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Kuehl May Hold Key to Top Senate Spot

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

August 23 -- State Senator Sheila Kuehl, Santa Monica’s representative in Sacramento, may find her popularity on the rise in the legislative halls of Sacramento these days.

On Tuesday, Kuehl may be the key player in a secret vote over who will assume a top legislative spot when the Senate's president pro-tem, John Burton, who assumed the position before term limits even existed, steps down in November.

Kuehl is one of three senators vying for the powerful position from which Sen. Burton built his political legacy and wielded his legislative power for nearly 26 years, yet news reports indicate she is also the most likely to bow out of the race.

That means the Senator and her backers' votes could be instrumental in deciding who will win the hotly contested race for one of the state's most influential political posts.

The senate president pro-tem not only participates in some of the state's most pressing and important issues, but is also seen by many in Sacramento as instrumental in fundraising and keeping their party's majority in the legislature.

It is likely that both Senators Martha Escutia of Whittier and Don Perata of Oakland are watching Kuehls' maneuvering intently, since they would be the only contenders left if she drops out after the first round of balloting, as insiders predict.

Based on recent comments made by Kuehl, her vote and those of three other Senators who back her -- Debra Bowen of Marina del Rey, Liz Figueroa of Fremont and Dede Alpert of San Diego -- could decide the race in which 25 Democrats are expected to vote.

Only thirteen votes are needed for a winner to emerge, which makes Kuehl's backing essential for victory.

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