Assemblymember Raúl Bocanegra

If you like heading to the polls to vote, you’ll have plenty of chances to do so this year if you live in the San Fernando Valley.

On April 3, voters in the northeast San Fernando Valley will decide who replaces Assemblymember Raul Boca-negra, who resigned last November amid allegations of sexual harassment brought against him by seven women, including longtime capitol staff member Elise Flynn Gyore who said he had groped her at a public event in 2009.

Following an investigation, Bocanegra — who denied the allegations — was told to stay away from Gyore.

Bocanegra’s resignation came after several of his females colleagues said they would not work with him. Gov. Jerry Brown has scheduled a special election to replace the Democrat in the 39th district, which covers Pacoima, San Fernando, Sunland, Sylmar and Tujunga.

According to the county website LAVote.net, nine people have filed candidacy papers to replace Bocanegra. They include Patty Lopez, a Democrat, who beat him in the 2014 election and occupied the Assembly seat for two years. 

Other announced candidates are Democrats Yolanda Anguiano, Bonnie Corwin, Richard Flores, Jaime Lazo, Luis Maria Rivas and Antonio Sanchez; Republicans Ricardo Benitez (who worked for Lopez as a field representative), and Robert Payne; and Jaime Herrera, who listed no party affiliation.

Former Los Angeles Unified School District board member Monica Ratliff was reportedly also considering running, but at press time had not confirmed her candidacy either by Twitter or her Facebook page.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the two leading vote-getters will head to a runoff on June 5 – the same day as the state’s regularly scheduled primary.

This election won’t be cheap. Dean Logan, Los Angeles County’s elections chief, noted that on average, a special election can cost between $1 million – $1.2 million.

The cost is so high because, Duran said, organizing a special election — i.e., the hiring of poll workers, voter guides, printing ballots, transportation of election equipment — is “pretty much the same that goes into a regular election, except everything is done on an accelerated schedule.”

Brenda Duran, spoke-sperson for the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol newspaper, the cost of the election is picked up by Los Angeles County.

“Although the County is conducting this election, it is doing so on behalf of the SOS (Secretary of State) who is the true responsible entity,” Duran said.

“The SOS is responsible for the administration of presidential, congressional, state legislative, and state constitutional offices. However, it relies on all 58 counties in the state to act as ‘deputies’ or ‘assistant election officials’ to carry out both statewide and more localized election events.”

The county must also bear the cost of another special election to replace Matt Dababneh, the Assemblymember from the west San Fernando Valley, who was first accused by lobbyist Pamela Lopez of forcing her into a bathroom in Las Vegas in 2016 where he supposedly forced her to watch him masturbate. Another woman, Jessica Yas Barker, later accused Dababneh of sexually inappropriate conduct when they both worked in Congressman Brad Sherman’s district office in 2008, causing Dababneh to resign, effective Jan 1. 

Brown has not yet set a date for the election to replace Dababneh who represented the 45th District, which includes Canoga Park, Northridge, Reseda and Woodland Hills.

The resignations of Bocanegra and Dababneh have currently eliminated the Democrat’s two-thirds supermajority that enabled them to pass tax increases and other legislation without Republican support. But with only one Republican (so far) running in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, the Democrats could quickly regain that advantage should one be elected to replace Bocanegra.

Just before the end of 2017, Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas announced his resignation for medical reasons. He represented the 54th District, encompassing Baldwin Hills, Culver City and Inglewood.

Los Angeles County is no stranger to special elections. In fact, there were 12 such elections in the county in 2017. The turnout of voters, which usually hovers around 10 percent or less of the district’s electorate, may not seem worth the cost. Still, voters have the constitutional power to elect their representatives, so special elections will be held.

There is a regularly scheduled election this year. On June 5, voters head to the polls for the statewide primary to elect the next governor, congressional candidates and California senator.

If those candidates don’t receive more than 50 percent of the votes, the two leading vote-getters in each contest would be in a (you guessed it) runoff election on Nov. 6.

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