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Key races in California Assembly, Senate remain tight

November 7, 2018
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In this undated campaign handout photo is Madera County Supervisor Rob Poythress who Is running for the 12th state Senate District seat in the Nov. 6 election. Poythress is running against Democratic Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, of Salinas.(Poythress for Senate 2018 campaign photo by Nathan J. Huebert Photography via AP)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Democrats’ total dominance of the state Legislature likely comes down to a single state Senate seat, where the two candidates remained locked in a tight race as votes rolled in Tuesday.

Republicans have held Senate District 12 for years but incumbent Anthony Cannella is termed-out of office.

Democrats were pinning their hopes on Assemblywoman Anna Caballero while Republicans fielded Madera County Supervisor Rob Poythress. Just a few thousands votes separated the two with more than 87,000 votes counted, with the lead switching back and forth.

Democrats need 27 seats for a two-thirds majority in the 40-member Senate and had 26 heading into the election. The party also worked to defend its supermajority in the Assembly, where Republicans led in key races. Contests in Bakersfield and Riverside County where Democrats are defending seats were also close Tuesday.

A supermajority would let Democrats raise taxes, suspend legislative rules or override vetoes without Republican votes.

That would be a benefit to Democrat Gavin Newsom, who won the governor’s race.

All 80 California state Assembly seats and half the Senate seats were up for election. But as a practical matter only a few could swing between the two major political parties as Democrats fan a backlash to President Donald Trump and Republicans rally opposition to last year’s gas and vehicle tax hikes that annually raise $5 billion to support transportation improvements.

Though Cannella held Senate District 12 for eight years, Democrats are at an 18-point advantage in voter registration in the district that includes all or parts of Fresno, Madera, Merced, Monterey, San Benito and Stanislaus counties.

Supporters of Caballero, a former Salinas mayor, had to regroup on Election Day after someone broke into her campaign headquarters in Merced and took cellphones and computers used to contact voters, along with 10,000 pieces of campaign literature that volunteers were to hang on doorknobs.

Campaign spokesman Bob Sanders says the thief left behind televisions and a microwave oven. He says campaign volunteers were delayed several hours but were still able to reach targeted voters.

Poythress condemned the break-in in a statement saying that campaigns should be run and won on the issues.

Caballero lost to Cannella in 2010 in the mostly rural farming district, and Republicans were emphasizing her support last year for higher gas and car fees.

Republicans were more confident of retaining challenged seats held by incumbent Sens. Andy Vidak in neighboring Senate District 14 and Janet Nguyen in the predominantly Orange County-based Senate District 34, despite Democrats hope for a backlash to President Donald Trump. Vidak and Nguyen were leading Tuesday.

Democrats were considered likely to retain their two-thirds supermajority in the 80-member Assembly, where they need 54 votes and have had 55. Republicans already gave up another vote when voters picked two Democrats to face off for the seat vacated by incumbent GOP Assemblyman Rocky Chavez.

Republicans were targeting Riverside County Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes and several other Democrats representing inland suburban commuter districts for supporting higher gas taxes.

The parties were fighting what Assembly Republicans political director George Andrews called a “money war” over Cervantes’ seat, as well as trying to capitalize on weak primary election support for Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas of Bakersfield.

Both were trailing slightly in early election returns.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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