the 2006-XXXX Great Depression II — Solve for XXXX.

  5. Maralago

    All your long-winded, and possibly off their rocker, posters forgot one big thing. It ain’t just the politicians who have to spend more money. This will cost the city a fortune for TWO elections, COUNTLESS mailers, phone calls, admin time to explain this ridiculously complicated voting method. The seniors I counsel are totally confused & frustrated trying to understand it, I can’t imagine how to get it across to the English as a second language crowd.

    But you people are all for the greens & the independents at any cost. Yeah, we’re bankrupt because we have so many divisive views from over zealous treehuggers fighting over greedy developers, so let’s be sure to get one of each in every elected position. Frankly, I want someone with experience in politics to get through that Sacramento maze and get us help and money. Something Dellums not only failed to do, but didn’t even try. If some green party guy gets in there, Lord help us. My neighbors need jobs, not “fish over humans” voting.

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