Despite Legislature's unpopularity, there's no shortage of candidates
With 100 seats up for grabs this year -- nearly a third of which lack incumbents seeking reelection -- 339 Californians are competing for office. For many, the most important vote will be in June.
Los Angeles activists Holly Mitchell and Reggie
Jones-Sawyer are among 339 Californians spending a small
fortune to compete in the June 8 primary election for the
state Legislature, even though it is despised by the public
and plagued by a budget mess that will require painful
California voters will go to the polls to fill 100 state
legislative seats, nearly a third of which will have no
incumbent on the ballot. A combination of term limits,
legislators seeking other offices and lawmaker fatigue has
set the stage for political fights up and down the
Those who have seized the opportunity include Mitchell and
Sawyer, who are among six Democrats competing for the
Assembly seat being vacated by former Speaker Karen Bass
(D-Los Angeles). She is termed out and running for
Mitchell has raised $269,600, and Sawyer's campaign has
brought in $143,300. Both say they know what they would be
getting into: a Legislature facing billions of dollars in
budget shortfalls and a meager 9% approval rating from
voters, as measured in March by the nonpartisan Public
Policy Institute of California.
"Sacramento is incredibly dysfunctional right now, so
things don't get done," said Sawyer, an asset manager for
Los Angeles. "We need to send people to Sacramento who can
get things done."
Mitchell, who heads the child development agency Crystal
Stairs, said that "it's going to be hard" for whoever wins
the election but that the Legislature needs advocates for
working families "now more than ever."
The race is one of 15 contested primary contests in Los
"For a lot of these seats, the real races are in the
primary," said Eric C. Bauman, chairman of the county
Democratic Party, noting that legislative districts were
drawn to give an advantage to one party. That means the
June election is likely to decide who will win many of the
seats in November.
"It's a tough year for incumbents, in general, of either
party because people are frustrated," said Assembly Speaker
John Perez (D-Los Angeles). "They are frustrated by what
they see as government that's not working in the right
Indeed, many candidates are waging anti-incumbent campaigns
to tap voter anger even where there is no incumbent on the
Bass and other legislators have endorsed Mitchell, a fact
seized on by Westside home builder Ed Nicoletti, a
Democratic contender in Bass' 47th Assembly District, which
stretches from South Los Angeles to Westwood.
"These are the same geniuses who got us into this mess,"
said Nicoletti, whose campaign website attributes
California's financial distress to state government's
"current mentality of borrow . . . and spend."
Other Democratic candidates are business consultant Lynette
Bigelow, counselor Rafael Garcia-Rangel and Robert Jones, a
chief arbitrator. The district's registered voters are 65%
Democratic, and none of the other parties have contested
Jones-Sawyer, secretary of the California Democratic Party,
has the endorsement of the powerful Service Employees
International Union California. Nicoletti says he will put
at least $50,000 of his own money into his campaign.
Nearby, eight Democrats are in what Bauman described as a
"very competitive" contest in the 53rd Assembly District.
It includes El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach,
Torrance and part of Los Angeles.
With incumbent Ted Lieu unable to run for reelection
because of term limits, a crowded field has emerged that
includes Betsy Butler, director of development for Consumer
Attorneys of California, and James Lau, who is on leave as
a director of the California League of Conservation Voters
The Democratic primary also includes Manhattan Beach Mayor
Mitch Ward, Los Angeles city prosecutor Nick Karno,
legislative aide Edgar Saenz, educator Diane M. Wallace and
lawyers Kate Anderson and Peter L. Thottam.
Butler leads in fundraising with $345,000, followed by
Anderson with $273,000, according to reports they filed
with the state. Karno and Lau are close behind, and each
has loaned his campaign at least $100,000.
Karno has the coveted endorsement of the influential Los
Angeles County Federation of Labor.
No other parties have primary contests.
The GOP has a nine-point edge in voter registration in the
Inland Empire's 59th Assembly District. There, Republican
incumbent Anthony Adams of Hesperia decided not to run for
reelection after dodging a failed recall attempt by
residents angry that he voted to raise taxes.
The six Republicans inthe primary are Claremont City
Councilman Corey Calaycay, former Covina Councilman Chris
Lancaster,Hesperia school board member Anthony Riley, Lake
Arrowhead businessman Ken Hunter, Apple Valley lawyer Iver
Bye and businessman Tim Donnelly, former state leader of
the Minutemen anti-illegal immigration group.
"Typically you have a lot of new faces showing up where
voter registration numbers indicate the winner of the
primary is likely to be the winner of the general
election," said Ron Nehring, chairman of the California
Two libertarians, one Democrat and one American Independent
Party candidate are also on the ballot.
Republican Assemblyman Bill Emmerson of Redlands is termed
out in the 63rd district, which has drawn a crowd of seven
GOP candidates. They are Rancho Cucamonga Mayor Donald
Kurth, business owner Michael Morrell, Fontana City
Councilwoman Acquanetta Warren, Redlands City Councilwoman
Pat Gilbreath, Reserve Sheriff's Deputy Paul Chabot,
financial analyst Henry Nickel and teacher Jacqueline
In Orange County, Republican incumbent Chuck DeVore of
Irvine is termed out of his 70th Assembly district seat,
and GOP contenders include Tustin City Councilman Jerry
Amante, Irvine City Councilman Steven Choi, college trustee
Don Wagner and businessman Jay Ferguson.
Lawyers Melissa Fox and Mike Glover are competing on the
In the 50th Assembly District, incumbent Hector De La Torre
of Los Angeles is term limited out, and the Democratic
contenders include legislative aide Ricardo Lara, South
Gate City Clerk Carmen Avalos, Downey City Councilman Luis
H. Marquez and engineer Art Olivier. The Republican primary
candidates are P.J. Mellana, a recreation supervisor, and
insurance analyst Gladys O. Miller.
The 57th Assembly District is also an open seat, with
Democratic incumbent Ed Hernandez leaving to run for state
Senate. The Democratic primary includes West Covina City
Councilman Roger Hernandez and water district director
Alfonso C. Contreras.
See the article on Los Angeles Times website