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Sharon Runner, Ted Lieu pull far ahead in elections for state Senate seats

In early returns, Republican Sharon Runner has a decisive margin for the High Desert seat vacated by her husband, and Democrat Ted Lieu far outpaces opponents for the South Bay seat.

February 16, 2011|By Jean Merl, Los Angeles Times
  • Democrat Ted Lieu is poised to win the 28th Senate District seat.
Democrat Ted Lieu is poised to win the 28th Senate District seat. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

In special elections Tuesday for two state Senate seats, Republican Sharon Runner loped toward a decisive victory in the High Desert and Democrat Ted Lieu was handily outpacing seven other candidates in the South Bay, partial election returns showed.

Lieu's closest competitor was Manhattan Beach attorney Robert Valentine, but he and the other candidates appeared to be falling short of keeping the former assemblyman from winning the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Leading by a more than 2-1 margin, Runner declared victory with less than one-fifth of the ballots counted and promised to work to cut spending and jobs-killing regulations.

"The people … have spoken loud and clear," Runner said.

From the start, Runner, 56, a former member of the state Assembly from Lancaster, was heavily favored to defeat her only opponent, Democrat Darren W. Parker, 51, also of Lancaster. The 17th Senate District consistently votes Republican, and Runner is half of a popular political couple — the seat opened after her husband, George, was elected to the Board of Equalization.

Parker — a retired communications worker, union official and head of the Antelope Valley Human Relations Commission — campaigned hard. But he could not muster the money and other resources needed to turn out sufficient voters in the district, which spans parts of Ventura, L.A. and San Bernardino counties and a sliver of Kern County.

In the South Bay's 28th Senate District, where the death of Long Beach Democrat Jenny Oropeza created a vacancy, Lieu, 41, a former Torrance councilman, jumped into the race even before a special election could be called. He quickly lined up enough backing to discourage other prominent Democrats from running.

Of the four Republicans in the race, only Valentine, 72, raised enough money to mount a substantive campaign.

jean.merl@latimes.com

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