California Democrats won a lot on Tuesday night.
Democrats retained the White House. They picked up seats in the U.S. Senate. They defeated several Republican members of California’s congressional delegation. They added three seats in the state Senate and two more in the State Assembly. Oh, and the party also raised taxes.
You might even say they won too much.
While the Capitol press corps is busy focusing on Democrats seizing two-thirds control of both houses in the state legislature, they’re glossing over one important fact. Two state Senators, Gloria Negrete McLeod and Juan Vargas, will need to resign their seats in order to be sworn in as members of Congress. The Senate vacancies will effectively block Democrats from reaching two-thirds.
A few contests remain close and could change with late absentee and provisional ballots. But, if the results remain as they currently stand, Democrats will hold 28 seats in the state Senate and 54 seats in the State Assembly. Democrats can’t afford two vacancies in the Senate or a single vacancy in the Assembly.
Vargas and Negrete McLeod are two resignations they can’t afford. The vacancies will need to be filled by special elections, a delay which could take up to four months. Of course, those Senate vacancies could be filled by members of the State Assembly, which would create vacancies in the lower house and another four month delay. If just one member of the Assembly were to win a Senate special election, it would be enough to block Democrats’ two-thirds control in the State Assembly.
It’s safe to say that the Democrats’ super-majority is at least eight months away. And that presumes Democrats win each of the special elections, which is a pretty safe bet considering these are safe Democratic districts. Nevertheless, Republicans have a motivation to play for the block by at least forcing runoffs in each election to delay the super-majority for as long as possible.