The California State Primary

By Justin Milton 

March 4, 2024
The California Capitol in Sacramento (Photo creditr: Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

The California Primaries will be held on Tuesday, March 5th. In California, the primaries are non-partisan, except for party primaries held on the same day, with a few exceptions like the presidential election. In non-partisan primaries the two candidates who receive the most votes move on to the general election. As usual, you can vote in person or by mail ahead of time. On the ballot, we have a proposition aiming to increase mental health treatment, a primary to fill our interim U.S. Senate seat, primaries for state and some local offices, and partisan primaries for both Democrats and Republicans. 

Proposition 1 has been touted by Gavin Newsom as an important step in mental health reform. According to Ballotpedia, Proposition 1 “authorizes $6.38 billion in bonds to build mental health treatment facilities for those with mental health and substance use challenges; provides housing for the homeless. Legislative statute. Amends Mental Health Services Act to provide additional behavioral health services.” Surveys so far show roughly two in three Californians support the measure. Supporters argue that it will help people in need, whereas dissenters argue that it is a false promise that is too expensive with our deficit.

The most closely watched race is expected to be the U.S. Senate race. As a majority Democratic state, in California a Democrat is almost guaranteed to win. However, there are three running to split the Democrat vote and two for the Republican. No significant third party or independent candidates are running. Adam Schiff is forecast to get a plurality, with Katie Porter and Garvey likely competing for 2nd. This will decide whether there is a Democrat vs Democrat battle in November, or Democrat vs Republican. 

In California, state representatives are elected every two years and senators for four, with half having alternating elections every two years. The primaries will take place on Tuesday for a main election in November. In SLO County, incumbent Republican Assemblyman, Jordan Cunningham is running against Democrat city councilwoman Dawn Addis for District 35. Three Democrats, John Laird, Maria Cardenas and John Nevill will compete against Republican Vicki Nohren for an open Senate District 17 seat. Nevill is a rancher in King City, and the other candidates have experience in different sectors of public service.

Presidential primaries for Republicans and Democrats are expected to be unsurprising. Both president Biden and former president Trump are on track to win a supermajority of the vote from their party for the nomination, despite low public approval of both. Dean Philips and Marianne Williamson have so far been in the single digits for the Democratic Primary, and Nicki Haley is hovering at around a third of the vote in Republican primaries. Polls show this trend is holding steady across states.

March 5th will immediately yield a decision on Proposition 1, influence party primaries, and set up the top 2 system come November. Even with all these things to vote for, polling suggests voter turnout will be low due to only Proposition 1 being a final decision on the ballot and many being unhappy about politics overall.