Democrat wins a California Assembly seat, 2 races undecided

April 5, 2018

FILE - In this March 31, 2016, file photo, Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, center, is greeted by supporters as he walks to the Assembly in Sacramento, Calif. Los Angeles-area voters go to the polls Tuesday, April 3, 2018, in special elections to fill three open Assembly seats. Ridley-Thomas resigned citing health reasons. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Democrat Sydney Kamlager won a special election for a Los Angeles-area seat in the California Assembly, collecting well above the majority of votes needed to avoid a June runoff, according to preliminary results released Wednesday.

Thousands of ballots remained uncounted after Tuesday’s special elections involving three open Assembly seats in Southern California.

But Kamlager’s lead assures she will have more than half the vote when results are certified.

Runoffs are almost certain in the two other districts, with Democrats leading in both races and Republicans in second place.

The elections were held to replace three Democratic lawmakers who resigned last year.

The eventual winners will serve out the remainder of the current terms, which end in December. They will need to win again in the November general election to serve the next two-year term.

Kamlager, a community college district trustee, had 68 percent of the vote in preliminary returns. She will replace Sebastian Ridley-Thomas in the 54th District after the assemblyman resigned last year citing health problems.

In the other districts, Assemblymen Matt Dababneh and Raul Bocanegra stepped down after facing sexual harassment accusations.

Democrat Luz Rivas was in the lead with 41 percent of the vote to replace Bocanegra. She’s followed by Republican Ricardo Antonio Benitez, who was several hundred votes ahead of his nearest rival in early returns with thousands of ballots left to be counted. Four Democrats split the remainder of the vote.

Bocanegra resigned his seat in the 39th District after women accused him of unwanted groping and kissing. He has denied committing any crimes against the women.

His northeast San Fernando Valley district has lacked representation since November.

In the election to replace Dababneh, Democrat Jesse Gabriel led, followed by Republican Justin Clark. Nearly 7,000 votes were outstanding.

The southwest San Fernando Valley district has lacked representation in the Assembly since Jan. 1, when Dababneh resigned.

A lobbyist said Dababneh pushed her into a bathroom during a social event in Las Vegas and masturbated in front of her, which he denies.

Gabriel, an attorney, and Clark, a college student, are likely to advance to a runoff in the 45th District. Democrat Tricia Robbins Kasson, a Los Angeles City Council aide, was third in preliminary results, more than 2,000 votes behind Clark.

Less than 10 percent of the 800,000 registered voters in the three districts cast ballots, according to preliminary results. Fewer than 65,000 votes had been counted.

Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2-to-1 in each district.

Los Angeles County said turnout gauged from preliminary returns ranged from roughly 6 percent in the 39th District to roughly 9 percent in the 45th District.

Except for a sliver of the 45th District in Ventura County, where just 231 people voted, all three districts are in Los Angeles County.

The elections are estimated to cost $1.6 million, according to Los Angeles County.

Update hourly