Republican wins, joins spouse as California lawmaker

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SACRAMENTO— A Northern California Republican is set to join her husband in the state Legislature, with her Democratic opponent in Tuesday's special election conceding but promising a rematch next year.

Megan Dahle had 58% of Tuesday's special election vote to 42% for Democrat Elizabeth Betancourt.

Dahle is scheduled to be sworn in next Tuesday to succeed her husband, Brian, a Republican who represented Assembly District 1 until he won a special state Senate election in June.

Close the Gap California, which recruits progressive women candidates including Betancourt, said Dahle will give California's 120-member Legislature a new state record of 38 women.

"I look at my 10-year-old daughter and think it's amazing" to be a role model for young women, Dahle said Wednesday.

She said she will run next year's campaign the same way she won this one, "which is talk to constituents and let them know I'm for less taxes, less regulation, that I'm a small-businesswoman and a farmer."

Dahle and her husband have a wheat farm and a related seed grain transport business in Bieber, 250 miles (402 kilometers) northeast of Sacramento. The sprawling Assembly district is bigger than West Virginia, covering all or part of nine counties from suburban Sacramento to the state's northeastern corner.

The state should do more to deter wildfires by clearing fuels from around communities including by working with the timber industry, Dahle said. She said utilities should find a way to cut off electric power only to residents in high-risk areas instead of across much of the state as they try to prevent fires. Dahle said she hopes to join legislative working groups addressing both issues.

Close the Gap California executive director Susannah Delano said Dahle's election will break a 37-woman tie currently and in 2005-6. The number of women dropped after 2006 but rebounded from just 26 in 2017 — a 20-year low — to 38 now.

Now 32% of California's legislators will be female, which ties with Hawaii for having the 18th most women as a percentage. In the Assembly, 24 of the 80 members will be women, while 14 of the 40 senators are female.

Delano credited Betancourt for gathering 42% of the vote in a district where registered voters are 40% Republicans and 28% Democrats.

Betancourt, in a Facebook post, called her loss the end of her special election bid, but "the beginning of our race for 2020 ..."

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