Veteran California Campaign Consultant Says Top-Two Open Primary Changed Little Except to Double Campaign Spending

Richie Ross, a veteran California Democratic Party campaign consultant, has this op-ed in the Sacramento Bee. He concludes that the biggest change caused by California’s top-two open primary Proposition 14 was to vastly increase the amount of money spent in campaigns.


  1. Demo Rep · · Reply

    Two plurality overall extremists for each office–

    instead of one extremist in each robot party hack gang along with independents.

    ZERO improvement ?? Duh.
    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.
    NO moron primaries are needed.

  2. Jim Riley · · Reply

    A 2008 article in Sacramento magazine characterized Richie Ross as a ruthless political kingmaker and called him the “puppeteer of City Hall.” He presumably supplied his own picture for the Op-Ed.

    He argues you can’t make people live together and some people simply aren’t interested in voting in June, as he argues against the redistricting commission and the Top 2 primary.

    He cites the case of his client Betsy Butler. Butler was essentially elected to the Assembly in 2010, by accumulating 9000 votes (26%) in an 8-way Democratic primary, in a strong Democratic district (her predecessor received 67% of the vote). So a political hack like Ross would appreciate the opportunity to elect his client by mobilizing groups such as public sector unions in a partisan primary.

    Her district largely disappeared. No wonder Ross doesn’t like the independent redistricting commission. In 2010 she lived in Torrance. If she still lived in Torrance, her district would now go south to include the Palos Verde peninsula. The district is 38% D, 35% R. Given the tendency for higher turnout for Republicans and tendency for independents to vote Republican, this may be a lean Republican district. Winning the Democratic nomination and 5 bucks buys you a cup of coffee.

    Butler apparently no longer lives in Torrance. So in addition to his role as political consultant, Richie must now serve as a travel consultant.

    She moved rather than run for election in the 66th AD. She could have run in the 62nd AD, the next district further north along the coast. It has a 61%D 15%R registration. But it also has a 26% black population, and a black incumbent running for re-election.

    So she is now running in the 50th district, further up the coast, and now lives in Santa Monica. I’d be surprised if her old district and the new district she is running in overlap 5%. I suspect she does not live in the district she currently represents.

    A cute feature of her website is the headline that says Betsy Butler Democrat For The 50th Assembly. “50th” is written in a red script as if it were fill in the blank.

    The district is heavily Democratic (52%D, 19%R) and 3 Democrats and 1 Republican ran in the district. Butler got 26% of the vote, finishing first and now faces another Democrat, Richard Bloom in the general election. Bloom, as mayor of Santa Monica, may have an name-recognition advantage in the district; especially if campaign sketches say something like “Butler, who recently moved to Santa Monica from Torrance, currently represents her former home in the California Assembly.

    So Ross’s real grievance is that his client had to move to find a district that she can be elected in, and now must compete in an election in which the entire electorate determine who represents in the Assembly.

    Ross’s other complaint is that another of his clients, Joe Baca, must now run in the general election for Congress against fellow Democrat, state Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod.

    McLeod’s senate district contains 86% of the congressional district, which is shifted west of Baca’s current district, adding Pomona and Chino and dropping San Bernardino. While representatives are not required to live in their district, Baca has moved from San Bernardino, where he lived in 2010 to Rialto for the 2012 election.

    There were only 3 candidates for the heavily Democratic district, Baca, Negrete McLeod, and a Green Party candidate. If Baca or Negrete McLeod spent much money in the primary it was to gain name recognition, and take advantage of federal law that permits separate contributions for the primary and general election.

    So again Ross’s grievance is that redistricting was somewhat unfavorable to his client, and that all the people of the district will be able to vote for who represents them in Congress.

    It is totally expected that a party hack would oppose an independent redistricting commission that is specifically forbidden to look at election results or addresses of incumbents or potential challengers, or the Open Primary that permits all voters to choose their representatives.

    ps He should be aggrieved that all senators do not face election after redistricting. Negrete McLeod gets a free shot at Congress, if she wins, then a special election would be held in her old 2000-era district, and if she loses she will continue to serve in the senate.

    It also means that beginning in December, 10% of Californians (4 million people) will not have representation.

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