Voters in Manteca, Ripon, Escalon and Stanislaus County could shake the machine apparatus of both the Democrat and Republican parties to the core in 25 days.
That’s when California’s first open primary takes place. It covers all offices except president, local races, and central committees for the respective parties. In an open primary, the two top vote getters regardless of their party affiliation face off in the general election.
There has been a concern that in some districts - such as liberal San Francisco - the two top vote getters may well end up being both Democrats who would then face each other in the general election without a Republican on the ballot. There are some - but a lot fewer - districts where the Republicans could be the top two vote getters.
What makes the 10th Congressional District different, though, is a dynamic that exists nowhere else in California. There are five names on the ballot that anyone can vote for - Republican Jeff Denham, Democrats Jose Hernandez and Mike Barkley, as well as two candidates that opted to run independent of any party - Troy Wayne McComak and Chad Condit.
Barkley - a Manteca apartment complex owner and retried communications worker - is a long shot at best. So is McComak, who lists himself as a scientist, teacher, and entrepreneur.
That leaves three people. The only thing they have in common is moving into the district to run. Denham is currently in Congress and moved to Turlock after redistricting. Hernandez is moving from Stockton. He was picked by the Democratic Party for his appeal as an astronaut.
Then there is the wild card - Condit.
Condit has been away from the district but this is where he grew up. He graduated from Ceres High.
His father - Gary Condit - was an extremely popular congressman that represented Stanislaus County for years. He was one of the Blue Dog Democrats meaning he had wide appeal as a moderate and had a strong following of Republican as well as Democrat supporters. His electability was based on conservative positions that resonated extremely well with voters of both parties within the district.
It is true that the senior Condit’s affair with intern Chandra Levy basically ended his political career. It isn’t creating a problem for his son despite the best efforts of the national press to try and nail the sins of the father on the son.
Denham’s power of incumbency is weak at best because he has never represented anyone in the 10th District before. Hernandez should be proud of his status as this nation’s first Hispanic astronaut, but his biggest political accomplishment to date is being picked by the Democratic Party to move into the 10th District to run.
Condit has picked up a number of endorsements that would normally go to Democrat candidates. He is also getting support from people who describe themselves as strong Republicans.
That means Condit - thanks to his strong name recognition - has a realistic shot at being one of the top two vote getters. If that happens, it has ramifications much more significant than let’s say two Democrats in an extremely strong Democrat district taking the one and two spots and facing off in November.
It would send a signal that independents - those who shun the trappings of party platforms and the accompanying politics of acrimony - have a realistic chance of gaining election.
Even if Condit doesn’t grab one of the two spots but makes an extremely strong showing, it could very well signal the dawn of a new age in California politics, where one doesn’t have to kowtow to the party money machines and apparatus to gain election to office. It could change the dynamics in Sacramento and even, ultimately, in Washington, D.C.
And Condit is not just a Democrat in an independent’s clothing.
He’s got his father’s DNA for pragmatism.
Condit has carved out a middle ground on one of the biggest hot button items in the district involving federal money - the high speed rail project .
He sees the value of high speed rail and he sees the folly of spending $100 billion to get it launched.
Instead, he believes leaders have a moral obligation to deliver the system that the voters were told they were get at essentially the price they were promised.
And if that isn’t feasible, then you go back and ask if they are still on board.
It kind of reminds you of the days when the counterbalance to concentrated power of then Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, who ruled Sacramento for 15 years, wasn’t Republicans but a small group of four moderate Blue Dog Democrats primarily from the San Joaquin Valley.
With a closed primary system combined with redistricting that historically benefitted incumbents, the odds of electing a moderate Democrat - or a moderate Republican - in California are practically zilch.
That may all start changing June 5.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.