Early Look at Campaign 2014: Part 2 – State Senate

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

We are one year away from the November 2014 General Election, and the California Target Book, which I publish, just printed its fall edition, analyzing and handicapping the upcoming races in California for congress and the state legislature.

Last week, I reported on key races for Congress; today, I am covering the state Senate races. Next, I will cover the Assembly, followed by open seats (in safe districts) and possible same party runoffs.

SENATE

State Senators are elected to four-year terms, therefore only half of the 40 Senate district are up each election cycle. In 2014, the 20 even-numbered districts are up and the candidates will, for the first time, be running in the newly drawn districts approved by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.

No one doubts that Democrat will retain their majority control; the question is whether they can maintain their supermajority of 27 seats or more.

Democrats currently hold 28 seats, but they are certain to lose the newly drawn SD28. State Senator Leland Yee’s San Francisco-based district (old SD8) was collapsed by the Redistricting Commission and, in its place, the Commission created a new Riverside County safe Republican district, assuring a GOP pickup of one seat.

The CA Target Book is tagging 11 even-numbered districts as being safe Democratic: SDs 2*, 6*, 10*, 18*, 20, 22, 24, 26, 30, 32*, 40. Six districts have been tagged as being safe Republican: SDs 4, 8, 16, 28*, 36*, 38* (an asterisk * indicates an open seat).

That leaves three senate districts in play, two held by incumbent Central Valley Republicans and one being an open Orange County seat currently held by a Democrat. If Republicans hold on to their two seats and pick up the third, the Senate Democrats’ supermajority will be broken.

LIKELY TARGETS

SD12 (R-CANNELLA): In 2010, Anthony Cannella, then the mayor of Ceres and son of former Democratic Asm. Sal Cannella, was elected to the Senate, succeeding Republican Jeff Denham. An open competitive seat, the Senate Democratic leadership supported Democratic Asm. Anna Caballero, a former mayor of Salinas. Cannella squeezed out a narrow 51.5% to 48.5% win.

Cannella finds himself seeking election in a new district that is very similar to his old one (same number SD12). Due to its large Latino registration – 45% of voters – the district has a strong Democratic bias. Obama carried the district 58% – 40%, though Carly Fiorina and GOP attorney general candidate Steve Cooley narrowly outpolled their Democratic opponents in 2010 (46% to 45%; 44% to 42% respectively).

The sole Democrat to have filed a statement of intention is Thomas Hallinan, the city attorney of Patterson and, since 1996, a Yosemite Community College Trustee.  Hallinan ran for the Assembly in 2002 against Greg Aghazarian (old AD26). That year, Hallinan was placed on the Democrats early target list and they seeded his campaign with an early $50,000 contribution. But his campaign turned into a bust, losing 57% to 43%.

SD14 (R-VIDAK): Andy Vidak was elected to the Senate in a July 23, 2013 Special Election in the old SD16, to fill the unexpired term of Democrat Michael Rubio, who resigned his seat.  Running in a district that many believed to be a safe Democratic seat, Vidak was able to defeat Democrat Leticia Perez, a newly elected member of the Kern County Board of Supervisors. Vidak came close to winning the race outright in the Primary, receiving 49.8% of the votes cast, just short of the 50% + 1 needed to prevent a runoff election.  Vidak then went on to defeat Perez 52% to 48%.

The new SD14 is slightly more Republican than the district Vidak was elected to, but due to its large Latino registration – 53% of voters – the district has a strong Democratic bias. Obama carried the district 58% to 40%. As in SD12, both Cooley and Fiorina outpolled their Democratic opponents (46% to 43%; 46% to 40% respectively).

No Democrat, as yet, has filed an SI to challenge Vidak in 2014. Sources say Perez has talked to Democratic leaders about a possible repeat run. A name being mentioned as a possible challenger is former Democratic Asm. Sara Reyes of Fresno, currently a regional program manager for a private, statewide health foundation.

Also, it should be noted that Vidak and Cannella, who represent large numbers of Latino voters, have come out in favor of immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, and both voted in support of drivers licenses for undocumented workers.

SD34 (OPEN SEAT): Democratic Asm. Lou Correa is termed out in 2014, making this a competitive open seat. Should the Republicans be able to hold on to the two seats above, this will be the race that determines whether or not the Senate Democrats retain their supermajority.  So expect millions to be spent by the candidates, political parties and by independent expenditure committees.

The sole Democrat to file a statement of intention is former Asm. Jose Solorio who was termed out in 2012 (old AD69). This year Solorio was elected as a Trustee to the Rancho Santiago Community College District. In the 2012 campaign to succeed him in the Assembly, Solorio endorsed Tom Daly over Julio Perez, the former political director of the Orange County Federation of Labor. Informed sources say there is still some ill will among several local Orange County labor unions, who were strong supporters of Perez’s candidacy.

On the Republican side is Janet Nguyen, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisor (elected in a 2007 Special Election by 7 votes to replace Correa). She is the first Asian America, first Vietnamese American and youngest person ever elected to the Board. Prior to that election, she served on the Garden Grove City Council. At the time, she was a district director for then Asm. Ken Maddox.

Two other Republicans have filed to run:

Jim Silva is a former member of the Assembly who was termed out in 2012. He has a campaign committee reporting over $330,000 cash on hand, but as yet has not made any formal announcement of candidacy.

Long Pham is a former member of the Orange County Board of Education and perennial candidate. He ran unsuccessfully for the Assembly in 2006 against Van Tran, in 2010 against Allan Mansoor and in 2012 against Travis Allen. He is not expected to be a serious contender.

NEXT WEEK: The Assembly

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