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California AG’s wife leading in bid for his Assembly seat

June 30, 2021 GMT
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In this undated provided by the Mia Bonta for Assembly campaign is Mia Bonta, a candidate for the 18th Assembly District in a special election to be held Tuesday, June, 29 2021, in Calif. Bonta is running to replace her husband, Rob Bonta, who was appointed Attorney General by Gov. Gavin Newsom in April 2021. (Mia Bonta For Assembly via AP)
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In this undated provided by the Mia Bonta for Assembly campaign is Mia Bonta, a candidate for the 18th Assembly District in a special election to be held Tuesday, June, 29 2021, in Calif. Bonta is running to replace her husband, Rob Bonta, who was appointed Attorney General by Gov. Gavin Newsom in April 2021. (Mia Bonta For Assembly via AP)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The wife of California’s attorney general is heading to a runoff election as she tries to succeed him in the state Legislature.

Mia Bonta had nearly 38% of the votes in Tuesday’s special election in the San Francisco Bay Area’s 18th Assembly District. That’s well short of the 50% plus one votes needed to avoid a runoff to replace Attorney General Rob Bonta in the Assembly.

Janani Ramachandran was second with 22% and Malia Vella was running third in the eight-way contest with 17%. All three are Democrats in the Alameda County district where 66% of voters are registered with that party.

There were still about 13,000 ballots to process over the next eight days, after 43,900 votes were counted Tuesday night, according to the county registrar of voters.

Rob Bonta left the Legislature in April after Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed him to fill the state’s top law enforcement post.

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Of the eight candidates to succeed him, six are Democrats. Republican Stephen Slauson and Joel Britton, no party preference, also are running.

Aside from Bonta, Ramachandran and Vella, Democrats James Aguilar, Victor Aguilar and Eugene Canson are seeking to represent the area that includes the cities of Alameda, San Leandro and most of Oakland.

Bonta is president of the Alameda school board and Vella is a member of the Alameda City Council.

Bonta outraised the other candidates and has endorsements from numerous lawmakers, the state treasurer and secretary of state, and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla. She also benefited from three independent expenditure committees that spent about $400,000 on her behalf, according to the California Target Book, which tracks legislative races.

But Ramachandran and Vella also have six-figure campaign funds.

Vella, a lawyer for an International Brotherhood of Teamsters local, is endorsed by the state controller and several lawmakers. Ramachandran has endorsements from many local officials and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna.

Bonta’s name gives her an edge, but Ramachandran and Vella have contended that some of her donors are trying to curry favor with the attorney general.

There is nothing new about lawmakers with family connections, however.

California State Library legislative historian Alex Vassar counts at least a dozen of the state’s 120 legislators with ties to current or former lawmakers. Last April, San Diego-area voters selected Dr. Akilah Weber to succeed her mother in the Assembly after Shirley Weber became secretary of state.