2012 Target Races – Part Two: State Senate

Allan Hoffenblum
Publisher of the California Target Book and owner of Allan Hoffenblum & Associates

Part One of this series described the Assembly districts the California Target Book has labeled as targets or that are on the watch list. Now I turn to the state Senate races.

Last week, Darrell Steinberg, the president pro term of the Senate, announced that he would skip the Democratic National Convention to focus on trying to win the two seats needed to give his party a two-thirds, 27-seat Senate majority. Looking at the senate races in play, the odds are in his favor.

Let’s take a look.

The first Democratic pick up will be the easiest. The new central coast 17th Senate District is a successor to the old 15th District, which was a marginal seat held by Republican Sam Blakeslee. But the newly drawn district is safely Democratic, which forced Blakeslee to retire and he will be succeeded by Democratic Asm. Bill Monning.

The second Democratic pick up is most likely to be the new Santa Barbara County/Ventura County coastal 19th Senate District, the successor to the old 19th District represented by Republican Tony Strickland, who is running for Congress this year. The old and new 19th Districts are similar in territory, but the inclusion of the heavily Latino community of Oxnard decreases the GOP registration by eight-points, making the Democratic candidate the heavy favorite to win. That Democrat is former Democratic Assembly Member Hannah-Beth Jackson, who ran for this seat in 2008, losing to Strickland by a margin of 1,200 votes. On the GOP side is Mike Stoker, an attorney and former Santa Barbara County Supervisor. He ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly in 2010, losing to Das Williams (old AD35). The Target Book has labeled this race as a watch district that favors Democrats. If Jackson is successful, this will represent the 27th seat.

However, there are four races that the Target Book has labeled as targets where the outcome could either increase or decrease the Democratic leadership’s goal of a supermajority.

TARGETS

5th Senate District (Northern Central Valley): This is a new, highly competitive open district where Brown narrowly outpolled Whitman 47% – 46%, while Fiorina outpolled Boxer 48% – 42%.  This is a face off between two incumbent members of the Assembly: Republican Bill Berryhill and Democrat Cathleen Galgiani.  This new odd numbered district appears to be a replacement of the old 35th District located in Orange County, which the Citizens Redistricting Commission collapsed. In political terms, the new SD5, a toss-up district, has replaced the old SD35, which was safely Republican. Therefore, a Galgiani win would be a Democratic gain.

27th Senate District (Ventura County/Los Angeles County): A truly competitive district where Whitman narrowly outpolled Brown 47.2% – 46.5% and Fiorina outpolled Boxer 47% – 46%.  Prior to GOP Cong. Elton Gallegly announcing his retirement, incumbent state Senator Tony Strickland announced that he would run against Democratic incumbent Fran Pavley. But, as stated above, he is now running for Congress. The GOP Senate leadership recruited Todd Zink, a L.A. County deputy district attorney and a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves, to run against Pavley. A Zink win would be a Republican gain.

31st Senate District (Riverside County): Brown outpolled Whitman 48% – 43%, while Fiorina narrowly outpolled Boxer 45.55% – 45.45%. GOP Assembly Member Jeff Miller is facing off against Democrat Richard Roth, an attorney and retired U.S. Air Force major general.  This new seat replaces the old 31st District represented by Bob Dutton (running for Congress, 8th Congressional district).  But the Citizens Redistricting Commission made the formerly safe Republican district into a marginal district. A Roth win would be a Democratic gain.

39th Senate District (Coastal San Diego/Coronado): Democratic Assembly Member Marty Block is facing off against former GOP Assembly Member George Plescia.  This new district is the successor to the old 39th District represented by Democrat Christine Kehoe, who is term out. The old seat was safely Democratic; the new one is less so. Only 15% of the voters reside in Block’s current Assembly District.  Plescia represented the old AD 75, encompassing 30% of voters in this district. Brown and Boxer each received 49% of the vote in 2010, with Whitman and Fiorina each receiving 43%, indicating that Block should be considered the early favorite. However, the GOP leadership recruited Plescia and has this race on their target list. A Plescia win would be a Republican gain.

(California Target Book co-editor Tony Quinn assisted in this article).

NEXT: Congressional targets.

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