The Fighting 50

In 2011, California voters approved Prop. 14, instituting an "open primary" process that pits all candidates for an office against each other for two spots in the general election - regardless of party affiliation. That same year, new districts were drawn based on the 2010 census. And that's where the drama begins.

The new 50th Assembly District covers most of what California is famous for: from Malibu and Santa Monica to Beverly Hills and Hollywood. The candidates running to represent the 50th include a gay republican from West Hollywood and the environmentalist mayor of Santa Monica.

The two leading candidates, however, have taken the California political scene by storm.

Democrat Betsy Butler, a sitting assemblywoman who is sometimes criticized by her proponents for her lack of leadership in Sacramento, just moved into the new 50th district to avoid running in the district her old home was drawn into, which is almost 70% Republican and includes two wealthy Tea Party members who are expected to run. Her public service has included work with the California League of Conservation Voters, the US Department of Commerce, and acting as a board member of Equality California. She's most famous for passing legislation that banned the use of BPA, a controversial chemical, in baby bottles.

Her opponent, Democrat Torie Osborn, is a nationally recognized activist who has served as the CEO of both the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center (during the height of the AIDS crisis), led a meeting with President Clinton in the Oval Office, and even debated Pat Buchanan on CNN's "Crossfire." As a first-time candidate, the Democratic establishment asked her to step aside in favor of Betsy Butler.

She refused.

This is a David and Goliath story, where someone who was once a darling of the progressive movement is now the underdog in one of the oldest political struggles: defying the establishment to compete for elected office. These dynamic women are entering into a vicious fight for the State Assembly and the goodwill of their shared friends and allies in California politics. Things are about to get interesting.

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