Voters on Tuesday sent Republican Sharon Runner back to the state Senate three years after she underwent a double lung transplant. She was the only candidate on the ballot for a special election in a district representing parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
There was more drama in two other special elections held Tuesday for state Senate seats.
With all precincts reporting in the 37th Senate District, former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach of Costa Mesa won 50.4% of the vote over fellow Republican and Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner of Irvine, who had 44.1%. If the numbers hold after counting of provisional ballots, Moorlach will win the seat outright, avoiding a May runoff election.
Congressional aide Naz Namazi, a Republican from Irvine, finished third in that race.
In a special election for a third open state Senate seat in the Bay Area, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer garnered 32.8% of the vote while fellow Democrat and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord received 24.9% of the vote, setting up a runoff contest in May.
Glazer, a former advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, was targeted for defeat by organized labor after he previously opposed strikes by transit workers and worked for candidates that competed with labor-backed contenders.
Former Democratic Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo placed third, while Republican candidate Michaela Hertle was in fourth place, with a significant number of votes, even though she had dropped her candidacy and endorsed Glazer. Scientist Terry Kremin, a Democrat from Concord, placed a distant last.
The three state Senate seats were vacated after incumbents Mimi Walters, Steve Knight and Mark DeSaulnier won election to Congress in November.
The election does not affect the balance of power in the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority of seats, having lost their former supermajority in the November elections.
Runner, who left the state Senate in 2012, was the only candidate on the ballot in the 21st Senate District, where her only opposition came from a half-dozen lesser known write-in candidates who received small numbers of votes.
"I feel great," Runner said from her victory party at the Lemon Leaf Café in her hometown of Lancaster. Her election caps a remarkable comeback from a rare auto-immune disease that required her to undergoing a double lung transplant in February 2012.
"It's pretty miraculous to be able to come back again and serve," Runner said. "I'm kind of a comeback story. I'm excited that I am getting back there" to Sacramento.
Runner, 60, had served in the Assembly and was elected to the Senate in 2011 in a special election but decided not to run for reelection the next year so she could devote herself to recovering her health.