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Every Vote Counts

Although they may not be much fun for the candidates, tight races like last week’s primary contest for the 20th state Senate seat remind us how powerful a single vote can be. As of late last week, the Democratic showdown between Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon and former Assemblyman Richard Katz was still officially undecided--although Alarcon held a slight lead.

It may take weeks to determine a victor as county workers count up absentee ballots and determine who will face Republican Ollie McCauley in November. Meantime, San Fernando Valley voters can look forward to a lively political summer as U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) defends his seat against a Republican challenger, Thousand Oaks millionaire Randy Hoffman. Republicans have targeted Sherman in the November election and Hoffman’s deep pockets give him an edge in a moderate district.

Overall, Valley voters followed statewide polling trends by rejecting Proposition 226, the measure limiting the power of unions to use dues for political donations, and supporting Proposition 227, which ends bilingual education in public schools. Their votes in the governor’s race also matched state results fairly closely.

Perhaps the only real surprises came in the Alarcon-Katz race, a contest Katz was expected to win. Some observers credited Alarcon’s last-minute push to get Latino voters to the polls for his unexpected edge. If so, it would mirror statewide trends that showed Latinos exercising a stronger political voice than ever before.

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Whatever the case, the race illustrates the huge power voters hold when they take the minimal time and effort to use it. A few ballots really do make the difference. As the 20th Senate district race shows so clearly, a handful of votes can separate winners from losers.


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