The ‘why not factor’ and running for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat

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Sen. Barbara Boxer

There are 34 candidates running to replace Barbara Boxer in the Senate. It’s a huge number for one seat, and to make things even more confusing, the California ballot layout isn’t going to do voters any favors.

Then, there’s this to remember: California has a top two primary system, which means all the candidates run together in the primary, regardless of political affiliation, and the top two will be in the runoff in November.

To get some clarity on what voters should expect, Press Play talked to Raphael Sonenshein, Executive Director for the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA.

He said it’s really a race between Northern Californian Kamala Harris and Southern Californian Loretta Sanchez. They aren’t really all that different, but Harris is “a little bit more on the liberal side,” and Sanchez is “a little bit more centrist,” according to Sonenshein. “But they’re both well within the mainstream of the Democratic party,” said Sonenshein.

Although California is a solidly Democratic state when it comes to the Senate, polls says that somewhere between a third and half of voters are undecided.

As for Republicans, candidate Ron Unz stands out. He’s a Republican who is most known for his 1998 ballot that imposed restrictions on bi-lingual education. This year, there’s an initiative to repeal most of those restrictions.  

So why are so many people are running? There’s the “why not” factor said Sonenshein. The bar to run is pretty low (the filing fee is around $3,000). “It becomes kind of American Idol, and why not?” said Sonenshein, “it’s kind of democratic.”

Below: Sonenshein talked to Madeleine Brand on Press Play ahead of the April 15, 2016 Senate debate.


There are seven Democrats, 12 Republicans and 15 third-party candidates.

Here’s the full list (via Ballotpedia).

Cristina Grappo (D)
Kamala Harris (D)
Massie Munroe (D)
Herbert Peters (D)
Emory Rodgers (D)
Loretta Sanchez (D)
Steve Stokes (D)
Greg Conlon (R)
Tom Del Beccaro (R)
Von Hougo (R)
Don Krampe (R)
Jerry Laws (R)
Tom Palzer (R)
Karen Roseberry (R)
Duf Sundheim (R)
Ron Unz (R)
Jarrell Williamson (R)
Phil Wyman (R)
George Yang (R)
Pamela Elizondo (G)
Mark Matthew Herd (L)
Gail Lightfoot (L)
John Thompson Parker (Peace and Freedom)
Mike Beitiks (I)
Eleanor Garcia (I)
Tim Gildersleeve (I)
Clive Grey (I)
Don Grundmann (I)
Jason Hanania (I)
Jason Kraus (I)
Paul Merritt (I)
Gar Myers (I)
Ling Ling Shi (I)
Scott Vineberg (I)