More than a week after Election Day, California Democrats have claimed a two-thirds majority in the state Assembly.
With the defeat of Riverside Republican Assemblyman Eric Linder by Democrat Sabrina Cervantes, Democrats now have 54 seats in the lower house. That number could grow to 55 if Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva can hang onto her small lead over Republican Assemblywoman Young Kim in Assembly District 65. Kim won the seat from Quirk-Silva just two years ago.
Taxes and some other bills need a two-thirds majority to pass, though there’s been debate over how significant of an impact a supermajority would have, given the rise of more business-friendly Democrats who also may oppose tax increases and the fact that a two-thirds vote is no longer needed to pass the state budget.
Hopes for a supermajority in the state Senate appear to have fallen short. Democrats needed to pick up one seat in that chamber, but Republican Ling Ling Chang, whom Democrats targeted, is holding onto a narrow lead over her Democratic challenger, Josh Newman.
Voters weighed in on a total of 100 legislative races around California on Election Day.
All 80 seats in the state Assembly were on the ballot, as well as half of California’s 40 state Senate seats. A handful of races were being watched closely statewide — among them challenges by Democrats to vulnerable Republican lawmakers and several fights between Democrats made possible by the state’s top-two primary system.
Intraparty Contests Pit Democrats Against Democrats
California’s top-two primary system — which lets the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party — also meant that there were 16 races in which members of the same party were being pitted against one another.
One former assemblyman managed to reclaim his seat from a fellow Democrat in the San Fernando Valley. Raul Bocanegra, who lost to Assemblywoman Patty Lopez in a surprise upset two years ago, surged to victory in Assembly District 39 after benefiting from big spending and a party endorsement.
In San Francisco’s Senate District 11, Scott Wiener claimed victory this week in a race between two liberal Democrats that attracted a lot of outside spending, and some national attention. Wiener beat out Jane Kim — both are members of the Board of Supervisors — after a hard-fought contest that attracted attention from both Democratic presidential candidates. Kim, who is considered more liberal than Wiener, benefited from an endorsement and appearance by Sen. Bernie Sanders, while Wiener spent the last few weeks of the race touting a shout-out from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over his family leave legislation. Wiener ultimately won the race.
Several Bay Area races between Democrats also played out Tuesday — including several among politicians who have served together in the past.
Former Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner claimed a Senate seat in the 9th District, which includes the East Bay cities of Pinole, San Pablo, Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda. Skinner was running against a former Assembly colleague, Sandre Swanson. And Sen. Jim Beall kept his seat in the 15th District, which encompasses most of Silicon Valley, including the city of Santa Clara and part of San Jose, despite a challenge by termed-out Assemblywoman Nora Campos.
In a contest between two Democrats to fill Campos’ Assembly seat, San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra prevailed over Madison Nguyen, a former San Jose vice mayor.
On the Peninsula, in a tough race between two lawyers, Palo Alto City Councilman Marc Berman bested patent attorney Vicki Veenker.
And an East bay race that attracted a lot of attention — including a rare endorsement from President Obama — Republican Assemblywoman Catharine Baker managed to hang onto her seat, despite a Democratic push for former Pleasanton Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio.