By divorcing the state’s presidential primary from it’s primary for legislative races, state lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took what would have been one of the highest turnout elections in legislative history into one of the lowest. The conventional wisdowm holds that means only the bases of the two parties will come out to vote this fall, creating more liberal Democratic members and more conservative Republican ones.
That remains to be seen, but we already know much about the June election. We will see the return of a number of familiar faces – including former Sen. Wes Chesbro, who will have six years of Assembly eligibility. Some former Assemblymembers like Carol Liu will be graduating to the Senate, while some sitting Senators, like Tom Torlakson, will head back to the Assembly.
There will also be a whole crop of new faces, and the birth of new political leaders. Republican Nathan Fletcher is already on our “Republican Freshmen to Watch” list, and San Francisco Supervisor and former stand-up comedian Tom Amiano will bring his brand of progressive politics to Sacramento.
As in years past, most of the political drama will play out in closed partisan primaries. We’ve focused on some of the hottest, and nastiest races to watch as Election Season arrives in earnest in California.
This race to replace Lois Wolk could become one of the most expensive Democratic primaries in history before all is said and done. And most of the money won't be spent by the campaigns themselves. Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada enjoys the strong backing of most of organized labor, including the California Teachers Association. West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon has the backing of his former employers, EdVoice, the education-based group that counts several multi-millionaires among their board members.
Money is spent. Political blood is spilled Hilarity ensues. If you get tired of watching Leno vs. Migden vs. Nation for pure spectacle, cast your gaze this way.
The conventional wisdom in this district is that the Sacramento half of the district runs multiple candidates. The southern half of the district, which stretches down to Lodi and parts of Stockton, picks a candidate from the San Joaquin portion, and benefits from the vote being split. That was the formula that elected Alan Nakanishi six years ago. And San Joaquin County supervisor Jack Sieglock is hoping for a rerun. The two Sacramento candidates, Rancho Cordova councilman Dave Sander and Paul Hegyi, chief of staff to Assemblyman Van Tran, both hail from Sacramento County. Hegyi is hoping to catch political lightening, hoping that Sander and Sieglock's attacks on each other lead to the political murder-suicide, while Sander and Sieglock bank on their experience in elected office in this race to out-conservative the other candidates.
If at first you don't succeed, run, run again. That's the motto for Gina Papan, daughter of the late Assemblyman Lou Papan who once held this San Mateo County seat. Papan lost to Mullin six years ago, and now faces former labor lobbyist Ricahrd Holober and San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill.
For Hill, the race may come down to a Las Vegas brothel. That's where the county sheriff was caught in a prostitution sting earlier this year. Hill, a political ally of Munks, was criticized for his refusal to rebuke the sheriff.
Holober, a former Millbrae school board member and a consumer and labor advocate, has endorsements from everyone from Barbara Boxer to the California Nurses Association. Holober will have much of the backing from organized labor come Election Day.
This race has been targeted by the Asian-Pacific Islander caucus as a target, with three of four top candidates of Asian decent. But political upstart Dominic Caserta is hoping to keep that from happening. At just 32 years old, Caserta, a former registered Republican, has much of the strong labor backing. Community college professor Paul Fong has legislative backing from Fiona Ma, Anthony Portantino and others. Kris Wang has worked for many of the biggest names in the Silcon Valley, including Apple, Sun Microsystems and HP, and hopes her experience on the Cupertino City Council will work to her benefit on Election Day. Also in the race is Santa Clara Board of Education member Anna Song.
AD 27 (Laird)
Victory would be particularly sweet for Emily Reilly, owner Emily's Bakery in downtown Santa Cruz. Reilly, a Deomcratic Party activist, has key progressive support in the race. But she must get past former UFW attorney Bill Monning, who was the party's standard bearer for this seat in 1994, eventually losing to Republican Bruce McPherson in a national Republican tidal wave. Monning is labor's candidate, boasting the support of SEIU, the UFW and the California Teachers Association. Also in the race is community activist and businesswoman Barbara Sprenger, who is backed by Assemblymembers Sally Lieber and Jim Beall.
AD 34 (Bill Maze)
The political wives didn't fare so well in 2006. Most of the spouses trying to succeed their husbands in the Legislature were beaten in the last election cycle. Becky Maze is hoping to change all that and take over the seat currently held by her husband, Assemblyman Bill Maze. Maze, a bookkeeper and accountant, has worked alongside her husband in the construction business, and has the support of much of the Assembly Republican Caucus. But there is strong opposition to her candidacy. Former San Bernardino County sheriff Bob Smith has some legislative endorsements of his own, both past and present. Among Smith's strongest supporters is former Republican Assembly and Senate leader Jim Brulte. Tulare County Supervisor Connie Conway was tapped by Gov. Schwarzenegger to serve on a state commission that sought changes in the state's pension systems, and is the former head of the Califonia State Association of Counties.
AD 40 (Levine)
The story of this race is a story of personal betrayal and political power. Stuart Waldman was supported by his former boss, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, who Waldman served as chief of staff. But Levine, who is running for the state Senate against Fran Pavley, cut a deal with Congressman Howard Berman, whose district director, Bob Blumenfield, is also in the race. Levine pulled his endorsement of Waldman, and backed Blumenfield. Levine's father, Larry, got the consulting gig on Blumenfield's campaign. And Levine fils got Berman's support against Pavley. Will it be enough? Waldman has wanted to run for this seat since his former boss, Robert Hertzberg, left office. It remains to be seen whether his wait will continue. Community activist Laurette Healey is also in the race, with the support of Sen. Sheila Kuehl and Steve Westly.
AD 52 (Dymally)
Deborah Sims Le Blanc
AD 60 (Huff)
This race first appeared on our radar screen after
a YouTube video of a local candidate's forum surfaced in which Orange County water board director Larry Dick mused, "It's a little challenging for me that Tommy Two Trees can open a casino, and Tommy Houllihan can't."
Well, the IE money from the tribes hasn't come in, but Chino Hills councilman Curt Hagman is giving Dicka tough race, to say the least. With the backing of local conservative groups, and LA Sheriff Lee Baca, Hagman seems to be the law and order choice in this race. Dick has a number of legislative endorsements, including that of former Senate leader Dick Ackerman.
AD 64 (Benoit)
Another political legacy is on the line in this Riverisde County seat, as Brian Nestande, son of former Assemblyman Bruce Nestande, squares off against buisnesswoman Kelly McCarty, who owns an auto collision repair shop. Nestande has the backing of the outgoing incumbent, John Benoit, so perhaps it's no surprise that Russ Bogh, who is running against Benoit for state Senate, has backed McCarty.
In a true sign of the digital campaign age, McCarty's political consultant Matt Rexroad started an email distribution list of mock "internal memos" laying out hits against Nestande veiled as key strategic points of the campaign
Nestande, a political consultant, has the backing of the Desert Sun, which noted McCarty's "spunk and passion" in its endorsement of Nestande, but cited McCarty's lack of political experience as a problem.
AD 71 (Spitzer)
AD 78 (Horton)
Auday Arabo http://www.audayarabo.com/images/auday002.jpg
Marty Block http://interwork.sdsu.edu/student_affairs/images/MBlock.jpg
Arlie Ricasa http://www.filamimage.com/sitebuilder/images/Ricasa-261×324.jpg
Maxine Sherard http://www.redcounty.com/sandiego/san%20diego/Maxine%20Sherard.jpg
Much of the legislative and independent expenditure committee action in this race has been focused on the men. But the women in the race may wind up being the stronger contenders. Among those women in Maxine Sherard, the Democratic activist who was the party's standard bearer last cycle against Shirley Horton. This district, like the 80th, is one that Democrats feel they should own, and there will be an expensive partisan battle here in the fall. Not that there isn't one now. Auday Arabo has been championed by new Majority Leader Alberto Torrico. Critics point to Arabo's former Republican Party registration, and ties with tobacco companies as flaws. Forced loyal to San Diego Community College President Marty Block even went so far as to distribute fake cigarette packs at the last Democratic Party convention, with Arabo's name in place of the Marlboro logo. Arlie Ricasa, a local school board president, has also run for the seat before, finishing second in a three-way primary four years ago.
AD 80 (Garcia)
This district was drawn for a Democrat. But Bonnie Garcia has kept it in the Republican column for the last six years. Now, Democrats hope they can knock off Republican Gary Jeandron in the fall. Foes of Greg Pettis, a Cathedral City Councilman, say he is too liberal for this district. Pettis, who is gay, has the backing of much of the Riverside County gay estabishment, which is a strong force in local Democratic politics. Pettis nearly secured the party endorsement, but had it stripped, just barely, at the convention earlier this year. Harvard-educated Manuel Perez has picked up some legislative support, and is making the case that he is the most electable Democrat in the race. Investment banker Rick Gonzales is also seeking the nomination. The race has already gotten ugly, with an anonymous Web site appearing attacking Pettis on a host of issues. Look for more of the same between now and Election Day.
SD 3 (Migden)
If you don’t know by now…
SD 9 (Perata)
SD 23 (Kuehl)
Originally, Lloyd Levine was going to run against Cindy Montanez and Alex Padilla for the 20th Senate District. But Levine looked at the numbers, and opted to wait two years and try his luck against former Assemblywoman Fran Pavley. Levine has the support of Rep. Howard Berman, while Pavley has used her environmental cred to lock up support in that community. Pavley has also been the beneficiary of massive amounts of independent expenditure money, much of it coming from EdVoice. So it would stand to reason that Levine has been backed by the California Teachers Association, and that his race is being run by CTA’s political consultant, Gale Kaufman.
SD 25 (Vincent)
Rod Wright, Merv Dymally
SD 29 (Margett)
Does the winner of this seat get to pass an oil painting of himself clandestinely around the Capitol? We know that the thought of Dennis Mountjoy in the Senate may put to rest once and for all the notion that the decorum of the Senate is any different than the Assembly. Mountjoy’s election would mean the transition of the term-limits era is complete, as he tries to fill the seat once held by his father, Dick.
But Assemblyman Bob Huff has been tagged as the favorite in the race. He has the backing of Margett and much of the GOP establishment, and last time we checked, about $400,000 more in the bank.
SD 33 (Ackerman)
Believe it or not, this is the only contested Senate race that does not feature two candidates who have both served in the Legislature. Assemblywoman Mimi Walters has faced a tough, and well-funded challenge from Anaheim Councilman Harry Sidhu in the race to replace Dick Ackerman.
This latest chapter of the Orange County Republican wars is a classic confrontation. Walters, a protégé of former Rep. Bill Thomas, has the backing of many of the conservative groups, including the California Republican Assembly and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Walters have been an outspoken advocate for reforming the state’s eminent domain laws, backing Proposition 98 on this June’s ballot.
Sidhu has the support of Anaheim Mayor, and former Speaker Curt Pringle, as well as handful of local elected officials.
Sidhu’s television spots eem to be reaching for issues, attacking Walters for “missing hundreds of votes on taxes and illegal immigration, and criticizing her pro-forma vote to “put liberal Democrat Fabian (that’s pronounced Fay-bee-un) Nunez in charge of the Assembly – twice!”
SD 37 (Battin)
They may have been colleagues at one point, but the race between former Assemblyman Russ Bogh and current Assemblyman John Benoit has been anything but collegial. Independent expenditures about here, with one ad accusing Benoit of being a, gasp, “Gray Davis Republican.”
The state building trades have come in to oppose Benoit, while law enforcement groups, the California Dental PAC have already spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars on Bogh’s behalf.
This has been a venerable Leno vs. Migden for the Repubican set, with political mud being flung at every turn. Issues have taken a backseat to personal attacks, which passes for sport for many Capitol observers.
Bogh supporters have registered the domain graydavisrepublican.com, and turned it into an online home for attacks on Benoit. There have been FPPC complaints, and even bill
s introduced as part of the personal feud between these two.