In a race that he led from start to finish, Ted Lieu scored an overwhelming victory in a special election for the 28th state Senate District Feb. 15.

Lieu, a Democrat who formerly represented the coastal region in the 53rd Assembly District for three terms, easily outpaced his closest competition, Republican Robert Valentine of Manhattan Beach, with 27,982 votes to 12,296 respectively, in the primary. The former Torrance city councilman garnered 57 percent of the vote to win the seat, avoiding a general election.

The special election was held due to the death of state Sen. Jenny Oropeza Oct. 20. Oropeza remained on the Nov. 2 ballot and won her seat, and then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the special election in December for her seat.

Lieu paid homage to his late friend when he addressed a raucous crowd of supporters at a post election party in El Segundo.

“We’re here tonight because of my good friend, Jenny Oropeza,” he told the audience. “She was a great public servant and a great advocate on behalf of her constituents.”

In an interview after he addressed his supporters, Lieu expanded on Oropeza’s legacy.

“She was a courageous, compassionate senator who did great things for this district, such as increasing funding for light rail, the environment and health issues,” the state senator-elect told The Argonaut. “The residents of this district and throughout the state are in a better place because of her.”

Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Lieu Feb. 14, adding to the slew of lawmakers and organizations that lined up to support him shortly after he announced his candidacy in December.

The former assemblyman said his primary focus in the state Senate would be job creation, but he also plans to focus on environmental matters, as well as green technology and transportation.

Lieu will be officially sworn into office Friday, Feb.18.