While many politicos glued to their TVs last night stayed up to watch the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election play out, elections took place in a handful of other states, including Montana, New Jersey, and California, among others. In California, incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein swept away the competition in a primary race that included 23 other candidates, but ultimately afforded her 49.5% of the vote.
Rachel Maddow highlighted the unusual primary on her show Tuesday night, noting "the new way California is doing this is everybody runs all at once, everyone in the same primary—it doesn’t matter what party you’re in or if you’re the incumbent or how many people are running from each party, everybody runs at once." The top two finishers face off in the fall for the general election.
The new system, which was backed by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and approved by voters in 2010, was meant to produce more moderate candidates and avoid partisan nepotism.
Speculation ahead of Tuesday's vote worried that the opposite would be true, and the most extreme of the two dozen primary challengers would perform well simply because of name recognition. One of those candidates included Orly Taitz, "the birther dentist who spent the whole Obama presidency leading the charge" on questioning his birth certificates, Maddow noted.
The San Francisco Chronicle, citing early polling, summed it up thus: "A novel California primary that premieres Tuesday was intended to produce moderates, but in California's U.S. Senate race, it could yield a challenger who claims President Obama was born in Kenya. "
More from the Chronicle:
"The law of unintended consequences has kicked in, and it's kind of a mess," said Bill Carrick, chief adviser to the Feinstein campaign.
Political analysts said Taitz's name recognition and a potential surge from her base in Orange County, a state GOP stronghold, could put her in second place.
[Candidate Al] Ramirez said the new system could produce three bad outcomes for the GOP: a Democrat could place second Tuesday, leaving no Republican on the November ballot for U.S. Senate; a third-party candidate could take second; or "the even worse scenario would be if Orly Taitz is in there because it would hurt the ticket nationally."
Republican Elizabeth Emken, who gained the endorsement of the state's Republican Party, ultimately placed second with 12.5% of the vote, while Taitz came in fifth with 3.1%, but it leaves the door open for further examination of California's new primary method.