Four Dems And Two GOPs In Special 32nd District Race

Four Democrats and two Republicans have filed candidacy papers in the special March 12 election to replace Gloria Negrete-McLeod as state senator in the Democratic-leaning 32nd District.
Negrete-McLeod, who was elected to a four-year state senate term in 2010, successfully ran for Congress last year against incumbent Joe Baca in the newly redrawn 35th Congressional District. She resigned as state senator to go to Washington, D.C.
Because of the voter registration advantage Democrats hold over Republicans in the 32nd District, it is widely assumed Negrete-McLeod’s successor will be a Democrat. But the catfight that is brewing between at least two of the four Democrats, along with the larger number of Democrats vying overall, raises the possibility that a Republican could emerge victorious.
If one candidate fails to garner a majority of the vote – meaning at least fifty percent plus one vote on March 12 – then a run-off between the two top vote-getters will be held.
The four Democrats in the race are Assemblywoman Norma Torres, San Bernardino County Auditor-Controller-Treasurer Larry Walker, Ontario Councilman Paul Vincent Avila and Rialto Unified School District Board Member Joanne Gilbert. The two Republicans are Ontario Mayor Paul Leon and Pomona Planning Commissioner Ken Coble.
Already, a rivalry between Torres and Walker has developed over the circumstances that brought Walker into the race. He was, essentially, recruited by Negrete-McLeod to run, it has been reported, to prevent Torres from stepping into Negrete-McLeod’s shoes. Torres, who was formerly the mayor of Pomona, offended Negrete-McLeod when she endorsed Baca in last year’s Congressional race. Baca, like Negrete-McLeod is a Democrat.
Reportedly, Negrete-McLeod is in the process of making money remaining in her state electioneering fund available to Walker, himself a former county supervisor and Chino mayor. It thus appears that Walker and Torres will be better funded than Avila or Gilbert. Both Leon and Coble are looking forward to the prospect of a knockdown drag-out fight between Walker and Torres involving multiple negative ads targeting one another that might have the effect of dividing the Democratic camp and vectoring some of the Democratic vote toward Avila and/or Gilbert. In this way, the prospect of Leon and Coble, the two Republicans in the field, qualifying for the run-off could be increased.
Avila, a former Ontario-Montclair School Board member who was elected to the city council in November, has cultivated significant name recognition among voters by running for office, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, consistently each election cycle for the last 20 years. Coble vied unsuccessfully against Torres for her current assembly position. Should Torres, Walker, Leon, Avila or Gilbert win, their victories will likely result in the need for another election to fill the vacancy that will be created by that victor’s leaving of the office he or she presently holds.
The 32nd District entails all of Pomona in Los Angeles County, and all of Bloomington, Fontana, Montclair, Muscoy, Ontario, and Rialto as well as parts of Colton and San Bernardino in San Bernardino County. It is a peculiarity of the California electoral process that the lines of some State Senate districts remain intact four years after the U.S. Census is conducted while others change two years after the census is completed. In the case of the 32nd District, its boundaries, drawn up after the 2000 Census, will remain until the four year term that Negrete-McLeod was elected to in 2010 elapses.

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