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California Congressional Races Changed by Top Two Primaries

Congress (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

It may have seemed like this campaign season would never end, but we can now safely report that it will — on Tuesday night. And unlike past elections where voters chose between one Democrat and one Republican, eight congressional races in California are choices between two candidates of the same party. That’s because of California’s new top two primary system.

California Report host Scott Shafer looks at these races with reporters Tara Siler from KQED in San Francisco, Steven Cuevas who reports from the Inland Empire for KPCC and The California Report’s election editor Tyche Hendricks.

Scott Shafer, Host: One thing is certain for the first time in memory about a dozen Congressional races in California are actually, well, competitive, up in the air, or even toss ups. We’re going to take a look now at some of them, starting in Northern California and working our way south. Reporter Tara Siler is covering the 7th Congressional District, the suburbs of Sacramento and beyond. Incumbent Republican Dan Lungren fighting for his life there, it’s a rematch from the 2010 election against a Democrat physician Ami Bera. So Tara, tell us what makes this race so interesting.

Tara Siler: Well, what makes it interesting is you have a four-term Republican, conservative Republican, who is fighting for his life. And he’s up against Ami Bera for the second time. And this district has changed; it’s more Democratic under redistricting. And Democrats really see an opportunity here to pick off a conservative Republican, and an incumbent at that. It’s attracted a lot of money, $8 million dollars in outside money. It’s one of the most expensive races in the country. And a lot of it is being thrown at Lundgren by these outside groups.
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First Up on KQED’s Election 2012 Road Trip: The Inland Empire

Scott Shafer reporting in the Inland Empire

The California Report’s Scott Shafer just returned from the first stop on a statewide “listening tour” to take the pulse of California voters this election year.

The November election is shaping up to be a referendum on government… “How much government do we want? And who’s going to pay for it?” So we’re framing our election coverage with the question “What’s Government For?”

In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, Shafer heard some surprising answers, such as Republicans feeding the poor and asking government to do more. And he found that the region’s elected officials don’t yet reflect the changing political complexion of its current population.

In the presidential lounge at Riverside’s Mission Inn hang portraits of the presidents who have visited over the years. All but one are Republicans. And the Inland Empire has long been a bastion of the GOP. Four years ago, though, voters went for Barack Obama.

Shafer found that many of the new Democratic voters are transplants from coastal cities like Los Angeles. And many of them are Latinos. But low voter turnout prevents them from having the political clout they could. Shafer met some folks who are trying to change that.

Take a listen:

 

California’s Inland Empire

So what is the Inland Empire?

MAJOR CITIES: Riverside, San Bernardino, Fontana, Moreno Valley, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Corona, Victorville, Murrietta, Temecula

POPULATION: 4.2 million (grew by almost one-third over past decade)

RACE and ETHNICITY: Latino 47%, White 37%, Black 7%, Asian American 6%

MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Warehousing/logistics, service sector, manufacturing, agriculture (once-booming construction and real estate/finance jobs dried up with the mortgage meltdown)

ECONOMIC INDICATORS: 13% unemployment, second highest home foreclosure rate in California, highest poverty rate in California for a metro area larger than 2 million people