Bill Boyarsky
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The Valley's long recount

One of the most fascinating elections of the year is still going on in the northeast San Fernando Valley's 39th Assembly district where unknown, unsung Patty Lopez is holding a narrow lead over Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, who has been considered a future candidate for lower house speaker.

bill-300.jpgDakota Smith, covering the race for the Los Angeles Daily News, wrote on election night “it was a stunning takedown of an entrenched politician.” Bocanegra had collected more than $600,000 compared to Lopez’ $10,000, reported Smith. Both are Democrats. The district includes Sylmar, Pacoima and the city of San Fernando.

By Friday night, with 6,000 or more ballots to be counted, Lopez held a 46-vote lead over her opponent. Brad Hertz, the lawyer representing her in the count proceedings, told me it may take days to officially complete the tally.

Nobody seems quite clear how Lopez did so well. The Daily News’ Smith noted that Lopez has been a representative for the North Valley Occupational Center and a Los Angeles Unified School District volunteer. “I’m just a humble little housewife, “ Lopez told Matt Thacker of the Post-Periodical web site. “I didn’t expect it. My main purpose was to raise my voice high enough to the government so they could hear our needs.” Professor Fernando Guerra, a well-known Loyola Marymount politics expert, “struggled to recall Lopez’ first name” after the election and called the election results ‘one of those freak things,’” Smith wrote.

Bocanegra’s team told Smith that Lopez was helped by Republicans.

What may be most significant is that the race was shaped to some extent by two new California election laws. One requires a runoff between the top two finishers in the primary. Lopez had 23.6 percent of the vote compared to Bocanegra’s 62.5 percent. The second law put the drawing of legislative district lines in the hands of an independent commission. That ended the old practice of districts that favored incumbents. We may be seeing more of these unexpected results in the future.

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