As Election Night’s go, Tuesday was a strange one. On a night when Barack Obama made history on the national stage, a near-record low number of Californians came to the polls in a wildly inconsistent legislative election.
Anyone looking for clear signals from Tuesday’s results will be left scratching their heads. On the Democratic side, organized labor made a show of force, knocking off West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon in his quest for the state Assembly, and leading Paul Fong and Robert Blumenfield to primary victories.
But business groups also fared well on the Democratic side. Rod Wright will bring his brand of gun-toting sartorial splendor to the Senate after besting Merv Dymally in a Senate primary. And business groups rallied to defeat consumer advocate Richard Holober in the race to succeed Gene Mullin.
But business did not have a perfect record Tuesday. Mark Leno and Loni Hancock won their primaries, despite intervention from business groups for their opponents.
The results in this week’s elections set the stage for a series of contested races in November that could lead to some Democratic pick-ups in the Assembly. In the 80th Assembly District, labor helped push school board member Manuel Perez past Greg Pettis in what was one of the season’s nastiest primary fights.
Perez received strong support from Sacramento, including from SEIU and the California Teachers Association. Pettis had strong grassroots support in Riverside County, particularly among the area’s active gay and lesbian community.
Perez sold himself as the more electable general election candidate, and his victory Tuesday sets up a November contest against Republican Gary Jeandron. Jeandron’s political consultant has admitted that Pettis would have been the easier election opponent for his client.
In the 78th Assembly District, which has also been targeted as a potential pick-up for Democrats, attorney Marty Block bested Democratic activist Maxine Sherard in a crowded primary field. Block received strong support from consumer attorneys. Democrats will try once again to take this seat, now held by Republican Shirley Horton, in the November election. Republicans will rely on John McCann to hold the seat this fall.
The Republican battle in the 15th District, where San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson is clinging to a small lead against Robert Rao, portends the coming fight in the fall. Democrats have united behind school board member Joan Buchanan as they hope to reclaim the seat now held by Guy Houston, R-Livermore.
The other race to watch in the fall is in the 30th Assembly District, where Fran Florez, mother of Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, will take on Republican Danny Gilmore. Gilmore came close to knocking off Nicole Parra two years ago, but may have to battle other political atmospherics in his race against Florez. With this fall’s presidential election Florez’s best chance, and indeed the hopes of many Democratic candidates in swing districts, may rest in the hands of Obama. If Obama runs strong, and brings out voters in November the way he did during the primary season, he may help carry some Democratic Assembly candidates along with him.
In the Senate, there are not many competitive races in the fall. Former Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson will square off against former Assemblyman Tony Strickland in that Republican-leaning district. But most of the action in the upper house is now over.
On the Democratic side, Wright bested Dymally, and Fran Pavley topped Lloyd Levine in two battles of former Assemblymembers versus sitting members. Loni Hancock will cruise to the Senate after defeating Wilma Chan in the other current-versus-former member matchup on the Democratic side.
The Howard Berman machine helped elect Blumenfield in his Assembly primary, but was crushed by former Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, who easily bested Lloyd Levine in their Senate primary contest.
For the Republicans, Assemblywoman Mimi Walters fended off a challenge from Anaheim councilman Harry Sidhu. John Benoit clobbered former Assemblyman Russ Bogh, and Bob Huff easily topped former Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy in GOP primaries.
A group of current and former Senators will be among this year’s Assembly class as Tom Torlakson, Wes Chesbro and Jim Nielsen all get ready to come to the Green Carpet.
Below is our updated election scorecard with a breakdown of some of Tuesday night’s winners and losers.
(Consumer attorneys, CA Nurses Assn)
*Oppose Gina Papan (AD 19); *Marty Block (AD 78)
California Alliance for Progress and Education
(CA Dental Assn, CA Real Estate PAC, CBIA, PhRMA)
*Dan Logue (AD 3); Stuart Waldman (AD 40); *Isadore Hall (AD 52); *Norma Torres (AD 61)
California Dental Assn.
*Dan Logue (AD 3); *Isadore Hall (AD 52); *Norma Torres (AD 61); Stuart Waldman (AD 40); *John Benoit (SD 37)
California Medical Association
*Dan Logue (AD 3); Christopher Cabaldon (AD 8); *Curt Hagman (AD 60);* Isadore Hall (AD 52); Wilma Chan (SD 9); *Fran Pavley (SD 23)
California Teachers Association
*Mariko Yamada (AD 8); *Robert Blumenfield (AD 40); *Manuel Perez (AD 80); *Oppose Joe Nation (SD 3), Lloyd Levine (SD 23)
Californians Allied for Patient Protection
Gina Papan (AD 19); Joe Nation (SD 3); Wilma Chan (SD 9)
Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy
(Blue Cross, Safeway, CA Builders Assn and others)
Dominic Casserta (AD 22); *Isadore Hall (AD 52); Joe Nation (SD 3); *Rod Wright (SD 25)
Civil Justice Association of California
Maxine Sherrard (AD 78);
Joe Nation (SD 3)
Cooperative of American Physicians
Christopher Cabaldon (AD 8); Gina Papan (AD 19); *Norma Torres (AD 61); Joe Nation (SD 3); Wilma Chan (SD 9)
Chritsopher Cabaldon (AD 8); Paul Hegyi (AD 10); *Isadore Hall (AD 52); *Marty Block (AD 78); Wilma Chan (SD 9); *Fran Pavley (SD 23)
(Philip Morris, Chevron, Anthem, Real Estate PAC and others)
*No on Holober (AD 19); *Norma Torres (AD 61); *Rod Wright (SD 25)
Service Employees International Union
*Mariko Yamada (AD 8); *Paul Fong (AD 22); *Robert Blumenfield (AD 40); *Isadore Hall (AD 52); *Manuel Perez (AD 80); *Oppose Joe Nation (SD 3)
*Stephen Knight, AD 36; Kelly McCarty (AD 64); Scott Kamena (AD 15)
Gilliard, Blanning, Wysocki
*Jeff Miller (AD 71); *Brian Nestande (AD 64); *Mimi Walters, SD 33;
2-3 (assuming Abram Wilson’s lead holds in AD 15)
*Jim Nielsen (AD 2) Sue Horne, (AD 3), *Jack Sieglock, (AD 10); Robert Rao (AD 15); Neil Blais (AD 71)
*Dan Logue (AD 3); Bob Smith, AD 34; *Curt Hagman, AD 60; *Bob Huff, SD 29; *John Benoit, SD 37;
Paul Hegyi (AD 10); Judy Lloyd (AD 15); *Tom McClintock (CD 4)
Christopher Cabaldon (AD 8), Gina Papan, (AD 19); *Paul Fong (AD 22);Linda Harris Forrester (AD 52), *Marty Block (AD 78), Rick Gonzales (AD 80); Carole Migden, (SD 3)
Richard Holober (AD 19); *Bonnie Lowenthal (AD 54); *Fran Pavley (SD 23); *Nancy Skinner (AD 14)
Stuart Waldman (AD 40); *Isadore Hall (AD 52); Auday Arabo (AD 78)