Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

hannabethjackson.jpgWith just five months until the June primary, legislative contests around California are starting to heat up. While candidates can't begin the formal process of filing for office until Friday, when candidate papers can first be pulled, many legislative hopefuls have already spent months raising cash, securing endorsements and plotting their path to potential victory.

The decennial redistricting process and first election under the state's new top-two primary system has produced a new list of competitive state legislative districts that are being closely watched by political junkies on both sides of the aisle. The stakes are high, especially in the Senate, where Democrats see an opportunity to reach a coveted two-thirds majority.

bobdutton.jpgCapitol Alert has compiled a roundup of battles we're keeping tabs on in the early stages of the primary campaign. Because the candidate papers have yet to be filed, we've listed only the declared or expected entrants on our radar so far.

You can send your suggestions for contests or candidates we might have missed, or predictions about the outcome of these races, to tvanoot@sacbee.com.

Read installment three -- on Senate District 19 and Assembly District 40 -- after the jump. You'll find previous installments at this link.

Senate District 19
Who we're watching: Former Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara; Oxnard firefighter Jason Hodge, a Democrat; former Santa Barbara County Supervisor Mike Stoker, Republican.
Why we're watching: The campaign action is already heating up between the Hodge and Jackson camps. After narrowly losing a 2008 bid for the Senate to Republican Tony Strickland, Jackson is gearing up for another attempt at winning a ticket to the upper house. She's tapped into her ties from serving three terms in the Assembly and her hard-fought 2008 run to secure early endorsements from major players like the California Nurses Association and the California School Employees Association. Hodge has Capitol connections himself -- the Oxnard Harbor commissioner tied the knot with Democratic Assemblywoman Fiona Ma of San Francisco earlier this year. He's positioning himself as the outsider candidate but already boasts support from some of Sacramento's most powerful public safety groups, including the Police Officers Research Association and the California Professional Firefighters, as well as a half dozen Democratic legislators.

Assembly District 40
Who we're watching: Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton, of Rancho Cucamonga, and Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga.
Why we're watching: Dutton, termed out of the state Senate, is looking to go back and serve his two remaining years of eligibility in the Assembly. In order to get that, the top Senate Republican will have to defeat a sitting member of the lower house. Dutton's got the money edge for now, bolstered in part by the leadership role that he says he'll relinquish in January, but Morrell has the backing of Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway and much of her caucus. Unsurprisingly, both sides are touting polls showing their candidate holding a double digit lead, according to the San Bernardino Sun. Though both Republicans are from Rancho Cucamonga, Morrell's current home lies outside the district lines, meaning he'll have to move.

PHOTO CREDITS: Top, Hannah-Beth Jackson, 2003. The Sacramento Bee/John Decker. Bottom, Sen. Bob Dutton, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua



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