2012 elections review: California primary marked by new Top Two Open Primary Act

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June 6, 2012

By Ballotpedia's Congressional and State legislative teams

The fast-moving primary season of May and June continued with elections in California yesterday.

This was the first major election in which California's Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act was in effect. This means that all candidates for a seat competed in a blanket primary regardless of any party affiliation. The two candidates who received the most votes then advanced to the general election.

California held primary elections for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, State Senate, and State Assembly.

Contested Primaries in California -- June 5, 2012
U.S. House
(53 seats)
State Legislature
(100 seats)
Total Contested Primaries 45 (84.91%) 58 (58%)


U.S. Senate

United States Senate elections in California, 2012

In the Senate race for Democratic incumbent Dianne Feinstein's seat, twenty four candidates competed, including incumbent Feinstein. Incumbent Dianne Feinstein and Republican challenger Elizabeth Emken advanced past the blanket primary and will compete in the general election on November 6, 2012.[1]

U.S. House

United States House of Representatives elections in California, 2012

Contenders battled for California's 53 congressional district seats yesterday. There were no notable upsets, as all incumbents easily advanced to the general election.[2]

In California's heated 30th District race, Democratic incumbents Howard Berman and Brad Sherman both advanced past the primary as expected.[2]

Members of the U.S. House from California -- Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 34 38
     Republican Party 19 15
Total 53 53

State legislature

There were a total of 100 state legislative seats up for election this year. Due to California's Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, this meant that there were only 100 possible primaries yesterday. Out of those 100 possible occurrences for voters to choose between multiple candidates, there were 58 contested primaries. In other words, 58% of California's primary races were contested, a figure that is significantly higher than the national average.

  • There were 8 contested primaries in the Senate.
  • There were 50 contested primaries in the Assembly.


Three Senate incumbents faced a primary challenge, all of whom easily secured enough votes to advance to the general election.


In the Assembly, 17 incumbents faced a primary challenge - 11 Democrats and 6 Republicans. Once again, all incumbents facing a primary challenge received enough of the vote to advance to the general election with ease.

California State Senate
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 25 26
     Republican Party 15 12
Total 40 40

California State Assembly
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 52 56
     Republican Party 28 24
Total 80 80

See also

Ballotpedia News

External links