Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

JO ASSEMBLY HERTZBERG LAUGH.JPGWith just five months until the June primary, legislative contests around California are starting to heat up.

While candidates haven't been able to begin the formal process of filing for office until today, 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.

Capitol 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 four -- on Senate District 27 and Assembly District 50 -- after the jump. You'll find previous installments at this link.

Senate District 27
Who we're watching: Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills; Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark; Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita; former Democratic Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg
Why we're watching: The dynamics at play in determining who will run for this targeted seat has been the subject of much intrigue among political insiders in recent months. The redistricting shuffle has presented a number of possible scenarios, including Pavley seeking the nearby 19th Senate Seat to make room for a Hertzberg run in this district. But the 19th has already attracted a crowded and competitive field of candidates, and it looks like Pavley is staying put with backing from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Hertzberg recently told The Bee that he has yet to make a decision, pointing out that the field and maps could still change. Strickland has also been weighing passing on a shot at a second term in the Senate to run for Congress. If the Moorpark Republican does take that route, Smyth, a moderate assemblyman, could step up as the GOP's top candidate.

Assembly District 50
Who we're watching: Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, D-Marina Del Rey; Torie Osborn and Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, both Democrats
Why we're watching: With her Marina Del Rey home drawn into a swing district, Butler decided to move into this safe Democratic seat to seek a ticket back to Sacramento for a second term. But the West Los Angeles district has already sparked an early primary fight between well-known local Democrats. Osborn and Bloom are still expected to vie for the seat. Osborn has racked up endorsements from local leaders and major labor groups, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, city council members, the California Teachers Association and the California Nurses Association. Butler, who as an incumbent has the backing of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, has also scored endorsements from the Legislative LGBT Caucus, Expect lots of money in this primary fight -- all three major Democrats have already reported six-figure campaign war chests, and Butler's 2010 bid attracted major independent expenditure spending.

PHOTO CREDIT: Former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, in 2002. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Osorio



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