The Brief Reign of Governor Tom

The Acting Governor

It won’t last long, but Tom Torlakson‘s brief term as Acting Governor next week will be one for the record books.

As mentioned in a previous article, in the late 1950s, the State Assembly’s Subcommittee on Impact of Enemy Attack extended the Governor’s line of succession from just the Lieutenant Governor and Senate President Pro Tempore to include all of the partisan constitutional offices that then existed.

In 2007, Senate Fellow Chris Nguyen (assigned to the office of Senator George Runner) had an idea for a bill. The idea was to add the three constitutional offices to the Governor’s line of succession that were not already on the list. He quickly recruited the help of two other Senate Fellows (Greg Sperla and I) to the effort.

Chris met with Legislative Counsel and had the bill drafted (the order was set as Superintendent of Public Instruction, Insurance Commissioner and Chair of the Board of Equalization based on the order each office was created). It was time to find an author.

Chris met with his Chief of Staff and asked if Senator Runner would author the bill. Runner declined. I met with Senator Bob Dutton and tried my best to convince him. He declined as well.

Finally, Greg met with his boss, Senator Dennis Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth was definitely not convinced on the merits of the bill, but agreed to introduce the bill as slightly-larger-than-usual spot bill (which could be amended to contain “real bill language” at some point in the future).

Two months after introduction, the bill was presented for the first and last time in the Senate Governmental Organization Committee. Hollingsworth presented the bill, which passed on a 10-0 vote and was sent to the Senate Floor. Shortly after passing Senate G.O., an short article in Capitol Weekly referred to the legislation as an “alien abduction bill,” noting that (short of an abduction of the state’s leaders by extraterrestrials) it was unlikely that a line of succession longer than seven members would ever be necessary. Hollingsworth, who had agreed to introduce the bill as a learning experience for a junior staffer, decided to let the bill die.

However, since the bill had passed the Governmental Organization Committee without a no vote, it was placed on the Consent Calendar and passed the Senate without opposition a week later. In the Assembly, it was referred to Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, whose consultants (noting that it had received no opposition in the Senate) placed the bill on consent there. It passed out of committee without discussion in late June, and the Assembly Floor (also without debate or discussion) on July 3rd. A week later, it was sent to Governor Schwarzenegger, who signed it into law on July 22nd.

July 2016

Alan Lafaso, Sean Wallentine, Joel Angeles, Mike Gipson, Richard Zeiger, James M. Humes, Dave Stirling, Steve Coony, Collin Wong-Martinusen, Bill Bagley, Evan L. Goldberge, Chris Garland, Earl Smittcamp

The Line of Succession for California’s constitutional offices

The line of succession gets flexed occasionally, with power most frequently devolving to the Lieutenant Governor, occasionally to the President Pro Tem, and occasionally even lower than that. In July 2016, it was announced that Governor Brown would be attending the DNC with the next eight constitutional officers in the line. For the first time in state history, the line of succession will go into SB 1530 territory.

At some point late on July 24th, an airplane carrying the higher constitutional officers will leave California airspace, and the reign of Acting Governor (and Superintendent of Public Instruction) Tom Torlakson will begin. Will he sign legislation? Appoint judges? Issue a proclamation declaring July 19th (his birthday) as “Tom Torlakson Day in California” from now on? Probably not, but it will be an interesting moment in California history.

Finally, for the record, in case Governor Tom leaves the state between July 25th-28th, the state will pass into the hands of Acting Governors Kevin Mullin or Diane Harkey (with Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones expected to attend the DNC and Equalization Chair Fiona Ma definitely going to serve as Vice Chair of the DNC Credentials Committee).

Footnote: California has never had a Governor Tom before. Somehow, although we’ve had four named John and four named George (and even had a Goodwin, Culbert, Romualdo and a Hiram) we’ve never had a Tom before.

Vote Lead Changes

Congressional District 12
On June 21st, fifteen days after the Primary, Preston Picus pulled ahead of Bob Miller to face Nancy Pelosi in CD-12. On election night, with 100% of precincts reporting, Miller led Picus by 1,351 votes. A week later, on June 14th, that lead had slimmed to 472 votes. By that Friday, June 17th, Miller led Picus by mere 46 votes. As of June 21st, Pincus is ahead by 35 votes.

Congressional District 53
On June 14th, eight days after the Primary, James Veltmeyer finally gained a lead over Jim Ash in CD-53 by 126 votes. On election night, with 100% of precincts reporting, Ash led Veltmeyer by 127 votes. On June 10th, Veltmeyer trailed Ash by 126 votes. This grew to 143 votes by June 11th. As of June 14th, Veltmeyer leads by 296 votes. As of June 16th, Veltmeyer leads by 563 votes.

Congressional District 46
On June 13th, seven days after the Primary, Bao Nguyen pulled ahead of Bob Peterson, who had held the second-place position since election night. On election night, Peterson led Nguyen by 456 votes. On June 10th, Peterson’s lead had grown to 499. By June 11th, the lead had slimmed to 236. As of June 14th, Nguyen leads by 867 votes. As of June 15th, Nguyen leads by 1,096 votes.

Assembly District 68
On June 13th, seven days after the Primary, Steven S. Choi pulled ahead of Harry Sidhu in AD-68. On June 10th, Choi trailed Sidhu by 529. This grew to 608 on the 11th. As of June 14th, Choi leads by 49 votes. As of June 15th, Choi is ahead by 71 votes. As of June 15th, Choi is ahead by 150 votes.


JoinCalifornia has been updated to reflect these lead changes. As a reminder, during the 2010 Primary Election, Vargas took the lead 18 days after the election. In the 2012 General Election, Bill Berryhill led Cathleen Galgiani in the vote count for 15 days after the election, while Ron Smith led Steve Fox in the vote count for 27 days, only falling behind and eventually losing on December 2nd. After the 1980 General Election, Assemblyman Adrian C. Fondse led for 63 days (including a month of service in the Assembly), before the Assembly voted to accept a final vote count that put Patrick Johnston ahead.

Close 2nd Place Finishes

Under the Top Two Primary, it’s the battle between 2nd and 3rd place that is usually the most closely-watched. Here are the 11 races where 2nd and 3rd place are separated by fewer than 1000 votes.

Close 2nd Place Finishes (as of 6/10/16 at 7:22 AM)

CD-53    Veltmeyer trails Ash by 126 votes.
CD-32    Hernández trails Fisher by 222.
AD-12    Madueno trails Flora by 416.
CD-21    Huer trails Parra by 467.
CD-46    Nguyen trails Peterson by 499. Joe Dunn is 816 back from there.
AD-68    Choi trails Sidhu by 529.
AD-26    Mendoza trails Macareno by 583.
AD-10    Jacobi trails Allen by 597.
AD-55    Spence trails Chen by 673.
CD-37    Hasan trails Wiggins by 917.
CD-08    Donnelly trails Rita Ramirez (2nd place) by 926 votes.

Other close races:

AD-24    Ohtaki trails Veenker by 1,223 votes.
CD-12    Picus trails Miller by 1,351 votes.
CD-24    Katcho trails Fareed by 2,357.