Rare four-candidate special Senate election complicates voting Nov. 2

Race to succeed Dave Cox promises to confuse some
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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In an election rarity, Auburn voters will have two chances Nov. 2 to vote for the same candidate. The general election ballot sent this week includes a special election to succeed the late Dave Cox as 1st District’s state senator. Ted Gaines, current Republican assemblyman for the 1st District, is running for re-election in the general election while also seeking the Senate seat in the special election. Gaines, due to be termed out of the Assembly in 2012 if re-elected, is running for a third and final two-year term against the Peace & Freedom Party’s Daniel Frederick of Sacramento and the Democratic Party’s Dennis Campanale of Roseville. At the same time, he’s in a four-way race to serve out the final two years of Cox’s four-year Senate term. Cox died this summer of cancer. Gaines, R-Roseville, is facing fellow Republicans Roger Niello and Barbara Alby, plus Democrat Ken Cooley in a Nov. 2 state Senate special election. The senatorial race to succeed Cox, R-Fair Oaks, is a special election within a general election that promises to confuse some voters. Starting this week, Placer County’s election division will send one ballot that will include both the Senate District 1 special election and the general election. Clerk-Recorder-Registrar Jim McCauley, the county’s elections chief, said the consolidated election has meant ballots going out to voters later than they usually do because of the later-than-usual filing deadline for candidates in the special election. The candidate filing period for Senate District 1 closed Sept. 20 while the general election filing deadline was Aug. 6. The Sept. 20 filing deadline came just three days before sample ballot booklets usually enter the mail stream, McCauley said. The special election comes at what would have been the midway point of Cox’s four-year Senate term. A winner Nov. 2 can avoid a runoff by polling more than 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate wins a majority, the leading Republican vote-getter would face off against lone Democrat Cooley in a special election Jan. 4. If the winner can stay in office after that, the prize is a Senate seat that could provide a bonus two years at the Capitol. State senators are termed out after eight years – or two four-year terms. But the winner of the special election would secure the final two years of Cox’s term and then have the potential to stay in office another eight years. Gaines has now served four years while Niello, R-Fair Oaks, is being termed out of his Assembly seat at the end of the year after serving three, two-year terms. Because the Senate District 1 contest is a special primary election, all of the candidates will appear on the same ballot, regardless of party affiliation, McCauley said. District 1 takes in roughly 60 percent of the county’s voters, McCauley said. As well as Auburn, it includes Roseville, Colfax, Foresthill, Applegate, Tahoe City, Kings Beach and Homewood. Alby, a 64-year-old Folsom resident now serving as an acting member of the Board of Equalization, said that while Gaines’ appearance on two ballots is unusual, it’s not unprecedented. Alby, who served in the Assembly from 1993 to 1998, pointed out that Assemblyman Dick Mountjoy, R-Monrovia, ran for Senate and Assembly 1994 and won both seats. He took the four-year Senate post. Alby, who said she’s “the real deal” as a conservative, declined to state her feelings about Gaines’ double candidacy. “I don’t want to poke at people,” Alby said. “I’m not in this because I want to go after others.” Cooley, the Senate’s principal consultant to the Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee and current mayor of Rancho Cordova, said Alby’s presence in the race was probably more of a surprise to Niello and Gaines than it was to him. She entered on Sept. 17, three days before the filing deadline and long after Gaines and Niello had committed to run. “It’s sort of splitting the vote up three ways,” Cooley said. “It definitely complicates the challenges faced by Ted and Roger.” Editor's note: This story has been corrected from the version that appeared in print Oct. 6.