During the primary Assembly Speaker John Perez and his allies in Sacramento poured over a million dollars
into the 50th Assembly District to ensure incumbent Betsy Butler made it onto the November ballot. At first blush, Sacramento's largess worked, buying the Assemblywoman a first-place finish in the 4-way race. Yet a closer look reveals how that victory came at enormous cost. Less than 1% separated first-place Butler with last-place opponent Democrat Torie Osborn, and only 137 votes separated Butler from 2nd-place finisher Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom (also a Democrat), who will now face off against the Assemblywoman in November. Bloom spent less than a $150,000 in the primary.
The big question now is if Perez will continue to pour resources into a guaranteed safe Democratic district, or will shift his focus to swing districts like AD66 in Los Angeles' South Bay, where Democrat Al Muratsuchi faces a tough election against Tea Party Republican Craig Huey. The California GOP considers the district a "must" win and has already started funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the South Bay millionaire.
Perez is keeping his intentions pretty close to the vest, but if statements from Butler are any indication, Muratsuchi may be on his own. Butler has repeatedly tried to tamp down expectations that the Assembly can reach the 2/3rds majority needed to overcome Republican obstruction, saying she expects the Assembly to come up "one seat short". She's declined to discuss which seat that might be.
It might be worth noting at this point that as of the last campaign finance report filing, neither Butler nor Perez have donated to Muratsuchi's campaign.
Butler's recent struggles with local activists also doesn't bode well for Muratsuchi's chances - because if past performance is any indication of future actions, Perez will come to the sitting Assemblywoman's rescue at the cost of losing AD66.
In a surprise upset, Betsy Butler lost her bid last Wednesday for the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club endorsement for the 50th Assembly District race. Despite the fact Butler faced virtually no organized opposition and had packed the lightly attended meeting with friends, campaign workers and supporters, she was unable to garner the votes needed to win the endorsement.
Remarkably, Butler received only 25 votes at the meeting, 3 less than when she lost to primary opponent Torie Osborn.
After the results were tabulated, Butler and her supporters demanded a do-over of sorts, with West Hollywood Mayor (and Butler supporter) Jeffrey Prang putting forward a motion to table the vote and hold a new one in August.
Then on Sunday, opponent Richard Bloom successfully blocked Butler from winning the coveted Santa Monica for Renters Rights (SMRR) endorsement.
As with the WeHo/Beverly Hills Club endorsement, Butler was widely expected to easily walk away with a win. During the AD50 primary, Bloom snubbed SMRR's endorsement meeting, claiming irregularities and lack of transparency in the endorsement process. Bloom's actions during the primary rankled the board's membership, creating a rift Bloom would have to work hard to overcome in the general election.
But in the end, SMRR's membership remained ambivalent and divided. Butler wasn't able to reach the 55% threshold needed to secure an endorsement.
Lastly, on Monday night, Butler came dangerously close to losing the endorsement of the Stonewall Democratic club, but the vote was called off at the last minute and rescheduled when irregularities were discovered in the membership list.
So it'll be interesting to see how this all plays out between now and November. In an era of horrific budget cuts and the shredding of California's social safety net, it's clear the only way out of this mess is for Democrats to receive a super-majority in both houses of the legislature.
So going forward, the question for Perez and Butler is this: What's more important, your jobs ... or the future of California?
This piece was earlier published at Calitics.