Let's call this statewide primary what it really is: the Rodney Dangerfield election.
Much like the late comic who made, "I don't get no respect" his calling card, Tuesday's election in California is one that won't feel the spotlight of a nationally watched presidential primary, tight statewide candidate races, or a plethora of ballot initiatives.
But hundreds of candidates will be closely watching results, and so will we throughout the night at News10.
And so five storylines for political junkies to keep in mind:
Who Votes? Just about everyone thinks this is going to be one of the lowest -- or the very lowest -- turnouts of California voters for a presidential primary in memory. Democratic strategist Paul Mitchell and his crack team of data geeks has been looking at primary elections from the last several years -- both those with and without presidential candidates -- and concludes that only around 5 million Californians will vote on Election Day. That would be a turnout of only close to 30 percent... which would break the all-time presidential primary low record.
That's of real significance only in the two biggest statewide races, the battle over Proposition 28 (term limits modification) and Proposition 29 (cigarette tax for cancer research). Historically speaking, it's older and more conservative voters who dominate low turnout elections. That's a tough group for backers of the Prop 29 tobacco tax, in particular. And while it could also derail Prop 28, polling has shown even conservative voters seem poised to rework legislative term limits.
The Intraparty Effect: This is the one that everyone wants to see, the possibility of two candidates from the same party moving on to November, and thus pushing explosive intraparty rivalries into overtime. The nonpartisan Target Book estimates as many as 34 legislative and congressional races on Tuesday could end with a Democrat-versus-Democrat or Republican-versus-Republican result once all the votes are counted.
None is more interesting than the battle of the Democratic bulls in the San Fernando Valley, where veteran Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman are locked in a bitter feud that seems destined for extra innings. A recent poll suggests Sherman has a strong lead over Berman, but both men seem poised to outpace any other challenges -- especially in a congressional district that is only 26 percent Republican.
Independent Candidates & Voters: There are four real races on Tuesday that'll be watched for how an independent candidate might fare under these new open primary rules. But most of these races feature independent candidates who, in truth, have very long partisan resumes.
Two congressional races are on this list: Ventura County's 26th district with candidate Linda Parks and the Inland Empire's 8th district with candidate Anthony Adams. Both were primarily known for being Republicans until this election season, and it's unclear whether either truly can find enough support across party lines to win one of the top two spots on Tuesday. Stanislaus County's 10th congressional district features an insurgent candidacy in Chad Condit, a bit more of an independent candidate than the others... until you remember his well-known, Democratic ex-congressman father. And San Diego's mayoral race will make national headlines, given incumbent Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher's GOP-turned-independent status that either was a bold shift based on his conscience or a shrewd move to boost a sagging political campaign. Or both.
Whither the Traveling Incumbent? After most statewide redistricting efforts, there are incumbent lawmakers who decide to pack their bags and move their residence to improve their odds for re-election, and 2012 is no different. A few of these will prove fascinating on Election Night, especially some closely watched races in the Legislature. West Los Angeles' state Assembly smackdown between incumbent Betsy Butler and challengers Torie Osborn and Richard Bloom is certainly one where the incumbent's fate will rely on everything from political muscle (Butler is being backed by the party establishment) to grassroots activists (Osborn calls herself the "home girl" in the district). Another hot race in the final stretch has been in Marin County, where incumbent Assemblyman Michael Allen also faces candidates who were ready to run long before a sitting legislator moved into town. A similar fight exists north of Sacramento, where GOP incumbent Dan Logue is running in an Assembly district that doesn't include the home in which he was living to represent his old district.
The Power of Interest Group Cash: This election cycle has seen some intense efforts by independent campaign committees in legislative and congressional races across the state -- all told, at least $15 million in targeted spending on everything from reams of mailbox flyers to robo-calls and beyond. How many of these efforts succeed? And in races where powerful forces are battling on opposite sides (charter school advocates versus a powerful teachers union, Republican conservative and centrist factions)... who comes out on top?
We'll have election returns twice an hour on the air, and look for info online, too. And check back here for some analysis in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.