California’s Democratic Party is preparing for a tough runoff

Who will replace L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl — a seasoned Sacramento legislator or a millennial West Hollywood activist?

A key political race in the state capital is heating up, with the top two candidates for the Democratic nomination for state Senate on the brink of a June runoff.

Democratic candidate Eric Bauman is neck-and-neck with his Republican opponent, John Scott, a businessman, in the race to replace Sen. Sheila Kuehl. Bauman holds a lead in the polls despite a recent series of scandals involving him and his chief of staff, Lisa Lantz, including the alleged misuse of state funds.

Scott’s campaign is running a massive TV ad to promote Bauman in the face of Scott’s opposition and a steady stream of endorsements from Kuehl and the California Democratic Party, which has sent three statewide television ad buy to Scott.

The Republican primary, set for June 26, is also shaping up to be a high-profile contest. The top two candidates are a well-known veteran politician in California, state Treasurer John Chiang, and a newcomer, former state Assemblyman Travis Allen, who has been out of office since 2009. The winner will have the task of leading a Republican caucus in the state Senate that includes two women, Sen. Toni Atkins and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Scott leads Bauman by 8 percentage points in the latest California Public Policy Institute Poll. With 49 percent of the vote, Bauman would be the first Asian-American elected to the state Senate, the first Latino elected to the Senate, and the first woman elected to the state Senate. And he would become only the third Asian-American, Latino or African-American to serve as California’s chief deputy county executive, after former Supervisor Maryann Demas and former Board of Supervisor President Carol Fukunaga.

The race to replace state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin Shelley, who announced last month that he would not seek re-election, is also heating up. Primary polls have shown Shelley trailing Democrat Ami Bera, a San Diego businessman and attorney, by a narrow margin. Both candidates are raising campaign funds, and the primary’s winner will face a difficult general election against a Republican and a second Democrat, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.

California has always been a challenging place for minority and women politicians. But now Asian-American women and minorities are being elected to statewide offices that

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