Busy election season on all levels

Cameron Smyth Commentary, Right Here Right Now

Well, so far the 2016 political season is living up to the hype. Let’s just hope the Super Bowl does the same!

The Iowa caucus delivered on both sides with the Democrat and Republican front-runners each ending up as the losers of the night.

Trump’s decision to skip the most recent debate ended up being a mistake as a large number of voters who made up their minds in the last week went with Rubio, who was clearly the Republican “winner.”

Although Hillary may have technically won the most delegates, under no circumstance can she claim victory. Especially troubling for her is she is headed to certain defeat in New Hampshire — and the video of Sanders supporters chanting “She’s a liar” when her speech was shown at Sanders HQ.

While all that is happening nationally is great theater for Californians at the moment, it’s important we focus back here at home, as in many ways Santa Clarita will be ground zero in Los Angeles County (and to some degree California) politics in 2016.

Come November, contested elections for Congress, state Senate, state Assembly, Board of Supervisors and the Santa Clarita City Council will be fought here in the SCV. As someone involved in Santa Clarita politics for 20 years, I have never seen an election season like the one headed our way.

Much of the early activity and attention is centered on the Board of Supervisors, where for the first time since 1980 Mike Antonovich will not be a candidate. Voter-approved term limits are now forcing supervisors out after three terms.

Because many consider the Board of Supervisors one of the best jobs in politics, we have an array of candidates lining up to replace Antonovich, including L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander, state Sen. Bob Huff and Antonovich Chief Deputy Kathryn Barger.

After the primary in June, the top two will continue on for the November election.

Also generating a lot of activity is the 27th Senate District, which encompasses much of the West Side of the Santa Clarita Valley and parts of Newhall.

Democrat Fran Pavley is termed out, and at least six candidates have shown interest. Senate Republicans are eyeing this seat as the only potential pick-up and will allocate significant resources behind Steve Fazio if the numbers look competitive.

Democrats, on the other hand, are hoping the presidential race will generate a big turnout, enabling them to break into the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys. They are targeting three seats currently held by local Republicans: Congressman Steve Knight, Sen. Sharon Runner and Assemblyman Tom Lackey, whose districts all are nearly equal in party registration.

State and national Democrats will look to pool resources and hope to steal at least one of those seats. This isn’t a new plan; it just hasn’t been successful, and the Dems have yet to find quality candidates capable of defeating the current popular and well-funded incumbents.

The Democrats did find a candidate to challenge Assemblyman Scott Wilk. However, the 38th Assembly District has a clear Republican registration advantage, and Wilk is seeking his third term. Scott is popular in all areas of the district and has a track record of never taking any race for granted. He will easily retain his seat.

The big change for the city of Santa Clarita, of course, is the City Council elections. Since incorporation in 1987, the election was held in April. But this year will be different.

As part of the settlement in the California Voting Rights Act litigation, the council shifted its elections from April to November. The greatest impact of this change will certainly be the number of new voters participating in the council election.

City elections have ranged between 15 percent and 17 percent turnout, and candidates could get elected with a mere 6,000 votes. That number now is expected to increase exponentially as pollsters forecast at least a 70 percent voter turnout because of the national election.

To date, three candidates have announced — the two incumbents and one challenger — although I expect more candidates will enter the race prior to the filing period in the summer.

For the political watchers of Santa Clarita, a year like 2016 comes around maybe once in a generation. So enjoy it!

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