It’s election season, and some local residents may be asking themselves if they know where their elected member of the state Assembly is, or who it will be in November.
Gone is the 41st Assembly District, which included a large part of Santa Monica. Residents in the largely progressive coastal city will now cast their ballots in the June 5 primary as constituents of the new 50th District, the product of the mandatory redistricting process that took place last year.
Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, nonprofit director Torie Osborn, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom and West Hollywood land use and environmental attorney Brad Torgan will be asking the residents of the new district for their vote in the Westside’s second primary since the state’s new “top two” law was enacted two years ago.
Proposition 14, the Top Two Primaries Act, became a part of the state’s constitution in June 2010. It essentially eliminates political party primaries as candidates run in a single primary open to all registered voters, with the top two vote-getters meeting in a runoff.
The district, which includes Santa Monica, Malibu and West Hollywood, skews highly Democratic with 53 percent of registered voters, 24 percent declined to state and 19 percent Republican.
All of the candidates are Democrats except Torgan.
The Republican challenger uses much of the same language that his counterparts around the state do when discussing his principal beliefs: limited government and fiscal restraint. But Torgan also says civil liberties are an important consideration as well.
“I’m under no illusion about the voter registration numbers,” Torgan acknowledged when the party registration numbers were pointed out to him. He is hoping that much of the Democratic vote will split among the three contenders and says he plans to court the declined-to-state voters as well.
Osborn is the director of California Calls, which describes itself on its website as “an independent alliance of groups and organizations all over our state that are committed to revitalizing the California dream.”
She is a former senior policy advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villariagosa on homelessness, poverty and economic development and the executive director of the Liberty Hill Foundation.
Osborn, who has lived in Santa Monica for 27 years, thinks her political and social philosophies are more in tune with the 50th than other candidates.
“I think what is significant about me is my long history of organizing,” she said. “I will be presenting my history, my track record, to the voters, which we think best matches the district’s aspirations.”
Butler moved into the newly drawn district after the state redistricting commission divided her former district into three new ones. She has represented the 53rd Assembly District – a largely coastal area that includes Venice, Mar Vista and Marina del Rey as well as the South Bay – for two years.
Assemblyman Steven Bradford, whose current district largely lies in the eastern and southeastern portion of Los Angeles, is considered to be the incumbent in the new 62nd District, which will include Venice and Mar Vista. The 66th Assembly District now includes the area south of Los Angeles International Airport and the South Bay.
Butler said she is running in the new district because as Osborn said, her views are compatible with voters of the 50th as they are with the 53rd.
“There are many things that resonate with voters in both districts,” she noted. “The items and priorities are very similar to voters in both the 53rd and the 50th districts.”
Allan Hoffenblum of the Target Book, a subscription service that tracks and analyzes all federal and state legislative races in California, said the demographics of the district do not favor Torgan.
“I think that a Democrat will eventually win that seat,” said Hoffenblum, a former GOP assemblyman who now runs a political consulting firm. “I think there’s a better than even chance that it will be Butler and Osborn.”
Osborn’s camp has been critical of Butler for referring to herself as the incumbent in the race and say that the assemblywoman is essentially a carpetbagger.
“I think that at best, it’s confusing to voters,” Osborn said, referring to Butler’s designation. “This is a new district, and by calling herself the incumbent, I think that goes to character.”
Butler said she already represents a small portion of the district and pointed out that she received endorsements from City Council members in Santa Monica as well as Malibu and West Hollywood when she ran for the Assembly in 2010.
“I find it funny that my opponent says that I’m a stranger to the new district,” the assemblywoman countered.
Hoffenblum, who lives in the 50th Assembly District, said the Secretary of State has been consistent on what constitutes an incumbent, even in a newly drawn district. “Butler is an incumbent member of the Legislature and therefore an incumbent of the new district,” he asserted.
Torgan said on the campaign trail he has heard voters talk mostly about taxes and education. “Philosophically, I think that I fit this district,” he said, echoing Butler and Osborn.
Unlike a number of Republicans across the state, Torgan has not signed a no-taxes pledge.
“While I look through the prism of limited government and fiscal restraint, I am not an absolutist,” he said. “There may be an emergency where a tax increase is required.”
Osborn feels that Santa Monica will be critical to the winners on June 5. “We are in a high-propensity voting area, and I think Santa Monicans will know that my track record matches the zeitgeist,” she said.
Butler said she is proud of her record in Sacramento and no one in the race has the legislative accomplishments that she has accumulated.
“I have been so privileged and honored to have represented the 53rd District, and the state and I would love to have the opportunity to continue to do so in the 50th District,” the assemblywoman said.
Bloom did not return calls for comment. On his campaign website, he takes credit for a number of initiatives in Santa Monica, including job creation.
“Under my leadership, Santa Monica – in stark contrast to our state – has earned a world-class reputation for excellence while maintaining fiscally prudent policies and creating thousands of jobs,” he wrote. “I am running for state Assembly to help restore the public’s confidence in Sacramento by offering progressive leadership, accessibility to my constituents and transparency in my decision making process.”
Hoffenblum thinks declined-to-state voters could be a critical voting bloc in the primary as well as in the general election. “This is the first time (since Prop. 14 was passed) to see how much they will be involved,” he said.
If no single candidate reaches 50 percent plus one on June 5, the runoff for the general election will be Nov. 6.