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Assembly and state Senate races will be decided in runoff

Democrat Mike Gatto will face Republican Sunder Ramani in the race to replace former Assemblyman Paul Krekorian in Glendale. In Riverside County, three candidates vie for Sen. John Benoit's old seat.

April 14, 2010|By Jean Merl

This week's elections settled dozens of offices and issues but left unresolved -- technically, at least -- the winners of two races for vacant legislative seats in Southern California.

It will take June 8 runoffs to fill a Glendale-Los Angeles area Assembly job and a Riverside County state Senate post.

Democrat Mike Gatto of Silver Lake, an attorney and former congressional aide, will face Republican Sunder Ramani, a Burbank businessman, in the runoff to replace former Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, who was elected to the Los Angeles City Council late last year.

In the Riverside County race to replace Republican Sen. John Benoit, who joined the county Board of Supervisors, Republican Assemblyman Bill Emmerson, Democratic actor and school board member Justin Blake and Matt Monica of the American Independent Party will meet in the runoff.

There will also be a runoff for a Long Beach City Council seat. All other offices on that city's ballot were decided Tuesday: Incumbents in other city offices and two school board and two community college board seats won reelection. That included Mayor Bob Foster, who received nearly 84% of the vote, the highest percentage of any uncontested incumbent.

Elsewhere, Sierra Madre voters strongly approved restrictions on the city's power to take private land. Lancaster voters said resoundingly, 76% to 24%, that they want to continue sectarian prayers at public meetings. The vote, however, is unlikely to stop legal challenges from civil rights groups, who say the prayers violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

Several other cities across Los Angeles County also held elections Tuesday: Arcadia, Avalon, Culver City, El Segundo, Lawndale, Pico Rivera, Santa Clarita, Vernon, Walnut and Whittier. Results are available on the cities' websites.

In the strongly Democratic 43rd Assembly District, Gatto is favored to win the runoff.

He got more than 32% of the vote, outpolling the two other Democrats on the ballot: Glendale school board member Nayiri Nahabedian, who received more than 22%, and Glendale businessman Chahe Keuroghelian, with almost 14%.

Fewer than 200 votes separated Gatto from Ramani, who got 31.8% in election night returns, but the results are unofficial, because about 700 provisional ballots remained uncounted Wednesday.

Ramani, the only Republican on the ballot, stuck to the issues in his political literature.

He sent them only to Democrats and voters who registered without stating a party preference, his campaign strategist, John S. Thomas, said Wednesday. Nor did Ramani mention his GOP affiliation in his campaign, which emphasized his business experience and community involvement.

"We're going to stay positive and we believe our message will resonate with voters," Thomas said, adding that GOP turnout is expected to be heavy in June because of the competitive Republican primaries for governor and U.S. senate.

But Mike Shimpock, Gatto's campaign consultant, said that strategy won't work in the two-way runoff, when party affiliation comes into sharper relief.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district 47% to 25%, with 24% unaffiliated. About 68% of the votes in Tuesday's election went to Democrats.

Shimpock said the campaign will continue to emphasize Gatto's "ideas for fixing Sacramento" with his background in tax law and his experience "making government work for people" as a district director for Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks).

In Riverside County, Emmerson far outdistanced his six competitors, including former GOP Assemblyman Russ Bogh, his closest rival, who got almost 22% of the vote.

But Emmerson's nearly 42% fell short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

jean.merl@latimes.com

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