What to look for on election night

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There will be a lot of waiting for very few results on one of the least sexy election nights in California history -- a Part II primary with no statewide races on the top of the ticket. So, as you sit around tonight waiting so see whether Supervisor John Flynn has won yet another term as Ventura County supervisor, or which of two Democrats will win the right to engage in a long-shot battle against Republican Congressman Elton Gallegly in November (oops, that's right, you have to watch first to see if Gallegly survives another Quixotic primary challenge tonight, too), here are some things to keep your eyes on:

1) Do local Democrats reward persistence? In the 37th Assembly District, Ferial Masry is seeking to become the party's candidate for the third straight time and in the 24th Congressional District Jill Martinez is seeking her second candidacy. Will the exposure they received from their previous attempts be enough to ward off first-time challengers David Hare and Mary Pallant, respectively? If Hare or Pallant or both win, it will mean they did an excellent job of organization and making grassroots voter contacts.

2) Will Oxnard and Port Hueneme play a significant role in picking their next state senator? Former Assemblywoman Fran Pavley is the favorite to win a high-profile Democratic primary for the 23rd Senate District, in part because so much of the district is part of the territory she represented in the Assembly. Her opponent, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, is strong and the San Fernando Valley and other parts of Los Angeles County. Ventura County voters account for about 15 percent of the district total. Watch to see if there's a significant difference between the results in the Ventura and Los Angeles portions of the district.

3) Who votes? Much has been made about the fact that Democrats this spring passed Republicans to retake the lead among registered voters in Ventura County. But registering is one thing; actually voting is another. Republicans typically vote much more predictably, especially in low-profile elections. The 19th Senate District, which covers more of the county than anything else on the ballot, will be the best test. Republican Tony Strickland and Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson are each uncontested in their respective primaries. It will be interesting to see which receives the highest number of votes, both districtwide and in Ventura County. It will say something about the real significance of that new Democratic plurality.

4. What's of interest elsewhere around the state? Folks in Ventura County will surely want to check out returns from the 4th Congressional District Republican primary, where their state senator Tom McClintock is running against former Congressman Doug Ose. It's been one of the nastiest, most contentious primaries in the state this spring.

You also might check out the 3rd state Senate District in San Francisco and Marin County. That's where incumbent Democrat Carole Migden faces an unusual primary challenge from Assemblyman Mark Leno and former Assemblyman Joe Nation. If one of the challengers wins, that could weaken the unwritten law against challenging an incumbent in the primary. And if Leno wins, it's likely he will have been aided by the state Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriages. Leno's chief distinction in the Legislature has been to twice author a bill -- twice vetoed -- to put same-sex marriages in the lawbook.

Republicans will want to watch the 37th state Senate District primary in Palm Springs. That one also pits a sitting assemblyman, John Benoit, against a former assemblyman, Russ Bogh. How it turns out could show the power of public safety unions in GOP primaries. Although Benoit is a former California Highway Patrol officer, Bogh has benefitted from heavy independent spending by law enforcement labor unions.

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95 percent accurate
Over the last 25 presidential elections, Ventura County voters have backed the winner 24 times, or over 95 percent of the time. It is one of only a handful of counties in the nation that has been such a predictable bellwether.
about Timm Herdt
Timm Herdt
The Ventura County Star's Sacramento Bureau Chief Timm Herdt on state issues and politics from Sacramento to Ventura County. He can be contacted at therdt@vcstar.com
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