Wealthy direct mail company owner Craig Huey said Wednesday he was beaten at his own game in his 66th Assembly District loss to Democrat Al Muratsuchi.
But Huey's opponent contended his victory played out exactly as advance polling suggested, with South Bay voters from both major parties more willing to embrace a known moderate - Muratsuchi is a Torrance school board member - than an unknown Tea Party Republican.
Muratsuchi received 53.8 percent of the vote in the coastal district that includes Torrance.
"Our polling was consistently showing that our message was getting through that Craig Huey was too extreme for the South Bay," Muratsuchi said. "South Bay voters are not Tea Party Republicans.
"Voters saw my record as a prosecutor and as a school board member from Torrance, the largest city in the district, with the record of being fiscally responsible," he added. "There was no way he could attack my record of being fiscally conservative, and I think the voters recognized that and appreciated that."
The race, one of the most competitive and closely watched in the state with potential implications beyond the South Bay, was close throughout the night.
With a Democratic legislative supermajority a possibility this fall, both parties targeted the contest, expending financial resources that sent a deluge of mailers into voters' mailboxes.
Huey actually led briefly when absentee ballots were counted, but as soon as
Huey said his team was "taken aback" by that.
"It was an intense marketing effort and we were just outspent," he said. "We spent a little under $800,000 and he's nearing $3 million.
"Sacramento dumped more money into this race than any other in California," Huey added. "We figured we needed to have half as much (financial support) as he had and we didn't come near that. It's hard for me to complain because I did get some Republican support and that was refreshing and unusual.
"The Republicans in Sacramento were fearful of losing the two-thirds (legislative) majority (to the Democrats) so they did help out. It's just the amount that did come in from the union and the special interests were just so much more."
But Muratsuchi said Huey downplayed the critical cash he got from deep-pocketed Republican groups. Huey also spent tens of thousands of his own money.
"He received over half a million dollars from the San Luis Obispo Republican Central Committee," Muratsuchi said. "He also received money from the (billionaire) Koch brothers who finance and support Tea Party Republicans across the country. So for him to act like he's a victim of special interest money, he's not being forthcoming about his own supporters."
National trends may have also influenced the race, although that will become more apparent when more detailed voting trends are released.
For instance, Huey said the youth vote was supposed to clock in at no more than 20 percent of the vote. Instead it was more like 28 percent.
The GOP has tracked poorly with younger voters and Huey appeared to go after the older demographic, spending heavily on ads in newspapers, for instance, which tend to have an older audience than online news sources.
Young voters went with Democrats and Muratsuchi said he had 25 to 30 high school students from throughout the South Bay and Harbor Area volunteering for his campaign every night.
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