Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 22, 2013
Democrat Dababneh wins AD 45 special election, restoring supermajority


Democrat Matt Dababneh has narrowly won a Los Angeles-area special election, reinstating a supermajority for Assembly Democrats.

Neither Dababneh nor Republican Susan Shelley had been able to claim victory in the closer-than-expected race to fill the 45th Assembly District seat former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield gave up for a spot on the Los Angeles City Council. After polls closed on Tuesday early tallies gave Dababneh, a top aide to Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, a 173-vote lead over Shelley.

According to an update from the California Secretary of State's office, that lead has grown to 329 votes. There are no ballots left to count in Los Angeles County, according to Elizabeth Knox, a spokeswoman for the county.

Reached by phone, Dababneh pronounced himself "relieved and humbled" and said his priorities will include education and joining efforts to streamline the California Environmental Quality Act.

"I can't tell you I thought it would be this close but I definitely thought this was going to be a close race," Dababneh said. "It's somewhat unfortunate that we had such low turnout in these elections, and when you have ten percent, eleven percent turnout anything can happen," he continued, adding that Shelley "ran on real issues."

Dababneh's victory once again gives Democrats control over two-thirds of the seats in the Assembly, enabling them to pass taxes or put constitutional amendments before voters without Republican assent. In a prepared statement, Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, sounded a tone of moderation.

"Although Democrats once again enjoy a two-third majority in the Assembly, we will continue to work on bipartisan solutions to the challenges facing our state," Pérez said. "Creating jobs, keeping our budget balanced, and improving the way state government works will continue to be our priorities, just as they have during the times we did not enjoy the 2/3 supermajority during the past year."

Shelley emphasized the repercussions of a renewed Democratic supermajority in her campaign. She performed far better than most election watchers expected given an overwhelming Democratic voter registration advantage in the district and a money mismatch, with Dababneh pulling in nearly ten times as many campaign dollars.

Democrats appear certain to pick up another seat after a special election to fill a vacant 54th Assembly District in Los Angeles. No Republicans have entered that race.

Editor's note, 3 p.m..: This post has been updated to include comment from Dababneh and Pérez .

PHOTO: Matt Dababneh speaks to supporters on election night, November 19, 2013 in Woodland Hills, CA. By Richard Salazar.

November 22, 2013
Referendums a big part of California ballot history


This week's qualification of a referendum for the November 2014 ballot will be the sixth time in a decade that voters get the final say on a state law.

A "yes" vote will uphold this year's legislation ratifying the state's casino compact with Madera County's North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. A "no" vote will overturn it.

The as-yet-unnumbered referendum is the 49th to qualify for a California ballot since 1912, after the process was included in then-Gov. Hiram Johnson's package of government reforms.

Of the 48 referendums that have made it on the ballot since then, 20 laws have been upheld and 28 have been rejected by voters, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

In recent years, voters overwhelmingly sustained new state Senate lines last fall. In November 2004, voters narrowly overturned a 2003 law that would have created a single-payer healthcare system in California after a campaign in which both sides collectively spent about $30 million.

In February 2008, voters maintained tribal-casino deals between the state and four Southern California tribes: the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Riverside County and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in San Diego County.

Below is an interactive chart showing the referendums that have qualified and how they fared at the ballot box:

PHOTO: Labor activists rally in front of a Wal-Mart in San Jose, Calif. in October 2004 in favor of Proposition 72 a referendum on Senate Bill 2 of 2003. AP Photo/ Dino Vournas

November 22, 2013
AM Alert: Toy guns targeted by California lawmakers


After California lawmakers sent Gov. Jerry Brown a cluster of gun control bills encompassing everything from lead ammunition to local gun ordinances last year, the next gun agenda item is child's play.

The 2014 legislative session is now a little over a month away, and legislators are getting things rolling today by announcing a bill targeting realistic-looking toy guns that can prompt disproportionate responses. Fueling the push is the lethal shooting in October of a 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy who was carrying an toy gun that a sheriff's deputy mistook for an actual AK-47.

Senators Kevin de León and Noreen Evans will be at today's press conference unveiling the legislation, as will Assemblymen Wesley Chesbro and Marc Levine and Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada. They'll be speaking at the Santa Rosa Old Courthouse square at 10 a.m.

VIDEO: Fifty years later, Dan Walters reflects on a day that only one piece of news really mattered.

GRADING CALIFORNIA: As you may have seen, California didn't fare too well on the last round of National Assessment of Educational Progress tests that offer a key tool to compare state-level educational performance. At a Policy Analysis for California Education event today, Stanford expert Martin Carnoy will break down some of the state data and try to explain why California falls where it does. From noon to 1:30 p.m. at the UC Center Sacramento building on K street.

DEMOCRATIC PLANNING: The California Democratic Party will be doing some strategizing this weekend in Millbrae, where members will gather for an executive board meeting. California Attorney General Kamala Harris will address the attendees at a Saturday luncheon, and people will phonebank for Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, one of three Dems vying to fill the open 54th Assembly District seat let open by the departure of Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles.

PHOTO: Left is a real gun, and right is a toy gun. Image courtesy of Placer Co. Sheriff.

November 22, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: A day the other news halted

Dan remembers where he was, then a young reporter, on the day the president was shot.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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