With 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.
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 email@example.com.
Read installment one -- on Senate District 5 and Assembly District 8 -- after the jump:
Senate District 5:
Who we're watching: Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston and. San Joaquin County Supervisor Leroy Ornellas, R-Tracy.
Why we're watching: A four-point voter registration advantage for Democrats will make this swing seat a top target for both sides next year, meaning big money will likely flow into this San Joaquin County seat. The main event will be between Berryhill, a two-term moderate Republican, and Galgiani, a termed-out moderate Democrat. Galgiani's current district overlaps with much of the new seat, while Berryhill carries a well-known name in Central Valley politics. His brother, Sen. Tom Berryhill, lives in and represents an overlapping existing Senate district, and their father, Clare Berryhill, served in the Legislature in the 1960s and 1970s. One unknown will be how Galgiani's recent revelation that she is a lesbian will play with voters in a district where Proposition 8 passed with nearly two-thirds of the vote. Ornellas, whose family has owned an area dairy farm for decades, also has deep ties to the community and is seeking to contrast himself as an outsider to two candidates already serving in Sacramento.
Assembly District 8:
Who we're watching: Franchise Tax Board attorney Chris Parker, Rancho Cordova Councilman Ken Cooley, GOP congressional chief of staff Peter Tateishi, GOP businessman Jon Bagatelos.
Why we're watching: Democratic Assemblywoman Alyson Huber decided to abandon her bid for this East Sacramento County swing seat to focus on dealing with marital and mortgage troubles. Republicans, who were already planning to make the district a top target, believe the exit of the two-term legislator will improve their chances of a win in a seat where Democrats have a slim, two-point registration advantage. Bagatelos, who lost a 2002 Assembly bid, could tap into deep ties to the business community to raise cash. He's considering joining Tateishi, chief of staff to Rep. Dan Lungren, in the GOP field. Parker,who ran for the Board of Equalization in 2010, has gone on the offensive early, touting endorsements from Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, the California Nurses Association and state Democratic party official Alex Rooker. He moved into the district earlier this year, after Democratic Assemblyman Richard Pan settled on running in a neighboring seat more friendly to Democrats that Parker had signaled he too wanted to seek. Cooley, a councilman and legislative consultant who ran unsuccessfully in last year's Senate District 01 special election, jumped in the race after Huber decided not to run.