Andy Vidak leads by about 5,000 votes with many provisional ballots still to be tallied. Democrats retain their legislative supermajorities.

Republicans likely retake key state Senate district

Published: Thursday, Jul. 25, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Thursday, Jul. 25, 2013 - 6:22 pm

Republicans apparently have retaken a key Central Valley state Senate district.

Kern County Supervisor and Democrat Leticia Perez conceded to her opponent, Republican farmer Andy Vidak, ending a costly and heavily contested race for the 16th Senate District seat.

"The voters have spoken and I want to congratulate Andy on his victory," Perez said in a statement. Perez trailed Vidak by about seven percentage points – more than 5,000 votes – late Wednesday, but the secretary of state's office estimated that thousands of provisional ballots remained to be counted.

"I look forward to doing the job the voters have elected me to do," Vidak said in a statement. "I will work to bring jobs to the Valley, to bring reliable and affordable clean water to our farms and communities, and to regaining local control of our schools."

The win frays the Democrats' two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate, reducing it to the minimum. The seat Vidak claimed opened up earlier this year when Democratic Sen. Michael Rubio unexpectedly resigned.

Vidak's victory represents a reversal for Democrats who entered this session trumpeting a supermajority that allows them to pass new taxes and put constitutional amendments on the ballot without a single Republican vote.

Democrats now control 27 Senate seats, the fewest they can hold while still retaining a two-thirds majority. They stand to regain a seat after a special election to fill an open seat former Democratic senator Curren Price recently vacated for a spot on the Los Angeles City Council.

But the 2014 elections, which will rely on a new set of district maps drawn by a citizens redistricting commission, could upend the absolute control Democrats now enjoy in both houses of the Legislature.

"This district will soon look much different in a higher-turnout, regularly scheduled election," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said in a statement Wednesday.

"In the meantime, we've built a strong, effective, productive supermajority, we will soon fill Curren Price's seat and we will continue the historic and remarkable progress we're making together for the people of California."

Underscoring the contest's importance was the amount of money poured into the race. The Vidak and Perez campaigns drew more than $3 million between the two of them, including more than $1 million from the California Democratic Party and well past $600,000 from the California Republican Party.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543. Follow him on Twitter @CapitolAlert.

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