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GOP close to ending Demo supermajority
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Republicans on Wednesday moved closer to preventing Democratic supermajorities in both chambers of the state Legislature as a few races remain too close to call.

The GOP successfully blocked Democrats from regaining two-thirds control of the state Senate and picked up 26 of the 27 seats needed to prevent that threshold in the Assembly. A supermajority was needed to give Democrats the power to raise taxes, pass emergency legislation and override gubernatorial vetoes without Republican support.

Republicans expressed confidence about blocking supermajorities in both houses, while Democratic leaders downplayed the significance of the threshold, saying they didn’t use the supermajority even when they had it.

Nevertheless, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said the election results represented a worst-case scenario of the various possibilities Democrats considered before Election Day.

“But I don’t think it weakens the Democratic Party.”

Republican candidates were holding slim leads in two critical races that could get the party to 28 Assembly seats.

GOP candidate Catharine Baker was leading Democrat Tim Sbranti in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area’s 16th Assembly District. Democratic incumbent Al Muratsuchi trailed Republican challenger David Hadley in the 66th Assembly District along coastal Los Angeles County.

Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, said voters issued a mandate Tuesday for Democrats and Republicans to work together. She said she expected GOP candidates to hold their leads even though an undetermined number of late absentee and provisional ballots remains to be counted statewide.

“The results last night showed California voters are really frustrated with the status quo,” Olsen said. “This is the beginning step to return balance to the Legislature.”

Republicans capitalized on Democrats’ recent corruption scandals and pounded vulnerable candidates with attack ads to prevent what they called one-party rule. They also benefited from low voter turnout, which has historically favored Republicans.

On Tuesday, the GOP wrested two Orange County seats and one more in Los Angeles County’s Antelope Valley from Democrats while defending their members in competitive races. In doing so, Republicans were able to secure 14 of the 40 Senate seats, preventing Democrats from reaching the 27 needed for supermajority status.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon said Democrats did a good job protecting most incumbents and that the party retains a strong majority in Legislature.

“Against all odds, it was still a successful night for Senate Democrats,” de Leon said Tuesday. “In some districts made less Democratic by redistricting, national trends and historically low turnout were too difficult to overcome.”

Democrats had hoped to recapture supermajorities in both legislative houses. Of the 120 legislative seats in the Assembly and Senate, 100 were up for grabs in Tuesday’s general election.

During the last session, Democrats in the Senate fell below supermajority after two termed-out lawmakers were indicted on federal bribery and corruption charges. A third, Sen. Rod Wright, resigned in September after he was sentenced to three months in jail for lying about where he lived when he ran for office.

“What it shows is that one-party rule is not the panacea,” Senate Republican spokesman Peter DeMarco said. “After a year of scandals and embarrassing headlines, voters in the Central Valley and in Orange County realize how grave the threat was to their way of life.”

Atkins said her job will not be much different without a two-thirds supermajority because Democrats have not really used the authority to pass legislation without Republican support. She pointed to bipartisan cooperation on a water bond and rainy day fund, both of which were approved by voters Tuesday.

Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen, a Republican, won 60 percent support in the 34th Senate District over former Assemblyman Jose Solorio. She becomes the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to the Legislature.

Residents had been bombarded with ads attacking both Nguyen and Solorio in the run-up to the election. The race attracted heavy outside spending from labor and business groups.

In the Central Valley, incumbent GOP Sen. Andy Vidak successfully fended off a challenge from Democratic candidate Luis Chavez.

Democrats in the 80-member Assembly started on stronger footing but saw several competitive seats flip in early returns. They currently hold 55 seats compared to 25 for Republicans. A supermajority requires 54 seats.

The GOP’s Young Kim took the 65th Assembly District seat in Orange County from Democratic incumbent Sharon Quirk-Silva with 56 percent of the vote. And Democratic freshman Steve Fox lost his 36th Assembly District seat in the Palmdale-Lancaster area to GOP opponent Tom Lackey, who led with 61 percent of the vote.

The majority party was on track to pick up a seat in coastal Ventura County that once was a solidly Republican district. Thousand Oaks City Councilwoman Jacqui Irwin, the Democratic candidate in the 44th Assembly District, led with 51 percent against Rob McCoy, a senior pastor at Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks.

Despite her name recognition, Sandra Fluke, who spoke in favor of requiring employer-provided health insurance to cover birth control as a Georgetown University law student, lost to fellow Democrat Ben Allen, an attorney and a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education. Fluke’s comment had drawn an insult from radio commentator Rush Limbaugh in 2012.

Allen won with 61 percent of the vote.