Politics

Hall wins Rod Wright's open California Senate seat

Assemblyman Isadore Hall ( D-Compton), shown here in a file photo, has won an open California Senate seat in Los Angeles County.
Assemblyman Isadore Hall ( D-Compton), shown here in a file photo, has won an open California Senate seat in Los Angeles County.
Damian Dovarganes/AP

Former state Assemblyman Isadore Hall has won a special election to replace Democratic state Sen. Rod Wright in a southern Los Angeles County seat.

Wright resigned in September after being sentenced for lying about where he lived when he ran for office.

With all precincts reporting Tuesday, Hall, a Democrat from Compton, had 55 percent of the votes. His closest rival in the four-candidate field, Republican businessman James Spencer, had 26 percent.

Turnout was only about 6 percent. An unknown number of provisional and vote-by-mail ballots remain to be counted but are unlikely to drop Hall below the simple majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Hall served three terms in the Assembly and was termed out last month.

The special election  cost Los Angeles County taxpayers more than $2 million dollars, or about  $73 dollars for each vote cast.

State law requires that elections be held to fill state legislative and congressional vacancies. The county  has spent more than $20 million holding them. The low turnout and high per-voter cost has the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters office pressing state lawmakers to come up with a less expensive alternative.

The state has has 52 special elections to fill legislative or congressional vacancies since 2003, according to the Secretary of State.

Former state Sen. Gary Hart has proposed the governor appoint people to fill out the remaining terms in vacant seats. The California Voter Foundation has suggested officeholders resign their posts before they would be permitted to run in a special election.

Registrar of Voters Dean Logan wants the state to resume reimbursing counties for the costs of these special elections. California stopped paying for that in 2008, said Efrain Escobedo, manager of government affairs for the Registrar's office. Some partial reimbursements had come in since then but were suspended in 2011.

Sen Norma Torres, who won her seat in a 2014 special election, authored a bill that would have reimbursed counties, but it died in committee.

Correction: An earlier version of this report said California halted reimbursement of county costs for special elections in 2011. The correct date is 2008. Some partial reimbursements were halted in 2011, but the bulk of state reimbursements to counties for special elections stopped flowing in 2008. KPCC regrets the error.