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.

Scott Wiener narrowly beat out Jane Kim after a hard-fought contest that attracted a lot of outside spending.
Scott Wiener narrowly beat out Jane Kim after a hard-fought contest that attracted a lot of outside spending. (Michelle Gachet/KQED, Jane Kim/Flickr)

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 lawyersPalo 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.


Marisa Lagos

Marisa Lagos reports on state politics for KQED’s California Politics and Government Desk, which uses radio, television and online mediums to explore the latest news in California’s Capitol and dig deeper into political influence in the Golden State. Marisa also appears on a weekly podcast analyzing the week’s political news.

Before joining KQED, Marisa worked  at the San Francisco Examiner and Los Angeles Times, and, most recently, for nine years at the San Francisco Chronicle where she covered San Francisco City Hall and state politics, focusing on the California legislature, governor, budget and criminal justice. In 2011, she won a special award for extensive and excellent work in covering California justice issues from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and also helped lead the Chronicle's award-winning breaking news coverage of the 2010 San Bruno Pacific Gas & Electric explosion. She has also been awarded a number of fellowships from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

Marisa has a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She and lives in San Francisco with her two sons and husband. Email: Twitter @mlagos Facebook


Katie Orr

Katie Orr is a Sacramento-based reporter for KQED's Politics and Government  Desk, covering the state Capitol and a variety of issues including women in politics, voting and elections and legislation. Prior to joining KQED in 2016, Katie was state government reporter for Capital Public Radio in Sacramento. She's also worked for KPBS in San Diego, where she covered City Hall.

Katie received her masters degree in political science from San Diego State University and holds a Bachelors degree in broadcast journalism from Arizona State University.

In 2015 Katie won a national Clarion Award for a series of stories she did on women in California politics. She's been honored by the Society for Professional Journalists and, in 2013, was named by The Washington Post as one of the country's top state Capitol reporters.   She's also reported for the award-winning documentary series The View from Here and was part of the team that won  national PRNDI and  Gabriel Awards in 2015. She lives in Sacramento with her husband. Twitter: @1KatieOrr

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