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Hill cruises to victory in state Senate race

San Mateo County Assemblyman defeats Sally Lieber in bid to represent Peninsula

Jerry Hill continued his climb up California's political ladder Tuesday night when he convincingly defeated Sally Lieber in the race to represent the Peninsula in the State Senate.

With all precincts reporting, Hill garnered 157,790 votes, or 67 percent, more than double his challenger's 78,045 votes.

Hill, a former San Mateo County supervisor who has been serving in the State Assembly since 2008, cruised to victory despite fierce opposition from Lieber, a former Assemblywoman whose campaign focused on education and the environment. The Mountain View resident had hoped that grassroots support from northern Santa Clara County would give her the edge despite Hill's overwhelming advantage in endorsements and campaign funds.

Hill had received more than $1 million in contributions this year for his campaign, and his list of supporters includes a laundry list of elected city, county and state officials, including prominent Democrats such as Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. And while most of Lieber's support came from individuals in her home district, Hill received sizeable checks from dozens of unions, trade groups and corporations.

Lieber, who raised $260,000 according to campaign-finance records, drew 54 percent of the votes in Santa Clara County, compared to Hill's 46 percent. But it was Hill's overwhelming advantage in his home county of San Mateo that sealed the deal and padded his margin of victory. There, he was favored by 73 percent of the voters.

The results were far from surprising given Hill's convincing win in June's primary election, when he snagged 55 percent of the votes to Lieber's 22 percent. Lieber, who had portrayed herself throughout the campaign as an underdog and as the more independent candidate, chalked up her underwhelming primary performance to Hill's huge financial advantage and to her campaign's decision to reserve most of its spending for the general election.

Reached by phone Tuesday night, Lieber told the Weekly that it had been an honor to run as one of the top two candidates in the race.

"I trust in the voters and the decisions of the voters," she said. "We were outgunned 10 to 1 in money, but we weren't outvoted 10 to 1. I think our ideas gained some traction with the voters."

Lieber said the campaign showed the immense role that independent political contributions play in elections.

"One of the big messages of the campaign is the overall dominance of money in politics," she said. "It's definitely something that needs to be looked at."

With his Election Night victory, Hill will represent a newly formed district that includes most of San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County and that stretches from Brisbane in the north to Sunnyvale in the south. Much of the district is currently represented by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who is concluding his final Senate term this year. The new district includes Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto, Mountain View, Redwood City, San Mateo, Portola Valley, Woodside, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Hill told the Weekly that Tuesday night's results were "an opportunity to re-engage and make major changes."

"With success in sustaining our innovation economy, we can provide resources to improve the quality of life for people in the Valley and the Peninsula and protect our natural resources because once we lose those, they're gone for good," he said.

Hill, who referred to himself in his acceptance speech as an amateur magician, said it had been a "magic" campaign, mentioning the fortuitous redistricting, generous donations and support from volunteers as boons to his campaign.

Quoting American poet Carl Sandberg, Hill said, "Every politician needs three hats: one to throw in the ring, one to talk through and one to pull a rabbit out of. We're going to make magic in Sacramento for four years."

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