Voters in three empty Los Angeles-area Assembly districts finally head to the polls today — though it's unlikely any of those seats will be filled for another two months.
Following a string of resignations last fall, some of them tied to sexual harassment allegations that emerged with the rise of the #MeToo movement, the 39th, 45th and 54th Assembly districts have had no representation for more than three months.
Democrat Raul Bocanegra resigned in late November, after half a dozen women came forward with accusations that he groped them, tried to kiss them without permission or otherwise behaved inappropriately toward them while he was a Capitol staffer and lawmaker.
Less than two weeks later, Democrat Matt Dababneh announced he would step down, days after Sacramento lobbyist Pamela Lopezaccused him of pushing her into a bathroom stall at a Las Vegas hotel in 2016 and masturbating in front of her.
Shortly after Christmas, Democrat Sebastian Ridley-Thomas left the Legislature, citing "persistent health issues."
Gov. Jerry Brown called special elections to fill all three seats in conjunction with the June primary, so special primaries will be held today in the districts, which encompass the northern and western San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles.
A candidate could win outright with more than 50 percent of the vote, though that is unlikely, as each race has between four and eight names on the ballot. The top two will advance to the special runoff in June, where most of the same candidates are on the ballot again for the regular primary.
Women lawmakers at the Capitol, whose numbers have ebbed to their lowest level in more than two decades, see the special elections as an opportunity to reverse the trend. But candidates say sexual misconduct and female representation in politics have not been a major focus for voters or their campaigns.
Welcome to the AM Alert, your morning rundown on California policy and politics. To receive it regularly, please sign up for it here.
DISTRACTED DRIVING: A decade of trying to get California drivers to put down their cellphones — starting with the groundbreaking 2008 measure that prohibited drivers from talking on their phones without a hands-free device and culminating in a new law last year that forbids picking up a phone for any reason behind the wheel — appears to be working. A recent state study of driver habits found fewer than 4 percent were picking up and using their devices on the road. The California Highway Patrol and legislators will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the hands-free cellphone law, to kick off April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, 10 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol.
MUST READ: Assemblyman Travis Allen, a candidate for governor, wants to institutionalize the homeless.
WORTH REPEATING: "Tell him to knock it off." — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, on President Donald Trump's reversal on the DACA immigration issue.