Capitol Alert

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Today we get some electoral excitement to interrupt the summer recess tedium: two special elections, one of which has involved millions of dollars in spending, legislative leaders lending a hand and national media coverage.

Yes, we have arrived at the general election for the 16th Senate District seat formerly occupied by Sen. Michael Rubio, who unexpectedly resigned back in February to take a job with Chevron. It initially looked like Republican Andy Vidak had secured the simple majority he needed to win the seat outright, but in the final count Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez eked out enough votes to force today's runoff.

The race has seen some vitriolic campaigning in addition to a surge of spending. More than $2.4 million has flowed into Perez's campaign account, in addition to more than $1 million in independent expenditures, while the Vidak campaign has drawn just under $2 million in addition to heavy spending on his behalf by the California Association of Realtors.

Lawmakers are mobilizing for today's effort. Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, will be in the 16th district. On the Democratic side, legislators expected to put in an appearance include Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose.

VIDEO: Detroit's woes have the nation wondering whether bankruptcy court should cover pensions, a question familiar to followers of Californian politics.

That's not the only race today. There's also a contest for the 52nd Assembly District seat formerly held by Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, who vacated the position to run for her current Senate seat, which had been left open by the departure of Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino. Got that?

It's a Democrat-heavy field with an interesting twist: Ontario Mayor Paul Leon, who finished in the top two for McLeod's old seat before succumbing to Torres in the general, is taking another shot at the state Legislature. Only this time he's registered as having no party preference, a departure from the Republican affiliation he wore during the race against Torres.

FIELD POLL: President Barack Obama has lost some of his heft in California, according to today's Field Poll. Check out the statistical tabulations, provided exclusively to Capitol Alert.

A LOBBYIST BY ANY OTHER NAME: The California Fair Political Practices Commission is meeting today and will consider whether people who provide technical information to state retirement systems should qualify for the scarlet L -- as in lobbyist. The meeting starts at 10 a.m. at 428 J Street.

PHOTO: Republican Andy Vidak in Fresno, California on Nov. 2, 2010. The Associated Press.



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