Election 2016 preview: State Senate, Assembly and US CongressAround the City, Politically Aware Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Commentary: Politically Aware
Local races for the California legislature are often a snooze fest. Incumbents rarely lose, and the districts have a sufficient partisan lean that successors are anointed by the party or chosen in the primary.
Those trends appear likely to hold for incumbent Assemblymembers Marie Waldron (R-75), Brian Maienschein (R-77), Shirley Weber (D-79) and Lorena Gonzalez (D- 80). Councilmember Todd Gloria is poised to claim Speaker Toni Atkins’ (D-78) seat by the anointment route, but is working hard and taking no chances.
Assemblymember Rocky Chavez (R-76) is running for U.S. Senate, leaving an open seat. The race currently features two Republicans, Oceanside Councilmember Jerry Kern and businessman Phil Graham, but the right Democrat could have a chance. Republicans have a registration advantage, but there are enough Democrats and Decline to State voters to make it a contest.
The truly unusual race is for the 39th Senate District, where termed-out Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins is challenging incumbent Marty Block, a fellow Democrat. Some believe Block promised not to run for a second term, and so should make way for Atkins. Some think Atkins should stand down for Block, because any promises made were the unenforceable political kind. Some wish Atkins would run for mayor instead. The only things everyone seems to agree on is that this race that shouldn’t have happened, is going to happen, and is going to be expensive financially and politically.
Expect the race to be covered ad nauseam, because it provides an embarrassment of plot lines: Democrat vs. Democrat, incumbent vs. challenger, man vs. woman, lesbian vs straight, Assembly vs. Senate. Assuming Block and Atkins are the top two candidates in June; their face-off will run through to November.
(Note: State Senator Joel Anderson (R-38) is running for County Supervisor, but is not up for election and can retain his Senate seat if he loses.)
Representative Susan Davis (D-53), Juan Vargas (D-51) and Duncan D. Hunter (R- 50) should cruise to re-election. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-49) is also a favorite to retain his seat, but his challenger, retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate could make things interesting if the election turns on security issues or the Republican presidential candidate is a particularly poor fit for California.
As in 2012 and 2014, most of the action will be in the 52nd District, where Democratic Rep. Scott Peters is running for a third term. Republicans appeared united around Marine Veteran Jacquie Atkinson, but the recent entry of Denise Gitsham suggests some dissent in the GOP ranks. Progressive Democrats weren’t happy with Peters’ support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but it fits both his image as a business-minded Democrat and his swing district, which is split nearly evenly between Democrats, Republicans and Decline to State voters. Having beaten an incumbent in 2012 and a high profile challenger in the Republican wave of 2014, Peters’ toughest elections may be behind him. Unless Democrats implode nationally, Peters has a good chance to win with his largest margin yet and still be one of the closer races of the night.
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