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Two Democrats face off in hard-fought Westside Assembly contest

October 17, 2012 |  9:07 am

Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, left, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, right.

One of the more hotly contested state legislative races this year pits Assemblywoman Betsy Butler of Beverly Hills against Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom. They are battling so hard, voters might forget that both candidates are Democrats.

Butler has an edge in a couple of areas. She has been endorsed by the county and state Democratic parties and she has spent more than $1 million so far this year, more than twice the amount spent by Bloom. Special interests have independently put more than a quarter of a million dollars into the 50th Assembly District race, evenly matched between the two candidates.

Theirs is one of 28 state legislative and congressional contests throughout California where candidates from the same party are facing off in the Nov. 6 election, thanks to a voter-approved reform that allowed the top two vote-getters in the primary to advance to the general contest, regardless of party affiliation.

The change presents both challenges and opportunities for Eric Bauman, chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. On one hand, his party wins no matter which candidate the voters pick.  On the other hand, an inter-party battle, whether it's Butler and Bloom or veteran Democratic Congressmen Howard Berman and Brad Sherman in the San Fernando Valley, can be divisive.

"This race and the Berman-Sherman race are examples of the worst possible outcomes for us because we have two good Democrats running against each other and it causes conflict between people," Bauman said.

Still, he said there was no thought of staying out of the Assembly contest, and the endorsement of Butler was made early in the year, when there were three Democrats and one Republican competing in the primary.

"There are some people who don’t believe  that the party should endorse a Democrat against a Democrat, even in the primary," Bauman said. "But our theory and belief is that part of the responsibility that we have is to educate voters about who believe is the best candidate in the race."


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--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Assemblywoman Betsy Butler and Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom. Credits: Butler campaign; Danny Moloshok / Associated Press