In Hilda Solís’ L.A. District, A Congressional Race Is Already Heating Up

By Pilar Marrero, La Opinión reporter and FI2W contributor

The delay in Congresswoman Hilda Solís’ confirmation as secretary of labor hasn’t kept two ambitious politicians from racing hard to replace Solís as the U.S. representative from California’s 32nd District in Los Angeles.

Gil Cedillo.

Gil Cedillo.

There is no official election date yet –it has to be set by the governor after the seat is vacated–, but there has already been some drama and controversy behind the scenes between State Sen. Gil Cedillo and Board of Equalization Vice Chair Judy Chu.

First, the potential candidacy of another Latina, State Sen. Gloria Romero, spurred talk of a division in the vote that would cause the loss of a seat that a Latino has held for about 25 years.

But Romero decided instead to focus her ambitions on an obscure race for School Superintendent of California that she had planned beforehand.

Some suggested there had been pressure to get Romero not to run for this seat, and that Hilda Solís herself was behind the effort to get her long-time political ally Judy Chu to succeed her. Solís has not officially endorsed anyone, but it’s widely known that Chu and her have been tight and have supported each other’s campaigns for many years.

Richard Polanco, the godfather of state Latino politics, long retired from political life and now a lobbyist, is pushing hard on behalf of Cedillo, most famously known for his unsuccessful push, year after year, in favor of driver’s licenses for the undocumented.

Judy Chu

Judy Chu.

“I am an effective leader with a proven record,” said Cedillo. “I’m used to fighting and I think I’ll have the (support of) the majority of the Latino community.”

Cedillo has the support of a majority of the state Latino caucus, with the exception of Kevin de Leon and Ed Hernandez, State Assembly members who represent portions of the area that is part of C.D. 32. They are with Chu.

Cedillo’s senate district borders the Congressional district, but is not in it. He also has the support of several of California Latino Congress members, but it’s unclear how that can help him at the local level.

Some, like Antonio Gonzalez, of the William C. Velasquez Institute, argue that this is a Latino seat, and that it should probably stay that way. C.D. 32 is a working class district that is 62% Latino.

“Traditionally, Latinos have elected candidates of their choice to this seat since 1982,” Gonzalez said.

Both candidates will fight hard and get plenty of money to run, he added, “but the district is Latino, is full of immigrants and Cedillo has quite a name among them, the activists love him, la raza no se va a dejar… (la raza won’t allow it.)”

But Judy Chu, who was mayor of Monterey Park, the city with the highest concentration of Chinese immigrants in the country and former assemblywoman from the area, has a lot of local support.

“There is no one that knows the people of the district better than I do. I taught students at East L.A. College and I was elected nine times in the area in the last 23 years,” said Chu. “Besides, I have the endorsement of 70 local elected officials.”

Last week, she got one of the most powerful endorsements in Los Angeles County: that of the king-making county AFL-CIO. Many speculate that the labor federation wouldn’t dare go against the wishes –or the close friends– of the person nominated by President Obama to be secretary of labor.

In any case, if Solís is confirmed to Obama’s cabinet, the race is certainly on.


  1. dh

    Did someone forget Emanuel Pleitez? Who already has over 12 full-time staffers, an army of supporters, a plethora of knowledge, and breath of hope change and dedication to his community. Which I might add,(CA-32) is where he grew up and knows like the back of his hand.

  2. ep

    Didn’t forget him, no, but his unrealistic candidacy doesn’t figure into the calculus of this election. Whatever political future he may have had ahead of him he has badly damaged with this quixotic run.

  3. AN

    I agree with DH. Emanuel Pleitez should definitely be recognized in this congressional race. He represents something different and optimistic for CA-32. Not to mention his breadth of experience dealing with economics, most recently working with the Obama-Biden Treasury transition team.

  4. It is true that Emanuel Pleitez has said he intends to run and he could have been mentioned. But as of now, there are no official candidates yet at all, as Hilda Solis hasn’t been confirmed. This may happen tomorrow and according to sources, the resistance to her confirmation has apparently eased up. When that happens, she has to resign and then the governor of California must call a special election, at which point candidates will have to file candidacies. A spokesperson for Emanuel Pleitez said today that the list of endorsements “will go up soon” on the website and that he has begun raising money.

    Observers point out that he is a political unknown, has announced no mayor endorsements so far -which the other 2 have-, has held no previous elected office. I was trying to show how 2 influential political camps are going at each other in an effort to promote their candidacies… More to come on this race later…

  5. tecumseh

    I love how the Latino advocates who are the first to claim racism against white Americans say that their congressional seat should “remain Latino” regardless of their actual positions. What a bunch of racist rabblerousers.


    Dr. Chu is clearly the more qualified candidate! She has a record of achievement and accomplishment that Cedillo doesn’t. JUDY CHU FOR CONGRESS!

  7. Dr. Judy Chu has been a bridgebuilder throughout her 23-year career in public office. As your well researched article notes, Dr. Chu has already been endorsed by top Latino, Asian American and union leaders. Remarkably, Dr. Chu has also picked up strong support from Republican leaders in the 32nd District:

    In this special Congressional election, every voter can cross over and vote for a candidate from any party. Since no credible GOP candidate is running, the Republican vote (one-fifth of the district) could swing this election.

    Once Rep. Solis is confirmed next week, Dr. Chu is well positioned to win this special election.

  8. fsl

    First of all, Emanuel Pleitez should be mentioned as a contender. The Latino Democratic party machine is stale. Cedillo is more of the same. That Pleitez went ahead with sheer youthful energy and the hope of his generation–without the godfather’s blessing is to be recognized and commended.

    As for the one calling himself Tecumseh. Advocating within the political system for one’s ethnic group is as American as apple pie. Study your history. Racism is John and Ken fomenting so much animosity against Latinos that we’re all labeled as illegal aliens and anchor babies.

    I’ll grant you this however: Latinos who are citizens and here legally should realize that electing another machine politico like Cedillo simply because he is Latino–is not in their best interest. But I have a feeling, Tecumseh you really don’t really give a damn about what’s the best interest of Latinos, citizens, immigrants, legal residents or otherwise.

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