By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
29th District — Henry Waxman
Westside Congressman Henry Waxman remains the legislative genius of American liberalism, but here’s why the Democratic recapture of the House really matters: When the Dems were in power, Waxman authored and passed more clean-air and safe-water and Medicaid-extension and anti-poverty and anti-tobacco legislation than any other member. He’s been able to do a little of that even with the Republicans in control, a clear tribute to his legislative legerdemain, but much of his past three years has been taken up by his having to knock down the cockamamie conspiracy theories of Dan Burton, the Clinton-hating and close-to-certifiable lunatic who chairs the House Government Reform Committee, where Waxman’s the ranking Democrat. It’s a necessary duty, but a waste of Waxman’s prodigious talents.
30th District — Xavier Becerra
Xavier Becerra remains one of the leading House liberals, and a consistent champion of the rights of immigrants, a not-very-popular cause that nonetheless has been picking up steam lately. The Big Becerra News, though, isn’t his exploits either in Washington or his downtown congressional district. The news is his recent announcement that he’s running for mayor in the 2001 election. To call that effort a longshot is to be too kind. Most pols are largely unknown to the L.A. electorate, but Becerra’s largely unknown to L.A. political elites as well. The only foreseeable practical effect of his candidacy is to take some of the wind out of the sails of Antonio Villaraigosa — like Becerra, an attractive young progressive, but unlike Becerra someone who’s crisscrossed L.A. for several years, built up the most impressive crosstown and multiracial progressive coalition since the early Tom Bradley, and has a genuine shot at being elected mayor.
Becerra can have a long and productive career in Congress, to which we enthusiastically support his re-election, and from which we’d prefer he not stray to a campaign that can only subvert (how much, we don’t know) the most significant progressive electoral alliance L.A.’s seen in a generation.
31st District — Hilda Solis
Something unheard-of is going on in this Eastside–Alhambra–El Monte district: A veteran Democratic officeholder has had the temerity to try to unseat a veteran Democratic congressman. This violates Politicos’ Club Rule No. 1: “Thou shalt not oust thy fellow incumbent.” But state Senator Hilda Solis isn’t much on club rules, and incumbent Democratic Congressman Marty Martinez clearly deserves to be retired.
Martinez is the kind of congressman notable only for his gaffes — and for a series of votes that run counter to his constituents’ interests. An NRA member who boasts he owns a dozen handguns, Martinez consistently opposed the Brady Bill, and last June, in the wake of Columbine, he was the only one of the 28 House Democrats from California — for that matter, of the 39 House Democrats from Pacific Coast states — who voted to undercut a bill mandating background checks on gun buyers at gun shows. In late ’97, 80 percent of House Democrats opposed the Clinton administration’s “fast-track” trade proposal, which would have prohibited amendments to any f uture trade deals, because the White House refused to guarantee that worker rights and environmental standards would be included in all such treaties. Virtually every L.A.-area Democrat went against fast-track, but Martinez gave his vote to the White House in return for administration support for extending the 710 freeway. Martinez represents a district where wages have been demonstrably depressed by wage standards in nations that repress their workers, a district where gun violence has been epidemic — but you sure wouldn’t know it from his votes.
For the past six years, Hilda Solis has represented a state Senate district that almost totally overlaps Martinez’s congressional district. In her years in the Legislature, she authored the bill raising the minimum wage, and when Pete Wilson vetoed it, she provided the seed money for the initiative campaign in which state voters authorized the raise. She repeatedly hauls herself to union picket lines, holds hearings spotlighting the plight of exploited workers, and helps workers in their efforts to unionize. She’s authored 16 bills on domestic violence, and last year wrote and steered to enactment the Environmental Justice Act, which gives the state the authority to review new developments in communities already home to a number of polluting projects. Her legislation created the San Gabriel River and Mountain Conservancy, and, in contradistinction to Martinez, she’s a champion of gun control and a consistent supporter of choice.
Though political institutions and insiders are loathe to oppose an incumbent, Solis has the support of over 50 local elected officials within the district, as well as the backing of feminist organizations, the Sierra Club and the L.A. County Federation of Labor, which has made the Solis race a top priority. From our perspective, there’s no Democrat worthier of endorsement than Solis, and none worthier of abandonment than Martinez. After all, he abandoned his own supporters a long time ago.
32nd District — Julian Dixon
Quiet, savvy and effective, this Crenshaw-area congressman has navigated through L.A.’s transit wars to win substantial federal funding both to augment L.A.’s inadequate bus fleet and to complete the subway to North Hollywood. He’s also been way ahead of the curve on police-brutality issues, holding hearings last summer and securing $1 million in federal funds to restart the D.A.’s roll-out unit, which investigated officer-involved shootings until Gil Garcetti closed it down in 1995. Dixon’s prescience here stands in stark and depressing contrast to that of most local Democrats, who only now are starting to pipe up. This man clearly merits re-election.