Not All Contests on Nov. 6 Ballots Are Democrats vs. Republicans

Photograph by Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo

Victoria Williams processes a mail-in ballot at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters office in Calif., on Oct. 31, 2012.

Most of the federal elections on tomorrow’s ballots pit Democrats against Republicans.

Yet there are some intraparty contests worth watching in California and Louisiana, where same-party matchups are possible under those states’ unusual election laws.

In California, which adopted a “top-two” primary election system this year, candidates of all parties ran on a single ballot in June. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advanced to the Nov. 6 election.

California’s congressional districts were substantially redrawn by an independent commission last year, pushing some House incumbents into retirement and some others into challenging colleagues.

Under the Louisiana system, the all-candidate, single-ballot contest is tomorrow. A candidate receiving a majority of all votes is elected; otherwise, the top two-vote getters compete in a runoff election next month.

Here’s a look at six intraparty congressional races, including five in California and one in Louisiana:

California’s 15th (Hayward, Livermore, San Ramon): Democratic Rep. Pete Stark, who turns 81 next week and has served in Congress since 1973, faces a serious challenge from Eric Swalwell, a lawyer and city councilman about half a century his junior. Stark led Swalwell by just 42-36 percent in the June primary. Stark’s vulnerability owes mainly to self-inflicted wounds. He accused Swalwell of accepting bribes, an unfounded allegation that Stark later recanted. The San Francisco Chronicle endorsed Swalwell in an editorial that said Stark “comes across as haughty, mean-spirited and prone to gaffes and false accusations” and is “an embarrassment to the district.” Health insurance companies, a frequent Stark target, have donated to Swalwell’s campaign.

California’s 30th (parts of Los Angeles and Burbank): Democratic Reps/ Howard Berman and Brad Sherman are running against one another after redistricting in a race that’s been very expensive and negative. Sherman parlayed advantages in geography and campaign funds into outpacing Berman by 42-32 percent in the June primary. Berman, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Commitees, has the backing of Democratic colleagues in the California delegation and from Hollywood figures. At one point during a Berman-Sherman candidate debate last month, a security guard had to intervene to ensure a heated argument didn’t get out of hand. Berman and Sherman spent more than $10 million between them through Oct. 17.

California’s 31st (San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga). Seven-term Republican Gary Miller is seeking re-election in a district that doesn’t include any of his current constituents, who were parceled out to other districts in the line-drawing process. Miller’s opponent is Bob Dutton, a former Republican leader of the state Senate. Miller led Dutton by 27-25 percent in the June primary, with four Democrats splitting the remainder of the vote.

California’s 35th (Ontario, Pomona, most of Fontana). Democratic Rep. Joe Baca, seeking a seventh full term, faces state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod. Baca received 45 percent in the June primary, compared with 36 percent for McLeod. Independence USA PAC, a super-political action committee funded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has spent more than $3 million on ads and mail pieces opposing Baca and promoting McLeod. The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg L.P.

California’s 44th (parts of Los Angeles and Long Beach; Compton, South Gate). Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn, who entered Congress by way of special election 16 months ago, is favored to defeat Rep. Laura Richardson, who’s been dogged by questions about her ethics and personal finances. Hahn outran Richardson by 60-40 percent in the June primary.

Louisiana’s 3rd (Lake Charles, Lafayette): The only contest tomorrow between two Republican congressmen, Charles W. Boustany Jr. and Jeff Landry, may require a runoff next month to determine the winner because three other candidates on the ballot may keep the leading vote-getter from clinching victory with a majority. Boustany, seeking a fourth term, probably will be the top vote-getter. He leads in fundraising and represents about three-fourths of the revised district compared to about one fourth for Landry, a freshman member of the Tea Party Caucus of Republicans opposed to government spending. Landry demonstrated strong campaign skills in 2010, when he defeated a former Republican state House speaker.

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