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There is a chance no Democrat will appear on the November ballot in an otherwise top pickup opportunity in California, a state crucial to the party’s hopes of winning the House majority.
Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks’ unconventional third-party bid for Congress would be groundbreaking under California’s new election laws, and she has a realistic shot at becoming the first Independent elected to the House since 2004.
Under the state’s new top-two primary format, her decision to run without a major-party label threw yet another curveball into the race for the new Ventura-based 26th district, a high priority for both national parties.
“I wouldn’t be running if it weren’t the open primary, but I’m really enjoying being an Independent,” said Parks, who has been in elected office for the better part of two decades. “I have support from Republicans and Democrats and independents.”
Parks has been a registered Democrat and Republican and has won three terms for the high-profile but nonpartisan position of county supervisor.
A new internal poll conducted for the Parks campaign indicates she is favored to advance to the general election along with Republican state Sen. Tony Strickland, with four Democrats as the odd ones out. As the only Republican, Strickland is practically assured of moving beyond June 5.
“She’s the Democrats’ problem,” Strickland consultant Joe Justin said flatly.
Indeed, establishment Democrats are beginning to coalesce around state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, widely seen as the most viable candidate, in an effort to avoid a splintered vote. Brownley, who lives in Santa Monica but represents a small portion of the district, entered the race after Democratic frontrunner Steve Bennett abruptly dropped out at the state party convention in February.
Bennett quickly backed Brownley, and Rep. Lois Capps (D), who represents a neighboring coastal district, endorsed Brownley on Thursday.
Parks’ polling memo from consulting firm Gorton Blair Biggs targets the leading Democrat, positing that the late entrant does not have enough time to make up for low voter recognition. Nor do David Cruz Thayne or Jess Herrera, both of whom are at less than 5 percent in a horse race.
With the possibility of no Democrat advancing to the general in a district President Barack Obama would have carried in 2008 with 58 percent, Parks is a big target for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and her Democratic opponents. Parks announced in a recent press release that a DCCC video tracker was turned away from one of her fundraisers.