The Most Provocative Part of Primary Night

As expected, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman will face Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown, respectively, in the race for U.S. senate and governor in California. Both will be serious challengers, with the ability (and in Whitman’s case, willingness) to self-finance big chunks of their campaigns. The bruising races are likely to be waged over the air, in a battle of 30-second spots of a magnitude not seen in the state.

But this year’s superlatives may be fleeting. The real shake up today was the passage of Proposition 14, the open primary, in which voters will be able to choose across party lines from a slate of candidates starting in 2012, with the top two vote getters going into a November runoff.

It’s designed to produce a more moderate field of contenders, or at least make the contenders more moderate themselves. It may just as well give the advantage to more self-financed candidates or, as was the case with the California recall, a celebrity. And by sheer name recognition it could help incumbents stay in office — as evidenced by Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s buck-the-wisdom win in her runoff race in Arkansas. 

The real winners of Prop 14 could be the local stations up and down the state who say a boon in ad spending this primary, ironically for races that produced such low turnout. For those who did vote, however, the state’s crisis has gotten bad enough that at this point, it’s just time to try something new.

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