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GOP seeks inroads in solidly Democratic California

Posted: June 3, 2014 1:51 p.m.
Updated: June 3, 2014 1:51 p.m.

Mike Lee marks his ballot while voting in the California Primary, in Sacramento,Calif.

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Republicans hoping to loosen the Democratic Party's grip on California politics get an early test of their prospects when primary voters select nominees for eight statewide offices.

While Democratic incumbents are favored to advance to November's general election in five of the races, including governor, three others are wide open and will see new office holders this year. That is where the GOP has the best chance of breaking through.

Currently, all eight offices are held by Democrats.

Incumbents seeking re-election are Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

The three vacant offices are controller, secretary of state and treasurer. In the primary, the top two vote-getters advance to the fall election, even if they are from the same party.

Six candidates are running for controller, the state's chief fiscal officer, in Tuesday's primary. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, has polled well. If she wins one of the top two spots, her likely challenger would be one of two Democratic stalwarts who are termed out of their current offices — former Assembly Speaker John Perez of Los Angeles or Betty Yee, a member of the state Board of Equalization.

The current controller, John Chiang, is termed out and running for treasurer. He faces Republican and Green Party challengers.

The secretary of state is California's chief elections officer and oversees the campaign finance reporting system. Voters are choosing from a diverse field of eight candidates, among them two Democratic state senators, Alex Padilla of Los Angeles and Leland Yee of San Francisco. While Yee's name remains on the ballot, he ended his campaign after being arrested on federal corruption charges earlier this year.

Other big names in the race are USC lecturer Dan Schnur, an independent and former chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, Democrat Derek Cressman, formerly of the good-government group Common Cause, and Republican Pete Peterson, executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Participation and Civic Engagement at Pepperdine University. The GOP is betting Peterson will take one of the top two spots and give them a strong chance of winning the seat in November.

Although nonpartisan, the school superintendent's race pits two Democrats with different visions for public education. The incumbent, Torlakson, is backed by unions, while reformers back Marshall Tuck, a former charter school operator who wants changes to how teachers are evaluated and when they can be fired.

Because the race for schools chief is nonpartisan, a candidate can win the seat outright on Tuesday if they gain more than 50 percent of the vote.

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