November 3rd, 2010
01:17 PM ET

Deceased candidate wins state Senate seat in California

Democrat Jenny Oropeza won re-election as a state senator in California, but the implications of her victory Tuesday won't be known for some time.

Oropeza, 53, died two weeks before the election from a blood clot after battling cancer. But the incumbent remained on the ballot, winning by a decent margin 58 percent to 36 percent over Republican John Stammreich.

Democrats continued to ask voters to check Oropeza's name on the ballot after her death through mailers. Some Republicans filed a complaint that the mailer was an attempt to "illegally influence" voters.

The Democratic mailer suggested that Republicans were trying to capitalize on the situation.

"The Republicans are trying to take unfair advantage of Jenny’s tragedy," said the mailer without mentioning Oropeza's death. "They suggest that voting for Jenny will only result in a costly Special Election. I am asking you to vote for Jenny Oropeza. If a Special Election is called in a few months, you’ll have the chance to thoughtfully elect your Senator for a new four-year term."

CNN affiliate KTLA-TV in Los Angeles reports that Oropeza's name remained on the ballot because she died so close to the election.

So why encourage people to vote for her? Democrats likely hoped that at least they would get the chance to nominate a new Democratic candidate. And that's likely what will happen, KTLA reports, saying Oropeza's seat will be declared vacant, and a special election will be called in December.

At the time of this posting, CNN had not been able to reach the California Democratic Party for comment.

It's not the first time a deceased candidate has won an election against an opponent. The late Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan collected enough votes to beat Republican incumbent John Ashcroft for his U.S. Senate in 2000.

The popular governor died in a plane crash on October 16, 2000. By that time, it was too late to remove Carnahan's name from the ballot. His wife, Jean Carnahan, was appointed to his seat and served two years before losing in a special election.

soundoff (135 Responses)
  1. Zombie Voter

    Myself and all my undead friends voted for this candidate. First order of business: Lower the tax on braaaaaainssssss!

    November 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. rickster

    Actually what this illustrates is just how stupid democrats are. I guarantee you that 99 per cent of the dumbocrats that voted for her had no idea she was deceased. This is how most dumbocrats get elected.....by the sheer fact that most of their voters have no idea who or what they are voting for. Take a look at the president. That's the only explanation for that incompetent moron getting elected.

    November 3, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • The11th

      Had you read the comments before you opened your mouth, you'd understand some of the many reasons why Oropeza won (For starters, how about Californians not wanting the Republican candidate??? Same thing happened before in Missouri- John "Patriot Act" Ashcroft lost to a dead guy.)
      Instead of labeling Californians as dumb, maybe you could think through the implications of their vote.

      November 3, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • *sigh*

      Rick, you're an idiot.

      November 3, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greased Palm Sunday

      Great comment Rickster! You've proven you're the smartestest of everyone! Yay!

      November 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • ep canuk

      To: The 11th: Kindly refraine from using the word "think" in reference to Rickster's comments. Readers may not pick up on your sarcasm and actually believe he has that ability.

      November 3, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Derpity derp

      Yeah, cause only Democrats vote down party lines!

      November 3, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Monroe

      No we democrates pay attention to what is happening in the country, not just listen to FOX

      November 3, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    One thing is for sure, Jenny Orepeza can't screw anything up more than it already is. Vaya condios Jenny Oropeza.

    November 3, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CA23

    This is not as ridiculous as it sounds. This happened with a candidate in Missouri a few years ago. The voters knew he had died... they also knew what the law was in that case... his party then got to nominate the person who would take the position.

    It is NOT a vote for a dead-person. It IS a vote for the party.

    November 3, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sue

    it's like aaron sorkin can see the future. the same thing happened on the west wing. maybe sam seaborn can run for office again.

    November 3, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Michael Campbell

    This can only happen in california what next does the state plan to do. With the state in such finacial hardship why was the issue not adressed in the two weeks prior to the election how can you justify wasting money you dont have on a special election. He lost to a deceased person but as the runner up he should be elgible to carry out her term for the next two years as runner up and then conduct a new election to settle this. This solution is better than wasting more money or is the norm for the state creative ways to waste money when you have none?

    November 3, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Read first, answer later ...

      If you had read the story, you'd realize it doesn't "only happen in CA". And if they chose not to do a special election, it should go to someone nominated by the party, not handed over to the opposing party because he was "the runner up". Not a word of your post makes sense.

      November 3, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greased Palm Sunday

      So by your logic, if I want to win an election that I'm probably going to lose, I can kill my opponent and win by being the runner up! That is AWSOME!
      BTW, did you read the story, or just the headline?

      November 3, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dean

    Even dead, she'll be a more responsive legislator than most Democrats.

    November 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    This is just as low as it is sad.

    November 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff

    And that quack guy in SC got 30% of the vote when his answer to create more jobs was "build a plant to make dolls of me". And you guys make fun of O'Donnel.

    November 3, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. CubanMom

    Sad!

    November 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    And people wonder why CA is in the mess that they are in....again.

    November 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob

    Why can't dead people win an election?
    Dead people vote all the time don't they?

    November 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Squidly

    Maybe we should light up a joint and ponder this awhile!

    November 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dennis

    Had this been Chicago, she still could have voted for herself.

    November 3, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. KFitzer

    I voted for State Senator Oropeza. She was quite popular in the district and obviously a shoo-in for re-election. The voters decidely did NOT want to be represented by Republican challenger John Stammrich, so exercised their only option. The ballots were printed and ready to go. Had the challenger come out with more votes, there would be no need for a special election. This is entirely legal, fair and sensible.

    November 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
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