Tuesday's primary in the race to replace GOP California Rep. Ed Royce tops the list of Democratic must-haves — but has drawn such a wide field of contenders that it could lock them out and vault two Republicans onto the November ballot, Politico reported.
"This is the weirdest race in the country that's attracted Democrats of all stripes and an unprecedented amount of money," said candidate Sam Jammal, a former Obama administration official and one of four Democrats running. "But all the negativity doesn't help us because we're still just beginning to build the Democratic brand here."
California's top-two primary system is similar to what's used in Louisiana, Washington and Nebraska: Every voter gets the same primary ballot with all the candidates on it, and the top-two finishers in each race — regardless of political party — move on to the general election.
Before Royce's retirement, the party invited Gil Cisneros, Andy Thorburn and pediatrician Mai Khanh Tran to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee training session in Washington, D.C. — but has since reportedly asked Tran and others to leave the race.
Royce's pending exit "caused panic at the committee," Thorburn said, given the possibility that a half-dozen Democrats in an open race would split their votes too broadly and shut them out of November.
"Ed Royce threw everyone a curveball, and it created a lot of chaos," Cisneros told the news outlet.
Politico reported early voting shows Republicans outperforming Democrats in the district. Both Tran and Jammal rejected criticism that it's all their fault.
"The blame is on the party — both the national party and the local party. It's their job to get Democrats out to vote," Tran told Politico.
"To have people come in from the outside, spend millions of dollars and then blame everyone else because they couldn't win seems ridiculous," Jammal told the outlet, saying a chunk of undecided voters a week out shows that there's "no front-runner."
Of the Republicans running, Politico reported Assemblywoman Young Kim has separated herself from the pack in fundraising and some internal polling, followed by Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson and former state Sen. Bob Huff.
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