Primary Day

The most famous election is being held in Wisconsin today, and we’ll have more about that later. But regular primaries are also being held in New Jersey, Iowa, South Dakota, New Mexico, Montana and California.

As a relatively new California voter, I’ve been fascinated by this year’s state elections, which have been roiled by one of the few truly independent redistricting processes in the country, and by the advent of a “top two” system that essentially abolished partisan primaries and made June 5 simply a semi-final for the general election. As a result, some of the much ballyhooed intra-party incumbent versus incumbent contests (e.g., in the U.S. House, Howard Berman versus Brad Sherman and Janice Hahn versus Laura Richardson) actually won’t be resolved until November.

Meanwhile, there are two statewide ballot initiatives. One would tweak term limits to set a single 12-year limit on service in the state legislature, aiming at allowing slightly more seniority in each chamber while removing the current system’s incentive for term-limited Assembly members simply to move up to the Senate. But it’s the second, a new tobacco tax with the proceeds dedicated to cancer research, which serves as a reminder that in California at least, you have never needed Super-PACs to create vastly financed special interest campaigns. Tobacco companies have spent at least $46 million in an effort to defeat Proposition 29.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.