By Rick Orlov, Staff Writer
Under a cloud from criminal voter fraud charges, Councilman Richard Alarcón still managed to make it in to a runoff election for a state Assembly seat.
Alarcón came in second behind political aide Raul Bocanegra and became a beneficiary of California's new top-two candidate open primary system.
Alarcón and Bocanegra are both Democrats and the new state law allows the top two vote getters to advance to the November general election - regardless of party affiliation.
"Now we have someone to focus on," Alarcón said Wednesday. "The fact is we saw the fifth most spending in the state by independent expenditure committees against us, and now we can fight back."
Aides to Bocanegra, who is an aide to termed out Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, said Wednesday said he planned to continue his campaign against better-known Alarcón.
"Raul is a guy who your average voter never heard of, running against someone everyone had heard of," consultant Josh Pulliam said. "What we did was introduce him to voters in talking about who he is, his value and his experience.
"He was running against someone who has campaigned extensively and spent millions to get known. I think voters are looking for someone new."
Alarcón was among a number of officials who benefited from the new top-two law that took effect for this election.
Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the Target Book that follows legislative campaigns, said there are 24 races in November having members of the same party.
"Sixteen of those are between Democrats," Hoffenblum said. "It's hard to say if top-two had a major impact because there was such a low overall voter turnout. It might be different in 2014 when we have a governor's race and more voter interest."
Darry Sragow, co-founder of No Labels, the group behind the top-two measure, said it was a qualified success.
"It clearly has changed things a little where we will have unconventional races in the fall," Sragow said. "We will have two Democrats facing each other and two Republicans and, in at least one race, a decline to state candidate.
"Voters are looking to elect people to get things done," Sragow said.
However, he added, it will take more time to see how effective the top-two system works out.
Alarcón said the light voter turnout - it was 13.8 percent within his district - may have affected the outcome.
Bocanegra came in first with 9,201 votes for 36.48 percent, to Alarcón's 6,818 votes for 27.03 percent.
Republican candidates Ricardo Benitez, received 3,928 votes for 15.57 percent; Omar Cuevas received 2,049 votes for 8.12 percent and Margie Carranza received 1,334 votes for 5.29 percent. Green Party candidate John Lindblad received 1,895 votes for 7.51 percent.
In another closely watched race, Democrat Edward Headington came in first in the 38th Assembly District and will face off in November against Republican Scott Wilk, an aide to Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.
"None of us knew the formula needed going in to the race," Headington said of the new two-top system. "I think what helped is that we had more of an opportunity to appeal to the entire electorate and, perhaps, were able to get to folks who are more in the middle."
Wilk, who defeated McKeon's wife, Patricia, to reach the runoff, said he remains confident the district will remain Republican after November.
"We felt a surge in the final 10 days," Wilk said. "We have been working hard for the past 10 months and, on election day, we had people making calls to get our vote out."
Headington received 11,303 votes for 32.03 percent; Wilk captured 10,723 votes for 30.39 percent; McKeon received 8,371 votes for 23.72 percent and Republican Paul Strickland received 4,888 votes for 13.85 percent.
Another race with wide interest is the new 46th Assembly District, where Democrat Adrin Nazarian will face another Democrat, educator Brian Johnson, in the November general election.
Nazarian, an aide to Councilman Paul Krekorian, received 9,082 votes for 27.48 percent over Johnson, who received 6,691 votes for 20.29 percent. Johnson edged out Republican Jay Stern, who had 6,605 votes for 20.04 percent and Democrats Andrew Lachman, with 6,459 votes for 19.28 percent and Laurette Healey with 3,481 votes for 10.55 percent.
For two other state Assembly races, the June 5 primary served as a kickoff for a continued campaign in November.
Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield in the 45th Assembly District in the central Valley will face Republican Chris Kolski and Assemblyman Mike Gatto in the 43rd Assembly District in the East Valley will face Glendale school board member Greg Krikorian.