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First Draft on Politics: A Special Edition for the California Primaries

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Early voting was set up at the Costa Mesa Senior Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Monday.CreditJenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

Hello! Tomorrow is one of the year’s busiest primary nights, and here’s a special afternoon edition of First Draft to get you up to speed.

Eight states have primaries on Tuesday. In Montana, Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat in a deeply red state, is up for re-election. Democrats in New Jersey are eyeing several suburban districts in their quest to take control of the House of Representatives.

But it’s California that’s drawing the most attention, and rightfully so. The state has the fifth-largest economy in the world, and the choices its voters make have ramifications far beyond its state line.

We’ll have live results from all eight states on Tuesday night at NYTimes.com. And until then, we’ve rounded up seven key stories to help you understand the California primaries:

First up, the state has an unusual primary system. Instead of each party selecting a nominee and those nominees facing off in November, under California’s system, it is simply the top two vote-getters this week who will face off this fall. It’s unusual, yes, and it’s wreaking a little bit of havoc on the state’s election process.

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Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor and the leading Democratic candidate for governor in many polls, arrived for a town hall event Thursday in Palm Springs ahead of Tuesday’s primary election.CreditMax Whittaker for The New York Times

In the race for governor, the leading Democrats, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa, are struggling to break from the shadow of Gov. Jerry Brown, as well as their own past personal indiscretions. Among the Republicans, John Cox, the leading candidate has seen his position grow stronger in the days leading up to the primary. Here’s a look at where the governor’s race stands.

Like a lot of the country, California has pockets that are deeply red and deeply blue.

In San Francisco, which is voting for a new mayor, the four front-runners are all Democrats who agree on the liberal basics like legalized marijuana and funding public transportation. But the issue of homelessness in the city has opened a fissure in the race: ?

The Central Valley, the state’s agricultural core, is represented by conservative congressmen like Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes. It’s a rural heartland that embraces conservative values, and all the noise of the primaries .

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