Election: Hill cruises to victory in state Senate race | November 14, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



News - November 14, 2012

Election: Hill cruises to victory in state Senate race

by Eric Van Susteren and Gennady Sheyner

Jerry Hill continued his climb up California's political ladder Nov. 6 when he convincingly defeated Sally Lieber in the race to represent the Peninsula in the state Senate.

Mr. Hill garnered 166,145 votes, or 67 percent, more than double his challenger's 82,805 votes, according to the latest count.

A former San Mateo County supervisor who has been serving in the State Assembly since 2008, he cruised to victory despite fierce opposition from Ms. Lieber, a former assemblywoman whose campaign focused on education and the environment. The Mountain View resident had hoped that grassroots support from northern Santa Clara County would give her the edge despite Mr. Hill's overwhelming advantage in endorsements and campaign funds.

He had received more than $1 million in contributions this year for his campaign, and his list of supporters includes a laundry list of elected city, county and state officials, including prominent Democrats such as Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. And while most of her support came from individuals in her home district, he received sizeable checks from dozens of unions, trade groups and corporations.

Ms. Lieber, who raised $260,000 according to campaign-finance records, drew 54 percent of the votes in Santa Clara County, compared to Mr. Hill's 46 percent. But it was his overwhelming advantage in his home county of San Mateo that sealed the deal and padded his margin of victory. There, he was favored by 73 percent of the voters.

The results were far from surprising given his convincing win in June's primary election, when he snagged 55 percent of the votes to her 22 percent. Ms. Lieber, who had portrayed herself throughout the campaign as an underdog and as the more independent candidate, chalked up her underwhelming primary performance to his huge financial advantage and to her campaign's decision to reserve most of its spending for the general election.

"We were outgunned 10 to 1 in money, but we weren't outvoted 10 to 1," she said in an election night interview. "I think our ideas gained some traction with the voters."

She said the campaign showed the immense role that independent political contributions play in elections. "One of the big messages of the campaign is the overall dominance of money in politics," she said. "It's definitely something that needs to be looked at."

With his victory, Mr. Hill will represent a newly formed 13th state Senate district that includes most of San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County and that stretches from Brisbane in the north to Sunnyvale in the south. Much of the district is currently represented by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who is concluding his final Senate term this year. The new district includes Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley, Woodside, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Mountain View, Redwood City, San Mateo, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Mr. Hill said on election night that the results were "an opportunity to re-engage and make major changes."

"With success in sustaining our innovation economy, we can provide resources to improve the quality of life for people in the Valley and the Peninsula and protect our natural resources because once we lose those, they're gone for good," he said.

Referring to himself in his acceptance speech as an amateur magician, he said it had been a "magic" campaign, mentioning the fortuitous redistricting, generous donations and support from volunteers as boons to his campaign.

Quoting American poet Carl Sandberg, he said: "Every politician needs three hats: one to throw in the ring, one to talk through and one to pull a rabbit out of. We're going to make magic in Sacramento for four years."


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