Democratic Assembly Members Compete for Non-Party Votes in Calif. SD-6

Author: Nancy Phung
Created: 21 August, 2014
Updated: 15 October, 2022
7 min read

Senate District 6 represents the entire city of Sacramento, and since redistricting in 2011, includes parts of Yolo County. Almost 50 percent of its constituents are registered with the Democrat Party. Added with the district's voting record, it should be no surprise that the area is considered a Democratic stronghold.

Republican candidates James Axelgard and Jonathan Zachariou fell short in the district's nonpartisan, top-two primary in June. Since 2002, the district has had a vote disbursement average of 63 percent to 31 percent, Democrats to Republicans. In the 2014 primary, the first in the district under "Top-Two," the two Republicans only garnered 15.9 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively.

The top-two primary was approved by a majority of voters under Proposition 14 in 2010. Under the new system, all voters and candidates, regardless of party affiliation, participate on a single ballot. The top two vote-getters then advance to the general election. In a district that heavily favors one party over another, like Senate District 6, this can result in same-party general elections.



Two Democrats, Assembly members Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan, emerged from the district's primary. Though they divided the Democratic vote, they took 40.3 percent and 31.1 percent of the vote, respectively. For the first time in the district's history, the votes of independents, Republicans, Greens, and Libertarians matter. Indeed, they may determine the outcome of the election if the two candidates continue to split the Democratic vote evenly.

In 1999, according to California’s secretary of state, 11.6 percent of registered voters in the district were registered No Party Preference. By 2014, that number almost doubled to just over 21 percent. If current trends continue, independent voters will soon make up a larger percentage of the district's electorate than Republicans, who currently make up 25.17 percent of voters.

This shift in the political landscape is not isolated to a single district, as independent voters already make up the second largest voting bloc in some electoral districts in California. It is a trend that is happening all over the state and is changing the way candidates view their constituents and state politics.

The red and blue maps depicted on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC during election time have become an outdated method of coverage -- coverage that should also look at elections in California, including the race between Dickinson and Pan, beyond partisan terms.

Both candidates are running on similar platforms, but they cannot rely on Democratic voters as they would have in the past. The field of candidates was narrowed from 6 to 2 and Democrats, Republicans, independents, and third-party voters will all have a chance to decide which of these two candidates will represent Senate District 6 in Sacramento.

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When asked how his campaign has reached out to voters outside his party, Pan responded:

“Since my election in 2010, I reached across party lines in the Assembly to bring people together and solve problems in the community. Our current outreach efforts include contacting constituents outside of the Democratic Party, including those with no party affiliation. With the support of nonpartisan voters, I can bring to the State Senate a perspective that combines people’s real-world concerns with science-based approaches to address the issues that we face together as Californians.”

Editor's note: The author of the article reached out to Dickinson's office for comment, but was unable to secure an interview.


Race Profile

1)            Roger Dickinson (Dem)                  46,125                   40.3%

2)            Richard Pan (Dem)                         35,716                   31.1%

3)            James Axelgard (GOP)                  18,460                   15.9%

4)            Jonathan Zachariou (GOP)            14,556                   12.7%

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California's 6th State Senate district is represented by Democrat Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, who is at term limits and will be stepping down. The 6th district covers the entire city of Sacramento as well as some surrounding places. It is known as one of the geographically bigger Senate districts in California.

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Roger Dickinson (Democrat): Member of the California State Assembly, District 7 (2010-present)


Dickinson ran for Assembly District 9 three unsuccessful times while he served as chair for the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, District 1, from 1994 until 2010. Dickinson left the board when he was elected to the legislature in Assembly District 7 in 2010.

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As a member on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, Dickinson played key roles on issues. In health care, he helped build a primary health care center for Sacramento County. In welfare reform, he helped create a home visitation program for at-risk families called Birth and Beyond. In economic development, Dickinson helped turn the McClellan Air Force Base into a successful economic center.

Before he became part of the Board of Supervisors, Dickinson's professional experience comprised of working as an attorney for the California Department of Consumer Affairs from 1977 to 1984.

Dickinson is currently a member of the Sacramento County Air Pollution Control Advisory Board and chair of the Sacramento Transportation Coalition. He formerly served as president for Friends of Light Rail and Sacramento's Lung Association. Dickinson was also on the board for the Sacramento Tree Foundation, as well as the Regional Transit.


  • BA, University of California, Berkley
  • JD, University of California, Los Angeles

Political Experience:

  • Assembly Member, California State Assembly District 7, 2010-present
  • Chair, Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, District 1, 1994-2010
  • Candidate, California State Assembly District 9, 2004

Professional Experience:

  • Attorney, Kemnitzer, Dickinson, Anderson & Barron, 1984-2002
  • Attorney, California Department of Consumer Affairs, 1977-1984

Current Committee Assignments:

  • Banking and Finance, Chair
  • Budget
  • Business, Professions, and Consumer Protection
  • Judiciary
  • Fairs, Allocation, and Classification
  • Sunset Review

Campaign Themes:

  • Jobs & Local Economy "We can rebuild our local economy by bringing in new high-tech, green and clean industries. Jobs from renewable energies and clean technologies are long term jobs that cannot be outsourced cheaply overseas."
  • Youth & Education "I will continue my work to invest in our youth, giving them the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century world."
  • Environment "It's more important than ever that we fight to protect our environment. I will continue to be a champion for clean air, clean water, and safe environments for generations to come."

Caucuses/Non-Legislative Committees:

  • Former Member, Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, California State Assembly
  • Former Member, Natural Resources Committee, California State Assembly
  • Member, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Commission


  • Member, Advisory Board, Sacramento County Air Pollution Control
  • Former Member, Board of Directors, Regional Transit
  • Former Chair, Board of Directors, Regional Transit
  • Former President, Friends of Light Rail
  • Former President, Sacramento's American Lung Association
  • Chair, Sacramento Transportation Coalition
  • Former Board Member, Sacramento Tree Foundation

Photo Source: Sacramento Bee

Richard Pan (Democrat): Pediatrician and Member of the California State Assembly, District 9 (2010 - Present)

Richard Pan

Assembly member Richard Pan of California State Assembly District 9 is a nationally-recognized university educator, medical scholar, and health proponent in the legislature.

While working in Sacramento, Pan continues to practice at The EFFORT Oak Park Community Clinic. EFFORT is a pediatric clinic that Pan established while he was a noted professor at UC Davis Children's Hospital.

Prior to being elected to the State Assembly in 2010, Pan also founded Communities and Health Professionals Together, formerly Communities and Physicians Together. Communities and Health Professional Together is a program that connects resident physicians with community associations to improve the access to and knowledge of community health problems. The program has since gained national recognition.

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Pan also worked with organizations like the United Way California Capitol Region, was a board member for BloodSource, and helped spearhead the Sacramento First 5 Commission. Pan is also a founding member of the Sacramento Health Improvement Project. The project is made up of a group of physicians, hospitals and clinics, and community members who work together to create a foundation for Sacramento County.

As a legislator in the ninth district, Pan is chair of the Health Committee, vice chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, and serves on the Agriculture, Emergency Management, and Revenue and Taxation committees. Pan also works on separate committees on Health, Aging & Long-Term Care, and Accountability and Administrative Review.

Pan has received many awards for his work in the community. These include the UC Davis Chancellor’s Award for Diversity and Community, the Medical Board of California Physician Humanitarian Award, the American Academy of Pediatrics Abraham Jacobi Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in pediatrics, the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society Medical Honor Award, the California School Nurses Organization Lydia Smiley Award, the United Way California Capitol Region Clarence La Rue Outstanding Volunteer Award, and the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Sacramento Hearts and Hands Award.


  • BS, Johns Hopkins University
  • MA, Public Health, Harvard University
  • MD, University of Pittsburgh

Political Experience:

  • Assembly Member, California State Assembly District 9, 2010-present

Current Legislative Committees:

  • Agriculture, Member
  • Appropriations, Member
  • Emergency Management, Member
  • Health, Chair
  • Revenue and Taxation, Member

Caucuses/Non-Legislative Committees:

  • Former Member, Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media Committee, California State Assembly
  • Former Member, Elections and Redistricting Committee, California State Assembly
  • Former Member, Rules Committee, California State Assembly
  • Former Board Member, Sacramento First 5 Commission
  • Former Member, Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, California State Assembly

Professional Experience:

  • Founder, Communities and Health Professionals Together
  • Co-Founder, Healthy Kids Healthy Future Program
  • Former Associate Professor, Pediatrics, University of California, Davis
  • Co-Founder, Sacramento Health Improvement Project
  • Physician, University of California Davis Children's Hospital


  • Board Member, Blood Source
  • Member, United Way California Capitol Region

 Photo source: Sacratomatoville Post


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