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February 7, 2014
Insider Extra: Legislative races to watch in 2014 - Part 5

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By Christopher Cadelago

In the last of five parts, veteran political analyst Tony Quinn offers his take on key legislative races, as Republicans seek to cut into Democrats' supermajority status this year. Here's a look at the most interesting state Senate contests in Southern California.

18th District
Former Democratic Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg is staging a comeback in a newly drawn district in the San Fernando Valley.

Tony's Take
When they saw the final Senate maps, some Latino activists called on the Citizens Redistricting Commission to reject them as they posed the risk of an actual loss of Latino seats. This will now come to fruition in this safe Democratic district that termed out Sen. Alex Padilla is giving up due to term limits. Hertzberg, who has the support of every major Democrat, will be the next Senator here, and the question is how long he waits before making a move to become Senate President Pro Tem.

28th District
This safe GOP seat pits former Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia against Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone and Indio Councilman Glenn Miller. The Senate GOP backs Garcia, who would help diversify caucus ranks. Attorney Philip Drucker of the Coachella Valley is the Democrat.

Tony's Take
Garcia, who was once famously called a "Hot Latina" by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is the clear favorite of the GOP legislative establishment, in part because Stone ran against Sen. Joel Anderson in 2010. But the demographics of the district favor Stone. Most of the voters reside in the western part of the district, including the cities of Murrieta and Temecula that Stone represents. Miller, the third candidate, is from Indio so he and Garcia will split the eastern Riverside vote in this sprawling district. However, the Democrat does not seem strong enough to make the runoff in this safe Republican district, and a top-two runoff between two of the three Republicans is possible.

32nd District
Democrat Ron Calderon is leaving due to term limits. The seat could come open before if the federal investigation into the incumbent comes to fruition. Former Democratic Assemblyman Tony Mendoza and former Democratic Assemblywoman Sally Havice are running for the seat, as is Republican Downey Councilmember Mario Guerra.

Tony's Take
Former Assemblyman Tom Calderon was going to run for this district until the Calderon scandal broke. The Democratic leadership is strongly behind Mendoza, and he looks like a sure winner of one of the runoff slots. Republicans are backing Guerra, a Cuban American, but as Mitt Romney lost this district by 30 points, it is hard to see a Republican being competitive here. Mendoza is the likely winner in November.

34th District
Democrat Lou Correa is leaving, and Republicans want his seat. Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen, a Republican, is in. Former Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio will try to keep the seat in the Democratic column.

Tony's Take
The Citizens Redistricting Commission received extensive testimony urging it not to combine the heavily Latino Santa Ana area with the Asian and Vietnamese coastal area, so what did the commission do? It combined them into this Senate district. In so doing, it created a marginal seat and both parties will pour millions into this race that will surely go to the November runoff. Nguyen is somewhat controversial and there are some divisions in the Vietnamese community, Solario had had some problems with labor in his Assembly district. But this will be a barn-burner in the fall.

36th District
This is a safe GOP seat that sets up a potential Orange-San Diego county showdown between former Assemblyman Martin Garrick and Orange County Supervisor Pat Bates. The real test here is whether Garrick gives it a go or not.

Tony's Take
This safe Republican seat is all-but-certain to have a November runoff. Although Garrick is a former assemblyman, the GOP leadership, including Sen. Bob Huff, is supporting Bates, currently a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and a former assemblywoman. Garrick is from San Diego County while Bates is from Orange County that has 58 percent of the district's voters. That may give Bates an edge in the fall.

See something amiss or just missing? Contact reporter Christopher Cadelago. Email ccadelago@sacbee.com or call (916) 326-5538.