Dan Schnur makes a nonpartisan pitch

For handicappers, the voter registration breakdown in California at last count was Democrats 44%, Republicans 29%, independents and minor parties 27%. Also, the ethnic mix relevant for Padilla and Yee is Latinos 22%, Asians 9%.

But not so fast, it's not that simple, says Paul Mitchell, who runs a nonpartisan number-crunching firm called Political Data.

Based on recent history, Mitchell predicts that significantly more Republicans and fewer independents and Latinos will vote in the primary than registration numbers would indicate. He projects this likely turnout: Democrats 45%, Republicans 38%, independents and minor parties 17%. Also: Latinos 14%, Asians 8%.

That's good news for Peterson. Bad news for Schnur and Padilla.

And there's more for Padilla because voters tend to side with the local guy. Although there are nearly twice as many registered voters in L.A. County as in the San Francisco Bay Area, more Bay Areans than Angelenos cast ballots during 2012 primary. Mitchell attributes that to L.A. making it harder to vote by mail.

As for Schnur attracting nonpartisans, Mitchell says that "independents tend not to go to primaries. They don't see them as their playgrounds."

But with the rules changing, the playground could become more appealing.

Schnur will be attacking Sacramento, his old stomping ground.

He arrived here in 1991 as Gov. Pete Wilson's spokesman, after a similar stint with the state GOP. Later he advised U.S. Sen. John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign and gubernatorial bids by L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan and baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth.

Then he became a poli-sci professor, first at UC Berkeley and later as director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. He pushed for the open primary and independent redistricting. And for about a year, he chaired the watchdog state Fair Political Practices Commission.

"When I returned to Sacramento," Schnur says, "I was amazed by how pervasive and all-encompassing the political fundraising had become. It never stops."

Back at USC, he chucked his Republican label and became an independent. "I realized both parties were equally complicit in how broken the system had become," he says.

Schnur wants to ban political fundraising during legislative sessions. He also advocates requiring candidates to report political contributions online within 24 hours. He'd upgrade the state computer system to make the data more accessible to the public — and do a bunch of other good-government stuff.

This looks like the most intriguing race on the ballot, one that could start a trend of nonpartisans running for statewide office. Conceivably even winning.