Capitol Alert

California lawmaker battles fellow Democrat in state Senate race

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose during session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento on Monday, March 11, 2013.
Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose during session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento on Monday, March 11, 2013.

For some California Democrats, the biggest election threat these days comes not from Republicans but from members of their own party.

When Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, announced in January he would not seek re-election – thus clearing the way for Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego – California Democrats breathed a sigh of relief at avoiding a costly and divisive internecine race.

They may have relaxed too soon.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, announced on Tuesday that she would challenge Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, for a spot in the upper house. While Campos is termed out at the end of this year, Beall has four years left in the Senate.

“Obviously there’s a disconnect” between Beall and voters, Campos said, adding that “we don’t have enough women at the table in making decisions on where California’s going to go.”

Campos will start with some name recognition, since her Assembly district overlaps the 15th Senate District. As of the 2010 census, about 43 percent of the people in Beall’s Senate district also lived in Campos’ Assembly district.

In a statement responding to Campos’s entry, Beall touted his endorsements from a roster of elected officials, from powerful interest groups like the Service Employees International Union and the California Teachers Association, and from the California Democratic Party.

“I am proud of my strong record of accomplishments in the state Senate, from guaranteeing long-term funding for the Cap & Trade program for projects like BART to San Jose to protecting foster care youth from being overprescribed psychotropic drugs,” Beall said in the statement.

It is not unusual for multiple Democrats to vie for open legislative seats. But a Democrat taking on an incumbent from her own party creates a different sort of political conundrum, pitting legislators against one another and threatening to divert party resources.

Defending incumbents is a key duty for legislative leaders. The challenge from Campos could force Senate Democrats to spend money on Beall that could otherwise be put toward picking up new seats.

“Jim Beall has been a great Senator for Silicon Valley who deserves to be re-elected,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement. “He has the full support of Senate Democrats but, more important, after nearly four decades of public service, I expect he’s earned the overwhelming support of his constituents.”

At the end of 2015, Beall had $219,000 in his re-election account.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert. Jim Miller of the Bee Capitol Bureau contributed reporting.