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California: Radanovich Dodges First Primary Bullet

State Assembly Minority Leader Michael Villines, who has been mentioned in recent news articles and blog postings as a possible challenger to Rep. George Radanovich in the 2010 Republican primary, informed the Congressman this week that he is backing him for re-election.

“He will support the Congressman for re-election in 2010,— Villines spokeswoman Jennifer Gibbons told Roll Call on Wednesday.

Radanovich spokesman Spencer Pederson said Villines, who is term-limited in 2010, telephoned the Congressman on Monday night to say he would not run. Pederson said Alan Autry (R), the former mayor of Fresno who has also been seen as a possible contender for the House seat, recently told Radanovich that he will not run in 2010.

There has been some speculation in recent weeks that Radanovich could get a tough primary race because Bob Smittcamp, a prominent local businessman, has been actively recruiting a challenger. Smittcamp and Radanovich are at odds over a water project in the central valley.

Poll: Majority Support Open-Primary Initiative

A new independent poll shows that Golden State voters are inclined to support a proposal to create open primaries in the state.

The Field Poll recently queried California voters on a series of questions that will appear on the May 19 statewide ballot. Most would ratify a budget deal that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and the Legislature struck last month.

As part of the budget deal, lawmakers decided to ask voters whether they want to restore the state’s open primary to replace the closed-primary system that exists now. That question will go before voters in June 2010.

In the poll, 58 percent of voters said they would vote in favor of the ballot question and 27 percent said they were opposed. Although the state’s political parties have vowed to fight the open-primary proposal, support among Democrats and Republicans was in the mid-50s. Almost two-thirds of political independents supported the measure.

The poll of 761 registered voters was taken Feb. 20-March 1. It had a 3.6-point margin of error.

Under an open-primary system, candidates from all parties would appear on one ballot, and voters, regardless of their party registration, could select the candidate of their choice. The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, would then advance to the general election.

Advocates of the proposal believe open primaries would result in more moderates winning general elections, making the state less politically polarized. In 1996, Californians approved a somewhat different open-primary system, but it was ruled unconstitutional in court.

A 2004 referendum to restore the open primary was defeated 54 percent to 46 percent.

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