SACRAMENTO (AP) — With the balance of power in the California Assembly at stake, both political parties were watching just two tight legislative contests that will determine if Democrats win uncontested power to raise taxes without Republican votes.
The state Assembly appeared poised to gain a two-thirds majority for Democrats, which would give the state's majority party complete dominance from the governor on down, including the ability to raise taxes unilaterally. Democrats already won a Senate supermajority in Tuesday's election.
However, Republicans held out hope that Assemblyman Chris Norby might keep his seat in north-central Orange County's 65th Assembly District. Norby trailed Democratic challenger Sharon Quirk-Silva by more than 1,200 votes with more than 22,000 ballots left to count, though the tally was moving in Democrats' favor.
The GOP says Republican Pedro Rios also could prevail in the Central Valley's 32nd Assembly District. He trailed Democrat Rudy Salas by fewer than 300 votes with about 7,000 still to be counted in Kern County.
"It's not inconceivable he could make it up. I think it's definitely in play," said Chris Wysocki, a consultant for Assembly Republicans.
Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said he is confident Democrats will win both seats. That would give them 54 seats, a bare two-thirds majority in the 80-member Assembly.
But Nancy Moran, a clerk in the Kern County recorder's office, said the unofficial vote tally in her county won't be released until next week.
"We should have a number by Monday," she said. "We're still going to count all weekend."
If Democrats win two-thirds majorities in both chambers, it would be the first time since 1933 that one party held simultaneous supermajorities. It was Republicans who held sway 80 years ago; Democrats haven't had simultaneous supermajorities since 1883.
Meanwhile, one race remained too close to call in the state Senate.
Termed-out Democratic Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani narrowly trailed Republican Assemblyman Bill Berryhill in the Central Valley's 5th Senate District, with tens of thousands of ballots still to count.
Even if she loses, Democrats will hold 28 seats, one more than the 27 they need in the 40-member Senate to approve tax increases, pass emergency legislation, override governors' vetoes and change house rules while ignoring Republicans.
"This could really break either way on that race," said Rhys Williams, a spokesman for Senate President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. "It's going to be a very, very close finish."
San Joaquin County isn't set to release its unofficial tally until Nov. 15, and the wait could be three weeks in Sacramento County, he said.
"This isn't going to budge for a while," Williams said.
Also on Thursday, legislative leaders in three of the four legislative caucuses re-nominated their leaders for new two-year terms. Besides Perez and Steinberg, Assemblywoman Connie Conway, R-Tulare, was re-nominated to be minority leader.
Senate Republicans will meet in December to consider keeping Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, as their minority leader.
New legislators will be sworn in at the state Capitol on Dec. 3.