Dynasties, infighting mark California legislative battles

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DON THOMPSON
Associated Press
SACRAMENTO AP) — California voters are picking through 101 legislative contests Tuesday, from a battle between two Democratic dynasties to nasty infighting among outnumbered Republicans.
The top two vote-getters will move on to the November general election, regardless of party affiliation.
The exception is the 28th Senate District special election in Riverside County, where Jeff Stone resigned in the middle of his term to take a Trump administration post. Three Democrats and two Republicans, including GOP Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, are running to replace him. The top two will square off May 12, unless one candidate wins more than half the vote.
Among the compelling storylines in this year’s elections:

BATTLE OF THE DYNASTIES
Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon’s retirement at first seemed to end a family tradition at times scarred by scandal.
He succeeded his father, Charles Calderon, to represent the 57th Assembly District in southeast Los Angeles County. His two uncles also served, Ron Calderon in the Senate and Tom Calderon in the Assembly, but both uncles were convicted on public corruption charges in 2016.
Now Calderon’s stepmother, Lisa Calderon, is running to retain the family’s hold on the Democratic seat.
Her opponents include Sylvia Rubio, whose sisters are Democratic state Sen. Susan Rubio and Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio.
The campaign became a business-versus-labor contest in contributions and nearly $3 million in independent expenditures, the most of any race so far this year.
Business organizations were backing Sylvia Rubio, whose candidacy was tarnished in January when public documents showed the former Republican misrepresented herself as a longtime Democrat on her official candidacy declaration.
Labor’s support and Rubio’s difficulties in a field of eight Democratic candidates make it likely that Calderon will square off in November against lone Republican Jessica Martinez, said Rob Pyers, research director at the nonpartisan California Target Book that tracks legislative races.

REPUBLICAN TRUMP DEFECTORS
Former Assembly GOP leader Chad Mayes may find himself the odd man out while running as an independent in the 42nd Assembly District in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Mayes, a critic of President Donald Trump and founder of the moderate New Way California organization, has outraised and outspent his GOP rival, San Jacinto Mayor Andrew Kotyuk.
Yet Democratic voters are likely to stick with their candidate, DeniAntionette Mazingo, while “Republicans are understandably irate,” Pyers said.
Former GOP Assemblyman Brian Maienschein is at least guaranteed a spot on the November ballot against his lone opponent. Maienschein’s switch to the Democratic Party in the San Diego-area’s 77th Assembly District gave Democrats 61 votes in the 80-member Assembly. Democrats hold 29 of the 40 Senate seats.
“If anything, Republicans seem to be in danger of losing even more seats,” Pyers said.

REPUBLICAN INFIGHTING
Even as Republicans fight to maintain their dwindling legislative presence, a nasty fight within the party is playing out in the 72nd Assembly District in northern coastal Orange County.
Tyler Diep faces a challenge from former state Sen. Janet Nguyen, the latest round in a long-running power struggle within the district’s strong Vietnamese community.
Diep angered Republicans by being the only GOP vote for a broad new California labor law giving wage and benefit protections to independent contractors. He’s still endorsed by the state GOP, but the Orange County party rescinded its endorsement.
“It goes to one of the great dilemmas of political parties, how much do you sacrifice your core values to win?” said Fred Smoller, a political science professor at nearby Chapman University.
Lyft, the ride-hailing company that is a major target and foe of the new labor law, spent more than $300,000 against Diep.
That leaves organized labor supporting him. With two Democrats also in the race, only one from each political party may survive until November, though Smoller thinks voters may set up a Republican face-off.
“To waste time and energy on a seat that an incumbent narrowly won — when everyone else lost — just seems like a waste,” said Matt Fleming, a former California Republican Party spokesman who now is an editorial board member for the Southern California News Group.