Tuesday will certainly mark a turning point in contests for two San Joaquin Valley state legislative seats and a congressional one in the rural, heavily Democratic territories along the south valley's west side.

The candidate lists will be whittled down to two names.

But political observers from both parties say people won't be able to read the outcome of November's general election from the results.

"It's a whole new election," Democratic political analyst Gene Tackett said. "You have to run again and it's all about getting your vote out."

Here's what's predicted Tuesday: Democratic voters will poll behind Republicans in the 21st Congressional and 14th Senate districts, giving incumbent state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, first-round wins.

Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, should fare better against poorly funded Republican candidates Pedro Rios and Romeo Agbalog.

Then, observers say, the November general election is a whole new ball game.

A head-to-head contest between Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and a Republican challenger could rally Democrats to the polls -- especially if that Republican opposes comprehensive immigration reform, they say.

And, with only two candidates in each race, campaigns will be free to focus on defeating one person.

But the bottom line is that thousands of voters who didn't cast ballots in June will take action in November. And -- in these Democratic districts -- that helps Democrats.

Turnout, observers say, will be everything.


Looking at the raw registration numbers, Democrats should win all three seats by commanding margins Tuesday.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 14.25 percentage points in the 21st Congressional District and by 17.25 percentage points in the 14th Senate District.

But races are decided by those who vote, not those who could vote.

Without a presidential, U.S. Senate or competitive statewide contest, there is little, observers say, to attract Democratic voters to the polls.

Republican political analyst Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, said he expects to see Democrats in the valley poll somewhere around 10 percent lower than Republicans.

Vidak and Valadao will likely do well in June. But that's no guarantee they will sail to easy wins in November, he said.

And a united Republican Party will still have to fight hard to push Salas out of office.

Hoffenblum said Democrats suffered first-round losses in a number of races in 2012 only to win solidly in head-to-head contests in the general election.

After Tuesday, he said, "All you're going to know is who the top two (candidates) are."


Tal Eslick, spokesman for Valadao's campaign, agreed that the voting public shouldn't place too much emphasis on Tuesday's numbers.

Hoffenblum said former U.S. Senate staffer Amanda Renteria is very likely to beat out fellow Democrat John Hernandez -- who appears to be running on a shoe-string budget -- for the right to face Valadao.

Renteria spokesperson Maria Machuca said spending by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Valadao and attack ads leveled at Renteria prove the Valadao camp takes her as a serious general election threat.

Democrats turn out more aggressively in general elections, she said, and the Renteria camp is confident it can turn the tables on Valadao in November.

"We are very comfortable about how things are right now and where things are," Machuca said.

Eslick said party registration numbers mean less in this election because Valadao has proven he can attract Democratic voters.

"The 21st Congressional District is unique in that voters are willing to cross party lines, in primary and general elections, he wrote in an email. "Voters will support the candidate who shares their values and best represents the 21st District."


Tuesday's results might be a little more telling in the 14th Senate District race.

Only two candidates are running -- Vidak and Democratic challenger Luis Chavez -- so this primary contest serves as a rehearsal for November.

This time last year, Vidak was just a cherry farmer hoping to capture the 16th Senate District. He realized his dream by beating Democratic Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez in a summer special match-up.

Now Chavez, a Fresno Unified School District trustee and the chief of staff for a Fresno councilman, is the outsider.

And Vidak has the upper hand.

Vidak had more than $320,000 in the bank in mid-May. Chavez spent heavily to get into the race and had only $52,000 in the bank and $49,000 in debt.

Chavez's campaign manager, Mark Scozzari, said with both men guaranteed a spot on the November ballot, Tuesday is just a "pre-season game."

"If you take away his accrued expenses, he only has about $3,000 left. We feel pretty good about where we are," said Steve Presson, a Vidak consultant. "He's done a decent TV buy, but we'll see on election night whether it's enough."

Hoffenblum said that a win for Vidak Tuesday can't been seen as a guarantee of victory in the general election.

The wild card in all the west valley races -- Hoffenblum believes -- is conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly, an anti-immigration firebrand.

If Republicans pick Donnelly over the more moderate Neel Kashkari, Hoffenblum argues, "it could be disasterous for down-ballot races."

Latinos will turn out "very heavily," he said, to defeat a man who patrolled the U.S. border to repel immigrants entering the country illegally.

Valadao and Vidak would need, Hoffenblum said, "a huge amount of people who were voting for Jerry Brown voting for them, too."


Salas' primary contest is a little more predictable, said Democratic campaign consultant Tackett.

"It's a challenge for everyone but Salas," he said. "The candidates are much weaker. I think he will do well and do well in November."

In the primary two years ago, Pedro Rios wrested the Republican nomination for the 32nd Assembly District away from Jon McQuiston without much cat-calling.

This time, it's different. After 16 months as an incumbent, Salas is a virtual certainty on the November ballot.

Rios, a teacher and farmer, is back but faces a well-connected adversary in Agbalog, a Delano school board trustee and staffer for state Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield.

Agbalog has been endorsed by Fuller, Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia, and former Congressman Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield.


Hoffenblum sees 2014's elections in the valley as a window into the future of the Republican Party in California.

"If there is any growth in Republicanism, it's going to be in the Central Valley," he said.

Valadao and Vidak have both built moderate messages that strike the right tone on hot-button issues like immigration, Hoffenblum said.

"Republicans in the valley are going their own way and they're not listening to some Republican down in Orange County with 2 percent Latino registration," he said.

Tackett said Vidak and Valadao have "crafted a message that reaches out to those independents and the people who turn out in any election."

He said their messages are not unlike the moderate, business-friendly Democratic stances that powered Michael Rubio and Dean Florez to victory in these same districts in previous years.

But ultimately Latino Democrats will claim victory in west valley districts, Tackett said.

"In the southern valley, from Fresno to Bakersfield, the coming votes are from Latinos," he said. "They will get organized."