By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
On gun-control questions, too, Martinez has marched to his own drumfire. An NRA-member who boasts that he owns a dozen handguns, Martinez consistently opposed the Brady Bill. Last June, when the Columbine shootings forced the Republican congressional leaders to let a bill restricting sales at gun shows come to the floor, he voted for the Dingell Amendment, which undercut the bill by limiting the time for background checks on prospective buyers. Of the 28 House Democrats from California -- for that matter, of the 39 House Democrats from Pacific Coast states -- only Martinez voted for Dingell.
Still, Martinez was an incumbent. And incumbents are hardly ever challenged by serious candidates from their own party -- and almost never challenged by fellow office-holders from their own party.
But here‘s Hilda Solis.
It’s not that Solis doesn‘t have a history of getting out in front of causes. As a state legislator, she authored the bill raising the state minimum wage and, when Pete Wilson vetoed it, put $50,000 of her own campaign funds into the (ultimately successful) 1996 initiative campaign to raise the wage. In the Assembly, and then in the state Senate, she’s authored 16 bills on domestic violence. A couple of weekends ago, she chaired hearings on the plight of local janitors denied health benefits and cheated out of wages by contractors to some major realty interests.
But it‘s one thing to be out there on issues, and another to go up against the club commandments -- especially Rule One, “Thou Shalt Not Oust a Fellow Member.” Still, Solis was facing term limits in 2002 on her tenure in the Senate, and 97 percent of the residents in Martinez’s congressional district also resided in her own Senate district. Once you got past Club Rule One, the choice was surprisingly easy.
As it should be for liberals across L.A., Solis has made important contributions to virtually every single progressive cause. She‘s the author of the Environmental Justice Bill, signed last year by Governor Gray Davis, which gives the state’s office of Planning and Research the authority to review new developments in communities already home to a disproportionate number of polluting projects. She‘s been a leading advocate of extending state heath coverage to working-poor families; she’s the author of the bill that created the San Gabriel River and Mountain Conservancy. In contradistinction to Martinez, she‘s a staunch proponent of gun control and a consistent champion of abortion rights.
It’s one thing to win the support of individual progressives, however, and quite another to win the support of progressive organizations. Not surprisingly, Solis has won the backing of the Sierra Club, the California League of Conservation Voters, and of Emily‘s List, which raises funds for liberal feminist candidates. More surprisingly, she’s won the backing of the County Federation of Labor. Almost invariably, labor sticks, however grudgingly, with incumbents who vote its way most of the time: If it doesn‘t -- if it fails to produce a carrot for backing the union position some of the time -- then office holders may just back those positions even less frequently than they do.
But for labor, the choice between Solis and Martinez was so clear that the County Fed actually changed its endorsement bylaws, which had last been amended in 1962. “We need to raise the bar on the type of people we support,” says Fed political director Fabian Nunez. This Friday, the Fed, which has already made its candidate endorsements, will decide which handful of races it will pour its resources into -- and it’s a good bet that Solis‘ challenge to Martinez will be one of them.
It’s also a good bet that City Council member Jackie Goldberg‘s candidacy for the 45th Assembly District seat will be another.
Goldberg, certainly, is no stranger to progressive L.A., but she’s embroiled in a tough campaign, and it‘s worth reviewing her achievements. More than any other local elected official, Jackie Goldberg has brought the plight of the working poor to the position of prominence it holds today in L.A.’s political discourse. And more than any other local elected official, Goldberg has offered solutions that address that plight.
In 1997, Goldberg authored -- and, astonishingly, steered to unanimous passage -- the city‘s living-wage ordinance, which required city contractors to pay their employees several dollars an hour over the minimum and provide them with health benefits (or pay them even more if they didn’t provide those benefits). Though she‘s often attacked by her critics as a divisive figure, Goldberg’s ability to persuade and cajole her colleagues in the cause of cobbling together a legislative majority is legendary. “On really important issues,” says Living Wage Coalition coordinator Madeleine Janis-Aparicio, a Goldberg ally, “she can get to eight votes [a council majority] more than anyone else on the council.” Issues she‘s gotten to eight on include the establishment of domestic-partner benefits for employees of city contractors, the prohibition of the cheap handguns known as “Saturday-night specials,” and the establishment of a slum-housing task force. Goldberg has also established a city living-wage-compliance operation, says Janis-Aparicio, of a kind “that exists nowhere else in the country.”
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