Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said tonight that Democrats have secured a supermajority in the lower house, a surprising development that could give the party the ability to raise taxes on their own if the Senate follows suit.
Democratic candidates led their GOP opponents in two swing Assembly districts early Wednesday morning, and an upset was brewing in a race between Fullerton Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva and GOP Assemblyman Chris Norby. Quirk-Silva led Norby by 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent in the 65th Assembly District with 100 percent of precincts reporting. The difference amounts to 1,004 votes.
"This just gives us 54 people that we know are going to come together on day one to focus on improving the economy," Pérez said.
While Senate Democrats emphasized early and often their goal was to claim a two-thirds supermajority in the upper house, there was relatively little expectation the same would occur in the Assembly this year.
Gov. Jerry Brown asked voters for statewide tax hikes in Proposition 30 largely because he couldn't get them in the Legislature, where Republican votes were necessary for two-thirds approval. That may no longer be true.
"Let's be very clear," Pérez said. "This is something that nobody expected to be possible."
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said early Wednesday he was not ready to declare victory but felt "very good" about his prospects for taking two-thirds control of the upper house.
Democrats only need to win one of three swing seats for that to happen, and two of those are in Los Angeles County, where results are lagging other parts of the state. If Democrats take both houses by a supermajority, it would be the first time a party has done that since 1933, Steinberg said.
"If we get there, and it's certainly possible, we will use it but also govern with humility," Steinberg said. "It's an even larger responsibility."
One irony: the two-house supermajority may have come on a night when Democrats asked voters for tax increases largely because they lacked the two-thirds control to do so on their own.
At least one Senate Democrat won a congressional seat Tuesday - Sen. Juan Vargas - so Democrats may need to win a special election before they can claim two-thirds control.
Kevin Yamamura contributed to this report.