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Know the West

California still true blue


The pundits  may have waited until the last possible second on election night to call California, along with Oregon and Washington, and pronounce Democrat Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States, but there was never really any doubt that the electoral-vote-heavy-weight Golden State would embrace the Illinois Senator by a wide margin.  With 96.4 percent of districts reporting, Obama snagged 61.2 percent of the vote to Republican John McCain's 37 percent.

Democrats had hoped to ride Obama's coattails to victory and take over six Republican-held seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, bringing their majority to 40 of California's 53 House seats. But by election time it was clear that only two seats in the state were truly competitive, thanks to redistricting that favors incumbents.

One of those tight races turned out to be something of a landslide for Dems. Democrat Jerry McNerney, who unseated notoriously anti-conservation Republican Richard Pombo in the 11th District east of the Bay Area in 2006, beat out Republican challenger Dean Andal 54 to 45 percent. Dems and conservationists, who back McNerney in part for his strong advocacy for clean energy, considered the district rented territory and poured resources into McNerney's campaign this year. It also helped that the  district's political leanings have shifted, with registered Democrats trailing Republicans by only 1 percent, compared to 6 percent back in 2006.

The other tight race -- to replace scandal-plagued Republican Rep. John Doolittle in northeastern California's 4th District -- remains a complete dead heat, with absentee and provisional ballots left to count. Republican candidate Tom McClintock, a conservative state legislator and former gubernatorial candidate, has a mere 451-vote lead over the Democratic candidate, centrist retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Brown.

Dems also hoped to make serious gains in the state legislature, where they currently hold substantial majorities in both the Senate and the Assembly. So far it appears they may indeed gain a few seats -- though not as many as they hoped for -- with two in the Assembly and one in the Senate. The latter would leave them one seat short of holding a supermajority that would allow them to bypass the GOP and override vetoes.