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Offshore oil drilling has emerged as a major issue in tomorrow's special primary in the 15th Senate District, which pits GOP Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, of San Luis Obispo, against former Democratic Assemblyman John Laird, of Santa Cruz.

Bee colleague Susan Ferriss has the story:

Talk of the state budget crisis and GOP accusations of excessive Democratic spending have come up during the race, which was triggered by the departure in late April of former GOP Sen. Abel Maldonado, now lieutenant governor.

But in an area with so many beaches, the Gulf of Mexico debacle - and Blakeslee's past as a former Exxon employee and supporter of offshore drilling - have come to dominate the contest, said Larry Gerston, a San Jose State University expert on state politics who lives in the 15th district.

"This has become a referendum on offshore oil drilling, and it wasn't supposed to be that," Gerston said. "The oil spill is a disaster beyond belief. But it is also the greatest gift to John Laird. It's probably worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to him."

For a look at which groups have been spending big on the special primary race, click here.


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