SACRAMENTO — It didn't take long after Proposition 93 went down on Election Night for the scramble to begin for legislative leadership posts and soon-to-be-open legislative seats.

Almost immediately after the final results were in, state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, announced Wednesday he will campaign to succeed Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, as the caucus leader. His likely opponent in that race, Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, kept a low profile, but has made it known to Perata that he's also interested.

The defeat of the ballot measure, which would have loosened term limits and allowed term-limited incumbents to stay another four or six years, ensures there will be leadership changes in both houses, but the timing is still in question. Will there be an immediate challenge to the leaders, or a smooth transition with some agreed-upon date?

Perata is one of nine Bay Area lawmakers — and 34 overall — who will be forced to leave office by the end of 2008. He said Wednesday that his caucus will hold off until Aug. 21 — the last day of session — before voting on his successor.

"I wanted to make sure (the transition) doesn't destabilize things," he said. "The vote will be taken and after the election in November, there will be a smooth transition."

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, faces a potentially more raucous scenario. He could be at the center of a power struggle in which at least a half-dozen members — including Fremont Democrat Alberto Torrico — are vying for his job.


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The Assembly caucus, which meets today, will determine whether it wants Nunez or a new leader to take them through what likely will be complicated and demanding budget negotiations and upcoming campaigns.

"My sense is that it'll be sooner than the Senate's," said Steve Maviglio, spokesman for Nunez. "There are so many people running, he wants to have a healthy discussion."

On the Republican side, termed-out Senate minority leader Dick Ackerman, R-Tustin, has already said he will give up his leadership role in April. Among the party leaders, only Assembly minority leader Mike Villines, R-Fresno, is not termed out.

When leaders turn lame ducks, lawmakers typically don't sit around too long before they gravitate to new leaders. That's especially so in an election year, when caucus members want to know their leader can raise money to help in their races and to contest seats in competitive districts.

Perata and Nunez "bought themselves some time until yesterday," said Garry South, a Democratic consultant. "No one wanted to presume that Prop. 93 would fail by launching themselves against someone who could be there for another four or six years. Now, it's Katie, bar the door."

If the future of the leadership is uncertain, so is that of the ousted Democratic leaders.

Perata said Wednesday he has no immediate plans to run for office, before adding "I've never made it a secret that I'd love to be Oakland mayor."

Nunez is eligible to run for the Senate but has no plans to do so, Maviglio said. Even if he wanted to, he'd have to wait until 2010 before his Senate seat opened up, when Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, is termed out.

There's been speculation about Nunez running for mayor of Los Angeles, but that's potentially complicated. The incumbent, Antonio Villaraigosa, is his friend and is presumed to run for re-election in 2009. However, there also is wide speculation Villaraigosa might run for governor in 2010, which would open the mayor's slot for Nunez.

While Nunez and Perata were being cagey about their political futures, others wasted no time in declaring their intentions.

Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, facing term limits, has been gearing up for a race to replace Perata in his district that covers Alameda and Contra Costa counties. She'll be facing former Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Oakland, who has been out of the Legislature for two years.

Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who was just elected to his seat in 2006, is running for term-limited Antioch Democratic Sen. Tom Torlakson's seat. DeSaulnier will be facing another former Assemblyman, Joe Canciamilla, a Pittsburg Democrat who has been out of office for two years. 

Torlakson is running for DeSaulnier's seat to bide his time before he makes an expected 2010 bid for state superintendent of education.

Term-limited Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, will challenge Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors incumbent Mary Pipho for her seat.

Richard Holober, president of the San Mateo County Community College District, said he will run for San Mateo Assemblyman Gene Mullin's soon-to-be termed-out seat.

"Now that Tuesday's primary is behind us," Holober said, "my Assembly campaign is moving into high gear."

Mullin, a former teacher, said he is retiring from politics and is mulling offers to teach political science at a local college.

Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, who is chair of the powerful Assembly budget committee, also might be out of politics — at least for a while. He said it's possible that he might run for the Senate seat currently held by Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, when Simitian's term expires in 2012.

Other lawmakers who also saw their fates sealed Tuesday are Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco and Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks.

, who has been the standard bearer for fiscal conservatism for more than a decade, also will end their legislative careers.

Contact Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101 or sharmon@bayareanewsgroup.com.