With longtime state lawmaker Sen. Darrell Steinberg leaving the Legislature this year because of term limits, two Democratic assemblymen and a Republican pastor are vying to replace him.
The race is shaped by California’s “top-two” primary, a 2-year-old system that allows the top two vote-getters on June 3 – regardless of party affiliation – to advance to the general election on Nov. 4.
Democrats dominate the district, and the two Sacramento Democrats in the contest – Assemblymen Richard Pan and Roger Dickinson – have amassed six-figure war chests for a head-to-head battle that could last months.
Two Republicans are on the ballot, but only one is actively campaigning, and he has raised little money compared with his Democratic rivals. Pastor Jonathan Zachariou has reported just $6,150 in contributions. James Axelgard said he dropped out of the race after learning another Republican would run but decided too late to remove his name from the ballot.
Pan and Dickinson both joined the Assembly in 2010. In their current districts, Dickinson represents West Sacramento, Sacramento and its communities to the north – Rio Linda, Antelope and Elverta. Pan represents Sacramento’s south side, including Elk Grove, Clarksburg, Galt and Lodi.
Pan is working hard to boost his name recognition and establish himself as the outsider candidate challenging a longtime politician. He is highlighting his career as a doctor in every campaign ad.
Outside interest groups are turning out big to help Pan advance to the general election, pouring at least $479,000 into independent campaigns to benefit him. The money comes from labor unions representing health care workers, university professors, school employees and construction workers, as well as groups that represent doctors, dentists and real estate agents.
Dickinson, a longtime Sacramento officeholder, has done little advertising this season, indicating he expects his fight will be in November.
Sources: Bee research, U.S. Census 2010, California secretary of state