Capitol Alert

Razor-thin margin separates California Democrats from supermajority

Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang leaves the chambers at the end of session on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015.
Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang leaves the chambers at the end of session on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015.

After months of campaigning and millions of dollars, fewer than 1,000 votes stand between California Democrats and an ironclad legislative supermajority.

A fiercely contested race for an open seat spanning parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties has narrowed considerably since Nov. 8, and Monday brought the first lead change.

On Monday morning, Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang was clinging to a 187-vote lead over Democrat Josh Newman in the expensive battle for the 29th Senate District. The margin was down drastically from Chang’s initial lead of a few thousand votes.

Monday evening, though, the latest update vaulted Newman over Chang. Late vote tallies pushed Newman 829 votes above his Republican rival. If he holds on, Senate Democrats will have a two-thirds majority.

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Already, Democrats control enough Assembly districts to give the party a two-thirds margin in the lower house. That allows them to pass new taxes or move measures to the ballot without Republican input, strengthening their position in negotiations over such issues as transportation infrastructure funding and cap-and-trade.

But bills need to get through both the Senate and the Assembly, so a super-majority doesn’t mean as much if it’s confined to one house. The clash over the 29th Senate District, the lone outstanding Senate race, will determine that balance.

Don’t count on an imminent resolution. As of the most recent statewide tally of unprocessed ballots, Los Angeles County had 761,963 to count, Orange County had 92,484, and San Bernardino County had 61,231. It’s unknown how many of those ballots are from voters in the 29th.

Newman narrowly leads in the district’s Los Angeles and Orange county precincts while Chang leads in the district’s San Bernardino County portion.

“We’ve just got to see what happens with the count,” said Chang campaign consultant Jim Nygren.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert