TIME 2014 Election

California’s New Jungle Primary System

Mike Honda
Liberal lion Mike Honda in D.C., where he has support from the Democratic establishment. He has served seven terms in Congress but faces challenges from within his own party Jose Luis Magana—AP

All bets are off in California's congressional races as multiple candidates from the same party face off

“I’m Guessing,” says Dan Schnur, who is running for California secretary of state, “that not many of you lie awake at night wondering what the next California secretary of state will do.” There is laughter from the crowd of maybe 30 voters. And you, too, dear readers–especially those of you who don’t even live in California–may be wondering why a candidate for a decidedly obscure political office is worthy of your attention.

Well, part of it is that Dan Schnur is an interesting guy, a longtime consultant to moderate Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McCain. But he isn’t a Republican anymore. He’s running as an Independent. “I’m in favor of marriage equality and lower taxes,” he begins. “I’m tough on crime and pro-choice. I’m for immigration reform and for using test scores as a valuable measure of students’ progress. Yes, the reason that I’m running as an Independent is that neither party will have me.”

But that’s not exactly accurate. He’s running as an Independent because there were two political reforms enacted during Schwarzenegger’s time as governor of California. They were below the radar but startling, the sort of reforms that are near impossible because incumbent politicians usually block them–but they were passed by public referendum and initiative in 2010, and Schnur was one of those at the heart of the campaign to get them enacted.

The reforms are ingeniously simple. There is no more gerrymandering in California, no more congressional or state legislative districts tailored to the needs of the incumbents or the majority political party. District lines are now drawn by an independent commission to reflect actual community borders. (The commissioners are forbidden by law from knowing where the incumbents live.) Second, primaries are now multipartisan: the top two vote getters, regardless of party affiliation, face off against each other in the general election. Schnur co-chaired the Voices of Reform project on redistricting. “I wasn’t too involved in the top-two primary reform,” he says. “I didn’t think it would make much difference … but I’ve learned: this could be enormous.” Schnur and his colleagues may have actually created an electoral system that favors centrists rather than politicians who play to their party’s base. On June 3, California will go to the polls in what politicos have taken to calling the Jungle Primary.

California’s Fourth Congressional District is a perfect primer for the curiosities of the Jungle. Tom McClintock, 57, is the three-term incumbent and has long prided himself on his “constitutionalist” orneriness. He is, in other words, a Tea Party Republican. His district, in the Central Valley and foothills, is very conservative but perhaps not as extreme as McClintock is. He is, for example, in favor of amnesty for Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, because Snowden helped expose the criminal proclivities of the federal government and “I’d rather have him home talking to us than over there talking to the Russians.”

At a well-attended Saturday-afternoon meeting in the town of Mariposa, near the entrance to Yosemite National Park, McClintock endorsed a candidate for county supervisor and then addressed the crowd, many of whom wore cowboy hats and sported some elaborate facial hair. They were all het up over the federal government and the “left-wing environmentalists,” as McClintock described them, calling the federal tune in Yosemite. Some of their complaints sounded reasonable: a local toad was about to be labeled “threatened,” which would further limit the local water supply (there’s been a terrible drought in California)–but the toads were dying out, according to the locals, because the feds had stocked the lakes with trout, which ate the tadpoles. The feds were also proposing to close down stables and rafting businesses along the Yosemite waterways.

McClintock is a smart politician who knows the issues, knows what his constituents care about and can make it seem as if he’s as angry as they are. He takes lonely–his opponents say obstructionist–stands against the various agencies of the Department of the Interior. He “speaks truth to power,” as he told the folks in Mariposa. In the past, he didn’t have many electoral cares; the Democrats have never had much of a chance in either the old or new Fourth District. But now McClintock has to worry about Art Moore, who is also a Republican.

Moore, 36, is a razor-sharp recent combat veteran, an Army major returned to his hometown of Roseville, the most populous community in the Fourth District. He is a graduate of West Point who served tours in both Iraq and Kuwait. He is also, however, a stone-cold neophyte who hasn’t really been to political boot camp yet. He is, he says, “a conservative,” and he checks the appropriate boxes on most conservative issues, like Obamacare–but he also is “a bit more libertarian” than McClintock on social issues like gay marriage and abortion. Most important, though, is his style: he’s the opposite of McClintock’s lone gunslinger. “You’ve got to sit down and negotiate with those you don’t agree with,” he says. “[McClintock] has a perfect conservative voting record, but what has he got done? He voted to shut down the federal government–to close Yosemite–which really hurt this district. I’m in favor of building coalitions and seeing if we can make some progress on the issues.”

Moore admits that he would not have run under the old system. McClintock has the party base locked up and the power of incumbency. But if Moore can make it into the general election against McClintock, he may be able to access independent and moderate Democratic voters as well as his brand of conservative Republicans. “In the Jungle Primary, everybody has to run to the center,” says Fred Keeley, a former state rep from Santa Cruz who co-chaired the Voices of Reform project with Schnur, “because that’s where the votes are.”

McClintock claims not to be worried about Moore. He tells me that his “most substantial opponent” in the Fourth District is an Independent named Jeffrey Gerlach. It’s a lovely tactic to pretend that Moore doesn’t matter and a sign that uniprimary politics can get pretty interesting: a Republican opponent like Moore, who might appeal to moderates in November, when more people are paying attention, is McClintock’s worst nightmare in the Jungle.

Indeed, across the state in Silicon Valley, there has been an outbreak of electoral weirdness in the 17th Congressional District–which, in some ways, is a mirror image of the race in the Fourth: Mike Honda, a traditional labor liberal, is opposed by a more moderate Democratic newcomer named Ro Khanna. Khanna, 37, is an Indian American, an intellectual-property lawyer who worked in Barack Obama’s Commerce Department and has close ties to the President. He has also reportedly raised $3.7 million–far more than Honda–from Silicon Valley tech titans, who are just beginning to flex their political muscles (much as Hollywood did during the Vietnam War). Khanna is an impressive candidate, fluent on every issue and, in some cases, downright courageous: he is willing to challenge the public-employee unions–all of which support Honda–on issues like accountability and pension reform. Most of the major newspapers in the district have endorsed Khanna.

But the 17th District also has a semiplausible third candidate–a Republican named Dr. Vanila Singh, 43, a young and attractive professor of anesthesiology at Stanford University Medical School. Singh is a neophyte and can seem foggy on the issues, but she has positioned herself cleverly–she’s another social liberal, and she’s willing to negotiate with the Democrats about the Affordable Care Act. In fact, since about 25% of the district votes Republican, she might pose a credible primary threat to Khanna, the Democratic moderate. And so, after she declared her candidacy, there was a sudden flowering of old-style urban ward politics in and around San Jose. Suddenly, Singh had two Republican challengers–one named, confusingly enough, Vanish Singh Rathore (who was eliminated from the ballot because the signatures on his petitions were not remotely plausible); the other, Joel Vanlandingham, offered petitions that included signatures from Khanna supporters.

Khanna denies any hand in this. “I would have to be pretty stupid to get involved in that sort of thing,” he says. “I mean, Vanlandingham was really tough on me in the League of Women Voters debate.”

There are some who say that the Jungle will cause of lot of rumbling but no real results. “The rubber meets the road when the moderates go to Congress,” says Samuel Popkin of the University of California at San Diego. “The evidence suggests they stick with the party line.” The evidence is skimpy, though–just the 2012 election, when the Jungle was brand-new and most politicians weren’t completely aware of its possibilities yet. Some felt the traditional pull of partisan loyalty and chose not to challenge their party’s stalwarts.

Khanna was one such in 2012, when he chose not to challenge the venerable Representative Pete Stark, a devoted liberal and the only admitted atheist in the House. Another young Democrat, Eric Swalwell, made that race and beat Stark, which sent a signal throughout the state that the Jungle was open for business: you could challenge incumbents of your own party and maybe even win.

Honda seems a bit mystified by all that has happened. His is a classic American story. He spent part of his youth imprisoned in a Japanese-American internment camp in Colorado during World War II. He was inspired, not embittered, by the experience. He became a teacher and then a school principal, then commenced a public life that culminated in seven terms in Congress. His campaign office is in a Service Employees International Union hall. He greets me wearing jeans and cowboy boots and a red, white and blue Democratic donkey tie.

He sees his career as many incumbents do: a list of local projects funded, of ideological battles fought–in his case, the relentless pursuit of social justice and civil rights. He remembers helping get a nanotechnology bill passed in 2003 at the behest of Silicon Valley, but now the techno-wizards have abandoned him in favor of Khanna. “I’m an orchardist,” he says. “That nanotechnology bill planted the seeds for the trees that are bearing the fruit in Silicon Valley now. But I guess no one remembers those who plant the trees.”

It is hard not to have sympathy for Honda, but the political orchard he and his generation planted was poisoned over time by partisanship and paralysis, and now it has been replaced by a jungle. We’ll see what sorts of glorious fruits and subtle poisons the Jungle brings forth.

TIME weather

Wildfire Rages Near San Diego

California officials have battled double the average number of blazes so far this year. This latest fire spurred the evacuation of 20,000 homes in and around San Diego

TIME weather

20,000 Homes Evacuated as Wildfires Burn Near San Diego

More than 20,000 homes in and around San Diego were evacuated after more than 700 acres were torched by wildfires, which officials say have been brought on by an extended period of drought and high temperatures

Unseasonably warm temperatures and boisterous winds triggered evacuation orders in San Diego on Tuesday, where more than 700 acres have been torched by wildfires.

Authorities called for the evacuation of more than 20,000 homes in and around San Diego earlier in the day, but officials allowed many to return to their homes on Tuesday night as temperatures dropped in the area.

“We believe we have a pretty good handle on it,” said San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar. “We hope to do some more work through the night and into tomorrow, but I think the largest part of the emergency has passed.”

An extended period of drought in tandem with unusually high temperatures has left large swaths of the state’s landscape ripe for burning.

“Fire season last year never really ended in Southern California,” Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the Associated Press.

California officials have responded to more than 1,350 fires since the beginning of January, which is double the average number of blazes at this time of year.

[AP]

TIME animals

Photos: Inside a Hospital for California’s Stranded Seals and Sea Lions

The Marine Mammal Center, currently dealing with a record number of starving sea lion pups, has been caring for stranded sea animals since volunteers started the animal hospital with kiddie pools nearly 40 years ago

TIME Food & Drink

The 25 Best Burgers in the U.S.

William Brinson Photography

From the editors of Food & Wine, a list of the top patties around America

The burger, America’s quintessential comfort food, can now be enjoyed in an impossibly endless number of ways. There are round-the-clock burgers at 24-hour-roadside joints and ephemeral late-night burgers sold out in mere minutes; burgers grilled in hundred-year-old cast-iron broilers and burgers steamed in state-of-the-art ovens; burgers crafted from Kobe beef imported from Japan and burgers made with Black Angus beef from just down the road. It’s clearly a great time to love the burger. Food & Wine has singled out the best.

New York City: Shake Shack

Signature Burger: ShackBurger (Black Angus beef patty topped with American cheese, tomato, lettuce, and “Shack Sauce,” served in a grilled potato bun).

Uber restaurateur Danny Meyer’s beloved mini empire has a cult following among Gotham burger geeks. Must-order items include the ShackBurger (served with American cheese, tomato, lettuce, and “Shack Sauce” in an old-fashioned wax paper wrapper) and a “hand-spun” chocolate-and-peanut-butter custard shake.

Ohio: B-Spot Burgers

Signature Burger: Lola Burger.

Michael Symon, F&W Best New Chef 1998, specializes in “meat on meat” burgers at his Ohio-based chain B-Spot. Named after his Cleveland flagship, the Lola Burger could almost double as a breakfast sandwich since it’s piled high with bacon and a fried egg (in addition to pickled red onions, cheddar cheese and mayo).

MORE: Best Bacon Burgers in the U.S.

New York City: Minetta Tavern

Signature Burger: Black Label Burger (topped with caramelized onions).

Minetta Tavern’s excellent burgers use a beef blend—dry-aged rib eye, skirt steak, brisket and short rib—from famed purveyor Pat LaFrieda, and buns from Balthazar Bakery.

MORE: Over-the-Top Burgers

Atlanta, GA: Holeman & Finch

Signature Burger: Burger (two cheeseburgers on a house-made bun).

Star chef Linton Hopkins announces “burger time”—10 p.m.—with the ringing of two bull horns; that’s when two dozen grass-fed beef burgers are up for grabs and consistently sold out within minutes. The burgers are also available on the Sunday brunch menu.

California: In-N-Out Burger

Signature Burger: Cheeseburger.

Even superstar chef Thomas Keller is a fan of the West Coast chain—and with good reason. The cooked-to-order burgers are made with beef from Southwest ranches and served with hand-cut fries. For a messier, more indulgent experience, order your burger “Animal Style” for extra sauce and chopped grilled onions.

READ THE FULL LIST HERE

More from Food & Wine:

Best Pizza Places in the U.S.

Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.

TIME animals

California Officers Rescue Chihuahua Stranded on a Highway Median

She's now safe and sound -- and looking for a new home

A tiny little pup who was plucked from a busy California freeway last week is now resting up and recovering from the traumatic ordeal.

California Highway Patrol officers were alerted on Friday about a chihuahua who was stranded on a median on Interstate Highway 680, NBC Bay Area reports. The Contra Costa CHP tweeted a picture of an officer helping out the poor pooch:

“We attempted to coax it, we could tell it was very frightened, it was shaking. We were able to pet it a little bit, but other than that we could tell it was not happy,” CHP officer Alex Edmon told NBC. Eventually, officers had to call animal control since they’d arrived on motorcycles and had no way to safely transport the dog, who’s estimated to be around two years old. She had no tags or identification when they found her.

The dog didn’t appear to have any injuries, and there were no witnesses who saw how she ended up stranded on the median. Contra Costa Animal Services, who is now caring for her, said on its Facebook page that she’s recovering and “may already have a home if her owner doesn’t come for her.”

On Sunday, the group posted some new pictures of her. She’s doing just fine, and she’s also really cute:

 

TIME cities

A California City Plans to Make Bullying a Crime

The Carson city council voted in favor of a measure to make it a misdemeanor to physically, verbally or virtually bully anyone between kindergarten and age 25, in some cases holding suspected bullies' parents responsible, ahead of a second vote on May 20

A city in Southern California is moving to criminalize bullying.

In the first round of voting on Tuesday, the Carson city council voted 5-0 in favor of the measure, which would make it a misdemeanor to pick on anyone from kindergarten up to 25 years of age. The council will vote for the second time on May 20.

The ordinance would cover physical, verbal and online bullying, and offenders charged with bullying could be required to seek therapy and counseling and pay a fine. Parents of suspected bullies could also be held responsible.

“We’re not talking about putting a 5-year-old in jail, we’re talking about intervening in both the bully’s life, who is a person who is hurting too, and the victim’s life,” Jim Dear, mayor of the Los Angeles suburb, told Reuters.

If the ordinance passes the second round of voting, it will take effect after 30 calendar days and make Carson one of the first jurisdictions in the U.S. to make bullying a crime. In Florida, there is a campaign to adopt the so-called Rebecca’s Law, which would make bullying punishable with up to a year in jail. The state of Maryland outlawed cyberbullying on May 2.

[Reuters]

TIME

Newport Beach High School Gets Called Out on ‘Prom Draft’

First picks in the NFL draft get millions of dollars to play football. But at one high school, that “number one draft” formula has been applied controversially to something else: Finding a date for prom. And not everyone is happy about it.

Male students at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, Calif., have long selected their prom date through a slotted system, much like a professional sport draft. The rules and results get posted on Twitter.

Some parents and school officials, however, do not want the female students to feel as if they are being judged or ranked.

This isn’t the first time that Corona del Mar High School has made news in recent years. There was a cheating scandal earlier this year and a lawsuit by the ACLU in 2009 for allowing “a sexist and homophobic atmosphere.”

TIME Transportation

FAA Confirms Spy Plane Caused LAX Chaos

Cold War Spy Plane
A U.S. U2 reconnaissance plane taking off at the U.S. airbase in Osan, south of Seoul, South Korea. AP

Federal aviation authorities say the security situation at Los Angeles International Airport last week that scrambled computers and caused flight cancelations was actually just a Cold War-era U2 aircraft passing overhead at high altitude

The FAA confirmed Monday that a U2 spy plane flying over Southern California last week scrambled computers and caused overall confusion at Los Angeles International Airport, resulting in flight cancellations and delays.

The Cold War-era plane confused aging computers when it flew over LAX on April 30, the FAA said. Even though the plane was flying almost twice as high as commercial airliners, the FAA said in a statement that “the computer system interpreted the flight as a more typical low-altitude operation and began processing it for a route below 10,000 feet.”

Commercial planes and the jet were miles apart with no risk of collision. But according to the FAA, “the extensive number of routings that would have been required to de-conflict the aircraft with lower-altitude flights used a large amount of available memory and interrupted the computer’s other flight-processing functions.”

The problem was resolved within an hour, although LAX reported that 50 flights were canceled and 455 experienced delays. Precautions are being made so that facilities using older computer systems will have increased available memory to prevent similar situations in the future. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta also said Friday that all 20 centers in the country will be running on a new computer system by next March.

[NBC News]

TIME Aviation

California Air Show Cancelled After Pilot Dies in Crash

Pilot Eddie Andreini flies his Boeing Stearman over the crowd at Vandenberg Airforce Base, Calif., on Oct. 30, 2004, during the Western Air and Space Show.
Pilot Eddie Andreini flies his Boeing Stearman over the crowd at Vandenberg Airforce Base, Calif., on Oct. 30, 2004, during the Western Air and Space Show. Aaron Lambert—Santa Maria Times/AP

Eddie Andreini had been flying since he was a teenager, but he died at 77 years old on Sunday when his vintage plane crashed while upside-down in the midst an acrobatic maneuver during an air show at California's Travis Air Force Base

A vintage airplane crashed during an air show in California on Sunday, killing the septuagenarian pilot and causing officials to cancel the rest of the show.

Eddie Andreini, 77, was killed when his PT-17 biplane crashed during the “Thunder over Solano” Air Expo at about 2 p.m. on Sunday, Travis Air Force Base said on its website. A base spokesman told Reuters that Andreini was doing an acrobatic maneuver before the crash. It wasn’t immediately clear whether anyone else was on board.

Andreini had been flying since he was a teenager, and had been performing in air shows for the last 25 years, Col. David Mott told CNN. He also said the plane was upside down when it hit the ground.

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