On November 4th, 37 new Assembly and Senate legislators were elected (11 fewer than in 2012). This represents 31% of the combined 120-member state legislature. But who are these “newcomers”?
The State Senate will have 10 new members on December 1 – 1/4th of the entire chamber. This actually means that half of the seats up for election this year yielded new Senators (no different than 2012). The main reason was term limits with 6 seats open because of term limit laws. 7 are Democrats. The Democrats, on average, won their average PVI D+17 districts by 25 points, while the Republicans won their average PVI R+4 districts by an average of 18 points.
All but 1 of the new Senators had previous elected government experience. 4 of them are either former or current Assemblymembers – these 4 won their races by an average of 22 points and will represent districts with an average PVI of D+18. Another 4 new Senators are current county supervisors – indeed 2 currently sit on the Orange County Board of Supervisors – and won their districts by an average of 23 points (3 are Republican and 1 is a Democrat). 7 won their seats running against someone from another party.
The State Assembly will have 27 new members on December 1 – 34% of the entire chamber. While every new State Senator won an open seat (either because of new district lines, retirements, or term limits), in 4 instances, the new Assemblymember beat an incumbent (3 Republicans beat incumbent Democrats, the first time a Democrat incumbent lost to a Republican since 1994). 16 other new Assemblymembers were running in open seats because of term limits – 10 of which are Democrats who will represent average PVI D+24 district and won by 23 points, on average, and the remaining 6 are Republicans (PVI R+6 districts, 19 point margin).
Just 7 new Assemblymembers had no elected government experience prior to their Assembly victories. Of the other 20, 15 sit on city councils, 3 on county board of supervisors, and another 2 on either a school or community college board. Those who were city councilmembers had the largest average margin of victory – 22 points – while those without elected government experience had the lowest – 13 points. 67% won their seats running against someone from another party.
Of the 29 new legislators who have elected government experience, just 10 (34%) are Republicans (compared to 41% of all new legislators being Republican), but those 10 Republicans have a slightly higher average margin of victory then their 19 Democrat counterparts (23 points vs. 21 points). Of the 10 Republicans, 4 are county supervisors (all of the new Senators), while the rest are city councilmembers (all but 1 of the new Assemblymembers). Democrats are a more diverse group of supervisors, Assemblymembers, education trustees, and city councilmembers. Overall, it would appear that Republicans put slightly more weight behind non-elective government experience than Democrats.
Of the 15 new Republican legislators, the average district PVI is R+3.9 with an average margin of victory being 18 points. Indeed, just 3 of these races were Republican vs. Republican November general election battles (avg. PVI of R+7, 11 point avg. margin). In 2012, 12 of the 48 new members (25%) were Republican. Of the 2012 12 new Republican legislators, the average district PVI was R+6.0 – 2.1 points to the right of the 2014 cohort – and won their elections by an average margin of 14 points. Six of the races were same party November general elections. Overall, this suggests that Republicans in 2014 managed to 1) win the marginal/swing districts (indeed, Republicans won back AD 36 and AD 65) and 2) expand the map. While Eric Linder was the only new Republican in 2012 to win in a PVI district of R+1 or more Democratic (AD 60, R+0.2), in 2014, 5 new Republicans won in districts with PVI’s of R+1 or more Democratic (with an average PVI of D+2.5).
All but 4 of these new state legislators (the 4 former/current Assemblymembers) are eligible under the June 2012 Proposition 28 term limit law to remain in the legislature (regardless of chamber) for a total of 12 years. If they do indeed decide to remain in just 1 chamber, they can amass significant clout and potentially, make a strong policy impact. For the 2014 crew of Republicans, they will have to a) modernize its message and b) broaden the party’s appeal since they sit in marginally more Democratic-leaning districts. But on the road to a Republican revitalization and a well-functioning two-party California, 2014 appears to be a step in the right direction.