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Last election cycle, the main story was Democrats claiming a decisive two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature.

Tuesday night's primary results foreshadowed how that dominance may change come the November general election, with a handful of close contests poised to reshape the makeup of the Legislature.

Democrats aren't concerned about retaining a majority in both houses. But that supermajority - which enables Democrats to raise taxes, place measures on the ballot or have laws take effect immediately without Republican votes - is more precarious.

In the Assembly, Democrats currently hold 55 seats - one more than the minimum two-thirds margin. Most of those are safe seats, nestled in districts where the Democratic skew of registered voters makes a Republican takeover unlikely.

But in some districts, Democrats have a more tenuous hold on power. That opens a route for Republicans to push Assembly Democrats below the two-thirds margin.

"The key path for the Republicans is, they need to pick up two seats and hold what they've got," said Matt Rexroad, a Republican consultant. "If Republicans are trying to pick up seats in a general election, when it's a presidential election it's extremely difficult. If they're going to do it, this is the time."

Moderate Democrat Rudy Salas, a first-term assemblyman from Bakersfield, won a plurality with 43 percent of the vote. But his two Republican challengers split the conservative vote, securing a combined 57 percent in a district where registered Democrats have an 18-point edge. Salas will face Republican Pedro Rios.

Two other vulnerable first-term Democratic incumbents placed behind Republican challengers. Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, trailed his November opponent Tom Lackey by just under nine points in the 36th Assembly district. In the 65th, endangered incumbent Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, finished almost ten points behind general election foe Young Kim.

Those are widely seen as the three pivotal Assembly races. In a trio of others, incumbent Democrats fared poorly despite healthy voter registration advantages: Assembly members Ian Calderon of Whittier and Al Muratsuchi of Torrance both finished behind Republican challengers, while Roger Hern√°ndez of West Covina could not muster a majority. Steven Maviglio, a prominent Democratic strategist, dismissed those results as flukes of a primary featuring historically low turnout.

"This is wildly different from how it will be in November," Mavigilio said. "We will have many more Democratic voters and independent voters who will vote Democrat. There's no match between June and November when it comes to election results."

Another opening for Assembly Democrats emerged in the 44th Assembly District, thrown open by the departure of Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo. Democrat Jacqui Irwin advanced to the general election with a 44 percent plurality of the vote, although the remainder split between her two Republican opponents. Republican Rob McCoy secured the second-highest total.

In the Senate, Democrats need to pick up two seats to regain the two-thirds majority they lost with the suspension of three senators facing criminal charges.

Republican incumbents performed well in two of the races viewed as potential Democratic pickups. Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, who won a doggedly contested special election last year, easily finished first in the 14th Senate district. It was a similar story for Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, who sailed to a first-place finish in the 12th Senate District.

The third Senate race to watch has Democrats vying to keep the 34th district seat currently held by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana. There, former Assemblyman and Democrat Jose Solorio advanced to the general election with 34 percent of the vote. He lagged far behind Orange County Supervisor and Republican Janet Nguyen, who secured 51 percent.

PHOTO: Charles Rich, 61, of West Sacramento votes in a room at fire station #45 on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 in West Sacramento, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.


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