Loading...

Primary Concerns 

Race, class and gumption in the March local elections

Wednesday, Jan 12 2000
Comments

So much for settling down to a long winter‘s nap. Since the Legislature in its wisdom has moved the primary from June to March, California voters have less than eight weeks to make up their minds on any number of crucial questions -- not least, who they think should be the presidential nominees. And by every indication I’ve seen, California voters have steadfastly refused to commence their contemplation. Presidential debates are popping up every other day now, but the frequency of debates seems in inverse proportion to the size of their viewership. An informal Powerlines poll of political people around L.A. failed to turn up a single one who actually had watched even part of a debate.

Sometime before the March 7 primary, of course, Californians will focus, in their fashion, on Bradley, Gore, McCain, Dubya, maybe Trump, maybe Nader, and the rest of the presidential and quasi-presidential gang. But the March ballot is also filled with down-ticket races that will be unusually important in shaping the future politics of both the city and the state. In L.A. County today, Democratic primaries are in most instances the decisive contests in legislative races, with all of the county save its easternmost extremes either solidly or marginally Democratic. Thanks to the miracle of term limits, there are open and highly competitive Democratic primaries all over town. And a few of them actually provide an opportunity to build the kind of class-based progressive politics the city so desperately needs.

For starters, there‘s the challenge that State Senator Hilda Solis is mounting against longtime Congressman Marty Martinez out in the Monterey Park--Alhambra--El Monte district on the Eastside. For Democrats who’ve been complaining about the rightward drift of their party, for anyone who‘s concerned about lackluster congressional representation, this is the race for you.

Related Stories

  • How to Vote 8

    You know the incumbents. So our June 3 voter guide is about the other stuff - like a comedic race for judge featuring candidates so bad the bar association finds both "Not Qualified." One is Charles Calderon, who L.A. Weekly previously reported as one of the worst legislators in California. There's...
  • We Wish We All Could Be Caprice's Kind of California Girl

    “This is myself with my best friend at the time, frying my skin," says the across-the-pond celebrity Caprice Bourret while looking at old photos, nibbling a scone at high tea at the Culver Hotel. "I used to be such a California girl. I used to fry. Hawaiian Tropic, no sunscreen at all."...
  • Porn Flight 14

    California porn studio Kink.com, which last year came under scrutiny for a condom-free production in which a woman who afterward turned up HIV-positive had performed, said this week that it's opening facilities in Las Vegas. The company, which was investigated by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) following...
  • Laker Girls Auditions: 10 Dancers Explain Why It's Their Dream Job

    Most of the hundreds of young women who showed up at the Laker Girl tryouts on Saturday had been dancing their entire lives. Some went to Juilliard. Some danced with world-class ballet companies. Some were professional cheerleaders with NFL teams. Since dance is not a fairly compensated field even at...
  • Eco Cheap

    Los Angeles has some of the highest rents in the nation, and our worst-in-America roads cost us dearly when it comes to wear and tear on our vehicles. But there's one thing we spend less on: Energy. Comparatively, whether we're talking about electricity or natural gas, we don't use that much. And that means...

Marty Martinez is one of those temporary solutions who’s turned into a permanent problem. Back in 1980, then-Assemblyman Howard Berman, embroiled in a battle for the speakership, recruited Martinez to run for the Assembly. Martinez won, and, in the reapportionment two years later, when Congressman Phil Burton saw the chance to create a new Democratic-Latino congressional district on the Eastside, Martinez was elevated to congressman.

In the subsequent two decades, Martinez has become the least impressive of his two distinguished patrons‘ proteges. (Indeed, Berman’s not supporting Martinez in this year‘s primary.) There are no significant Martinez achievements to point to, and he’s grown so out of touch with his district that 45 local elected officials have publicly endorsed Solis.

On two crucial issues, globalization and gun control, Martinez -- not to put too fine a point on it -- is a disgrace.

Late in 1997, congressional Democrats were confronted with the controversy over the administration‘s “fast-track” proposal. The Clinton White House was seeking the authority to negotiate all future trade treaties in such a way that Congress could only vote them up or down, without the ability to amend them. Labor and its allies insisted that this kind of blanket authority would be acceptable only if there was a guarantee of worker rights and environmental standards in all such agreements. Since no guarantee was forthcoming, and since their experience with NAFTA had shown that, absent such guarantees, those considerations would be ignored, they asked congressional Democrats to oppose fast-track.

In the end, only 42 of the 205 House Democrats supported the White House. Though many California Democrats had voted for NAFTA four years previous, this time all but a few opposed fast-track -- and hardly any from working-class districts, where free trade according to the NAFTA model has helped depress wages. Three of the four Latino members from L.A. -- Xavier Becerra, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Esteban Torres -- went from pro-NAFTA positions to anti-fast-track. Marty Martinez, who’d opposed NAFTA in ‘93, went the other way.

As Martinez explained it to me at the time, this wasn’t quite the result of an ideological reappraisal. In essence, he swapped his support for the administration in return for the administration‘s approval of the 710 freeway extension. As the fast-track vote approached, Martinez began complaining long and loud to White House officials that they’d been holding up their blessing of the project -- a priority in Alhambra, where the 710 currently ends, but a nightmare in El Sereno and South Pasadena, where hundreds of homes will have to be leveled if the freeway ever goes through. After speaking to Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and Clinton himself, Martinez announced that he‘d support the White House in its fast-track quest. Five days later, the Federal Highway Administration announced its approval of the 710 extension (which environmental and neighborhood groups have tied up in the courts).

If Martinez left environmentalists fuming, he left labor furious. Though labor was mounting its most serious lobbying effort in years, he neglected to tell any union rep that he was suddenly going south on an issue with huge implications for his working-class constituents. “We were under the impression that he’d committed to stay with the unions,” said L.A. County Federation of Labor leader Miguel Contreras at the time. “It shocked everybody because he was with us initially.”

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets

Slideshows

  • 21st Annual Classic Cars "Cruise Night" in Glendale
    On Saturday, spectators of all ages were out in multitudes on a beautiful summer night in Glendale to celebrate the 21st annual Cruise Night. Brand Boulevard, one of the main streets through downtown Glendale, was closed to traffic and lined with over 250 classic, pre-1979 cars. There was plenty of food to be had and many of the businesses on Brand stayed open late for the festivities The evening ended with fireworks and a 50th anniversary concert from The Kingsmen, who performed their ultimate party hit, "Louie, Louie." All photos by Jared Cowan.
  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.