Opinion: The latest election**

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*UPDATE: Polls are closed, nearly two-thirds of precincts have reported as of 10:40 p.m., and Democratic Assemblyman Curren D. Price Jr. will come in first, but with less than 50% of the vote. In this unusual quasi-open primary, that means Price must face Republican Nachum Shifren (currently battling for third place) and Peace and Freedom candidate Cindy V. Henderson (now running seventh) in a May 19 runoff. Or, more correctly, a special general election. Watch the updated returns tonight by refreshing frequently here or at

**UPDATED UPDATE: Semi-final official returns, with 100% of precincts reporting at 11:05 p.m.: Curren D. Price Jr., 35.65% and a place in the May 19 election; Mike Davis, 21.78%, stays in the Assembly; Robert Cole, 13.23%; Nachum Shifren, 11.53%, joins Price in the runoff because he is the top vote-getting Republican (and the only one); Jonathan Friedman, 7.87%; Saundra Davis, 7.61%; Cindy V. Henderson, 1.75% but, as the only Peace and Freedom candidate running, she gets a place in the three-way runoff; and Mervin Leon Evans, 0.57%. Total registration: 390,409. Votes counted: 23,687. Turnout, not including late vote-by-mail and provisional ballots: 6%.

Voters are at the polls today across a wide swath of Los Angeles to fill a seat in the state Senate. The 26th District takes in some of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, including Westwood, Century City, Holmby Hills, Cheviot Hills -- and some of its most downtrodden, including the portion of South Los Angeles west of the Harbor Freeway and north of Manchester. In between are Koreatown, Hollywood, Culver City, Ladera Heights and much of Baldwin Hills. At the north end, the district stretches across Cahuenga Pass and touches the San Fernando Valley, and it also reaches east to Silver Lake; but in image, the 26th is most closely associated with South L.A. or, sometimes, Culver City.

Mark Ridley-Thomas resigned the seat following his election to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in November; leading candidates to replace him include two Assembly members who recently began their second two-year terms.


The seat’s vacancy played an integral role in the months-long foundering of a state budget deal, since it left the Democrats one more vote short of the constitutionally required two-thirds supermajority - which, in turn, required the majority party to get three GOP senators to sign on instead of just two. That third vote turned out to belong to Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria -- although it’s impossible to say with any certainty how different the budget deal would have looked, or whether the other two Republican senators would have signed on, if the Democrats had their full complement on board.

Some other quirks and characteristics of this election and this seat: As a special election to fill a legislative vacancy, it’s a modified open primary. Members of every party run together on the same ballot, and the candidate who wins more than 50% of the vote wins. But if none garner a majority, there will be a May 19 runoff among -- no, not the top two vote-getters -- the top vote-getters of each party. That means whoever wins today will likely win the election, even after the runoff, as Times reporter Jean Merl explained in her story Thursday....

The winner stands a good chance of becoming the dean of the Senate, if simply by longevity. State senators may serve only two four-year terms, but filling out the short end of Ridley-Thomas’ first term won’t count. Thus, the incoming senator can be re-elected twice and can serve for up to 10 years. That could increase the newcomer’s power, if he (or she) plays the political cards right.

And one more thing: This election may not end the recent spate of special-election ‘cascading.’ If voters opt for either of the Assembly Democrats running -- Mike Davis of the 48th District (around USC) and Curren D. Price Jr. of the 51st (Inglewood and adjacent areas) -- there will have to be yet another special election to fill the new Assembly vacancy.

Price leads the pack in campaign fundraising and has drawn attacks as the frontrunner, as the Times’ Michael Finnegan reported March 15.

For other recent reporting on the race, see this story in the Wave, this one from the Sentinel, this one from the Watts Times, and this one from USC’s Neon Tommy. There’s also a nice piece by Zach Behrens at LAist explaining why this race wasn’t consolidated into the March 3 city election. As well as this earlier piece from Behrens; both do a service by including a map of the district and a link for voters to see whether they’re eligible to vote there.

See earlier Opinion L.A. missives here and here.

The Wave endorsed Price; read why here.

I’ve received several letters and e-mails wanting to know why the Times didn’t endorse in this race. I’ll take that as hunger for or at least curiosity about the Times’ opinion, and I’m pleased to see it. The Times had never endorsed (at least not in the last 30 years, except in Ventura and Orange County editions when we had mini-editorial boards associated with those editions) in legislative races until 2006, when for the first time we selected a handful of Assembly races and weighed in.

Since then, we’ve been steadily expanding the number of races in which we endorse, so I sympathize with the plight of voters who feel like they’re facing one big perpetual election. On the editorial board, we spent an enormous amount of time poring through ballot measures and candidates for the November (city, county, state and national) and March (city) elections and are fully absorbed in the May 19 state special election. Each of these takes a lot of time and energy (at least, the way we do them it does), so we let this one go without us.

For what it’s worth, I’ll note that when we began looking at Assembly races three years ago, we endorsed in Davis’ race, but we didn’t endorse Davis; we went with Anthony Willoughby. And we endorsed in Price’s race, but we didn’t endorse Price; we chose Steve Bradford.

There’s a special congressional election on May 19 to replace new Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. We’ve never endorsed for the House of Representatives before, and while I’d like to add Congress to the Times’ endorsement portfolio, I’m not sure that race is the time and place to start. The Times has long noted that it endorses ‘selectively.’ I’m very pleased to see our stable of selections expand, but we still necessarily must select.