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emmerson_budget.jpgState Sen. Bill Emmerson's surprise announcement Friday that he was resigning effective Dec. 1 has created an unexpected opportunity for would-be senators.

First out of the gate is Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, whose 40th Assembly District includes about one-half of Emmerson's 23rd Senate District. Morrell said he has been lining up endorsements and plans to announce his candidacy Tuesday.

"Everything looks like a go," Morrell said Monday.

The vacancy in the safely Republican 23rd Senate District presents a political stroke of luck for Morrell -- and perhaps Democrats who think they have a shot at picking up Morrell's 40th Assembly District seat.

Morrell won re-election in 2012 by only 1,018 votes. Since then, Democrats have expanded their registration edge in the Assembly district. Besides targeting the 40th, Democrats will be going all-out in the overlapping 31st Congressional District to oust Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga. If Morrell moves on to the Senate, his old Assembly district may be easier for the Democrats to secure.

Another prominent official in the district, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, announced last week that he was running for governor. Donnelly's 33rd Assembly District includes about 6 percent of the 23rd Senate District's population.

A Donnelly aide ruled out a Senate candidacy. "Tim is in the Guv's race to win it," spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns tweeted after Emmerson's announcement.

About two-thirds of the 23rd is in San Bernardino, and one-third is in Riverside County. A few dozen district voters live in Los Angeles County.

No would-be candidates have come forward in the district's Riverside County portion. But Banning businessman Chris Mann, one of three Republicans running to succeed Assemblyman Brian Nestande in the 42nd Assembly District, could shift his sights to the Senate seat. Mann could not be immediately reached for comment.

Also in the district is former Republican Assemblyman Russ Bogh. Bogh, of Cherry Valley, also could not immediately be reached Monday.

Gov. Jerry Brown will set a special election after Emmerson's resignation becomes final. Four years ago, a Dec. 1, 2009, resignation by then-state Sen. John Benoit made for a special primary election in early April 2010, and a special general election consolidated with the June 2010 statewide primary vote.

PHOTO: Sens. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres; Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands; Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach; and Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo -- four of the five Republican senators then negotiating the state budget with Gov. Jerry Brown -- speak March 16, 2011, before the start of session. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.


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