Political Frenzy Under Way For Negrete-McLeod’s State Senate Position

(November30)   Gloria Negrete-Mc-Leod’s surprise come-from-behind victory over longtime Congressman Joe Baca in the race for Congress in California’s redrawn 35th Congressional District has inspired some intense jockeying among a handful of local politicians who are now looking at succeeding Negrete-McLeod as state senator in the 32nd  District.
Negrete-McLeod, a Democrat, has two years left in the four-year term as state senator she was elected to in 2010. She embarked on what was widely viewed as a quixotic venture to capture the California 35th Congressional District seat in running against Baca during California’s open June primary earlier this year  in the Democratic-leaning 35th District. Baca, himself a Democrat and a former assemblyman and state senator, in 1999 was elected to succeed longtime Congressman George Brown following his death in office. At that time, Baca represented California’s 42nd Congressional District. Following redistricting based on the 2000 Census, he successfully ran for reelection in California’s 43rd Congressional District five times. This year, he opted to run in the newly configured 35th Congressional District, which was slightly afield from the 43rd, but his incumbency and perceived fundraising advantage over all other challengers, including Negrete-McLeod, appeared to give him a leg up on the competition. And indeed, in the June open primary polling, Baca bested Negrete-McLeod by what seemed a more-than-comfortable margin, 12,619 votes or 47.7 percent to 9,078 or 33.93 percent. A third candidate in the race, Anthony Vieyra polled 5,058 votes or 18.9 percent. Given that this year California had switched to an open primary, the two top finishing candidates qualified for the general election, despite party affiliation. In this way, the stage was set for a showdown between Baca and Negrete-McLeod, both Democrats, in the November race.
In the final weeks before the general election on November 6, Negrete-McLeod’s campaign was infused with $3.8 million in donations from a political action committee controlled by Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which paid for a $2.3 million television advertising blitz during the last week of the campaign. Baca, who throughout most of the campaign had been complacent, was caught flatfooted and saw the election slip away, with Negrete-McLeod capturing  61,065 votes or 54.35 percent to his 51,281 votes or 45.65 percent.
Negrete-McLeod is now purposed to depart Sacramento for Washington, D.C. To succeed her in the state capital, four current office holders, including one who is about to depart Sacramento herself, have now emerged as likely contenders.
The new Congress is set to convene on January 3. Negrete-Mcleod will have to resign as a state senator prior to being sworn in as a congresswoman.
Under the law, Governor Jerry Brown has 14 days to call a special election after McLeod vacates office. A special primary election could be scheduled as early as late April or early May. A victor will have to receive a majority of the vote to be elected. If no candidate captures a majority of the vote, the two top vote-getters would compete in a special run-off election.
Wilmer Amina Carter, the current assemblywoman in the 62nd District, was termed out and could not run for reelection this year. She will leave office next week. A Democrat, Carter is now considering vying for the position Negrete-Mcleod will soon forsake.  Carter will need to move to be eligible to compete in the race.
Larry Walker, who is currently the county treasurer-tax collector/auditor-controller, is  interested in the position, and is actively seeking endorsements. A former Chino mayor and county supervisor, Walker is also a Democrat.
Another Democrat,  Norma Torres, who is at present the 61st District assemblywoman representing Pomona, Claremont, La Verne, Ontario, Montclair and parts of Fontana, just garnered reelection to the assembly, this time in the 52nd Assembly District, which covers Chino Valley, Pomona, Montclair and Ontario. Torres was formerly mayor of Pomona, which is in Los Angeles County.
A fourth potential candidate is Ontario mayor Paul Leon, a Republican. Leon this week told the Sentinel, “I’m exploring the idea. I’m open to serving in the state senate. I am confident I can represent this area well at the state level. With my experience in Ontario, I feel I can be a positive influence in the state capital. I think I can repeat the stable financial model we created in Ontario and I would welcome the opportunity to lead the state back to prosperity.”
Ontario boasts the soundest economy and largest municipal budget of all of San Bernardino County’s 24 cities, with more than a half billion dollars running through all of its funds annually.
The jockeying for political position has already begun, entailing intrigue and in at least one case a humorously awkward clash of intent.
Negrete-McLeod’s endorsement is coveted. As the incumbent in the district, her nod alone will carry weight. Moreover, she has some money remaining in her state campaign war chest which cannot be moved into her federal campaign coffers. In this way, she has the option of endowing her endorsement with money that could assist in his or her electioneering effort.
There is a degree of tension, however, between Negrete-McLeod and Torres. Last year, before Baca made it clear he would seek election in the newly redrawn 35th Congressional District, Torres had offered herself as a candidate there, threatening to make the run against Negrete-McLeod. For that reason among others, Negrete-McLeod does not appear disposed to endorse Torres. Consequently, both Walker and Carter are courting Negrete-McLeod, with no clear indication of which Negrete-McLeod is likely to favor.
Walker has been assiduously seeking endorsements. At one point he called Leon, seeking his support. At that point, Leon had to inform Walker that he could not do so since he was himself considering a run for the very same slot.
Given the voter registration numbers favoring Democrats in the 32nd Senatorial District, there has been speculation that Leon might change his party affiliation from the GOP to the Democrats to make himself a more viable candidate. At the same time, Leon, one of the leading Hispanic Republican officeholders in the county, could find an upside in competing as a Republican against the other three, forcing a Donnybrook between three Democrats who end up splitting the vote of their shared partisan constituency, very possibly giving Leon a berth in a run-off.

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