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Independent Could Make History in California

Courtesy Linda Parks
An internal poll conducted for Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks’ (above) campaign indicates the Independent is favored to advance to the general election in California’s 26th district along with Republican state Sen. Tony Strickland.

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“Linda Parks is a political opportunist who will say and do whatever it takes to get elected — even change her party affiliation from a Democrat to a Republican to an Independent,” DCCC spokeswoman Amber Moon said. “California voters want leaders who stand up for them, not abandon them when it’s politically expedient.”

Parks’ internal poll of 361 likely voters was taken over three days ending Feb. 28, the day before Parks changed her voter registration from Republican to “no party preference,” which was previously referred to in California as “decline to state.” Another recently passed law in California requires candidates to be listed on the ballot as the party under which they are registered.

“She’s not an Independent, she’s a Republican and has been one her entire elected career and lives in the part of the district that leans heavily Republican,” Brownley campaign manager Lenny Young said. “In a partisan race, there’s too much at stake for a Democrat to vote for a Republican.”

When asked, Parks declined to say whether she would vote for Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) or Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for Speaker in 2013. Rather, Parks said, she would like to sit down with leadership and start a “bipartisan committee.”

The district, much of which retiring Rep. Elton Gallegly (R) currently represents, has a voter registration breakdown of 41 percent Democratic, 35 percent Republican and 18 percent with no party preference. One wild card June 5 is the role of the coinciding GOP presidential primary, which could affect turnout.

These are the first regularly scheduled Congressional “jungle” primaries in California. Allowing only the top two vote-getters from an all-party primary to advance is a format only a couple of other states have used and one that’s been criticized for tilting the competitive balance away from third-party candidates. But Parks doesn’t see it that way, noting that she wouldn’t have won either party’s nomination in a traditional primary and has a better chance now than as a third party in a general.

“I just think of this as pure democracy,” Parks said. “Anyone can run, and it doesn’t matter what party you’re in.”

Young and Brownley’s strategist, Steve Barkan, are two of only a few consultants in the state who have experience at the Congressional level in the new primary format. They worked for California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) in last year’s special election in the strongly Democratic 36th district, won by Rep. Janice Hahn (D).

Hahn and Bowen had been heavily favored to advance past the primary, but Bowen fell 709 votes short to wealthy Republican Craig Huey in large part because liberal Marcy Winograd (D) siphoned off more than 9 percent of the vote.

Parks’ last win came in June 2010 against Strickland’s wife, then-Assemblywoman Audra Strickland. The county GOP spent big to help Strickland, whom Parks defeated by a wide margin. There is no secret about the bad blood between Parks and the Stricklands, which gives the general election yet another storyline to watch should Parks advance.

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