Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

portantino.jpgWith just five months until the June primary, legislative contests around California are starting to heat up.

While candidates weren't 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 five -- on Senate District 25 and Senate District 31 -- after the jump. You'll find previous installments at this link.

Senate District 25:
Who we're watching: Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge; Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge; former Democratic Assemblyman Dario Frommer
Why we're watching: The new maps left incumbent Liu with a strong seat for seeking a second and final term in the upper house. But Portantino, no stranger to bucking legislative leadership, is making rumblings that he could also run in the safe Democratic district. The termed-out Assembly Democrat was raising cash for a congressional run this year, but he has all but pulled the plug on those plans without a clear path for running under the final maps unveiled by the redistricting commission. Both could bring big money into the race, Liu with self-funding and Portantino with six-figure sums stored up in existing campaign accounts. One wild card? We hear Frommer has been approached about jumping in this race if an opening appears.

Senate District 31
Who we're watching: Former Assemblyman Steve Clute, D-Riverside; Assemblyman Jeff Miller, R-Corona; Democratic businessman Richard Roth
Why we're watching: Population shifts have made this GOP-held Inland Empire district into a swing seat that could turn into a top target. Encouraged by a slight voter registration edge, Democrats have been actively trying to recruit a candidate they think can pick up another seat. Clute, who previously served five terms in the Assembly, is seeking to return to Sacramento after several failed bids in the 1990s. But after an unsuccessful attempt to court Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge, it appears party officials have settled on local businessman and attorney Roth as their best shot. Roth, a a retired U.S. Air Force general, serves as president of the Monday Morning Group, an influential club for local power brokers. Miller, a two-term assemblyman whose current district covers parts of Riverside County, has emerged as the top GOP candidate. He's already secured the backing of next year's likely GOP Senate leader and been actively raising cash for his run.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Anthony Portantino in 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.



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