South Bay voters, for the first time in California history, have reelected an assemblyman after his death.
Democrat Curtis R. Tucker of Inglewood, who died Oct. 9, captured 71.8% of the votes counted Tuesday, crushing Republican Michael Davis in the solidly Democratic 50th Assembly District.
Vote totals for four write-in candidates, who entered the race after Tucker died of cancer last month, will not be known until a final canvass is finished in two weeks. But too few write-ins were cast to affect the outcome, a county elections official said.
Tucker’s victory marks the first time that an assemblyman has been reelected posthumously, according to the secretary of state’s office.
His reelection ensures a potentially ferocious battle in a special election next year in the largely black and Latino district, which encompasses El Segundo, Inglewood, Lennox, Westchester and parts of South Central Los Angeles.
Elsewhere in the South Bay, it was a good night for incumbent legislators.
After a bitterly negative campaign of charges and countercharges, Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Carson) scored one of the biggest victories of his 8-year legislative career by trouncing well-financed Republican challenger Charles Bookhammer.
Assemblymen Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro) and Dave Elder (D-Long Beach) and Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles) all easily won reelection to new terms in Sacramento, as did state Sen. Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach).
Even before the assemblyman died of cancer, his son, Curtis Tucker Jr., formed a campaign committee to run for the seat and received $28,000 from his father’s campaign treasury. The younger Tucker, an aide to Assemblywoman Moore, received the early backing of Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), who said he wanted to fulfill the late assemblyman’s wish to have his son succeed him.
“My father started a lot of things that aren’t finished,” Tucker said Wednesday, citing such causes as reforming auto insurance, improving health care and fighting crime. “I’ve had experience in the legislative arena. I know how to get things done at the state level, which is more than I can say for the other candidates.”
Several Challengers in Wings
Tucker’s potential challengers include Inglewood Mayor Edward Vincent, Inglewood Councilman Daniel Tabor, who lost to the elder Tucker in the Democratic primary last June, Los Angeles Councilman Robert Farrell and Inglewood school board member Lois Hill-Hale. Also contemplating a run are two write-in candidates in Tuesday’s election, Inglewood political consultant Rod Wright and Los Angeles Police Officer Carl McGill.
Republican challenger Davis said that he would not run next year.
“The people have made it clear they wish to be represented by a Democrat no matter what the circumstances,” said Davis, a Los Angeles business consultant. “I’m not hard of hearing.”
After the seat officially becomes vacant when the Assembly reconvenes Dec. 5, Gov. George Deukmejian will have two weeks to call a special election to be held 112 to 119 days later, probably coinciding with local elections in April.
In an election process that differs from the norm, Democrats and Republicans will compete together in a special primary election four weeks before the special general election. The general election will be canceled if a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the primary, according to Deborah Seiler, a state election official.
In the heavily Democratic 53rd Assembly District that borders Tucker’s district, the tough-talking, cigar-chomping Floyd beat Bookhammer by a 58.9% to 41.1% margin to win a fifth term in Sacramento.
Floyd Gets Landslide
“I’m pleased as hell,” Floyd said as he rolled up a 16,000 vote landslide over the Hawthorne city councilman.
Floyd partisans celebrated Tuesday night with country music and dancing, while somber Bookhammer supporters gathered on the opposite side of the same hotel in Hawthorne, watching as the returns showed their candidate had lost.
Voters in the area, which includes Hawthorne, Gardena, Lawndale, Carson, Harbor Gateway and the northern part of Redondo Beach, did not accept Bookhammer’s message that Floyd had cheated taxpayers by traveling extensively at public expense and collecting per diem payments improperly.
“It was full of lies,” Floyd said. “To accuse me of making a fortune on this job, that’s ridiculous. . . . It didn’t sell.”
The assemblyman, who has survived back-to-back efforts by Assembly Republican leader Pat Nolan of Glendale to oust him, savored his victory along with his one-time boss, state Sen. Ralph Dills (D-Gardena). Floyd is poised to be a prime contender if Dills, 78, should decide not to seek reelection in two years.
Bookhammer said he has no regrets about the campaign, which was financed primarily by Nolan and the California Republican Party. “It had to be done,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the staunchly Republican 51st Assembly District, Felando won a sixth term with 62.4% of the vote. He soundly defeated Democratic challenger Mark Wirth, a Torrance city councilman, who drew 34.5%, and Libertarian candidate Rodney Dobson, who picked up 3%.
For Felando, the victory was especially sweet after a grueling Republican primary battle last spring against the son of Los Angeles County Supervisor Deane Dana. That race ranks as one of the most expensive Assembly primary contests in California history. The district includes the beach cities, Torrance, Lomita and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
To the east in the 57th Assembly District, Elder coasted to a landslide 69.4% win. Republican David Ball received 26.8% of the vote, while Peace and Freedom candidate Justine Bellock polled 3.8%. The solidly Democratic district includes San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City and Long Beach.
In the 49th Assembly District, which includes the Westchester area, Moore captured 77% of the vote against Republican Eric Givens.
And in the 29th Senate District, Beverly won a fourth term by capturing 67.2% of the vote. Democrat Jack Hachmeister garnered 29.5% of the vote, while Libertarian Steve Kelley received 3.3%. The solidly Republican territory runs along the coast from El Segundo through Long Beach all the way to the Orange County line.