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It might not seem unusual for the state Democratic Party to shower a district with mail pieces promoting an incumbent member one week before Election Day.

But one member for whom they are now spending, Democratic Sen. Jenny Oropeza, died unexpectedly last week at age 53.

State law prohibits replacing a candidate on the ballot or calling a special election to fill a vacant office this close to a scheduled election. So the name of the late Long Beach senator remains on the ballot against Republican John Stammreich and Libertarian David Ruskin.

If Oropeza wins in the safe Democratic district, a special election for the seat will be called in early December when members are sworn in. The state Democratic Party has spent $46,135 to explain that possible outcome to voters in the 28th Senate District.

"Given the unusual and tragic circumstances we thought it was our obligation to educate the voters in Senate District 28 about their options and that if voters want a real and thoughtful choice about who is going to represent them for the next four years, they need to vote for Senator Oropeza on Election Day," Senate Democratic caucus campaign consultant Jason Kinney said.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen acknowledged the unusual situation in a roundtable with reporters Wednesday, saying she was working with local election officials to ensure voters are aware of the procedure and their voting rights.

It's not the first time Californians have been asked to cast a ballot for a state legislative candidate who passed away prior to Election Day. Democratic Assemblyman Curtis Tucker, Sr, of Inglewood, posthumously won re-election to his seat in November 1988. His son, Curtis Tucker, Jr., was elected to replace him in a special election.


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