California AG’s wife among those seeking his Assembly seat

California

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) — Voters in the San Francisco Bay Area may keep it all in the family after voting Tuesday to replace Attorney General Rob Bonta in the state Assembly.

Mia Bonta was the frontrunner in a crowded pack of candidates for his old 18th Assembly District seat. Her husband left the Legislature in April after Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed him to fill the state’s top law enforcement post.

Bonta had nearly 38% of the vote Tuesday night in preliminary results cited by the California secretary of state’s office. Janani Ramachandran, a fellow Democrat, was in second place with 21.5%.

If no candidate wins more than half the vote, a special runoff election will be held Aug. 31 with the top two vote-getters, regardless of their party affiliation.

Eight candidates are vying to replace Bonta, including six Democrats in the Alameda County district where 66% of voters are registered with that party. Republican Stephen Slauson and Joel Britton, no party preference, also are running.

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

Vella was in third place followed by Slauson.

Several contenders have backgrounds in local government: James Aguilar is a member of the San Leandro School Board and once interned for Bonta when he was in the Assembly; Victor Aguilar is a San Leandro city councilman. 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.

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