By Dan Walters
Published: Friday, Jul. 26, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
There are still some votes to be counted, but it appears certain that Republican rancher Andy Vidak has captured a San Joaquin Valley state Senate seat, and in doing so placed the Democrats’ Senate supermajority in peril.
The resignation of Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio to become an oil company executive created the vacancy. Vidak edged Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez in the May primary and she conceded to him, but when all the votes had been counted, he had fallen just short of winning the seat outright.
The ensuing runoff campaign drew millions of dollars in direct and indirect campaign spending because everyone knew that the Democrats’ retention of the supermajority they won last year was potentially at stake. Two-thirds supermajorities allow Democrats, at least in theory, to pass tax increases and constitutional amendments without Republican support.
Democrats began the year with 29 Senate seats, but Rubio’s resignation and that of two other Democrats elected to Congress dropped it to 26, one short of a 27-seat supermajority. Both of those other two seats were quickly filled by other Democrats, but Rubio’s seat remained vacant, and still another Democratic senator resigned to become a Los Angeles city councilman.
Assuming that Vidak wins, therefore, Democrats still have 27 seats and the certainty that the Los Angeles district will elect another Democrat, raising their total to 28. But that’s where matters become dicey.
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