The field of candidates for the Feb. 15 special election in the Senate district that includes Santa Paula and Fillmore has been set. It will be one of two special elections that day that will be the first in the state to be conducted under the rules of California's new top-two primary system, in which if no candidate gets a majority the top two finishers advance to the general election, regardless of party.
The 17th Senate District won't provide any test for how the new system will work, however, because there are only two candidates.
What will be different, however, is how the candidates are listed on the ballot. They are no longer specifically designated as candidates from a particular party. Instead, Sharon Runner, wife of the previous senator, George Runner, will be listed with the identifying statement, "My Party Preference is the Republican Party." Her opponent, Darren Parker, will be listed on the ballot with the identifier, "My Party Preference is the Democratic Party." Both will carry the ballot designation "small business owner."
The more interesting test of the top-two primary on Feb. 15 will come in the 28th Senate District, where eight candidates will be on the ballot -- two whose preference is the Democratic Party, four whose preference is the Republican Party and two who state no party preference.
In that district, centered around Long Beach, there are twice as many registered Democrats as registered Republicans. With four candidates who claim a preference for the Republican Party on the ballot, it is conceivable that they could splinter the GOP vote. If that happens, it's possible that the runoff, if there is one, could very well feature two Democrats or one Democrat and and an independent.