Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
January 3, 2016 4:01 PM

  • Democrats lost legislative supermajorities in 2014
  • Party hopes to recover lost seats in 2016
  • However, moderate bloc is more important factor

Democrats won supermajorities – more than two-thirds of the seats – in both houses of the Legislature in 2012.

Democrats lost those supermajorities two years later as Republicans gained a few seats.

Democrats will try to restore their legislative supermajorities in 2016, buoyed by the prospect of a higher voter turnout in a presidential election.

However, even if they succeed, which is no better than a 50-50 bet, it won’t make much practical difference.

Although we pundits consumed much ink and airtime speculating about what Democrats would do if they achieved supermajority status in 2012, in fact it meant very little.

In theory, they could have raised taxes and placed constitutional amendments on the ballot, but their leaders were reluctant to do either.

Meanwhile, business interests were busily electing pro-business moderate Democrats, which turned out to be a much more important factor in what happened, or didn’t happen, on legislation, particularly in 2015.

The moderate bloc stymied the legislative agendas of liberal groups that business opposed.

The announcement that Henry Perea, a moderate Democratic assemblyman from Fresno, would resign rather than finish his last term will be an early test of his party’s chances of making gains in 2016.

It appears that Gov. Jerry Brown will call a special primary election in April, followed by a runoff in June, coincident with the regular primary election.

Joaquin Arambula, the son of Perea’s predecessor, Juan Arambula, has been gearing up to reclaim the seat, but the resignation means he’ll have to run simultaneously in the special elections and general elections and that could be a big problem.

To read expanded column, click here.