The First Open Primary
Here's how it works:
... Under this system, the traditional partisan primary — in which voters of each party selected their candidates in separate primaries and the winners then faced off against each other in a general election — has been abolished. From now on, all candidates, regardless of party, will compete in a first-round election. Voters will then choose between the two top vote-getters in a runoff.
The hope, of course, is that we would get away from the lockstep of the two party system, giving independents and lesser parties a better shot. There's another potential upside under the new system as well:
One of the original selling points of the open primary was that theoretically it would discourage candidates from drifting toward the extremes of their parties in order to win the primary and then ride the partisan division in their district to victory in the general election. That's partly at work here. For Janice Hahn and Debra Bowen, the leading Democratic contenders in this race, there's no incentive to match Marcy Winograd's more-liberal liberalism to win votes when they can just as easily find support in the Democratic center or even from moderate Republicans or independents who might back them in this round or the next.
Clearly the "center-left" editorial board likes that part the best because it moves the battle into the center where the board is more comfortable. It should come as no surprise that the Times has already endorsed Janice Hahn.
But the open primary law has opened things up in this special election. Candidates of all stripes have filed, and voters will be given a better set of choices, meaningful choices, to make.
What will be more interesting, however, will be the first election held after the redistricting is completed. Voters also passed a proposition which took redistricting away from the politicians in the legislature and gave it to a citizen commission. If that commission does its job fairly, district lines will not be drawn to protect incumbents but to reflect more sanely the geography and natural boundaries of the state. That should give us some real races.