The Logistics of the 10th Congressional Seat Race

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger might get to appoint a new lieutenant governor for California, if the incumbent, John Garamendi, wins his bid to replace Rep. Ellen Tauscher in the 10th Congressional District.

The Walnut Grove Democrat backed out of his race for governor on April 22 declaring himself a candidate for Tauscher’s seat should she be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as President Obama’s undersecretary of arms control and international security.

Here are the logistics:

If Tauscher is confirmed – and there is no guarantee she will be — she would have to resign from her congressional seat.  The governor would then have 14 days to call a special election to fill the vacancy.

That election would need to occur at least 112 days — but not more than 126 days — from the date the governor called the election.  Roughly, four months.

Assuming a May or June confirmation, the election wouldn’t occur until at least October.

If Garamendi were to win the special election, Schwarzenegger would then appoint a replacement to complete Garamendi’s unfinished term of a little over one year.

Whoever the governor appoints would need to be confirmed by the Legislature before taking office, likely reducing the time in office of the governor’s appointee who would, presumably, seek re-election to the post by competing in a 2010 primary and general election.

Schwarzenegger has done this before, appointing former state Sen. Bruce McPherson, a Santa Cruz Republican, to complete Democrat Kevin Shelley’s uncompleted term as secretary of state after Shelly resigned in 2005.

There are several other candidates besides Garamendi who want Tauscher’s seat. Tauscher endorses Democratic State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier of Walnut Creek. Freshman Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, an Alamo Democrat, has told her supporters she is running. 

Various newspapers report potential GOP candidates to include Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette, a vice chair of the state Republican Party, and Nicholas Gerber of Moraga.

Centered in Contra Costa County, the district includes a sliver of Sacramento and parts of Alameda and Solano counties. Registration breaks 47 percent Democrat to 29 percent Republican with 20 percent decline-to-state.

Another interesting dynamic is because it is a special election to replace a seated lawmaker, all candidates appear on the same ballot.  If no candidate receives a majority, then the top vote getter from each party duke it out in a run off a few weeks later.

This process is being previewed in the May 19 special election. Assemblyman Curran Price, an Inglewood Democrat, faces Nachum Shifren, the GOP candidate and Cindy Varela Henderson, the Peace and Freedom candidate, in a general election to fill the vacant 26th state Senate seat.

Price will win.

The primary to fill the 32nd Congressional District, the seat previously held by President Obama’s labor secretary, Hilda Solis, will occur on the same date. A general election will be held July 14.

In light of the “open primary,” the California Taxpayers Association, in its most recent Cal-Tax Report, offers some advice to Republicans in the 10th Congressional District, which was held by Republican Bill Baker until his defeat by Tauscher in 1996.

“Republican voters may want to vote for the most moderate Democratic candidate. This could produce a campaign more geared to the middle-of-the-road, rather than appealing to extreme left wing or right-wing views.

“For Republicans, the departure to Congress of any of the three main Democrats has some advantages.

“If Garamendi is elected, the governor has the authority to appoint a replacement lieutenant governor.

“If DeSaulnier wins, it opens up a Senate seat in an open primary special election, where a middle-of-the-road candidate would have a better chance. This could result in the election of a moderate Democrat to replace DeSaulnier, who is considered extremely liberal. (Editor’s Note: By Cal-Tax anyway.)

“If Buchanan wins, it gives the Republicans a chance to use the ensuing special election to recapture the 15th Assembly District seat, which they had held for years until 2008.”



Filed under: Politics


  1. I think this would be better as a flow chart…

    Comment by Grumpy In River Park — 4.29.2009 @ 2:42 pm

  2. I’m from Georgia and watch California politics with amusement. I wish I could say “who cares?”, but that can’t be the case. As I own parts of GM and Chrysler, I’ll soon own parts of the Golden State…

    Comment by Jethro — 6.10.2009 @ 11:04 am

  3. Want to help send a message to the DemoPublicans via Ellen Tauscher’s old “blue Dog” seat?

    Comment by HWoodVNear — 8.31.2009 @ 11:17 pm

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