One of the biggest surprises in the 2024 election cycle could come in the form of the deep blue state of California electing its first Republican US Senator in 36 years! Yes, it actually could happen in Republicans play their cards right.
Since the passage of the controversial Prop 14 in 2010, California no longer conducts elections like the rest of the nation. Prop 14 bans equal access to the general election for nominees of each political party in favor of a “top-two” system. Whichever two candidates place in the top two spots in the primary election automatically advance to the general election to determine which of those two will win the seat.
There have been numerous examples since 2010 where Democrats have shut Republicans out of the general election by two Democrat candidates winning the most votes in the Primary because too many Republican candidates ran for the seat in the Primary and split the vote.
In the top-two system, the top two vote-getters — regardless of party — advance to the November general elections. This means that, theoretically, Democrats could get shut out of the November ballot and leave two Republicans for voters to choose from. This fate is likely if too many prominent Democrats enter the race and split the vote.
Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, has long opposed Prop 14 and favors its repeal. But he says the flawed system might finally come back to bite the Democrats and provide Republicans a benefit in 2024.
If a lot of strong Democrat candidates run for this US Senate seat in 2024, DeMaio says the math is theoretically there for Democrats to get locked out of the general election.
With U.S. Rep. Katie Porter (D) entering the race, incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) not ruling out re-election, and speculation about the candidacies of Reps. Adam Schiff (D), Barbara Lee (D), Ro Khanna (D), and more, these well-known democrats could split the vote and provide Republicans a chance.
In the 2022 California U.S. Senate primary election, the Republican candidates received 37% of the vote and the Democrat candidates received 59% of the vote - with the remaining 4% going to lesser third parties . If the same 2022 percentages held and 4 prominent Democrats ran and split the vote evenly, they would each receive 14.75% of the vote.
By the same token, if the same 2022 percentages held and 2 prominent Republicans ran and split the vote evenly, they would each receive 18.5% of the vote.
DeMaio offered this illustration of how the primary outcome could lock Democrats out of the runoff:
Republican Candidate A 19%
Republican Candidate B 17%
Katie Porter (D) 15%
Adam Schiff (D) 14%
Ro Khanna (D) 14%
Barbara Lee (D) 13%
Other lesser party candidates 4%
Other lesser candidates (D) 3%
Other lesser candidates (R) 1%
RESULT: The two Republicans would take the top two spots in the primary and advance to the general election in November in this scenario. Republicans win a US Senate seat in California by default!
DeMaio says an added benefit in this nightmare scenario for Democrats would be the eventual repeal of Prop 14.
“Since the top-two system was implemented, it has mostly helped Democrat candidates — but if Republicans are able to pick off a senate seat with it in 2024, we will certainly see state Democrats try to change the law overnight - and that is something I’d enthusiastically welcome!” said DeMaio.
DeMaio says this outcome is likelier than many Democrats and politicos may want to admit.
“An open US Senate seat doesn’t come up very often in California - so I expect there to be more than four credible Democrat candidates for this seat in 2024,” DeMaio said.
“The real question is - can California Republicans get their act together to execute a strategy with two good candidates to win the seat?” DeMaio asked.
DeMaio says Republicans need to come together on a clear plan and put in the work.
“The math is there — however small the margin for error,” said DeMaio. “Republicans need to put forward two quality candidates, unite behind both of them, and deter other candidates that will cost us the race.”
As for who those Republican candidates will be? DeMaio says to keep an eye out — as the 2024 primary is already quickly approaching — and that he will release his endorsements early next year.
Carl DeMaio and Reform California are working to flip key seats and end one-party rule in the state. Join the campaign today to help run ads, educate voters, and flip these target seats up and down the state.