Ted Lieu takes early lead in bid to replace state Sen. Jenny Oropeza

The governor can't call a special election until at least early December, but the field to replace the late state Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D- Long Beach) is forming.

Termed-out Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) appears to have jumped to the advantage when two other Democratic elected officials backed away from their stated interest in running and promptly endorsed him. But another contender — Hollywood producer Brian Quintana, who unsuccessfully took on Sen. Barbara Boxer in June's Democratic primary — said he's "exploring a run."

One Republican said to be considering a run in the strongly Democratic 28th Senate district is Martha Flores-Gibson, who unsuccessfully challenged Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) in the Nov. 2 general election. She would need to move into the district to run and could not be reached for comment.

John Stammreich, who was the GOP standard-bearer against Oropeza on Nov. 2, had issued an early statement saying he wouldn't run again until an independent commission redraws political district lines next year, but he said this week that he continues to "meet with local and state leaders about both this race and plans for 2012."

Oropeza died Oct. 20, too late for her name to be removed from the Nov. 2 ballot, and was reelected posthumously. Once her seat becomes officially vacant, the governor will have 14 days in which to call a special election.

Under the state's recent voter-approved switch to an open elections system, if no candidate wins at least a majority in the special primary, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, will face off in a special general election.

The district runs south along the coast from Venice through the South Bay beach cities to a sliver of Long Beach and also includes Lomita and Torrance and some unincorporated communities, including Lennox and Marina del Rey.

As in most other California districts gerrymandered by legislators nearly a decade ago to favor incumbents in both major political parties, its party registration is lopsided. Democrats hold a two-to-one edge over Republicans, and Oropeza won more than 58% of the vote to Stammreich's 36%. Libertarian David Ruskin tallied 6%.

Until Oropeza's death from complications from an abdominal blood clot, Lieu's political career seemed to have hit a roadblock. He was prohibited by term limits from seeking reelection to the Assembly and in June lost the Democratic primary for attorney general. In early November, he became the first to announce that he would seek the Senate seat.

Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Gardena) and Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn initially said they were interested in running but soon bowed out and endorsed Lieu, joining other Democratic officials in backing the former Torrance councilman.

Lieu, who first won his Assembly seat in a special election after the death of Assemblyman Mike Gordon (D-El Segundo) in 2005, also is endorsed by U.S. Rep.-elect Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles Councilmen Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl.

Quintana, co-producer of " Superman: Man of Steel" and a longtime Democratic activist, said he would appeal to fiscally conservative Democrats, Latinos and younger voters.

As evidence that he can lure crossover voters, he cited support he received in his campaign to unseat Boxer. He finished second in the three-way Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, receiving 13.9% of the vote.


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