With just over two weeks until the California primary, statewide campaigns for Senate, Assembly and Congress are accelerating at full speed, preparing for what will likely be a very close election.
Of particular interest is Senate District 27, a seat currently held by Republican Tony Strickland. Strickland, however, has decided not to run in the district and has instead opted for a run in the incumbent-free Congressional District 26.
This leaves the race open to Democrat Fran Pavley and Republican Todd Zink, who are the sole competitors in the district.
Known for her environmental work, Pavley has served three terms in the State Assembly and in 2008 was elected Senator of California’s 23rd district, encompassing parts of Los Angeles and Ventura County. Zink, on the other hand, is a former Marine with a background in public service and safety. The first line on his campaign website reads “Sacramento is broken, and it needs to be fixed,” a message resonating deeply with voters tired of partisan politics.
Because this seat is currently held by a Republican, it would be a big win for Democrats, who are tirelessly fighting for the 27 member seats they need to maintain a majority. Reversely, it would produce a net loss for Republicans, forcing the party to snatch a Senate seat from a Democratic district elsewhere.
Amid talk of a possible run in the district, former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg described the district:
“It’s a moderate district. It’s a district with a lot of small business that are interested in the jobs and the economy.”
So while there are only two candidates vying for this seat, both of which will surely advance to November, the role of independent voters makes this race interesting. In order to beat Pavley in the general election, Zink will have to win the majority of Decline to State votes in November, a strategy he must start now. If he doesn’t begin to attract the DTS vote now, he will not have the resources to target them in November.
For Zink, money will be an obstacle. Pavley, as the incumbent, has a big advantage in fundraising, with almost $694,931 on hand (reports Around the Capitol).
Voter registration presents another obstacle for Southern California Republican, with roughly 35% of the district registered Republican. In comparison, 41% of voters have registered as Democrats and 20% are without a party affiliation. This 6 point lead by Democrats makes the “No Party Preference” voters absolutely crucial for Republicans if they want to hang on to this seat.
The pressure mounted on the Democratic Party to reach the magic number 27 will lead to a fierce battle for the independent vote, one that will force both candidates to step outside their party affiliation in order to appeal to the independent voice.