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Pivotal state Senate seat up for grabs tonight

Voters on the Central Coast head to the polls today to decide a state Senate contest that could play a key role in the state's stalled budget negotiations.

Democrat John Laird, a former Assemblyman, is running against former Assembly Republican Leader Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) to fill the seat left vacant when Abel Maldonado was appointed lieutenant governor. Maldonado is a moderate Republican who broke ranks with his caucus in last year's budget talks.

Blakeslee was the top vote-getter in the June primary, but failed to reach the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. If Laird is able to pull out an upset victory, it would give Democrats 26 seats in the Senate, just one shy of the two-thirds needed to pass a budget.

Stay tuned to PolitiCal for results in the race after polls close at 8 p.m.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

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