Richard Pan wins California Senate seat, defeating Roger Dickinson

Richard Pan greets supporters at his election night party Tuesday on L St. in Sacramento. Pan is running against Roger Dickinson for the 6th District Senate seat.
Richard Pan greets supporters at his election night party Tuesday on L St. in Sacramento. Pan is running against Roger Dickinson for the 6th District Senate seat. Special to The Bee

In the hotly contested Democrat-on-Democrat fight to replace Sen. Darrell Steinberg in the state Senate, Assemblyman Richard Pan defeated Assemblyman Roger Dickinson Tuesday night.

Pan had 53 percent to Dickinson’s 47 percent, with all Sacramento precincts reporting.

“This really was a campaign where we had people from different perspectives who wanted someone to solve problems in our state, not focus on ideology,” Pan said.

The race for California’s 6th Senate District was the most expensive same-party legislative contest in the state, attracting more than $4.6 million in spending by outside groups – nearly all of it to benefit Pan – that flooded Sacramento mailboxes and airwaves with political ads.

Pan, a pediatrician, drew financial support from a wide range of wealthy interests, including doctors, dentists, insurers, labor unions, real estate interests, pharmaceutical companies and the oil industry. Dickinson, a lawyer and former county supervisor, benefited from spending by optometrists, trial lawyers and environmental groups.

Throughout the campaign, the candidates worked to distinguish themselves from one another despite a similar voting record in the Assembly. During the last legislative session, Pan and Dickinson made the same call on more than 97 percent of the floor votes they cast.

But different approaches to gambling, health care and the environment emerged in the few votes where they were opposed. Dickinson voted in favor of three tribal gambling compacts that Pan abstained from voting on due to his concerns about the potential harms of gambling. When the two diverged on environmental debates, Dickinson generally took the position held by environmental advocates while Pan took the stance supported by major industries, including oil, logging and retail. On health care disagreements, Pan generally sided with physicians while Dickinson generally opposed their stance.

Campaign ads largely ignored the differences, instead touting Dickinson’s experience in local government and support from high-ranking Democratic politicians, or Pan’s law enforcement endorsements and work to bring more federal funding to local firehouses.

Negative ads hit Dickinson for several critical grand jury reports during his tenure on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, including one about a library billing scandal and others about serious problems at the Child Protective Services. Groups supporting Dickinson blasted Pan for fudging his address so that he could run for an Assembly seat on the south side of Sacramento while living with his wife and family on the north side, in Natomas.

The issue was especially salient because a state senator from the Los Angeles area was sent to jail this year for lying about where he lived when he ran for office in 2008. But prosecutors never accused Pan of breaking California’s political residency laws, and Sacramento District Attorney Jan Scully endorsed him in the race against Dickinson.

Their Democrat-on-Democrat contest came as Steinberg stepped down due to term limits. After representing the Sacramento region in the state Legislature for 14 years, including the last six as Senate leader, Steinberg plans next month to join the Greenberg Traurig law and lobbying firm as an attorney heading its California government law and policy unit.

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.

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