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Republican assemblyman wins Southern California state Senate seat

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SACRAMENTO, California — State Assemblyman Mike Morrell easily beat four challengers to win a state Senate seat representing portions of three Southern California counties, according to state figures Wednesday.

The Rancho Cucamonga Republican had 62.2 percent of the vote in Tuesday's special election for the 23rd District, according to the latest figures from the secretary of state.

Morrell's closest competitor and the top vote-getting Democrat, author and educator Ronald O'Donnell, had 15.3 percent. Another Democrat, Ameenah Fuller, had 9.5 percent. Libertarian Jeff Hewitt and Republican Crystal Ruiz had 6.5 and 6.1 percent, respectively.

Morrell's commanding majority avoids a runoff election and keeps the district in GOP hands.

"It came out a little bit better than I'd anticipated," Morrell, the only candidate to raise significant money for the race, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday night. "I'm very pleased."

The district represents portions of Riverside and San Bernardino counties east of Los Angeles and a tiny sliver of Los Angeles County. Voter turnout in the large inland counties was light. About 20 percent of registered voters cast votes in Riverside County and about 13 percent in San Bernardino County. Most voting was by mail; only about 2 percent of the voters in each county physically went to the polls.

In Los Angeles County, just two out of 33 registered voters cast ballots.

The 23rd Senate District previously was represented by Bill Emmerson, who resigned in November.

Emmerson, 68, of Redlands, had represented the area since 2004, when he was elected to the Assembly. He won his Senate seat in 2010, and would have been forced out of office by term limits in 2016.

In announcing his resignation, Emmerson said his "passion has waned and my constituents deserve a senator with the level of commitment that I once had."

Morrell has represented the 40th Assembly District since 2010. His district covers about half the Senate district, where 41 percent of voters are Republicans and 34 percent are Democrats.

The Assembly district is up for election this year.

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