Early Look at Campaign 2014: Part 4 – Safe Open Seats and Possible Same Party Runoffs

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 distributed its fall edition to subscribers, analyzing and handicapping the upcoming races in California for congress and the state legislature.

Earlier on Fox & Hounds, I reported on the key races for Congress (Part 1), state Senate (Part 2), and Assembly (Part 3).

Today I am going to review some of the more interesting June Primary races in safe Democratic districts and safe Republican districts where the incumbent is not seeking reelection due to term limits, or is seeking higher office, or is retiring.

In some of these races, due to very low Republican registration, the top two vote getters are likely to both be Democrats, leading to a same party runoff in November.

There are currently twenty-nine open seats: one congressional, five state Senate, and twenty-one Assembly.

I am only going to discuss a few of the open seat races because in most of the races the candidates that have announced are virtually unknown to most voters, much less to readers of Fox & Hounds.

Following are few of the more interesting races, including those that I believe will be same party November runoffs:

CD45 (Orange County: Incumbent Republican John Campbell is not seeking reelection. The first candidate to jump into the race was state Senator Mimi Walters, whose Senate seat is not up for election next year. She quickly got some early key endorsements, including House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and Reps. Ed Royce and Darrell Issa. However, some conservative activists and organizations are unhappy with Walters’ vote on a Democratic sponsored tax extension. They view this as a vote for a tax increase and have vowed to look for an alternative candidate. That candidate may be Pat Maciariello, a Laguna Hills investment manager who kicked off his campaign with a $200,000 loan. Also in the race is Greg Raths, a retired Marine Corps colonel and jet pilot. Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach formed an exploratory committee, but has not made any formal announcement of candidacy.

SD6 (Sacramento): Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is termed out in 2014, and two members of the state Assembly will battle each other in the Primary: Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan. Dickinson has a long list of key endorsements, including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Steinberg. June 30 campaign finance reports show Pan with over $320,000 in the bank, while Dickinson reported less than $100,000. Dickinson should have the strong support of public employee unions, it will be interesting to see if pro-business groups get behind Pan.

SD10 (East Bay): Incumbent Ellen Corbett is termed out in 2014 and three Democrats have filed statements of intention to run, including a current member of the Assembly, Bob Wieckowski; a former member of the Assembly, Mary Hayashi who was termed out in 2012; and Roman Reed, founder of a non-profit foundation that is researching for a cure for spinal cord injuries. June 30 campaign finance reports show Hayashi with over $732,000 cash on hand, while Wieckowski reported just under $80,000. However, during her last year in the Assembly, she ran unsuccessful for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. A year earlier, she was convicted for shop lifting merchandise from San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus department store. She pleaded no contest and was sentenced to $180 fine and three years probation.

SD18 (San Fernando Valley): Incumbent Democrat Alex Padilla is termed out in 2014 and will run for Secretary of State. His successor will be former Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, who has been endorsed by most everyone who is anyone within the state’s Democratic establishment. Hertzberg’s sole opponent is Republican Ricardo Benitez, a plumber and a member of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council.  No contest here.

SD28 (Riverside County): State Senator Leland Yee’s San Francisco-based district (old SD8) was collapsed by the Citizens Redistricting Commission in 2011 and, in its place, they created this new southern California district were there is no incumbent, making this a safe Republican open seat. Three Republicans have filed statements of candidacy to run, the best known being former GOP Assembly Member Bonnie Garcia, who was termed out in 2008. But she will face stiff opposition from Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone and Indio City Councilmember Glenn Miller. Stone ran for the state Senate in 2010 (old SD36), coming in second behind Joel Anderson in the June Primary.

AD15 (East Bay): Incumbent Democrat Nancy Skinner is termed out in 2014 and six Democrats have filed statements of intention to run for this seat: Elizabeth Echols is a former regional administrator for the SBA appointed by President Obama; Sam Kang, of Korean heritage. is general counsel to a Berkeley-based civil rights organization; Andy Katz is an environmental attorney who is openly gay; Peggy Moore, an African American, is the California field director for Organizing for Action, a nonprofit national organization that seeks to mobilize supporters of President Obama’s legislative priorities and is openly gay; Tony Thurmond, an African American, is a former member of the Richmond City Council and has been endorsed by the California Legislative Black Caucus; and Cecilia Valdez, a member of the San Pablo City Council. With Republican registration at 8%, the top two Democratic vote getters will face each other in a November runoff.

AD16 (East Bay): Incumbent Democrat Joan Buchanan is termed out in 2014 and three Democrats and one Republican have filed statements of intention to run. But this is expected to be a two-candidate race between Democrats Steve Glazer, a member of the Orinda City Council and a well known political consultant; and Tim Sbranti, a member of the Dublin City Council and an educator active with the California Teachers Association.  Glazer has been a key political advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown and managed his campaign for governor. The California Labor Federation has formally blacklisted Glazer’s consulting firm for their participation in two key Assembly races in 2012.  At issue was Glazer’s involvement with Jobs PAC, an independent expenditure committee funded by the CA Chamber of Commerce. The two campaigns were Democrat vs. Democrat same party runoffs, with JobsPAC supporting the winning campaigns of Marc Levine (AD10) and Richard Bloom (AD50), defeating, respectively, labor backed incumbents Michael Allen and Betsy Butler.  Expect pro-business interests to back Glazer, while labor backs Sbranti.  On the Republican side is Catharine Baker, a fiscal conservative and social moderate who is pro choice and supports gay marriage. Republican leadership may place this race on their watch list, depending on the outcome of the Primary. The other Democrat in the race is Newell Arnerich, a member of the Danville City Council,

AD17 (San Francisco): Incumbent Democrat Tom Ammiano is termed out in 2014 and two members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have filed statements of intention to run: David Campos, who is openly gay and has been endorsed by Ammiano; and David Chiu, currently the Board chair and who is listing an impressive list of key endorsements, including Attorney General Kamala Harris, Controller John Chiang and Asm. Phil Ting. With Republican registration at 7%, expect the race between these two to be decided in the November runoff.

AD25 (Santa Clara): Incumbent Democrat Bob Wieckowski is giving up the seat in 2014 to run for state Senate and four Democrats have filed statements of intention: Kansen Chu, a member of the San Jose City Council; Armando Gomez, a member of the Milpitas City Council; Teresa Cox, an African American, is a member of a local community college board of trustees and has been endorsed by the California Legislative Black Caucus; and Craig Steckler, a former Fremont police chief and self described political moderate. With Republican registration at 19%, two of the Democrats are likely to be the top vote getters in the June Primary and will face each other in a November runoff.

AD62 (Los Angeles Airport Area): Incumbent Democrat Steven Bradford is termed out in 2014 and seven Democrats have filed statements of intention to succeed him, the best known being former Assembly Member Betsy Butler. She lost a close race for reelection in 2012 in the neighboring AD50 against fellow Democrat Richard Bloom in a same party November runoff. She will face off with Autumn Burke, the daughter of former L.A. Supervisor Yvonne Burke and has been endorsed by the California Legislative Black Caucus. Gloria Gray, an African American, is a member of a local water district board. She ran for the Assembly in a 2009 Special Election, coming in a far second behind Bradford; Robert Pullen-Miles; an African American, is a member of the Lawndale City Council. Eloy Morales, Jr., a Latino; is member of the Inglewood City Council. Patricia Donaldson, who is white, is president of the Hawthorne City Council. Mervin Evans, an African American, is a perennial candidate. With Republican registration at 14%, two of the Democrats are likely to be the top vote getters in the June Primary and will face each other in a November runoff.

UPDATE:  In my post on Congress in Part One, I reported that Democratic incumbent Julia Brownley would be challenged next year by her 2012 opponent, then state Senator Tony Strickland. However, Strickland has dropped out of that race and along with everyone who is anyone in the GOP establishment, has endorsed Assembly Member Jeff Gorell. It is now expected that Strickland will run in the neighboring CD25, due to the expected retirement of Rep. Buck McKeon..

Now, wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving.

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