Democrats seek supermajority in state Senate

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US Republican and Democratic Party symbols

US Republican and Democratic Party symbols (AP image)

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Months of campaigning and millions of dollars spent on 100 legislative races across California have boiled down to a handful of contests that will decide whether Democrats can seize unbridled control of the state Senate.

Democrats are two seats away from the two-thirds Senate majority they need to approve tax increases, pass emergency legislation, override governors’ vetoes and change house rules while ignoring Republicans.

New Senate boundaries drawn after the 2010 census give them the opportunity to gain a supermajority for the first time since California voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978, raising the legislative vote threshold to pass tax increases to two-thirds. Democrats also are two seats short of a supermajority in the Assembly but are not expected to reach the threshold there this year.

They are virtually guaranteed to gain the Central Coast seat currently held by Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, who retired when the new Senate map turned his swing district safely Democratic.

“All they have to do is pick up one” besides Blakeslee’s seat, said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, which analyzes legislative and congressional campaigns. “The odds favor the Democrats. The Republicans almost need to sweep.”

Termed-out Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani benefits from a 5 percentage point Democratic edge in voter registration in the Central Valley’s 5th Senate District. She faces Republican Assemblyman Bill Berryhill in the Stockton-based district, which includes parts of Sacramento, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, is running for re-election in the 27th Senate District, which includes portions of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Democrats have an 8 percentage point advantage in voter registration, but GOP challenger Todd Zink, a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who lives in Westlake Village, had more votes than Pavley in the June primary.

Democratic attorney Richard Roth of Riverside, a retired Air Force general, was hand-picked by Senate Democratic leaders to challenge Assemblyman Jeff Miller, R-Corona, in Riverside County’s 31st Senate District, where voter registration is about evenly split among the major political parties.

The three top Senate contests alone attracted nearly $6 million in independent spending by groups mostly affiliated with business and labor as of a week before Election Day. They accounted for a third of the $17 million that had been independently spent on legislative races statewide.

There was less outside focus on two seats where Democrats were favored over Republican challengers.

They include the 19th Senate District in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, where former Democratic Assemblywoman Hannah Beth Jackson faces Republican attorney Mike Stoker, and the San Diego-centered 39th Senate District, where Democratic Assemblyman Marty Block is being challenged by former Republican George Plescia, a former Assembly minority leader.

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