“The Conversation: Dissecting a ‘no party preference’ campaign in California”

SacBee: “Two seasoned California campaign strategists, one a Republican and one a Democrat, who advised a “no party prefence” candidate running for secretary of state, discuss the campaign.”

Sragow: Dan didn’t make it into the general election for three fundamental reasons, two of them structural and one of them systemic.

First, as political insiders are now realizing, our new top-two primary has at least one unintended consequence: The outcome depends heavily on how many viable candidates are competing for Democratic votes and Republican votes. To Dan’s disadvantage, ultimately there was only one viable Democrat and one viable Republican, so the major party votes weren’t divided into small pieces.

Second, the voters who are more likely to vote for an independent are less likely to vote in a June primary, and turnout this spring was brutally low.

Third, and this is something familiar to California political consultants, at the beginning of a campaign most voters know nothing, or close to it, about the candidates. So, a campaign needs money to buy sufficient advertising, and, failing that, a campaign needs to use shorthand to provide voters with clues. That’s where party affiliation and ballot title become important.

Stutzman: I, of course, agree with all of that assessment. My summation is that a good “no party preference” candidate like Dan is greatly aided by a June turnout that is about twice what occurred this year. Our poll didn’t take into account turnout as low as it was. Until voters participate in primaries in greater numbers, I’m skeptical of the path for an independent.

One other observation is that while Dan has been quoted regularly in the media for about 25 years, that really didn’t create a name ID for him. I also don’t think that the excellent news coverage Dan received when he entered the race had any residual aid for his candidacy. This is bad news, most of all, for newspapers.



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