Leon Gets Most Votes In Assembly Race But Fails To Shut Out Rodriguez

(July 26) Ontario Mayor Paul Leon on Tuesday outpolled all eight of his rivals in the race to succeed Norma Torres in representing Pomona, Chino, Montclair, Ontario and a portion of Fontana in the California Assembly, bringing in 25.1 percent of all of the votes cast across the district, which straddles portions of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties.
Despite his showing, Leon cannot lay claim to a spot in the state legislature yet.  Because none of the nine running in Tuesday’s race captured a majority of the vote, a run-off between Leon and second place finisher Freddie Rodriguez will now follow.
Leon, formerly a Republican but more recently registered as an independent, bested  Rodriguez, a Pomona city councilman who is also a Democrat. In his strong showing, Rodriguez racked up 21.6 percent of the vote in both counties.
The special election was held on Tuesday, July 23 to replace Torres as assemblywoman after she was elected 32nd District State Senator in May. The May special election came about because Gloria Negrete-McLeod had to leave the State Senate when she was elected to Congress in November.
Though Leon prevailed this week, his work in beating Rodriguez in the run-off is cut out for him. Despite his being newly registered as an independent, Leon has long been identified as a Republican and in fact ran as a Republican in March and May against Torres in the race to succeed Negrete-McLeod. In that Senate race as in the-yet-to-be decided assembly race, Republicans are at a disadvantage because of the overwhelming registration lead Democrats have in both the 32nd State Senate and 52nd Assembly districts. In the 32nd, 48 percent of those registered to vote are Democrats and 28 percent are Republicans. In the 52nd, 46 percent are registered as Democrats and 29 percent are registered as Republicans.
On Tuesday, seven of the nine candidates were Democrats – Rodriguez, Jason Rothman, Danielle Soto, Doris Wallace, Manuel Saucedo, Tom Haughey, and Paul Avila. One, Dorothy Peneda, was a Republican.
For Leon to prevail in the September rematch against Rodriguez, he will need to make a convincing appeal to independent-minded Democrats, while maintaining his residual appeal as a former Republican to convert to his cause the voters Pineda picked up. Pineda placed third in the polling, capturing 2,211 votes in both counties, or nearly 14.5 percent.
The assumption of many political observers and strategists is that nearly all of the votes that this week went to Democrats Rothman, Soto, Wallace, Saucedo, Haughey and Avila – totaling 38.8 percent of the ballots cast – will fall to Rodriguez in the run-off. Prior to Tuesday, the Democratic Party heavily invested in Rodriguez, providing him with over $60,000 in direct contributions and facilitating independent expenditures that bankrolled mailers attacking Leon as a Republican wolf in an independent sheep’s clothing.
Leon did particularly well on Tuesday in San Bernardino County, capturing 3,041 votes, or 28.66 percent there. In Los Angeles County, he tied for second with Rothman, the son of Pomona’s mayor. Both pulled 787 votes or 18.99 percent. Rodriguez won in his native county, taking in 1,470 votes for an impressive 31.73 percent. In San Bernardino County, Rodriguez polled 1,822 votes, or 17.17 percent.

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