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Central Coast voters are in the midst of deciding crucial state Senate race

June 22, 2010 |  1:26 pm

Central Coast voters headed to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots in a special election that will decide who'll fill Abel Maldonado's former seat in the state Senate.

Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) and former Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) head a field of candidates hoping to fill the vacancy in the 15th Senate District.

The race has become a partisan battleground -- one that could prove pivotal for both parties in the Senate. If Laird wins, Democrats will hold 26 seats in the Senate, one shy of a two-thirds majority needed to pass  budgets, tax increases and more. Republicans are seeking to hold on to their seat in an effort to remain relevant.

If any candidate earns 50% of the vote they will win the seat outright. If no candidate receives a majority of Tuesday's vote, the top vote-getter in each party will advance to an Aug. 22 runoff.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento