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Deceased state Sen. Dave Cox lauded as Schwarzenegger mulls successor election date

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The death of state Sen. Dave Cox has left a political void that the governor’s office is now moving to fill. Cox, a Republican senator from Fair Oaks who died Tuesday, was remembered today with flags flying at half staff at the Capitol in Sacramento, by order of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the same time, the governor’s office was mulling over the timing of a special election to fill Cox’s now-vacant 1st District office. The 1st District sprawls from the Oregon border in the north to Mammoth Lakes in the south, taking in all or parts of 12 counties. Placer County was partly in Cox’s district, including Auburn. The governor has 14 days from Cox’s death to set a date for a special election. That election must occur from 112 to 126 days from the issuance of the proclamation. A Governor’s Office spokesman said today that no date had been set. While uncertainty hovers over the special election and who will step up to run, Cox was being lauded as a legislator who worked for his constituents and worked well with local government. Auburn Mayor Bridget Powers said Cox was a good supporter of the city in getting officials in contact with the right people in government on issues like regional wastewater treatment. “He was definitely a supporter of local needs,” Powers said. “I enjoyed working with Sen. Cox. He was always responsive – a dedicated individual who is going to be sorely missed. It’s a sad day to lose such a devoted person who worked hard for his community.” Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes, whose district takes in Auburn, said he was particularly impressed with Cox’s ability to move a meeting along and not indulge in unnecessary chatter. “He didn’t dilly-dally,” Holmes said. “He got a meeting going with courtesy to everyone. I held him in high regard.” Cox, who died at age 72 after a 13-year battle against prostate cancer, was first elected to the state Senate in 2004, filling a seat previously held by Sen. Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City. He was reelected in 2008. From 2001 to 2004, he served as Assembly Republican leader. Cox had been elected to the Assembly in 1998. Cox was also praised Wednesday by Bill Hemby, chairman of Sacramento’s PetPAC animal rights group as a sensible, dedicated lawmaker. “In the past four years, Sen. Cox worked closely with PetPAC and in that time was more than reasonable, always honest, and a genuine genial spirit,” Hemby said. According to the California Secretary of State, there have been 96 special primary and general elections in the last 20 years to fill vacant seats in the Assembly, Senate and Congress. But turnout has generally been far below a regular election. Since 1990, the average has been 24.7 – about 12 percent below June’s primary. If no candidate receives a majority of votes cast, a runoff would take place. “Special elections are not as rare as they used to be and they present unique challenges to voters and cash-strapped elections officials,” said Secretary Debra Bowen, California’s chief elections officer. “Our democracy depends on citizen representation but most voters get excited about going to the polls in June or November for gubernatorial or presidential elections, not in January or April or December to vote on a single contest.”