Republicans leading key legislative races, early returns show

Republicans hoped to gain from scandals involving Democrats. Above, Lasbia Batista works on Jose Bejarano near voters at Utah's Barber Shop in Long Beach.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Republicans were the top vote-getters in early election returns for key legislative primary races Tuesday, indicating an uphill battle for Democrats seeking to regain their supermajority in November.

In the state Senate, Democrats hope to win back the supermajority they lost in March when one member took a leave to fight criminal charges. He and two others charged with crimes were subsequently suspended.

Early returns Tuesday indicated the Democrats’ candidates were trailing in three key contests, although the final decision of voters will have to wait until the November general election.

The last redrawing of district boundaries gave Democrats an edge in voter registration in all three, even though two of the seats, both in the San Joaquin Valley, are held by Republicans.

In two contests, Tuesday’s primary was a re-

hearsal for the general election in November, when the same two candidates will compete again.


In the new 14th District, Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) was ahead of his sole challenger, Fresno Unified School Board member and Democrat Luis Chavez, in initial returns.

In the 12th Senate District, Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) held a big lead over his only opponent, Shawn K. Bagley, a Democrat and produce broker from Salinas. Both are moving on to the general election in a district where Democrats dominate.

Both parties also are focusing on an Orange County seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Lou Correa of Santa Ana because of term limits. Democrats enjoy a slight edge in voter registration there.

Republican Janet Nguyen, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, was leading former Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio. In distant third place was Republican Long Pham, a former Orange County Board of Education member.

Republican leaders were hoping to gain some advantage in Tuesday’s primary because of the series of scandals involving Democrats.

Sen. Roderick Wright, who holds an Inglewood-based seat, was found guilty by a jury of voter fraud and perjury for lying about living in his district. Sens. Ronald S. Calderon of Montebello and Leland Yee of San Francisco were indicted by federal authorities alleging separate cases of taking payments for official favors.

Wright is not up for reelection. Yee and Calderon are prevented by term limits from running again.

Jason Kinney, a consultant for Senate Democrats, downplayed that Republicans in early returns were the leading vote-getters in five districts where Democrats have an edge in voter registration.

“Senate Democrats are focused on winning the election that counts,” Kinney said, referring to the November election.

Getting the full supermajority back will be complicated by redistricting that occurred in 2011. Because of population growth in the Inland Empire, the last remapping took a Senate seat from the San Francisco Bay Area and moved it to Riverside County.

The old 8th Senate District in the Bay Area, which last elected Yee, was safely Democratic. The new 28th Senate District in Riverside County, with no incumbent, is solidly Republican.

Former Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia and Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone are among the four Republican candidates. Philip Drucker, a Coachella Valley attorney, and Anna Nevenic, a perennial candidate, are the Democratic contenders.

Early election results had Stone leading, followed by Drucker and then Republican Glenn A. Miller competing for the No. 2 spot on the November ballot.

Democrats currently have 55 of 80 total votes in the Assembly and want to retain that supermajority.

A key race is between incumbent Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) and her Republican challenger, Young Kim, a former aide to Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton).

The district is almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, 37% to 35%.

Quirk-Silva and Kim were the only contenders on the ballot, assuring they will repeat their showdown in November. In early election returns, Kim was ahead of Quirk-Silva.

Another closely watched race is in Ventura County, where Democrats sense an opportunity in the seat being vacated by Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), who is running for Congress.

The district used to be a solidly Republican, but GOP registration has been dropping in recent years. Democrats now hold a narrow registration lead, with nearly 20% of voters stating no party preference.

Two Republicans in the race — businessman Mario de la Piedra and Rob McCoy, a clergyman — faced off against Jacqui Irwin, a Thousand Oaks City Council member and the sole Democrat.

Early poll results showed Irwin and McCoy heading toward the November runoff election.