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.
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.
“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.