Democrats’ congressional wins delay supermajority
By John Hrabe
On Tuesday night, Democrats shocked the Capitol by seizing two-thirds control of the state Assembly. With it comes the power to override the governor and raise taxes.
“Everyone was looking at the likelihood that the state Senate would reach the sought two-thirds majority for Democrats,” wrote Scott Lay, publisher of Around the Capitol. “But from the day the maps were finalized [in the state redistricting], it was speculated that it would take a few cycles for the lower house.”
A few contests remain close and could change with late absentee and provisional ballots. But, if the results remain as they currently stand, Democrats will hold 28 seats in the state Senate and 54 seats in the State Assembly. Democrats have the supermajority they’ve long-coveted.
Well, not quite.
As CalWatchDog.com predicted in June, two even-numbered Democratic state senators have gummed up the party’s plans for total domination by winning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. State Senators Gloria Negrete McLeod and Juan Vargas are both headed to Congress and will need to resign their state senate seats. The seats will remain vacant until filled by special elections. Consequently, the Democratic Senate caucus will be reduced by two members and consist of just 26 votes. That’s one short of the two-thirds threshold.
“The vacancies do not change the threshold for the two-thirds requirement, which is 27 seats in the Senate,” Bernadette McNulty, chief assistant secretary of the Senate, confirmed to CalWatchDog.com earlier this year. In other words, Democrats did too well on Tuesday. They won too many races.
Chain Reaction: Democratic Vacancies
Depending on how quickly the senators resign and when Gov. Jerry Brown calls a special election, it could take up to four months to fill the vacant seats and bring Senate Democrats back up to full strength. In 2011, it took approximately 16 weeks for then-Assemblyman Ted Gaines to fill a vacant state Senate seat.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. Next year could be filled with numerous special elections. In the process of filling Senate seats, there could be vacancies in the state Assembly. After all, the strongest contenders in an abbreviated campaign would be members of the state’s lower house, who have built-in name identification and a proven fundraising network. Every seat picked up by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, could be a direct loss for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles.
State Senate 40: Hueso Favorite to Replace Vargas
In the campaign to replace Vargas, the UT San Diego reported this summer that Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D- San Diego, was “the most common name bandied about for who might run.” At the time, Hueso coyly said, “I’ll be one of those people looking at it [after the election].”
According to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s profile of the district, “SD 40 is based on nesting AD 79 and AD 80 and consists of a two-county district stretching from all of Imperial County to lower San Diego County, along its shared international border with Mexico.” Hueso currently represents the 80th Assembly District. The 79th district will be represented by newly elected Assemblywoman Shirley Weber. It is unlikely that she would run for the Senate seat after just winning a seat in the lower house.
If Hueso moved up to the Senate, it would trigger another special election to fill his vacant Assembly seat. This time, Speaker Perez and Assembly Democrats would be temporarily down one vote for up to four months until the seat could be filled.
State Senate 32: Two New Members
Negrete McLeod’s replacement is less clear, in part, because her victory was more unexpected. She defeated fellow Democrat Rep. Joe Baca, who has held a seat in Congress since 1999. Baca was targeted by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC. The out-of-state super PAC spent more than $3.3 million in one of California’s new intra-party feuds. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The mayor spent more than four times as much as the two candidates spent combined.”
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission created the 32nd Senate district by nesting the 57th and 58th Assembly districts. Both seats will be filled by newly-elected members of the Assembly, Ian Charles Calderon and Cristina Garcia. Both have yet to serve a day in the lower house, which would make it difficult to immediately launch another campaign for the Senate.
The best positioned candidates might be the two losers from the primaries: former Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez in the 57th Assembly District and former Assemblyman Tom Calderon in the 58th Assembly District. Both men lost close primary elections in June, but retain financial and political support from their days in Sacramento.
Or, in another odd twist, Baca could decide to run for the seat being vacated by his replacement, Negrete McLeod. Before being elected to Congress, Baca represented the 32nd district in the state Senate, although the lines have changed twice since his time in Sacramento.
So what does all of this mean for taxpayers?
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, believes the Democrats’ supermajority will “create a dangerous, one-party rule” in California.
“They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Coupal told the Sacramento Bee. “I think we’re in significant danger of that in California.”
The danger might be real, but it will be delayed by the Democrats’ success. The party has been hoisted with its own petard.
May 21, 2013