Incumbent state legislators in Bay Area races took commanding leads from the start Tuesday night, including a hotly contested race between two veteran San Jose Democratic lawmakers and a Santa Clara County legislator facing a serious challenger in a newly redrawn district.

State Assemblyman Jim Beall appeared to be successful in his battle to fend off former Assemblyman Joe Coto for the 15th Senate District seat, a race that pitted two well-known local leaders from the same party against one another in the general election.

State Assemblyman Jerry Hill seemed to be cruising to victory against former state Assemblywoman Sally Lieber in her attempts to re-enter the state legislature representing Senate District 13.

Also winning was state Assemblyman Paul Fong, forced by the California's Citizens Redistricting Commission's redrawing of the legislative map to compete in the more conservative Assembly District 28, with mostly new constituents in Saratoga, Campbell, Los Gatos and part of San Jose.

Fong faced independent challenger Chad Walsh, who represents much of the area now as a West Valley-Mission Community College trustee. But Fong was leading by a strong margin in early returns.

Redistricting also split Democrat Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski's old Fremont political power base, and the district now extends farther south to include parts of Santa Clara County. Wieckowski was overwhelmingly ahead of Republican ArLyne Diamond in the 25th Assembly District.


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The Beall-Coto race in Senate District 15 was an early test of California's new "top-two" open primary system, designed to make races more competitive in districts with lopsided party representation.

The district represents a large chunk of Silicon Valley from East San Jose west to Los Gatos, Saratoga and Cupertino.

"With the new primary system it's like a marathon run, you have to campaign over a long period of time, and it's very difficult to do that," Beall said from his campaign headquarters as early results leaned heavily in his favor. Beall added that a "sustained, grass-roots campaign involving 350 volunteers appeared to be paying off. "You could see the results in the areas we worked really hard in. We just feel really overwhelmed."

With most of the newly redrawn 13th district in San Mateo County, Hill was fighting on his home turf, having spent many years on the county Board of Supervisors.

Hill, 65, has represented the 19th Assembly District since 2008. Before that he served on the San Mateo City Council and San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

The redrawn 13th district includes most of San Mateo County and a portion of northern Santa Clara County, running from South San Francisco down to Sunnyvale.

Hill outpolled Lieber 51 percent to 22 percent in the June primary, and he had a major advantage in campaign fundraising. Hill took in slightly more than $1 million between Jan. 1 and Oct. 20. Lieber raised $260,806, including $100,000 she donated to her own campaign.

Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose handily beat Republican retiree Roger F. Lasson in the heavily Democratic 27th Assembly District, which includes much of eastern and southern San Jose.

Democratic Assemblyman Rich Gordon triumphed over Republican opponent Chengzhi "George" Yang, a 35-year-old software engineer. Gordon coasted to victory in the newly drawn 24th Assembly District, which comprises much of the same territory in southern San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County as his current district.

Gordon was elected to the Assembly in 2010 after serving 13 years on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

In a race to the north, incumbent state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco ended the night victorious in the 11th Senate District against Republican Harmeet K. Dhillon.

Follow Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.