In September, a longtime Republican-newly-registered-independent finished just 400 votes behind the Democrat in the Inland Empire's 52nd Assembly District.
Wins in both seats would have eliminated Assembly Democrats' two-thirds supermajority in the lower house. Not only did Democrats barely eke out victories in districts where they have large registration advantages, an Assembly Republican caucus that regularly bemoans Democrats' dominance all but sat out the races.
Last week's close finish has prompted grumbling that the caucus missed another chance to increase its relevance and give a morale-boosting shot in the arm to the California GOP heading into an election year. In a special election in July, Senate Republicans picked up a Central Valley seat with strong Democratic leanings.
"Unfortunately we did miss an opportunity there," Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, said of last week's outcome in the 45th, where Democrat Matt Dababneh has declared victory over Republican Susan Shelley. Shelley has until Monday to request a recount.
"I don't think anybody could have predicted that turnout was going to be that low," Jones said. "When turnout is that low, Republicans tend to turn out to vote and Democrats don't."