Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 17, 2014
Candidate for California Senate special election abandons bid

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Complaining that promised Sacramento dollars for her candidacy never showed up, Southern California real-estate agent Lonni Granlund has dropped out of the special-election race to succeed former state Sen. Bill Emmerson.

Granlund, a Yucaipa Republican, said in a statement that she had been recruited to run for the 23rd Senate District because "the prevailing sentiment was that the field of candidates was unimpressive and unable to tackle the state's anti-business philosophy."

"As a businesswoman I was viewed as someone with the skills to make a difference, but that's not enough in Sacramento," Granlund wrote on her campaign web site. "My friends, family and supporters generously stepped up to help reach the goals set for a viable campaign. Unfortunately the funding from Sacramento simply did not materialize."

Granlund, the ex-wife of former lawmaker Brett Granlund, continued, "As much as I would love to serve the people of the 23rd State Senate District, I cannot in good conscious continue in an underfunded campaign that has little or no possibility of success."

Granlund's dropping out comes two weeks before the filing deadline for the March 25 special election. A runoff, if no candidate gets a majority of the votes, is June 3.

Granlund's departure leaves Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, as the presumptive favorite in the Republican-leaning 23rd, which wraps from Rancho Cucamonga to Hemet. Calimesa Councilman Jeffrey Hewitt and San Jacinto Councilwoman Crystal Ruiz also have filed statements of intent to run for the seat.

23rd Senate District

PHOTO: Lonni Granlund, courtesy of Granlund campaign website.

December 4, 2013
Ridley-Thomas win adds to California Assembly Democratic edge

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It was a foregone conclusion that a special election for an open 54th Assembly district seat would fortify the Democratic majority in the Assembly. The only question was which candidate would emerge from an all-Democratic field.

Voters answered that question decisively on Tuesday, electing Sebastian Ridley-Thomas by a wide enough margin to avoid a runoff. Ridley-Thomas secured 60 percent of the vote.

Fittingly, Ridley-Thomas serves as an aide to Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price, whose July departure from the Legislature after winning election to the city council ultimately opened up the 54th Assembly district. Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, slid over to the Senate after winning Price's old seat and in doing so vacated her old 54th district post.

After Ridley-Thomas is sworn in, the Legislature will be one seat short of full capacity after months of special elections, just in time for the 2014 legislative session to begin (Sen. Bill Emmerson recently made the surprise announcement he would step down). Democrats have cemented two-thirds majorities in both houses, allowing them to conduct business without any Republican votes.

The son of former state Sen. and Assemblyman and current Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member Mark Ridley-Thomas, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas pulled in nearly $650,000 in campaign contributions over the course of 2013.

PHOTO: Sebastian Ridley-Thomas celebrates his win with his father Mark on December 3, 2013. By Leroy Hamilton for the Sebastian Ridley-Thomas for Assembly Campaign.

November 20, 2013
California special election in 45th Assembly District remains close

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A special election that could restore the Democratic supermajority in California's Assembly hung in the balance on Wednesday, with uncounted ballots representing far more votes than the current margin between the two candidates.

Vacancies have left Democrats one seat short of the two-thirds majority that allows them to govern without Republican input. The open 45th Assembly District seat, held by Democrat Bob Blumenfield until he won election to the Los Angeles City Council earlier this year, offers a chance for Democrats to re-establish their dominance.

As of Tuesday evening, the Secretary of State's office reported that Democrat Matt Dababneh, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, held a slender 173 vote lead over his opponent, Republican Susan Shelley.

Ventura County has finished certifying its results, but the bulk of voters live in Los Angeles County. As of noon on Wednesday, 2,841 ballots remained to be counted in L.A. County, spokeswoman Regina Ip confirmed.

Special elections for state candidates rarely spur significant voter turnout, and this one was no exception: the turnout rate in Los Angeles county was 10.5 percent. Dababneh still drew nearly $500,000 in campaign contributions, far eclipsing the just under $50,000 Shelley raised.

Even with that fundraising gap, Shelley managed to keep things close in district that skews heavily Democratic in voter registration. Her campaign has emphasized preventing a Democratic supermajority from tampering with Proposition 13, touting an endorsement from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

In an interview with The Bee, Shelley attributed her surge to voter discontent with Democrats who are largely inoculated from challenges - "this situation where the incumbent have very low approval ratings and very high reelection rates" - and concerns about a revived Democratic supermajority.

"The idea that taxes could be raised, that things could get on thee ballot without any Republican input" helped motivate voters, Shelley told The Bee, adding that her socially moderate platform lets her focus on the economy.

Despite Shelley's surprisingly strong showing in a district widely perceived as a liberal stronghold, Democrats will pick up another seat after the special election to fill the Los Angeles-area 54th Assembly District seat Sen. Holly Mitchell used to hold.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include Shelley's comments.

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John Perez, D- Los Angeles, right, listens during the last day of the legislative session on Thursday September 12, 2013 in Sacramento, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer.

September 25, 2013
Freddie Rodriguez bests independent in tight Assembly race

RBVoters2.JPGDemocratic Pomona Councilman Freddie Rodriguez narrowly defeated independent Paul Leon to claim an open Southern California Assembly seat.

The Associated Press called the race Wednesday as Rodriguez clung to a 345-vote lead. Leon, the mayor of Ontario, would have needed to secure more than two-thirds of the roughly 1,000 uncounted votes to stage a come-from-behind victory.

"I look forward to being a voice for all of the people of the Inland Empire, and for safer neighborhoods, at the State Capitol," Rodriguez said in a prepared statement.

The tight margin gave Democrats little breathing room despite party voters commanding a 20-percentage point registration edge in a district that takes in parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Leon switched his party affiliation to "no party preference" from Republican after losing the Senate race to Norma Torres, D-Pacoima.

Rodriguez's win moves Democrats a seat away from reclaiming a veto-proof supermajority in the Assembly after Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles claims her seat in the Senate.

Democrats could pick up another seat on Nov. 19 if Matt Dababneh defeats Republican Susan Shelley to fill the San Fernando Valley seat vacated by Bob Blumenfield.

PHOTO: Voters cast their ballots on Nov. 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

September 25, 2013
Democrat Rodriguez controls small lead in Assembly special election

Rodriguez.jpgDemocrat Freddie Rodriguez was clinging to a slim lead Wednesday over independent Paul Leon for the inland Southern California Assembly seat formerly held by Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona.

Rodriguez, who declared victory late Tuesday, was leading with 51.3 percent of the vote, with all precincts reporting. But Leon, the mayor of Ontario, had yet to concede the race.

The margin separating the candidates was 365 votes in a district where Democratic voters hold a roughly 20-percentage point registration edge.

As of Wednesday, there were nearly 800 ballots left to be counted in San Bernardino County and another 273 in Los Angeles County, according to registrars of voters in both counties.

Leon switched his party affiliation from Republican to no party preference after losing the Senate race to Torres. In the primary to fill her 52nd district seat, Democrats and their allies in organized labor were forced to commit considerable resources to get Rodriguez into the top-two.

A victory for the Pomona city councilman would move Democrats a seat away from reclaiming a two-thirds supermajority in the lower chamber after Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles claims her seat in the state Senate. They could pick-up another seat on Nov. 19 if Democrat Matt Dababneh defeats Republican Susan Shelley to fill the seat vacated by Bob Blumenfield in the San Fernando Valley.

PHOTO: Freddie Rodriguez. Photo courtesy of Freddie Rodriguez for Assembly.

September 18, 2013
Holly Mitchell slides to Senate, 45th Assembly district moves to runoff

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As expected, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, cruised to victory in a special election to fill a Senate seat former senator Curren Price vacated when he moved to the Los Angeles city council.

Mitchell collected a resounding 80 percent of the vote, crushing fellow Democrat Mervin Evans. Her move to the state Senate could rekindle speculation of her becoming the next Senate president pro tem after current President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, terms out next year.

Returns from the 45th Assembly District reflected a far more crowded field. In the race to replace former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, who like Price traded a spot in the state Legislature for a seat on the L.A. city council, Democrat Matt Dababneh and Republican Susan Shelley emerged as the top two vote-getters in a field of 11.

Both secured about a quarter of the vote. Dababneh, an aide to Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, bested several other Democrats. Shelley, a constitutional scholar, easily eclipsed fellow Republican Chris Kolski.

Assuming those results hold, the two will face off in a November 19 general election.

Democrats now hold 52 seats in the Assembly: two short of what they need for a supermajority. They could regain one in a week, when Republican-turned-independent Ontario mayor Paul Leon and Democrat Freddie Rodriguez vie for a 52nd Assembly District seat Norma Torres left to seek a state Senate post.

If Rodriguez prevails and Dababneh defeats Shelley in the San Fernando Valley runoff, Democrats will regain their two-thirds margin in the lower house when lawmakers reconvene in January. With Mitchell's win, Democrats hold 28 of 40 seats in the Senate, one more than a supermajority.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, talks during a Legislative informational hearing on gun laws at the State Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

July 26, 2013
On 'The Daily Show,' Leticia Perez says no to Congress

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As consolation prizes go, appearing on a wildly popular TV show isn't too shabby.

Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez threw in the towel on Wednesday in a vigorously fought race for an open Central Valley Senate seat, conceding to Republican farmer Andy Vidak. The election attracted ample attention, including national media coverage.

On Thursday night, Perez got another chance to be in the national spotlight. She appeared in a segment on the Daily Show, Comedy Central's satirical news program. And it turns out that, while her bid to serve in the state Legislature fell short, Perez isn't losing any sleep over whether to run for Congress.

A Daily Show segment on aspiring young politicians in an era of Congressional dysfunction (titled "A**holes wanted") opened with Perez, referred to in a voiceover as "an up-and-coming young Democrat." It then cuts to a sit-down interview with Perez, taped nearly a month before Tuesday's election. She recounts being contacted by the Democratic National Committee, told she is a "rising star" and enticed with an offer to run for Congress.

"I had to say no," Perez says, adding that she did so "resoundingly."

"It's no secret there is remarkable gridlock in DC," she expands. "I don't want to be at a place where I have a good, fancy title but I'm not actually able to deliver for people."

PHOTO: Senate District 16 candidate Leticia Perez talks with staff members in her campaign headquarters in Fresno on Tuesday, July 23, 2013. The Fresno Bee/Craig Kohlruss

July 24, 2013
Leticia Perez concedes 16th Senate District race

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Republicans have won back the 16th Senate District.

Kern County Supervisor and Democrat Leticia Perez has conceded to her opponent, Republican farmer Andy Vidak, ending a costly and heavily contested race for the Central Valley seat.

"The voters have spoken and I want to congratulate Andy on his victory," Perez said in a press release, adding that "Andy has earned the right to represent us in Sacramento."

Perez trailed Vidak by several percentage points as of Tuesday night. The Secretary of State's office estimated on Wednesday morning that thousands of provisional ballots remained to be counted, but Perez said in the press release that "this campaign is over."

The win chips away at Democrats' two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate, reducing it to the minimum. The seat opened up earlier this year when Democratic senator Michael Rubio unexpectedly resigned, citing a desire to spend more time with his family, and took a job with Chevron.

PHOTO: Andy Vidak, in May. Fresno Bee.

July 24, 2013
Republican Vidak leads key California state Senate race

vidak.jpgRepublican Andy Vidak emerged early Wednesday with a nearly 6,000-vote lead in a hotly contested special election on Tuesday to fill a Central Valley Senate seat put in play by a Democratic senator's abrupt departure in February.

With 100 percent of the district's precincts reporting but thousands of late mail-in and provisional ballots yet to be counted, Vidak tallied 54 percent of the vote to Democrat Leticia Perez's 46 percent.

In an interview with the Associated Press late Tuesday, Perez said she was hopeful she would overtake Vidak in the coming days as more votes are counted. Vidak told the AP he was "cautiously optimistic" his margin would hold through the vote tally in Fresno, Kings, Kern and Tulare counties.

Former senator Michael Rubio had been considered a moderate Democratic with a potentially pivotal role to play in overhauling the California Environmental Quality Act. But his surprise announcement that he was leaving the Legislature for a job with Chevron threw those plans into turmoil and ignited a fierce competition for the 16th Senate District seat.

Supporters poured millions into both campaigns, with independent organizations also flexing their muscle. Perez enjoyed substantial support from entities funded by powerful interests that include telecommunications firms, energy corporations and Indian tribes, as well as from labor unions. The California Association of Realtors backed Vidak.

If Vidak's leads holds up, the Democratic advantage in the Senate will be whittled to the bare minimum needed for the two-thirds supermajority secured in November elections. Democrats would control 27 seats, although they could bolster their majority if they hold the vacant seat that Democratic senator Curren Price recently departed for a spot on the Los Angeles City Council. The primary for Price's former seat is scheduled for September 17.

The winner will serve the remainder of Rubio's term, which expires in 2014. The current 16th Senate District has evaporated, courtesy of new lines drawn by a redistricting commission in 2010, so whoever wins will likely seek re-election in the newly forged 14th Senate district.

PHOTO: Andy Vidak, in May. Fresno Bee

July 23, 2013
Leticia Perez vs. Andy Vidak: A final look at the money

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The battle for the 16th Senate District seat abandoned by Michael Rubio, culminating in today's election, has been a costly one.

A huge influx of money has accompanied the the race's waning days. Between July 8 and today, just over $600,000 poured into Democrat Leticia Perez's coffers, while Republican Andy Vidak drew an additional $432,965 in the same period.

That comes on top of more than $3 million that had already flowed into the race. According to filings with the California Secretary of State, Vidak's campaign committee garnered $1,549,966 between the start of the year and July 6. Perez eclipsed that total, pulling in $1,845,777 in the same period.

July 23, 2013
AM Alert: Leticia Perez, Andy Vidak square off for California Senate seat

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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.

July 2, 2013
Brown schedules special elections to replace Blumenfield, Price

Enterprise_Zones.jpgGov. Jerry Brown issued proclamations on Tuesday to schedule special elections to fill two vacancies in the California Legislature.

The special elections to replace former Los Angeles legislators Sen. Curren Price and Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield will be held on Nov. 19. The primary elections will be held on September 17.

Price and Blumenfield both left the Legislature last week to take posts on the Los Angeles City Council. Price will represent District 9, and Blumenfield will serve District 3.

The departure of Blumenfield caused the Assembly lose its Democratic supermajority. Before Blumenfield's last day, the lower house crammed in several votes on bills that required a two-thirds margin to pass.

The timing of the special elections Brown set Tuesday means the Assembly will regain its supermajority before this year's session adjourns on Sept. 13 only if a Democrat captures 50 percent of the vote in a crowded special election field on July 23 in an inland Southern California district. There are seven Democrats, one Republican and one non-partisan -- Ontario Mayor Paul Leon -- in the race.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield called for passage of his enterprise zone measure before lawmakers at the Capitol in Sacramento on Thursday, June 27, 2013. Associated Press/ Rich Pedroncelli.

June 20, 2013
Chevron Corp. taking political fire from both right and left

California_Greenhouse_Gases.jpgIt's been a rough week, politically speaking, for Chevron, one of the state's oldest and largest corporations, as it takes fire from the left and the right.

Chevron, which has been dodging political and legal bullets over a 2012 fire at its refinery in Richmond, is under fire from farmers, especially Republican farmers, over hefty political contributions to a group that backs Democrat Leticia Perez in her state Senate battle with Republican farmer Andy Vidak.

What makes the situation especially dicey is that the San Joaquin Valley Senate seat that one of them will fill after a special election next month was vacated by Democrat Michael Rubio after Chevron hired him as a political affairs executive.

May 30, 2013
Leticia Perez, Andy Vidak to vie in 16th Senate District runoff

LeticiaPerez.jpgThe saga of who claims Michael Rubio's old seat in California's 16th Senate District will get another chapter.

Rubio's surprise resignation in February spurred a special election in the district he represented, which has since been redrawn into oblivion. It initially appeared that Republican farmer Andy Vidak built a big enough lead in last week's 16th Senate District election to avert a runoff, but the Secretary of State's official results show Vidak dipping below the needed 50-percent-plus-one margin.

That means Vidak and his Democratic challenger, Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, will square off in a July 23 general election. Vidak still bested Perez by a few percentage points -- the final tally gave him 49.8 percent to Perez's 43.9 percent -- but a field cleared of other candidates could shake things up.

A Vidak win would not deprive Senate Democrats of their two-thirds super majority, but it would reduce it to a more precarious 28-12 margin -- one more than what they need to retain their ability to do things like pass new taxes or constitutional amendments without Republican input.

PHOTO CREDIT: Leticia Perez has a reason to smile.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post mistakenly identified Andy Vidak as Michael.

May 24, 2013
California's Senate District 16 could be headed to runoff

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It appears the announcement that Republican farmer Andy Vidak won outright former senator Michael Rubio's seat may have been premature: an updated vote count puts Vidak below the 50-percent-plus-one threshold he needed to surpass to avoid a runoff against his Democratic opponent, Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez.

An updated total posted on the Secretary of State's website at 3:21 this afternoon gave Vidak 49.8 percent of the vote and Perez 43.8 percent.

The Secretary of State's office faces a May 31st deadline to certify the results of the election; so far none of the four counties that comprise parts of the former 16th Senate District (it has since been redrawn out of existence) have sent in their certified results, according to Secretary of State spokeswoman Nicole Winger.

Here are the current county-by-county vote margins:

May 22, 2013
Republican win shaves Democratic supermajority in Senate

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The Democratic supermajority in the state Senate thinned a bit Tuesday when Republican farmer Andy Vidak captured more than 50 percent of a special election vote to win in a heavily Democratic San Joaquin Valley district.

Vidak had nearly 52 percent of the votes in the low-turnout election early today, with some provisional and mail ballots yet to be counted. His opponent, Democrat Leticia Perez, a Kern County supervisor, conceded shortly after midnight on Wednesday morning.

The election was called when Democratic Sen. Michael Rubio unexpectedly resigned early this year to become an executive in Chevron Corp. It was conducted in the 16th Senate District, which no longer exists, because Rubio was elected from that district in 2010. Vidak will have to seek re-election in the new 14th Senate District, which was created by an independent redistricting commission.

Both districts have lopsided registration majorities, but the 16th SD is heavily weighted toward Fresno County while the new 14th SD is more oriented toward Kern County. Both also include counties in between those two.

"Special elections are unique voter-turnout environments and this is clearly not the last we've heard of the immensely talented Supervisor Perez," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said in a statement. "I'm proud of how our Democratic Senate supermajority and our accomplished campaign team responded to this unexpected vacancy and rallied in support of Leticia's candidacy."

Vidak's victory shaves the Democrats' margin in the Senate, which had been 29-11, by one seat, but another Democratic senator, Curren Price, is due to resign to take a seat on the Los Angeles City Council. Thus chances have dimmed for the Democratic supermajority to pass a constitutional amendment or a tax increase, both of which would require two-thirds legislative votes.

Also Tuesday, Democrat Lorena Gonzalez, a community organizer, easily won a special election in the 80th Assembly District in San Diego County, defeating another Democrat, and will succeed Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, who left the Assembly after winning a special election for the state Senate. Gonzalez' victory does not affect the Democratic supermajority in the Assembly but it, too, is experiencing vacancies due to other looming resignations.

March 27, 2013
Special election set for Assembly District 80

Ben_Hueso_Special_Election.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has announced special election dates for the 80th Assembly District seat Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, vacated earlier this month.

The primary election will be held May 21. If no candidates attains the 50-percent-plus-one vote share needed to avoid a runoff, the top two finishers will square off in a July 30 general election.

The Legislature has been in flux somewhat since former state senators Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, and Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, ascended to Congress in November. Hueso took over Vargas' old Senate seat; Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona, and Ontario Mayor Paul Leon will face off for McLeod's seat in a May runoff.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Ben Hueso, seen last year when he was serving in the Assembly. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

March 26, 2013
Senate hopeful has same residency issue as ex-Sen. Rubio

LeticiaPerez.jpgSenate Democrats' pick to replace former state Sen. Michael Rubio in a Central Valley district is on the move -- literally.

Bakersfield Democrat Leticia Perez, a Kern County Supervisor, learned this week that she will have to find a new home by Friday in order to run in the May special election for the seat Rubio gave up to take a job with Chevron Corp. earlier this year.

Perez apparently faces the same residency issue Rubio, her former boss, experienced when he first ran for the state Senate in 2010: her home is in a part of Bakersfield that election officials mistakenly included in the 16th Senate District for years

Rubio moved during his campaign and later had to short sell his original home. That sale, along with his later purchase of an El Dorado Hills house, involved an oil executive who gave to his campaign. Both transactions are the subject of a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission, which has yet to decide whether to open a formal investigation.

March 19, 2013
Darrell Steinberg endorses Leticia Perez to replace Michael Rubio

Darrell_Steinberg.jpgThe field is taking shape to replace Shafter Democrat Michael Rubio in the state Senate, and President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has endorsed Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez for the job.

As The Fresno Bee's John Ellis explains in this post, the race is now likely a three-way affair between Perez, fellow Democrat Fran Florez and Hanford Republican Andy Vidak.

"Leticia Perez is well known and respected for being a fiscal conservative and a proven advocate for equal rights, good paying jobs, public education, and safe neighborhoods," Steinberg said in a prepared release. "I am very happy she will be adding her voice to the State Senate to strongly advocate for the people of the Central Valley."

PHOTO CREDIT: Darrell Steinberg speaks on the Senate floor in 2012. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

March 8, 2013
Jerry Brown calls special election to fill Michael Rubio's seat

Rubio_daughter.jpgThe primary special election to fill former Sen. Michael Rubio's seat will occur on May 21, Gov. Jerry Brown's office announced on Friday.

If none of the candidates win an outright majority, the two top vote getters will face off July 23, Brown's proclamation said.

Rubio's resignation two weeks ago to work at Chevron Corp. caught Sacramento by surprise and muddied the legislative waters in the State Senate. Democrats will be delayed in acting on their recently enshrined supermajority: Rubio's resignation, coupled with vacancies from former senators Gloria Negrete McLeod and Juan Vargas winning election to Congress, leave Democrats with 26 seats, one below the two-thirds threshold.

Based on voter registration statistics, Democrats are expected to hold the seat, though it remains unclear who will run.

Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, who was widely considered a contender for Rubio's old seat, has already said he does not intend to run, leaving several other Democratic possibilities from local government, including Shafter City Councilwoman Fran Florez, mother of the senator Rubio succeeded in 2010, Dean Florez.

March 6, 2013
Greuel, Garcetti head to runoff; Blumenfield wins in LA city races

Downtown_Los_Angeles_Freeway_AP_2005.JPGEric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel are headed into a runoff for Los Angeles mayor, as state Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield won his city council race outright in Tuesday's balloting.

Sen. Curren Price, the other current lawmaker seeking Los Angeles city office, will face Ana Cubas in a runoff for council in District 9.

Unofficial results from the Los Angeles City Clerk's Office this morning showed Blumenfield won 51.6 percent of the vote in District 3, advancing over six opponents. Price won 27 percent to Cubas' 24 percent. Former Assemblyman Paul Koretz easily won re-election in District 5, and former lawmaker Felipe Fuentes won outright in District 7 with 51 percent of the vote. Former lawmakers Gil Cedillo (District 1, 49 percent) and Mike Feuer (City attorney, 44 percent) face runoffs.

The results in Los Angeles could alter the political calculus in Sacramento, potentially endangering -- or at least interrupting -- the two-thirds supermajority that allows Democrats to raise new taxes and put constitutional amendments on the ballot without Republican support.

January 8, 2013
Jim Nielsen wins election to open state Senate seat

ha_APAPA13699.JPGRepublican Jim Nielsen is heading back to the Legislature.

The Gerber Republican easily won election to the vacant 4th Senate District seat in a special contest held Tuesday. He led Democrat Mickey Harrington by double-digits, 66.5 percent to 33.5 percent, in early returns. The Associated Press called the contest for Nielsen about 10 p.m.

Nielsen, who spent the last four years representing the 2nd Assembly District, served as Senate GOP leader during an earlier stint in the state Legislature in the 1980s. He succeeds former Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, who stepped down ahead of his election to Congress. LaMalfa had hoped that his September resignation would allow his replacement to be elected in a primary consolidated with the November general election, avoiding the cost of a separate runoff vote. But Nielsen fell just below the more than 50 percent threshold needed to win outright in the special primary election.

Nielsen will be eligible for two full four-year terms in the Senate after filling out LaMalfa's remaining two years representing the safe Republican Northern California district, which covers all or part of a dozen counties.

Click here to see the updated election results.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, speaks at a 2010 forum in Sacramento. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

January 7, 2013
Jerry Brown sets election dates for two open state Senate seats

Two open seats in the state Senate could be filled as soon as mid-March.

Gov. Jerry Brown announced today that special primary elections for the Inland Empire's 32nd Senate District and the San Diego-area 40th Senate District will be held March 12. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held May 14.

The vacancies were created when former Sens. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, stepped down to take seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both won election to the Congress in November.

December 19, 2012
'LA Shuffle' means lots of political moves in huge county

The "LA Shuffle" isn't a dance, or at least not one of the musical variety, but rather a name that some political insiders apply to the constant movement of politicians in Los Angeles County, which has more than a quarter of the state's population.

The county has all or parts of 18 of the state's 53 congressional districts, 15 of the 40 state Senate districts and 24 of the 80 Assembly districts. There are also 15 well-playing slots on the Los Angeles City Council, the city's mayoralty and five seats on the county's Board of Supervisors.

With that many political positions as lures and term limits as spurs, there's a lot of movement among Los Angeles, Sacramento and Washington in any election year, whether it's the even-numbered year for federal, state and county balloting or the odd-numbered year for city elections.

Five members of the Los Angeles City Council are former state legislators, including the council's president, Herb Wesson, a former speaker of the state Assembly but one, Tony Cardenas, is leaving to take a seat in Congress, which will mean a special election next spring for his seat.

Eight odd-numbered city council seats are up in the spring as well, and five current or recently termed-out state legislators are running for them. Were state Sen. Curren Price and Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield to win their council races, the new Democratic supermajorities in both legislative houses would be diminished until their seats are filled by special election.

And then there's the county Board of Supervisors, whose members were dubbed the "five little kings" until women began to win seats.

Three of the five supervisors are former state legislators. Two of the five, ex-Assemblywoman Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky, will be forced off the board by term limits in 2014, two others, former Assemblyman Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe, will be out in 2016, and the fifth, former Assemblyman (and LA City Councilman) Mark Ridley-Thomas can serve until 2020.

The departures of Molina and Yaroslavsky, and later of Antonovich and Knabe, are expected to touch off a political feeding frenzy among the county's legislators, city council members and even members of Congress.

Former Assemblywoman and state Sen. Sheila Kuehl has already declared her candidacy for the Yaroslavsky district, which includes the wealthy "west side" of Los Angeles.

Editor's note: Updated at 1:11 p.m. to reflect Sheila Kuehl's candidacy.

December 17, 2012
Could Howard Berman finally become Assembly speaker?

Could Howard Berman finally become the speaker of the state Assembly three decades after he lost a bruising intraparty battle for the position?

Douglas Jeffe, a veteran Los Angeles political advisor and commentator, raises the intriguing possibility in a posting on the Fox & Hounds political website.

Berman lost his San Fernando Valley congressional seat this year in an expensive battle with fellow Democrat Brad Sherman, but as it happens, the local assemblyman, Bob Blumenfield, is seeking a seat on the Los Angeles City Council next spring, and if he gets it, a special election would fill his Assembly seat. Blumenfield is a former Berman aide.

Berman, Jeffe expostulates, could run for the Assembly and if elected, could succeed John A. Pérez because Pérez will be forced out of the Assembly in two years.

There's no word on whether Berman would be interested in returning to the Assembly, where he served in the 1970s and early 1980s, leaving for Congress in 1982. His departure followed a year-long battle with the late Leo McCarthy for the speakership culminated in the election of Willie Brown, who went on to become the longest serving speaker in state history.

Were Berman to run for the Assembly, he'd have the support of fellow septuagenarian Jerry Brown. Berman was one of Brown's closest allies in the Legislature during the governor's first stint, and Brown endorsed him during the duel with Sherman this year.

December 4, 2012
Assemblyman Ben Hueso to run for open San Diego Senate seat

Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, is already readying a run for the Southern California Senate seat set to be vacated by state Sen. and Democratic Rep.-elect Juan Vargas in the coming weeks.

Hueso confirmed his decision to U-T San Diego reporter Michael Gardner Monday -- the same day he was sworn in for a second term in the state Assembly. Vargas, who has yet to announce when he will give up his Senate seat, has already endorsed his candidacy.

Hueso, who just took the oath of office Monday for his second term, said he wants to move up to the Senate because it offers a "bigger base of support" to accomplish key goals. One of those is improving trade between Mexico and the U.S. and easing border crossing gridlock.

"Mexico is our largest trading partner -- larger than China," Hueso said in an interview. "They are big friends of ours."

Once Vargas resigns, Gov. Jerry Brown will call a special election to fill the seat. The primary contest will be held about sixteen weeks from that date. Sen. Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Chino, will also step down from the Senate to take a seat in Congress.

Because both senators were last elected to their seats in 2010, the contests will be held using the state's pre-redistricting political maps.

May 21, 2012
Torlakson says 188 California school districts in 'financial jeopardy'

School districts with 2.6 million of the state's 6 million K-12 students are in "financial jeopardy," state schools Supt. Tom Torlakson declared Monday, including 12 so troubled that they are virtually insolvent.

Although the 188 districts rated either negatively - unable to meet their obligations - or "qualified" are just a fraction of the state's 1,037 districts, county offices of education and other "local educational agencies," they included some of the state's largest, including huge Los Angeles Unified, and therefore a major chunk of the student population.

"This is the kind of record no one wants to set," Torlakson said in a statement. "Across California, parents, teachers, and administrators are increasingly wondering how to keep their schools' lights on, their bills paid, and their doors open. The deep cuts this budget crisis has forced - and the uncertainties about what lies ahead - are taking an unprecedented and unacceptable toll on our schools."

The Department of Education's report was issued as the Legislature began perusing Gov. Jerry Brown's revised 2012-13 budget that calls for reconfiguring how state aid to schools is distributed and proposes major cuts in state aid should his sales and income tax package be rejected by voters in November.

Most school districts appear to be planning for a worst case scenario by keying their own 2012-13 budgets to an assumption that taxes do not pass, leading to massive layoff notices for teachers and other school employees.

The largest school district in Torlakson's negative list appears to be Vallejo Unified, but a number of large districts are on the qualified list, which denotes financial problems, including LA Unified, San Diego Unified, Oakland Unified, Elk Grove Unified, Sacramento City Unified and San Juan Unified.

July 11, 2011
Mother of Democrat Janice Hahn dies on eve of CD 36 election

Obit Ramona Hahn.jpg The mother of 36th Congressional District candidate Janice Hahn has died just one day before the San Pedro Democrat competes in a special runoff election.

Ramona Hahn, 86, was the wife of late Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn. Her son, James Hahn, is the former mayor of Los Angeles. Janice Hahn, who serves on the Los Angeles City Council, is running against Republican Craig Huey in tomorrow's special election to fill a vacant Los Angeles County congressional seat.

"We understand that Janice needs to be with her family, but the campaign will move forward--as her mother would have wanted," Hahn campaign advisor John Shallman said in a statement. "Ramona was very proud of and always supportive of Janice. She was looking forward to seeing her daughter sworn in as the next Congresswoman of the 36th District. We will work very hard to make that dream a reality."

The Los Angeles Times has more on Ramona Hahn's death at this link.

PHOTO CREDIT: In this Oct. 17,1997 file photo Ramona Hahn, wife of the late supervisor Kenneth Hahn flanked by her son Jim, left and daughter, Janice, during a memorial service for her husband at the Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles. AP Photo, Michael Caulfield.

July 7, 2011
AM Alert: Capitol hearing focuses on death penalty

Does California's death row protect the state? Is it worth the cost?

Sen. Loni Hancock doesn't think so. The Berkeley Democrat's Senate Bill 490 would abolish the death penalty. It gets its first hearing today in the Legislature.

The proposal would close death row and replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. If the Legislature passes the measure, voters would have to agree in order for it to take effect.

June 6, 2011
Janice Hahn ad compares GOP rival Craig Huey to Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin is making a cameo on the South Bay political scene, and it isn't part of the bus tour that created a media frenzy as she traveled the East Coast last week.

Democrat Janice Hahn, a candidate for the vacant 36th Congressional District seat, is hitting the airwaves this week with a TV spot comparing Republican rival Craig Huey to the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate.

The 30-second spot, which will run on cable channels throughout the district, blasts Huey's stance on abortion and support for GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's federal budget plan as too conservative for voters in the coastal Los Angeles County district.

"We don't need Craig Huey's extremist right wing agenda," a narrator says.

Hahn, a Los Angeles City councilwoman, and Huey, a businessman and conservative publisher, are vying in a July 12 special election to replace former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, who retired in February. They were the top finishers in last month's crowded special primary for the seat.

Hahn spokesman Dave Jacobson characterized the spot, Hahn's first of the campaign, as a "competitive buy."

Huey has said he supports Ryan's plan, but maintains he does not believe it would result in seniors over 55 losing Medicare. His campaign consultant Dave Gilliard said Huey does not, as the ad states, support ending Medicare.

"It is a shame that Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn would choose to launch her run-off campaign with a nasty, negative attack ad that twists and distorts the truth," he said.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1:30 p.m. with comments from Huey's campaign.

May 19, 2011
Debra Bowen concedes in CD 36, sending GOP Huey to runoff

Secretary of State Debra Bowen has conceded the second spot in the 36th Congressional District runoff to Republican Craig Huey.

"It is clear now that I will not be in the runoff, and I congratulate Janice Hahn and Craig Huey," the Marina Del Rey Democrat said in a statement issued this afternoon.

Bowen, who represented the area in the Legislature for more than a decade, had been considered a front-runner in contest to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Democratic Rep. Jane Harman.

But Tuesday's16-way special primary left Bowen and Huey locked in a close race for the right to face Democrat Hahn, the top vote-getter, in the July 12 runoff. Today's updated ballot count showed Huey's initial edge over Bowen swelling to 750 votes.

"I'm very humbled by each and every vote that was cast for me in this election, and by the grassroots support I received," Bowen said in the statement.

Huey, who runs a political website for conservative Christians, bolstered his primary bid with a $500,000 loan.

Democrats' double-digit registration advantage in the coastal Los Angeles County district is expected to give Hahn an edge in the second round of balloting. The Los Angeles city councilwoman is a member of one of the region's most prominent political families.

May 19, 2011
Huey's lead over Bowen in CD 36 grows to 750 votes

Republican businessman Craig Huey's lead over Democrat Debra Bowen in the 36th Congressional District special primary has grown to 750 votes.

The two are battling for the second spot in a July runoff election to fill the Los Angeles County congressional seat vacated by the retirement of Democratic Rep. Jane Harman. Democrat Janice Hahn, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, was the top vote-getter in Tuesday's 16-way primary contest, winning 24 percent of the vote.

Initial returns put Huey, a conservative website publisher, and Bowen, the secretary of state, in a tight race, with Huey holding an edge of roughly 200 votes. His lead widened today after thousands of remaining absentee and provisional votes were processed. Los Angeles elections officials, who plan to post a final tally tomorrow, say about 200 provisional and damaged ballots remain uncounted.

Bowen earlier in the week asked supporters for contributions "to make sure our campaign can fight for every vote," suggesting she could seek a recount. Her campaign said she would be sending out a statement on the updated results soon.

Democrats' double-digit registration advantage over Republicans would likely give Hahn a strong advantage over Huey in the runoff.

Click here to see the semi-final results.

May 18, 2011
Hahn wins top slot in CD 36, Bowen and Huey battle for No. 2

Democrat Janice Hahn appears headed to a second round of balloting for the vacant 36th Congressional District seat, though her challenger for the July 12 runoff is yet to be determined.

Hahn, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, was the top vote-getter in yesterday's special election to replace Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, who retired in late February. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Hahn led the field of 16 candidates with 24.66 percent of the vote.

Hahn's chief Democratic rival, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, trailed conservative website publisher Craig Huey for the No. 2 spot by roughly 200 votes. Huey, who lent his campaign $500,000, posted an edge of less than one percentage point over the Marina Del Rey Democrat, leading 21.87 percent to 21.48 percent.

If Huey's lead stands, the results will be considered a major upset for Bowen, a former state legislator from the area who was widely considered a front-runner in the Democratic-leaning district. Many had expected the contest to result in the first same-party runoff since Proposition 14, the state's new top-two primary system, took effect this year.

But the results were far from final -- the Los Angeles County registrar pegs the number of uncounted ballots at about 9,800. Counting of those ballots was set to begin this morning.

See the full results at this link.

May 17, 2011
AM Alert: South Bay primary brawl

The crowded primary contest for the vacant 36th Congressional District seat comes to an end today.

Sixteen candidates are running to replace retired Democratic Rep. Jane Harman in the coastal Los Angeles district.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and Secretary of State Debra Bowen, both Democrats, are considered the front-runners in the Democratic-leaning district and have spent the final stretch of the campaign pummeling each other with negative attacks. But the lengthy ballot and dynamics of the new top two primary system add an air of unpredictability to the stand-alone special election.

The South Bay primary brawl has attracted a ton of cash (one Republican gave himself a $500,000 loan) and endorsement cameos from the likes of former GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner GOP Rep. Tom McClintock and even "Rudy" star Sean Astin. Voters also have a familiar face with anti-war activist and teacher Marcy Winograd, a two-time Democratic primary challenger to Harman.

If no candidate crosses the 50 percent threshold in today's all-party primary election, the top two vote-getters -- regardless of party -- advance to a July 12 special. Top finishes by Bowen and Hahn would result in the the first same-party runoff since Proposition 14 took effect in January.

Early results will be posted at the Secretary of State website shortly after the polls close at 8 p.m.

HEARINGS: Back under the dome, the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee meets at 9:30 a.m. to look at how well the state's energy efficiency strategy is working. Over in the Assembly, the Elections and Redistricting Committee takes up several proposed changes to the initiative system at 1:30 p.m. and the Aging and Long-term Care Committee holds an oversight hearing on community-based programs at 2 p.m.

NEW JOBS: Former Assemblyman Van Tran, R-Garden Grove, has landed a job at Newmeyer & Dillon, LLP, a business and real estate law firm with offices in Newport Beach and Walnut Creek. Tran, who lost a November bid for Congress, will handle civil litigation, contracts, corporate and administrative law clients as an "of counsel" attorney with the firm.

Equality California, the state's leading LGBT-rights advocacy group, has hired Roland Palencia to fill the organization's vacant executive director post. Palencia, who founded Latino LGBT group Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos, starts July 5.

BIRTHDAY: Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, turns 57 today.

May 12, 2011
Video: Democrat's new TV appeal 'My wife is Korean, too'

Here's one candidate's approach to setting himself apart from the field before Tuesday's crowded special primary in the 36th Congressional District:

Dan Adler is one of 16 candidates running in Tuesday's special election to fill the coastal Los Angeles County seat vacated by former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman. The first-time candidate's somewhat strange and campy appeal to the district's Asian (and Jewish) voting blocs hit the air in local cable markets on Tuesday and will be one of several new ads running into the weekend.

The Marina Del Rey Democrat, who has long worked in the entertainment industry, has released a string of wacky web ads in recent weeks, including a "Rudy" parody featuring the movie's star Sean Astin, his campaign manager. Other notable shorts feature actress Patty Duke, Astin's mother, lifting a barbell with some help on what looks like Venice Beach and Adler's son playing basketball bragging on a basketball court that his dad "gets s--t done."

May 3, 2011
GOP Beth Gaines leading in 4th Assembly District runoff

20110414_AOC_BethGaines_043w.JPGRoseville Republican Beth Gaines has posted a strong lead in today's special election to fill the vacant 4th Assembly District seat.

Gaines is leading Roseville Democrat Dennis Campanale 55.4 percent to 44.6 percent with nearly 80 percent of precincts reporting.

The two emerged as the top vote-getters in an eight-way March primary election triggered by her husband Ted Gaines' January election to an overlapping state Senate seat.

Gaines, a marketing consultant for her family insurance business, was considered the front-runner for the runoff contest in the conservative district, which includes Alpine County and parts of Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento counties.

Track the results on the Secretary of State website.

PHOTO CREDIT: Beth Gaines appears at a campaign event at Bass Lake Golf Course in Rescue on April 14, 2011. Autumn Cruz, Sacramento Bee.

May 2, 2011
Mail pieces hit Beth Gaines on no-tax pledge, budget cuts

A labor-backed committee showered 4th Assembly District voters with mail pieces slamming GOP candidate Beth Gaines' stance on the budget over the weekend.

Opportunity PAC reported spending more than $38,000 on a last minute mail blitz ahead of tomorrow's runoff election between Gaines and Democrat Dennis Campanale. The two are vying to fill the seat vacated by Gaines' husband Ted Gaines, who was elected to the state Senate in January.

At least two pieces sent to district voters target the Roseville Republican for opposing a budget solution that includes taxes or an election on taxes, with one casting the no-tax pledge she has signed as a vow "to obstruct responsible bipartisan efforts."

Another piece lays out steep cuts to schools and public safety that could result from an all-cuts budget, quoting local educators on the possible impact of funding reductions.

"If Ted and Beth Gaines won't listen to educators in their districts, perhaps they will listen to parents," one mailer says. "The people of Roseville, Rocklin, Loomis, Folsom, Placerville and El Dorado Hills need to pound on the doors of their candidates and legislators to get the budget resolved. Now."

Gaines supports a cuts-based approach to solving the state's projected $15.4 billion budget deficit, though she says she believes those savings can be achieved without hurting the most needy. Her own mail pieces have highlighted her "pro taxpayer" and "tough on government spending" positions, telling voters in the conservative district that she is "right on the issues. One of us."

Gaines consultant Dave Gilliard called the attack pieces a "waste of money."

"I think they're pretty much off message for this district," he said of the conservative electorate for the Sacramento-area seat.

The mail blitz, which included a third piece highlighting the combined salary the Gaineses would take home as legislators, marked the first major spending against Gaines since she emerged as a top vote-getter in the eight-way primary. While it's unclear how much the mail campaign will impact the election in the conservative district, where Gaines is expected to win handily, the pieces could represent an early test of attacks against GOP legislators who oppose Brown's budget plan.

See PDFs of the budget-related mail pieces after the jump.

April 27, 2011
Labor PAC launches last-minute attack on Beth Gaines in AD 4

20110414_AOC_BethGaines_081w.JPGA labor-backed independent expenditure committee has launched a last-minute attack against Republican Beth Gaines in the 4th Assembly District.

Opportunity PAC reported this week spending more than $9,000 on mail pieces opposing Gaines, a candidate in next week's special election to fill the seat vacated when her husband, Ted Gaines, was elected to the state Senate in January.

The Roseville Republican is favored to win Tuesday's runoff for the suburban Sacramento seat, which includes Alpine County and parts of Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento counties. Republicans hold a double-digit voter registration advantage over Democrats there. Her sole opponent, Democrat Dennis Campanale, has spent less than $5,000 on his campaign so far.

The expenditures were fueled by contributions from California Professional Firefighters, which recently endorsed Campanale, a retired firefighter.

California School Employees Association Executive Director Dave Low, whose union is one of the key funders of the committee, said the point of the mail pieces was to point out hypocrisy of Gaines and her husband supporting a cuts-dominated budget while taking a government paycheck and perks.

He declined to comment further on the strategy, but Democratic strategist Steven Maviglio wrote on California Majority Report today that the committee backers, which include SEIU and teachers unions, were encouraged to step in by polling showing voters aren't keen on Gaines' support for an all-cuts approach on the state budget.

It's unclear, however, how big of an impact the spending could have this late in the game. The contest is expected to see low turnout and the majority of ballots cast by mail, meaning it's highly possible many of the voters who will participate in the election have already made up their minds -- and their votes.

"Anything can happen," Low said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Beth Gaines speaks to a group of her closest supporters during a campaign event at Bass Lake Golf Course in Rescue on April 14, 2011. Autumn Cruz, Sacramento Bee.

April 4, 2011
Hahn, Bowen split Democratic Party's CD 36 endorsement vote

One of the biggest prizes in the 36th Congressional District endorsement wars will go unclaimed.

None of the five Democrats running for the vacant congressional seat in next month's special primary election will be able to tout the official backing of the California Democratic Party.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn was the top vote-getter in the party's weekend endorsement meeting with 65 votes, according to party spokesman Tenoch Flores, or 57 percent of participating delegates living in the district. But she fell short of the 60 percent threshold to trigger a primary endorsement.

Hahn declared victory, calling the majority vote a "game changer in this campaign" that "sends a strong message that I am the choice for Democrats."

Her main rival in the Democratic-leaning district , Secretary of State Debra Bowen, won 40 percent with a total of 46 votes, according to Flores. She said in a statement that the results showed "the Party was clearly divided in the vote today."

Liberal activist Marcy Winograd, who has twice run in a primary for the seat, received two votes out of the 114 cast. The remaining vote recommended no endorsement of any candidate, which left the two other Democrats on the ballot without any votes.

Hahn and Bowen have been actively publicizing high-profile endorsements in what is expected to be a low turnout race to replace Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, who stepped down in February.

Hahn has touted support from labor unions, including Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and AFSCME California, as well as local elected officials and members of Congress and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Bowen's backers include former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Equality California and California League of Conservation Voters.

A total of 16 candidates are running in the May 17 special primary election in the coastal Los Angeles County district. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters compete in a runoff election on July 12.

Editor note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Organizing for America endorsed Bowen. The organization was Democracy for America.

March 31, 2011
Crowded ballot in CD 36 race lists 16 candidates

Voters in the coastal 36th Congressional District will have no shortage of candidates to choose from when they head to the polls May 17 to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Democratic Rep. Jane Harman.

Sixteen candidates have been cleared to run in the special primary election in the coastal Los Angeles County district. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will compete in a July 12 runoff.

Following is the list of certified candidates, party preferences and ballot designations released by Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who is running for the seat herself:

March 14, 2011
Brown sets special election dates for vacant congressional seat

Gov. Jerry Brown has called a July 12 election to fill former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman's seat, triggering a May 17 special primary in the 36th Congressional District

Harman stepped down late last month to take a job as president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The field of candidates so far include Democratic Secretary of State Debra Bowen and two other Democrats -- Janice Hahn, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, and Marcy Winograd, the liberal activist who previously challenged Harman for the coastal Los Angeles County seat. Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin and City Attorney Mike Webb, both Republicans, have also announced campaigns.

It will be the first congressional election conducted under the state's new "top two" primary rules. Unless one candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the May primary, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the July runoff.

Brown had hoped to consolidate the contest with an early June statewide election on extending temporary tax increases, but a deal to put the taxes on the ballot did not materialize by today's deadline for setting the congressional election dates.

March 9, 2011
Gaines, Campanale make runoff in Assembly race

Republican Beth Gaines edged GOP rival John Allard on Tuesday to make the runoff against Democrat Dennis Campanale in the crowded race for the 4th Assembly District.

Campanale, the lone Democrat in an eight-candidate field, took the top spot with 31.8 percent of the vote. Gaines edged Allard by 667 votes -- 22.5 percent to 21.5 percent -- for the second slot in the May 3 runoff. She will be the favorite in a heavily Republican district that includes Alpine County and parts of Sacramento, Placer and El Dorado counties.

Gaines seeks to replace her husband, Ted Gaines, who was elected to the Senate in January. Campanale, a retired firefighter, spent virtually nothing in the race, while Allard, a Roseville city councilman, and Gaines waged six-figure campaigns.

Other Republicans on the ballot in Tuesday's special election were Bo Ambrozewicz, Cheryl Bly-Chester, Rob Matthews, Mike O'Connor and Matt Williams.

Editor's note: This post was updated to reflect that the district includes all of Alpine County, not Amador County. Updated at 9:47 a.m. March 9, 2011.

March 8, 2011
Gaines, Allard locked in close race for AD 4 runoff spot

Republicans John Allard and Beth Gaines are locked in a close race tonight for one of two spots in a May runoff to replace Gaines' husband, Roseville Republican Ted Gaines, in the 4th Assembly District.

Dennis Campanale, the only Democrat on today's special primary ballot, is positioned to secure a spot in the runoff. He leads a field of eight candidates with 32 percent of the vote with all precincts at least partially reporting.

Gaines has a one-point edge in the battle for the second spot, winning 22.5 percent of the vote to Allard's 21.5 percent.

Other Republicans on the ballot in today's special election are Bo Ambrozewicz, Cheryl Bly-Chester, Rob Matthews, Mike O'Connor and Matt Williams.

The top two vote-getters will advance to a May 3 runoff for the Republican-dominated seat, which was vacated by Ted Gaines' January election to the state Senate.

Results are being updated throughout the night on the Secretary of State website.

March 7, 2011
Firefighters' union runs radio ads for John Allard in AD 4

A union representing state firefighters reported Sunday spending $4,900 on independent radio campaign supporting Republican John Allard in the 4th Assembly District.

CDF Firefighters represents more than 4,000 CAL FIRE employees throughout the state. The committee is funded by members' dues, according to campaign finance filings.

The committee also contributed $3,900 to Allard's campaign over the weekend.

Allard is one of eight candidates running in Tuesday's special election to fill the seat vacated by Roseville Republican Ted Gaines, who was elected to the state Senate in January.

March 4, 2011
Committee drops $67,000 on ads for Beth Gaines in AD 4

20110218_FORUM_0109 Beth Gaines.JPGA conservative, Christian philanthropist has poured $75,000 into a new round of mail pieces and radio advertisements backing Republican Beth Gaines in the 4th Assembly District.

California Taxpayers Advocate, an independent expenditure committee with a history of supporting Republican candidates, has reported spending nearly $32,000 on campaign literature and $35,000 on radio advertisements in advance of next Tuesday's special primary, according to campaign finance filings on the secretary of state's website.

The expenditures were financed by a $75,000 contribution to the committee (listed on the second page of the report) from Fieldstead & Co., which manages the assets of the family of Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., an Orange County millionaire known for funding conservative political and religious causes. Ahmanson, a conservative Democrat, told The Bee's Dan Morain last month that he voted for Meg Whitman for governor.

Independent expenditure committees can raise and spend unlimited funds to support or oppose candidates as long as they are not coordinated with the campaign.

Gaines is one of eight candidates running for the seat vacated by her husband Ted Gaines' election to the state Senate. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff May 3.

PHOTO CREDIT: Candidate Beth Gaines talks during the Republican Congress of Placer County candidates forum held at the Loomis Veterans Memorial Hall on Friday Feb. 18, 2011. Special to the Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer

February 25, 2011
Marcy Winograd to run for Harman's congressional seat

Democrat Marcy Winograd this weekend will launch a bid for outgoing Democratic Rep. Jane Harman's South Bay congressional seat.

Winograd, who unsuccessfully challenged Harman in the 2010 Democratic primary, tweeted this morning that she will officially launch her campaign in Torrance on Saturday.

"I feel that we need a real progressive in the race, somebody who has been advocating for a long, long time that we need to transition from a war economy to a green economy," Winograd told the Daily Breeze.

She is the third Democrat -- and fourth candidate overall -- to announce a run for the 36th Congressional District seat. The field includes Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn , both Democrats, and Republican Mike Webb, the elected city attorney in Redondo Beach.

Winograd, that's me, kicks off congressional race for Harman's old seat; Sat., 10 am, Fox Drug, 1327 El Prado, Torrance, 90501. CD#36less than a minute ago via web

February 23, 2011
'Coffee party' candidate files federal suit to block Prop. 14 rules

A member of the "Coffee Party" has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block the state from using the rules for the new top-two primary system in the upcoming 36th Congressional District special election.

Michael Chamness, who plans to run to replace departing Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, argues the new rules are unfair and unconstitutional because they will force him to state he has "no party preference" on the ballot.

Senate Bill 6, the law that outlines the rules for the new primary system approved by voters in June 2010, allows candidates to list that they prefer a state-recognized political party or put "no party preference" on the ballot. Under the previous system, candidates who identified with minor parties not qualified for the ballot could run as an "Independent."

"It's unjust to discriminate against a candidate like myself just because I'm not a Democrat or Republican," Chamness said in a statement. "SB 6 does a grave disservice to voters because it forces false information to be printed on the ballot."

Chamness, a candidate in last week's 28th Senate District special election, hasn't been shy about his opposition to the new system. He dubbed his election night gathering last Tuesday "The Prop. 14 Really Sucks Victory Party."

He had previously sought to join a legal challenge against Proposition 14 based on the same argument working its way through the state appeals court. The courts did not grant his motion to intervene, Gautam Dutta, attorney for both cases, confirmed.

The race to replace Harman will be the state's first congressional election conducted under Proposition 14, which replaced party primaries with a system in which two candidates who win the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, advance to a run-off election.

The lawsuit and injunction request were filed late last week in U.S. District Court. A hearing has been set for March 21 in Los Angeles. Dutta said plaintiffs held off on their announcement to give fair notice to 36th Congressional District candidate Debra Bowen, who is named in the suit because she will oversee the election and Proposition 14 implementation in her capacity as state elections chief.

A PDF of the full complaint is below. See the injunction request after the jump.

sb-6-chamness-v-bowen-complaint-2-17-11

February 22, 2011
Philip Morris gearing up for June fight over cigarette tax

Tobacco giant Philip Morris USA is gearing up for a potential June ballot measure fight over cigarette taxes, reporting more than $128,000 in contributions to a new campaign account this month.

The measure in question -- which would increase the cigarette tax by $1 a pack to fund cancer research and prevention programs -- is currently slated for the February 2012 ballot. But a proposed June statewide special election to ask voters to extend sales, income and vehicle tax rates set to expire would bump up the California Cancer Research Act and another previously qualified initiative to alter legislative term limits.

The company reported last week four separate non-monetary contributions totaling $128,115.99 to a campaign account called "Taxpayers Against Out-of-Control Spending." The contributions were made in early February when the account to oppose the ballot measure was first established, according to campaign finance reports.

David Sutton, a spokesman for Philip Morris parent company Altria Group, said the committee was created "so that we may explore and evaluate our options regarding this measure."

"We oppose additional targeted taxes on tobacco," he said in an e-mail.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants lawmakers to act by March 10 to approve putting the tax extension to a statewide vote, triggering a June special election. Two of three committees created in support of the cigarette tax measure have also kicked into action in recent weeks, reporting a combined $60,000 in contributions since Jan. 1.

February 22, 2011
Ted Lieu endorses Janice Hahn in 36th Congressional District

Congressional hopeful Janice Hahn picked up an endorsement from another area Democrat over the long weekend: state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance.

Lieu was elected last week to serve in the 28th Senate District, which overlaps with the 36th Congressional District Hahn is vying to represent. He previously represented the area in the Assembly for six years.

"Having served in local office for ten years, Janice Hahn truly grasps the issues facing the people of the 36th Congressional District," Lieu said in a statement released yesterday. "I have worked with Janice on many issues and she has proven to be a fighter for the people she represents. I know she will continue to fight for us in Washington."

Hahn, a Democrat and member of the Los Angeles City council, is seeking to replace outgoing Democratic Rep. Jane Harman. Secretary of State Debra Bowen, also a Democrat, and Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb, a Republican, also are running.

February 17, 2011
Republican Mike Webb to run in 36th Congressional District

Republican Mike Webb has officially jumped in the race to replace outgoing Democratic Rep. Jane Harman in the 36th Congressional District.

"Our government needs to stop indulging the concerns of special interests and instead start effectively addressing the need of Americans to be able to find a job, keep more of their hard earned paychecks and care for themselves and their families. I will choose what is best for our country and the residents of the South Bay -- not what is best for reelection," he said in a statement.

Webb, the first Republican to enter the race, so far will face Democrats Debra Bowen, the secretary of state, and Janice Hahn, a member of the Los Angeles City Council.

Webb is the elected city attorney in Redondo Beach. Read more about him in Capitol Alert's earlier coverage on Republicans considering entering the fray.

February 17, 2011
Radio debate scheduled for Assembly District 4 candidates

Four Republican candidates for the vacant 4th Assembly District seat will debate on the airwaves next week.

Republicans John Allard, Cheryl Bly-Chester, Beth Gaines and Rob Matthews will face off in the Feb. 25 debate moderated by conservative radio host Eric Hogue.

The hour-long debate will air on KTKZ AM 1380 at noon.

Eight candidates are running in the March 8 primary to fill the seat vacated by Roseville Republican Ted Gaines' election to the state Senate.

February 16, 2011
What does Harman's last day have to do with the state budget?

What does outgoing Democratic Rep. Jane Harman's last day on the job have to do with the state budget?

Timing.

Harman, who was expected to step down yesterday to take a job as president of a Washington, D.C., think tank, has pushed back her resignation date so that a special primary election to fill her 36th Congressional District seat could be consolidated with the early June statewide election that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to call:

Brown's office released the following statement late yesterday:

"At Governor Brown's request, Congresswoman Harman has agreed to resign from Congress on February 28th. By resigning at the end of the month, the Congresswoman is increasing the possibility that the primary election to fill her seat can be consolidated into the statewide election that Governor Brown has requested for June."

Even with Harman's resignation delay, the money-saving consolidation strategy isn't a sure thing. The ability to coordinate election schedules is contingent on the Legislature approving Brown's plan to put proposed tax extensions on the ballot by early March.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and Secretary of State Debra Bowen, both Democrats, have announced they'll run for the seat.

February 16, 2011
Lieu, Runner win state Senate seats in special elections

Democrat Ted Lieu and Republican Sharon Runner won election to the state Senate in two special elections.

The Assembly alumni (Runner termed out in 2008 and Lieu in 2010) both took more than 50 percent of the vote in the Southern California primary contests, winning outright and avoiding a later run-off election.

Runner beat Democrat Darren Parker in a landslide victory to claim the 17th Senate District seat vacated by her husband George Runner's election to the state Board of Equalization.

Lieu was the top vote-getter in a field of eight candidates competing for the open 28th Senate District. He will succeed late Sen. Jenny Oropeza, who died shortly before the November election.

The Associated Press has more on the results from yesterday's special elections here.

February 15, 2011
Debra Bowen announces bid for Jane Harman's seat

Bowenha_APAPA13992.JPGSecretary of State Debra Bowen announced today that she will run for the Los Angeles County congressional seat that will open up with the resignation of Democratic Rep. Jane Harman.

Bowen, a Marina Del Rey Democrat, represented a large portion of of the coastal 36th Congressional District during the 14 years she spent in the state Legislature. She will be termed out of her job as the state elections chief in 2014.

Bowen said in a statement that her record in public office has "proven that I'm principled and that solving problems is much more important to me than party labels."

"I'm proud of the work I've done as Secretary of State and it's a job I truly love," she said. "We've made great strides over the past four years in making our voting systems secure, accurate, reliable, and accessible, while helping businesses get up, running, and hiring people quicker by speeding up the processing of documents companies need to get going in California. However, there are crucial challenges at the national level as well, the first and foremost of which is creating jobs and jump-starting our struggling economy."

Harman, who has represented the area for most of the past two decades, plans to step down soon to become president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, also a Democrat, announced her campaign for the seat last week, locking in endorsements from dozens of local officials, labor groups and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. A handful of Republicans, including Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb and former 53rd Assembly District candidate Nathan Mintz, have said they are considering a run.

Once the seat is vacant, Gov. Jerry Brown will have 14 days to call a special election for the seat. The timing will likely trigger an early June special election.

PHOTO CREDIT: Secretary of State candidate Debra Bowen talks at one of the biggest election year gathering of candidates Sunday at a candidates forum at Sac State organized by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

February 14, 2011
Dianne Feinstein endorses Janice Hahn's congressional bid

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has endorsed Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn's bid for the 36th Congressional District, the campaign announced today.

Hahn, a Democrat, is seeking to replace Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, who plans to step down tomorrow to become president of a Washington, D.C., think tank.

Hahn's campaign released a string of endorsements over the weekend, including the support of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.

A special election to fill the South Bay congressional seat will likely take place in June.

February 13, 2011
Speaker Pérez endorses Janice Hahn's congressional bid

HahnAP100417133079.jpgAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez joined the ranks of Los Angeles-area officials supporting Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn's bid for an open congressional seat.

Hahn, a Democrat, has launched a campaign to succeed Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, who will leave her seat Tuesday to become president of a Washington, D.C. think tank.

Pérez called Hahn "a local leader who will go to Washington and fight for California, and create even more jobs" in a statement released by the campaign on Saturday.

Hahn announced her bid hours after news broke that Harman would vacate the South Bay-area 36th Congressional District seat. She has also been endorsed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former House minority leader Dick Gephardt and a string of Los Angeles-area assemblymembers, local officials and labor groups.

Democrats Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Marcy WInograd and Republicans Mike Webb, Nathan Mintz and Craig Huey have all said they are also considering running in a top-two primary to fill the seat.

PHOTO CREDIT: Los Angeles City Councilwoman and then-candidate for lieutenant governor Janice Hahn talks with an attendee at the California Democratic Convention in Los Angeles Saturday, April 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

February 9, 2011
Jerry Brown to campaign Friday for SD 28 candidate Ted Lieu

LieuRCB FORECLOSURE 04.JPGGov. Jerry Brown will hit the campaign trail for 28th Senate District candidate Ted Lieu on Friday.

The governor, who travels to Southern California tomorrow to speak to the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce , will appear at a Friday morning event at the former Democratic assemblyman's campaign headquarters in Torrance. Brown adviser Steve Glazer said.

"I'm thrilled that Governor Brown is going to come to my hometown in Torrance and stop by my campaign headquarters," Lieu said this evening.

Lieu, who was termed out of the state Assembly in November, is one of eight candidates running in Tuesday's top-two primary to fill the seat vacated by late Democratic Sen. Jenny Oropeza, who died shortly before the November election. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary, the top two vote-getters will compete in an April 19 runoff.

Lieu, who has a strong cash advantage and high name ID in the safe Democratic district that overlaps with the Assembly seat he represented for three terms, said he has ramped up an aggressive field campaign with a goal of to winning "50 percent plus one" on Tuesday. But a crowded field could send the contest to a runoff.

Brown, whose endorsements have already appeared in Lieu's campaign mail, has good reason to want to see the Torrance Democrat win outright. Filling the vacancy next week would allow Lieu to be sworn in ahead of any impending budget votes, adding a potential "aye" for Brown's plan in what otherwise would be a vacant seat.

Lieu said he "absolutely supports" the overall mix of cuts and putting tax extensions on the ballot that Brown has proposed.

"I am very pleased Governor Brown has proposed a budget that is honest," Lieu said. "If you follow Governor Brown's approach, which is 50 percent cuts and 50 percent revenue, we will largely balance this budget."

This post was updated at 6:06 p.m. with comments from Lieu.

PHOTO CREDIT: Then-Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, speaks at a 2008 press conference. Renée C. Byer/ Sacramento Bee.

February 9, 2011
Indian gambling tribe goes on the airwaves for Beth Gaines

ha_ted_beth_gaines19367(2).JPGA California Indian gambling tribe has entered the 4th Assembly District fray, running independent radio advertisements backing Republican candidate Beth Gaines.

The Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians, which operates Rolling Hills Casino in Corning, has spent $25,000 on radio advertisements supporting Gaines, according to an independent expenditure report filed this week with the Secretary of State's Office.

Gaines, of Roseville, is one of eight candidates running in a March 8 primary election to fill the seat vacated by her husband Ted Gaines, who was elected to the state Senate last month.

The Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians, based in Tehama County, contributed to Ted Gaines' successful bid for the 1st Senate District seat and is one of four members of the California Tribal Business Alliance, which spent $34,000 in support of his last Assembly re-election campaign. Neither group has given directly to Beth Gaines in the special election, according to campaign finance filings.

Tehama County is outside both the 4th Assembly District and the 1st Senate District.

A representative for the tribe was not immediately available for comment.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, is sworn in as his wife, Beth Gaines, holds the bible for him in the Senate chambers by Superior Court Judge Donald J. Courrier on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee.

February 9, 2011
Republicans Mintz, Webb, weighing bids for Harman's seat

Two more Republicans could soon jump in the race to succeed resigning Democratic Rep. Jane Harman in the 36th Congressional District.

Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb said yesterday he is "strongly considering" running for the seat.

The 48-year-old former prosecutor cited his lifelong ties to the district and experience on anti-terrorism advisory panels and initiatives as qualifications for running for the open seat. As for viability to mount a run in the Democratic-held district, Webb noted that he has broken local fundraising records in his six years as city attorney.

"I've lived most of my life in the South Bay," the Redondo Beach resident said. "I think that given the issues that we're facing, (the district's voters) clearly are well suited for a Republican given the fact that (the government is) just spending more money than we take in."

Nathan Mintz, last year's Republican nominee in the overlapping 53rd Assembly District, said yesterday he is "still collecting information and haven't made any decisions."

The 27-year-old aerospace engineer lost a November contest to now Democratic Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, of Marina del Rey. The then first-time candidate made a strong showing in the Democratic district, coming within seven points of Butler.

Mintz said though he had received more than 50 calls urging him to run by yesterday, the registration split in the congressional district makes it "a much harder district than the one I ran in." But he said his background as an aerospace engineer could attract voters seeking to protect and create additional aerospace, manufacturing and port industry jobs in the district.

"This district really needs somebody who is going to be a tireless advocate for aerospace and certainty the other manufacturing jobs in this area," he said.

A slew of potential candidates for the coastal Los Angeles County district have been emerging in the wake of Monday's news that Harman will step down.

Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn, a Democrat, has announced her candidacy for the seat. Secretary of State Debra Bowen is also considering a run, as are 2010 Democratic primary candidate Marcy Winograd and Republican Craig Huey, who publishes conservative voting guides.

February 8, 2011
Conservative publisher considering CD 36 run

craigphoto1.jpgA publisher of conservative election guides is considering entering the fray in the 36th Congressional District.

Republican Craig Huey runs several websites, newsletters and forums that aim to "help Evangelical Christians vote their values," including ElectionsForums.org and JudgeVoterGuide.org.

Huey said local party leaders and Tea Party groups have approached him about running for the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, who plans to step down to lead the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

"I'm talking to some people right now and getting a lot of encouragement to (run)," he said this morning.

Huey, 60, lives just outside the district in Rolling Hills Estates, but said he might move if he decides to enter the race. He said he grew up in the area covered by the seat and runs an advertising company, Creative Direct Marketing Group, that is located in Torrance.

February 7, 2011
Janice Hahn to run for Harman's congressional seat

HahnAP100417133079.jpgLos Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn has announced that she will seek to succeed Democratic Rep. Jane Harman in the 36th Congressional District.

The Los Angeles County coastal seat is expected to be up for grabs amid reports that Harman will resign to become president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars later this spring.

Hahn, who represents an overlapping city council district, threw her hat in the ring this afternoon.

"I'm running for Congress to create new jobs, expand clean energy technologies and ensure that local small business owners get the help and opportunities they need to flourish in a global economy," she said in a statement.

The San Pedro Democrat, who lost a primary bid for lieutenant governor last year, ran as the democratic nominee for the seat under previous district lines in 1998.

Hahn, who has served on the city council since 2001, has high name identification in the area due in part to her family's political prominence in Los Angeles. Her father was the late Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and her brother, James Hahn, was mayor of Los Angeles.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen is also considering running in the special election, which will be conducted under the state's new top two primary rules. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, the top two candidates, regardless of party, will advance to a run-off election to fill the seat.

A special election to fill the seat will be set by Gov. Jerry Brown once the seat is vacant.

PHOTO CREDIT: Los Angeles City Councilwoman and candidate for Lieutenant Governor Janice Hahn talks with an attendee at the California Democratic Convention in Los Angeles Saturday, April 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)


February 7, 2011
Debra Bowen eyeing Harman's congressional seat

Bowenha_APAPA13992.JPGSecretary of State Debra Bowen is considering running for the congressional seat expected to be vacated by Democratic Rep. Jane Harman.

"She is very, very seriously considering running for Congress," Bowen campaign consultant Steve Barkan said. "It's brand new news, and so she needs to take all factors into consideration."

News broke today that Harman, 65, will leave office to take a job as president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, setting the stage for a special election in the 36th Congressional District.

Bowen hails from Marina Del Rey, which is part of the district, and represented the area in the state Assembly and Senate from 1992 to 2006. She will be termed out of her job as the state elections chief in 2014.

An added incentive for seeking a job in the Beltway? Her husband Mark Nechodom works in Washington, D.C., as the senior advisor to the Secretary on Environmental Markets at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Another candidate expected to run is Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn. A source close to Hahn said the San Pedro Democrat is planning to announce a run once Harman makes her resignation official.

Hahn, who lost last year's lieutenant governor primary to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, was the 36th Congressional District Democratic nominee in 1998, before the district was redrawn to its current shape after the 2000 census.

Democrats have an 18-point advantage in the the 36th Congressional District, which stretches along the Los Angeles County coast and includes Venice, Torrance and Redondo Beach. It is unknown how the district map will change for 2012 under the current redistricting process.

Once the seat is vacant, Gov. Jerry Brown will have 14 days to call a special election. The election will be the state's first congressional contest conducted under the top two primary rules created by Proposition 14.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 11:57 a.m. to add that Nechodom has a new title. Hahn is also planning to run. This post was updated on Feb. 13 to reflect that

PHOTO CREDIT: Secretary of State candidate Debra Bowen talks at one of the biggest election year gathering of candidates Sunday at a candidates forum at Sac State organized by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee.

February 4, 2011
Judge denies challenge of Beth Gaines' ballot designation

ha_ted_beth_gaines19367(2).JPGA Sacramento Superior Court judge today rejected an attempt to block 4th Assembly District candidate Beth Gaines from calling herself a "small business woman" on the upcoming special election ballot.

Judge Timothy M. Frawley did not rule on the merits of the case against the Roseville Republican, but said the rival campaign filing the lawsuit missed the deadline for challenging the ballot designation.

"It is an interesting question that is raised, but I think at this point any order that I would make (to change the ballot designation) would ...severely disrupt the election," he said during a 15-minute hearing today.

Gaines, who is seeking to fill the seat vacated by her husband Ted Gaines' election to the state Senate, bases her job description on work for two family-run companies. Republican candidate John Allard filed on Thursday a lawsuit alleging Gaines' ballot designation was misleading, evidenced by her failure to list income from those positions on her financial disclosure forms.

"The critical issue here has to do with the integrity of the ballot process and making sure the ballot designation (complies with) provisions of the election code," Allard attorney Stephen Greene said.

Frawley said he saw a "credible argument" about whether Gaines was eligible to keep the approved ballot designation, but said he would need additional arguments and time to rule on the merits -- time that the election calendar does not allow.

"It's so late in the process to be thinking about that question," he said.

Ballot designations were circulated Jan. 26 and certified along with he list of candidates on Monday, the deadline for challenging ballot language. Attorneys for Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Placer County election officials both said the process for approving and printing ballots had already begun for the March 8 special primary.

Gaines consultant Dave Gilliard said after the hearing that the judge's order showed the lawsuit was both untimely and frivolous.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, is sworn in as his wife, Beth Gaines, holds the bible for him in the Senate chambers by Superior Court Judge Donald J. Courrier on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

February 3, 2011
Bly-Chester launches TV ad in campaign for Assembly seat

RP CHERYL BLY CHESTER 4 GOV.JPGCheryl Bly-Chester launched a cable television advertising campaign Thursday in her bid for the Assembly seat vacated by Roseville Republican Ted Gaines' move to the Senate last month.

Bly-Chester is opposed by six other Republicans and one Democrat in the March 8 primary election for the 4th District Assembly seat, which represents Alpine County and portions of Placer, Sacramento and El Dorado counties.

Other Republican candidates are Beth Gaines -- Ted Gaines' wife -- and John Allard, Bogdan "Bo" Ambrozewicz, Rob Matthews, Michael F. O'Connor and Matt Williams. The only Democrat is Dennis Campanale.

All eight candidates will appear on the March 8 primary ballot. If none gets more than 50 percent of votes cast, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will square off May 3.

Bly-Chester, an environmental consultant, promotes her small-business experience in the new 30-second ad, saying:

"I'm Cheryl Bly-Chester. I'm a small business owner with 35 years experience working in our key local industries. I know how to get our local economy moving again. After being laid off in a merger, I started my own company, while raising three children as a single mom. I understand the pressures that many of you face worrying about job security and your families. I refuse to leave our children a legacy of crushing debt and failed schools. I'm a business owner -- with real-world experience. Let's get California back to work."

The ad can be viewed at Bly-Chester's campaign website: http://www.vote4cheryl.org/

PHOTO CREDIT: Then Republican recall candidate for governor Cheryl Bly-Chester of Roseville on Friday, Aug. 15, 2003. Sacramento Bee file photo / Randy Pench

February 3, 2011
Beth Gaines' ballot designation challenged in AD 4 primary

ha_ted_beth_gaines19367(2).JPGOne of Republican Beth Gaines' rivals in the 4th Assembly District special election has filed a lawsuit to prevent her from identifying herself as a "small business woman" on the ballot.

Gaines, who is seeking to fill the seat vacated by her husband's election to the state Senate, is a marketing consultant for their family insurance company, Point West Insurance Associates, according to her campaign website. She is also involved in the family-run Gaines Ranch Partnership and has worked in sales and marketing for a medical supply company and for a workforce employment firm, according to her consultant and campaign site bio.

But Gaines' financial interest disclosure form attributes income from both ventures to the posts held by her husband, Republican Sen. Ted Gaines. And the statement of economic interest filed by Ted Gaines does not declare any income from his wife.

The discrepancy prompted John Allard, another Republican seeking the seat, to file a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court yesterday, charging that her approved ballot designation does not represent her "one of the primary, main or leading professional, vocational or occupational endeavors of the candidate" as required by law.

January 24, 2011
Eight candidates to compete for Assembly seat

Seven Republicans and one Democrat met Monday's filing deadline to become candidates for the 4th District Assembly seat left vacant by Ted Gaines' recent move to the state Senate.

GOP candidates are Beth Gaines, Ted Gaines' wife, a homemaker with business experience; Roseville City Councilman John Allard; Cheryl Bly-Chester, founder of Rosewood Environmental Engineering; Matt Williams, a South Lake Tahoe attorney; Rob Matthews, a police officer; Mike O'Connor, a retiree and former Yuba County assistant personnel director; and Bogdan "Bo" Ambrozewicz, a business entrepreneur who has been involved in home and business construction.

The lone Democratic candidate is Dennis J. Campanale, a retired West Sacramento division fire chief who lost to Ted Gaines for the Assembly seat in November.

All eight candidates will run on the March 8 primary ballot. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of votes cast, the two top vote-getters -- regardless of party -- will square off May 3.

More than half the district's registered voters are from Placer County, 58 percent, compared to 28 percent from El Dorado, 13.6 percent from Sacramento, and less than a half-percent from Alpine.

January 20, 2011
AD4 hopeful Bly-Chester on the airwaves with radio spots

Republican Cheryl Bly-Chester, a candidate for the 4th Assembly District special election, hit the airwaves today with a pair of new radio spots.

The two ads, which will run across the district for the next month, highlight the environmental consultant's professional ties to the district and experience as a single mother of three children, saying she has the "know-how and determination to protect our jobs."

Bly-Chester, a 2003 gubernatorial recall candidate, is running in a crowded field of candidates seeking to replace Roseville Republican Ted Gaines, who was elected to the state Senate earlier this month. Candidates include Republicans Beth Gaines, John Allard, Rob Matthews, Michael Babich and Mike O'Connor and Democrat Dennis J. Campanale.

Candidates will vie in a March 8 "top two" style primary election. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the two top vote-getters will face off in a May 3 run-off.

The ads can be heard here and here.

January 18, 2011
Political newcomer to run for Ted Gaines' seat

Photo Candidate Matthews.jpgAnother Republican is throwing his hat in the ring to fill the vacant 4th Assembly District seat.

Rob Matthews, a police officer in Stockton and co-owner of Roseville's Waikiki Dental, has announced that he will seek the seat vacated by former GOP Assemblyman Ted Gaines' election to the state Senate.

Matthews, a self-described political newcomer, said in a statement that he decided to run for office after feeling the effects of "nightmarish bureaucracy and government entanglements involved in the day to day operation of a small business" while running the dental practice he owns with his wife.

At least four other Republicans -- including Beth Gaines, who is married to the former assemblyman -- and one Democrat have announced plans to run in the March 8 special primary election. The contest in the conservative district will be conducted under the new top-two system approved by voters last June. All candidates will appear on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters regardless of party will advance to a May run-off. Under special election rules, a candidate can win outright in March by winning more than 50 percent of the vote.

January 12, 2011
Beth Gaines will run for husband's former Assembly seat

ha_tgaines19367 beth gaines.JPGBeth Gaines will run for the Sacramento-area Assembly seat vacated by her husband, Ted.

The Roseville Republican announced her candidacy today in a written statement featuring the slogan, "Conservative for Assembly."

The 4th District Assembly seat was vacated by Ted Gaines when he was sworn in Jan. 6 as a state senator, replacing the late Dave Cox, a Fair Oaks Republican who died last July.

Gaines' Republican opponents for the seat include John Allard, Roseville councilman; Michael Babich, an Auburn college instructor and businessman who lost to Rep. Tom McClintock in a congressional primary last year; and Mike O'Connor of Lincoln, a retiree and former Yuba County assistant personnel director.

Democrat Dennis J. Campanale -- a retired West Sacramento division fire chief who lost to Ted Gaines in November for the 4th District Assembly seat -- also has declared his candidacy in a race that will feature an "open primary."

Candidates from all parties will run in the March 8 primary. If none receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters - regardless of party -- will square off in a May 3 general election.

Beth Gaines, 51, never has held public office, which she contends will benefit her if she wins election to the Assembly seat representing Alpine and parts of Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento counties.

January 11, 2011
Brown sets May 3 special election for 4th Assembly District

Gov. Jerry Brown has called a special election for May 3 to fill the vacant 4th Assembly District seat.

Candidates to replace Roseville Republican Ted Gaines, who was elected to the Senate last week, will first vie in a top-two style primary on March 8. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, the two top vote-getters, regardless of party, will go head to head in a runoff May 3.

Republicans John Allard, a Roseville city councilman, and Michael Babich, a businessman who lost a primary contest to GOP Rep. Tom McClintock, and Democrat Dennis J. Campanale, who ran against Gaines in November, have announced their candidacies. Republican Beth Gaines, Ted Gaines' wife, is also expected to run.

Republicans have a substantial registration advantage in the district, which covers Alpine and parts of Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento counties.

The AD 4 primary contest will be the fourth special election this year to fill a legislative vacancy.

January 11, 2011
What else would be on a June statewide ballot

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to keep higher tax rates set to expire isn't the only thing voters would decide if lawmakers agree to putting the budget plan on the ballot in a June statewide special election.

Two initiatives have qualified for the next statewide election, currently scheduled for the February 2012 presidential primary, and would be bumped up if an election is called.

One measure, backed by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, would alter legislative term limits, allowing state legislators to serve 12 years consecutively in one house or split the time between the Assembly and the Senate. Sitting members, who are currently restricted to 14 years total -- eight years in the Senate and six years in the Assembly-- would still be subject to existing caps.

A second initiative would raise the tobacco tax by $1 a pack to fund cancer research and smoking prevention programs. That measure, which would raise an estimated $500 million annually, is backed by the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association of California, the American Heart Association and former Democratic President Pro Tem Don Perata, a cancer survivor.

A June special election would move up the calendar for both measures by nearly a year -- significantly shortening the window for raising cash and running a statewide campaign. But proponents for both said Monday they weren't too worried about the scenario.

January 5, 2011
Victorious Gaines set to quit Assembly for Senate post Thursday

Republican Assemblyman Ted Gaines plans to resign his position in the lower house and take the oath of office as a state senator Thursday, according to Steve Davey, his chief of staff.

The Roseville Republican trounced Rancho Cordova Mayor Ken Cooley, 63 percent to 37 percent, to win the Senate seat vacated by the July death of Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks.

"He's honored, he's humbled by the support - and he has big shoes to fill," Davey said of Gaines, owner of an insurance business and former Placer County supervisor who came to the Assembly in 2006, then was re-elected in 2008 and again in November.

Gaines is scheduled to join the Senate even before the state makes Tuesday's results official by certifying the election. Shannan Velayas, spokeswoman for the secretary of state, said there is nothing illegal about doing so and that the timing of taking oaths is left to the legislative house involved.

Mark Hedlund, Senate spokesman, confirmed that Gaines swearing-in is scheduled for Thursday morning.

The outcome of the Senate race is not in doubt, with Gaines defeating his Democratic opponent in all 12 counties of the 1st District -- including Sacramento, which backed Gaines by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent. The district stretches from Mono County to the Oregon border in Modoc County.

Gaines' Assembly seat, representing Alpine and portions of Placer, Sacramento and El Dorado counties, will be filled by a special election.

California law gives new Gov. Jerry Brown 14 days to call a special election after a legislative vacancy occurs. Balloting would occur between 112 and 126 days of the governor's declaration.

January 4, 2011
Democrat Quintana bows out of special election

QPhoton.jpgDemocrat Brian Quintana has decided not to run in the upcoming 28th Senate District special election.

Quintana, who challenged Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in the June primary, announced his decision in a statement e-mailed to reporters Monday.

"Though encouraged by the Statewide support I have too many family and business commitments at this time, and realized I can best serve Californians by creating jobs in the private sector," said Quintana, who describes himself as a Hollywood producer.

Former Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, has been racking up endorsements in his bid to fill the seat vacated by the October death of Sen. Jenny Oropeza. Ten candidates submitted required papers to run in the district as of yesterday's deadline for submitting nominating papers (click here to see the full list).

Democrats have a 23-point registration advantage in the Los Angeles County district, which stretches along the coast from Marina del Rey to Redondo Beach and includes parts of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

A special primary election, which will be conducted under the state's new top-two primary rules, has been scheduled for Feb. 15. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held April 19.

PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Quintana's Facebook page.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post stated that 11 candidates had filed to run in the district. One of those had started the process but had not submitted the nomination papers.

January 4, 2011
AM Alert: SD 1 special election today

It's Election Day in the 1st Senate District.

Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, is favored to win the special election run-off. He faces Democrat Ken Cooley, the mayor of Rancho Cordova.

The winner will fill the seat formerly held by late GOP Sen. Dave Cox, who died in July.

The polls in the expansive district, which includes parts of Sacramento and Placer counties, close at 8 p.m., though the bulk of the ballots in the low-turnout election are expected to be cast by mail.

A Gaines win would spark a special election to fill his 4th Assembly District seat.

Roseville City Councilman John Allard, a Republican, has announced his candidacy. Gaines' wife, Republican Beth Gaines, is also considering a run.

Like the upcoming special elections to fill vacancies in the 17th and 28th Senate Districts, the AD4 special would be conducted under the state's new top-two primary rules.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen will conduct a random drawing at 11 a.m. to determine the alphabetical order for candidates on the ballot in the two state Senate specials. Those primaries are scheduled for Feb. 15, with an April 19 run-off on the calendar if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote.

The drawing will follow Bowen's swearing-in ceremony, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Secretary of State Building.

GOVERNOR: Gov. Jerry Brown said yesterday that he would name his top aide today. Brown is opting to call the chief of staff post 'executive secretary,' the term that is used in state law.

CAKES AND CANDLES: Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston, turns 47 and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones turns 49.

December 29, 2010
Gaines: If he wins Senate race, wife may run for Assembly seat

If all goes next Tuesday as he hopes, Republican Assemblyman Ted Gaines will win a special election and move over to the state Senate -- giving up the Assembly seat to which he was re-elected in November.

Gaines' spouse, Beth Gaines, could become a contender to fill that vacant Assembly seat in another special election, Gaines told the Bee on Wednesday.

"She's contemplating it," said Ted, who lives in Roseville and currently represents the 4th Assembly District northeast of Sacramento.

But first things first.

Next Tuesday, Ted is running against Democrat Ken Cooley, the mayor of Rancho Cordova, in a special election to represent the 1st Senate District, which occupies a large piece of northeastern California. The winner replaces the late GOP Sen. Dave Cox.

GOP voters have an 11-point registration advantage over Democrats in the Senate district.

Beth Gaines hasn't run for office before, her husband said. And he said he'll leave it up to her to explain why she might run for his Assembly seat if he moves over to the Senate.

December 22, 2010
Sharon Runner to run for husband's old state Senate seat

SharonRunner.JPGFormer Republican Assemblywoman Sharon Runner said today that she will run for the state Senate seat formerly held by her husband, Republican George Runner.

"I'm running. I want to help California get back on track again," she said.

George Runner, of Lancaster, resigned his 17th Senate District Seat yesterday in advance of being sworn in to the state Board of Equalization post he won in November.

Sharon Runner confirmed her plans after stepping down today from the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, a post Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her to in 2009. Her term was set to expire Jan. 1.

Sharon Runner served in the 36th Assembly District, another seat previously held by her husband, from 2002 to 2008. She said in a statement announcing her candidacy that her Assembly experience and long ties to the region made her "uniquely qualified to serve it in the state Senate."

The Lancaster Republican, who has been diagnosed with a rare lung disease, said today her medical treatment has been successful and she no longer needs a lung transplant.

"My lungs are much better," she said, noting that she has taken no sick days during her time on the unemployment insurance appeals board.

Two current state legislators who represent overlapping districts -- Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Palmdale, and Assemblyman Steve Knight, R-Lancaster -- said today they would not run for the seat.

"I took some time with my staff and my family and we decided that I am not going to run in the special and just wait and see what happens with redistricting," said Smyth.

Both endorsed Runner's candidacy. Smyth called Runner a good friend who has his full support.

"She will hit the ground running and join our effort to reduce taxes, ease government regulation, and defend personal freedoms," Knight added in a statement.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called a Feb. 15 special primary election for the seat. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to an April 19 runoff. Voters in the 28th Senate District will also go to the polls those dates to fill the seat of late Democratic Sen. Jenny Oropoeza, who died in October.

The 17th Senate District includes parts of Kern, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Member Sharon Runner, listens to Mexican President Felipe Calderón speak to a joint session of the California Assembly and Senate at the state Capitol, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008. (Sacramento Bee file photo / Brian Baer)

December 17, 2010
Sen. George Runner to step down Tuesday to take BOE seat

Sen. George Runner today submitted his notice of resignation ahead of being sworn in to the state Board of Equalization, his office has confirmed.

The Lancaster Republican, who was elected to the tax board Nov. 2, will officially step down next Tuesday, Dec. 21. His Board of Equalization term officially begins Jan. 3.

The governor will have 14 days from the date of the resignation to call a special election to fill the 17th Senate District seat. The election will be conducted under the state's new top-two primary rules.

December 17, 2010
Roseville City Council member to run for Gaines' AD 4 seat

John Allard.JPGA former Capitol staffer and local elected official in Roseville has announced his intention to run for the 4th Assembly District seat.

Roseville City Councilman John Allard, a Republican, plans to run for the seat if Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, wins election to the state Senate in a special election early next month. Gaines is heavily favored to defeat Democrat Ken Cooley in the contest for the conservative 1st Senate District, which has been vacant since GOP Sen. Dave Cox died in July.

Allard previously served as chief of staff to former Republican state legislator Tim Leslie.

"I am uniquely qualified to protect and promote the interests of our region," Allard said, in a press release provided to the Roseville Press-Tribune. "I understand the impact that state budget hardships have had on our communities. While there are no quick fixes, the person elected to the Assembly must have the backbone to stand up to special interest spending and be willing to fight to reduce taxes."

The 4th Assembly District covers Alpine County and parts of El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties, and includes Rocklin, Placerville and South Lake Tahoe.

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of John Allard

November 11, 2010
Janice Hahn decides not to run in 28th Senate District

Janice Hahn.JPGLos Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn announced today that she will not run in a special election to fill the seat vacated by late Democratic Sen. Jenny Oropeza.

"Right now, I want to focus on my current job as City Councilmember," Hahn said in a statement e-mailed to reporters. "I love my job and think that at this point, Los Angeles is where I can be most effective."

The Los Angeles Democrat, who lost a primary bid for lieutenant governor, was rumored to be considering a run for the 28th Senate District. Instead, she has endorsed Assemblyman Ted Lieu, saying the termed-out Torrance Democrat is "poised and ready to do a great job if he is elected."

"Ted has already assured me that he stands ready to help with the important airport and port issues that I plan on focusing on," she said in the statement.

Lieu is the only Democrat so far to announce his candidacy, though Democratic Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, said earlier this week that he is "absolutely" considering throwing his hat in the ring.

November 6, 2010
Assemblyman Ted Lieu to run for 28th Senate District seat

Termed-out Assemblyman Ted Lieu has announced he will seek to replace late Democratic Sen. Jenny Oropoeza in the 28th Senate District.seat.

Oropeza, of Long Beach, died unexpectedly last month, but her name remained on the Nov. 2 ballot and won the most votes this week. A special election to fill the seat will be called next month when new members are sworn in.

The Long Beach Press Telegram reports:

Lieu, 41, a Democrat who formerly served on the Torrance City Council, said in an interview that he filed papers Wednesday forming a committee and has begun organizing a Senate campaign. ....

Announcing a run for the seat of a deceased senator and personal friend requires a delicate approach, Lieu acknowledged, so he eschewed a traditional news conference to launch his bid.

"I didn't think that was appropriate," said Lieu, the son of Taiwanese immigrants and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve's Judge Advocate General's Corps.

The Torrance Democrat told the paper that the 53rd Assembly District he represents overlaps with 56 percent of voters in Oropeza's district.

According to the paper, Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, and Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn, a Democrat, are also considering a run.

The special election, which will be held early next year, will be the first election conducted using the voter-approved "top two" system. That means voters in the heavily Democratic district could see two Democrats competing in a run-off election.

Click here to read the full story from the Press Telegram.

November 1, 2010
CTA endorses Niello in SD 1 special election

The California Teachers Association, a Democratic Party pillar, is endorsing Republican Roger Niello in a fierce GOP infight for the 1st Senate District.

An independent-expenditure CTA mailer hit homes of CTA members in the eastern California district over the weekend. It urges voters to elect NIello. "It really speaks for itself," said Mike Mylinski, a CTA spokesman.

Niello, an assemblyman from Fair Oaks, is the only Republican running Tuesday for the state Legislature to receive a CTA endorsement. The special election in the 1st Senate District is the same day as the general election, but it is a primary race that includes three GOP candidates and a Democrat.

The only way one of the four candidates could win outright Tuesday is with more than 50 percent of the total vote. Absent that, the top GOP contender faces off against the Democrat on Jan. 4.

The CTA mailer calls on voters to elect Niello and praises him for "supporting excellence in education," including improved teacher training, career-tech education and up-to-date materials.

Niello said he didn't seek the CTA endorsement, but doesn't reject it. He said he's always willing to maintain good relations and talk to organizations he often disagrees with and look for common ground.

"I think the CTA is being very pragmatic," Niello said. "They know a Republican will win this race."

Niello was one of a handful of Republicans who voted for temporary tax increases as part of a budget deal last year to fill a huge deficit. He explained his vote by saying that the state faced chaos and crisis otherwise. He has been under fire from strict anti-tax conservatives ever since.

Niello faces Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville; Barbara Alby, a former Republican assemblywoman; and Ken Cooley, a Democrat and mayor of Rancho Cordova.

Republicans hold an 11-point advantage over Democrats in the district.

This post was updated with comments from Niello at 5:19 p.m.

October 29, 2010
Republican infighting in SD 1 heats up with FPPC complaint

The already bruising Republican infighting for a state Senate seat east of Sacramento got even rougher Friday.

Roger Niello, candidate for the 1st Senate District, filed a complaint Friday with the state's Fair Political Practices Commission against fellow Republican Ted Gaines.

The two are in a four-way special election race -- with Republican Barbara Alby and Democrat Ken Cooley -- for a seat left open after Republican Sen. Dave Cox died last July.

Niello, a Fair Oaks assemblyman, charges that Gaines violated campaign spending restrictions when producing a mailer that Gaines recently sent out to voters. The mailer -- signed by Gaines' wife, Beth -- complains that Niello has attacked her family in a "mean-spirited" fashion.

Gaines, a Roseville assemblyman, is running for both re-election in his Assembly district and for the Senate seat. Election rules permit him to run for both, but he would have to resign from the Assembly to serve in the Senate.

October 21, 2010
Oropeza's name remains on ballot, special election may be needed

The name of Sen. Jenny Oropeza, who died last night, will remain on the Nov. 2 ballot as a candidate for re-election to the 28th Senate District, election officials said this morning

The 53-year-old Long Beach Democrat died 12 days before the election. Her name is already on the ballot -- some of which have already been cast by absentee voters -- and state law prevents calling a special election to fill a vacant office within 68 days of an election.

Oropeza was expected to win re-election in the district, where Democrats have a 20-plus point registration advantage. The other candidates running for the seat are Republican John Stammreich, an aerospace contracts manager, and Libertarian David Ruskin, a physician.

If Oropeza wins, a special election will be called after members are sworn in for the new term in early December, according to the secretary of state's office.

"If Sen. Oropeza receives a majority of the votes cast on Nov. 2, then she will be considered elected and then the office will be vacant at the beginning of the term at which she was elected," said Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

The special primary would not occur until after the new year. Because the election will be called in December, it is unclear whether the race would be the state's first primary under the new voter-approved "top two" system, which takes effect Jan. 1.

October 18, 2010
Thursday debate: candidates for largest state Senate district

Three Republicans and a Democrat will debate Thursday evening as they head toward a Nov. 2 special election to replace the late Sen. Dave Cox, a longtime GOP legislator who died in July.

The event to meet and hear from the candidates for California's huge Senate District 1 begins at 6:30 p.m. in El Dorado Hills at the Four Seasons Lodge at 3186 Four Seasons Drive. The forum is sponsored by the Four Seasons Civic League.

The actual debate will start at 7 p.m. with three-minute presentations by the candidates followed by questions from the audience. A representative from the El Dorado League of Women Voters League will moderate.

GOP voter registration has the edge in the district, which is the largest in the state. It stretches along the eastern spine of the state from the Sacramento suburbs north to the Oregon border and south to Mono County.

The Nov. 2 special election takes place the same day as the upcoming general election. But the rules are different. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote on Nov. 2, a runoff election with each party's top vote-getter will be held Jan. 4.

The candidates are Barbara Alby, a Folsom Republican and former legislator; Ken Cooley, a Democrat and mayor of Rancho Cordova; Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville; and Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks.

October 4, 2010
Gaines sharpens attack on Niello's tax votes

Fighting to fill the seat of the late GOP state Sen. Dave Cox, Ted Gaines is launching ads that attack GOP rival Roger Niello for voting to increase the vehicle licensing fee last year during the budget deficit crisis.

As ominous music begins, a message in a TV ad, posted here, tells viewers in Senate District 1 that Assemblyman Niello, R-Fair Oaks, voted to increase the vehicle fee by 77 percent.

"When Roger Niello voted to raise car taxes, he cost my family $253," a woman says, standing next to an SUV with her husband and two children.

Two more people in the ad say much the same thing. All are residents of the Senate District 1, according to the Gaines campaign, which says the ad is running on cable TV in the huge district which runs from the eastern part of Sacramento County south to Mammoth Lakes and north to the Oregon border.

Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, is running in the Nov. 2 election against Niello; another Republican, Barbara Alby, a former assemblywoman; and Democrat Ken Cooley, the mayor of Rancho Cordova. If no candidate receives a majority vote, the top vote-getters of each party will compete in a Jan. 4 runoff.

Senate District 1 is a Republican stronghold in California, and both Gaines and Niello represent some of its constituents in their Assembly districts.

Niello was close to Cox, who, in his final days, gave Niello a campaign donation from his own campaign chest.

But Niello's stature with conservative Republicans dropped last year when he was one of six GOP legislators who voted to raise the vehicle tax, which had been cut, and temporarily increase income taxes.

Niello defended his vote as necessary to keep the state from sliding into fiscal chaos, and noted the budget package also included goals the GOP had long fought to get, including tax credits and breaks for business to stimulate investment.

September 17, 2010
Barbara Alby jumps into 1st Senate District race

Former Republican Assemblywoman Barbara Alby said today she has decided to run in the 1st Senate District special primary.

"I'm going to run. I'm in. Full speed ahead," she said in an interview this afternoon.

Alby, a board member on the Board of Equalization, had been considering in recent weeks jumping in the race to replace late Sen. Dave Cox, going so far as participating in candidate forums sponsored by local GOP groups.

The Folsom Republican said she made her final decision today, three days before the deadline for submitting nominating papers to county election officials. She said she was influenced by the fact that "so many people are calling me, asking me to get in."

"They all feel that nothing changes if nothing changes," she said, referring to the two current legislators also running for the seat.

Alby's decision to enter the race shakes up the brewing slugfest between those two lawmakers, Assemblymen Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, and Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks.

Alby, who lost a GOP primary campaign for the Board of Equalization in June, represented an Assembly district in the 1990s that overlapped with parts of the current 1st Senate District, including Carmichael, Fair Oaks, Orangevale and Folsom.

But she said Friday that she would have to hit the ground running to reintroduce herself to voters in the expansive 1st Senate District with just over six weeks to go until Election Day.

"I'm an outsider," she said. "It's a real uphill battle."

The three Republicans and Rancho Cordova Mayor Ken Cooley, a Democrat, will face off in the Nov. 2 special primary. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top vote-getter from each party advances to a January run-off.


September 7, 2010
Senate special election an intramural battle for GOP

1ED12LETTERS.standalone.prod_affiliate.4.JPGA tough Republican internal battle is brewing between two top contenders vying on Nov. 2 for a seat in the California state Senate.

Each campaign is armed with a poll to tout.

But Niello's campaign is also declaring that its internal polling shows Niello can prevail.

A decisive question, both sides agree, is how much voters care about Niello's vote last year for a tax increase as part of a budget package -- a decision that drew wrath from conservative quarters.

PHOTO CREDIT: Ted Gaines, above left, and Roger Niello, below right. Brian Baer, Sacramento Bee file 2008

August 25, 2010
Niello gives his state Senate campaign $100,000

Niello BUDGET 0048.JPGAssemblyman Roger Niello has opened his wallet to boost his bid for the vacant 1st Senate District seat.

The Fair Oaks Republican, whose family owns the Sacramento-area Niello Auto Group, wrote his campaign a $100,000 check, according to campaign finance filings posted today on the secretary of state website.

Niello, Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville and Rancho Cordova Mayor Ken Cooley, a Democrat, are running in a Nov. 2 special primary to replace GOP Sen. Dave Cox, who died last month of prostate cancer. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top vote-getter from each party will advance to a Jan. 4 run-off election.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Republican Roger Niello testifies as he presents the Republican budget plan to the Assembly budget committee, Tuesday Dec. 16, 2008. Brian Baer, Sacramento Bee.

August 23, 2010
Sam Blakeslee, latest GOP senator, sworn in today

RP BLAKESLEE SWORN IN.JPGAfter a bruising and expensive Aug. 17 special election, Sam Blakeslee took the oath today to become the California state Senate's latest addition.

Blakeslee, a Republican from San Luis Obispo, was sworn in by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the Sacramento Democrat who had mustered forces to try to defeat Blakeslee and grab the seat from the GOP.

The two embraced on the Senate Floor after Blakeslee, who resigned from the Assembly, took his oath at 11 a.m. A number of senators from both parties were on hand to congratulate Blakeslee.

"Sam's a good guy," Steinberg told the Bee. The GOP senator representing the 15th district replaces Abel Maldonado, a GOP senator from the Central Coast district who was named lieutenant governor this year.

Blakeslee said he believes "compromise is possible" as legislators face a $19 billion deficit and getting an already overdue budget approved. Blakeslee billed himself as a moderate in his campaign, and could he provide key votes during the budget battle.

Steinberg and Democrats have a package of ideas on the table for tax changes they say could provide revenue but offer Californians federal tax breaks to make up for losses.

Republican leaders haven't responded warmly to package. Blakeslee told the Bee, "I wouldn't characterize it (the entire package) as a non-starter at all."

He said tax reform is a good idea - but increasing the tax burden is not.

Photo: Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, gets sworn in as the newest senator. His daughter Landis, 7, and wife Kara participate in the event. Randy Pench/ The Sacramento Bee

August 20, 2010
New senator Emmerson gets rare opportunity

bill emmerson.JPGWhen Bill Emmerson was an assemblyman, he introduced a bill that would allow marriage counselors and others licensed by the Board of Behavioral Sciences to be issued special retiree licenses.

The bill (Assembly Bill 2191) cleared the Assembly in April. Two months later, Emmerson, a Hemet Republican, was elevated to the state Senate in a special election.

That gave him the rare opportunity today to present his own Assembly bill on the Senate floor, where it passed handily.

PHOTO: Bill Emmerson, Sacramento Bee file photo, 2009

August 19, 2010
Ted Gaines and Roger Niello clash over ski helmet bill

84254614JJ004_ALLI_DEW_TOUR.JPGTed Gaines and Roger Niello, two Republican assemblymen who are special election rivals for the late Sen. Dave Cox's seat, clashed on the Assembly floor today over a bill that would require kids to wear helmets while skiing or snowboarding.

The 1st Senate District in which they are running contains the largest single concentration of the state's ski slopes and the ski industry has endorsed the measure, Senate Bill 880, which would require helmets for those 17 years old and younger.

Gaines, of Roseville, spoke for and joined most Democrats in voting for the measure, Senate Bill 880, while Niello, of Fair Oaks, denounced and joined other Republicans in voting against it. The final vote was 41-20, returning the measure, authored by Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco, to the Senate for final action.

The two are rivals in a Nov. 2 special election to fill the seat of Cox, who died last month. If no one receives an outright majority, the top Republican vote-getter will face a Democratic candidate in a Jan. 4 runoff.

The district has a strong Republican registration and former Assemblywoman Barbara Alby is also weighing whether to enter the race. Ken Cooley, the mayor of Rancho Cordova, is likely to be the Democratic candidate in the runoff, if one occurs.

PHOTO CREDIT: Shaun White competes during the snowboard slopestyle portion of the Alli Dew Tour on Feb. 20, 2009, at Northstar Resort in Truckee. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/ Getty Images)

August 18, 2010
Steinberg: August election doomed Democrat in SD 15 race

The stakes were high, with President Barack Obama and Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman getting involved.

But in the end, state Senate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg said today, his party's defeat in a key Central Coast Senate election Tuesday boiled down to one thing: timing.

"I think the die was cast with the special election date being set in the middle of summer rather than November," Steinberg said after Democrat John Laird lost to Republican Sam Blakeslee.

Laird, a former Santa Cruz area assemblyman, agreed. He disputed the GOP version of Blakeslee's victory in the 15th Senate District as a no-new-taxes and cut-spending-only mandate.

"The low turnout of an August election was just too high a hurdle," said Laird, who called Blakeslee, a San Luis Obispo assemblyman, at midnight to congratulate him. With all precincts partially or fully reporting, Blakeslee topped Laird 49 percent to 44 percent.

August 18, 2010
Barbara Alby mulling bid for Cox's 1st Senate District seat

Barbara Alby.JPGFormer Assemblywoman Barbara Alby is considering running for the 1st Senate District seat vacated by the death of Republican Sen. Dave Cox.

"My name has been bandied about a bit for this Senate District race and I am very much looking at it," she said, adding she will make a final decision in the coming weeks.

Alby, an acting member on the Board of Equalization, lost in the Republican primary for a full term on the tax board in June. The Folsom Republican represented what was then the 5th Assembly District in the 1990s. At the time, the district covered a handful of communities currently represented by the 1st Senate District, including Carmichael, Fair Oaks, Orangevale and Folsom.

Alby, 64, said her interest in returning the the Legislature has been augmented by the current issues facing the state.

August 17, 2010
Wife of Sen. Dave Cox voices support for Niello's Senate bid

maggiecoxbyhector.JPGThe widow of late Sen. Dave Cox is backing Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello's bid to fill her husband's vacant Senate seat.

"Dave knew that Roger would be the only choice to continue on his legacy of public service - of ensuring that every person that lived in his district would be listened to, cared for, and represented. This feels very personal to me, and Dave and I endorsed Roger before Dave passed away," Maggie Cox said in a statement released by the Niello campaign.

It's no surprise that Maggie Cox is supporting Niello. The two families have long been close friends -- Niello delivered a eulogy at Cox's memorial service earlier this month. Days before he died, Dave Cox transferred $7,800 to Niello's campaign account.

Niello, formally announcing his entry into the Nov. 2 special primary race, pledged to emulate Cox's service in the seat.

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend, neighbor and colleague in public service. It is with a heavy heart but resolute mind I enter into this special election to represent the people of the 1st Senate District," he said in a statement.

Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, and Rancho Cordova Mayor Ken Cooley, a Democrat, are also running for the 1st Senate District Seat, which stretches from parts of Sacramento County to the Oregon border. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote Nov. 2, the top vote-getter from each party will compete in a Jan. 4 run-off election.

PHOTO CREDIT: Maggie Cox listens to Assemblyman Roger Niello as he speaks at her husband David Cox's memorial on Thursday, August 5, 2010 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento. Hector Amezcua, Sacramento Bee

August 16, 2010
Assemblyman Roger Niello to announce 1st Senate District bid

Niello BUDGET 0048.JPGAssemblyman Roger Niello will announce tomorrow that he is running in the 1st Senate District special election.

The Fair Oaks Republican is seeking the seat formerly held by Republican Sen. Dave Cox, who died in July at age 72.

Niello plans to make his announcement during a Republicans of River City meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the studios of Sacramento's KVIE Channel 6, according to an announcement from the club. Cox also announced his candidacy for the seat at a Republicans of River City meeting, according to the club.

Niello is finishing his third and final term representing the overlapping 5th Assembly District. Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, and Democrat Ken Cooley, mayor of Rancho Cordova, are also running in the Nov. 2 special primary.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the primary vote, the top vote-getter from each party will advance to a Jan. 4 run-off. Republicans have a strong registration advantage in the district, which includes parts of Sacramento and Placer counties.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Republican Roger Niello testifies as he presents the Republican budget plan to the Assembly budget committee, Tuesday Dec. 16, 2008. Brian Baer, Sacramento Bee.

August 16, 2010
Democrat Ken Cooley to seek Dave Cox's vacant Senate seat

SL Candidate Cooley.JPGRancho Cordova Mayor Ken Cooley today became the first Democrat to jump into the race for the state Senate seat vacated by the death last month of Republican Dave Cox.

Formal candidacy papers cannot be filed until Aug. 31, but Cooley said he has decided to run in the 1st Senate District, which stretches from Sacramento and Calaveras counties to the Oregon border.

Incumbent Republican Assemblymen Ted Gaines of Roseville and Roger Niello of Fair Oaks also are expected to run in the Nov. 2 primary. Gaines formally has announced his candidacy.

District voters can vote for candidates of any party in the primary, but if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top finisher of each party will square off Jan. 4.

Cooley currently works as principal consultant for the state Senate Committee on Banking, Finance and Insurance.

The 57-year-old Rancho Cordova resident has been a councilman since the city's incorporation in 2002. He served as mayor in 2005, mayor pro tempore in 2004, and vice mayor in 2009.

August 11, 2010
GOP Assemblyman Ted Gaines to run for Cox's Senate seat

FL ASSEMBLYMAN TED GAINES.JPGAssemblyman Ted Gaines announced today that he is running in the special election for the 1st Senate District seat.

The Roseville Republican, who is wrapping up his second term in the Assembly, pledged to continue to oppose tax increases if elected to the Senate.

"Since my election to the Assembly in 2006, I have worked hard to bring common sense conservative principles to the State Capitol," he said. "I will not support any tax increase on the people or businesses of California and I will never compromise my principles just to 'get a deal done' or move the process along."

Gaines is seeking to replace GOP Sen. Dave Cox, who died last month at age 72. Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, is also expected to run for the seat.

A special primary election will be held with the Nov. 2 general election. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top vote-getter from each party will compete in a runoff on Jan. 4.

The 1st Senate District encompasses 12 counties, including Amador, El Dorado and parts of Nevada, Placer and Sacramento counties. Gaines' press release states that about 34 percent of the district's likely voters live in the 4th Assembly District, which he currently represents.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblyman Ted Gaines chats with Assemblywoman Mimi Walters before speaking to the California Republican Assembly, a statewide organization of conservative Republicans on Nov. 10, 2007. Florence Low, Sacramento Bee.

August 5, 2010
Laird sends mailers featuring Obama endorsement in SD 15

laird.jpgDemocrat John Laird has hope that President Barack Obama can help him win in the 15th Senate District special election.

His campaign has sent a mailer to Democratic voters districtwide touting Obama's endorsement. The piece will also be sent to decline-to-state voters later this week.

The mailer, which the campaign said has the "White House stamp of approval," features a quote from Obama saying a vote for Laird will "stop Republican inaction in Sacramento."

"Republicans in Congress have tried to block almost every major change I've proposed to fix our economy, create jobs, and reform health care. Republicans in Sacramento are doing the same," Obama says.

The mailer marks the first time Obama has endorsed and campaigned for a candidate in a non-congressional California race, Laird campaign spokesman Steve Maviglio said.

Laird, a former assemblyman, is running against Republican Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee in the Aug. 17 run-off to replace Lt. Gov Abel Maldonado. Blakeslee led Laird by seven percentage points in the special primary on June 22, despite Democrats' six-point registration advantage in the district.

Maviglio said the mailer is designed to boost Democratic absentee ballots to counter the traditional Republican turnout advantage for special elections, where the majority of votes are expected to be cast by mail.

"We need to get every one of those (Democratic ballots) in the mail. This should jump-start Democrats who have the ballots remaining on their desk," he said.

Blakeslee campaign consultant Kevin Spillane called the mailer a sign that the Democratic establishment is on the defensive, "circling the wagons ... trying to motivate disillusioned and unmotivated Democratic voters."

"Voters are angry and they want more change, but the fundamental problems for Democrats in this seat remains John Laird's record for raising taxes and killing jobs. Not even the president can help him there," Spillane said.

July 19, 2010
State GOP pours another $150,000 into Blakeslee Senate bid

HA_blakeslee.JPGAssemblyman Sam Blakeslee's campaign for Senate received a big boost Friday with an additional $150,000 contribution from the California Republican Party, state records show.

The GOP previously had donated $200,000 to Blakeslee's bid to win the Senate seat vacated by Abel Maldonado's selection for lieutenant governor. The coastal district stretches from Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties south to Santa Barbara.

Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, finished ahead of former Democratic Assemblyman John Laird of Santa Cruz in a June 22 primary election, but the Republican legislator fell just short of the majority needed to capture the seat outright.

Blakeslee, Laird and two minor-party candidates - Libertarian Mark Hinkle and independent Jim Fitzgerald - will square off Aug. 17 in a runoff election.

The race is considered crucial because Maldonado is a Republican and if Democrats succeed in capturing his former seat, they would control 26 of 40 Senate seats, just one less than the two-thirds majority necessary for the house to pass a budget or new taxes.

Before voters went to the polls in last month's primary, more than $2 million had been poured into the race, either through campaigns or independent expenditures by interest groups.

File photo by Bee photographer Hector Amezcuz.

June 30, 2010
SD 15 runoff candidates eye debates

The campaigns of 15th Senate District rivals Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee and former Assemblyman John Laird are hashing out plans to debate before their August rematch.

Blakeslee, former GOP Assembly leader, bested Laird, a Democrat, 49.49 percent to 41.43 percent in the June 22 special primary to fill the seat vacated by Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado. Because no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote, both candidates will compete in an Aug. 17 runoff. Jim Fitzgerald, an Independent, and Mark Hinkle, a Libertarian, also advance to the August ballot.

The primary was flush with cash and television advertising, with millions spent by the two camps and independent expenditure campaigns. Laird's campaign released a letter Monday inviting Blakeslee to face off before the voters in all five counties in the district.

"The voters of the 15th District deserve more than 30 campaign ads and twice-a-day attack mailers on how either of us would deal with these problems," Laird wrote in the letter to Blakeslee.

Blakeslee consultant Jim Nygren said in a statement that the campaign is happy to debate because voters "deserve to hear from the candidates about proposals that will address the long-needed reform of fiscal policy in Sacramento."

"We welcome the opportunity to debate and to discuss how to fix California's broken state government and change the irresponsible practices that created this fiscal crisis," Nygren said in the statement, adding that voters "deserve to know the truth -- the real records -- of the candidates on the issue of environmental protection," an area targeted by opponents hitting on Blakeslee's past work for oil companies.

June 23, 2010
Blakeslee tops Laird, but runoff likely in Senate race

HA_blakeslee.JPGBy Jim Sanders

Republican Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, shown in the photo to the right, appears to have beaten Democrat John Laird in a hotly contested Senate primary election but narrowly failed to secure the majority vote necessary to capture the seat outright.

With all precincts counted, Blakeslee led Laird by a margin of 49.7 percent to 41.2 percent, with independent candidate Jim Fitzgerald garnering 6.1 percent and Libertarian Mark Hinkle about 3 percent.

If the vote totals hold up once all contested, provisional or other ballots are counted, all four candidates would square off Aug. 17 in an general election for the seat formerly held by Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a Republican from Santa Maria. The winner would hold the seat until 2012.

Tuesday night's precinct counts showed Blakeslee winning in San Luis Obispo County with 58 percent of the vote; Santa Barbara County, 62 percent; and Santa Clara, 47 percent.

Laird, a Santa Cruz resident, won Santa Cruz County with 56 percent of the vote, and in Monterey County, 55 percent.

The 15th District Senate race was being closely watched statewide because if Laird had captured the seat, Senate Democrats would be just one vote short of the two-thirds majority necessary to approve budgets and pass tax proposals. Independent groups spent more than $1 million to boost Blakeslee or Laird.

IMAGE: Bee file photo. Credit: Hector Amezcua.

June 22, 2010
AM Alert: Special election and state visit

GOP Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee and Democrat John Laird square off in the 15th Senate District special primary election today.

The current and former lawmakers are two of four candidates vying to replace Republican Abel Maldonado, who gave up the seat to take the lieutenant governor post.

June 21, 2010
Oil drilling takes spotlight in SD15 race

Offshore oil drilling has emerged as a major issue in tomorrow's special primary in the 15th Senate District, which pits GOP Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, of San Luis Obispo, against former Democratic Assemblyman John Laird, of Santa Cruz.

Bee colleague Susan Ferriss has the story:

Talk of the state budget crisis and GOP accusations of excessive Democratic spending have come up during the race, which was triggered by the departure in late April of former GOP Sen. Abel Maldonado, now lieutenant governor.

But in an area with so many beaches, the Gulf of Mexico debacle - and Blakeslee's past as a former Exxon employee and supporter of offshore drilling - have come to dominate the contest, said Larry Gerston, a San Jose State University expert on state politics who lives in the 15th district.

"This has become a referendum on offshore oil drilling, and it wasn't supposed to be that," Gerston said. "The oil spill is a disaster beyond belief. But it is also the greatest gift to John Laird. It's probably worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to him."

For a look at which groups have been spending big on the special primary race, click here.

June 16, 2010
Groups spending heavily in SD 15 special election

Campaigns and independent groups have poured more than $2 million into the 15th Senate District special election battle between GOP Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee and former Democratic Assemblyman John Laird.

The legislative seat is targeted as one of the few that could switch parties this election cycle. Democrats now have a six-point registration advantage in the district, which had a slight GOP registration edge when Republican Abel Maldonado was first elected in 2004.

June 10, 2010
Mike Gatto, Bill Emmerson sworn in to vacant seats

Newly elected Assemblyman Mike Gatto was sworn into office by Speaker John A. Pérez today.

The Los Angeles Democrat, a former aide to U.S. Rep Brad Sherman, will represent the 43rd Assembly District, including all or parts of Burbank, Glendale, North Hollywood and Los Angeles.

Gatto takes the seat left vacant by Paul Krekorian's election to the Los Angeles City Council last December. Watch a video of Gatto's swearing-in ceremony here.

Gatto, in a written statement, said he was "deeply honored" to take the Assembly seat, adding, "I look forward to hitting the ground running and working with my colleagues to address the state's most pressing problems."

The 35-year-old Gatto was accompanied at the Capitol by his wife, Danielle, and by his baby daughter, Elliana. His mother and father were among onlookers in the Assembly gallery.

Gatto won the seat in a special election, beating Republican Sunder Ramani by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent. The two will square off again in November's general election.

Gatto's swearing in Thursday gives the Assembly 50 Democrats, 28 Republicans, one independent and one vacant seat in the 63rd Assembly District.

Republican Bill Emmerson of Hemet, who represented AD 63, was sworn in yesterday after easily winning a special election Tuesday to fill the 37th Senate District seat left open when John Benoit was appointed to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

Emmerson's move to the Senate gives the upper house 25 Democrats, 14 Republicans and one vacant seat in 15th Senate District, which Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado last represented.

June 9, 2010
Emmerson, Gatto elected to the Legislature

No surprises in Tuesday's two special run-off elections to fill legislative vacancies.

Assemblyman Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, handily won the special election run-off in the 37th Senate District.

Emmerson defeated Democrat Justin Blake 56.5 percent to 32 percent.

The three-term assemblyman fills the seat vacated by former GOP Sen. John Benoit, who was appointed to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors last fall.

In the 43rd Assembly District, attorney Mike Gatto, a Democrat, pulled out a win over former Burbank Chamber of Commerce chairman Sunder Ramani, 59-41 percent.

Gatto fills the remaining six months of the final term of former Democratic Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, who stepped down to take a seat on the Los Angeles City Council.

That means Gatto and Ramani, both on the primary ballot, will face each other again in a November re-match.

The 43rd is a safe district for Democrats, but Gatto wasn't considered a sure bet in Tuesday's contest. Low turnout was expected to make the race close and and there were concerns (once for the primary and then again for the special run-off).

June 8, 2010
Today's contests include run-offs for AD43, SD37 vacancies

Voters in the 43rd Assembly District and the 37th Senate District heading to the polls today, won't only be picking among primary challengers.

Both districts feature special election run-offs to fill legislative vacancies.

In the 43rd Assembly District, Democrat Mike Gatto, an attorney and former aide to Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman, is going up against Republican Sunder Ramami, former chairman of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce.

Both are seeking to fill the seat vacated by former Democratic Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, who was elected to the Los Angeles City Council in a December special election.

The special election winner in the heavily Democratic district will fill the remainder of Krekorian's term, which ends in November, so both candidates are also on the primary ballot to run for a full term in the general election.

The 37th Senate District pits GOP Assemblyman Bill Emmerson against Democrat Justin Blake. Matt Monica, a registered American Independent, is also on the ballot. The three are vying to replace former GOP Sen. John Benoit, who stepped down after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. Republicans have a strong registration advantage in the district.

May 26, 2010
Senate candidate John Laird: Rival wants to "drill, baby, drill"

BB JOHN LAIRD.JPGA key California state Senate race is getting oily.

Democrat John Laird unveiled a new TV ad today lashing out at GOP rival Sam Blakeslee as a "former Exxon executive" who wants to "drill, baby, drill" in coastal waters.

Laird invokes images of the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and says he's the one to protect the Central Coast Senate district the two want to represent.

The rivals will face off June 22 in a special election to replace newly minted Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a Republican. The 15th Senate district runs from northern Santa Barbara County, through all of San Luis Obispo and parts of Monterey, Santa Cruz and southern San Clara counties.

The race is critical to both parties. If Laird wins the election, he would take the Democrats' Senate majority up to 26 -- one vote short of a two-thirds majority needed to pass a new tax or a budget in that house.

Laird is a former Santa Cruz mayor and state assemblyman from that area. Blakeslee is an assemblyman from San Luis Obispo who worked as a research geophysicist for Exxon in Texas.

View Laird's TV ad by clicking here

PHOTO CREDIT: John Laird, then the Assembly budget chairman, listens on the floor of the State Assembly, Nov 6, 2008. Sacramento Bee file photo / Brian Baer.

May 21, 2010
Justice Department gives green light for SD 15 special election

UPDATE: As expected, the three judges who heard arguments in the lawsuit denied the request for an injunction to delay the election and dissolved the temporary restraining order. Click here to read the order.

Elections officials in Monterey County have been given the go-ahead to proceed with the June 22 special election in the 15th Senate District, County Registrar of Voters Linda Tulett said today.

Monterey County, one of five counties in the 15th Senate District, is one of several counties in the state where voting changes, including special election dates and processes, must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice under the federal Voting Rights Act.

A federal judge had ordered county officials to put the election temporarily on hold in response to a lawsuit seeking to delay the election until clearance had been issued. As of yesterday, the Justice Department had approved all changes submitted by the county, including the election date and process for sending absentee ballots.

Now that the changes have been approved, the restraining order is expected to be lifted today, Tulett said.

May 19, 2010
AM Alert: Ballot (designation) battles in SD 15

HA_Blakeslee.JPGSam Blakeslee has served three terms in the Assembly, including nearly eight months as Republican leader.

But that's not the job description he'd like voters in the 15th Senate District special election to see. The San Luis Obispo Republican has requested that "Independent Business Owner" be used as his three-word ballot designation.

Blakeslee's campaign said it planned to highlight his legislative record on the campaign trail and was hoping to show voters a different side of the elected official.

That side would be his role as president of financial planning firm Blakeslee & Blakeslee. According to the statement of economic interest he filed this year, Blakeslee and his wife, a broker, both reported more than $100,000 in income from the firm.

"The vast majority of voters in the district obviously already know he's a legislator; they don't necessarily know he's a business owner," said Blakeslee campaign consultant Jim Nygren. "It just puts a different aspect of his life in front of voters."

May 13, 2010
Officials preparing to hold SD 15 election 'at the drop of a hat'

Monterey County election officials are continuing to prepare for the June 22 special primary election to fill a vacancy in the 15th Senate District, despite a court order to put preparations on hold.

"I'm still putting time and energy in with this election and putting money in this election because we have to be ready ... for it to happen at the drop of a hat," said Monterey County Registrar Linda Tulett.

The temporary restraining order, which a federal judge granted last night, temporarily stops county officials from proceeding with election preparations such as mailing absentee ballots until a hearing next Thursday on a lawsuit seeking to delay the election.

The suit, filed on behalf of three Latino voters in the county, argues that the election should be put on hold until the U.S. Department of Justice OKs any changes subject to review under the federal Voting Rights Act, including, they say, the special election date. Monterey is one of a handful of counties in the state where changes in voting are subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the law.

Tulett said she has already submitted two preclearance requests related to the election and plans to submit several more. She had also planned to submit the write-in absentee ballots for preclearance, in hopes of mailing those ballots after Secretary of State Debra Bowen releases the certified list of candidates on Monday. But now Tulett likely will not be able to mail those ballots until the restraining order is lifted.

In the meantime, she said, the office is chipping away at more general preparations, such as drafting and approving ballot cover designs and educational materials to inform voters about the special-election process.

"We still have to keep moving forward because if we come to a complete halt ourselves and then suddenly we get the OK to go, we don't want to be behind," she said.



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Capitol Alert Staff


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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. jmiller@sacbee.com. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. akoseff@sacbee.com. Twitter: @akoseff

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

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