California primary: It's a jungle out there

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On the roster: California primary: It’s a jungle out there - Newsom tries to pick his poison - Time Out: ‘Tragedy is a tool for the living’ - Dems look for luck in seven House races - NOTGR8

CALIFORNIA PRIMARY: IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE
Much as it has with veganism, reality television and the music of Katy Perry, California today is forcing the rest of America to confront some unpleasant facts.

Since 2012, California has had a non-partisan primary system in which the top two finishers, regardless of affiliation, advance to the general election. We did not notice as much before because the consequences were not as significant to the rest of the country. Also, voters and candidates needed time to figure out the functions of their new dysfunction.

But, with the Senate in play and the House very much up for grabs, California’s “jungle” primary system has become a matter of interest far beyond the Golden State.

On the upside for Republicans, the new system might help them hold on to a few House seats that would otherwise almost certainly slip. On the upside for Democrats, it is possible that the GOP will not be on the November ballot for either governor or Senate in America’s most populous state.

You will see below some details on the seven highly competitive House races – all seats held by Republicans – where Democrats hope to not shoot themselves in the foot today. But for the larger trend questions it would be useful to look at the results statewide.

If you want to know which direction the Democratic Party is likely to take in 2020 and beyond, California is a good place to look.

California is pushing up its presidential primary in 2020 to have more clout for what is, by popular and electoral measures, by far the most politically powerful state in blue America. Hillary Clinton held on to win two years ago, but that was only after Sen. Bernie Sanders was all but mathematically eliminated. Party leaders will be watching tonight’s results closely for hints about what’s to come.

The best place to look is in the re-election bid of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. A stalwart in the Senate for 26 years, Feinstein is seeking one more term, which most assumed would be a layup. But things got weird in the early going. Her own state party refused to endorse her over former state Senate Majority Leader Kevin de León and early polls showed that she was in trouble.

With Republicans all but certain to get locked out of the race in November, even a close second-place finish for de León could mean trouble for Feinstein in what amounts to a runoff.

As survivors of Southern politics know, if incumbents struggle in the first round, it is usually the insurgent who has the advantage going into the runoff.

If de León can even get close today, he could put Feinstein in a real bind where she would have to choose between sucking up to her party’s liberal base or having to court Republican voters. Feinstein has a pretty hawkish record on national security, much to the dismay of many in her own party, and could make a credible play for some GOP votes against a far-left candidate like de León.

But it would seem that Feinstein, who shifted her position on legalizing pot and other subjects, has done enough to keep her party with her. Polling on the race seems to pretty consistently show her with something approaching 4 in 10 votes and de León distantly trailing.

But even if she beats him by a wide margin and comes up considerably short of the 50 percent threshold, Feinstein could still be in trouble, or at least have to continue to do battle with her liberal foes.

Newsom tries to pick his poison
If you want to know just how screwy California’s new system is, just remember this: Gubernatorial frontrunner Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is no doubt rooting for the top Republican in the race, John Cox.

When you can get Newsom, the ultra-liberal former mayor of San Francisco on the same page as President Trump about a primary, you know it’s a weird system. Newsom wants Cox because he doesn’t want to be in a runoff with former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. By California Democrat standards, Newsom is hardly hard-left and has been selling the same kind of policies that term-limited Gov. Jerry Brown has been pushing throughout his time. Newsom considers himself a friend to the tech industry and something of a moderate on economic issues.

But California’s Democratic electorate tends to be more Hispanic and more liberal then Newsom’s core constituency in the Central Coast.

He would far prefer a blowout win over little-known Republican businessman Cox than he would a fight to the finish with his southern California counterpart.

If you see a Newsom, Villaraigosa match up after tonight that will be a sure sign that Democrats are looking left for the future.

[Watch Fox: California polls close at 11 pm ET. Join “Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream” for results and analysis.]

THE RULEBOOK: PEOPLE FIRST
“The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 51

TIME OUT: ‘TRAGEDY IS A TOOL FOR THE LIVING’
History: “Senator Robert Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California presidential primary. Immediately after he announced to his cheering supporters that the country was ready to end its fractious divisions, Kennedy was shot several times by the 22-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan. He died a day later. The summer of 1968 was a tempestuous time in American history. Both the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement were peaking. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in the spring, igniting riots across the country. In the face of this unrest, President Lyndon B. Johnson decided not to seek a second term in the upcoming presidential election. Robert Kennedy, John’s younger brother and former U.S. Attorney General, stepped into this breach and experienced a groundswell of support. Kennedy was perceived by many to be the only person in American politics capable of uniting the people. He was beloved by the minority community for his integrity and devotion to the civil rights cause. After winning California’s primary, Kennedy was in the position to receive the Democratic nomination and face off against Richard Nixon in the general election.”
 
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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
41 percent 
Average disapproval: 
54.2 percent 
Net Score:
 -13.2 points
Change from one week ago: 
down 0.4 points 
[Average includes: Gallup: 41% approve - 55% disapprove; CBS News: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 44% approve - 51% disapprove; IBD: 38% approve - 56% disapprove; Pew Research Center: 42% approve - 54% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
41.8 percent
Democratic average: 48.4 percent
Advantage: 
Democrats plus 6.6 points
Change from one week ago: 
no change 
[Average includes: CNN: 47% Dems - 44% GOP; CBS News: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; Pew Research Center: 48% Dems - 43% GOP; Monmouth University: 49% Dems - 41% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 48% Dems - 40% GOP.]

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DEMS LOOK FOR LUCK IN SEVEN HOUSE RACES
You will find listed below in order of their likelihood to switch parties in November the seven most competitive House races in California. This is a big deal for Democrats since they could win nearly a third of all of the seats they would need across the country to retake the House of Representatives right here in California. 

All of the districts are in Southern California and three of the seven are in Orange County, once a bright red bastion for the GOP, which has been fading to a subtle rose in recent cycles.

These districts represent the remnant of the California Republican Party that gave us two presidents who won two of the greatest landslides in American history.

39TH DISTRICT
Incumbent: Republican Ed Royce (retiring)
2016 Result: Clinton 52 percent, Trump 43 percent

USA Today: “Andy Thorburn may seem like a dream candidate for Democrats in liberal California. The former insurance executive campaigns on a promise to impeach President Trump and promote universal health care — a message he says is revving up voters across the 39th Congressional District before Tuesday’s high-stakes primary in that state. But Thorburn’s bid is a bit of a nightmare for Democrats, who see California as the linchpin in their push to win control of the House of Representatives this fall. The problem: Under California’s top-two open primary system, only the first-place and second-place finishers — no matter their party affiliation — can advance to the general election. In the 39th district, Thorburn is one of a cornucopia of Democratic candidates — sparking fears that Democratic voters may spread their support so thin that the top two slots on the general election ballot will go to Republican candidates. Democrats have a similar glut of candidates in at least two other California districts.”

49th DISTRICT
Incumbent: Republican Darrell Issa (retiring)
2016 Result: Clinton 51 percent, Trump 43 percent

The Hill: “Democrats are locked in a battle to replace retiring Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), with no clear front-runner in what has become the most expensive House race in the country. … Issa, the outspoken former House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, represents one of three GOP-held districts in the state… That scenario is giving heartburn to Democrats, who once viewed Issa’s San Diego-area seat as a prime pickup opportunity in the fall. The district has long been a GOP stronghold but has shifted toward Democrats in recent years, with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton winning the area by 7 points in 2016. … Doug Applegate, a retired Marine colonel who came within roughly 1,600 votes of defeating Issa in 2016, launched another bid three months later and became an early favorite. … Recent polling has shown Sara Jacobs, a former State Department employee who worked on Clinton’s campaign, with late momentum. … Meanwhile, strategists point to real estate investor Paul Kerr, who launched a bid last summer, as being a major wildcard in the race.”

10th DISTRICT
Incumbent: Republican Jeff Denham
2016 Result: Clinton 49 percent, Trump 46 percent

Mercury News: “In this key congressional district just over the Diablo Range from the Bay Area, there aren’t many policy issues on which the half-dozen Democrats running in next week’s primary disagree. So the race has instead been driven by questions of whose Valley roots go deeper, and who has the most authentic connection to a community that’s seen increasing numbers of newcomers priced out of the Bay Area. The bevy of candidates in the 10th district are fighting for the chance to take on Rep.Jeff Denham, a Republican whose 3.4 percent margin of victory in 2016 was one of the closest House races in the country. Hillary Clinton won the district that year, making it a top target for national Democrats in 2018. Meanwhile, the sheer number of Democratic hopefuls also raises the slim possibility that they could split the primary vote and shut the party out of the general election — a major concern in several other districts in Southern California as Democrats try to regain control of the House.”

25th DISTRICT
Incumbent: Republican Steve Knight
2016 Result: Clinton 50 percent, Trump 44 percent

Roll Call: “The Knight name is well-known in the 25th District, which encompasses northern Los Angeles County and parts of Ventura County. … Residents of the 25th and operatives watching the race noted the district has shifted to the left due to a population boom, with some Democrats pointing to 2016 as a tipping point. [SteveKnight] won re-election by 6 points, but Clinton carried the seat by 7 points. … Democrats now outnumber registered Republicans in the district by nearly 14,000 voters. Nearly one in four voters are not registered with any party.
…  As the only Republican in the race, Knight is a sure bet to make the general election. But voters will decide Tuesday which Democrat will take him on, and there’s a divide over what kind of Democrat is the best fit for the district. Katie Hill, an executive at a nonprofit combating homelessness… Lawyer Bryan Caforio, who unsuccessfully challenged Knight in 2016… [and] Volcanologist Jess Phoenix… Hill and Caforio are viewed as the top two contenders; Phoenix disputes that, saying the analysis is only based on fundraising numbers.”

48th DISTRICT
Incumbent: Republican Dana Rohrabacher
2016 Result: Clinton 48 percent, Trump 46 percent

LAT: “[Dana Rohrabacher] is facing a major political fight to secure a 16th term in Congress. All told, 15 hopefuls threw their hats in the ring to try to replace Rohrabacher as the representative of the 48th District, which includes Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. Four of those candidates — Democrats Michael KotickLaura Oatman and Rachel Payne and Republican Stelian Onufrei — have dropped out of the race, though their names still appear on the ballot. Of the 11 challengers still running, five are Democrats: Hans Keirstead, a scientist and stem cell researcher from Laguna Beach; fellow Laguna Beach resident Harley Rouda, an attorney and businessman; Deanie Schaarsmith, a Laguna Niguel resident who owns a DUI counseling program; Omar Siddiqui, a Costa Mesa trial lawyer who also has served as an advisor to the FBI and CIA; and Tony Zarkades, a Marine Corps veteran and commercial pilot from Huntington Beach.”

45th DISTRICT
Incumbent: Mimi Walters
2016 Result: Clinton 50 percent, Trump 44 percent

Orange County Register: “Four Democrats are competing to unseat Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters and flip the longtime GOP district from red to blue. Their first hurdle: surviving the June 5 primary. Tuesday’s election will essentially ask voters to pick which Democrat will advance to November for a runoff with the incumbent congresswoman: Dave MinKatie PorterKia Hamadanchy, or Brian Forde. … Walters is the only Republican running in the 45th Congressional District, which extends from Laguna Hills to Anaheim Hills. That makes the race the only one of four competitive Orange County congressional contests where Democrats are virtually guaranteed a spot on the General Election ballot. … The district’s Democratic hopefuls have focused their campaigns on attacking that record. In contrast to the congresswoman’s platforms, the Democrats all oppose the tax overhaul and offshore drilling. And all four support implementing universal background checks on gun sales, banning assault weapons, investing in renewable energy, limiting carbon emissions, making college debt-free, and expanding access to early childhood education. While closely aligned on most views, the Democratic contestants displayed their differences and boasted their credentials at a recent Irvine candidate forum in the heart of the district.”

21st DISTRICT
Incumbent: Republican David Valadao
2016 Result: Clinton 55 percent, Trump 40 percent

Fresno Bee: “TJ Cox, a Democrat who previously challenged Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, in the 10th District, is the latest in a line of challengers to Hanford Republican David Valadao in the 21st District. Valadao has continuously fended off challengers in a district that supported Hillary Clinton by a nearly 16 percentage point margin. Democrats have once again targeted Valadao. In March, Cox moved from the crowded 10th District race into the 21st. As of May 16, Cox had raised about $761,000 to Valadao's nearly $2 million.”

AUDIBLE: **DABS BROW**
“Senators should expect to remain in session in August to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president’s nominees.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s official statement cancelling August recess.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, You might be able to explain in simpler terms for me than anything I have researched. Why is it that independents in some states are only allowed to vote Democrat/independent in primary votes? Why can't all parties vote for the person in both parties they think should be allowed to run against each other. Usually an independent likes ideas from both sides and wants the best from both parties to sway them one way or another. The last thing is why does an independent or Democrat have to voice their affiliation to ask for their ballot in some states, well at least mine. Just curious as to some easy explaining leading into this midterm season.” – Jeff Cox, Broken Arrow, Okla.

[Ed. note: The question of open versus closed primaries is always a matter of hot debate on the state level. In the old days, the political establishment tended to prefer open primaries because it allowed moderate voters to come in and pick candidates, diluting the power of the partisan base. But after 2016 when Donald Trump did particularly well in states with open primaries that reasoning was proven flawed. The truth is that while states run elections, parties run primaries. If they want to limit participation to only their members it is understandable not just because of potential outcomes but also because it increases the value of party membership. Independent voters exist on a parallel ideological spectrum to the standard Republican/Democrat divide. There are lots of independents who would never vote for a Democrat and plenty on the other side who would never vote for a Republican. They don’t join parties but still vote as partisans.]

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NOTGR8

Sacramento Bee: “Two Sacramento men were arrested last week by Vacaville police after a search found nearly $3,000 of athletic equipment in their vehicle. But that's far from the dumbest element of the crime. Cops pulled over the suspects' vehicle after spotting a very, very low-effort fake registration tag on the rear license plate. It appears to be nothing more than two blue pieces of tape with the number ‘19’ scribbled sloppily in black marker, as seen in a Facebook post by the Vacaville Police Department. ‘The DMV's registration tab quality appears to be in decline,’ the Police Department sarcastically captioned the photo. The Facebook post identified the two men arrested as Joseph Seeger and Travis Quigley, both of Sacramento. Seeger and Quigley were found with about $2,800 worth of baseball gloves in their car. High-end gloves had recently been stolen from a Fairfield Dick's Sporting Goods store.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.