Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California
Good Monday morning.
The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.
Tomorrow is California’s Presidential Primary election where state legislative, and congressional races will be decided. There will be also local measures and two state-wide propositions.
I will be covering tomorrow’s elections on my Twitter Feed @Flap, Facebook and Google Plus.
On to today’s California headlines:
A novel California primary that premieres Tuesday was intended to produce moderates, but in California’s U.S. Senate race, it could yield a challenger who claims President Obama was born in Kenya.
Incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 78, running for a fourth full term, faces 23 challengers, including 14 Republicans, the best known of whom is litigious Orange County “birther” Orly Taitz, a Russian Israeli emigre who has appeared on national television with her claims that Obama faked his birth certificate.
Polls taken by robocalls, including those commissioned by Taitz, show Feinstein with a wide lead, trailed by a strange assortment of single-digit rivals, in some cases led by Taitz.
Nearly three out of four eligible voters in California have registered to cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, and fully a fifth of the electorate has declined to state a party preference, according to the state’s elections officer. About 1.4 million more Californians are registered now than in February 2008, the year of the last presidential primary election.
Of California’s 23,713,027 eligible voters, some 17,153,699 are registered to vote, or about 72.34 percent of those eligible, the secretary of state’s office reported. The numbers cover registration through the May 21 deadline.
Of those registered, 43.4 percent identified themselves as Democrats, 30.2 percent said they were Republicans and 5.1 percent listed an affiliation with a minor party.
Some 21.3 percent registered without listing a party preference, continuing the trend of a steadily expanding proportion of decline-to-state, or independent, voters. The percentage of decline-to-state registration has doubled in California since the mid-1990s.
The current level of 17.15 million registered voters is about a million more than the 16.12 million voters who registered for the June 2008 state primary election and about 1.4 million more than those registered for the Feb. 5, 2008 presidential primary. According to the secretary of state, those are the largest primary-to-primary registration increases since at least 1996.
Los Angeles County, which has the state’s largest electorate, reported 4.46 million registered voters. Just over half, 50.68 percent, identified themselves as Democrats. With the exception of Los Angeles and Imperial counties, the rest of the top 10 counties with Democratic registration all were in northern California – Alameda, San Francisco, Marin, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Sonoma, San Mateo and Contra Costa.
San Francisco also reported the highest level of independent voters – 30.6 percent.
Republican registration was highest in rural or suburban counties in central and northern California, led by Modoc at 50.05 percent, Lassen at 48.39 percent and Placer at 48.17 percent.
In a state with nearly 38 million people, few have more influence than the top 100 donors to California campaigns – a powerful club that has donated overwhelmingly to Democrats and spent $1.25 billion to influence voters over the past dozen years.
These big spenders represent a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of individuals and groups that donated to California campaigns from 2001 through 2011. But they supplied about a third of the $3.67 billion lavished on state campaigns during that time, campaign records show.
With a few exceptions, these campaign elites have gotten their money’s worth, according to an analysis by California Watch of data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics and state finance records.
The state’s top 100 donors gave nearly five times as much to winning candidates as they did to losers. And they helped steer initiative campaigns to success as well – about 55 percent of every dollar they contributed to propositions aided a winning campaign, the analysis shows.
Some of these top 100 donors are continuing to donate heavily in the 2012 election cycle. For their part, tobacco companies Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have spent more than $30 million since January to defeat an initiative on tomorrow’s ballot that would increase the cigarette tax.
“Major players with major stakes in statewide issues are going to make sure their opinions are heard,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College who focuses on California issues.
When new redistricting maps changed the boundaries of this Congressional district to give Democrats a slight edge for the first time in decades, party loyalists were elated.
But now it seems possible that come November there will not even be a Democrat on the ballot. On Tuesday, for the first time, California voters will participate in a nonpartisan primary. Instead of the top candidate from each party advancing to the general election, the two candidates with the most votes will be placed on the November ballot, regardless of party affiliation.
This year will be the first test of a new kind of election aimed at breaking the partisan gridlock that has seized Congress and state legislatures all over the country. When the change was presented to California voters by a ballot initiative in 2010, advocates said it would usher in a new era that embraced politicians who would be more pragmatic than ideological.
Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters Daily video: California rebel judges catch a ‘big break’