LOS ANGELES (AP) — California's top-two primary system delivered Election Day drama in a handful of state legislative contests, including for some former lawmakers who saw their comeback campaigns imperiled by Tuesday's low turnout.
Former Assemblywoman Betsy Butler was in the middle of the pack among seven Democrats running for the top two spots in Senate District 26 in western Los Angeles County. She trailed several candidates with results not yet final. They included Sandra Fluke, who gained national attention and an insult from radio commentator Rush Limbaugh in 2012 when, as a Georgetown University law student, she testified before Congress in favor of requiring employer-provided health insurance to cover birth control.
Fluke was running second behind fellow attorney Ben Allen, a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education.
Statewide, tens of thousands of vote-by-mail ballots delivered late and provisional ballots remain to be counted statewide.
Alameda and Santa Clara county voters seemed unwilling to forgive former Democratic Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi for shoplifting nearly $2,500 worth of clothing from Neiman Marcus in 2011. In preliminary returns, she was trailing both Democratic Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski and GOP candidate Peter Kuo, despite the low Republican registration in Senate District 10.
Meanwhile, Bonnie Garcia, who was termed out of the Assembly in 2008, was in danger of being knocked out of the November runoff election for a new Riverside County seat in Senate District 28. Fellow Republican Jeff Stone, a county supervisor, was slightly outpacing the others, including Garcia.
The state's new primary system means the top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the November election, no matter if they are from the same political party.
In addition to featuring several intraparty races, the general election contests also will determine whether Democrats maintain their two-thirds supermajorities in the Assembly and Senate. That allows them to raise taxes unilaterally, pass emergency legislation, put measures on the ballot and override gubernatorial vetoes if they choose.
Democratic Assemblyman Steve Fox, for example, was fighting to retain the Assembly District 36 seat he won by just 145 votes in Los Angeles County's Antelope Valley two years ago. Fox was in the No. 2 position in the five-way race, setting up a November fight with Republican Tom Lackey.
Meanwhile, organized labor flexed its muscles in Assembly District 16 in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
In something of a twist there, Democratically aligned interest groups were engaged in a traditional business vs. labor battle involving two Democrats. Unions organized against Steve Glazer, an Orinda city councilman and longtime adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, because he worked on a California Chamber of Commerce independent expenditure committee in two key Assembly races in 2012.
Republican Catherine Baker was headed to the November runoff, while Glazer trailed union activist and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti for the second position in the district, where Democrats have an 8-point voter registration edge.
Democrats have a supermajority in the 80-member Assembly, but they lost it in the 40-member Senate after three Democrats were suspended after facing serious legal charges.