Governing California and Abel Maldonado's Gamble

The man who almost singlehandedly passed the California state budget this week, State Sen. Abel Moldonado, was able to  extract a fairly significant concesson from the powers that be.

Maldonado is a moderate; mod Republicans have long suffered, in their minds, under California's primary system.

State voters will now get to decide whether they'd prefer a system that drops party lines from ballots; instead, the top two vote getters, regardless of party (and without party labels), would advance. Basically, as Soren Dayton writes, "In swing districts, it is likely that the top vote getters would be from each party. In districts that are highly partisan, as nearly all of the state legislative and Congressional districts are, there is the possibility that two Republicans or two Democrats could get on the general election ballot."  And because independent voters will play a larger role in the primary process,  mods would have a better chance of getting through, assuming, as Dayton notes, they don't factionalize themselves.  "If this passes in 2010, and the state continues with another highly-partisan/highly-ideological redistricting, the 2012 election could be quite interesting," he writes.

As you might image, the parties themselves might go nuclear against this. If you believe that the public employees unions, the social conservatives, the tax groups,and the trial lawyers are running the state -- or running it into the ground -- you've got to find a way to detach them from controlling the parties.

If the parties are unhappy, will the legislature try to put something *else* on the ballot that will screw up the question? This has been done before.

Will some issue entrepreneur put money behind this?

If you're a Meg Whitman (R) or a Tom Campbell (R) supporter in the gubernatorial race, you'd be tempted to dump a zillion dollars into GOTV for this. Whitman is explicitly running to the left in the Republican primary,  and Campbell could win this one if Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and Whitman beat each other up with $200 million of their own money.

If this amendment passes, this could mean 10-15 more blue dogs and a big shift to the left in the CA delegation.

And it might make California governable again.