Three special elections for the California Assembly in parts of Los Angeles on Tuesday produced good news for Democrats Sydney Kamlager, Luz Rivas and Jesse Gabriel.
Rivas, in the northeast San Fernando Valley, and Gabriel, in the west Valley, advanced to June 5 runoffs against Republican candidates in the races to replace a pair of Assembly members who resigned amid sexual-misconduct scandals.
Kamlager, in a district representing a portion of L.A., Culver City and Inglewood, was on her way to winning an outright majority and avoiding a runoff in the race to replace an assemblyman who quit because of health problems.
Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by wide margins in all three districts, giving Democrats high hopes of winning the runoffs against GOP candidates and holding onto the seats, restoring the partys supermajority in the Assembly.
Women were in position to win two of the three races in Californias first elections of the #MeToo era.
With all voting precincts reporting, well-funded, widely endorsed candidates led all three contests.
Gabriel, an attorney, had 32 percent, and Republican Justin Clark, a 19-year-old Cal State Northridge political science student, 27.1 percent in Assembly District 45. Democrat Tricia Robbins Kasson was third with 16 percent, Democrat Ankur Patel fourth with 10.1 percent, and independent Dennis Zine was fifth with 8.5 percent. Gabriel and Clark move on to a runoff.
The eventual winner will serve the remaining months of the term of Democrat Matt Dababneh, who resigned in December after multiple women accused him sexual misconduct.
Rivas, a non-profit founder, had 41.9 percent, while Republican Ricardo Benitez, who owns a contracting business, had 22 percent in Assembly District 39. Democrat Antonio Sanchez was third with 18.7 percent, Democrat Patty Lopez fourth with 9.9 percent.
The winner of the Rivas-Benitez runoff will replace Democrat Raul Bocanegra, who also resigned late in 2017 after being accused of sexual harassment.
Kamlager, president of the L.A. Community College Board of Trustees, was Tuesdays only outright winner. She had 68.9 percent of the votes to Democrat Tepring Piquados 14.4 percent and Republican Glen Ratcliffs 13 percent in Assembly District 54.
The seat was open because of the resignation of Sebastian Ridley-Thomas late last year.
In each election, the winner will serve the remaining months of a two-year term that ends Dec. 3.
The elections importance could go beyond the fact that the winners will represent districts with populations of about 465,000 each.
These were Californias first elections of a 2018 political season in which the states voters will choose statewide leaders and could help to determine whether Democrats will take control of Congress from Republicans
And they were Californias first elections since sexual-harassment allegations began to rattle the state capitol last fall after the scandal involving Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein drew attention to mistreatment of women by powerful men in many industries.
Analysts were watching Tuesdays returns for clues about trends that could affect later races, including hints about the strength of women candidates and the enthusiasm of Democratic voters.
In addition to Bocanegra and Dababneh, sexual misconduct allegations forced the resignation of state Sen. Tony Mendoza of Artesia, prompted an official reprimand for state Sen. Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys, and led to an unpaid leave pending completion of an investigation of Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens.
Calls for a change of culture in Sacramento are thought to be one reason that more women candidates than usual entered the three special elections, and women seemed likely to win at least one of the three seats, increasing womens share of the California Legislature from the current 22 percent.
The resignations have had another effect: The vacancies have at least temporarily dropped Democrats share of Assembly and Senate seats below the two-thirds supermajority that would allow the states dominant party to pass tax legislation and emergency laws without cooperation from Republicans.
Despite all that, voter turnout for the special elections was low, the ballots counted so far representing 8.2 percent of registered voters in the districts, according to L.A. County figures. Thats slightly below the average turnout percentage for stand-alone special elections in the county.
The three races shaped up quite differently.
In District 45, in the west Valley, eight candidates ran to replace Dababneh. Six were Democrats, with Gabriel and L.A. City Council aide Robbins Kasson seen as leading contenders. But Democrats worried that either Clark or Zine, a former L.A. councilman who withdrew from the race in February but remained on the ballot, could consolidate GOP voters support and advance to the runoff.
Gabriel, whose campaign was endorsed by the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley, emphasized his role in filing lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of young immigrant “Dreamers.” Robbins Kasson focused on local issues and telling voters about her role in efforts to revitalize business corridors in Canoga Park and Reseda.
Others on the ballot were Democrats Ray Bishop, Jeff Bornstein and Daniel Brin.
In District 39, in the northeast Valley, six candidates ran to replace Bocanegra. Five were Democrats, including Lopez, who represented the district in the Assembly from 2014 to 2016; Rivas, an MIT- and Harvard-trained engineer and educator who founded a Pacoima-based non-profit to promote science and technology education for girls; and Sanchez, a union workforce development director who lost a race for the Los Angeles Unified school board in 2013.
Benitez, the lone Republican, is making his third run for the state Legislature. Others on the ballot were Democrats Yolie Anguiano and Patrea Patrick.
In both San Fernando Valley races, candidates argued over who has the deepest roots in their communities.
In District 54, in parts of L.A. and the Westside four candidates sought to replace Ridley-Thomas, son of L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Kamlager an aide to state Sen. Holly Mitchell as well as president of the community college board. Piquado is a neuroscientist and a Rand Corporation policy analyst.
Ratcliff had lost to Ridley-Thomas in 2014 and 2016. Also on the ballot Tuesday was Democrat Grayson Pangilinan, a 23-year-old green energy entrepreneur.
- House Speaker Ryan wont run for re-election as GOP worries about midterms
- AP: EPA chief spent millions on security and travel, including to Disneyland, Rose Bowl
- U.S. takes aim at Putins allies in Russia with new sanctions
- Number of women running for U.S. House seats sets record
- In LA-area California Assembly elections, a huge moment for women and a teen candidate