Warren Furutani Wins Special Assembly Election
The defeat means that Assembly Speaker Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem and Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman, and 31 other legislators from both parties, will be forced out of the Legislature by November 30, 2008 – and a major change in the leadership of both houses coming that is likely to come much earlier than that.
In past years in the Assembly, that change usually has occurred in mid-spring, with a likely battle for the speakership between Assemblymember Kevin De Leon (Democrat – Los Angeles) and Assemblymember Karen Bass (Democrat – Los Angeles)
In the State Senate, Sen. Darrell Steinberg (Democrat – Sacramento) and Sen. Alex Padilla (Democrat – Los Angeles) are likely contenders to succeed Perata – though the State Senate in past years has made its leadership change later in the session.
The defeat of Proposition 93 also means that several former legislators, who were termed out of the Senate or Assembly but had time left to serve in the other house, can continue their campaigns for the June 2008 state primary. This includes former Sen. Wes Chesbro who is seeking to replace Assemblymember Patty Berg (Democrat – Eureka), who, with the defeat of Proposition 93, will be termed out by the end of 2008.
Impact to People with Disabilities, Seniors, and Mental Health Needs
In both cases the impact of the coming change in legislative leaders will have dramatic impact on major decisions on the state budget and legislation that has impact on people with disabilities, mental health needs, seniors, their families and community organizations and workers that provide services and supports.
Even if the present Democratic leaders remain in office until the end of the legislative session – they will wield far less power, influence and authority over their members.
Policy-wise the likely potential successors to Nunez and Perata are similar and no major shifts in over-all policy are expected. All four potential leaders have been strong supporters of services and programs for people with disabilities, seniors and mental health needs – with Steinberg in particular having a record as leader in the Legislature especially on mental health and autism issues.
However what is likely to change is how the new leaders will end up making specific decisions on the Governor’s proposed budget, and also policy decisions impacting legislation.
The make-up of some or all of committee chairs and membership could change this year – though major shifts don’t appear likely unless there the battle for the leadership position in either house becomes bitter or close.
Second Time a Charm: Warren Furutani Wins Special Election for 55th Assembly Seat
Meanwhile, Democrat Warren Furutani, as expected, easily won the run-off to win the vacant Assembly 55th District seat, winning 70% of the vote (see below for details of the election results).
No Republican ran in the primary in December or the run-off for the seat that was vacated last August 21, 2007 by Laura Richardson, who resigned the office after winning a special election to Congress. Furutani will take office as soon as the election results are made official, though will have to stand for election for a full two year term in the June 2008 primary and the November 2008 general election.
Furutani, an Asian American and member of the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees and a staffer in the Assembly Speaker’s office in Los Angeles, previously ran unsuccessfully for the seat against Laura Richardson in a bitter and close June 2006 primary.
Richardson later won the November 2006 general election, but ended up serving in the Assembly barely 8 months before running for 37th Congressional seat made vacant by the death of Juanita Millender-McDonald in June 2007.
Richardson, continuing the bitterness of the June 2006 primary, ended up endorsing another candidate – Mike Gipson, a local city councilmember, to succeed her in the December 2007 primary. Furutani won that primary in December with 48.81% of the vote, but needed to win a majority of the vote to avoid a run-off.
Furutani’s election doesn’t change the control of the Assembly, but does bring the Assembly membership back up to its full 80 members, with Democrats holding 48 seats and Republicans holding 32. (Democrats control the 40 member State Senate with 25 seats to the Republican’s 15).
The California Disability Community Action Network, is a non-partisan link to thousands of Californians with developmental and other disabilities, people with traumatic brain injuries, the Blind, the Deaf, their families, community organizations and providers, direct care, homecare and other workers, and other advocates to provide information on state (and eventually federal), local public policy issues.