- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

All 80 seats in the California Assembly and half the 40 Senate positions are up for grabs in this year’s election. But the interest is focused most intensely on a handful of races with the potential to alter the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats.

The June primary will cull the field and set up intriguing matchups for the November general election, where the two candidates with the most votes - regardless of party affiliation - will face off. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting and consequential races:

Assembly District 6

Incumbent: Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, termed out.

Challengers: Brian Caples, Democrat, co-founder of nonprofit Fix CA Water; John Edward Z’Berg, Democrat, retired corrections officer; Bill Halldin, Republican, public relations executive; Kevin Hanley, Republican, former Auburn City Council member; Gabriel Hydrick, Republican, Lincoln City Council member; Suzanne Jones, Republican, Placer County Board of Education member; Kevin Kiley, Republican, deputy attorney general; Ron Mikulaco, Republican, El Dorado County supervisor; Cristi Nelson, Republican, business owner; Andy Pugno, Republican who led campaign for Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage.

Key Factors: The district is a reliable Republican stronghold. But with eight GOP candidates on the ballot, it has the unusual potential to advance two Democrats to November if Republicans split the GOP vote.

Description: The district includes Sacramento’s wealthy northeastern suburbs, including Roseville, Rocklin, Folsom and El Dorado Hills. It is 46 percent registered Republicans, 28 percent Democrats and 21 percent no party preference.

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Assembly District 16

Incumbent: Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin.

Challenger: Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Democrat, retired teacher and former Pleasanton City Council member

Key Factors: Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has singled out the district as his No. 1 target for expanding the Democratic majority. Baker, a lawyer, won the seat in 2012 amid historically low turnout and brutal infighting among Democrats. Mindful of her district’s partisan leanings, Baker emphasizes her support for abortion rights and has sided with Democrats on several hot-button issues. Cook-Kallio says she’s committed to shorter commutes and improving early education.

Description: The district includes East Bay cities of Orinda, San Ramon and Livermore. Nearly four in 10 are Democrats, a third Republicans and 23 percent have no party preference.

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Assembly District 36

Incumbent: Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale

Challengers: Steve Fox, Democrat, attorney and educator; Ollie M. McCaulley, Democrat, businessman and educator; Darren W. Parker, Democrat, Assembly speaker’s deputy.

Key Factors: Former Democratic Assemblyman Fox, ousted by Lackey in the 2014 election, is looking for a rematch, but he may struggle to get past a $110,000 settlement the Assembly paid to settle a lawsuit from a former Fox employee. Parker has led the Democrats in fundraising.

Description: The district includes northern portions of Los Angeles County, including Palmdale, Lancaster and Edwards Air Force Base. Four in 10 are registered Democrats, 36 percent are Republicans and 19 percent are not affiliated with a party.

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Assembly District 47

Incumbent: Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino

Challengers: Eloise Reyes, Democrat, educator and attorney; Aissa Chanel Sanchez, Republican, small businesswoman.

Key Factors: Brown, a member of a group of moderate Democrats who have stymied some of the Legislature’s most ambitious environmental initiatives, has irritated labor and environmental groups because of her votes. Reyes’ supporters are highlighting a $1 million contribution by Chevron to an independent group that backs Brown in what is shaping up as one of the highest-profile races in the state.

Description: The Inland Empire district includes the cities of Rialto, Colton, Fontana and part of San Bernardino. About half are registered Democrats, 23 percent are Republican and 23 percent are independents.

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Assembly District 65

Incumbent: Assemblywoman Young Kim, R-Fullerton

Challengers: Former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, Democrat

Key Factors: Kim, a freshman lawmaker from Orange County, faces a rematch against Quirk-Silva, the Democrat she defeated in 2014. The district, where Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans, presents one of the best pickup opportunities for Democrats seeking to regain a supermajority in the Assembly. A high-turnout election year, and her history in the district, could help Quirk-Silva overcome Kim’s benefit of incumbency.

Description: The Orange County district includes Fullerton, Buena Park and La Palma. It is 37 percent registered Democrats, 35 percent Republicans and 24 percent no party preference.

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Assembly District 66

Incumbent: Assemblyman David Hadley, R-Torrance

Challengers: Mike Madrigal, Democrat, retail manager; Al Muratsuchi, Democrat, deputy attorney general

Key Factors: Hadley was among several Republicans who won close districts in 2014, and like Kim, he faces a likely rematch against the Democrat he ousted. Hadley defeated Muratsuchi by just 706 votes. He’s fundraised prodigiously and is likely to have the resources to put up a strong fight, despite his district’s Democratic tilt.

Description: The coastal Los Angeles County district includes Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance. Four in 10 are Democrats, a third are Republicans and 23 percent are independents.

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Senate District 5

Incumbent: Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton

Challengers: Samuel Anderson, Republican, business executive; Alan Nakanishi, Republican, physician and businessman

Key Factors: Galgiani is seen as the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate after barely eking out a win in 2012. But the highest-profile potential candidate, term-limited Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, declined to run. Galgiani’s Republican rivals have struggled to keep pace with fundraising. In keeping with her Central Valley district, Galgiani has a more moderate voting record than those of her Democratic colleagues from liberal coastal districts.

Description: The district includes Stockton and parts of Modesto, as well as Lodi and Tracy. The district is 40 percent registered Democrats, 36 percent Republicans and 19 percent no party preference.

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