It could be a long night for those watching returns in the 19th Senate District, so here are some clues on things to keep an eye out for:
SANTA BARBARA -- In recent elections, Santa Barbara County has been among the first in the state to report complete returns. So the vote tallies here should provide the first strong clues as to how the race is going.
Democrats lead Republicans in this portion of the district by 13.4 percentage points. Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson has to run up the score in this county to hold off Republican Tony Strickland in the GOP-dominated Ventura and Los Angeles County portions of the district. Jackson needs to run better than the party registration advantage. That would mean she is getting the benefit of a Democratic voter turnout surge, and would also mean that she is winning a majority of independents, who make up 19 percent of the district's electorate in Santa Barbara County. If Jackson is winning in her home county by 15 percentage points or more, it will bode well for her.
Conversely, if Strickland trails by 13 points or less, that could be an early indicator of success for him.
VENTURA COUNTY -- Traditionally, what used to be called absentee votes (now called vote-by-mail ballots) in Ventura County have had a GOP tilt. The Republican voter registration edge in the Ventura County portion of the district is 5 percentage points. If history is to hold, Strickland needs a lead among mail-in voters of greater than that. These will be the first results released tonight, probably around 8:20 or 8:30. A Strickland lead of more than 7 points in that first batch would be good news for him.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY -- This is Strickland's secret weapon. Even though L.A. County voters account for only 7 percent of the district, Republicans hold an 11 percent voter registration edge here. If the combined effect of the Democratic edge in Santa Barbara County and the Republican edge in Ventura County is a wash, the L.A. County results could put Strickland over the top. Traditionally, L.A. County is among the last in the state to report complete results.