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California’s Top-Two Primary System Produces Surprising Results

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A California polling place

Voters cast ballots at a California polling place (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

DougSovern20100908_KCBS_0208r Doug Sovern
Doug began his career as a copy boy at the New York Times, and then...
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SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – California’s new top-two open primary system didn’t produce the results many experts expected, which will mean some unusual showdowns come November.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen said voters weren’t phased by the new system.

“We did not get a single caller on our hotline with confusion about the top-two primary rules and I actually didn’t think there would be confusion,” she said.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

But that might not be the case in November, when there are no third or fourth party candidates on the general election ballot.

“We may have some people who are surprised when they see just two names on the ballot,” Bowen said.

The conventional wisdom was that advancing just the top two to November would elect more moderates and in many districts, create Democrat vs. Democrat or Republican vs. Republican runoffs. But in the North Bay Congressional race, a little-known Republican surprised some big-spending Democrats to fight for the number two slot behind frontrunning Assemblyman Jared Huffman.

Bay Area Election Results

San Jose State political science professor Larry Gerston said voters may revisit the top two idea in the future.

“There’s likely to be some sort of a backlash,” he said. “How upset people are given all the other things going on in the state remains to be seen.”

One of the more intriguing races in November will be the one for U.S. House District 15 as Congressman Pete Stark fights for a 21st term, barely edging fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell on Tuesday.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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