There’s plenty of drama in legislative races coming to a head Tuesday between Democrats and Republicans, and even between members of the same party competing under California rules that advance the top vote-getters from the June primary election regardless of their political allegiance.
But there is little chance that Democrats will lose the overwhelming majorities that allow them to virtually ignore Republicans in the Legislature. Those two-thirds supermajorities mean the dominant party in deep blue California can pass laws that take effect immediately, raise taxes over GOP objections, and could even override a governor’s veto — something lawmakers haven’t attempted since 1979, when Jerry Brown was first governor.
Democrats retaining that extraordinary control is “a near certainty,” said Rob Pyers, research director at the California Target Book that tracks legislative contests.
They need 27 seats for a supermajority in the 40-member Senate, where half the seats are up for election every two years. Seventeen Democrats are safely in the middle of their four-year terms, and another 13 Democrats are running in districts where Republicans stand little chance of prevailing. In five of those 13 districts, Republicans aren’t even in the contest because two Democrats were the top vote-getters in June.
Democrats need 54 seats to retain their two-thirds supermajority in the 80-member Assembly, where all seats are up for grabs every two years. But Pyers considers 54 seats safely Democratic, and things aren’t looking good for Republican incumbents in at least two more Assembly districts.
Here’s a look at some of the key races:
SENATE DISTRICT 16
Sen. Melissa Hurtado moved into this southern San Joaquin Valley district to avoid a primary contest with fellow Democratic incumbent Anna Caballero. Hurtado defeated two Democratic rivals, but now faces Republican David Shepard. Democrats hold a 13 percentage-point voter registration advantage, but Pyers puts that within Republicans’ reach because Central Valley voters tend to be more conservative.
SENATE DISTRICT 38
Republican Sen. Patricia Bates is termed out from representing this district that includes parts of Orange and San Diego counties. Now Democrats hold an edge in voter registration, 38% to Republicans’ 32%. The race pits Republican Matt Gunderson against Democrat Catherine Blakespear in a contest that by mid-October had attracted more money from the state’s political parties than any other contest, narrowly exceeding the SD16 race.
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 7
Democratic Assemblyman Ken Cooley is a top target for Republicans in his suburban Sacramento district where the Democratic voter advantage narrowed to 5 percentage points after redistricting. He faces Republican Josh Hoover, an Assembly aide to congressional candidate Kevin Kiley in a race that attracted the third highest political party spending.
ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 40
It will be an uphill climb for Republican Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares to retain her seat, Pyers said. She flipped a previously Democratic district two years ago, but 42% of voters in the since-redrawn Los Angeles County district are registered Democrats to Republicans’ 29%. She faces labor organizer Pilar Schiavo.