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Government & Politics

Supermajority Fight Shapes California Legislative Races

California's State Capitol Building
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics

The California governor’s race and statewide ballot measures may claim most of the spotlight this election season. But below the radar, a handful of pivotal legislative races could shift the balance of power at the state Capitol. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento on the battle for a Democratic supermajority.

On paper, Democrats have held two-thirds supermajorities in both chambers for the last two years. But given vacancies caused by turnover and legal troubles, they’ve rarely had functioning supermajorities. Republicans are fighting to pick up at least one Senate seat or two Assembly seats to block Democrats from raising taxes or passing constitutional amendments. That’s key to the GOP’s campaign message in competitive races. Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen is running for an open Senate seat:

Nguyen: “Regardless of what party affiliation you are, when differences of opinions are at the table, it’s when the best public policy comes out for all people. And this will determine where the direction of the state’s gonna be in the next decade.”

Nguyen points to bipartisan agreements between the legislature and Governor Jerry Brown this year on the water bond and rainy day fund.

Democrats, too, are making the supermajority a campaign issue. Fresno Unified School District board member Luis Chavez is challenging an incumbent Republican in a Central Valley Senate seat.

Chavez: “Being in the supermajority party up there will definitely benefit our communities. And what I feel we have is a golden opportunity for the Central Valley to be at the decision-making table.”

It looks like the battle for the Democratic supermajority will come down to those two Senate races and Assembly seats in Palmdale and Ventura and Orange Counties. Scott Lay handicaps California political races for the website aroundthecapitol.com.

Lay: “What we have to look at is individual races. And I would look less at how much money’s being spent and mail’s being delivered – because at this point voters are probably ignoring it – but really, who has the better turnout operation.”

Lay says the GOP has a pretty good shot at shedding its “superminority” status – especially in the Senate.

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