In November 2008, Barack Obama outpolled John McCain in 12
of 29 assembly seats that are currently held by a Republican.

At the early beginning of this election cycle – with Obama’s
popularity in this state above 60 percent – I predicted that the Democratic
Assembly leadership would make a serious effort to increase their numbers and
maybe be able to pick up the three seats needed for a super two-thirds

November 2010, I predicted, was going to be one of the most
competitive election cycles in the battle for assembly seats than this state
has seen in more than a decade.

Boy, was I wrong.

For whatever reason, Democratic leaders – with just a couple
of exceptions I discuss below – have decided to limit their battle to holding
on to what they currently have, and hopefully picking up one seat.

The sole GOP-held seat that the state Democratic Party and
their independent expenditure committee allies are making a full-court press is
the 5th Assembly District
located in suburban Sacramento County.

The 5th District is an open seat contest between
Republican ANDREW PUGNO, the owner of
a Folsom law firm and chief counsel for the group behind the 2008 Proposition 8
campaign to ban gay marriage, and RICHARD
, a physician and former Asst. Professor of Pediatrics at UC Davis.

The Pan campaign has been able to raise and spend over $1
million since July 1, which includes $400,000 in contributions from the CA
Democratic Party. 

Independent expenditure committees funded by various public
employee unions are also spending some big bucks in this race, by mostly
funding attack ads against Pugno.

Democrats have outspent Pugno by more than two-to-one.  But Pugno looks to be spending  at least $600,000. An independent
expenditure committee funded by the National Organization for Marriage (which
opposes gay marriage) has spent $112,000 for a TV spot supporting Pugno and
attacking Pan.

But it must be noted this is one of the few assembly
districts where the GOP registration has actually increased the past few
months, it now having a 40% – 38% registration advantage.

The liberal Democratic leadership’s zeal to defeat Pugno is
likely motivated in large part to his active participation in the passing of
Proposition 8. But Proposition 8 passed in this assembly district by a ten-point
margin, 55% – 45%. 

I’m labeling this race as LEANS REPUBLICAN.

The other GOP-held assembly district won by Obama in 2008
that was expected to be  a top
target for the Democrats this year is 
the 30th Assembly
located in the Central Valley.

Republican Danny Gilmore narrowly won this seat in 2008,
defeating Democrat FRAN FLOREZ, who was then mayor pro tem of
Shafter and is the mother of state Senator Dean Florez. 

Gilmore decided to not seek reelection and attempting to
succeed him is Republican  DAVID VALADAO, a young dairyman from
Hanford and first-time candidate. 

again the Democratic nominee.

But the Democratic leadership has all but pulled away from
this race, most likely swayed by recent surveys showing Valadao with a
significant double-digit lead over Florez.  Both former Democratic Assembly Member Nicole Para and
incumbent GOP Assembly Member Danny Gilmore have endorsed Valadao.  I am labeling this race as LIKELY REPUBLICAN.

The Republican leadership went into this election cycle hoping
to knock off two Democratic incumbents that took seats out of the Republican
column in 2008: ALLYSON HUBER in the
10th District (east of Sacramento) and JOAN BUCHANAN in the 15th District (Contra Costa

Both are repeat races, with Huber facing her 2008 opponent JACK SIEGLOCK, a former San Joaquin
County Supervisor, and Buchanan facing her 2008 opponent ABRAM WILSON, the
African American mayor of San Ramon.

But Huber, having spent over $1.8 million since July,
appears to have smothered Sieglock and like the Democratic leadership has done
in the 30th District, Republican leaders appear to have pulled back
in this race.  I am labeling this

The race in the 15th districts remains highly
competitive, with charges and counter charges coming from both sides. But
Democrats have  a 6-point
registration advantage (41% – 35%) and Obama won this seat in 2008 with 58% of
the vote.  I am labeling this race

So that’s about it as far as participation by Democratic and
Republican leaders. 

But in this volatile year, there are bound to be upset wins
somewhere, and I am looking at two races where that may occur.

In the 35th
, Republican MIKE STOKER,
a former San Barbara County Supervisor, is running against Democrat DAS WILLIAMS, a member of the Santa
Barbara City Council (elected in 2003 at the age of 23).  Though Williams is heavily favored,
Stocker has been able to raise over $200,000 and has more cash on hand going
into the last days of the campaign than does Williams.  Also, Williams had a very bitter
Democratic Primary, his opponent being Susan Jordan, wife of the current termed
out incumbent, Pedro Nava. Neither Jordan nor Nava have endorsed Williams.

In the 68th
, Republican ALLAN MANSOOR,
a member of the Costa Mesa City Council and a former O.C. Deputy Sheriff, is
favored to succeed termed out GOP Assembly Member Van Tran (now running for
congress against Loretta Sanchez).

About 20% of the district’s registered voters are Vietnamese
American and they are mostly located within an area know as "Little
Saigon."  Vietnamese Americans are
one of the few people of color in California that have remained mostly
Republican in their voter patter, which has made the 68th  District a safe Republican seat.

But in this race, it is the Democrat,  businessman PHU NGUYEN (pronounced win), who is the
Vietnamese American candidate.  And
the question is: will the Vietnamese American voters again vote Republican for
Assembly, or will they vote for the candidate that comes from their
community?  The answer to that
question will determine the winner next Tuesday.