Legislative Seats to Watch

As the final results from the primary are being tallied across the nation, the ACSA Political Affairs team has zeroed in on several races in the California Legislature. While there are many influential seats available in 2016, we have chosen the following four as good examples to learn from. Independent expenditures have become some of the most influential actions an interest group can engage in to further their political agenda. As ACSA moves towards becoming the authoritative voice in education, advancing our political agenda will be paramount.

Follow-Up: AD 12, SD 27 and SD 29 + Results from AD 4

Assembly District 12 Stanislaus & San Joaquin Counties

ACSA staff has been closely following the race in AD 12 as ACSA Friend of Education award recipient Assemblymember Kristin Olsen is terming out this year (ACSA Region 7). In this Republican district, there were two Democratic candidates and three Republicans vying for a place in the General election in November. As of Monday, June 13th, the official count shows Ken Vogel (R) and Heath Flora (R) moving on to the General. Flora barely slid into the top two, ahead of third place candidate Virginia Madueno (D), by just over 400 votes. This is disappointing from the ACSA perspective, as the Board approved endorsing Madueno. This was ACSA’s only Primary election endorsement in 2016.

Independent expenditures were definitely a factor in this race, with well over $250,000 spent by outside groups to support Flora and oppose Vogel. The only two spenders were committees controlled by the California Association of Realtors and the California New Car Dealers Association. Additionally, since both candidates have farming and public service backgrounds, this will definitely be an interesting race to watch in terms of independent expenditure activity.

Senate District 27 – Los Angeles County

Senator Fran Pavley (D) is termed out of this Democratic Los Angeles district (ACSA Region 13) after serving there since 2008. As Senator Pavley has been an important member of the environmental movement within the Democratic Party, this seat has been of interest to many well-funded interest groups. Additionally, there were five Democrats and one Republican to choose from on this ballot, making it a dynamic race. Preliminary results show Republican Steve Fazio is to face off with Democrat Henry Stern in the General. For the most part, the vote was split three ways: Fazio earned 38% of the vote, Stern with 26% and Janice Kamenir-Reznik (D) with 20%.

Independent expenditures in this race totaled a massive $1,067,081.29, with large portions of that coming from the California Dental Association, California Real Estate Association and the California Apartment Association. Additionally, the highest sum was spent in support of Stern, totaling over $460,000 – with the entirety of the support for Stern coming from a committee sponsored by the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. Finally, since Democrats may reach a supermajority this election cycle, money from outside either candidate’s campaign will be poured into SD 27 to try and influence the type of Democrat that is elected.

Senate District 29 - Orange & LA Counties

Republican Bob Huff is terming out of his Senate seat after serving as the Republican Senate leader. With recent voter registration showing almost equal parts Republicans and Democrats (36.92% and 33.74% respectively) and a high percentage of No Party Preference (25%), this could be viewed as a volatile district. ACSA staff predicted that with only three candidates running for this highly contested seat, every vote would count when it came down to the Primary.

In a surprising upset, the Democrat chosen by voters was Josh Newman and not Sukhee Kang who was endorsed by the CA Democratic Party. With 4,000 more votes than his fellow Democrat, Newman will move into the General to face Republican Assemblywoman Ling-Ling Chang.

Surprisingly there was no independent expenditure activity aimed at Newman from either side of the aisle. Independent expenditures totaled around $180,000, with a large majority of that activity aimed at supporting Chang ($165k). It is hard to predict at this point if Democratic leaders will get in line to support Newman after endorsing Kang. However, ACSA staff predicts large independent expenditure campaigns as we move closer to the General in November.

Assembly District 4 – Napa, Sonoma & Yolo Counties

Current Assemblymember Bill Dodd is not seeking re-election and is instead running to succeed Senator Lois Wolk in Senate District 3. AD 4 is a safe Democratic district. With four democrats and one Republican vying to replace Dodd and gain a place on the General Election ballot, this race was one to watch. The Primary results show that the mayor of Winters, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (28%), beat fellow democrats, Davis Councilman Dan Wolk (15.3%), Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor (15.3%), and biotech professional Dr. Elmer Mark Kropp (1.8%), clinching the opportunity to face off with Republican Charlie Schaupp in November.

This legislative race was an extreme example of the large political spending though independent expenditures, in this case totaling $2.7 million. The major spenders included EdVoice, spending $1 million to support Aguiar-Curry, energy companies spending $350,000 to support Aguiar-Curry and business employers, who provided $360,000 to support Aguiar-Curry. Assembly District 4 is a clear example of how significant resources can influence a race and increase the number of moderate Democrats moving into the General this November.

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California Primary Results: Legislative Seats to Watch