Republican Susan Shelley has come within a whisper of pulling a major upset in the Special Election for Assembly District 45. With final absentee and provisional votes yet to be verified, as of early this morning, Shelley is just 173 votes behind Democrat Matt Dababneh out of more than 26,000 votes cast. As I pointed out in my Monday column, Shelley built her campaign around defending Proposition 13.
Proposition 13’s electoral power showed its muscle in this election. Even if Dababneh holds on to win, consider what Shelley was up against. If I may quote from my Monday piece, The district is heavily Democratic, with voter registration favoring Democrats by two to one. From the beginning of the year, Dababneh has outraised Shelley in campaign cash by more than ten to one, and in cash-on-hand as of the latest reporting, Dababneh held a 100-1 advantage. The California Target Book’s summary of the race concluded: “A safe Democratic district, Dababneh has to be tagged as a heavy favorite to win the November 19 runoff election.”
This morning, Target Book editor Allan Hoffenblum said it would be an “embarrassing win” for the Democrats even if Dababneh pulls it out. Hoffenblum points out, while Shelley lost the absentee vote, she won on Election Day.
Looking at this election with a cold eye, a practical conclusion is that a win is a win and with this victory (if indeed it is a victory) the Democrats will once again have their supermajority in the legislature.
However, there will be ripples in the political waters because the contest was unexpectedly so close and much attention was placed on potential changes to Proposition 13.
As Shelley argued during her campaign, there are a half-dozen bills sitting in the legislature awaiting action next year that would weaken Proposition 13. They are focused on the measure’s requirement for a two-thirds vote to pass local, special taxes. The bills would lower that vote requirement making it easier to raise local taxes.
Even if the Democrats secure a supermajority (and they will regardless of the outcome of AD 45 because of another special election soon in an Assembly District in which only Democrats are running) the question arises: Will some Democrats pull off voting for these Prop 13 changes in an election year given the surprise results in AD 45?
The landscape has changed overnight on these Prop 13 bills.