Santa Clarita 2016

Cameron Smyth Commentary

In many ways Santa Clarita will be ground zero in Los Angeles County (and to some degree California) politics. Come November, we will see contested elections for Congress, State Senate, State Assembly, Board of Supervisors and the City Council. As someone involved in Santa Clarita politics for 20 years, I have never seen an election season like 2016.

Much of the activity and attention is centered around the Board of Supervisors (BOS), where for the first time since 1980 Mike Antonovich will not be a candidate for the board as voter-approved term limits now force supervisors out after three terms. Because many consider the BOS one of the best jobs in politics, we have an array of candidates including L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander, State Sen. Bob Huff and Antonovich’s Chief Deputy Kathryn Barger. After the primary in June, the top two will continue to November.

Also generating a lot of activity is the 27th Senate District, which encompasses much of the west side of the Valley, including parts of Newhall. Fran Pavley is termed out and at least six candidates have shown interest. Senate Republicans are eyeing this seat as a potential pickup and could allocate significant resources 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 — and there is no doubt the Dems will look to pool resources and hope to steal one of the 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 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 Mr. Wilk is seeking his third term. Scott is well established in all areas of the district and will run a strong campaign.

The big change for Santa Clarita of course is the change to the City Council elections. Since incorporation in 1987, the election has been held in April, but as part of the settlement in the California Voting Rights Act litigation, the council shifted the election to November.

The biggest impact of this change will certainly be the number of new voters participating in the council election. City elections ranged between 15-17 percent turnout and candidates could get elected with a mere 6,000 votes. That number will now increase exponentially as pollsters expect a 70 percent-plus turnout because of the national election. To date three candidates have announced; the two incumbents and one challenger – although I expect more challengers 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… Enjoy!