Politics & Government

Assembly Democrats narrowly reclaim two-thirds margin after special election win

Democrat Matt Dababneh has narrowly won a Los Angeles-area special election, reinstating a supermajority for Assembly Democrats.

Neither Dababneh nor Republican Susan Shelley had been able to claim victory in the closer-than-expected race to fill the 45th Assembly District seat former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield gave up for a spot on the Los Angeles City Council. After polls closed on Tuesday, early tallies gave Dababneh, a top aide to Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, a 173-vote lead over Shelley.

But on Friday, the California secretary of State’s office said the lead had grown to 329 votes, leaving Dababneh on top 14,984 to 14,655. There are no ballots left to count in Los Angeles County, according to Elizabeth Knox, a spokeswoman for the county. Less than 12 percent of the district’s registered voters cast ballots.

Reached by phone, Dababneh pronounced himself “relieved and humbled” and said his priorities will include education and joining efforts to streamline the California Environmental Quality Act.

“I can’t tell you I thought it would be this close, but I definitely thought this was going to be a close race,” Dababneh said. “It’s somewhat unfortunate that we had such low turnout in these elections, and when you have 10 percent, 11 percent turnout anything can happen,” he continued, adding that Shelley “ran on real issues.”

Dababneh’s victory once again gives Democrats control over two-thirds of the seats in the Assembly, enabling them to pass taxes or put constitutional amendments before voters without Republican assent. In a prepared statement, Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, sounded a tone of moderation.

“Although Democrats once again enjoy a two-third majority in the Assembly, we will continue to work on bipartisan solutions to the challenges facing our state,” Pérez said. “Creating jobs, keeping our budget balanced, and improving the way state government works will continue to be our priorities, just as they have during the times we did not enjoy the two-thirds supermajority during the past year.”

Shelley emphasized the repercussions of a renewed Democratic supermajority in her campaign. She performed far better than most election watchers expected given an overwhelming Democratic voter registration advantage in the district and a money mismatch, with Dababneh pulling in nearly 10 times as many campaign dollars.

Democrats appear certain to pick up another seat after a special election to fill a vacant 54th Assembly District in Los Angeles. No Republicans have entered that race.