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Democrat Cooley, Republican Gaines move on to Jan. 4 Senate runoff

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It’s Democrat Ken Cooley against Republican Ted Gaines in a run-off Jan. 4 for the state Senate seat held by the late Dave Cox. With strong Election Day support from Placer County voters, Gaines topped two other Republicans to move into a special election against Cooley, who currently serves as mayor of Rancho Cordova. An overall winner would have only been declared if one of the four candidates gained a majority of votes cast. None came close. Gaines also held onto his Assembly seat in a second election Tuesday. He fended off a challenge from Democrat Dennis Campanale to poll 58.5 percent of the state Assembly District 4 vote. With Gaines due to be termed out of the Assembly in two years, with his third election victory in a row, he’s seeking the Senate seat and a chance to remain in state government. The former Placer County supervisor’s campaign emphasized that Gaines had signed a no-tax-increase pledge while Niello – his closest Republican opponent – had not. “The critical issue in my mind is we’ve got to be very careful on spending and taxes,” Gaines said. “Voters have made clear that they don’t want their taxes increased.” Gaines said Niello phoned him after the election with congratulations and an endorsement as he moves on to the next round. Gaines said he hadn’t heard from Alby by late Wednesday. Cooley said that while he likes his chances, he’ll be considered an underdog in a Senate district with voters who leaned toward Republican candidates in Tuesday’s special election. While Cooley polled 30.5 percent of the District 1 vote to finish second to Gaines, the other Republicans – Barbara Alby of Folsom and former state legislator Roger Niello garnered a combined 37.2 percent of the vote. But Cooley said Wednesday that while the key election issue will be jobs, his success at the local government level in Rancho Cordova comes at a time when local elected officials are being perceived as more effective than state-level politicians. “That plays into our strengths,” Cooley said. Cooley added that he also could be the beneficiary of Gaines’ bruising campaign against Niello and any ill will supporters of the defeated Sacramento County politician may continue to harbor. Gaines’ move to the next round also could result in yet another election – for the District 4 seat he would be forced to relinquish to take over as District 1 senator. If Gaines wins the Senate vote in January, his Assembly seat would be declared vacant by the governor and a special election – including a primary like Tuesday’s – would be held within 180 days. If no candidate polls a majority of votes in the Assembly primary, the District 4 election would move to a runoff between the top Democrat and Republican.