Democrat Ted Lieu jumped out to an early and insurmountable lead in Tuesday's special election to fill a vacant seat in the state Senate's 28th District and easily cruised to victory.
Lieu, 41, had 56 percent of the absentee ballots cast when polls closed at 8 p.m. and continued to increase his lead as the votes were tallied from polling precincts. With nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting by 11:45 p.m., Lieu had 57.19 percent of the vote while his closest challenger, Republican Bob Valentine, had 24.77 percent. The other six candidates in the race trailed with only single digits.
Supporters gathered at an automobile museum in El Segundo for a victory party and many of the Democratic Party's local leaders were in attendance. City Council members Janice Hahn and Bill Rosendahl were on hand to support Lieu, and California State Controller John Chiang introduced Lieu to a crowd that chanted, "Lieu! Lieu! Lieu!" Other notable supporters on hand included Carson Mayor Jim Dear and Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster.
Lieu's parents traveled from Ohio to join him on Election Day and his wife, Betty, also attended the victory celebration.
"We face some challenging times in California and I look forward to working wth Gov. Brown. He has at least put out a plan that I agree with the approach," Lieu told the audience. He said he looks forward to helping the governor solve the budget crisis.
Lieu said his campaign manager, Joe Gozzo, would become his chief of staff.
"Thank you and I look forward to working with all of you as California's next state senator," he said to loud applause and another chant of "Lieu! Lieu! Lieu!" from the audience.
The special election was held to replace the late state Sen. Jenny Oropeza, who was posthumously re-elected in November. Oropeza, a Democrat, died Oct. 20 from complications of an abdominal blood clot. The state Senate's 28th District includes Marina del Rey, Venice, Mar Vista, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and other areas. Several of Oropeza's staffers were at the victory party Tuesday night to show their support for Lieu.
The special primary election and a contest for the state Senate's 17th District seat in the High Desert area were the first under the state's new open primary election rules. Under the new "top two" rule, if no candidate had won a majority of votes, the top two vote-getters, regardless of political party, would have faced each other in an April 19 runoff election. The new system was approved by voters in June and went into effect Jan. 1.
A runoff election was avoided in both districts, with Republican Sharon Runner trouncing her sole opponent in the 17th District.
Lieu had been the presumptive front-runner in the election after receiving numerous endorsements from labor unions, police and fire organizations and Brown. He also collected nearly seven times more in campaign contributions than his nearest challenger.
Lieu, who failed in a Democratic bid last year for state attorney general, previously served three two-year terms representing the 53rd Assembly District before he was ushered out due to term limits. His former Assembly district covers roughly half of the state Senate's 28th District.
Democrats hold a distinct advantage in the 28th, with about 48 percent of the district's 467,493 registered voters identifying themselves as Democrats. Republicans trail with about 25 percent of the electorate, while roughly 20 percent of voters decline to state a party, according to information from the Secretary of State's Office.
The 28th District special election cost an estimated $1.7 million.