Southern California special elections winnow legislative races

Voters narrowed the fields Tuesday in two hard-fought Southern California special elections for vacant state legislative seats, but both races were headed for June 8 runoffs, election night returns were showing.

In a Glendale- Silver Lake area Assembly race, Democratic attorney and former congressional aide Mike Gatto of Silver Lake was leading fellow Democrat Glendale school board member Nayiri Nahabedian. The third Democrat in the race, Chahe Keuroghelian, a businessman and former spokesman for the Glendale Police Department, trailed them. Businessman Sunder Ramani of Burbank, the only Republican on the ballot and the front-runner in early ballot-counting, will face the first-place Democrat in the runoff because no one was winning a majority in Tuesday’s 43rd District contest.

In Riverside County, where seven candidates were vying to replace former GOP state Sen. John Benoit, Republican Assemblyman Bill Emmerson was comfortably ahead in early returns but falling short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff. He was followed in the open primary by former Assemblyman Russ Bogh, also a Republican, and Democrat Justin Blake, an actor.

Four other candidates -- Republican David W. Peters; Democrats Arthur Bravo Guerrero and Anna Nevenic, and Matt Monica of the American Independent Party -- were running far back in the 37th state Senate district contest.

Along with the two special elections, several cities and education districts held their regularly scheduled balloting Tuesday. They included Long Beach, where voters in the municipal primary weighed in on candidates for mayor, five City Council seats, city attorney, auditor and clerk, plus three slots each on the school district and community college boards.

Voters in several cities across Los Angeles County decided ballot measures. They included Sierra Madre, with a ballot measure asking whether to prohibit the city from taking property through eminent domain for private development, such as a shopping center.

Lancaster voters were asked to decide whether clergy delivering the City Council’s traditional meeting-opening invocations could refer to specific religious figures, including Jesus. After complaints from residents who follow religions other than Christianity, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California warned the city to stop the practice.

The 43rd Assembly District race to replace Paul Krekorian after his election to the Los Angeles City Council has a special twist. Because the seat’s two-year term expires this year, the winner of the special election will have to face voters again in the June primary -- the same day as the special runoff, if needed to fill the unexpired term. All four candidates in the special election also are on the ballot for the regular term.