Ben Cannatti and Ford O'Connell

With the amount of money being spent on California’s marquee races for governor and senator this fall, it’s not surprising that the special election to be held on August 17 hasn’t garnered the same headlines as Whitman vs. Brown or Fiorina vs. Boxer. Yet, while Republicans are chomping at the bit to take on these big name Democrats, the battle in California’s 15th Senate district could be just as important to righting the future of the Golden State.

The 15th District seat became vacant after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger selected fellow Republican Abel Maldonado to be California’s Lieutenant Governor. If Democrats manage to capture this seat, they would have control of 26 state Senate seats – one seat shy of the legislative supermajority that would give them free rein to pass huge budgets and impose massive tax hikes on Californians. With the Assembly chamber almost as close to the supermajority tipping point and the Democrat’s strong resistance to structural change in California’s bloated budgets, any slide toward the supermajority line is cause for concern.

Although Democrats hold a six-point registration edge in this district, which runs from Santa Cruz and Santa Clara to Santa Barbara, Republican Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee was able turn out an impressive number of voters in the June 22nd special primary election, which pitted candidates from all parties in a single contest. Blakeslee bested the second place finisher, Democrat John Laird, by more than 11,000 votes (eight percentage points), but he narrowly missed the 50-percent mark required to win the race outright without a follow-on special election.

Blakeslee is well known to the southern portion of this Senate district, having represented the 33rd Assembly District since 2004 and winning with overwhelming margins in 2006 and 2008. During his time in office, Assemblyman Blakeslee has delivered meaningful achievements on issues of job creation, government reform, renewable energy, agriculture, conservation, health care, public safety, disabled rights, consumer protection, and seismic safety.

With Laird’s history, which the San Jose Mercury News describes as “an unabashed liberal who has supported raising certain taxes,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, (D-Sacramento) was forced to “defend Laird after fellow Democratic lawmakers had apparently grumbled privately over Laird's candidacy.”

“[Laird’s] so liberal,” said Kevin Spillane, a California Republican strategist working with Blakeslee. “A more moderate Democrat would have been a better fit for this district…What you're seeing in California is that Republicans are more motivated than Democrats. This is part of the environment nationally and in California.”

The rules for the August 17 election will give the victory to the top vote getter, without any 50-percent plus one requirement. Blakeslee is counting on pushing record numbers of his supporters to the polls once again, but he won’t have the advantage of catching the Democrats and their labor supporters napping on their get-out-the-vote effort this time around. Because the stakes are so high for everyone in California, the next round of this race is likely to be just as expensive as the June campaign -- according to the Sacramento Bee, “Before voters went to the polls in last month’s primary, more than $2 million had been poured into the race, either through campaigns or independent expenditures by interest groups.”

Republicans across the country should hope that conservative reason and fiscal sanity take the day on August 17. If Californians elect a state senator who wants to drive the Golden State to a better future, the rest of the country will be better off. The alternative is a nightmare that even Hollywood wouldn’t want to film.


Ben Cannatti and Ford O'Connell

Ben Cannatti is Political Director of the Republican State Leadership Committee. Ford O'Connell is the co-founder of ProjectVirginia.