For the past decade, the races for California's 53 congressional seats have been reliably uneventful. Thanks to the twin forces of redistricting reform and the new top-two primary system, that has completely changed this cycle, and Tuesday's primaries will give us the first taste of what's to come in the state's newly competitive House districts.
In the tumult of the past decade, when wave elections flipped the House wildly in both directions, only one California seat changed hands: Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney defeated then-Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., in the 11th District in 2006. Other than that, California's gerrymandered congressional seats kept the same parties. But the citizen commission that conducted redistricting this cycle totally upended the House map, inducing a wave of retirements, unlocking a number of new Democratic opportunities (especially in the state's diverse inland areas), and making California a centerpiece of Democrats' national plans to take back the House majority.
But redistricting made some Democratic-held seats more competitive, too, and pitted two pairs of Democratic incumbents against each other in two Los Angeles districts. And because of the all-party, top-two primary system that voters approved by ballot measure in 2010, Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman (now both vying for the 30th District) and Reps. Janice Hahn and Laura Richardson (44th District), and several other Democratic pairs in liberal districts, could go all the way to November instead of having their races decided on primary night.