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Hottest Assembly Race Is in the Westside

The top two vote-getters earn a spot on November’s general election ballot, regardless of party affiliation.

In what's considered one of the most spirited Assembly races in the June 5 election, the candidates vying for the newly created 50th Assembly District seat are remarkably similar. But that hasn't stopped them from emphasizing their differences, however slight.

Even the candidate with the best shot at standing out, the race's lone Republican, West Hollywood resident Brad Torgan, has tried to appeal to the heavily Democratic district by touting his lenient position on social issues and his background as an environmental advocate. 

When asked for his take on a number of hot-button issues, his answers mirrored those of his Democratic opponents: He by Santa Monica College to offer a second tier of higher priced courses not subsidized by the state, wants to in the state's public infrastructure and promises to collaborate .

He is, however, the only candidate who said he would not vote for either of the likely to be on the November ballot.

Like Torgan, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom is an attorney. Bloom practices family law, while Torgan specializes in environmental regulations. Under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration, Torgan was general counsel for the California Department of Parks. His most high-stakes case was representing the agency during a lengthy administrative trial to keep a 150-mile power line out of a stretch of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Bloom—a member of the Santa Monica City Council since 1999—is the only candidate who has managed to distance himself from Assembly campaign trail frays, a deliberate decision on his part, he said. While Torgan has largely remained unscathed, his campaign jumped into the brush when he issued a press release in May criticizing Osborn because she had slammed opponent Betsy Butler's endorsement from the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.

Osborn has arguably led the feistiest campaign, pitting herself against the race's biggest competitor, current 53rd Assemblywoman Betsy Butler. In late May, Osborn distributed mailers , which cut education funding. In April, her campaign to potential voters that championed banning BPA from plastic baby bottles and sippy cups.

After the California Citizens Redistricting Commission redrew the Assembly lines, Butler, who has lived in Marina del Rey for 20 years, announced she would move out of the South Bay district where she was elected two years ago to run in the 50th District, which stretches from Malibu to Hollywood and includes Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Agoura Hills.

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A Santa Monica resident, Torie Osborn is a grassroots organizer. She is a past executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, D.C., and she led the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center from 1988 to 1992.

"Good ideas come from the outside," she said. It's a saying Osborn said she learned working for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, for whom she established the Office of Strategic Partnership, a liaison between city staffers and area nonprofits.

Interactions between Osborn and Butler heated up this winter. In January, Butler and her supports accused Osborn of stacking endorsements by recruiting people to join local Democratic clubs so they could vote for her in the organizations' . Later, Osborn was the subject of , who has thrown his support behind Butler.

while Osborn has the backing of a handful of local democratic clubs, including those in Malibu, Santa Monica, Westwood-Beverly Hills and San Fernando Valley.

Bloom cited several fellow mayors among his list of endorsers, including colleagues in Oakland, Murrieta, Malibu and Laguna Beach. He has plugged his 13 years of political experience. The only candidate who could come close in terms of legislating experience is Butler, he said.

"Betsy has accomplishments, but she’s been in office a little over a year," Bloom said.

In 2011, six of 10 bills Butler authored or co-authored were signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to her website. In addition to the Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act, she inked legislation that elevated fines for thefts, forgery and fraud committed against seniors and legislation that paved the way for a regional communication system among first responders.

"Assemblywoman Betsy Butler has made the tough decisions we need to balance our budget, protect Democratic priorities, and get our state back on track," Brown said in a recent press release.

Cast Your Vote

The June 5 presidential primary election is the first statewide test of the open primary system approved by California voters in 2010.

The top two vote-getters in congressional and state races—regardless of party affiliation—will earn a spot on November’s general election ballot. In the past, Republicans could only vote for Republicans and Democrats for Democrats.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk has a helpful website for voters to find their local polling place. Visitors also can select a party preference to get a sample ballot.

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