SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Republican Beth Gaines easily won a special election Tuesday to fill the Northern California state Assembly seat vacated when her husband left to take a state Senate seat in January.
She captured slightly more than 55 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, while her opponent, Democrat Dennis Campanale, had just less than 45 percent.
Gaines was favored in the heavily Republican 4th Assembly District, which stretches from north of Sacramento to Lake Tahoe. Republicans account for 45 percent of the district’s voters, compared to 31 percent for Democrats and 19 percent who decline to state a party preference.
“At the end of the day, the people of the 4th Assembly District are concerned about government over-regulation of business, the potential to increase taxes and the fact that businesses are leaving the state,” said Gaines’ campaign manager, Andre Levesque. “That’s always been the campaign message, and I think that’s resonating with voters.”
Neither Campanale nor his campaign manager immediately returned telephone messages late Tuesday.
Gaines’ victory retains the partisan balance in the Assembly. Democrats will hold a 52-28 majority when she is sworn in.
A first-time candidate who works with her family’s insurance business, Gaines spent more than $260,000 on her primary and general election campaigns. Outside groups, including an Indian tribe and Republican political action committees, independently spent more than $104,000 promoting her election with radio advertising, telephone calls and political mailers.
Campanale, a retired firefighter, did not raise or spend the $5,000 required to file a campaign report. He has run twice before for the seat, both times losing handily to Gaines’ husband, Ted.
A political action committee backed by teachers, firefighters and other public employee unions spent nearly $39,000 on mailers opposing Gaines’ candidacy. They cited her opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to extending temporary tax increases, saying her position will harm schools and public safety.
Another mailer noted that together she and her husband would earn $190,582 in taxpayer funded salaries from the Legislature.
The criticism came as Democrats and their allies try to persuade at least two Republicans in each legislative chamber to support Brown’s proposal to ask voters to extend temporary income, sales and vehicle taxes. They want the extensions to help close a $15.4 billion state budget deficit that remains despite billions of dollars’ worth of cuts.
The district includes parts of El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties and all of lightly populated Alpine County. Both candidates live in Roseville, in the heavily populated western portion of the district.
Gaines becomes the second spouse this year to win election to a California legislative seat vacated by her husband. Former Assemblywoman Sharon Runner was elected to the state Senate in February after her husband, George, won a seat on the state Board of Equalization. Runner, of Lancaster, previously won the Assembly seat vacated by her husband.
The pattern has been repeated several times under different circumstances as far back as 1952, according to the JoinCalifornia web site, which tracks the state’s election history. Two wives have replaced their termed-out husbands in the Legislature since voters enacted term limits in 1990. Two widows succeeded husbands who died in office, while eight other spouses have served in the Legislature years apart from each other.
Gaines won the nomination to succeed her husband in a March primary, beating her closest Republican rival by 1 percentage point.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)