California's "jungle" primary system has Democrats worried that Republicans could win some of the Golden State's congressional seats in midterm elections, a top House Democrat said Friday.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., speaking to USA Today, said Democrats have a shot at winning in more than 50 congressional districts nationwide -- enough to take control of the House from the GOP.
Democrats need to win 24 seats to flip the House, according to the New York Times, while maintaining the 194 seats they currently hold.
But California’s primary system, in which the top two vote-getters face off in the general election, regardless of party, has Democratic leaders concerned, Hoyer said.
Because of the state's system, if multiple Democrats run in a primary, the party's votes could be so split up that two Republicans could finish first and second and face off in the general election, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“It’s a concern about having a Democrat in the final two,” Hoyer told USA Today. “We are focused on that and trying to make sure that we have at least one, maybe two, that really we think are viable. In some areas, we have like five or six Democrats and two or three Republicans and that makes it challenging.”
Democratic leaders are speaking candidates about the problematic election style, according to the paper.
Hoyer is still fending off backlash from a secret recording released Thursday by the Intercept, in which a voice identified as Hoyer is heard pressuring progressive candidate Levi Tillemann, a 36-year-old entrepreneur running in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District in Denver, to drop out of the race in favor of party-backed Jason Crow.
Hoyer addressed the controversy, telling the paper the focus is on having a Democrat in tough districts that are capable of winning.
“What is really important from our perspective is making sure that we have a Democrat that can win in districts that are tough,” he said. “We pretty much key off what the locals think is the strongest position we can be in.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came to her colleague’s defense, telling reporters during her weekly news conference that “in terms of candidates and campaigns, I don’t see anything inappropriate in what Mr. Hoyer was engaged in — a conversation about the realities of life in the race as to who can make the general election.”
Hoyer and other Democrats have suggested that liberals' disdain for President Donald Trump could give the party the boost it needs in the midterms, but a report from the Brennan Center for Justice suggests otherwise.
The report suggests Democrats would have to win the national popular vote for congressional districts by a nearly 11 percentage point margin over Republicans in gerrymandered districts in key states that favor the GOP – something that hasn’t been done in more than 40 years.
“It would be the equivalent of a tsunami,” said Michael Li, a senior counsel who heads up redistricting work for the center, which is based at New York University's School of Law.
“Democrats would have to win larger than any sort of recent midterm wave — almost double what they got in 2006 — in order to win a narrow majority.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.