Price, Davis eyed Senate seat long before fight began

When Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, announced in October he was running for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, it set off a political waiting game. No one could officially announce a run for his Senate seat until he left it and a special election was called. But no one doubted the interest of a pair of local Assemblymen: Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, and Curren Price, D-Inglewood.

Davis has had a re-election billboard for his Assembly seat up for much of October on busy Crenshaw Boulevard, despite the fact he faced only token opposition in the general election from a candidate from the Party for Socialism and Liberation. The billboard itself wasn’t even in his district—but it did sit within Ridley-Thomas’ former 26th Senate District.

Davis finished the campaign with over $40,000 in campaign funds left, and racked up 87 percent of the general election vote. His Assembly district does overlap with about half of SD 26.

Price, meanwhile, introduced a bill on December 2 to consolidate the special election with the L.A. City primary elections on March 3. According to the text of AB 32—yes, the same as the landmark global warming bill—would have saved the county about $1.6 million. While introducing a bill affecting an election in which he plans to run may have raised an eyebrow or two around the Capitol, it’s perfectly legal.

“Consolidating with L.A. City will save a lot of money and allow a lot more people to vote,” said Price campaign spokesman Mike Shimpock.

State law says that the special election has to be held between 112 and 126 days after it is called by the Governor. On December 14, Arnold Schwarzenegger called the special election for March 24, which was the earliest available Tuesday—only three weeks past the L.A. City elections.

The lost opportunity to consolidate the elections could be laid at the feet of the budget stalemate. Ridley-Thomas waited until the last possible day of session, November 30, to resign his Senate seat, because his vote was needed for a possible budget deal. The Democrats did pass a plan during the special session called by Schwarzenegger. It was challenged as unconstitutional by Republicans and vetoed by the Governor.

Shimpock said the bill was always a longshot, due to the fact that the legislature was only working on the budget: “One of the difficulties was that, in addition getting through both houses, it would require changing candidate filing deadlines.” That deadline is now Jan. 26.

Both Davis and Price arrived in the Assembly in 2006, and are seen as ambitious. A third candidate has announced for the seat, but is considered a longshot: Culver City School Board member Sandra Davis.

Price has wrapped up endorsements from Ridley-Thomas, the Service Employees International Union and the Los Angeles Federation of Labor. The labor endorsements are seen as a key bellwether for a Democrat’s ability to raise money in the area.
Davis has an endorsement from Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles. He has also criticized Price as a “carpertbagger” for his recent move from Inglewood to a new home in Ladera Heights, within the district.

One interesting aspect of the race could be Proposition 8, the successful initiative to outlaw gay marriage in California. Both Price and Davis signed a letter against Prop. 8, but Price may be more out front on the issue. Davis was one of only three Assembly Democrats in 2007 to abstain from AB 43 , the same-sex marriage bill put forward by then-Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. Price voted for the bill. Black support was seen as key to passing the initiative, but some have questioned exit polls showing it had 70 percent support among African-American voters.

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