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A good deal of thought went into the top-two nonpartisan primary system that was approved by California voters in 2010. It passed with the support of some high-profile politicians (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and no shortage of academics. The idea was that an open primary in June with the top two finishers — regardless of party — facing off in November would take the partisanship out of elections.
But if history has shown anything, it’s that it is difficult to predict how so-called electoral reforms might play out. That is especially true if the unexpected happens.
So it was that on Tuesday, Representative Duncan Hunter, a Republican seeking re-election in Southern California, was indicted along with his wife on charges of misusing $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses.
In a year when Democrats are making an all-out assault on Republican-held congressional seats in California, Mr. Hunter was viewed as one of the longer-shot targets — unless he was indicted (it was known that he was under investigation). His opponent is Ammar Campa-Najjar, 28, who worked in Barack Obama’s White House and is making his first bid for major office.
In a more traditional political system, the Republican Party would step in, nudge Mr. Hunter out, and replace him with a more palatable candidate. Officeholders have certainly been known to get indicted. But it appears no one planned for this eventuality in drafting the top-two system.
“There exists no process in California elections code for Duncan Hunter to remove his name from the November ballot (or replace him),” said Sam Mahood, a spokesman for the secretary of state.
So can voters write in someone else’s name on the ballot? “There can be no write-in candidates for the November general election,” Mr. Mahood added.
These are the kinds of circumstances that test the skills of the nation’s best election lawyers, who no doubt will be poking around for loopholes in the days ahead.
The system was adopted over the objections of Democratic and Republican leaders, who warned that it could result in major-party candidates not making it through the crowded June runoffs, as almost happened this year. This latest development is likely to give them one more bit of ammunition in their argument to scrap the system.
(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)
• Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, reached a plea deal with prosecutors and said he made payments to an adult film star and a former Playboy model “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” [The New York Times]
• The former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort was convicted of eight counts of bank and tax fraud. [The New York Times]
• Facebook took down 652 accounts and pages after finding new influence campaigns aimed at misleading people around the globe. [The New York Times]
• Prosecutors from six California counties are combining their cases against Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., the man suspected of being the Golden State Killer. “I believe this is unprecedented, certainly in our state,” the Orange County district attorney said. [The New York Times]
• “This is our best chance to stop this fire.” The growth of the Ranch Fire slowed after a second night of increased humidity and lower temperatures. [San Francisco Chronicle]
• Data throttling by Verizon slowed device speeds and hindered Santa Clara County firefighters’ response to the Mendocino Complex Fire, according to documents filed this week. [Ars Technica]
• Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles answered some big policy questions on trade, the budget, housing and immigration. [The Washington Post]
• Lawmakers are moving to limit the maximum term of imprisonment for felony convictions. [The Sacramento Bee]
• It’s been a summer of anxiety near Malibu Creek State Park, where a string of shootings and the killing of a scientist has stunned the community. [The Los Angeles Times]
• When it comes to fuel efficiency and climate change, California’s car market is a paradox: Both S.U.V.s and electric cars are in demand. [San Francisco Chronicle]
• State lawmakers are expected to vote this month on a plan that would help ensure access to safe and affordable drinking water. It could be a model for the nation, two Op-Ed contributors write. [The New York Times | Op-Ed]
• Slack, the workplace messaging company, raised $427 million in new funding. The company is now valued at $7.1 billion. [The New York Times]
• After an outcry over campsite reservations, the State Parks Department is changing its booking system. [Travel + Leisure]
And Finally …
“Maybe if I wasn’t Asian.”
Kelly Marie Tran, a San Diego native, was the first woman of color in a leading role in the “Star Wars” franchise when she played Rose Tico in “The Last Jedi.” She was also the first Asian woman to appear on the cover of Vanity Fair.
But online abuse from critical fans led her to delete her Instagram posts this summer. She spoke out for the first time in an Op-Ed, reflecting on past experiences and how they shaped her worldview.
“I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white,” Ms. Tran wrote, condemning racist and sexist harassment.
Her piece was a stand against toxic fan culture and a refusal to be marginalized. And, as The Los Angeles Times noted, “that’s what Rose Tico would do.”
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California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.