California’s New Legislature
A Quick Look at the Senate and Assembly Election Results
Local races, of course, decide the makeup of county governing boards and other offices.
The presidential contest and those for senate and congressional seats in this state and others can affect the federal programs counties provide as well as federal funding streams like PILT (payments in lieu of federal taxes) and block grants.
But because counties are so entwined with the state, more so here in California than anywhere else in the country, CSAC pays particular attention to state Senate and Assembly races.
This year’s elections were unusually interesting for two reasons. First, the top-two primary system combined with newly drawn districts promised a few big shakeups and a lot of unpredictable outcomes, especially in races in which two members of the same party squared off in November.
Second, and more importantly, legislators elected for the first time this year will be able to serve a full twelve years in one house. Because of that, many of this year’s fresh faces, for better or worse, will be our future elder statespersons that have become so rare since term limits were enacted two decades ago.
No members of the Senate will be unfamiliar, but between 35 and 37 Assembly members will be assigned office space in the Capitol for the first time.
The only races that do not appear certain as of this writing are:
- Salas (D) v. Rios ® in AD 32, where Rudy Salas leads by 268 votes.
- Norby ® v. Quirk-Silva (D) in AD 65, where Sharon Quirk-Silva leads by 1,237 votes. This one is likely decided, but the two candidates remain very close (Quirk-Silva has 50.57% of the vote reported so far).
- Butler v. Bloom, two Democrats facing off in AD 50, where Richard Bloom leads Betsy Butler by just 218 votes. (Ms. Butler is technically the incumbent, but she moved into a newly drawn district where 99 percent of the voters were new to her.)
So who are the new members? A few trends stand out.
Three new Assembly members will be leaving a county Board of Supervisors to take their seat on the Assembly floor: Brian Dahle from Lassen County, Frank Bigelow from Madera County (and former CSAC president), and Mark Stone from Santa Cruz County.
Two others, Phil Ting and Tom Daly, also hold elected county positions, Mr. Ting as San Francisco’s assessor-recorder and Mr. Daly as Orange County’s clerk-recorder.
Almost twenty new members currently or recently served as a city councilmember or mayor, from San Diego to Lancaster to South San Francisco. A half dozen others have served on a school or community college board at some point.
Attorneys are plentiful among the new class, as are political science degrees. A fair number of new members have worked for elected officials, from city council chiefs of staff to working for the Vice President of the United States. Several new members own businesses: general contractors, beehive renters, graphic designers, and more. A few are farmers or ranchers. One is a nuclear weapons expert with a Ph.D. in astrophysics.
Over the past decade, the web of finances and programs that binds the state and counties together has become complex. Educating all of these new members about the role counties play in issues as wide-ranging as criminal justice realignment, health care reform, transportation infrastructure, and the water system is a monumental task. But it is necessary if we are going to, together, find solutions that serve all Californians.
If you have a new member in your area, introduce yourself in the next couple weeks. Get to know the legislators that represent your neighborhood so when you call them next year about a bill, they know your intentions are good and your interests are those of the community your both represent. A little time now can go a long way later.