What's all this surprise about a Republican in the 36th district?

The only real surprise is that Craig Huey, the unknown Republican businessman who finished second in the 36th congressional district, didn't get more votes. Here's why.

Because of the new rules, Tuesday's primary was essentially a general election with more names to choose from. Voters could vote for anyone they wished, regardless of party. Democrats dominated, as they usually do in the 36th district, which covers the South Bay and Westside. But the Dem vote was split among too many candidates. Secretary of State Debra Bowen lost liberal votes to Marcy Winograd, and fell into third place and out of the runoff.

Huey, who doesn't even live in the district but spent $500,000 hoping to spoil the Democrats' party, was the beneficiary. He snuck past Bowen into the top two and thus into the runoff — for now. But he actually fared worse than all the recent Republicans who ran against Jane Harman, until recently the incumbent. Huey got just under 22% of the vote. The ones who lost to Harman did better:

2010: Mattie Fein, 34.7%
2008: Brian Gibson, 31.3%
2006: Brian Gibson, 32.0%
2004: Paul Whitehead 33.5%

So the Republican only has to be alive to get at least 30% of the vote. If Huey's 206-vote lead over Bowen survives the final 9,000 votes to be counted, he has some reason to be upbeat. The total Republican vote to all candidates on Tuesday amounted to 40.8 percent, and that's the best in years for the GOP in that district.

More by Kevin Roderick:
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Power out Monday across Malibu
Put Jamal Khashoggi Square outside the Saudi consulate on Sawtelle
Here's who the LA Times has newly hired*
LA Observed Notes: Clippers hire big-time writer, unfunny Emmys, editor memo at the Times and more
Recent Politics stories on LA Observed:
Cheers for Gov. Brown and his pardon of Rod Wright
Maria Elena Durazo
A serious night at Central Library
Put Jamal Khashoggi Square outside the Saudi consulate on Sawtelle
Can talk therapy cure LA's civic malaise?
Ryu says Korean Americans must step up
UCLA study calls for rent control tightening
Their most frightening experience


LA Observed on Twitter