Senate outlook: November has few competitive seats

Now that the special election is behind us, interest groups are already
beginning to focus on the 2006 legislative races. If you didn’t like the
lack of electoral battlegrounds in 2004, an election where no legislative
seats changed parties, 2006 won’t offer much solace.

By the most optimistic count, there are no more than two competitive Senate
seats next year. Only the seat being vacated by Democrat Joe Dunn and
Republican Jeff Denham’s bid for reelection to his Central Valley seat are
expected to be remotely competitive come November.

Even in the Republican primaries, there is not a whole lot of action. The
only intrigue seems to be whether Assemblyman Mark Wyland will actually run
for the Congressional seat being vacated by Duke Cunningham. If Wyland runs,
it will leave George Plescia in a strong position to take over the Senate
seat being vacated by Bill Morrow, who is running for Cunningham’s seat in
Congress, and is term limited out of the Senate. Plescia could receive a
challenge from former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, who for now is planning
on running in the congressional race.

In Orange County, the focus is on SD 34, the Dunn seat, and which Republican
will run. Assemblyman Van Tran is expected to be the candidate, but there is
still a chance Tran will opt to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. John
Campbell, who will likely be elected to Congress later this year, vacating
the seat in SD 35.

That will lead to a special election early next year for Campbell’s Senate
seat. Tom Harman is running for the Campbell seat. Dana Point Councilwoman
Diane Harkey is also running, and has pledged to contribute a large chunk of
her own money for the race.

If Tran opts out of SD 34, there is some talk Assemblywoman Lynn Daucher may
seek that seat.

On the Democratic side, Orance County Supervisor Lou Correa is mulling a
bid, and being pushed into the race by business groups, who are looking for
an alternative to Democrat Tom Umberg. Democrats and Republicans feel Umberg
may be vulnerable because of revelations about an extra marital affair that
were reported earlier this year.

In Merced, Assemblyman Simon Salinas is contemplating a run against Sen.
Jeff Denham. If Salinas opts to stay in the Assembly, Democrats would
scramble to find another challenger. Former Assemblyman Fred Keeley has also
filed papers to run in that district.

The rest of the competitive races are all in Democratic primaries. One
potential competitive race was avoided in SD 1 when Assemblywoman Patty Berg
and former Assemblywoman Virginia Strom Martin both opted out of the race.
Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown is mentioned as a potential
candidate, but most insiders speculate she’ll pass on the race, giving
former Assemblywoman Pat Wiggins a clear shot at the nomination.

Here’s a quick look at the most interesting June Senate Democratic

[B]SD 8 Leland Yee vs. Mike Nevin vs. Lou Papan[/B]
“Leadfoot Lou” tries once again to return to Sacramento against former San
Mateo County Supervisor Mike Nevin and Assemblyman Leland Yee, he of
video-game regulation fame. Papan says Nevin asked him to drop out of the
race in exchange for Nevin’s support of Papan’s daughter, Gina, who is
running for the Assembly. Nevin has denied those reports. The beneficiary
could be Yee, who’s San Francisco base would presumably stay in tact as
Papan and Nevin split the San Mateo County vote.

SD 10 Johan Klehs vs. John Dutra vs. Ellen Corbett
This is another showdown of three Democrats, all of whom have all served in
the Assembly. John Dutra was said to be looking at a seat on the board of
equalization, but will run to the right of both Ellen Corbett and sitting
Assemblyman Johan Klehs in the June primary.

SD 20 Alex Padilla vs. Cindy Montanez
Already, this race has turned into one of the most heated political battles
in Los Angeles–or Sacramento. Los Angeles City Council President Alex
Padilla has lined up a number of big-time endorsements, including nods from
U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and L.A. Police Chief William
Bratton. Montanez has the support of the Assembly speaker, and just secured
an endorsement from firefighters. These two, young ambitious Latinos are
facing off in what is expected to become one of the mostly hotly contested
primaries next year.

SD 26 Rod Wright vs. Mark Ridley-Thomas
Rod Wright is a contrarian in black California politics. Though he lives in
one of the most liberal parts of the state, he took money from tobacco
companies during his Assembly tenure, and consistently voted against
restrictions on handguns. Wright tries to make his comeback against the man
who has his former Assembly seat, Mark Ridley-Thomas.

SD 28 Jenny Oropeza vs. George Nakano
In another race pitting a former Assemblymember against a sitting member,
Torrance’s George Nakano faces off against Jenny Oropeza from Long Beach.
Most of Nakano’s Assembly district is in the Senate district, and he is
thought to have the early advantage in this race.

SD 30 Ron Calderon vs. Rudy Bermudez v. Marco Firebaugh
Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez will get the support of the prison guards union,
and the insurance industry is sure to pony up for Ron Calderon. Firebaugh,
the former Majority Floor Leader, is attempting to come back after a
two-year absence, as he continues to battle back from health problems.

SD 32 Joe Baca Jr. vs. Gloria Negrete McLeod
Baca is preparing a Senate run after only one term in the Assembly. His
brother, Jeremy, is likely the next in line for the Assembly seat. Negrete
McLeod skated through what was supposed to be a competitive Assembly race
last year, only to face a Democratic primary in 2006. It will be fun
watching how Baca and Negrete McLeod jockey for position on the Assembly
floor next year.

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