March Super Tuesday preview #4 – California

Welcome to the Friday, March 1, Brew. 

By: Andrew Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. March Super Tuesday preview #4 – California
  2. An election you may not have heard about – voters to decide whether to authorize formation of a new city
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many states are considering legislation that deals with voter registration?

March Super Tuesday preview #4 – California

Five states are holding primaries for congressional and state offices on March 5: Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, California, and North Carolina.

Yesterday we previewed Arkansas’ statewide primary. Today, we’ll look at California, where voters will decide primaries for congressional, state legislative, and local offices next week.

California uses a top-two primary system where all candidates are listed on the same ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election. 

U.S. Senate

Ballotpedia has identified the U.S. Senate top-two primary as a battleground race to watch. Thirty candidates are running. The candidates who lead in media attention are Barbara Lee (D), Katie Porter (D), Adam Schiff (D), and Steve Garvey (R).

U.S. House

Two-hundred forty-one candidates filed to run for California’s 52 U.S. House districts, including 125 Democrats, 88 Republicans, and 28 independent or minor party candidates. That’s an average of 4.63 candidates per district, less than the last two election years. There was an average of 5.2 candidates per district in 2022, 4.94 in 2020, and 4.6 in 2018.

California’s U.S. House delegation currently consists of 40 Democrats and 11 Republicans. There is one vacancy.

The 241 candidates running this year are the fewest since 2016, when 202 candidates ran.

Forty-five incumbents—34 Democrats and 11 Republicans—are running for re-election. Forty-seven incumbents ran in 2022.

Here are other items of note about next week’s congressional primaries:

  • Incumbents Lee (D-12), Porter (D-47), and Schiff (D-30) are running for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat.
  • Incumbents Grace Napolitano (D-31), Tony Cárdenas (D-29), and Anna Eshoo (D-16) are retiring from public office.
  • One incumbent—Kevin McCarthy (R-20)—resigned from Congress on December 31. 2023. A special election will take place to fill that vacancy, with the primary scheduled for on March 19 and the general election scheduled for May 21.

Forty-two primaries are contested. This is the fewest since 2018, when 41 were contested. All 52 primaries were contested in 2022, and 47 were in 2020.

Ballotpedia is covering four of those primaries as battlegrounds:

Incumbents are running in 35 of the 42 contested primaries. That’s less than 2022, when 47 incumbents ran in contested primaries, but more than every other year since 2014. In 2020, 32 incumbents faced contested primaries. Thirty-nine incumbents did so in 2018, 36 in 2016, and 32 in 2014.

State Legislature

In the California Legislature, all 80 Assembly and 20 of 40 Senate seats are up for election. Overall, 328 candidates—191 Democrats, 123 Republicans, and 14 from minor parties—filed to run. Democrats currently have a 62-18 majority in the Assembly and a 32-8 majority in the Senate.

California has 58 contested state legislative primaries this year. This is the second-highest number of contested primaries since 2014. There were 60 contested primaries in 2022.

Twenty-seven incumbents face primary challenges, representing 41% of all incumbents running for re-election. This is lower than in 2022, 2020, and 2018 but higher than 2016 and 2014.

Of the 27 incumbents in contested primaries, 22 are Democrats and five are Republicans.

Here is some additional context for next week’s state legislative primaries:

  • Thirty-four of the seats up for election are open. This guarantees that newcomers will represent at least 34% of the seats up for election.
  • California has had a Democratic trifecta since the party won control of the governorship in 2010.
  • California legislators are term-limited. Legislators can serve a total of 12 years spent between both chambers.

Other races

In addition to the congressional and state legislative elections highlighted above, Ballotpedia is covering municipal elections in 18 cities and 11 counties, as well as school board elections in six districts.

Keep reading

An election you may not have heard about – voters to decide whether to authorize formation of a new city

One of the 141 local ballot measures in California we’re covering this year involves residents of the community of Mountain House. On March 5, they will decide on Measure D. If approved, it would make their community the state’s first new city since 2011.

Located 60 miles west of downtown San Francisco, San Joaquin County approved the Mountain House project in 1994. In 2008, the area established an independent government and a board of directors to coordinate with county officials

Next week, residents will vote on Measure D, a ballot referral from the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, that will officially incorporate the City of Mountain House as an independent, self-governing body, if passed.

If residents vote yes, Mountain House will become California’s 483rd city, with authority over its land use planning and access to public funds. If they vote no, Mountain House will remain a special district, with land use decisions made by San Joaquin County and the Mountain House Community Services District (MHCSD) continuing to provide municipal services.

Measure D is not the only measure on Mountain House voters’ ballots in March. Measure E will determine the nature of the new city government if Measure D passes, starting in 2026. Voters will decide whether the city council will be elected by district, at-large, or a mixture of the two, where candidates must live in a specific district but are elected at-large.

Voters will also elect a mayor and four city councilmembers to run the city at its outset, effective July 1. 

But the outcomes of both Measure E and the initial local elections will only go into effect if voters approve Measure D.

If voters approve Measure D, Mountain House would be the 279th most populous municipality in California, based on the 2020 census, with 24,499 people. The median population of a California municipality is 31,193, while the average is 68,467. California has the fourth-largest median municipality population nationwide, and the third-largest average population. Nationwide, the median municipality population is 1,140, and the average municipality population is 10,678.

The most recent city incorporated in California was Jurupa Valley in 2011. The outcome of this ballot proposition was determined by a margin of fewer than 500 votes, with 54% of residents voting in favor. The last time a new city was incorporated in San Joaquin County was in 1989.

California is one of the more than 10 states where Ballotpedia is providing comprehensive election coverage this year. This is part of our goal to provide comprehensive election coverage up and down the ballot nationwide. That means gathering candidate information for all offices, big and small, and keeping tabs on things like the creation of new cities.

Click here to read more about Measure E, and click here to read about all of California’s 2024 local ballot measures

Keep reading 

#FridayTrivia: How many states are considering legislation that deals with voter registration?

In Tuesday’s Brew, we looked at Ballotpedia’s monthly report on election-related legislation. One area of legislative activity has been voter registration legislation.

As of February 15, 370 active bills dealt with voter registration in the 2024 state legislative sessions. Of these bills, 213 were introduced since the beginning of the year, while the remainder were carried over from last year’s sessions.

How many states have active bills that would affect voter registration?

  1. 16
  2. 29
  3. 41
  4. 37