We’re never actually out of election season. Not even in off-election years like this one.
Gov. Jerry Brown has set the dates for special elections in three Senate districts to fill vacancies left by officeholders who won congressional seats in 2014.
Primaries will be held on March 3, with general elections falling on May 19.
Former state Sens. Mark DeSaulnier, D- Concord, Mimi Walters, R- Irvine, and Steven Knight, R- Palm Dale, weren’t required to formally resign from their legislative seats until being sworn in last Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Their former state Senate posts lie in the 7th, 21st and 37th districts, which are viewed as fairly safe seats for both parties.
The 7th Senate District is located in the East Bay and has a Democratic voter favorability of around 43%, according to the Secretary of State’s voter registration records, while down in Southern California the 21st and 37th districts both maintain a Republican voter-edge.
It’s unlikely that the outcome of the special elections would alter the partisan makeup of the Legislature in any way. Democrats overwhelmingly control both houses.
But California’s primary election rules allow the top two vote-getters to face each other in the general election, regardless of party affiliation.
That means candidates of the same party may confront each other in the runoff election.
Campaigns already are being mounted by former Assembly member Joan Buchanan and current member Susan Bonilla, both Democrats, signaling a bitter race for DeSaulnier’s old Senate seat.
Both Buchanan and Bonilla have been lining up endorsements for their runs in recent months, though DeSaulnier has yet to back a successor.
Several weeks ago, former legislator Sharon Runner announced she would undertake a run for the 21st Senate District. Runner served six years in the Assembly and nearly two years in the Senate, following a special election win after her husband, then-Sen. George Runner, was elected to the State Board of Equalization. She later announced she would not seek reelection due to health problems.
In November, Assemblymember Don Wagner, R- Irvine, announced he would run for Walters’ vacated Senate seat and had already received the endorsement of the newly elected congresswoman. Wagner’s only opponent now is former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, who’s widely known for foreseeing the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history back in 1994 while he campaigned for county treasurer.